Updates from Letty – January 17, 2020

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,

As we head into the long weekend, besides catching up on chores, sleep, or enjoying a sunny getaway – it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the MLK Jr Holiday and ways to honor Dr. King’s legacy. I’m proud to have championed the fourth City-wide Day of Service and encourage you to join your community in a service event. Here are two easy options for you on Monday, but if you can’t participate, I’m sure both organizations would welcome financial contributions!

  • At 10 am, the annual MLK March steps off (gathering and sign making begins at 9 am), followed by a service fair where you can get connected to local volunteer opportunities, and a guest speaker at 12 pm at The Falls Church Episcopal.
  • FCCPS Elementary families are invited to participate in GIVE Day on Monday at 10 am – to assemble power packs with non-perishable food items for local food-insecure students, sort household supplies for Homestretch, collaborate on a community art project, and a give in a blood drive (sign up for a reservation).

We spent most of this week’s City Council meeting in closed session about the library project. The goal is to decide whether to proceed with the library contract and additional costs at our next regular meeting on January 27 (pending the completion of library costs negotiations), which is also the next public comment opportunity. Thank you to all who have written or spoken about how we should spend the surplus; I encourage you to keep sharing your thoughts with us on your priorities.

City Council will convene next on January 25 at our biannual planning retreat, then our January 27 meeting, and my posts will resume after that.


PS – More sidewalks continue to be a top request I hear. ICYMI, have you seen these two new stretches of sidewalks around town?


What Happened this Week:

(1) Budget Amendment #1– passed 7-0. Last week’s post shared some highlights of what’s in this amendment, including additional funds needed for the Big Chimneys Park project, increased cost of the West End sewer project, and funding needed for new resources and a stormwater study following the July 2019 flood. Additional funding for Library, City Hall, and other items will come in Budget Amendment #2 at our January 27 meeting, if the library costs numbers are finalized.

(2) Where Students Live – 2019-2020 school year

Anytime we start a budget cycle or debate a mixed use development project, one of the top FAQs I field is the concern that the newer mixed use buildings from the past 15 years crowd the schools and are money losers for the city. (See my FAQ posts from 2017, 2018, and 2019 if want to dig deeper.) Years ago, the city and schools started collaborating on an annual analysis of where our ~2600 students live, anonymize the data, and monitor the trends. That data serves as one of the inputs in a “fiscal impact model” that helps predict expected revenues and services costs for each potential project.

This year’s chart is out and was shared in this week’s School Board agenda. Here are the highlights:

  • This year’s total PK-12 student enrollment rose slightly, from 2635 to 2650, compared to the surprising decrease in enrollment last year.
  • Similar to the past few years, 60% of students live in single family houses, 13% in townhouses, 15% in older apartments, 2% in older condos, and about 9% in the newer mixed use buildings.
  • Student enrollment from older apartment and older condos actually decreased, compared to previous years when we saw regular growth. This decrease is largely driven by a decrease in students at Falls Green (fka Oakwood). Likewise, mixed use buildings saw an increase of student enrollment, driven by increases at Pearson Square and Lincoln at Tinner Hill.

(3) Affordable Housing 101 – I often write about the importance of affordable and diverse housing stock in the city and plan to continue advocating it be a top priority for City Council at our retreat. Just this week in the Housing Commission meeting, I heard from residents of the Merrill House and The Fields with concerns about their high utility bills (over $400 month in a 2 bedroom unit) that burdens their already high cost of living. It’s not uncommon that I hear, “If you can’t afford to live here, that’s your problem.” Here’s a timely story from NPR about why affordable housing matters and why it should be everybody’s problem.

What’s Coming Up: