Updates from Letty – December 1, 2023

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

We’re down to the last two City Council meetings in 2023 where we’ll cover some of our most important topics of the year: our annual joint work session with the School Board, demographic projections, revenue forecast and budget guidance for the next fiscal year. The joint meeting next week sets the stage for continued partnership and financial planning to meet key community needs for the upcoming year and beyond. And while we’re on a lighter week, I’m going to share the planning concept of a 15 Minute City and why Falls Church is a prime candidate – it’s a holistic concept that promotes sustainability and health by reducing car dependency and increasing physical activity.

Thanks for all the great input last week on our legislative priorities for Richmond on leaf blowers, our charter amendment, and safer walking and biking. Speaking of input, our last Ask the Council office hours of 2023 will be next Wednesday, December 6 at 9 am. After the holidays, I’ll resume my personal office hours as well. After the new City Council is seated in January, we’ll be developing a new workplan for 2024-2025 so keep the feedback coming.


PS – Get in the holiday spirit this Sunday at the Falls Church Forward meeting focused on our Welcoming Culture pillar: we’ll hear from Welcoming Falls ChurchHomestretchFalls Church Homeless Shelter, and other community organizations in the city that support vulnerable populations and then wrap the gifts collected from the Holiday Donation Drive. Many hands make light work – RSVP if you’ll be able to join us!

What Happened This Week:

(1) HARB Appeal

It’s unusual for the City Council to hear appeals on HARB decisions (Historic Architecture Review Board) – the case we had this week was the first we’ve had in my 7.5 years on City Council. At the City Attorney’s guidance, I’m going to refrain from communicating about the appeal until the case concludes, which we kicked off until December 11 while we await more information. If you’re curious, you can read all the public documents and staff report that have been posted and the section of city code that governs historic properties here.

(2) 15 Minute City

The recent Washington Post story about suburbs as the next “15 Minute City” is a great read. It’s not a new urban planning concept, but the reviving idea is that that cities should operate at human scale, places where every resident can reach essential resources by foot, bicycle, or public transport within a quarter of an hour.

“In the United States, the challenge is that communities have been built around the personal vehicle. Whereas life once revolved around being relatively close to things, virtually everything now involves getting behind the wheel…We are so deep in the suburbanization mode that the majority of trips in the U.S. are already under two miles, but we use our vehicles for them at disproportionate rates compared to almost any other country,” Tomer says. “Americans have been hiding both the social and household costs of this model we’ve built.” The United States now ranks highest among its peers for roadway deaths, per capita greenhouse gas emissions, miles traveled and infrastructure costs.”

In my opinion, Falls Church at less than 2.5 square miles is a prime candidate for being a 15 Minute City. For example, 70% of the city’s homes are already within a 10 minute walk to a grocery store! Many of the concepts have already been guiding our long-standing priorities to tackle climate change, housing crisis, and more walkable/bikeable community that can reduce traffic congestion.

Map of Falls Church - A City of 10-Minute Neighborhoods

What’s Coming Up:

Sunday, December 3 – Falls Church Forward Meeting (2-4 pm, Clare n Don’s)

Monday, December 4 – Joint City Council/School Board Meeting (6 pm, MHS Library)

Wednesday, December 6 – Meet the Council Office Hours (9 am, City Hall)

Monday, December 11 – City Council Meeting*

*Mondays (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings