ALXnow has adopted a new assistant editor from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA).
Hugo (né Mallow) was born late last year at the local shelter (4101 Eisenhower Avenue) and adopted earlier this week by editor Vernon Miles. He was profiled last week for Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month at the AWLA. His sisters Clover and Poppy remain there, available for adoption.
In a release, AWLA said 1,545 animals were adopted from the shelter in 2023. There were 434 animals with medical or behavioral needs who were fostered and 718 were transferred from under-resourced areas.
Hugo will oversee the rabbit affairs desk at ALXnow; a surprisingly busy section with a local poultry market in hot water for selling rabbits last year and new veterinary offices opening up in Old Town.
Twenty three Alexandria middle schoolers and eight Alexandria City High School students were arrested in the first two quarters of this school year, according to a report that the School Board will receive Thursday.
There were also 213 incidents requiring a police response, including five weapons-related incidents, 43 students needing EMS assistance, 56 fights/assaults and three reports of sexual assault.
Weapons seized include three stun guns/tasers, a pellet gun and a knife.
There were 17 students arrested in the first two quarters of the 2022-2023 school year (last year), and 41 arrested in the final two quarters, totaling 58 arrests and resulting in a 26% increase in students arrested over the previous school year.
Of those arrested so far this year, 20 of them were Black students, making up 55%.
There were 95 incidents reported at the Alexandria City High School campuses, 70 incidents at the city’s two middle schools (Francis C Hammond and George Washington Middle Schools), 35 incidents at elementary schools and 13 incidents at K-8 schools.
There were also 118 police calls for service — 56 at the high school campuses, 46 at the middle schools, four at K-8 schools and 12 at elementary schools.
Incidents in the first semester of this school year include:
- 57 incidents characterized as “other” (including two students discussing weapons, four cases of disorderly conduct, two reports of public intoxication, one fraudulent 911 call)
- 56 fights/assaults
- 43 injuries that required medical assistance
- Five confiscated weapons
- Nine controlled substances
- Nine threats (verbal/cyber/social media)
- Six missing student reports
- Four reports of suspicious activity
- Three alarms pulled
- Three reports of sexual misconduct
- Six thefts
- Seven reports of possessing prohibited materials
The Alexandria Police Department (APD) is investigating a sexual assault that occurred last night (Tuesday) in Del Ray.
Police said a woman was walking after midnight around Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues when she was attacked and assaulted by a stranger.
Scanner traffic indicated she was walking home from Pork Barrel BBQ when she was assaulted in an alley. The woman said she was hit from behind and strangled, attacked by a white man on the heavier side. She said when she bit the man, he ran off.
APD said the woman is being treated at a hospital.
APD said the incident is unrelated to an attempted assault at Main Line Blvd earlier this month.
According to the release:
If anyone in this neighborhood has security cameras that may have footage for review or if anyone saw someone or something suspicious, please contact Detective Kristina Loerch at 703-746-6785. Tips can remain anonymous.
Interim Chief Raul Pedroso said, “We are committed to ensuring the safety of our community. The search for the sexual assault suspect is a top priority. We have implemented increased patrols in the area and are ensuring our detectives have all the resources needed for their investigation.
Image via Google Maps
A husband-and-wife real estate team in Alexandria have launched a new site to help homebuyers find often lucrative assumable mortgages.
An assumable mortgage allows a buyer to assume the rate, repayment period, balance and other terms of the seller’s mortgage. For homebuyers, it can be a way around high-interest rates, but the trick is finding them.
The website AssumeList was built after the local real estate agents Michael Lorino and Bethany Stalder found that there was no easy way to track or find assumable rate mortgages.
Lorino said home buyers today are likely looking at 6.25% or 6% interest rates.
“Generally speaking, for every 1% change in the interest rate in a mortgage, that translates into a 10% change in a monthly mortgage payment,” Lorino said.
Some assumable mortgages, however, can come with interest rates of 2.5-3%.
“I would be able to assume that mortgage and buy that house with existing loans,” Lorino said. “As a buyer, that’s huge for me because I’m saving 35% a month.”
Lorino said any government back loans are assumable. Most notably, for this region, that includes loans backed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Lorino noted that those loans can be assumed by anyone, meaning they can be transferred to non-military veterans.
“In this area, we obviously have a higher concentration of military families,” Lorino said. “We have a higher concentration of homes that are assumable in this market compared to places in the midwest.”
Lorino said it’s a fairly unique market in that around 10% of homes in Northern Virginia have assumable mortgages.
“In Alexandria there are 233 homes for sale right now, not including those under contract,” Lorino said. “My guess is: about 25 or so of those have an assumable mortgage.”
Lorino said the concept for the website started around a year and a half ago when interest rates started increasing.
“We work with a lot of military families and were saying ‘why take out loans at 6% when these rates are lower?’ Lorino said.
Lorino said he went through various search functions real estate agents use, but there was no way to search for assumable mortgages.
“I said ‘heck, if there’s no way to search for them, why not build a search tool?'” Lorino said.
Lorino said the platform takes aggregated data from public records and private data aggregated from other data repositories to identify mortgages on properties.
“You can identify mortgages on properties, that’s reported in the public record,” Lorino said. “Not even all listing agents know their home has an assumable mortgage.”
The website currently covers parts of:
- New Jersey
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Again this year, The Critical Mass, LLC, the Made in ALX store and local Ukrainian-American artists are throwing a Pysanky Party — and partnering on a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Razom for Ukraine.
The free event, from 5 –
Sanger Avenue, a West End road that runs from William Ramsay Elementary School to I-395, could be getting some safety and cycling upgrades.
A memo (page 12) from Department of Transportation Deputy Director Hillary Orr to the Transportation Commission included a note that the street could receive some improvements as part of an upcoming paving project.
“City staff is working on providing safety and cycling mobility improvements along Sanger Avenue as part of the upcoming paving project,” Orr wrote. “The focus is on providing additional and safer pedestrian crossings, daylighting intersections due to pedestrian crashes and vehicular angle crashes and providing more buffer space for pedestrians and cyclists under the I-395 bridge near Van Dorn Street.”
Orr said that more information will be shared with the community and a presentation will go to the Traffic and Parking Board sometime this spring.
Image via Google Maps
Good Wednesday morning, Alexandria!
⛅ Today’s weather: Sunny, with a high near 50. Partly cloudy tonight with a low around 32.
🚨 You need to know
(Updated 12:30 p.m.) Virginia labor unions have come out against the Potomac Yard arena plans, saying they lack necessary labor protections for workers and other union commitments.
“Construction and hospitality jobs in the campus’ privately-owned entertainment district will be low wage jobs because the developer would not accept any labor agreements,” said Virginia Diamond, President of the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO, in a release. “Taxpayers should not make a massive investment in a project that is only going to create more low-wage jobs for local workers.”
“This is a bad deal for workers, plain and simple,” said Paul Schwalb, Executive-Secretary Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 25, in the release. “JBG Smith wants to line their pockets on the backs of Virginia workers. No thank you.”
The opposition of labor unions turned up pressure on local leaders in Alexandria. City Council member and Mayoral candidate Alyia Gaskins said the plan won’t work without the backing of labor organizations.
“I have always and will continue to stand with our workers,” Gaskins said. “This deal does not work without good jobs and enforceable protections and commitments for local workers.”
The announcement was also met with cheers from the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard, a local group that has been fighting against arena plans since they were announced. According to a release:
Today, the workers of the DMV stood up to the billionaire owners of Monumental Sports and JBG Smith and their millionaire supporters and said ‘no.’ They said ‘no’ to an arena where good, union jobs are not protected. They said ‘no’ to a deal that does not protect immigrant workers from wage theft and exploitation. And they said ‘no’ to a bad deal for the District, Virginia and Alexandria that would enrich JBG Smith, one of the most anti-union companies in America. Governor Youngkin and leaders in the Virginia General Assembly and the City of Alexandria should use today’s announcement to acknowledge what is already obvious to citizens and workers: It’s time to call off this Monumental Mistake.
In a statement, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said:
My administration and the partners in this project have worked in good faith over the last few months to give union workers a substantial role in this project. Today, labor leadership backtracked on that progress and announced their opposition to a project that creates 30,000 jobs, including 12,000 construction-trade jobs. Virginia is a right-to-work state and unreasonable demands from union leaders will not derail this project. I will continue to work with the General Assembly to complete this opportunity and bring $12 billion in economic contributions that will fund shared priorities in Virginia.
📈 Tuesday’s most read
The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for Feb. 20, 2024.
Plans for an increase in Metro funding could be in peril as part of the battle over the new Potomac Yard arena.
This weekend, Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, stripped additional Metro funding from the State Senate’s proposed budget, the Washington Post reported.
Lucas said Metro has “not done a good job of managing their resources” and called for more reform within the transit organization before Virginia would increase its funding. It’s a position that ironically mirrors Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s before the Potomac Yard arena announcement. Since then, Youngkin has said he would be more amenable to increased funding to Metro — which currently faces a $750 million shortfall.
Metro leadership previously said the shortfall could lead to 67 bus routes being cut, 2,300 layoffs, and 10 closed Metro stations — including the Potomac Yard Metro station.
Metro General Manager Randy Clarke and Paul Smedberg, former Alexandria City Council member and Chairman of the WMATA Board of Directors, shared a picture earlier today of a meeting with Lucas and said they were continuing to engage in discussions about Metro.
Thx you @SenLouiseLucas for spending time with the @wmata team discussing the value Metro brings to Virginia. Appreciate you wanting to discuss the #wmata longterm funding model so we can be even more effective getting people to jobs, healthcare & education opportunities. pic.twitter.com/92q8gzhAMs
— Randy Clarke (@wmataGM) February 20, 2024
The deadline for a budget is — generally — the adjourning of the legislative session on March 9.
ALXnow will be running a series of City Council candidate interviews through the local election filing deadline on April 4.
Kirk McPike jokes that he no longer has a work-life balance, he has a work-Council balance.
McPike, by day the chief of staff to California Democratic Congressman Mark Takano, says he’s seeking a second three-year term on Alexandria’s seven-seat City Council to help steer the city through issues like the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena deal, implementation of zoning for housing legislation, and development in the West End.
He says that the financial picture is positive for the Monumental Sports arena and entertainment district in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood, but that the journey to its development is rocky. He said that the city will need to work through the transportation impacts, as well as housing affordability in Potomac Yard.
“We need to see those elements related to transportation in particular, and really shake them down and check them out before we can say that this is something to move forward on,” McPike said. “We got to really dig into it and see if we can possibly make it work.”
Like his Council colleagues, McPike wants more city representation on the Virginia Stadium Authority board, which would own and finance the arena. A House version of the bill to create the board was approved earlier this month, but the Senate version of the bill is currently stalled.
“We can come to a deal that benefits the city financially and the Commonwealth financially,” McPike said. “One that has manageable impacts on some of the quality of life concerns that we have with any large development.”
Zoning for housing, which ended single-family housing zoning, was arguably the most controversial issue that Council tackled last year. That is, until the arena deal was unveiled in December.
“I would love to continue serving the second term to take on the implementation of zoning for housing, to make sure that those first projects get done correctly,” he said. “And if the Potomac Yard arena goes forward, there’s gonna be a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that everything is done correctly.”
A native of Dallas, Texas, McPike received a political science degree from Southern Methodist University, and last year began part-time Masters studies in political science at George Mason University. He moved to the area to manage the successful campaign of State Sen. Adam Ebbin in 2011.
On crime, McPike said that he wished former Police Chief Don Hayes had addressed the Council when police provided an update on a crime surge. Now with Hayes retired, the city is undergoing a national search for his replacement,
“I think the police department both has its eye on the ball and has a lot of work to do,” McPike said. “Frankly, I do not think that the one we received last spring was appropriately handled.”
Council receives two briefings from police every year on crime, and will get briefed again this spring.
McPike said that the city needs to improve its communication efforts to non-English speaking residents. He said that hundreds of residents spoke at City Council’s two public hearings on the subject, but that none of the translators the city provided were needed.
“We didn’t need them once, because nobody from those communities showed up to speak,” McPike said. “Obviously, we’re not connecting with some of our particularly non-English speaking, new arrival communities to the degree that we should be, and that’s a failure for the city, because these are some of the people who use our city services the most, who may need city services they’re not receiving because they don’t know about them, and who are trying in many cases to solidify their foothold in our country and find a place to build their lives.”
McPike and his husband Cantor Jason Kaufman live in the Seminary Hill neighborhood with their beagle, Punky.
“Before I was elected, I had work-life balance,” McPike said. “Now I have work-Council balance. My husband has been incredibly generous with our time together, allowing me to spend a lot of evenings and hours on the weekends, doing council work, meeting with residents, attending the various boards and commissions that I’m appointed to. But we still carve out time, and Jason and I have dinner together basically every Friday night.”
McPike is also an avid Star Trek fan, and that like the fictional heroes of that universe, he says that he rejects cynicism.
“I would love it if I could be in any way shape or form compared to Captain Picard,” McPike said. “I don’t take as many risks as Captain Kirk, despite my name, and less likely to punch an omniscient being in the face as Captain Sisko.”
McPike continued, “I try to reject cynicism, which I think is very Star Trek. My general philosophy when people come to come to my office with a problem is that I want to get to yes. I try to empower the people and trust the people that I work with, and I try to be supportive of that.”
The Democratic primary is on June 18.
The study notes that the arena development is slated to include 5,400 residential units across three development phases.
The study said the proposed housing will help the city and the region meet regional housing goals by increasing the number of units and “placing downward pressure on local and regional housing costs.”
This year marked the first time multi-family residential property assessments have declined since 2010. While that may not bode well for the commercial property market or the city’s annual budget, Director of Finance Kendal Taylor noted that it does help push down rents.
Last year, regional housing experts said Alexandria would need to build significant amounts of housing for the supply to even out with the demand.
More specifically, though, the study said consultants hired for the project estimated the average rental rates to be around $3.70 per square foot and that most units will be relatively small one or two-bedroom units.
The study estimated monthly rents of:
- Studio apartments: $1,591
- One-bedroom apartments: $2,220
- Two-bedroom: $2,775
- Three-bedroom: $3,700
According to the study:
Through design and construction characteristics, the average rental cost will be held to levels that will be workforce affordable, including for many of the jobs to be held by people working in the proposed entertainment district… At that rate, we can estimate the implied household income needed to comfortably afford to live in the new development.
Comparing potential rent levels and occupational wages suggests that a majority of PYED units will accommodate working family households who hold jobs in Alexandria earning 80% to 90% of area median income, on average.
As for any analysis of housing costs in Northern Virginia, someone who does not live here could be shocked at the level of housing prices. However, Alexandria is a high wage area.
The study noted that plans for the nearby Virginia Tech campus do not include housing for graduate students, postgraduate researchers, young faculty members, staff, or visiting researchers and scholars.
“While hardly qualifying as traditional dormitories, the studio units may well serve student housing, and the largest 3-bedroom units could become shared student living space,” the study said. “Just as importantly, young faculty who will teach at the new Virginia Tech campus will potentially look to these rental units as highly attractive in the early stages of their career due to job proximity and the presence of hospitality and entertainment options.”
Plans for the Potomac Yard arena are precarious, with the neighborhood’s future at stake in state government discussions this week. The transportation plan for the project had also come under fire, with even supporters of the plan saying the in-jeopardy Metro funding is a basic prerequisite for the arena.
“The majority of units will be affordable for public safety workers, teachers, mechanics, health services technicians, supervisors for maintenance workers, other mid-level professions, and many employees of the sports and entertainment venues—without the financial stress that has become too common for households in this region,” said Terry Clower, director of the CRA.