Updates from Letty – March 19, 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,

Before getting to city business, I have to address the horrific murders in Atlanta earlier this week, six of which were against Asian American women. In addition to the official statement from all of City Council, as a Chinese American and mother of three biracial kids, it’s incumbent on me to speak up and categorically condemn these acts of hate, bigotry, and violence. I ask that you join me and stand up, speak out, and support our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Read on for my full thoughts + our budget work session, including federal relief money coming to Falls Church, and our first look at the long-awaited development at the “other” Broad and West corner (vacant carpet store and Rite Aid), currently known as Founders Row 2.

Take care,

(1) Solidarity with the Asian American Community

I’ve had to yet again explain the overwhelming reality of this country to my kids and hold my breath while I wait to hear if they’ve experienced any of the racism I have – anything from the seemingly benign “where are you *really* from” to the more serious “go back to where you came from” that I’ve lost count. Regardless of the final determination of the motive behind the murders in Atlanta, for a community that has been sounding the alarm the past year about increasing violence, inflamed by racist rhetoric around COVID-19 – the latest horror certainly feels anchored in anti-Asian racism and misogyny, made possible with guns. To our AAPI community, including our businesses, who are experiencing fear and discrimination – I grieve and stand with you.

This Anti-Asian sentiment is not isolated nor is it new, in fact it has a long history in the US – from the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese Americans to the model minority myth that has insidiously silenced us to “shrug it off” and move on. It’s heartbreaking that it takes mass murder to get attention. If you also believe that thoughts, prayers, and proclamations are not enough, join me in using your voice and privilege to redouble our efforts to dismantle systemic racism: listen to the AAPI community, educate yourself about Asian American history and roots of anti-Asian sentiment, combat racism when you see it, explore your own implicit bias, donate to one of many worthy organizations (I love this one in particular because food is a universal language), and support our local Asian-owned businesses, many of which have been more severely impacted by COVID-19. After this heavy week, I have to hope we can work together to make our country a more equitable place for the next generation.

(2) Budget Work Session & Federal Relief

The deep dive topic in this week’s budget work session was the CIP (Capital Improvements Program) – ie, the rolling 6 year set of projects with useful lives of 5+ years and cost 150K. The CIP includes new/renovated buildings like the high school and library to less glamorous projects like intersection improvements and sewer pipes. In my time on Council, we’ve continued to be very ambitious about delivering a lot of projects, undertaking the largest CIP ever in the city’s history. Here are the highlights:

  • New this year: piloting 1) an equity assessment in evaluating and prioritizing CIP projects and 2) an operating cost calculator to understand true total cost, not just the upfront capital cost of a project
  • This snapshot is a good overview of the active CIP projects with the full CIP available here
  • Expect to see completion this coming fiscal year:
    • W&OD dual trails (June!)
    • Conversion to LED streetlights city-wide (pilot area for community feedback coming soon)
    • S. Washington streetscape and transit plaza
    • Greenway Downs traffic calming
    • Pedestrian HAWK crossings at Broad and Oak/Fairfax/Berry Streets
    • Intersection improvements at N. Washington/Columbia and S. Washington/S. Maple. For details on all transportation projects, see this schedule.

The City Manager also reported out in the coming weeks, we will have more details on the city’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan – ranging from $3-16M. While we await more guidance from the Treasury Department on the specifics and rules on how the funds can be deployed, this be transformational for the city. This will be an opportunity for us to provide tangible relief to the community impacted by COVID-19 and invest in our many long-standing priorities. Your input will be important.

(3) Founders Row 2

We had our first Council discussion on the proposed project for the Rite Aid and carpet store site at the corner of Broad and West (opposite corner from under construction Founders Row) – currently named Founders Row 2. As proposed, it will be a mixed use development with market rate housing, senior housing, and 12% affordable housing, LEED gold, and small amount of ground floor commercial uses and small co-working space, meant to complement and not compete with the much larger retail presence at Founder Row 1. While it is called Phase 2 – it will have its own approval process, public hearings, and opportunities for community engagement.

For the long underutilized and now vacant sites, there’s a lot to like about this redevelopment that offers far better uses, significant affordable housing, positive fiscal benefits to the city, and improves on some of the transportation woes in that area. It’s early on – I expect we’ll see more iterations and have future discussions as the developer refines the project based on feedback.

What’s Coming Up:

Current draft schedule of meetings and agenda items

FY22 Budget Meeting Schedule

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