A portion of Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria is shut down after a crash involving the drivers of a car and a motorcycle.
Mount Vernon Avenue is closed from the Birchmere (3701 Mt Vernon Avenue) to The Waffle Shop (3864 Mt Vernon Avenue).
Scanner traffic said one motorcycle and one car were involved in the crash, two people involved in the crash may have been transported to hospitals.
Vernon Miles and James Cullum contributed to this story
Image via Google Maps
Alexandria’s Healthy Homes Network is launching the engagement project to both gather information on issues like mold and pests and to help residents become more aware of home hazards.
Housing conditions have been at the forefront of several fights between renters and property owners around the city. According to a release:
The first phase of this community engagement work will set priorities on home condition topics such as mold, pests, accessibility, aging in place, and working heat and air conditioning. The second phase will explore the causes behind local home hazards, including public and private policies or systems that make the issues worse. This second phase will also focus on developing solutions for the priority areas. The community engagement effort will go through spring 2024.
This community discussion is part of Alexandria’s larger Healthy Homes Initiative. The initiative is working to ensure all Alexandrians have healthy and safe, hazard-free housing. Work is facilitated by the Alexandria Health Department along with local partners in Alexandria’s Healthy Homes Network. Other efforts include the development of metrics to assess the quality of local housing, tools to catalog existing home safety resources, and programs to respond to health issues created by unhealthy homes.
The survey is available in English, Spanish, Amharic, Dari and Pashto. The survey will be open until Jan. 3, 2024.
Good Wednesday morning, Alexandria!
☀️ Today’s weather: Expect sunny conditions with a high of around 39 degrees, accompanied by a south wind blowing at 6 to 10 mph. The night will be mostly clear, with a low of approximately 28 degrees and a southwest wind at 5 to 10 mph.
🚨 You need to know
In case you missed it last night — and the vote was just before 1 a.m. so no shame if you did — the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a set of zoning reforms that aim to boost residential development in the city.
While most of those units will likely come from changes allowing residential development in industrial districts, the big headline-grabber item was ending single-family-only zoning.
Though Vice Mayor Amy Jackson motioned to have the single-family zoning piece separated from the rest and deferred to another date, ultimately, that motion failed. The City Council voted in favor of the entire zoning reform package.
There is a possible Phase 2 down the line that would expand on those reforms, possibly changing some of the density limits leaders were critical of early in the process, but for now, Mayor Justin Wilson said the city as a whole needs a break from zoning discussion.
“Let’s pause, take our breaths, let’s see how some of these changes are taken,” Wilson said, “and then let’s discuss whether and what we would possibly do next.”
📈 Tuesday’s most read
The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for Nov 28, 2023.
- Plans unveiled for new ‘Kings Row’ development near King Street Metro station (3277 views)
- French and Italian boutique opening on King Street in March (1652 views)
- Notes: Violent crime (mostly) declining in Mount Vernon, just south of Alexandria (837 views)
🗞 Other local coverage
- Fairfax County and Fort Belvoir Police and Emergency Responders Honored at 18th Annual Tribute
Zebra (Tuesday @ 8:16 pm)
- Alexandria Pet Of The Week: Gentle Senior Needs Home For Holidays
Patch (Tuesday @ 3:04 pm)
- BOOK NOW: Haunted Holiday Ghost Tours in Old Town Alexandria
Zebra (Tuesday @ 2:58 pm)
- Alexandria Homeowners Asked to Complete Survey Regarding Home Health and Safety
Zebra (Tuesday @ 2:41 pm)
- Enjoy Festive Events in Alexandria This Holiday Season
Zebra (Tuesday @ 11:36 am)
- French, Italian-Inspired Boutique Plans Old Town Alexandria Opening
Patch (Tuesday @ 10:59 am)
📅 Upcoming events
Here is what’s going on today in Alexandria, from our event calendar.
- No events today. Have one to promote? Submit it to the calendar.
Single-family-only zoning is no more in Alexandria.
Alexandria’s City Council voted unanimously at around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, to approve the Zoning for Housing/Housing for All initiative.
The plan includes zoning changes that aim to encourage the development of more housing units. Notable changes include allowing residential uses in industrial zones and reducing parking requirements, but the big headline-getter and conversation-starter was the elimination of exclusively single-family housing zones.
The City Council vote came after three months of public discourse on the plans, including two lengthy public comment sessions that included calls for affordable housing for “deserving Blacks” and the spanking of public officials.
When the plan debuted at a City Council/Planning Commission meeting earlier this year, several city leaders expressed disappointment at the underwhelming change to single-family zoning. Notably, the zoning change doesn’t affect requirements like setbacks and density for those units.
But the single-family zoning change set off a significant public discourse, as a similar proposal did in Arlington nearly a year ago.
Opponents of the plan, including a group called The Coalition for a Livable Alexandria, said the change will create more density and negatively affect the quality of life for residents while doing very little to create affordable housing. One opponent described the plan to this reporter in an elevator on the way to the meeting as a “Trojan horse,” disguising a giveaway to developers as progressive policy.
But supporters of the policy proposals say adding new residential units around the city will help add much-needed residential units to the city’s stock of housing, eventually decreasing the demand that’s been at least partially responsible for driving up prices.
Vice Mayor Amy Jackson suggested splitting the single-family zoning section off from the rest of the initiative. Jackson said that many residents didn’t receive adequate warning from the city about the zoning change and said a mailer should have been sent out. But while some others on the City Council acknowledged criticism that a mailer should have been sent out to residents, the suggestion to defer the single-family zoning piece of the initiative didn’t gain traction with others on the Council.
Most of the City Council spoke firmly in favor of Zoning for Housing.
“The question we’re facing as a Council, and as a city, is whether we’re willing to commit the effort and resources to make Alexandria an inclusive city — one where low and middle-income families and seniors aren’t driven out by skyrocketing housing costs — or if we will continue down a path of exclusivity, where only those among us who have the most are able to remain,” said Council member Kirk McPike. “My values, driven by my own life experience and my faith, demand the former.”
“I don’t think of it as density for density’s sake,” said Council member Alyia Gaskins. “I’m proud and happy with where we’re ending tonight. I’m going to vote for this. I don’t think it’s doom and gloom, I think the research and the data are things we can manage and support.”
Council member Sarah Bagley said the Zoning for Housing initiative also ties in with some of the city’s climate change goals with an emphasis on transit-oriented development.
“The more we can embrace Alexandrians in ways our infrastructure can support, that we can infill, that we can create housing near transit,” Bagley said, “[the more we] build a better future for people who are going to live to see 2053 and 2073.”
The conversation on the dais was sometimes as much about some of the public debate around Zoning for Housing as it was about the initiative itself. The Alexandria Times reported conversations between advocates for Zoning for Housing and members of City Council, though Council members characterized those meetings as standard for any public discussion.
“I’ve been frustrated with the rhetoric and how this has been discussed in our community,” said Council member Canek Aguirre. “Nobody up here is having meetings with Satan or his disciples. We’ve been having meetings… with residents and groups that represent residents.”
Aguirre said he was approached for meetings by advocates for Zoning for Housing and would have met with opponents if they’d asked to meet.
“I’m disturbed by a local paper saying there are secret meetings: it’s called a constituent meeting,” Aguirre said. “I’ll meet with anyone that asks for a meeting. You know who didn’t ask me for a meeting? The Coalition for a Livable Alexandria.”
Some members of the Council had qualms about Zoning for Housing but still ultimately voted in favor of the initiative. Council member John Chapman said there are positive aspects of Zoning for Housing, though he had little faith in the market providing affordable housing without other incentives.
“I’ve seen the market destroy my generation,” Chapman said. “People are not able to stay here and live here. We’ve lost 90% of market rate affordability in the city over the last couple of decades. The market has not been kind to Alexandria’s middle and working class. The challenge is getting me to be excited about the little tiptoe step into the market when I know that what we’re trying to obtain in single-family homes isn’t attainable.”
While Jackson said she still believed the city should have postponed the vote, she said she supported the initiative.
“As much as I did want to defer the single-family housing part, for the rest of this, it shows that Alexandrians want progress,” Jackson said. “We want to be able to help people wherever we can.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said that Zoning for Housing won’t fix the city’s housing problems, but it’s a start.
“Never going to be able to spend enough dollars up here to really impact this, but our zoning authority is a powerful tool that gives us the ability to shape the supply,” Wilson said. “The [initiatives are] modest, but I believe they’re good.”
As city leaders started to turn their attention to a potential future Phase 2 of Zoning for Housing/Housing for All, which could see more ambitious reforms regarding density and allowances on the former single-family home parcels, Wilson said it was important to give the issue, along with the public and city leadership, a breather.
According to Wilson:
Let’s pause, take our breaths, let’s see how some of these changes are taken, and then let’s discuss whether and what we would possibly do next.
There are other things I want us to look at too that touch housing in other ways. Some of these things in Phase 2 recommendations that we heard from people who opposed this effort — like looking at neighborhood conservation districts to protect historic properties.
There are going to be possibly things here we’re going to want to have a conversation about, but I think everyone needs to take a breath and see what’s next here.
Douglass Memorial Cemetery (1421 Wilkes Street) has long suffered flooding and neglect, but the City of Alexandria said plans to address issues at the cemetery will be presented at a meeting next week.
City employee Michael Johnson has been ringing alarm bells about the state of the cemetery for years. The cemetery has been a burial site for Black Alexandrians since 1827. Around 2,000 people were buried in the cemetery before burials stopped in 1974.
A city report said only 10% of the graves in the cemetery are well-defined, thanks in part to grave markers going missing and a lack of intact vaults and caskets.
The city sought funding earlier this year to support an oral history project related to the project.
The city said plans for the cemetery will be presented at the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center (1108 Jefferson Street) from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
According to a release:
Douglass Cemetery, located at 1421 Wilkes Street, has several preservation issues, including flooding and drainage problems.
The City of Alexandria staff from the Office of Historic Alexandria, Department of Project Implementation, Transportation and Environmental Services, and Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities are working to address these preservation issues. The Social Responsibility Group and the Friends of Douglass Cemetery have dedicated their efforts to raise awareness of the significance of the historic African American cemetery and resolve the preservation issues. The City has developed plans to implement solutions that are respectful and appropriate to the sensitive nature of the site. City Staff will present an update on the plans to address the causes of flooding and the anticipated timeline for the work.
A new development at 1604-1614 King Street, sharing a similar name with a London locale and a mediocre Overwatch map, could see a group of new condos built a stone’s throw from the King Street Metro station.
The Kings Row project is heading back to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and would build a new seven-story expansion onto a group of townhouses built in 1913.
The building is located on the south side of King Street between the Lorian and Hampton Inn hotels. The application describes the lot as “one of the only sites with potential for new development near the King Street Metro.”
The property, home to the Connection Newspapers, is in poor condition. A report from 2008 noted extensive rot throughout the building — this reporter once watched a piece of the ceiling fall onto a table during an editorial meeting.
The report said:
The exterior walls on all four sides have deteriorated mortar joints and were cracked in some areas, most of the floor joists and rafters are rotted, burned and have also pulled out of the walls, water infiltration has caused rotting of the wood framing.
The application says restoration work would be done on the King Street-facing townhouses with the five original units’ facades remaining intact and a new seven-story expansion designed by Heffner Architects PC built behind the current building.
The application said the building would go from 15,300 square feet to 124,908 square feet containing 52 condo units.
According to the application:
The proposed development is designed to provide for residential development of the site that meets the
site conditions, planning and zoning requirements, especially parking, the flood plain development
requirements, and, to the extent possible, meet the Secretary of the Interior’s criterion for restoration of
the “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties” providing for the restoration suitable for
residential use of the five original townhouses on the site. In terms of specific BAR concerns, it differs
from the previous Concept in the extent of demolition requested, particularly as it effects a portion of
the east exterior wall of 1604 King Street (with little or no visibility by the public), and the party wall
(now partially covered) between 1612 and 1614 King Street, and it does not provide for construction of a
second floor façade element over the entryway at 1614 King Street, rather leaving this passageway open.
Other changes are shown on the site plan with revised courtyard, entryway and public art spaces and in
the mid-rise building elevation treatments (for which 2 alternative versions are submitted).
After a flurry of activity, the Del Ray Christmas tree is finally at home at Pat Miller Neighborhood Square.
The 32-foot-tall Fraser fir was lifted by a crane and installed on Tuesday afternoon. It’s the 13th straight year that Bill Blackburn of the Homegrown Restaurant Group selected and cut down the tree at the Naughty Pines Nursery in Maryland.
Blackburn, who owns the Christmas-themed Joy on the Avenue pop-up bar, picked the tree the day after Thanksgiving with his family. The tree is not as tall as the 40-foot-tall Christmas tree in front of City Hall in Old Town, and won’t have 40,000 lights, but Blackburn said that the neighborhood-feel of a real tree is better.
“It’s not perfectly shaped,” Blackburn said. “But it’s a real tree for kids and the community to enjoy.”
The Del Ray Christmas tree and menorah lightings are this Sunday at 6 p.m. The free event is held at Pat Miller Square (Mount Vernon and E. Oxford Avenues) and includes singing, hot chocolate, and visits from Santa and city leaders.
“I think the Del Ray Christmas tree is a good snapshot of the community and small businesses coming together,” Dameron said. “We’re getting no city funds to procure this and it’s a real tree.”
Pat Miller bought a new star this year for the treetop, and the tree will be decorated on Wednesday.
“We’ve always put red ribbon on top of the tree and everyone says we needed a star,” Miller said. “So Maureen Schweers and I went to a local store and right there staring in front of us was our star, so we got it. Now we have a star.”
French and Italian tableware and home goods boutique Crème de la Crème will open at 907 King Street in March.
The Middleburg-based retailer recently signed a five-year lease with building owner EastBanc for the 2,200-square-foot property formerly home to Mackie’s Bar and Grill. The Old Town store will join the company’s two locations in Virginia — in Middleburg and Richmond — and one store in Frederick, Maryland.
Crème de la Crème was founded in 2000 by Tara and Ben Wegdam. The couple also own three other retail shops in Middleburg — Loulou, Zest and Brick and Mortar.
“We have been looking for years at expanding our presence into Alexandria and finally found a place that will work for our format,” said Tara Wegdam. “We have so many customers from the D.C. and Alexandria area that have been asking us for a retail location closer by, so we are extremely excited to open our doors at 907 King Street next Spring.”
Philippe Lanier, a principal at EastBanc, said that the neighborhood is perfect for the boutique.
“We have no doubt that their unique store experience and carefully-curated goods will attract locals and visitors alike looking for one-of-a-kind gifts and tableware,” Lanier said.
Image via Facebook
Alexandrians who have been trying to flood-proof their homes should find it a little easier to get city funding.
Alexandria’s Flood Mitigation Grant Program received an update in October that makes it easier for property owners to access and boosts the amount of funding homeowners can receive. One of the big changes is that residents no longer have to show past flooding, meaning they can make precautionary improvements to homes that haven’t been hit with flooding before.
According to a release:
Effective October 24, 2023, the City of Alexandria updated the Flood Mitigation Grant Program to open eligibility to all property owners by removing the requirement to show past flooding. The Grant program was also updated to increase the maximum amount of the 50/50 matching funding for eligible flood mitigation measures on association common areas up to $25,000.
This is a BIG DEAL. These changes now allow this program to be available to all residents, not just those with previous flooding. Thank you, Council and @AlexandriaVAGov! #DrainALX https://t.co/HYEgRqUAff
— DrainALX (@DrainALX) November 27, 2023
That $25,000 is a dramatic increase compared to the previous $5,000 matching grant for improvements to common areas.
According to the release:
The Virginia General Assembly modified Virginia Code to explicitly state that grant funding can be used by associations for flood mitigation projects, effective July 1, 2023. This increase in matching grant funding for association common areas is reasonable given that the cost of flood mitigation measures is typically much higher for common areas. Individual condominium owners may still apply for up to $5,000 of matching grant funding for their units.
Good Tuesday morning, Alexandria!
☀️ Today’s weather: Expect a mostly sunny day, with temperatures reaching a high of around 38 degrees. The northwest wind will be ranging from 6 to 11 mph in the morning, increasing to 13 to 18 mph in the afternoon and gusting up to 30 mph. As for Tuesday night, the sky will be mostly clear with the temperature dropping to a low of approximately 21 degrees. West wind will blow 7 to 14 mph and may gust as high as 21 mph.
🚨 You need to know
For the most part, violent crime has been declining over the last year in Mount Vernon, the area of Fairfax just south of Alexandria.
Homicides spiked last year, with six homicides in the same time frame in 2022, while this year that’s gone back down to two homicides (the same as it was in 2020 and one fewer than in 2021).
On the MoVe noted that the Mount Vernon Police District accounted for less than one-eighth of the county’s total homicides for this year, as compared to one-third of the homicides last year.
Aggravated assaults also declined from 110 to 103, though that’s still higher than the 66 and 82 aggravated assaults in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Robberies had a similar decline from last year, from 94 robberies to 85.
The one increase was rapes, which increased from 15 last year to 19 in 2023.
📈 Monday’s most read
The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for Nov 27, 2023.
- Alexandria resident robbed at gunpoint and beaten in D.C. this weekend (5982 views)
- Alexandria police investigating dead person found in car at West End gas station (5635 views)
- Off-duty D.C. police officer charged with felony after chase leads to Tesla crash in Alexandria (1685 views)
🗞 Other local coverage
- Rooney Properties Revises Plans for Robinson Terminal North
Alexandria Living (Monday @ 7:30 pm)
- Adopt a Pet in Alexandria: Meet Onyx and Garnet, a Bonded Pair
Zebra (Monday @ 4:00 pm)
- Canal Center Holiday Art Mart and Alexandria Boat Parade Watch Party, Saturday, December 2
Zebra (Monday @ 3:26 pm)
- Alexandria’s Zoning For Housing Sees More Opposition In Patch Survey
Patch (Monday @ 3:21 pm)
- Alexandria Considers Local Rental Subsidy Program–Zoom Meeting Open to Public December 4
Zebra (Monday @ 12:50 pm)
- Alexandria Changes Flood Mitigation Program Requirement, Allowing More Property Owners to Participate
Zebra (Monday @ 12:37 pm)
- Breaking News: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Receives Dollar for Dollar Matching Gift Challenge Up to $1 Million
Zebra (Monday @ 12:01 pm)
- Christmas, Hanukkah Events In Alexandria: Parades, Tree Lightings
Patch (Monday @ 11:47 am)
- DC Police Officer Involved In Alexandria High-Speed Chase
Patch (Monday @ 9:33 am)
📅 Upcoming events
Here is what’s going on today in Alexandria, from our event calendar.
- No events today. Have one to promote? Submit it to the calendar.