Thursday, December 17, 2009
We got some new neighbors in Arlandria when the Neighborhood Stabilization Program delivered its first fixed up home on Edison St. The project originally aimed to curb the vacant property rate due to major foreclosure rates in Hume Springs, but since many of the homes have been snatched up by homeowners that identified a bargain in this up and coming area, the program is meeting its secondary goal of providing affordable home ownership opportunities to local home seekers. (AlexandriaNews Article)
A Tangled Web... er Streetcar Network Being Woven?
Greater Greater Washington consolidates the DC streetcar network now under construction on a map with the fledgling plans in Northern Virginia. This includes 3 transit corridors in Alexandria that were identified in the Alexandria Transportation Master Plan: Route 1 , Beauregard, and Duke St. See what the network might look like in years to come. (GGW)
Moran Gets Some Money for Four Mile Run (4MR)
The House Omnibus bill passed last week, then was approved by the Senate this week. All that remains is Obama's John Hancock and the various allocations for Four Mile Run should be approved. AlexandriaNews.org said $250K were appropriated "to complete a pedestrian bridge across Four Mile Run." I've heard the actual cost of a bridge to be in the millions, so I beleive they meant 'to complete design work for a pedestrian bridge." (AlexandriaNews Article) Here are the three 4MR appropriations Congressman Moran was attempeting to get in the bill... which of these made it in, I have no idea:
Friday, December 11, 2009
At Tuesday's regular meeting, City Council adopted the resolution to create a group to help remove disincentives to redevelopment, provide input on efforts to expand Four Mile Run Park, and advise on local priorities for improving Mt. Vernon Ave streetscape, among other things (Action Docket #28). To get everyone's streetscape improvement juices flowing, here's a good article from last summer that discusses the importance of street design (Planetizen).
Decision on Co-op Deferred Until April
City Council is still deliberating on whether or not to forgive a $232K loan provided to help establish the Arlandria Chirilagua Housing Cooperative (ACHC). At Tuesday's legislative meeting, the decision was deferred until April, giving the newly elected Co-Op board a chance to work on some of the problems. Rob Krupicka noted, "We have all been made aware of facility issues and these need to be addressed." Of course, patching up problems once when up against a wall does not a successful housing cooperative make... does it? (Alexandria News, halfway down page under "Co-Op Loan Forgiveness Decision Deferred")
Alexandria Among Nation's Worst in Traffic
D.C. area drivers have more need than most to pick a car that's comfortable to sit in, as they'll need to contend with traffic rivaling the country's worst in jurisdictions across the region. Alexandria, Va., was 9th (Wash Examiner)
Will Alexandria Waterfront Plans Get Stuck in Park?
Alexandria officials are closing in on the final details of an ambitious plan to reinvent the historic city's long-neglected waterfront. But their efforts face hazards from residents worried about turning their beloved city into a tacky tourist trap, a swanky boat club at the heart of the development, and decades-old federal litigation over ownership of the Potomac's banks. (Wash Examiner)
Arlington Lifts Advisory for Four Mile Run
Stream conditions are back to normal. Advisory lifted for Four Mile Run stream access at Shirlington Canine Community Area. The County recommends taking normal stream precautions. (Click to read release)
Arlandria's Community Lodgings is being honored by being selected as one of 12 non-profits in the entire metropolitan area to participate in Channel 4's 12 Days of Giving. Tune in this Monday, December 14th at Noon and 4 pm and participate in the opportunity to call in a PLEDGE!! (NBC 4)
Get Your Tree While Helping Area Youth
The Annual Christmas Tree Sale to benefit the Alexandria Police Youth Camp is held by the Amtrak Station, 110 Callahan Dr. The sale will be ongoing, weeknights from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every weekend from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., until they are sold out! Through Thursday, December 24
Alexandria Fire Department Toys for Tots
The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD), is collecting toys for needy families and underprivileged children during the 2009 holiday season. For many years, AFD has partnered with the U.S. Marine Corps to support its Toys for Tots Campaign. Residents can drop off new, unwrapped toys at any Alexandria fire station through December 24. Donated toys may not be used as weapons or considered to be weapons (i.e., toy guns or knives of any kind). The toys are intended to go to children ages 0-17 years of age. (Click for more info)
Community Partners for Children Holiday Toy Drive
Each holiday season, Community Partners for Children collects toys for deserving kids in the Alexandria area, and asks the community for help. Make a cash contribution by sending your check to Community Partners for Children, P.O. Box 2738, Alexandria, VA 22301. Leave a doll, toy truck, game, or any other new toy for a deserving child or a Grocery Gift Card at any CPC donation box. To find the nearest donation box, contact Pat Miller by e-mail or at 703.683.2570. For more information on the various upcoming volunteer opportunities, contact Kendra Chambers by e-mail or at 703.717.0373. The drive ends Friday, December 18.
Still Time to Donate to Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Holiday Sharing Program
Friday, December 04, 2009
Glebe Park Ribbon Cutting Event
Arlington County has sent out an advisory that the public should avoid all contact with Four Mile Run stream downstream of South Walter Reed Drive until further notice as precautionary measure following major automobile fire resulting in the release of auto fluids and fire fighting materials.
Clang, Clang, Clang goes the Water Treatment Plant?
Pile driving resumed Tuesday, Dec 1 for the Standby Generator Facility. This location is farther from neighboring residences than previous piles and partially screened by the Operations Control Building. Noise and vibration in the neighborhood from this phase of pile driving is significantly less than previous phases. This pile-driving phase is scheduled to be completed in approximately six weeks. Pile driving is scheduled Monday-Friday 7:00 am – 7:00 pm. No pile driving is permitted on weekends or County holidays.
Out of Our Depth?
The City's Department of Transportation and Environmental Services invites residents to attend an informational meeting about the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
This meeting will be held on Monday, December 7 at 7:00 p.m. at the George Washington Middle School, Auditorium, 1005 Mount Vernon Avenue.
The last FIRM for the City of Alexandria was issued on May 15, 1991. These revised maps are based on new analyses for streams in the City of Alexandria as well as improved topographic (elevation) information. This new information has resulted in additional properties in Alexandria being added to the areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding. This meeting, however, does not appear to deal with the Pending Decertification of the flood control project.
For additional information visit AlexandriaVa.gov/FloodMap
More Questions about the Coop?
Nick and I have received more questions about the Coop following yesterday's posting about the Alexandria Times article. We don't know much more than that, but for those who are interested, please see this earlier City Council report which has much of the correspondence between the groups involved. Along with that, the Washington City Paper had this article in their publication last year about the protests that led to increased concerns about the Coops operations.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Action Coming for Arlandria!?
The next City Council meeting should include the approval of a resolution to create an Arlandria Action Plan Advisory Group. The changes made from the original version include the charge to "explore disincentives for economic development and opportunities to overcome those." (City Council Docket Item 28)
Arlandria Co-Op Elections and Overall Viability
The Chirilagua Co-op recently held elections. Residents seem hopeful that they'll be better represented (Alexandria Times Article). However, the Co-op looks like it might not qualify for the forgiveness of a $232K loan. From the report: "Based on issues that have arisen over the last few years the question of whether or not the coop is operating successfully... needs to be thoroughly researched and answered." (City Council Docket Item 26)
Potomac Yard Metro Still Searching for Adequate Funding
The scenario as drawn up last week, is still $32 million short. Alexandria says they'll find a way, however. There are also some details as to why this station will cost so much. (Washington Examiner, tip: GGW)
Metro Rail and Bus Fare Hikes On the Way?
Because of Metro budget shortfalls, they're discussing raising bus fare from $1.25 to $1.50 per trip and increasing rail fares by a small amount across the board. There's no sure answer to what will happen, yet. (Greater Greater Washington)
3 MS-13 Murderers Caught
You may recall the July murder victim that was lured to an apartment in the area between Arlandria and Beverly Hills to pay "rent" to MS-13 for pimping on their turf. All three suspects were arrested and were all illegal immigrants from El Salvador. (Alexandria Times Article)
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
On Nov 12th, several Hume Springs residents and Fire Marshall John Javelle walked the streets and alleys of Hume Springs, parts of the Cora Kelley school yard, and the portion of Four Mile Run Park that backs up to the neighborhood in search of free-range trash. Residents bagged up, or dragged to the curb, hundreds of pounds of garbage. Many thanks to Transportation and Environmental Services for a special pick-up to haul away the offending piles of trash.
The biggest problem area was the wetland behind Mark Drive. In that area, residents topped off 20 full bags of beer and malt liquor bottles and dragged out 2 mattresses, a box spring, a bike tire, and various other junk. Based on the location of bottle caps versus disposed-of bottles, it was obvious that people were sitting on a guard rail of the alley, drinking, and throwing empty bottles into the wetlands.
Below: Most of the trash is out of here, and with increased enforcement, perhaps it will stay this way. Also, the clean-up team poses with the fruits of their labor.
Reducing Nuisance Crime and Getting Help To Those That Need It
The following Tuesday, at the Hume Springs Citizens Association meeting, residents informed our Community Officer of the problem drinking area. In the following two weeks, Alexandria police issued 6 citations in this area for open containers. People also were found drinking while fishing on the stream, where they often leave empty bottles behind. Alexandria Police warned everyone that they caught drinking in this location that they would check it several times each day and night. Officer Ruggiero, our Community Officer, brought many of the police that work our beat to the unofficial wetlands area so they would be aware of the problem location and treat it as an unofficial "beat check", or a place they check regularly. The goal is to curb the public drinking that has moved from place to place in Four Mile Run park and nearby areas.
This is just one example of citizen identification of a problem within Four Mile Run park. Last Spring during a Four Mile Run clean-up volunteer event and again over the summer, residents noticed evidence of habitation within the park. They reported this to the community liaison officer who began making sweeps in the problem areas of the park, including the protected wetlands area (area between Four Mile Run and the trail, not the unofficial wetlands). Police made several arrests where alcohol offenses were involved, but also linked up several homeless individuals with social services. These were people that didn't know where to go for help, and Alexandria police linked them up with the right organizations.
Community Liaison Officers
This coordination has been vital in Hume Springs and other neighborhoods where Community Liaison Officers are assigned. Citizens are key to identifying problems within the neighborhood, and these officers get to know neighbors and the lay of the land, making them extremely effective in handing both nuisance crime and catching serious offenders. There have been rumblings that budget cuts could put these positions at risk. We will let you know if any of this turns out to be more than rumor. These officers are among the most effective at catching criminals and improving quality of life in our area. They are definitely one of the essential programs within the Alexandria Police Department.
Be sure to thank your Community Liaison Officers and the rest of the officers on our beat when you see them out and about this holiday season.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
One thing not included in the article is that the initial arrest was made when one of the suspects was called in for attempting to break into a car on Dale St. The police showed up after the suspect broke into one car and removed several items, and then attempted to break into a second car. It turns out, he was wanted for armed robbery for one of the four robberies listed. Through skilled interrogation, the Alexandria Police got the suspect to admit to the other three robberies and give up his accomplice in the robberies.
The Grand Larceny charge for those thefts is minor in comparison to the armed robberies, so it is understandably absent from the charges. The point here is, always call the police. At monthly citizens association meetings, Hume Springs and Lynhaven Community Support Officer Nick Ruggiero often tells everyone, "The residents are our eyes and ears for the community." He encourages us to call in even for seemingly minor problems because the police are experienced in handling various situations and determining what might be an issue.
Perhaps you see someone you don't recognize hanging out on a park bench while kids play nearby. If it makes you feel uneasy, call the non-emergency line (703-838-4444) and let the police determine if there might be a threat. You'll feel a lot less guilty that you were wrongly suspicious of someone than you would if something actually happens. Not to mention, the police often catch wanted criminals when they are stopped for unrelated minor offenses.
With a quick 3-minute phone-call, the police show up and observe the scene. You might allow the police to catch someone that has been robbing area residents at knife-point. That person might turn in an accomplice to save their own tail, and now 2 violent criminals are behind bars. Or, the Police might determine nothing is amiss--but it only took you 3 minutes to call. Our community will only shake off its old reputation of crime infestation if we continue to get the criminals off the streets.
Here is the the Alexandria Police Department press release:
Alexandria Police Make Arrest in Series of Robberies
Alexandria Police Detectives have charged two men with multiple counts of Robbery after a thorough investigation into several robberies that occurred over the last month.Following an intensive investigation, detectives charged Juan M. Benitez, 18, of the 3900 block of Bruce Street, with four counts of robbery and Gustavo Adolfo Ruiz Hernandez, 21, of the 600 block of Notabene Street, with one count of robbery. Both Benitez and Ruiz Hernandez are being held at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center without bond.
The first robbery occurred on October 27, at 7:20 p.m., in the area of West Glebe Road. The suspect approached the victim, implied he had a weapon and demanded her jacket. The suspect was not able to wrestle the jacket from the victim and ran off.
The second robbery occurred on November 2, at 5:15 a.m., in the 3800 block of Executive Avenue. The suspect approached the victim from behind, grabbed her purse, removed her cell phone and fled the area on foot.
In the third robbery, two suspects approached the victim on November 6, at 9:50 p.m., in the 3800 block of Executive Avenue. The first suspect grabbed the victim around the neck, displayed a knife and demanded money. The victim relinquished an undisclosed amount of money and a cell phone.
The fourth robbery occurred at the intersection of Leadbetter Street and Commonwealth Avenue at 8:10 p.m on November 10. The suspect approached the victim and grabbed her purse. After a struggle, he was able to get the purse away from the victim and fled the area. In all the cases, the victims were not injured.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Streetcars, aka trams, are a hot topic in the news recently. They helped form the communities that we now think of as some of the most livable, walkable areas in the Washington, DC area. Some 70 years ago, they fell out of fashion through very questionable actions by the automobile, electrical, and oil industries. It seems they are coming back to the area, so why not here?
The Columbia Pike streetcar project is moving along. Alexandria, Arlington, and parts of Fairfax county make perfect sense as future phases of an eventual Northern Virginia streetcar network.
The newly formed Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition (NVSC) wants to build momentum for this resurgent form of transit that can get you from Metro or VRE to your doorstep (facebook group).
NVSC is holding a kickoff meeting this Wednesday, Nov 18 @ 7pm in Room 158 of Northern Virginia Community College's Bisdorf Building (map). Speakers will include Chris Zimmerman from the Arlington County Board and Stewart Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
To whet your appetite and catch you up a bit, here is a roundup of recent news and information about streetcars. You can also find lots of links on NVSC's facebook group page, linked above.
- What is a streetcar vs. light rail vs. bus rapid transit? Here's a discussion on the Greater Greater Washington blog about the benefits of different modes. Also, here's the Wikipedia entry on Light Rail, which contains a comparison between various transit forms, and the Wikipedia entry on streetcars.
- Here's a link to Alexandria's Comprehensive Transportation Master Plan. Section One includes mention of Light Rail, Street Car, or Bus Rapid Transit as eventual forms of transit for the 3 identified transit corridors.
- DC recently released the most comprehensive streetcar plan in the area (BeyondDC).
- AlexandriaNews.org posted a letter to the editor from former Alexandria City Councilmen Tim Lovain and Lois Walker about the new NVSC and general streetcar info. Here's a key point from the letter:
Done right, streetcars induce mixed-use “transit-oriented development” that accommodates growth while enhancing livability and reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Streetcars can promote street life, define neighborhoods, reinforce retail, and fit easily into built environments with little disruption to existing businesses, residents and traffic. They help create places where people want to be.
So if you'd like to get involved with this group, just show up November 18th. You can RSVP to NOVAStreetcar@aol.com, though nothing says an RSVP is required.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Goal #1 of the City's strategic plan states: "There is Quality Development and Redevelopment, Support for Local Businesses, and a Strong, Diverse, and Growing Local Economy.
But as Nick's earlier post suggested, this goal for Alexandria may not be a priority for Council when it comes to Arlandria.
City Council Members Paul Smedberg & Kerry Donley have been lead a series of meetings on this topic and have been soliciting input from citizens.
Video from the October 22 meeting, for instance, is here along with tweets summarizing the comments made here.
The next meeting in the series is Wednesday, November 4th at 7 p.m. in Room 2000 at City Hall.
Please offer your comments about Arlandria's place in Alexandria's strategic goals.
As proposed, the AAPAG would be charged with, among other things, helping decide how to spend the $500K of Capital Improvement Planning funds that are allocated for Arlandria Streetscape revitalization (more on $500K in CIP here). It would also keep the City on task with actually implementing the vision of the 2003 Arlandria Plan. The AAPAG would be comprised of representatives from Arlandria and the North End neighborhoods: businesses, service organizations, civic associations, etc. The City's Department of Planning and Zoning (P&Z) estimates the need for about 300 hours of their staff time to help facilitate the meetings. Here is the full resolution as it appeared on the docket: (small PDF).
We had already provided Deputy Director of P&Z Karl Moritz with feedback about the draft AAPAG resolution. The only important suggestion we made was to clarify the charge of the new group. We suggested that the group should focus on "removing disincentives to economic development," but that did not make it into the copy that went forward to Council. Because of this, we requested that the vote on the resolution be deferred. This 6-minute video (below) shows discussion of deferral. But in addition, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley questions the purpose of the group and he, Councilwoman Alicia Hughes, and Mayor Bill Euille doubt whether we should spend 300 hours of staff time on Arlandria. (Video is also available here.)
Vice Mayor Donley is worried that Arlandria area stakeholders might ask for money if given an official voice. But, as Councilman Krupicka rightly stated, the entire reason the group is being formed is to jump-start the long stalled plan, and, in the current fiscal climate, to figure out how to do more with less.
Community organizing, volunteerism, and policy changes could go a long way towards making the community better for current residents and businesses and more appealing for redevelopment. There is energy in the community towards improving things, even if it means chasing down donations from garden centers, mentoring an area youth, or just fighting to clear a perceived zoning hurdle. These actions all make a difference and are virtually free to the City, and are things neighbors have demonstrated the willingness and ability to do.
Then there's the little issue of spending the $500K in CIP in a way that maximizes its impact. And quite frankly, who cares if we do request funding for a project that Council may not have known about? Isn't it the job of Council to determine priorities? If we get out the pitchforks and march down to City Hall, they can still say, "No, these other projects are more important." They should not preclude us from asking and fighting for every scrap we can get.
The North End neighborhoods in the Arlandria area have been largely ignored by the City for years, and now the mere idea of spending 300 hours of staff time causes Vice Mayor Donley, Councilwoman Hughes, and Mayor Euille to balk about needing the staff resources elsewhere. Assuming that P&Z employs roughly 45 people (at about 2,000 hours per person per year), that means 300 hours equates to 0.33% of available P&Z staff time. Implementation of the Arlandria Plan was listed as one of the top priorities for P&Z staff time this fiscal year by last City Council (#5 on the list). Do some new members of Council want to retroactively change any other established decisions? Or have they just not retained information about the City's forgotten neighborhoods on the North End? When Donley and Hughes talk of other priorities, they seemingly haven't read the list of P&Z priorities for this year.
I've asked people to e-mail the Mayor and City Council before about issues that affect neighborhoods near us. This time, though, an e-mail to the Mayor and City Council will affect our ability to have a say. P&Z isn't suggesting 300 hours towards this project because they have so much time to throw around. Those 300 hours are needed to let staff help the AAPAG understand the costs of various projects, administer the group, and research and answer questions about City ordinances, policies and available incentives. City Council must enthusiastically retain the commitment to 300 hours of staff time for AAPAG... if for no other reason than just to show they understand Alexandria is bigger than Old Town and Del Ray. There is a tremendous opportunity to revitalize a community. Please ask for the support of the whole Council.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Del Ray Central is located at 3051 and 3061 Mount Vernon Ave. The meeting takes place on November 4th, 2009 at 6:00 at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center (map). We added it to the blog calendar, as well.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Community input is important to the City's current Strategic Plan review and will help shape implementation moving forward. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley and Council Member Paul Smedberg will lead the discussion on this strategic goal: There is Quality Development and Redevelopment, Support for Local Businesses, and a Strong, Diverse, and Growing Local Economy. Individuals who wish to comment at the public forum are asked to sign up in advance and limit their comments to three minutes. Sign up in advance by calling Brandi Collins, Urban Planner, at 703-746-3854, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants should address the following questions:
1. What should the City's top three development and economic development priorities be?Residents can also submit their comments online at www.alexandriava.gov/StrategicPlanning. For more information, please call Brandi Collins, Urban Planner, at 703-746-3854, or email email@example.com or visit www.alexandriava.gov/StrategicPlanning.
2. How should the City measure success as we work on those priorities?
3. What constraints should be placed on development and economic development?
celebrate the importance of afterschool programs on Thursday October 22nd
at our Lights On Afterschool event!
In communities today, 14.3 million children take care of themselves after
the school day ends. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, help working
families and inspire learning. At Community Lodgings, nearly 80 homeless
and low-income children attend our afterschool program daily – especially
important in a community which ranks first in sexual assaults, homicides
and unemployment rate in all of Alexandria. Join us, along with 7,500+
afterschool programs nationwide, in celebrating our afterschool programs.
Community Lodgings' Lights On Afterschool event will begin at 4:00pm and
will be held at our Family Learning Center at 607 Notabene Drive. We will
be joined by community leaders such as Mayor Bill Euille as well as
principals and representatives from the City so that they can share their
experiences working with Community Lodgings' youth afterschool program.
Please RSVP by Tuesday, October 20th if you are interested in attending. If
you have additional questions about the event, feel free to call us at
703-549-4407 or respond to this email.
Director of Development
Featured in the Catalogue for Philanthropy: "One of the best small
charities in the Greater Washington region."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Tuesday, October 20
6:00 pm to 6:30 pm (open house)
6:30 pm to 9:30 pm (meeting)
Charles Houston Recreation Center
901 Wythe Street
Why You Should Be There:
Over the last year, the Potomac Yard Planning Advisory Group and community members have been contributing to creating a vision for the future redevelopment of the Potomac Yard retail center. The vision includes a future Potomac Yard that is built around transit, including a new Metrorail Station, incorporates a vibrant mix of uses and amenities, provides an urban street grid, and is organized around vital open spaces. At the October meeting, attendees will:
View a three-dimensional model and other media that present the current plan proposed to promote the long-term vision for the Potomac Yard retail center.
Meet PYPAG members and City staff, and provide comments and ask questions on the proposed plan.
Participate in focused briefings and discussions on: site design and sustainability, transportation, and open space, civic uses, and housing.
Comments received at the community workshop will inform the final drafting of the Potomac Yard Master Plan, to be released to the public in early December 2009, in anticipation of being heard by the Planning Commission and City Council on the February 2010 dockets.
Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming Meetings about the Potomac Yard Plan:
Lynhaven Citizens Association Meeting -- Focus on Transportation Issues -- Monday, November 2, 7:00 pm, Cora Kelly Rec Center, 25 W. Reed Ave (Potomac Yard discussion 7:45pm to 8:15pm) (three-dimensional model available for viewing)
Planning Commission Worksession--Thursday, November 5, 6:30 pm, City Hall, 301 King Street, City Council Workroom
Potomac Yard Planning Advisory Group Meeting--Tuesday, November 17, 7:00 pm, City Hall, 301 King Street, Room 1101
City Council Worksession--Tuesday, November 24, 5:30 pm, City Hall, 301 King Street, Room 1101
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The W&OD railroad used to make up the southern border of what we now call Arlandria and if you look closely you can still find it's remnants such as this abutment where a rail bridge once crossed Russell Road near West Glebe:
View Larger Map
What would it take? Here's part of the discussion.
See: Could Virginia reactivate the W&OD? at Greater Greater Washington
This new mixed use building by the folks at Maginniss + del Ninno in the Mount Vernon Avenue area of Alexandria, looks like it is going to fit right into the neighborhood. The design will be LEED Gold rated with the exterior utilizing phenolic panels having recycled content, using "rainscreen" technology.
In addition to reclaiming a former automobile service station site, the building will feature low impact urban site development, day lighting, and a "farmable" vegetated roof. It is scheduled for completion in the Winter of 2010. We hope they keep the colors in the final build.
[Rendering: MDN Architects]
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Existing Intersection Issues
First, here's a little background from the 2008 Pedestrian and Bike Mobility Plan to get an idea of why this intersection is at issue. There are traffic and aesthetic issues, as well, but let me outline some of the safety concerns.
The first graphic, below, shows the intersections in question had medium crash density compared to similar sites, city-wide. The only high crash density in the city was just North between Russell Rd and Four Mile Run on Mt. Vernon Ave. I suppose work to resolve those issues will fall to a future effort.
This second chart identifies these intersections as providing fairly poor quality crossing conditions. This supports the need to make improvements at the two sites.
Finally, this third chart demonstrates the high volume of potential pedestrian activity. The relatively poor crossing conditions coupled with a high potential pedestrian activity further support the need to increase the quality of these intersections for pedestrians to avoid future pedestrian-related accidents at this site. Additionally, any effort made to give Arlandria more of a sense of place is a step in the right direction.
The Mt. Vernon/W Glebe Alternatives
Now that we have a little background, let's get to the good stuff. While four alternatives were presented for the W Glebe/Mt. Vernon intersection, only one option was presented in depth. Here is the full presentation.
The first three alternatives presented would require significant redevelopment to become possible, as they required the city to acquire additional right of way to carry out. The three throw-aways were 1) a roundabout with an offset approach, 2) a realignment to square-up the intersection, and 3) offsetting Mt. Vernon Ave (see following 3 images from the presentation for clarity). The roundabout option seemed overly complex compared to the one I mocked up in an earlier blog entry, though admittedly, my mocked up design was only loosely based on what roundabout standards I could find in various documents from VDOT and Maryland's DOT. Even my version requires the city to acquire right of way from 2 intersection-adjacent property owners.
The fourth option is one that could be done within the existing right-of-way. Right-turn slip-lanes are created for both right turns off of Mt. Vernon Ave. Generally that change is considered a setback for pedestrians, but they plan to add additional traffic calming features designed to make the slip-lane feel like a pedestrian oriented space. Finally, the design includes shortening crossing distances by adding a pedestrian island at the northwest and southeast corners that narrow the intersection. The pedestrian island might include certain "gateway" features to make the intersection feel more like an entrance to Arlandria, but what that means remains to be seen.
Primary citizen concerns with this intersection alignment were that it is still not pedestrian-oriented enough. Some were concerned about slip-lanes, though it seemed the extra pedestrian features of the slip-lanes allayed their fears.
One suggestion was to make the right turn lane on eastbound W Glebe a straight and right-turn lane and to make the other lane a signaled left-turn lane. Staff explained that approximately the same portion of traffic goes right as goes both straight and left combined. Citizens were surprisingly less concerned with the traffic flow issues in favor of making the intersection more pedestrian oriented. As a worst case scenario, if the City makes the citizen recommended change and it does not work well, the City could cheaply put the lane alignment and signals back as they are shown in the diagram above.
Reed and Mt Vernon Intersection Improvements
Only a single option was presented for Reed/Mt. Vernon. It added bulb-outs to narrow crossing distance and an additional cross-walk, primaritly to get to and from the bus stops. Citizens thought adding a cross-walk both North and South of the intersection would make more sense. At the very least, the cross-walk should be on the north side instead of the south side, where the road will become narrowest.
Another big question was about a future plan to extend Reed into the Safeway/Datatel site and connect it to W Glebe Rd, as was suggested by the Arlandria Long Term Action Plan. People asked if all this work would be necessary if that plan goes through. City Staff said the current effort makes that effort more feasible in the future. It consolidates some driveways and makes the entrance to Wachovia better aligned with Reed. If the road were ever extended, it would likely pass through this same curb-cut.
Many were concerned about cost. The impression we've been given by the City is that the $500K in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds set aside for "Revitalization of Arlandria" have to stretch over several projects. It looks like these intersection changes will take up somewhere in the $200K to $300K range (perhaps a little bit less) of that $500K. Sandra Marks said the project has not been approved yet and the soon to be formed Arlandria Implementation Advisory Group could have a say in prioritization of the project (more on formation of that group very soon). A delay for prioritization could impact the project start date. Attendees were mixed between getting something done ASAP and making sure this is where we want to spend much of the available CIP funding.
Other concerns were that if the engineering phase of the project were started today, actual construction would not begin until summer 2010. If we agree to this project, why does it have to take nearly a year to get started?
In all, it was a productive meeting, even if we felt we were not really given alternatives to work with. The city is, at least, trying to move forward with one major project in the area. The question still remains why this project was chosen over many others, but perhaps it was just a target of opportunity since changes can be made to the existing right-of-way.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
The City of Alexandria and Arlington County announced today the opening of The Four Mile Run Pedestrian-Cyclist Professional Bridge Competition and Call for Qualifications.
The bridge is planned to connect the trail near South Eads Street in Arlington to the trail near Commonwealth Avenue in Alexandria, as set forth in the Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan. The Master Plan, adopted by Arlington County and the City of Alexandria in 2006, envisions the stream corridor as a location celebrating the diversity and vitality of the surrounding neighborhoods. One component of the Master Plan calls for connections between the two communities through a series of new pedestrian-cyclist bridges. This competition marks the beginning of the design process for the first of these bridges.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Here's the city's press release. A list of trees that should be available are following the press release.
Here's the list from a previous message that came out about the sale:
City of Alexandria Urban Forestry Steering Committee to Hold 5th Annual Fall Tree Sale Saturday, October 3
"Great Trees, Great Prices, and Great for Alexandria"
The City’s Alexandria’s Urban Forestry Steering Committee (UFSC) and the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will hold a City fall tree sale on Saturday, October 3, from 8 a.m. to 1 pm at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2911 Cameron Mills Rd. The goal of the sale is to promote the preservation of the Alexandria’s tree canopy by encouraging the planting of trees on private property throughout the City. Alexandria Tree Stewards and Master Gardeners will be on site to answer questions about tree selection, planting and care.
For additional information, call Jerry Dieruf, Arborist, at 703.746.5498 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Alexandria is committed to compliance with the City’s Human Rights Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act. To request a reasonable accommodation or to request materials in an alternative format, call Jerry Dieruf, Arborist, at 703.746.5498, (TTY 703.838.4902) or e-mail email@example.com.
Trees Available at the Sale
At Arbor Day, North Ridge will sell a wide variety of trees, including the following (max growth heights indicated):
- Pin Oak (3 gallon, $18; 7 gallon $30) – Rapid growing, sturdy oak. Red/burnished brown leaves in the fall. 80 feet.
- Red Maples (3 gallon, $28) – Red buds in the spring, red leaves in the fall. 75-80 feet.
- Honey Locust (5 gallon, $30) – Pinnate leaves, white flower clusters in May. 75 feet.
- Green Giant Arborvitae (3 gallon, $18) – A good upright evergreen screening shrub. Grows 5 -6 feet wide and 50 feet tall.
- Pink Multi Stem Crape Myrtles (3 gallon, $25) - Smooth, grey-brown bark; clusters of crinkly pink flowers. Good fall color. 15 feet.
- Red Bud (7 gallon, $35) - Red/purple blossoms in early spring. Does well in shade. 25 feet.
- Forest Pansy Red Bud (Red Leaf) (7 gallon, $35).
- Kwanzan Cherry (7 gallon, $35). 15 feet.
- Yoshino Cherry (7 gallon, $35). 15 feet
These trees must be pre-ordered in advance of the sale and must be picked up between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on October 3, unless otherwise arranged, or they will be made available for general purchase. To place an order, please call or mail Jerry Dieruf in the office of the City Arborist. Jerry’s phone number is 703-838-4999; his e-mail is Jerry.Dieruf@alexandriava.gov.
- Red Maple (10 gallon, $40)
- Red Oak (5 gallon) – A North Ridge classic. Scarlet leaves in the fall. 75-80 feet.
- Willow Oak (5 gallon) – The stately tree that lines the roads in Fairlington. 80-100 feet.
- Green Giant Arborvitae (15 gallon, $60)
- River Birch (10 gallon, $40) – Only native birch at low elevation in southern U.S. 75-80 feet.
- Hawthorne (10 gallon, $40) – Bright red flowers with red centers. Likes sun. 18-25 feet.
- Hackberry (10 gallon, $40) – Ovate leaves, dark-red to purple fruit. 30-40 feet.
Below, we discuss why alternative D2 should not be thrown out. You can also read our previous post on the subject as a primer.
The recent elimination of alternative D2 by the PY Metro Feasibility Workgroup was short-sighted. Several readers of our previous post on this subject wrote letters to the Mayor and City Council supporting points the post made.
I had an opportunity to read several responses back and they seem to all seem to be the same response from Vice Mayor Kerry Donley. Here is Donley's response, which I believe does not provide a clear reason for the elimination of option D2 (similar to the picture above and to the right).
Thank you for your recent note about the Metrorail station at Potomac Yard. I believe that a Metrorail station at Potomac Yards is essential to the proper development of this site together with our goal of getting more people, residents and commuters alike, to use mass transportation.I do agree with some of Vice Mayor Donley's points in his response to many that e-mailed their concerns about the elimination of alternatives C & D. For example, a Metro station at Potomac Yards is essential to citywide goals. The station is especially important to achieve an urban, walkable, and transit centric Potomac Yards. However, as stated at the Mayor's Institute on City Design, proximity to the Metro station has a significant impact on land and property values, and therefore profit for any developer. The Workgroup's own analysis shows a shorter payback horizon and a higher developer proffer with a station located at the center of Landbay F.
The committee examined many aspects of the candidate-build alternatives and we have opted to concentrate our efforts on the "A" alternative and the two "B" alternatives. There are three primary objectives which we used to arrive at these decisions. First, the capital costs associated with the possible station need to be realistic particularly since the station is planned to be financed through developer contributions and public bonds and then repaid through a special taxing district. Some of the other alternatives carried substantial up-front construction costs which made them too expensive to consider.
Second, some of the alternatives carried significant construction difficulties such as track realignment or long-term construction schedules which made them less realistic. Finally, the options moving forward accommodate more commercial development as opposed to residential development making them move viable as commuter alternatives, with residential areas being served via circulator bus systems.
The City still faces significant financial considerations for the surviving alternatives, particularly financing the construction costs and overcoming construction issues relating to the National Park Service and existing railroad right-of-way. We will be getting more information about these issues as well as more information from Metro regarding ridership information and the timeline for their procurement and construction processes.
Again, thanks for writing.
Kerry J. Donley
The below-ground alternative seems prohibitively expensive and was dropped back in May, but the estimate for the aerial station in alternative D2 might be within reach for a developer. The extra $60-80 million might be made up with the vast improvement on 1/4 mile walkshed. Many of the arguments for this improved walkshed have been made over and over again by those on the Workgroup as well as the panel from the Mayor's Institute, including Christopher Leinberger. Note from the following images how far alternative B3 falls from the nearest development.
Another key point to consider is the impact on traffic. The Vice Mayor points out, "the options moving forward accommodate more commercial development as opposed to residential development making them move viable as commuter alternatives, with residential areas being served via circulator bus systems." How does making the station further away from both residential and commercial properties help this goal.
Alternative D2 is much closer to the greatest density commercial and residential property of Landbay F. If the Metro station is within close walking distance of the greatest density portion of the PY redevelopment, as well as within walking distance of Arlington's PY redevelopment, a greater proportion of travelers to and from this location will utilize transit instead of automobiles. Has Alexandria even talked to developers on the other side of Four Mile Run that would stand to benefit greatly from alternative D2?
As for Vice Mayor Donley's assertion that some of the alternatives were docked because they will be especially disruptive to existing operations, the Workgroup chart (shown atop our last blog on this topic) actually shows options A and B2 as being the most disruptive to current Metrorail operations. All other options were listed as having equivalent impacts. If the City is concerned about the cost and time of studying too many alternatives, throw out alternatives A and B2. B3 and D2 seem to provide far and away the most bang for the buck with the lowest disruption to service.
The City should utilize its hard earned AAA debt rating and be willing back alternative D2, which truly achieves the type of urban, transit-centric community staff and City Council rightly promote. Municipalities across the nation study the forward thinking planning by Arlington when creating the Rosslyn-Balston corridor (30+% of Arlington's tax base on about 10% of its land, all due to good planning). Alexandria has an opportunity to do something that adheres to urban planning best practices, or something that misses the mark. Option D2 needs to at least remain in contention or people will look back in 30 years and say the City provided an infrastructure amenity, but only reaped a fraction of the potential benefits.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Unfortunately, I can give no explanation as to why alternatives C & D are thrown out in this post. All I can decipher from Tuesdays Potomac Yards Metro Feasibility Presentation (PDF here) is that options for a Metro location within Landbay F, the current Potomac Yards shopping center, are no longer under consideration. This is an extremely disappointing result for our area, as it moves the future Metro stop at least 1/5 mile further away from the front door of... well, just about everyone that lives in the more densely populated areas within Arlandria, southern Crystal City, and the eventually densely populated Landbay F. This also means this alternative will provide the smallest relief from traffic possible with this infill station. See previous posts on Metro Feasibility here from May and here from April.
The recommendation of the Mayor's Institute on Urban Design, which included Brookings Fellow Christopher Leinberger, are apparently not under consideration. They recommended moving the station location into Landbay F and maximizing Landbay F's density as the best option for the city. One of the main reasons for moving the Metro to this location is any locations (A & B) East of the railroad tracks require a lengthy walk from the closest property to the station just to cross the tracks from the West. Hopefully the city will eventually release the findings of the Mayor's Institute on Design so everyone has an opportunity to consider the recommendations of the panel.
We'll follow up with more information on this decision as information becomes available. If you thing this is a bad idea, it wouldn't hurt to voice your displeasure with this option to the Mayor and City Council (send e-mail here).
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The survey we talked about previously here is now closed. After about 2 weeks, we had 112 completed surveys. Complete survey a results, including all of the comments left by participants are available here.
A Little Analysis of the Results
Here is a little bit of breakdown that you can't get just by looking at the summary numbers. First off, 66% of people, overall, said that a configuration of the space including a dog-park is most-preferred alternative. The split between those that want a dog park and those that don't include it as a top choice breaks convincingly between people that want to see something done soon and those that want to plan and come up with something big. Let me explain:
78% of respondents prefer to do something in the near-term. Of those 78%, 81% prefer that the end result include at least some portion fenced-in dog park as their first choice. However, of the 22% of respondents that would prefer to wait, plan, and come up with something big for the space, 85% did not choose a result that included a fenced-in dog park as their first choice. In fact, of that group, 53% said a fenced-in dog park is their least preferred alternative.
One of the benefits of the way that splits is that we might be able to appease both groups. A dog park is a relatively low-cost alternative compared to landscaping, playgrounds, or other more formal open space configurations. The City has stated that it will be several years before they have the resources to plan and execute something with this space. The City's Open Space Coordinator, Laura Durham, ran down the current plans for the future of this space:
With an opportunity for funding in the future, staff will initiate a community park planning process with the Park and Recreation Commission. This planning process will not occur in the immediate future, though the property will be available to the public as open space when it is fully decommissioned by VA Power.With city approval, we could utilize the space for a fenced-in dog park for several years before a larger planning effort can take place to convert the space to something else. Based on what I've seen in the City budget, the "opportunity for funding" is a long way off.
Dogs Don't Walk Themselves
Some of the dog park dissenters expressed disdain with utilizing open space for the benefit of dogs, stating that parks should be for people, dogs don't pay taxes, etc. Here are 2 examples (by far the minority, but worth discussing):
I wasn't aware that dogs were paying taxes. Asdog owners who have chosen not to provide their own private property for their dog to play in/on a dog owner and property owner, I am tired of my tax dollars being spent to take care of those . Chain link fencing is cheap and unattractive looking and will do nothing to help property values... Let's start spending tax dollars on actual tax paying residents.and
Do dogs pay taxes? Then why are we building parks for them? And please don't try to equate dogs with children. Our children will grow up to pay more than their fair share of taxes -- our dogs won't.The problem with these comments is they don't take into account the fact that the dog is a driving factor in getting the owner outside to enjoy the open space. 50% of dog owners that took the survey use a fenced-in dog park at least once week, with 69% using a fenced-in dog park at least once a month. People take their dogs to the park to get some exercise and they themselves get some exercise, while availing themselves the opportunity to chat with neighbors. The dog owner benefits nearly as much as the dog, and the dog owner most certainly pays taxes. And several years ago, Alexandria raised its dog licensing fees specifically to pay for dog parks.
I'll keep discussion of aesthetics short. 56% of respondents said they'd want to see a wrought-iron type fence if a dog park is installed. Another 33% don't care between a wrought-iron and chain link fence. Chain link is, of course, much cheaper, but more landscaping is required to make it look nicer -- and that adds cost. As for leaving the rectangular hedge of gangly-looking pine trees instead of replacing them with smaller trees, about half the respondents said no, the other half said maybe or yes. I personally think what probably should be done is to remove some of the trees so it's not like a 30' tall wall-like hedge, but leave the healthier specimens in place to retain some of the shade they provide. These then could be supplemented with some smaller trees. In hindsight, based on the comments we received, we should have also included a question regarding mulch versus gravel and grass, but that can be left for further discussions should we go forward.
Don't Give the People What They Don't Want...
Now we'll take a look at what people don't want instead of what they do. The plurality doesn't want yet another empty and purposeless open space, with 43% or respondents being most unhappy if we did nothing. There is a noticeable contingent that does not want a dog park: 21% of survey takers. Of these, 75% of that group does not have a dog, but of non dog-owners overall, 48% include an option with the fenced-in dog park as their top choice for the space. 19% don't want to see an unfenced dog exercise area. On a space located by the intersection of two arterial roads an unfenced dog area is not really a logical alternative -- especially given that, of the 20 dog exercise areas in the city, there are only 4 fenced-in dog parks.
|Least Preferred Option of Those Given|
|21%||All fenced-in dog park.|
|19%||All unfenced dog exercise area.|
|43%||Remains grassy area|
Any Other Ideas?
The survey was intended to get an idea of how much interest people had in turning the area into a dog park. If resources were not an issue, we could have a survey that includes any and all options. But resources are limited and truthfully, if anything gets done here, it will require donated materials and volunteer work. The good news is that these are things that we think we can get.
As for other options, one or two respondents expressed interest in more athletic fields, but this site is far too small for any kind of athletic field, so that is not a viable option. One neighbor requested that we consider a labyrinth, but the cost of hardscape or manicured landscaping would likely be prohibitive as a short-term option. The long-term solution could include a labyrinth as part of a larger landscaped space -- a very interesting idea. We did not include a playground as an option since there are three within 1-2 blocks of the site.
We also did not include a community garden as an option. 5 commenters expressed interest in a community garden, but at only 1/2 acre, the space is fairly small for that purpose. There are portions of Four Mile Run Park that would provide more utility as a community garden, in part because they could use gray-water runoff from Cora Kelly Magnet School as a water source instead of fresh water from the spigot on site at the Reed Ave open space. With the development of a fenced-in dog park at the Reed Ave open space, the unfenced exercise area in Four Mile Run Park could be removed and a similarly sized plot could be used as a community garden. Also, eliminating a dog exercise are within Four Mile Run Park removes the risk of fecal coliform bacteria from running off into the stream.
Long Story Short and Next Steps
The fenced-in dog park is an extremely popular idea. Other great ideas were brought up, but the dog park is one of the few feasible short-term options due to its low cost to set up and maintain (especially if it's mulched). It is certainly not a lock to occur, even if we can cover 100% of costs. The city has a set of guidelines for Dog Parks (Draft copy - 1.4MB PDF) and the Reed Ave site is borderline on size and proximity to residential property according to that document. Our police community liaison officer mentioned it as an idea and Kevin and I ran with it, thinking it would increase the "eyes on the street" in our area, act as a crime deterrent, and bring something positive to the neighborhood. We had people offer e-mail addresses and phone numbers so they could lend a hand with the effort, which will be a big help. We'll also need to find some kind of sponsorship to get a fence installed. We need to work with the adjacent Glebe House Apartments to make sure whatever we do, we consider the neighbors and screen the property with trees. We will begin a planning process of our own as soon as possible. Contact me if you're interested in participating in coming up with and, maybe executing, a plan (firstname.lastname@example.org).