Newsletter

Morning Notes

Mayoral candidates engage in public forum — “Alexandria’s mayoral candidates gathered in a virtual forum on Saturday, kicking into high gear to get their message out ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.” [Alexandria Times]

Amazon backs grant program to spur affordable development near D.C.-area transit — “Amazon will fund a new grant program to help local governments and nonprofit developers pursue affordable projects near transit stations, directing $500,000 of its recently announced $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to this effort.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local group plans Four Mile Run clean-up — “Join us Sat., Oct. 23 for cleanup at Four Mile Run Park from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to celebrate the Clean Virginia Waterways and Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.” [Twitter]

Alexandria kid goes viral for love of fire department — “Alotta yuck these days… Please enjoy the delight of my three year old spotting a fire truck. @AlexandriaVAFD, meet your biggest fan!” [Twitter]

D.C. didn’t ask Northam and Hogan to help crack down on ticket scofflaws, despite initial claims it did — “D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser never reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland to negotiate reciprocity for automated traffic camera tickets, despite a District government report — signed by the mayor and submitted to the D.C. Council last week — saying that said she did.” [DCist]

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The foot of King Street flooded with water is a dramatic visual that comes up nearly every time there’s flooding in Alexandria, but the city is facing some sticker shock for a long-planned fix.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee this week, city staff presented a variety of plans that could help combat flooding on the waterfront, from a pair of cost-conscious options to options that put focus more on results than staying within budget.

City staff said that the three main sources of flooding on the waterfront are:

  • Stormwater overwhelming the stormwater-sewer system
  • The river backing into the sewer system
  • The river “overtopping” and coming into Old Town streets and parks

Matthew Landes, division chief for project implementation, said the last one — overtopping — happens less frequently than the other two. Landes presented two cost-based options for combatting flooding on the Waterfront within the capital improvement plan’s $100 million allocation for Waterfront improvement, but neither will fully fix overtopping from the river.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 1 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The first, which covers the Waterfront from Duke Street up to the northern end of Founder’s Park, mitigates rainfall flooding but makes no shoreline or park improvements. A combination of pumping stations, use of underground space at Founder’s Park, and more would help retain and remove floodwaters in the area. The project is estimated to cost $90 million, but staff said that could range from $63-136 million.

“On this project, we are prioritizing rainfall-runoff mitigation,” said project engineer Sara Igielski. “What that means we have to make sacrifices in terms of the other flooding that we have seen but we have identified rainfall-runoff and that backflow as being critical to addressing the funding we see most frequently.”

Landes said the project would meet two of the three objectives for managing water, but would do little to nothing for situations where the river rises and floods Old Town.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 2 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The other cost-based option presented would be hyper-focused on the area between Duke Street and King Street and would defer improvements north of King Street. The project would add a new bulkhead on the promenade along with a pumping station and underground retention at King Street park, but still would not hit all three of the flooding issues for Old Town and staff expressed concerns that flooding upstream could still lead to flooding in this area.

“This does not meet our flood mitigation goals,” Landes said. “It does not remove all of the floodings as we would want it to when we invest $100 million.”

But while staff also expanded on some more comprehensive and more expensive options with estimated costs of $170 million and $215 million, Committee members balked at proposed budgets.

“Everything you’re doing is more than we can afford,” Committee member Nathan Macek said. “That’s one-and-a-half elementary schools. I can’t imagine spending that kind of money to fix the flooding in this part of the city.”

Macek also noted that the Waterfront Small Area Plan approved in 2012 was intended as a parks and recreation plan, not an infrastructure plan, and the plans put forward by staff would allocate the full budget for the plan into flooding infrastructure. Macek said a more realistic approach might be building-specific enhancements to safeguard against damage from flooding.

“Everything we’re talking about here, to me, as much as I love the Waterfront, I couldn’t fathom the city spending this kind of money on this area,” Macek said. “Look at the flood problems we have here in Rosemont and other parts of the city with [$200-$300 million improvements] that will affect more homes and properties. [The] improvements and alternatives need to be paired back to be as minimal as possible while still providing amenities on the parkland.”

Trae Lamond, Committee member and owner Waterfront restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street), said the first cost-based option was more than ample in its flood protection, but that the city can’t afford to defer the issue much longer.

“I would hate for us not to do anything and then have something terrible happen,” Lamond said.

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Morning Notes

Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana to open Alexandria location— “The Alexandria location will be at the Alexandria Commons Shopping Center, 3231 Duke Street. Frank Pepe, an Italian immigrant from just southwest of Naples, founded the pizzeria in 1925 in Connecticut after working for a macaroni manufacturer and a bakery… The thin-crust pizzas are fired in a coal oven. Small pies start at less than $10 (the tomato pie), and the menu also includes salads, beer and wine. The company has not yet announced an opening date for the Alexandria location.” [Alexandria Living]

Fire Department rescues Golden Retriever with head stuck in Old Town fence — “On Saturday, Engine 201 arrived on a call to find a dog stuck on an iron fence experiencing distress. After requesting Rescue 209, first responders worked to remove the fence from the dog’s neck & return to the owner. The dog was uninjured. Great job by E201 & Rescue 209 B shift!” [Twitter]

Energy Efficient Day is October 6 — “Join the City in celebrating Energy Efficiency Day on October 6, and Energy Awareness Month during October. Energy Awareness Month highlights opportunities to help the community to sustainably use energy resources and reduce climate change.” [Twitter]

Leaf collection program returning to Alexandria — “Nov. 1 the annual leaf collection program returns! Visit alexandriava.gov/LeafCollection to get a refresh on all the details. We’ll post weekly status updates here and periodic operational updates as needed.” [Facebook]

Drug Take Back Day is October 23 — “Dispose of your expired medications during Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 23. There are various locations across the City to dispose of medications you no longer need. Learn more about how to safely dispose of medications.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Overcast with rain showers at times. High 72F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Cloudy (in the evening). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low around 65F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Property Maintenance Code Inspector — “Employees selected for this class are assigned to the Property Maintenance. Maintenance Code inspectors are responsible for conducting proactive inspections, reviewing complaints, and identifying applicable code violations. Inspectors in the class also perform on-site inspections; negotiate compliance solutions with property owners, tenants, and business owners when violations of the codes are discovered and recommend effective, corrective abatement actions. The Code Inspector I class serves in an entry-level capacity within the Code Inspector career ladder.” [Governmentjobs.com]

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Alexandria will begin implementing a vaccine mandate on October 25, ALXnow has learned.

City employees who aren’t vaccinated by that time are required to get weekly COVID-19 tests, the city said in a statement.

“To limit the potential spread of COVID-19 in the workforce and in the community, City of Alexandria government employees are required to be fully vaccinated,” Kelly Gilfillen, the city’s acting director of the Office of Communications and Public Information told ALXnow. “All employees who are unvaccinated or choose not to disclose their vaccination status will be required to be tested weekly for COVID-19 beginning October 25.”

Gilfillen continued, “Any exemptions would only be considered for the testing requirement as this is considered an accommodation for those who choose not to be vaccinated or not to disclose their vaccination status.”

Fairfax County set a deadline of October 11 and Arlington’s plan has been in place since the end of August.

Alexandria City Public Schools staff have, since August, been required to report their vaccination status or participate in weekly COVID-19 testing.

“This is a vital tool to add to our current health and safety mitigation measures,” said Alexandria City School Board Chair Meagan Alderton. “It is a proactive step we can take to help reduce transmission of the virus in our school facilities and strengthen safety measures to protect our community as a whole.”

Alexandria’s transmission rate has remained high for more than a month, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

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Self-driving car (photo via Alan/Flickr)

Among the changes the city is making to its mobility plan, Alexandria is starting to lay the groundwork for autonomous vehicles on city streets.

There are currently serious concerns about the safety of self-driving cars, with specific concerns about the ability of these cars to reliably avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists. But at the technology advances, city staff are still including plans for self-driving cars on Alexandria streets as a future possibility worth planning for.

The recognition of autonomous vehicles was noted as one of the changes highlighted at a Sept. 29 joint Transportation Commission and Alexandria Mobility Plan Advisory Committee meeting. Staff said that the city needs to be prepared for that future from a policy perspective.

The city is in the middle of a broad update to the original plan from 2008. The new Alexandria Mobility Plan includes several actions to help prepare for autonomous vehicles.

  • Consider pilot projects to lay the groundwork for and evaluate the effectiveness
    of various new technologies
  • Prepare for connected vehicles by developing maintenance and infrastructure
    plans to ensure street readiness
  • Prepare for autonomous or self-driving vehicles by developing policies to manage
    potentially significant increases in miles driven and traffic volumes within the city,
    including limiting zero-passenger miles and incentivizing shared use
  • Ensure that safety is a priority when testing and implementing new technologies

Despite the current safety concerns, the Alexandria Mobility Plan said there’s potential for autonomous vehicles to be a roadway safety improvement, as well as an accessibility benefit:

Autonomous and connected vehicles have the potential to improve roadway safety, enhance mobility for persons with disabilities, and potentially reduce congestion. Vehicle technology is advancing quickly, and the City needs to be well-positioned to adapt to these changes. It is important to prepare for connected vehicle technology through strategic investments that accommodate vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, which will help travelers find parking spaces, avoid traffic and crashes, navigate hazardous conditions, and more. Proactive policy making and monitoring will be needed to address potential for increased travel and congestion associated with the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The plan’s 20-year goals include accomodating self-driving vehicles, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

In neighboring Fairfax, a self-driving shuttle started operation last year, though some drivers have been irked by the vehicle. Autonomous vehicles have also been used at Fort Meyer in Arlington. In 2017 a “driverless car” was spotted in Arlington, though it later turned out to be a car driven by a person disguised as a car seat.

Photo via Alan/Flickr

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The power went out on the busiest day of the year in Del Ray on Saturday (October 2).

An estimated 50,000 people descended on Mount Vernon Avenue for the 26th annual Art On The Avenue festival that day, but many restaurants and other businesses were forced to shut down due to the outage.

Homegrown Restaurant Group’s Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant, The Sushi Bar, and Holy Cow Del Ray lost a combined $30,000 in sales, co-owner Bill Blackburn told ALXnow.

“It was disappointing,” Blackburn said. “It was a lot of work for nothing.”

Dominion Energy reported that the outage was due to underground switch and cable equipment failure, and eventually restored power at around 10:30 p.m. — after the event was over.

Mayor Justin Wilson says the city is now considering a “variety” of options to improve service.

“We are exploring a variety of options to improve the reliability of Alexandria’s electricity service,” Wilson said. “We continue to believe that Dominion can and should do more to build a more reliable and resilient infrastructure to serve the City.”

Wilson did not get specific on the options, and said that the City will release more information this week. During the outage, he tweeted out a strongly worded post, and said it was unacceptable that a central business district was plunged in darkness.

Blackburn said business was strong the following day, on Sunday, with support mainly coming from local customers.

“Once again, we are lucky to do business in such a great community,” he said.

The Dairy Godmother, on Facebook, said that it lost “400 kolaches and 1,500 donuts… due to the power outage.”

“We are so sorry we were closed,” the shop wrote. “We have the greatest staff in the greatest neighborhood with the worst power company (except for Texas), we will open at 9AM with Just Fine Donuts, today we have Pumpkin Cake donuts, plus all of our usual flavors of yeast and cake donuts. With luck by 10 we will have Sausage Cheese Kalaches. Custard by Noon with Pumpkin as the Flavor of the Day, Apple Crisp is the Treat of the day.”

Alexandria also sent a letter to Dominion asking them to step up their game earlier this year. There were 16 large-scale outages in 2020 affecting thousands of residents.

The following businesses lost power, according to Visit Del Ray:

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It was a busy fall week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story this week was on a plan to completely close off the 100 block of King Street as a pedestrian-only zone. The plan has been in the works since 2019, and was put into action last year. ALXnow’s poll on the subject had very one-sided results, showing 91% (791 votes) in favor of a permanent change.

There was a momentous groundbreaking this week, as city leaders converged for the $454.4 million RiverRenew Tunnel Project. The project is a major overhaul to replace Old Town’s combined sewer system and prevent 120 million gallons of combined sewage from flowing into the Potomac River.

School violence has become a major issue in Alexandria, as videos of fights at schools are surfacing on the internet, there have been arrests at Alexandria City Public Schools, and protests in front of City Hall on Monday and Tuesday this week.

As for the Alexandria juvenile who was shot in the upper body at the McDonald’s in the Bradlee Shopping Center last week, police say that there have been no arrests yet.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. City looks to permanently ‘pedestrianize’ a block of King Street
  2. UPDATE: Alexandria man charged with homicide after stabbing at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Landmark area
  3. Total Wine is taking shape in Potomac Yard
  4. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  5. Man buys luxury car with fake driver’s license at Lindsay Lexus of Alexandria
  6. Protestors rally to return police to Alexandria schools, but officials say behind-the-scenes talks have stalled
  7. Man arrested for posting lewd photos of Alexandria stepsister on Twitter
  8. Firecracker shuts down Alexandria City High School football game
  9. Adoptable Chihuahua Dory only weighs 3.5 pounds
  10. Mayor Wilson: Potomac Yard construction delay ‘could have nothing to do with Metro station’
  11. Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School

Have a safe weekend!

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The Alexandria Fire Department has reached a critical low with staffing, and the problem is so bad that it could shut down a fire station in the city.

This week, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2141 asked the public to sign a letter to send to City Council. The Fire Department agrees with the content of the letter, specifically that AFD is understaffed by 70 people.

“Due to this, some ambulances and engines are now in service without having any ALS (Advanced Life Support) personnel on board,” the letter says. “This means that, if an ambulance arrives today, the staff on board may not even be able to give a citizen ibuprofen, yet alone provide the life saving drugs or intravenous medicines needed on many of the emergency calls we perform.”

Additionally, while the city is undergoing large amounts of construction, dealing with flooding issues and bordered by highways that carry thousands of people every day, “City Management has put the Fire Department in a position where we cannot provide the services required to help citizens dealing with those emergency situations,” the letter says.

“(I)f this staffing shortage is not fixed, we believe that City Management will force the Fire Department to close down an entire fire station, limiting the services available to those residing in the community surrounding the shuttered station,” the letter says.

The problems go deeper. The union also says that the City Manager’s office has not approved a petition for representation election. The City, earlier this year, passed a collective bargaining ordinance and should have conducted an election for representation “no later than 45 days after submission,” although it has now been more than 100 days since the ordinance was unanimously approved by Council.

The union says that the lag has eliminated AFD’s ability to negotiate a new contract before the upcoming budget cycle.

“We’re talking about respect,” the union says. “We’re talking about being treated like we’re just disposable bodies to fill fire suits. Feeling that way about the management of a city, a city that we work to make healthy and safe everyday, at the risk of our health and safety, is awful.”

The Fire Department, Police Department and Sheriff’s Office all want raises, too, as they are among the lowest paid in the region.

Meanwhile, 27 new AFD recruits are starting their careers by learning how to cope with stress. Between September 28 to October 1, they’ll participate in a four-day mental and physical health, wellness, and resilience training workshop.

“This job can be mentally and physically exhausting so learning about nutrition and stress management can be beneficial throughout their entire careers,” said Lt. Steven Smith, a lead instructor for Recruit School 52. “We want to make sure we’re setting them up for success in every aspect of their careers and their lives.”

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Morning Notes

On Wednesday (September 29), 757 Alexandria City High School seniors in government classes participated in a mock election, and voted for governor, lieutenant governor, the House of Delegates seat in the 46th District, Commonwealth’s attorney and Sheriff. The results were not made public, as the unofficial voting was just an exercise. (Via Claire Going/ACPS)

Aslin Beer Co. opens new scratch kitchen in Alexandria — “For the past two years, Chef Taylor Gates has been learning about pizza and dough — and now the taproom at Aslin Beer Co. in Alexandria’s West End is ready to serve it up. Aslin is opening a new scratch kitchen concept this week called Knead.” [Alexandria Living]

City Council approves additional eviction prevention resources — “City Council’s decision funds $457,000 for two service navigator and two housing relocator positions; storage assistance for household belongings; and additional legal services provided by the Legal Aid Justice Center to assist people at risk for eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [City of Alexandria]

Inova Alexandria Hospital brings peer recovery to the emergency room — “Patients visiting the E.R. for a substance-related crisis can speak with a specialist once they are medically stable. The idea is to help them take that first step toward recovery.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Plentiful sunshine. High 74F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 51F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Employee Rotation Program with the Office of Historic Alexandria — “Work involves writing, editing and planning layout of brochures and flyers, newspaper articles, press releases, and/or planning and implementing publicity and fundraising campaigns. Work requires the exercise of creativity, independent judgment, and a familiarity with Alexandria’s African American history. The work is performed under general supervision of the Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum in consultation with the Director of OHA.” [Governmentjobs.com]

Via Claire Going/ACPS

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Morning Notes

Alexandria appoints flood mitigation manager — “Effective Oct. 11, Daniel Medina will serve as the Flood Action Alexandria program manager. The new position will include coordination across city departments on the flood mitigation program and manage the city’s stormwater capital project lineup.” [Patch]

McAuliffe, Youngkin unload in feisty final Virginia debate — “Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin bickered their way through the second and final debate of Virginia’s competitive governor’s race on Tuesday, trading attacks and accusations from the start of the hourlong meeting.” [Politico]

Taste of Old Town North is Thursday — “Don’t miss The Taste of Old Town North, September 30 at 4p.m. Great food, music and more at this free event happening at Montgomery Park.” [Twitter]

Here’s a list of great walks in Alexandria — “Known for its walkable lifestyle, Alexandria is a city best experienced on foot.” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny. High 73F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky. Low 52F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pet sitter and dog walker — “Alexandria Pet Care seeks an experienced career pet expert to work with animals in their homes.” [Indeed]

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