Updates from Letty – February 18, 2022

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,

This week’s post will be short and sweet. (We had a two hour meeting, which is short by our standards.) Besides the affordable housing grants discussed last week, we also received an annual report from the CACT, our volunteer board on all things transportation. This is a good time to make a plug to join one of our boards and commissions, a low commitment way to add your voice and help shape city programs and policies in areas like parks, housing, stormwater, development, and more. Ask me how to get started!

Because it was a short agenda, I’ll take the opportunity to highlight a few new things outside of our meeting:

(1) New wayfinding – coming soon!

(2) Urban Forestry – I picked up the Urban Forestry Commission as one of my new liaison assignments, so I’ll share what I’ve learned so far and why you should care.

Finally, our City Council retreat was rescheduled, so in lieu of our regular meeting, you can find us at our retreat next Tuesday, Feb 22 at 6 pm discussing our priorities for the coming two years. It’s open to the public, but I’d welcome your continued input before we meet as well.


What Happened This Week:

(1) Affordable Housing Grants – we unanimously approved the $7M+ grant funding for new affordable housing initiatives (a new homeownership program, extension of the affordablity covenant for expiring units by 10 years, a strike fund to acquire and preserve more affordable housing). As I wrote last week, it will be important to get the details right, so expect more discussion in future meetings.

(2) Wayfinding Signs – coming soon! Thanks to the EDA, new wayfinding signs (wayfinding is just a fancy word for helping people navigate/”find the way”) will be coming in the next month. Recognizing that city signage had gotten hodge-podgey over time – the EDA took on a project to clean up outdated signs and replace with new, consistent signage to better market the city and distinguish itself as a unique place. Expect new gateway signs at the entrances of the city, new signs to identify city public parking, and new signs around specific landmarks like the Tinner Hill area.

Sample Gateway Signs

(3) Urban Forestry

Our trees are one of the more common characteristics cited about the city. The ecological benefits of trees are obvious to most, but the aesthetics of our tree lined streets also help distinguish us from the region. I’m grateful to the visionaries who planted trees in our commercial corridors decades ago, our Urban Forestry staff, and the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) who look after this important responsibility. The UFC, formerly known as the Tree Commission, is charged with advising the city arborist and City Council on policies and practices for the care and improvement of the city’s urban forest.

A few “did you knows” –

  • At last report, the city’s tree canopy coverage is at 46%. (As reference, Arlington’s tree canopy is about 41% and Alexandria’s is 36%)
  • We have been named a Tree City USA for 42 years and running
  • City trees are trees in the city’s “right-of-way” and you can identify each of them out the 11K+ city trees in this online inventory/map called Treekeeper (the width of the street right-of-way varies from 0-15 ft or more from the curb line). The inventory also includes calculations on the eco benefits of our trees, rankings of the most common trees in the city, and more.
  • You can request a free city tree for your property from the Neighborhood Tree Program, a city program in partnership with VPIS
  • The city offers resources for tree care, including recommended species to plant and licensed contractors to do work
  • Redevelopment – as neighborhoods turn over and our commercial districts get revitalized, we should strike the right balance between needs of people and needs of the trees:
    • When residential redevelopment occurs, current city code requires 20% canopy within 10 years either through preservation of existing trees and/or planting of new ones. Of course, young trees don’t offer as many benefits as mature trees and if there is a lot of land disturbance, roots are often damaged and mature trees can’t be saved. There are small incentives to encourage preservation of mature trees – I’d be interested in boosting those, especially as mature trees soak up stormwater which is a common issue in certain neighborhoods.
    • In commercial development, tree planting is among the package of concessions we negotiate with developers. I look forward to supporting the UFC in creating minimum standards for tree canopy and green space in commercial projects going forward.
Neighbrohood Tree Program Logo

What’s Coming Up:

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022 – City Council Planning Retreat at 6 pm

Monday, Feb 28, 2022 – Letty’s Virtual Office Hours at 12 pm

Monday, Feb 28, 2022 – City Council Meeting*

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