Updates from Letty – February 9, 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,

It’s been a busy week and this week’s topics will reflect the diversity of everything we covered: climate change (and how it relates to density and development), affordable housing, long range city planning in the East End, and a coming soon community-wide survey. Read on!

Also you might note that my post is about 12 hours early this week – I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you about tonight’s League of Women Voter’s info session on Transition Zones, aka T Zones. As with any hot topic, there are passionate views and unfortunately some misinformation, so I encourage you to get informed. I know weeknights are tough for anyone with less schedule flexibility (ie, kids, jobs, or after hours commitments) so you can watch the livestream tonight or check out the recording that I’ll share when it’s available.


PS – Note the Oak St bridge replacement project begins on Monday, Feb 13. VDOT will close S. Oak between Timber Lane and S. Lee for through traffic until October 2023.

What Happened This Week:

(1) Affordable Homeownership Program – if you recall, we inked the agreement last summer to launch a new affordable homeownership program in the city (see my July 2022 post for more details) using $3.4M in Amazon grant funds we won and $400K of local funds. It’s exciting to share that the program is now live! There are now 3 units available and city staff and our non-profit partner are working through the waiting list. If you may qualify or you know of others interested, please share the program. More information here.

(2) Climate Change

Quick background: As part of the region’s commitment to address climate change, Falls Church adopted goals to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. In 2020, Council supported the adoption of an interim goal to achieve a 50% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

Ok news, but more work to do: Despite an estimated 34% in population between 2005 and 2020, we achieved a reduction in emissions of 22%, surpassing our 2020 goal. This was accomplished through a cleaner electrical grid and becoming more efficient on a number of fronts, including decreased vehicle miles traveled per person, decreased commercial use of natural gas per square foot, and decreased energy use per household. The big caveat is that this data includes the beginning of the Covid pandemic when there was a drastic reduction in economic and transportation activity.

(On a related note, it’s a good time to remind you of interesting data that I wrote about last year that shows that increased population from the past 20 years of development *has not* resulted in more car traffic in Falls Church. I know it’s hard to believe and it’s a common misconception. Similar results have been shown elsewhere that population/density increased without higher traffic counts because transit, bike, and pedestrian activity substituted vehicle trips. This is one of the reasons why “climate scientists and urban planners increasingly suggest that one of the most impactful ways to slash greenhouse gas emissions is to make cities denser.”)

In order to hit our 2030 goals, we have more work to do. This week, we reviewed the scope of work to develop two action plans (one for the community and one for government operations) with strategies to reduce the major sources of emissions. For the Community plan, the plan will focus on the areas with the biggest impact – commercial building energy use, residential building use, and transportation. For the Government plan – while emissions from local government only comprise about 5% of the city’s total GHGs, we still believe it’s important to lead by example.

We expect the plans to be delivered this summer and fall, so more to come.

(3) East End Small Area Plan

Before diving into the specifics, do you know where the East End is? Or what is a Small Area Plan (SAP)?

The East End SAP has been under development with Planning staff and the Planning Commission for the past year. This week we heard an update on the community engagement to date and next steps following the public listening session the Planning Commission held in January. In response to the public input about preserving Vietnamese heritage, concerns about gentrification and displacement of existing small businesses, and current state concerns re building conditions and public safety at the Eden Center – city staff has had direct conversations with civic leaders in the Vietnamese-American community and will expand the outreach methods and extend the outreach period at the Eden Center to ensure the business community’s voices are reflected in the plan before it comes back in front of us.

The staff report does a nice job recapping the input received to date and the next steps if you’d like to dive into specifics.

(4) Community Survey

One of the items in our 2023-2034 work plan is a community-wide survey. It’s been many years since Falls Church conducted a broad, statistically-significant survey to assess our residents’ satisfaction levels with services and needs vs wants, which in turn helps us prioritize budget dollars, programs, and benchmark our results over time and regionally. The survey will use multiple modes of outreach and will be anonymous. The targeted population will be representative of our residents’ demographics.

Expected the survey to be conducted this spring/summer – be on the lookout if you’re contacted!

What’s Coming Up:

Thursday, February 9 (730 pm, Meridian HS Library) – League of Women Voters Town Hall on T Zones or watch livestream

Monday, February 13 – City Council Meeting*

Monday, February 27 – City Council Meeting*

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