Updates from Letty – May 22, 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,

Ahead of this holiday weekend, I know this year’s start to summer just won’t be the same. In lieu of our annual Memorial Day festivities that have been canceled, I hope you’ll take a moment to join the City’s virtual observances to reflect on the sacrifices of many soldiers and families.

A few important callouts in this week’s update:

  1. Re-opening: with a potential Phase 1 of reopening of next Friday, I know everyone has questions. If and when that happens – read on for more info to prepare.
  2. FY21 Budget: we vote on the operating budget at our meeting next Tuesday. This week we discussed more allocation towards rent relief and we received several bits of good news, so I am cautiously optimistic we’ll be able to fund some important priorities despite the skinnier budget. Again, remember that we’ll revisit the budget in the early fall after we get a better picture of the economy. If you have public comment, you can email us at cityclerk@fallschurchva.gov
  3. Lots of PSAs: free COVID testing this weekend, Metro closures, Fellows Master Park Plan survey, and last calls for Better Together t-shirts and transportation grant support.

I know we’re all coping in our own ways, with anxiety high and patience low after 10 weeks. Hang in there. As summer is looking pretty different this year, here is a meaningful, family-friendly activity you can do at home to keep hands busy. A fellow resident is inviting the community to join in a Grow-A-Row effort to contribute fresh produce to food pantries. Food for Others and other pantries have seen a 400% increase in demand since the start of the pandemic. Read on to see how you can help or look here for other volunteer ideas.

Take care,

PS: I’ve had several readers extend a kind offer to provide homemade masks to anyone who may not be able to get one – email me and I’m happy to connect you.

What Happened This Week:

(1) FY21 Budget

Some good news, just in time for our vote next Tuesday. While the City’s allocation of the federal CARES money is relatively small (about $1.27M), it is enabling us to restore some top priorities and respond to the emergency. The proposed budget will allocate $75K of the City’s CARES money for now, with a more thorough discussion planned in the future.

-Rent relief: the proposed budget will allocate $45K of CARES money towards emergency rent relief. This is on top of an additional $39K of community development block grant money (CDBG) money we’re directing towards rent relief + $6K in the annual budget. Altogether, we hope to meet the increased demand for emergency assistance, but know we may need to do more.

-Traffic calming & sidewalk/LED street lights funding: as a result of WMATA getting CARES money, the City’s obligation to fund WMATA is smaller so we’ll be able to restore $100K to traffic calming* and $180K for sidewalks/ LED streetlight conversion.

*Recall from the February surplus vote, we had appropriated $400K of the $4.6M surplus towards traffic calming. That $400K is currently on hold, at the recommendation of the City Manager until the fall so we can determine whether it’s prudent to spend, depending on the economy.

-Assistant Registrar position: also with the City’s CARES allocation, the budget proposes funding a new assistant registrar position to prepare for the November general election.

(2) Small Business Grants

Hopefully you saw the good news that all 84 small businesses who applied and met eligibility criteria will receive $2K in emergency microgrants, funded by the EDA. While you may see some familiar names on the list, it’s a good reminder that there are so many other small businesses in Falls Church and therefore so many businesses who are hurting. Like rent relief, I think this may be an area that we’ll need to do more.

(3) Prepare for Re-Opening

The City and the rest of Northern Virginia might reopen under Phase One guidelines next Friday, May 29, if the data supports it. As some businesses prepare to hopefully open, all customers should prepare to do the following:

  1. Wear a face covering. Now is the time to make a few from simple materials or buy from local businesses or online retailers.
  2. Keep your hands clean. Bring hand sanitizer with you when you venture out. Don’t touch your face.
  3. Stay 6 feet away from people when you are outside your home. You’ll need to maintain this space if and when you go to restaurants, stores, etc.
  4. Follow the signage. Stores, salons, and restaurants are likely to have signs posted that explain their rules. Be kind and follow them.
  5. Stay home if you are sick. If you are ill — and especially if you are awaiting COVID-19 test results — stay home.
  6. Safer at Home. The Governor’s Forward Virginia Reopening plan allows for some restrictions to be lifted, but everyone is still safer at home

(4) Park Input – please share your ideas for a future park at the Fellows Property at 604 S. Oak St.

(5) Grow a Row FC

Gardening for the common good, no experience required!

Falls Church residents are invited to join Grow a Row FC, a new initiative to encourage gardeners to set aside a small portion of their garden (or even a container on the porch) to grow produce to donate to local food bank Food for Others or smaller pantries. If you’ve never planted anything, don’t stop reading: No donation is too small. Some plants are easy and can grow in pots, Rubbermaid tubs, laundry baskets or even a deep bowl. Grow a Row FC has seeds to help you get started and mentors to give you support. This is a great family activity or a bonding service project for students, Scouts, faith-based communities and other organizations that are staying together while being apart.

Since people started losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic, Food for Others has seen a 400+ percent increase in clientele. At the same time, they’re seeing their stockpile of foods decline. Traditionally, major food bank donors are restaurants and other eateries (now closed or minimized) and gleanings from farmers’ markets. On average, Food for Others receives an average of 45,000 pounds of produce a year from farmers’ markets alone, but the farmers aren’t bringing much extra these days. The local farmer’s market has halted gleaning for now.

You can volunteer by being a grower, by being a gardening mentor, or by helping to deliver donations to the food bank. Learn more at www.growarowfc.com

(6) Final call to help us win transportation $

You can still email SYPcomment@TheNoVaAuthority.org to help us win two grants for walkability and transportation improvements until Sunday, May 24.

West Falls Church Connection to W&OD Trail Project:  

Install a new 10’ multi-use path and 6’ planting strip along Shreve Road between the W&OD Trail and Route 7, acorn style lights, crosswalk near the intersection of Shreve Road and Gordon Road, and benches near the entrance to the W&OD trail.

Sample Supporting Statement

“I support this grant application because it will support a safer pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor for students, workers, and others who are traveling from the W&OD Trail to get to school, the West Falls Church area or the West Falls Church Metrorail Station. Also, this will help with economic growth, development of the new high school, and reduce congestion by implementing infrastructure for multiple modes of transportation.”

Downtown Falls Church Multimodal Improvements Project:

Install two midblock crossings, widen sidewalks and remove obstructions (including utility lines), install curb extensions, adjust intersection geometry, and increase visibility at six crossings/intersections on Park Avenue between N Washington Street and Virginia Avenue.

Sample Supporting Statement

“I support this grant application because it will support improved accessibility and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders on the West Broad Street corridor. The project will enhance connections to the City’s civic, recreational, and cultural resources in Downtown Falls Church. Also, this project will help support economic development, City businesses, and reduce congestion by implementing infrastructure for multiple modes of transportation.”

(7) Final call for Better Together t-shirt and small business support campaign. The campaign has sold 2000 t-shirts, raised over $33k, supported over 60 small businesses and 7 charities!

(8) Reminder: Metro closures begin this Saturday

Metrorail Orange and Silver Line stations will close this Saturday, May 23, through early fall for platform reconstruction work and to connect new Silver Line stations. All stations west of Ballston will be closed.

More info and alternatives if you need to travel.

What’s Coming Up:

City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of all of our other virtual Board & Commission meetings: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/471/Watch-City-Council-Meetings