Updates from Letty – February 5, 2021

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 are almost a year into this new pandemic world, and if you’re like me, still figuring out how to manage the rollercoaster of news and emotions. One minute we have grim COVID-19 death milestones, then we have vaccines, then worries of new variants to dash our hopes. For fellow school parents: as evident by my inbox, I know there are strong emotions about school reopening, and this has been our most recent high and low. This week, I’ll offer my thoughts on what we can do as a community to support reopening and then get to city business: COVID vaccines at CVS and our upcoming votes on affordable housing and the noise ordinance. Also mark your calendars for a community forum series on affordable housing, the first of three panels at the end of this month.

I hope we continue to remember to assume positive intent and offer grace, even through the most frustrating of times. With a final “high” to close out the week – I do believe that we’re on track to have more highs than lows going forward. Hang in there.

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) School Reopening – Letty’s thoughts

As a City Council member and FCCPS parent of three, I am fully committed to supporting school reopening, whether that’s through vaccines, advocacy, or dollars. All of the above are happening. Contrary to opinion, we don’t have legal authority to close bars and restaurants – nor do I believe it would actually help without a much larger coordinated effort and would instead hurt our local businesses. (We’re so small that people could just go elsewhere. And there is also neither regional nor statewide support beyond restrictions already in place.)

With teachers fully vaccinated in a few weeks, a hybrid return for the entire district is in our sights – we are so close! I’ll take the opportunity to join the Vice Mayor’s call for us to make reopening schools (and staying open) our community’s singular focus. Let’s all recommit to sacrifices for the greater community good – social distance, (double) mask up anytime you can’t fully distance even during sports/exercise, and sit out the innocuous, but probably risky activities and gatherings. Easier said than done, I know – it’s human to want to connect and we’re all so, so tired. I’m 100% guilty of wanting some semblance of normal and reclaim my pre-COVID life, but it’s the collective act of us all making exceptions that is leading to high community transmission.

Schools *will* reopen, first in hybrid and then with an eye towards full-time. But until there is herd immunity – inevitably, there will be “pauses” to quarantine and contract trace when cases arise, pauses that we’d all rather not have so kids can stay in school. Government can’t legislate what happens in basements and people’s private lives, so we are depending on each other to limit transmission so those pauses are far and few between.

(2) Vaccine News

CVS and Virginia released good news this week that CVS will begin receiving vaccine supply directly from the federal government and begin offering vaccinations as early as next week. Locations are limited across the state due to supply (ie, not every CVS will offer them), eligibility will be the same as the current phase, and Virginia is working closely with CVS to ensure equitable distribution. Stay tuned. This is good news as we will need the private sector (pharmacies, doctor offices, etc) ready to scale up vaccination efforts when supply increases.

(3) Upcoming Votes

I’ve written about both Affordable Housing and the Noise Ordinance in greater length in recent posts (see here and here) – they’re scheduled at our next meeting on Monday night for votes. You can submit your public comments via email or sign up to testify live at our virtual meeting.

Affordable Housing – up for a vote is a re-allocation of some of the voluntary concessions we expect to receive from the recently approved Broad and Washington project ($2.3M out of $4.5M in total) to provide more affordable housing. The $2.3M would otherwise be directed to capital improvements for schools, library, and parks – areas that we have already made significant capital investments and now have relatively fewer needs. If we make this move, 10% of all units in Broad and Washington (33) will be designated as permanently affordable, a historic benchmark for the city, and we will serve people with incomes from 40-80% of area median income, lower than previous efforts.

As mentioned in my opening, the Citizens for a Better City and League of Women Voters are co-hosting a three part series on affordable housing, with the first of the panels on Sunday, Feb 28 via Zoom.

Noise Ordinance – since the proposal in our work session to update the noise ordinance with decibel level standards, the ordinance has been revised with two changes that we’ll take up for a first reading vote next week:

-In industrial and commercial districts, daytime hours on Friday and Saturday nights will extend to 1030 pm to allow for more flexibility for live music
-Adds an exception for small power equipment, like leaf blowers and lawnmowers, usage during the daytime hours

What’s Coming Up:

Current draft schedule of meetings and agenda items

City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings