Updates from Letty – May 14, 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,

This week’s post will be briefer, with two specific calls to action for you before getting to city business:

  1. Vaccines – if you haven’t heard, 12-15 year olds are now eligible to receive vaccines. (If you’re looking for a shot for your child before the FCCPS vaccine clinic next week, your best bets are VAMS and pharmacy websites. Walk up sites should have more capacity after this initial flurry.) Falls Church continues to lead the region in vaccination rate (56% of our population has at least one dose!), but I find that we are really living a tale of two cities once you look more closely. While many of you have been on top of vaccine access, I helped city staff visit businesses to register employees the past few weeks and have seen firsthand the hesitation, common FAQs, and the technology, transportation, and language barriers that are keeping some workers from getting shots. As with most of this pandemic, the inequities have become that much more apparent. Share the links and give a nudge or a helping hand when you are out in the community – let’s get more of our residents and workers vaccinated.
  2. Help us win transportation dollars – Falls Church has really come through when there is a call for public comment, so I hope you will help again. Because of our small size, we rely heavily on grant dollars to deliver on the transportation improvements we all want – and public comments really make a difference. Take a minute to write your support for a $6.4M grant to improve S. Washington St (Rt 29) for pedestrians and bus riders by next Monday 5/17. Read on a suggested blurb, email addresses, and more info on the project.

Remember – I’ll hold my next office hours on Monday at 9 am at Mr. Brown’s Park, weather permitting (rain date: Tuesday 5/18, same time and place). Read on for my thoughts on the noise ordinance we adopted after months of deliberation and data collection and how to support the $6.4M grant application.

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Noise Ordinance

After months of discussion, lots of public comments, and last week’s sound demo – we passed a noise ordinance that I think is a decent compromise by a 6-1 vote,.

For comparison: pre-pandemic, the decibel limit in commercial areas was 65 db, and daytime hours were defined as 7 am to 9 pm on weekdays and 9 am to 9 pm on weekends (residential areas have decibel limits of 60 db for daytime/55 db for nighttime). To help our businesses during the pandemic, we granted a temporary waiver to extend daytime hours to 10 pm on the weekends in addition to allowing vending and dining in spaces that traditionally aren’t designated for that use. The noise ordinance we adopted this week keeps the decibel level in commercial areas unchanged at 65 db and officially defines daytime hours until 10 pm for Fri/Sat/holidays, as we’ve been doing the past year. (It also removes the “reasonable person” standard that I’ve written about in the past.)

Letty’s thoughts: as with most compromises, everyone ends up a little bit unhappy. While some residents would have wanted to see hours restricted or reverted back to 9 pm or decibel limits lowered and some businesses would have wanted to go even later than 10 pm and with higher decibel limits – based on the complaint data, sound test, and review of other jurisdictions’ ordinances, this was a solution that best balanced all the concerns, A silver lining of the pandemic is seeing how businesses adapted and transformed former parking spaces/parking lots/sidewalks into vibrant outdoor seating and live music spaces when the city relaxed those rules for the pandemic. I hope those more productive uses of underutilized spaces will be here to stay. (For those worried about the loss of parking – it’s a common misconception that we have a widespread parking shortage. I’m a fan of using parking spaces for dining, pop up parks, etc. After the past year of spending more time outdoors, hopefully we have adjusted to not parking directly in front of businesses and are enjoying a small walk to our final destinations. Here is a reminder of public parking in the downtown if you need to drive.) We’ll be revisiting this topic in the coming months as well as looking at enforcement mechanisms via zoning instead of police.

(2) Help us win $6.4M for transportation improvements

Even if you don’t live in a neighborhood south of Broad St, you’ll know that S. Washington/Rt 29 area is one of the least walkable areas of the city compared to Broad Street, Park Ave, and even N. Washington. The project currently underway will improve the section of Rt 29 from Annandale to Tinner Hill Rd, but clearly more can be done going further west. The city has applied for a $6.4M grant to increase accessibility and safety – with new bus shelters, intersection improvements, a new traffic signal, pedestrian refuge areas, crosswalks, and improved ramps on Rt 29 from Maple Ave to Graham Road.

Email your support by midnight Monday, 5/17 to Six-YearProgram@VDOT.virginia.gov or use this form.

Suggested blurb (personalize if you live, work, or walk nearby): I support Falls Church’s S. Washington St Bus Stop Expansion and Access to Transit Project (#7151) because it improves connections across the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County, increases safety and accessibility for pedestrians and transit riders, and relieves traffic congestion by increasing travel options.

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, May 17 at 9 am: Letty’s office hours (Mr. Brown’s Park)

City Council Meetings every Monday (except 5th Monday) at 730 pmcurrent draft schedule of meetings and agenda items

You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings