What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.
Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.
This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.
The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.
- Pot enthusiasts quiet in early days of legalization in Alexandria
- Alexandria sees 90 COVID cases in July, another death
- Local historians profile former slave in Alexandria who struggled to rescue his family
- Alexandria man caught with gun at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport checkpoint
- New Potomac Yard luxury condo community sells 30% of properties before construction starts
- Testing for Alexandria’s controversial stream restoration work starts next week
- Two years after massive flooding, city moves forward with Holmes Run trail restoration
- Del Ray licensed family counselor completely booked since launching in May
- Alexandria businesses advised to sharpen e-commerce as consumer patterns evolve
- Alexandria swimming pools operating with reduced hours, residents signing waitlists with capacity overload
- Without annual music festival, Del Ray is celebrating with a bar crawl
- Del Ray affordable housing completes long-awaited overhaul
- Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
- Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
- Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
- Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
- No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
- DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
- ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
- After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
- New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
- Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
- Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs
Have a safe weekend!
The residents of Del Ray’s Bellefonte Apartment Community (11 East Bellefonte Avenue) are back after a pair of local non-profits announced they’ve finished extensive renovations to the affordable housing community aimed at caring for adults with special needs.
Sheltered Homes of Alexandria (SHA), Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) spearheaded the renovation of 12 apartment units. According to a press release, the renovations included a complete interior gutting and redesign of the building; changing some units to be fully wheelchair accessible, improving the stormwater systems, and updating security at the building.
“By working together, AHDC, Sheltered Homes of Alexandria, and the city were able to create these beautiful, accessible new homes for our residents,” said Julie Jakopic, Sheltered Homes of Alexandria’s Board chair, in a press release. “This community in Del Ray will enjoy the results of these partnerships for many decades to come.”
Modern finishes and greater access to natural light were also emphasized in the redesign of the building.
“The Bellefonte Apartment community is one of many properties that SHA owns where City staff provide direct support to enable Alexandrians of all abilities to live independently in the community,” AHDC said in the press release. “City staff assist Bellefonte residents with basic activities of daily living and support the residents being active participants in the Alexandria community.”
Residents started moving back in April, but AHDC and SHA marked the site as open on June 29.
Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) newly released Annual Agency Plan outlines the public agencies ongoing efforts at modernization and acquisition of affordable units in Old Town, with a particular focus on being more involved in rental-assistance programs.
The plan outlines areas of change for the organization, with the organization required to explain new activities in the current fiscal year. This year, one of those categories involves changes in “Mixed Finance Modernization or Development”. In its explanation, the document explained that ARHA is continuing to work on demolition of older units under Housing and Urban Development code Section 18 and rental assistance demonstration — rental assistance that ensures existing low-income units remain affordable — of others.
“To date, the repositioning has resulted in HUD Section 18 approval of 213 units (Ladrey, Park and Saxony). ARHA has received CHAPS for the RAD conversion of 220 units (James Bland I, James Bland II, Old Dominion, West Glebe, Chatham Square and BWR),” ARHA said. “The goal is to reposition as many properties as possible over the next five years so that ARHA can voluntarily convert its portfolio of units when there are less than 250 remaining public housing units. ARHA is implementing the repositioning policy consistent with HUD rules requiring that tenant protections remain in place and that tenant share of rent will not change beyond the current 30% of household income.”
The documents also noted that ARHA has selected 11 potential development partners to increase the overall number of affordable units by making units available to households earning between 30-60% of area median income.
The next big project for ARHA will be the redevelopment of the Ladrey building that will replace the existing units with units kept affordable through housing vouchers in addition to other residential development.
“In 2021, the Board of Commissioners will issue a redevelopment opportunity for the combined site of the existing Ladrey building together with the adjacent former ARHA site,” ARHA said. “The goal is to construct a multifamily building to house the existing 170 units at Ladrey by converting the units to project-based vouchers (HUD has approved the Section 18 reposition for this property) and add additional affordable and market rate units. The building will have an onsite management office, amenity space for use by all the residents, underground parking and units that meet current building codes.”
In the annual plan, ARHA said the push for more rental assistance can offer more flexibility and can supplement the public housing with project-based vouchers — units where residents pay some costs and ARHA makes up the remaining difference in utility and rental costs.
“Through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, ARHA will continue to own its properties and provide its residents with expanded choices and opportunities,” the public agency said. “ARHA will also have the ability to evaluate and immediately address many needed capital improvements and will continue to serve the same population. The RAD program offers ARHA an opportunity to transition from its current public housing funding platform to a more stable, predictable and sustainable funding source, the Project-based Voucher (PBV) program, which will be administered by the ARHA. The same families who are eligible today for public housing will be eligible for the PBV program.”
School Board Member Jacinta Greene thinks the history of race relations should be taught in Alexandria City Public Schools.
“Systemic racism and race relations should be taught in schools,” Greene told ALXnow. “What has happened to Black people and minorities in our country has been deplorable and when you don’t teach history, that’s when it repeats itself.”
Greene doesn’t necessarily think Critical Race Theory should be taught, but says ACPS students should get a primer on history that hasn’t been whitewashed.
After a grueling three year term beset by controversy and the steady deterioration in the relationship between the Board and City Council, Greene is one of three incumbents running for election this November. She said she is not opposed to the idea of taking a leadership position, since Vice Chair Veronica Nolan is not seeking another term, and that she’s running so that the Board maintains a semblance of institutional stability.
“I’m running for our kids,” Greene said. “I’m doing it for teachers because they deserve strong leadership. The pandemic has been hard on all of us. I’m sure that did play a part in some [other members not running for reelection]. I’m a strong believer of running for at least two terms. I don’t think one term on the School Board does justice to our school system.”
After a term that included the slow easing of COVID restrictions, the renaming of T.C. Williams High School and recent elimination of the School Resource Officer program by City Council, Greene faces a contentious election.
Greene is running in District A along with Board Member Michelle Rief, while one seat is being vacated by Christopher Suarez. The two incumbents will face off against former City Councilman Willie F. Bailey, Aloysius Boyle and D. Ohlandt.
Greene said that her heart sinks when thinking of the past year-and-a-half. She’s a marketing consultant for her day job and lost all but one of her overseas clients, which helped keep her afloat, all while the school system shifted to a virtual format for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year and then a hybrid model in 2021.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “Something comes over you when you think about all of what we’ve been through. Everything was totally turned around and upside down. I’m very proud of our School Board and school system on being able to pivot and to be able to provide free food to families across the city and provide the access to the online schooling.”
But, she said, ACPS wasn’t creative enough in reopening its in-person instruction to kindergarten-to-second graders and students with the greatest needs.
“I just think we needed to bring them back faster,” she said. “It needed it needed to be more creative in doing it, with out of more out-of-the-box thinking.”
Greene has a goal of knocking on 6,000 doors before election day, and said that learning loss recovery will be her top issue.
“Students need to be assessed to make sure priorities are in place for them to recover,” she said.
She also said that ACPS land should not be used for affordable housing, and that the Board’s relationship with City Council will need to be mended after a number of contentious votes, including Council’s elimination of School Resource Officer funding.
“All school land should be used for schools, and I do not believe in putting housing on school land,” Greene said. “We’re going to have to get very creative, because we’re going to need schools in the near future as we continue to grow and deal with capacity issues.”
As the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) moves forward with its plans to build a 482-unit affordable housing complex in Chirilagua-Arlandria, the local non-profit unveiled the first renderings for the site and stats that raised some eyebrows online.
The City Council approved a loan for the AHDC project in May as part of an ongoing effort combat gentrification likely incoming with Amazon’s arrival in nearby Crystal City. The new development will come at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Glebe Road.
Of the units proposed, a quarter of them will be deeply affordable — meaning available for those earning up to 40% of area median income (AMI) and the rest will be a mix of available at 50, 60 and 60%. Units will range from one-to-three bedrooms in size.
The primary concern, raised on the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook group, is that the site will only have 382 parking spaces for cars — 100 fewer than there are units in the building. The building will also have 150 spaces of bicycle parking.
AHDC is scheduled to hold two virtual meetings on the project — one in English and one in Spanish — on Wednesday, July 21. The Spanish session will run from 6-7 p.m. and the English session will run from 7-8 p.m. An in-person open house is scheduled for Aug. 10.
The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a massive high-rise apartment building project near the Eisenhower Metro Station in Carlyle, and none of the 1,414 units will be dedicated to affordable housing.
Instead, the applicant Carlyle Plaza, LLC, will contribute $6.1 million to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
Jonathan P. Rak, an attorney for the applicant, told Council that the city will get more bang for its buck by spending the $6.1 million on “wood construction, which is a less expensive type of construction to actually produce more high-quality affordable units within the city, than if we were to just take that money and apply it to these high-rise concrete construction units.”
Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and lost 90% of its affordable housing stock between 2000 and 2017. Consequently, the city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. With land scarce, controversy erupted last year when City Council asked the School Board to consider colocating affordable housing on public school grounds in future development plans.
City Councilman Mo Seifeldein was the only member of Council to criticize the 1.4 million-square-foot Carlyle Plaza II project, which will ultimately add four new 30-story and 28-story apartment buildings, including 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail, above-grade parking, five acres of open space and public art.
“Contributing money alone, while helpful, it also creates those inequities and an intended separation of certain segments of our populations, and also denies them the opportunity to be in this area,” said Seifeldein before voting for the project. “We hope that in the future this applicant or other applicants look at what we’re doing here today and really try to work with us, because this is a monumental project that could have been greater, but an opportunity has been lost.”
Via City of Alexandria
The proposed conversion of a West End apartment building into a three-building complex has neighbors concerned of potential parking issues.
The current surface level parking lot would be moved underground and expanded to 313 spaces, but neighbors are concerned that on-street parking will become a problem. The plans call for . With 385 units, that provides .81 spaces per unit, which property owner Wesley Housing says falls within the city’s parameters.
“The Cameron Station Civic Association is very concerned about traffic congestion on Holmes Run Parkway as well as the very few parking spaces that will be made available (well below one per unit),” said Association President Sash Impastato.
The plan would take five years to complete, as the 14-story ParcView Apartments building at 5380 Holmes Run Parkway would be completely renovated and joined by two adjoining nine-story buildings and an enclosed courtyard.
Wesley Housing, which owns the property and is managing its redevelopment, wants to do it in four phases, beginning with the construction of the underground parking garage, and followed by the construction of the two new buildings, the relocation of residents from the existing building to the new buildings, and then the renovation of the original 14-story building.
The project would add hundreds of affordable one and two bedroom units to the three acre property, increasing the total number of apartments from 149 to 385, with 267 units for residents making 60% of the area median income (AMI) and 69 units for residents making 40% AMI.
“Our current plan is to… go to the Planning Commission and City Council at the beginning of 2022,” said Wesley Housing’s attorney Cathy Puskar in a Zoom presentation on Tuesday night. “Then we would have to do our final site planning or building permit financing and start construction hopefully in 2023.”
Courtesy Wesley Housing
The Twig donates $150K to Inova Alexandria Hospital — “During their annual luncheon Tuesday morning, The Twig (Together We Ignite Giving), the junior auxiliary unit for Inova Alexandria Hospital, presented a $150,000 check to the institution as part of its $1 million pledge to renovate the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.” [Zebra]
Amazon and Metro announce $125M plan to make 1,000 affordable housing units near Metro stations — “This represents another return on the region’s extraordinary investment in mass transit, as the partnership with Amazon will accelerate transit-oriented development, grow ridership, and keep our region competitive with other global economic centers,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg. “Amazon is stepping up to the plate with an unprecedented commitment to affordable housing in the National Capital Region.” [WMATA]
Sheriff’s deputies and police officers graduate from Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy — “The new law enforcement officers successfully completed 20 weeks of training, including emergency vehicle operations, firearms training, defensive and control tactics, crash investigation, basic legal training, and other important areas. Some Alexandria members of this class distinguished themselves, with Officer Stephen Weidman earning top honors in the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course and Officer Yadiel Nuñez having the second highest score in Firearms.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Sunny skies. High near 80F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 58F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New job: Bartender/Server/Runner — “The Old Dominion Boat Club is looking to hire servers, bartenders, and food runners. We have competitive pay and participate in a very healthy and robust tip share.” [Indeed]
With no more mayoral debates, now it all boils down to the Democratic primary on June 8.
Like the main event at a boxing match, Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg on Thursday night maneuvered through a series of questions in the final of four Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forums.
This is the final debate or forum for the two candidates until the June 8 Democratic primary.
Wilson is leading in fundraising and endorsements, while underdog Silberberg has gotten support from groups like the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook page for agreeing on a number of its pet issues, including government transparency, reversing the Seminary Road Diet, and curbing developments.
Fifteen City Council candidates participated in the Seminary Ridge conversations, opining on density, affordable housing, government transparency, flooding, and, their opinions on making changes to the controversial Seminary Road Diet.
After a 4-3 Council vote in 2019, the road, which is next to Inova Alexandria Hospital, was reduced from four to two lanes in exchange for a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the street, crosswalks and medians. A majority of Council candidates are now in favor of taking a look at bringing travel lanes back from two to four lanes on the 0.9 mile stretch of roadway between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street.
Wilson said that he is in favor of tweaking the plan, although has been accused of ignoring the opposition of 13 civic associations.
“It’s unfortunately we couldn’t get everyone in the community on the same page on this issue,” Wilson said. “I believe the improvements that we made were good ones. I’m hopeful that in the future we can continue to tweak as necessary.”
Silberberg said she would restore the four lanes.
“This is a major arterial road that leads to our only hospital,” she said. “I’ve seen it and many residents have seen it and told me about it that they’ve seen ambulances stuck. I think we have a chance to right this wrong, and, of course, keep the pedestrian improvements, but I wouldn’t have voted for it and I will restore the travel lanes if I can get everyone together on that.”
Silberberg said she’s been saddened to hear reports of residents not trusting their government, and defended recently pledging herself to an accountability pledge labeled the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights. Silberberg lost to Wilson in the Democratic primary in 2018, and says that she worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week during her single term.
“I think they [City staff] should sign the pledge as well,” she said.
Silberberg also criticized the performance and six-figure salary of City Manager Mark Jinks.
“It is a lot of money, frankly. I brought this up (when mayor) but nobody agreed with me, but for the City Manager to have a car allowance. It sounds minor, but I don’t think we should have that for him. I think we should revise that.”
Wilson said that Jinks’ salary was in the middle of the pack when compared to the salaries of neighboring jurisdictions, and that he is appropriately paid given the organization that he runs.
Colocation of affordable housing
Wilson said he does not want to colocate affordable housing on the grounds of Alexandria City Public Schools, a position echoed by Silberberg on another controversial issue.
“I don’t support putting affordable housing on our existing school properties,” he said. “We need more instructional space.”
Silberberg said that the school system is bursting at the seams as it is.
“I would certainly support an ordinance to say no to putting housing on our limited school properties,” she said.
Wilson said that the city’s Environmental Policy Commission is full of “good science minds” that can look into the city’s stream restoration projects, including at Taylor Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run. Last month, Council opted to send aspects of the projects back to the drawing board in light of widespread public criticism.
Silberberg says that Alexandria has few forests left, and that she has long been opposed to the plans, as well as Wilson’s “unending pursuit of overbuilding”.
Transit lanes on Duke Street
Speaking of road diets, Wilson and Silberberg agreed that the Duke Street Transitway project should not result in fewer traffic lanes between Landmark Mall and the King Street-Old Town Metro station.
“I personally don’t think the volumes on Duke street would allow us to remove any traffic lanes on Duke Street,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna have a lot of community engagement to figure out the best alignment, as well as looking at the intersections to try to reduce some of the cut-through traffic that we see in a lot of our neighborhoods.”
The city is embarking on the public engagement part of the project next month.
On $60 million in federal COVID funding
Silberberg said that the nearly $60 million in COVID relief funds coming to the city should be handled carefully, and after all of last year’s flooding that the funds should be spent on stormwater infrastructure.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment from the federal government, and we need to be extremely careful and good stewards of this money,” she said. “Think about what is mission critical. First and foremost, I think we clearly have to focus like a laser beam on this flooding, the sewage and stormwater flooding that’s attacking, and stalking, really, our residents every time it rains.”
Wilson said he’s proud to have led the city through the most significant public health crisis in a century, and that the city needs to invest more in the social, emotional and academic losses experienced by Alexandria children.
“We have an opportunity to make generational investments in our community around our infrastructure, around our facilities, around some of the systems around workforce development and things that are going to ultimately benefit our community for generations,” he said. “We got 1,300 suggestions from the community, and we’re going to be working in June and July to apply those suggestions in figuring out how to use that first tranche of money.”
Image via Seminary Ridge Civic Association/Zoom
The Seminary Road Diet took center stage Tuesday night, as City Council candidates met in the first of three West End forums.
City Council candidates Canek Aguirre (incumbent), Alyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike, Patrick Moran and Sarah Bagley were the first batch of candidates to speak at the Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forum.
The group was first questioned on the role of civic associations in policymaking discussions, since 13 civic associations were opposed to the road diet, which was approved in a 4-3 Council vote in 2019.
Aguirre voted for the road diet, and said that the opinions of the civic associations were taken into consideration at the time.
“I don’t think that the civic associations were ignored,” Aguirre said. “We listened, we disagreed and that showed in our vote… I want us to be able to get back to a place where we can be able to disagree in a civil way.”
All the candidates said that civic associations are important, as are the recommendations from the city’s board and commissions.
McPike said that, if elected, he intends to conduct regular town halls across the city, and to work with civic associations to participate.
“It’s important that we’re hearing from a wide range of opinions and the civic associations can be channels by which to bring that input into our policymaking process,” McPike said. “The next council has to be ready to help the city fully recover from the effects of this difficult year. And I believe in my time working on city Commission’s and my legislative skills from Capitol Hill will enable me to hit the ground running on day one, to help the city do exactly that.”
Moran previously said that he would vote to reverse the road diet if elected, while Gaskins said that she would not reverse it and that funds could be better spent elsewhere.
Most candidates were opposed to the idea of colocating affordable housing on the grounds of Alexandria City Public Schools, but none want to back an ordinance preventing it from happening.
“We have to look at everything that’s on the table,” Aguirre said. “If it’s an argument around safety, then I fundamentally reject that argument, because when you look at the schools that we have today in Alexandria, you literally have schools that are across the street from million dollar homes and from public housing. If you don’t believe me, come take a trip with me. I’ll take you around the different schools and show you.”
Bagley, who runs an affordable housing nonprofit in D.C., said that schools need to be left alone.
“We have a shortage of capacity for schools themselves and for classrooms and recreational spaces and pools and all those issues,” Bagley said. “While I think we have many other more pressing ways to use our city on spaces, I would not push for a permanent bar to consider it in an architectural consideration.”
Moran only wants colocation of housing for teachers at ACPS.
“Alexandria’s average starting pay for teachers is $56,000,” Moran said. “That’s not enough to live in our city…. I don’t think we ought to be looking at housing for any other types of scenarios to meet our housing goals. I think that we can find solutions alternatively for that, but for teachers, yes.”
The second forum will air at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, and feature candidates Bill Campbell, John Taylor Chapman, Darryl Nirenberg, Bill Rossello and Meronne Teklu; followed by the final Council candidate forum on Monday, May 24, with Kevin Harris, Amy Jackson, Jim Lewis, Florence King and Mark Shiffer.
The mayoral forum between Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.