WMATA Considers Closing Two Alexandria Metro Stations — “The 19 stations that could face closure include those that are within one mile of other stations and those that are seeing the lowest usage. In Alexandria, that means the Eisenhower Station and Van Dorn Street station are on the list.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Local Program Supports Artists With Disabilities — “Coletta Collections, an artisan program for people with disabilities, is helping Alexandrians celebrate the holidays safely and sincerely.” [Zebra]
City Looking for Firefighters — “If you’re interested in working for the vibrant City of Alexandria, we invite qualified candidates to apply for our Firefighter I position.” [City of Alexandria]
Watchdog Group FOIA Shows Internal Disagreement in City Over Seminary Road — “[Yon Lambert] said roads for ‘all users’ were more important than roads that met fire department response needs. More to come.” [Twitter]
Seminary Road Sidewalk to Remain Incomplete — “VDOT denies Alexandria’s grant request for the $1 million sidewalk.” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria Now Has 4,077 Cases of COVID-19 — “The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Alexandria is now 4,077, including 73 fatalities. Detailed data, including data on age, race and ethnicity, is available through links at alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus.” [City of Alexandria]
WWII Army Nurse Marian Elcano Dies at 99 — “Elcano spent more than 40 years as a resident of Alexandria, settling in the city with her husband, Michael P. Elcano, and their five children after moving all over the world in military service.” [Alex Times]
Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities Announces Award Winners — “The Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities (ACPD), in conjunction with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, have announced the winners of their annual awards, which will be presented via prerecorded video on October 22.” [City of Alexandria]
Today’s Weather — “Rain early…then remaining cloudy with showers in the afternoon. High 59F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Cloudy skies early (in the evening), then partly cloudy after midnight. Low around 40F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Region Manager — “The Region Manager is responsible for overall growth, financial wellbeing, and development of the centers within their assigned area.” [Indeed]
Beyer Supports Justice In Policing Act — “George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and too many others should still be alive today, and the fact that they are not is a deep injustice that should outrage us all. We need reform now. I’m an original cosponsor of the #JusticeInPolicing Act, and look forward to helping pass it soon.” [Twitter]
Mayors and Chairs in Northern Virginia Decry Systemic Racism — “As the Mayors and Chairs of Northern Virginia, we raise our collective voices on behalf of the more than 2.5 million residents of our region to express our sorrow for the decades of injustices that have befallen the African American community in America.” [Gazette]
With Pools Closed, City Advises Against Swimming in Natural Waters — “As temperatures climb and many pools remain closed, a dip in a river, lake, or stream may be tempting, but risky, as shown by the recent drowning of a Loudoun County teen in a local creek. In addition to the potential for drowning, natural waterways may contain harmful bacteria and organisms, particularly after heavy rains or storms. Avoid swimming in natural waters for a few days after a heavy rain event; avoid swimming in muddy water of lakes, ponds and rivers; and avoid swimming in unfamiliar ponds, streams, creeks, ditches and canals.” [City of Alexandria]
City Provides Resources for Coping with Coronavirus and Social Change — “The City’s Coping with Uncertainty and Fear and Multicultural Resources: Race Based Trauma and Support in Times of Civil Strife web pages provide information and resources to help during this difficult time.” [City of Alexandria]
Former Police Chief Cook Opines on Race Relations — “We have not progressed to the point where we’ve changed our institutions. They are exactly at the place they were when I was a teenager.” [WJLA]
Trinity United Methodist Church Thanks Community for Donations — “On behalf of Trinity Church, we want to extend our gratitude to all of you who contribute to the Rising Hope Mission Church food drive! We started this food drive shortly after COVID-19 hit to try to meet some of the growing needs for food and personal hygiene items for our friends at Rising Hope Mission Church, a mission that serves communities living in poverty south of Alexandria, along the Route 1 Corridor… As of last week, we have donated 2,869 lbs. of food and donated over $1,500 of community contributions! …We will continue this food drive each Wednesday from 4-7 PM through the end of the July.” [Trinity UMC]
Board of Zoning Appeals Denies Seminary Road Sign Appeal — The BZA voted 5-1 on Monday to order the removal of the “Take Back Seminary Road #JustinsTrafficJam” sign. [City of Alexandria]
New Job: Event and Promotions Assistant — “Local event firm is currently seeking an Event & Promotions Assistant to join a rapidly growing team! This firm identifies and develops new streams of revenue for clients through on-site promotions, innovative marketing strategies and advertising campaigns with a personal touch. This is an entry-level position with fully paid training and the opportunity for growth into an executive management role after completion of training program.”
(Updated 4:55 p.m.) With coronavirus, national outrage over police violence against black Americans, and a host of other issues taking center stage in 2020, the debate over Seminary Road that dominated discussions last year got pushed to the back burner, but the issue is making a small comeback at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting next week.
A sign saying “Take Back Seminary Road #JustinsTrafficJam” was prominently displayed at 1420 Key Drive but has been cited by the city as being in violation of zoning ordinances. An appeal of that citation is scheduled for review at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Monday, June 8.
“Zoning Ordinance limits temporary signs on residential properties to a total area of no more than ten square feet, provided that no single sign is larger than four square feet,” the city said in a staff report. “The sign subject to this appeal is 32 square feet, which exceeds the maximum total temporary signage allowed on residential property by 22 square feed and exceeds the maximum individual sign size by 28 square feet.”
The owner of the sign, in an appeal, said he had never had problems from the city putting similar signs on the fences before and believed the sign was targeted for political reasons.
“I believe that I have been specifically singled out for my sign because it makes a political statement,” the owner said. “I have reached this conclusion for several reasons, including that during the previous times I have put a sign on my fence, no one in the city government has ever had a problem.”
When the homeowner pointed to other signs nearby of similar size, he was told that the ordinance was selectively enforced based on complaints.
“There are numerous other signs around the city that have been up for months and sometimes over a year that flagrantly violate the city’s sign regulations, but only mine has been singled out as violating the regulation,” the owner said. “This type of selective enforcement for purely political purposes is not only a violation of my free speech, but is just wrong.”
Photo via City of Alexandria
Fire Officials Deny Seminary Road Political Pressure — “The AFD representatives… pushed back on allegations that the city had strong-armed the fire department into supporting a certain stance. ‘No one is going to force me… to put people in harm’s way – the first responders or the people that we’re charged to protect,’ Smedley said. ‘That’s my number one goal, and that goal can be accomplished with however many lanes are on the roadway, as long as certain measures are in place. If that is being jeopardized, I will dig in hard.'” [Alexandria Times]
Resident: New Seminary Road is an Improvement — “As someone who lives on a small cul-de-sac off of Seminary Road, I am a daily user of Seminary Road. I use the road several times every day as either a driver, walker, cyclist, or simply as a resident. The new Seminary Road is beneficial to me and to my neighborhood. We are able to live with greater safety no matter how we use the road. We are people who live here — not just drive through to some other location.” [Gazette Packet]
Rent in Alexandria Lower Than Neighbors — “The District and Arlington County are virtually tied for average apartment rent, at $2,233 and $2,236 respectively. Rents in D.C. and Arlington County are both up 4.3% in the last year. The average rent in Alexandria is currently $1,746, up 2.8% from a year ago.” [WTOP]
Details About New Restaurant at Bradlee — “Rotisserie chicken, ceviche, lomo saltado and much more are on the menu at El Saltado, a new Peruvian restaurant that recently opened at Bradlee Shopping Center in Alexandria. The star of the menu is likely the charcoal-broiled chicken served with a house salad plus a choice of French fries, fried yuca, rice or Peruvian-style potato salad.” [Alexandria Living]
Old Town Theater Sign May Be Removed — “The Board of Architectural Review is set to consider allowing the removal and relocation of the Old Town Theater sign and other exterior changes as the space is set to become a Patagonia retail store. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chamber at Alexandria City Hall.” [Patch]
APD Investigates Gunshots in Landmark — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a ‘shots fired’ call for service in the 200 block of South Whiting Street. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]
‘Normal Weekday’ on Seminary Road — Has the Seminary Road Diet produced a rush hour traffic nightmare, as some insist? Or is it just producing modest peak period delays, as data seems to show? Video posted by a local cycling advocate, shot shortly after 8 a.m. on a recent weekday, shows free-flowing traffic and no delays, though photos posted by road diet critics show backups at intersections. [Twitter, YouTube]
Students Write, Perform Play at Kennedy Center — “Two talented eighth grade students from George Washington Middle School had the experience of a lifetime when they wrote and performed in a play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts earlier this month. Yahney-Marie Sangare and Sydney Payne were part of a team of young playwrights and actors who produced The Day Nothing Happened, a play about the desegregation of Stratford Middle School in Arlington.” [ACPS]
After months of activism over the much-maligned Seminary Road Diet, the Facebook group dedicated to opposing the lane reduction has rebranded itself and broadened its focus.
On Sunday, the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group was renamed “Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria! End Seminary Rd Diet & Other Bad Ideas.”
“I think that trust in the city government has reached a low ebb. It’s the lowest that it’s been in the 30 years that I’ve lived in Alexandria,” said Bill Rossello, one of the administrators of the Facebook group. “When the city makes a decision, they just go through the motions to make it look like they are making efforts toward civic engagement.”
The group of around 1,500 vocal residents was founded in November — not long after the quick implementation of the road diet, a reduction of the 0.9 mile stretch of Seminary from N. Quaker Lane to Howard Street from four lanes to two, plus a center turn lane and bike lanes.
After Freedom of Information Act disclosures and continuous engagements with numerous city officials, City Councilwoman Amy Jackson surprised her colleagues in December by calling for a reversal of the road diet. Jackson ended up withdrawing her motion, although the group considers the attempted action a victory.
“It’s all about Facebook and the power of social media, because all these people came to us. With 1,500 people, word can spread very quickly,” Rossello said, adding that the road diet will be an election issue in the upcoming local Democratic primary in June 2021. “There will be more FOIAs, and judging from what Amy Jackson promised to do, there will be some movement on this… I imagine that most of our members will support candidates who want to reverse it.”
Now the group will focus its attention to issues across the city. Its description on Facebook now reads:
(T)he City’s lack of truthfulness and transparency has become a pattern across a number of policy decisions and proposals, including those related to road diets, Metro entrances, affordable housing, VDOT grants and business permitting without proper data, justification and approval from actual citizens of the City.
Rossello, who served on the city’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee for seven years in the 1990s, said that the private Facebook group is nonpartisan, but it is not intended to be a debate platform for city residents. About 19 members of the group have been kicked out for arguing, he noted, because the group is intended to be an “affinity group.”
A recent post emphasizes that discontentment among residents bridges the party divide.
“I like adding Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria to our name,” a group member wrote last night. “It helps combat the folks saying we’re grouchy right wingers. I, for one, am a liberal Democrat.”
“I think that we on this site want to prevent our pleasant, tree-lined City from turning into sterile, treeless Crystal City,” the post continued. “We favor a transportation department that promotes traffic flow, not traffic jams. We want our government to return to its friendly, honest, responsive ways. We want to end this era of… rigged community ‘input.'”
(Though the group is vocal in its opposition to the Seminary Road Diet, a less vocal group of residents, including many of those who live along the affected stretch of Seminary Road, support the changes. Also, it should be noted, Crystal City is not without trees.)
Despite the prohibition on arguing, Mayor Justin Wilson repeatedly engages on the page by making comments, many of which refute accusations of a conspiracy against city residents.
The mayor’s comments have fueled the determination of the group, Rossello said.
“I think that he [Wilson] has certainly added to the interest in the group and spurred a lot of discussions. People take advantage of that and spar with him,” Rossello said. “We are going to continue to put pressure on city officials.”
Seminary Road has experienced some delays since the city implemented the contentious “road diet” last fall, Alexandria officials acknowledged at a Tuesday night city council meeting.
After months of pressure from an extremely vocal group of city residents on Facebook, council members peppered staff with questions about the road diet — a reduction of a 0.9 mile stretch of Seminary Road between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street from four to two lanes, plus the addition of bike lanes on both sides, a center turn lane, crosswalks and medians.
The city’s most recent traffic data shows a travel time increase of one minute for vehicles going westbound on Seminary from Quaker Lane to Jordan Street at peak travel times (8:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.) and a 30 second increase in the opposite direction. The data was collected with the city’s Bluetooth travel time monitoring system. On the plus side, staff said, the road is now otherwise safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
Alexandria City Councilwoman Amy Jackson called for a reversal of the road diet in December and spent more than an hour questioning city staff on Tuesday night. During her questioning, she had an aide present a slideshow of photos of traffic along Seminary Road.
“Hundreds of people took hundreds of pictures, because that’s what they’re doing because they’re sitting there,” she said. “I’m not convinced that our city government has alleviated the fears (of the public).”
City transportation planners said that the roadway might be minimally slower for drivers during peak hours, but that it is safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
“For the vast majority of the day the road is performing the same, if not better than before,” said Hillary Orr, deputy director of the city’s department of Transportation and Environmental Services. “And for those other 23 hours, it’s designed in a way that is comfortable for people who are walking, biking, using transit and driving their cars. And that’s one of the tradeoffs that we have talked about throughout this process.”
Fire Chief Corey Smedley told council that his staff was in communication with city staff as the road diet was being planned, and that fire and emergency vehicles have been un-hindered in their ability to navigate through traffic and answer service calls — assertions that run counter to the beliefs of road diet opponents, who have cited a FOIAed trove of emails as proof that fire department brass were pressured into supporting the changes.
When Jackson asked him if his department was in consultation and agreement with the plan, he responded by saying, “Absolutely.”
Police Chief Michael Brown reported that there have been three reported car crashes along the roadway since the road diet was implemented last fall, including one that occurred at the conclusion of a high speed chase by the Virginia State Police. Otherwise, he said, the road diet has presented no issues for police.
Council voted 4-3 for the road diet last October, supported by Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, and council members Canek Aguirre and Del Pepper. In opposition were Jackson, and council members John T. Chapman and Mo Seifeldein.
Bill Rossello wasn’t convinced by the staff presentation. The Seminary Hill resident sat in on the meeting for more than two hours before calling it a night and walking out.
“It’s absolute horse hockey,” Rossello told ALXnow. “The city is not very good at presenting data, gathering data and what it’s really not good at is listening to the overwhelming majority of community members who actually use the road, who see it first-hand, live it every day. Not a bit.”
Wilson said he expects community activism regarding the road diet to continue.
“There are going to be differences of opinion, there are going to be things that we don’t always 100% see eye-to-eye on,” Wilson said. “I appreciate the collaboration on this and so many other matters. I want to thank the community for all of their comments on this. I’m sure they will continue, and that’s a great thing and we can continue this discussion as we move forward and evaluate this project as we committed to do from the beginning.”
But Rossello, who is an administrator of the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, said Tuesday night’s meeting didn’t sit well with him.
“What we’re seeing at the leadership levels is that there seems to be a willingness to go along with this narrative that we were all involved talking about this throughout the process, which is absolutely not true,” he said. “They know that there are more cars on the road, and narrowing roads isn’t gonna make it better. That doesn’t make our quality of life better. I don’t think anything that happened tonight increases the trust that the community has in our city government.”
Don’t worry. Even though Hal Hardaway just closed on a house in Williamsburg, he’ll still be around half the time.
If you don’t know the 70-year-old Hardaway by sight, you might know his famous garage, or the emails the Old Town resident sends to more than 1,000 people on a daily basis railing about the Alexandria waterfront or videos he shares of electric scooter violators.
“I see four-year-old kids on scooters,” Hardaway told ALXnow. “Multiple kids on scooters, fathers with their little toddlers, you know, hanging on, going full speed down the street without helmets. I mean, that is just wrong. And then you get to the point, and we could talk about this for three hours, of how are we going to enforce the law?”
When not fixing up classic sports cars (he has five), Hardaway, a retired U.S. Navy captain, can routinely be spotted walking around lower King Street in his baseball cap, jeans and Navy jacket. He’s a historian at heart and wants to keep the city’s historic appearance in tact, and jokingly refers to last year’s Mirror-Mirror art display on the waterfront as “Technicolor Stonehenge.”
He also once unsuccessfully sued the city for what he viewed as height violations in the Robinson Terminal South development. Recently, he made a Freedom of Information Act request for information related to scooter companies operating in Alexandria. He found that there have been no fines levied against the companies since their introduction in Alexandria last year.
Lately, Hardaway’s been impressed with the Alexandrians Against The Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, and has commented on a few posts.
“This Seminary Road page is the most organized group I’ve seen on going after the city on these kinds of issues, and a kind of fun thing,” Hardaway said. “It’s really interesting, because people have got their their broad swords out now about City Hall… I wish I could have done something like this, and so I’ve made a couple comments this morning. I hope it expands into something greater, something beyond just Seminary Road.”
An only child, Hardaway grew up with an affinity for fixing things in his father’s machine and welding shop in the small town of Crewe, which is about 45 miles southwest of Richmond. After graduating with a physics degree from The College of William & Mary, he spent 30 years in the Navy and lived all over the world as a cryptologist (code breaking), even working a three-year stint as inspector general of the Naval Security Group Command under the Chief of Naval Operations.
Hardaway moved to the area in the late 1990s for his final naval tour at the Pentagon, and never left. He retired from the Navy in 2002 and then worked for eight years in the private sector before officially retiring in 2010. That was around the time that he got interested in local politics.
“I started attending waterfront meetings,” Hardaway said. “The entire reason the city is here is because of the waterfront, and there isn’t any signage or historical markers telling tourists why it’s so important.”
Hardaway is a member of the Environmental Council of Alexandria and sits on the organizing committee for the Old Town Festival of Speed and Style classic car show, the latter of which he co-founded. He recently bought a house in Williamsburg that will be able to accommodate four of his cars, and will soon be spending about half of his time there.
Like classic cars in need of repairs, he looks at Alexandria as a beautiful but broken machine, and he wants to help fix it.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be here for years,” he said. “I think some progress is being made mainly because lots more people are engaged. Look at the development of the wetlands at Potomac Yard. That’s another one. The city is driven by money, and I like it here, but it’s hurt the quality of life, which is going downhill.”
Nicole Radshaw is all in favor of the much-maligned Seminary Road diet.
Three years ago on Halloween, the Seminary Valley resident was hit by a driver as she biked to work at a preschool on Seminary Road. Radshaw didn’t break any bones, but her bike was totaled, she spent a year in physical therapy, and saw a counselor to help deal with the trauma and anxiety of being hit by a car.
“It really sucked. I could have been a fatality. Cars were driving past as I was lying on the road,” Radshaw told ALXnow. “It took me three years to want to get back on a bike again.”
Radshaw belongs to a less vocal portion of city residents who favor the road diet, which has created consternation throughout Alexandria. Mayor Justin Wilson and city officials have acknowledged traffic delays at peak travel times since the 0.9 mile stretch of roadway between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street was reduced from four to two lanes. Bike lanes on both sides were also added, in addition to a center turn lane, crosswalks and medians.
The city council and Department of Transportation and Environmental Services have received thousands of emails and messages against the plan. Arguments from the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group even prompted Alexandria City Councilwoman Amy Jackson to call for a complete restart of the process.
Glenn Klaus lives in Rosemont, and his support of the road diet is more philosophical. He’s a cyclist and hasn’t yet biked on the new Seminary Road bike lanes, but wants to see fewer cars on city roadways.
“The city is trying to change driving behaviors and traffic patterns. People just have to deal, because ultimately I think that strategy is to their benefit,” Klaus said. “When people lose, it doesn’t mean they weren’t listened to. It just means their argument didn’t sway the decision-makers.”
Lisa Soronen lives on Fort Williams Parkway — about five blocks away from Seminary Road — and alternates between taking the bus in the morning and driving to work in the District. She walks her dog in the morning and crosses Seminary Road on foot up to six times a day, which used to be a “suicide mission,” she said. Now she says that drivers are paying more attention to the 25 mile per hour speed limit and she is no longer afraid of crossing the street.
“It’s absolutely wonderful, because if I want to cross the road I have a crosswalk,” Soronen said. “Same thing with the bus. Coming home after 5 p.m., I’d have to run across four lanes of traffic and someone might hit me. I’m really surprised that people feel so personal about it, and they have attacked me personally. I have been attacked online.”
Soronen said she has experienced delays along the roadway in the morning, and has seen emergency vehicles speed through the middle turn lane without issues . She got involved in the planning process for the roadway soon after moving into the neighborhood last April, and has corresponded with members of the city council and city staff.
“I might be delayed sometimes driving on Seminary, but it’s worth it for me for it to be safer for everyone,” she said. “The process I participated in seems open and fair. If things had gone the other way, I don’t think I would have considered that the process failed me.”
Soronen is an attorney and volunteers with the Mother of Light Center, which supports homeless Alexandrians. She said that the argument over the road diet is a waste of her time and distracts city council from its other work.
“I don’t understand the vitriol against this,” she said, calling the dispute “small and petty” and not as big of a deal as, say, poverty and homelessness in the city.