Updates from Letty – January 29, 2021
Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
Two big topics this week: vaccines and the Broad and Washington project. I am fielding a lot of questions about vaccines; I share your frustration and have been trying to seek answers too. We had a representative from the Fairfax Health Department in our meeting this week, and there are hopeful signs from the federal administration and the state, so I’ll share the latest of what I know below. This week’s headline news is that we approved the Broad and Washington (aka Whole Foods) project. There is no such thing as a perfect project – but this one had come a long ways and had enough merits to move forward, so read on for my thoughts. Anytime we consider development projects, I answer many FAQs, so I’ll round those up too.
Before snowy weather arrives this weekend, a few callouts:
(1) Don your masks, bundle up, and check out the newly reopened and renovated Big Chimneys Park, one of many capital investments that have been underway the past year.
(2) You may have heard the news that the city’s entire Public Works crew is quarantining due to COVID-19. It’s a good reminder that we need to keep heeding public health guidance while we wait for vaccine supplies to increase, especially with more contagious variants on our doorstep.
(3) Food banks continue to have all-time high demand. Here are ways to help. An easy option is you can drop off donations or contribute online at a local girl scout troop’s food drive this weekend.
What Happened This Week:
(1) Vaccine Update
Where are the vaccines? Last week, I received several alarmed questions about how Virginia ranked last in the US for vaccine administration. The Health Department representative explained that due to data issues, doses were not getting logged but the issue was being fixed. Since then, Virginia is closer to the middle of the pack and exceeding Governor Northam’s original goal of 25k vaccinations per day. Virginia also rolled out a new vaccine tracker dashboard that provides more transparency.
There is still a supply issue. When the federal government asked states to expand vaccine eligibility to 65+ a few weeks ago, the commensurate supply of vaccines was not distributed to the states. In addition, Virginia moved to a per capita model of vaccine distribution, which reduces the vaccine supply to the Fairfax Health District and led to cancellation of appointments at area hospitals. Virginia expects to receive 105,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine each week and based on the population within the Fairfax Health District, it currently receives 13,600 doses per week. The federal government has indicated that supply to states may increase soon by approximately 16%, but that has not happened yet. We have the capability to give a lot more than 13K doses per week – so there continues to be advocacy at the local and regional levels for more supply to match our demand and capability. We are told that we should not expect supply to improve significantly until March at the earliest.
How are City of Falls Church residents prioritized? Falls Church residents have equal access and priority as the rest of the residents within the Fairfax Health District, which serves residents from Fairfax County, Cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, and Towns of Herndon and Vienna. So rest assured that our residents won’t get left behind.
Vaccine allocation: While the health department works through the 100K+ long list of registrations, Governor Northam provided guidance on how to allocate the doses received each week: roughly half of the available supply each week will be used for people 65+ and the other half will be allocated for people eligible in the other categories, including individuals 16-64 with a high-risk medical condition; frontline essential workers (such as teachers, childcare staff and public safety employees); and people living in correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
(2) Broad and Washington 6-0 Approval
We approved the Broad and Washington project, which will include a new permanent home for Creative Cauldron, a Whole Foods, more public parking, impressive fiscal benefits for the city, and the largest set of voluntary concessions we’ve ever negotiated. Besides the annual fiscal yield, this chart details the benefits we’ve received from each mixed use project in the city and where that money went.
Before you expect cranes at that corner, there is still a detailed site plan process that will take a year or so, with construction in 2022.
The approval of the project also includes an option in the voluntary concessions to re-allocate some of the benefits to provide more affordable housing, something that I’ve written about for months. If we make this move, 10% of all units in Broad and Washington (33) will be designated as permanently affordable, a new benchmark for the city – compared to affordable units that have been built in the past that have expirations after 15-20 years. We’ll be taking up this separate resolution over the next few weeks.
Two development-related FAQs I’ve heard this month:
Mixed use development crowds the schools – Contrary to common belief, less than 8% of students live in the newer mixed use buildings which debunks the top misunderstanding about development. The “where students live” analysis is updated and reviewed annually as a collaboration between FCCPS and the city. The vast majority of students live in existing neighborhoods or older developments. This annual analysis serves as input into the fiscal model used to assess new development projects, where we can make enrollment projections with precision down to the housing type and unit type.
We’re running out of land! Since we are only 2.3 square miles, it is an understandable concern. I posted this analysis a few years ago, but most will still be surprised that despite development seemingly everywhere, only 34 out of 203 “developable” acres in the city’s commercial areas have been redeveloped between 2000-2015. This is worth revisiting to add in Founders Row when it opens this year (4 acres) and eventually projects in the West End and Broad and Washington.
Older FAQs posts:
2018 FAQs #2
2018 FAQs #1
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 including virtual Board & Commission meetings: