Newsletter

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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After the end of the eviction moratorium, Alexandria’s City Council is looking to step up protection for locals facing eviction.

According to a docket item for tomorrow’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting, city staff are recommending that the city fund new services and positions aimed to support Alexandria households going through the eviction process.

The proposed supports are:

  • Two service navigators and two housing relocator positions ($307,000)
  • Storage assistance for household belongings ($50,000)
  • Additional legal services to assist those at risk for eviction ($50,000)

The service navigators provide support through outreach, including door-to-door knocking, community events, and outreach at properties with higher rates of eviction, a memo by City Manager Mark Jinks said. The service navigators also help applicants through completion and submission of rental relief applications. Housing relocators, meanwhile, help displaced residents secure stable housing — a service Jinks said is not currently available except at emergency shelters.

The suggestions came out of the city’s Eviction Prevention Task Force, which started last year and is comprised members of various city departments and outside organizations, like Tenants and Workers united and Christ Church.

“The housing crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has sharply increased the risk of long-term harm to renter families and individuals, disruptions of the market affordable housing market and the potential for foreclosure and bankruptcy, especially among small property owners,” Jinks wrote in the memo. “Following eviction, a person’s likelihood of experiencing homelessness increases, mental and physical health are diminished and the probability of obtaining employment declines. Eviction is also linked with respiratory disease, which could increase the risk of complications if COVID-19 is contracted. Instability, like eviction, is particularly damaging to children, who suffer in ways that impact their educational development and well-being.”

Even before the moratorium expired, some local landlords were starting the eviction process and laying the groundwork to evict tenants. Unemployment skyrocketed to record highs last year, though unemployment figures have gradually improved over the last year. In late August, the Supreme Court invalidated a federal eviction moratorium that would have halted evictions in some places through Oct. 3. The memo noted that Legal Services of Northern Virginia have provided legal assistance to 1,031 individuals through courthouse outreach and the Office of Community Services and the Office of Housing have assisted 3,717 households to successfully apply for rental assistance.

“The immediacy of this halt in the eviction moratorium has created devastating impacts to some households in our community, with an increase of eviction filings,” Jinks wrote.

The memo noted that since the pandemic started, 2,135 residential “Unlawful Detainer Summons” — which initiates the eviction process — have been filed. Of those, 599 (28%) were found in favor of the landlord and 1,307 (61%) were dismissed or classified as non-suited. In total, 283 writs of eviction have been issued.

“These cases could have been stopped by the CDC moratorium anywhere along the process,” Jinks wrote. “With the moratorium lifted, approximately 134 households are believed to be at immediate risk of eviction.”

Jinks wrote that for local residents that have been struggling to pay rent through the pandemic, the worst could still be ahead.

“The overall trends in the data do not indicate that there is an uptick at this time in eviction filings, but rather that there were many households over the past year and a half that started the eviction process but were legally protected by the CDC moratorium,” Jinks said. “Now that the moratorium has ended, staff anticipates that the pipeline will begin to move again, and the City will experience an increase in residents who need assistance in applying for state rental assistance and to find new housing, and who will require other resources.”

The positions will be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act for the next 12 months — $357,000 for City staffing plus eviction storage costs plus Legal Aid Justice Center $60,000. The memo noted its likely that the program will need an additional $500,000 in the next tranche of ARPA funding in the FY 2023 budget.

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Morning Notes

Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap named in top 100 restaurants in U.S. — “Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap, owned by the Yates family of Alexandria, was just placed on OpenTable’s list of the 100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America for 2021.”[Zebra]

Retiring City Manager talks to Agenda Alexandria — “Retiring #AlexandriaVA City Manager Mark Jinks talks about his career in @ArlingtonVA and @AlexandriaVAGov, including everything from redeveloping Landmark Mall to building the Potomac Yard @wmata station @agendalexandria #AgendaAlexandria” [Twitter]

Former police chief named to ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame — “Former Police Chief Earl Cook (was) among the Legendary sports stars of Alexandria honored Sept. 18 as ACPS holds its Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Alexandra City High School Gerry Bertier Gymnasium.” [Gazette]

Alexandria has secret Magnolia Bogs — “Despite their rich history and importance in the local ecosystem, many in the area are still unaware of the existence of these unique micro-ecosystems.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy (during the day). High 81F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy in the evening, then off and on rain showers after midnight. Low near 70F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Delivery driver — “Deliver food in your bike or car from local restaurants to homes and offices around Downtown. Be your own boss! Decide when to work depending on availability and needs. Deliver all days of the week between 10:30am–10:30pm.” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria City Council, on Tuesday, will likely extend its local emergency declaration until January 31, 2022.

The declaration, which was first approved by Council in March 2020, has been continually updated every six months, and finds that “the emergency continues to exist and will exist into the future.”

There are now 13,209 reported cases and 142 deaths due to COVID-19, which is an increase of 215 cases since this time last Tuesday. There were 43 new cases were reported on Thursday, September 10, making for the largest single-day jump since April 12, when 48 new cases were reported.

Alexandria’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is at 3.4%, and the city is experiencing a high level of transmission for the fourth straight week, according to the Virginia Department of Health. In fact, the only localities in Virginia not seeing high transmission are Manassas Park and Fairfax City, which are both seeing moderate transmission.

There have also been 70 cases reported in Alexandria City Public Schools since last month.

VDH says that unvaccinated Virginians make up a majority of new cases. So far, 87,839 residents have been fully vaccinated and 100,982 residents have been partially vaccinated. More than 64% of residents over the age of 18 have been vaccinated, and so have nearly 78% of seniors.

Additionally, the Alexandria Health Department has developed a Fall/Winter 2021 Vaccine Strategic Framework to administer third doses and booster shots.

Find vaccine providers in Alexandria here. If you feel sick, get tested.

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The Alexandria City Council will likely hire the next city manager before the end of the year, and next week the city will hold a hybrid town hall on the “qualities and values” the next manager should possess.

After six years as the highest-ranking government employee in Alexandria, City Manager Mark Jinks hinted to ALXnow in May that he was going to retire, and then made it official a month later. The city is currently undergoing a national search for his replacement.

The town hall will be held in-person at City Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 22. Residents can also fill out an online survey.

A number of top officials in Alexandria are retiring, or announced their retirement this year, including City Councilwoman Del Pepper, Police Chief Michael Brown, and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

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What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne is fed up and says the city’s stormwater management is a disaster. On Sunday, Lawhorne said he was helping a neighbor in Del Ray pump water out of his basement until 4 a.m.

“It’s the same summer repeated over and over again,” Lawhorne told ALXnow. “I’ve got basement damage and my shed in the back is destroyed. Whenever we get a big storm you’ll see two-to-three feet of water rushing into the back alley and our house gets engulfed with floodwater. It’s not sanitary.”

Sunday’s storm dumped five inches of water on the city in less than an hour. The city’s stormwater system gets overrun after rainfall of about three inches.

Mayor Justin Wilson says city staff are looking into which stormwater projects can get fast-tracked, and that money is not the problem.

“We’re exploring ways to accelerate execution of the plan, but more money is not the most significant need,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I am heartbroken for the residents and businesses impacted by this flooding. No one should have to fear for their safety and financial well-being every time it rains. I wish we could implement all of these projects tomorrow, but unfortunately they take time. These are very significant projects. We are working to accelerate these efforts as quickly as possible, as well as identify other ways to reduce the impact on our residents.”

Lawhorne says that City Manager Mark Jinks is at fault for underfunding flooding projects for years, and that the city keeps reliving the same summer over and over. Last summer, for instance, there were several major storms that resulted in the doubling of the stormwater management fee for residents to tackle backups, most notably in Rosemont, Del Ray and Old Town.

“Why do we tolerate this?” Lawhorne said. “I give the City Manager a D- for his unwillingness to pay attention to this issue prior to 2020, until the stormwater system crumbled and there was the political will to do something. I’m glad they’re making improvements now, but their plan falls short of accomplishing what needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

Lawhorne continued, “We will continue to pay the price for the next 10 years, just as we saw this last weekend. It’s been a year since all that flooding last year and we haven’t moved the needle. Where’s the results? I’m not saying we have to get them overnight, but good grief.”

Council’s approval last year provided hundreds of millions of dollars toward flood mitigation. Additionally, the city plans to spend millions in American Rescue Plan Act funding on the Hoof’s Run Culvert and spot improvements.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman has also asked staff to look into redirecting ARPA funding, as well as shifting resources to tackle the issue now.

“It’s a shame to see this over and over again,” Chapman said. “I completely understand the frustrations of residents impacted by small, medium and large storms. We need to adjust and take care of this crisis situation.”

Alexandria announced on Aug. 13, the day before the deluge, that it will accept applications for its new Flood Mitigation Pilot Grant Program on Monday, August 30. Property owner can get a 50% reimbursement (up to $5,000) for flood mitigation projects at their homes.

One resident said on NextDoor that she spent more than $16,000 on drainage systems in her yard last year.

“I know I’m not alone in being frustrated by our flooding and infrastructure issues in Alexandria,” the resident said. “The city of Alexandria NEEDS to address and fix our flooding problems now.”

Lawhorne says he gets frustrated when he hears officials call for patience.

“They say that it’s a 100-year storm, and that it’s just Mother Nature,” he said. “The people who say that must live at the top of the hill.”

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A vaccine mandate for Alexandria government employees will be ready for implementation by this fall, according to Mayor Justin Wilson.

“The policy is being finalized in place right now and should be in place in the September/October timeframe,” Wilson told ALXnow. “This will likely not come before Council as this is in the City Manager’s purview. Although he is of course keeping us up to date.”

The city recently notified employees that it is prepping the vaccine requirement, as VDH says unvaccinated Virginians are making up a vast majority of new cases. Alexandria City Public Schools will also determine this week if it will require vaccinations from staff.

Alexandria is experiencing “substantial” coronavirus transmission, according to the Virginia Department of Health. This month, the city has experienced a 55% jump in COVID cases over July, with 317 new cases reported. There were 204 new cases reported in July, which was a 343% increase over the 43 new cases in June.

There are now 12,450 reported cases in Alexandria since the first case was reported in March 2020. Deaths have remained at 141 since last month. On August 12, there were 33 new cases reported — the most in more than three months.

This month, Richmond became the first city in Virginia to require its employees get vaccinated.  In July, Fairfax County passed a measure requiring all county staff to get vaccinated. Next door in Washington, D.C., government employees are required to get vaccinated by August 19.

Alexandria has a goal of fully vaccinating 110,000 residents, which is 80% of the population — a goal that the city says it has already reached.

So far, 83,769 residents have been fully vaccinated, and 97,270 residents have been partially vaccinated. Just over 62% of residents over the age of 18 have been vaccinated, and so have 77% of seniors.

Find vaccine providers in Alexandria here. If you feel sick, get tested.

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What was an intense week in Alexandria. Here is the rundown.

History was made, as the new marquees at Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary Schools were unveiled this week, and the name changes to T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School will go into effect July 1. It’s a victory for civil rights, as the namesakes of both old schools had backgrounds steeped in racism. Maury was a Confederate leader and Williams was an ACPS superintendent who worked intently against racial integration.

City Manager Mark Jinks on Tuesday also announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. Jinks, who made the announcement to City Council, hinted to ALXnow last month that he was seeking retirement. Today (Friday, June 25) is also the last day for retiring Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown, who will be moving to the West Coast to deal with family matters. Assistant Chief Don Hayes is taking over as acting chief until a national search narrows down a preferred candidate for the job.

Law enforcement events also dominated this week’s coverage. On Tuesday, first responders saved a woman experiencing a mental health crisis who was dangling perilously off the Monroe Avenue Bridge, followed by news Wednesday that a suspect was arrested for a West End murder along with 16 others in a massive racketeering conspiracy. On Thursday, a barricade situation in the West End ended peacefully.

In this week’s poll, when asked whether transit improvements would make residents more likely to take the bus, 48% said they don’t take the bus often and won’t likely change their habits; 38% said they don’t often take the bus, although transit improvements might change that; and 14% said that they already frequent the Metro and DASH bus systems.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. JUST IN: Thieves break into more than 60 vehicles in West End
  4. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  5. Massive redevelopment of West End apartment building has neighbors worried about street parking impact
  6. UPDATE: Alexandria first responders save suicidal woman on Monroe Avenue Bridge
  7. City Council emphasizes marketing funding for Alexandria’s ‘Hot Girl Summer’
  8. Mother and boyfriend allegedly beaten by knife-wielding ex in Old Town North
  9. With eviction moratorium expiring, city pushes renters and landlords toward rental assistance
  10. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks officially announced his retirement to the City Council at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Alexandria community in addressing its challenges and creating a better community for all Alexandria residents and businesses,” Jinks said. “A new City Council will be seated in January that will be developing a new long-range strategic plan in 2022, so this is a good time for a transition.”

Jinks said that he will continue until the end of the year, during which time the city will undergo a national search for his replacement.

“I intend to use what I have learned in my 45-year state and local government career to teach, write, consult and mentor the next generation of public administrators,” Jinks said. “In addition, I will now have time to address personal and travel interests that have been on the back burner for too long.”

Jinks also hinted to ALXnow last month that he was seeking retirement.

After six years as Alexandria’s City Manager and more than 20 years since he started work as the city’s budget director in 1999, Jinks and his wife are thinking about taking some time off in the near future to see their daughter who lives in Spain.

Mayor Justin Wilson has praised Jinks’ performance throughout the pandemic.

“[T]he Manager’s leadership has been absolutely critical over the past year as we have worked to address the human, financial and economic impacts of the pandemic,” Wilson previously told ALXnow. “Alexandrians are well-served by his leadership during this time.”

Jinks is the highest ranking employee in the city government, and his announcement is the second retirement to come from the top in recent weeks. Police Chief Michael Brown, who Jinks appointed, is retiring on June 25.

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