Updates from Letty – May 26, 2023

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,

Our meeting this week brought out one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen in Council Chambers in a long time. We welcomed a higher than average number of “ceremonial” items, but in the best way: Youth Reps taking their oaths of office, students from Operation Earthwatch, 5th graders advocating for refugees, Pride Month, Wear Orange for gun violence prevention, and public service recognition. It was a clarion display of our progressive community values in action – education, diversity, civic engagement, and service.

As for the actual business on the agenda, that too was packed. Read on to learn about:

  • Preliminary results from our community survey
  • East End Small Area Plan (as it relates to media reports you may have seen about redevelopment threatening the Eden Center)
  • A requested delay at West Falls + the latest for the rest of the project

Monday was our last meeting before the unofficial start of summer; we’ll be back at it at our June 5 work session. See you at our Memorial Day Festivities this weekend!


What Happened This Week:

(1) Community Survey

We received the preliminary results from the Community Survey, where a representative sample of our residents (see demographics below) were given an in depth survey about their satisfaction with living in Falls Church. The presentation we received is available online, and I’ve pulled out a few highlights and a few interesting-to-me takeaways:

  • Satisfaction levels were very high across the board – with 89% rating overall quality of life as good and 90% satisfied with services provided by the city.
  • Top 3 Issues: development/growth, housing affordability, and transportation/traffic and Top 3 challenges: taxes, traffic congestion, and street conditions.
  • 20% of our residents now work in Falls Church and of those, 70% work from home – which has been a clear shift post-Covid. (Editorial: If remote work trends continue – where you live will matter a lot more than where you work. This has big implications for future city planning – how we can meet the needs of daytime workers who may need recreation, dining, co-working space in town vs traditional commuters to a job center or dedicated office space).
  • While we’re a community that clearly values education, over 70% of our residents don’t have children in public school. Schools are actually the 5th ranked reason people like living in Falls Church – walkability, small town feel, proximity to DC, and sense of community rank ahead. (Editorial: this is contrary to the common belief that people move to Falls Church “just for the schools.”)

Expect a deeper dive to come, including benchmarking against other communities and plans for this to be a biannual survey so we can monitor resident satisfaction trends over time.

(2) East End Small Area Plan

If you need a recap on what small area plans are or where is the East End, my February post has a good summary. Since February, planning staff has extended the public engagement period with pop up sessions this spring at the Eden Center which is one of the major commercial centers in the East End of the city. With the support and advocacy of the Viet Place Collective, staff collected input from businesses and visitors of the Eden Center on their goals and desires for the East End.

Since the last draft, the small area plan, which is a long range visioning tool, now reflects stronger language for preserving and promoting the existing businesses and Vietnamese culture at the Eden Center, including an anti-displacement toolkit. Despite concerns over potential redevelopment, we heard from the management company at our Monday night meeting that the property owner has no plans for redevelopment and shares the same goals to keep the Eden Center as a thriving economic and cultural gem for years to come. Some items up for discussion are placemaking/branding strategies such as renaming the neighborhood as Little Saigon and renaming Wilson Blvd which would need cross jurisdiction and state support.

(3) West Falls Update

There’s good news and bad news at the West Falls project, aka the 10 acre project adjacent to the schools’ secondary campus. The good news is that construction is continuing at a rapid pace, with some buildings over 50% complete and substantial completion for many components in the next year. See below.

The bad news is that the developer is requesting a 12 month extension for one of the components of the project, the senior living building that was already on a later schedule as the rest of the buildings in Phase 1. Due to rising interest rates and the banking crisis, their previous partner and senior living operator couldn’t secure financing and they’re in the process of identifying a new partner. While we understand the unfavorable headwinds facing the commercial real estate industry and we’re generally sympathetic, we are negotiating. One request I’ve made is a temporary traffic signal at Mustang Alley/Haycock to improve safety conditions for students and other pedestrians while the street improvement work continues through the summer and start of the next school year.

More to come as we consider their 12 month extension request ahead of a vote in June.

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, June 5 – City Council Work Session*

Monday, June 12 – City Council Meeting*

Monday, June 26 – City Council Meeting*

Wednesday, June 28 – Ask the Council Office Hours (9-10 am, City Hall)

*Mondays (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings