Updates from Letty – May 28, 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,

As we head into the unofficial start of summer, I hope you take the opportunity to not just celebrate it as an ordinary long weekend. After a year of cancellations, the city is resuming Memorial Day festivities with modifications. I am grateful for the opportunity to re-emerge and see friends, neighbors, and remember our fallen service members. With state-mandated social distancing and capacity restrictions now lifted, no advanced registration to attend either the Memorial Day Ceremony or concert is needed. And this year’s parade will travel across the entire city – so no need to jockey for a spot on Park Ave either.

Last week I reminded you about the Democratic primary on June 8th (early voting is underway). June 8 is also the deadline for candidates to file petitions to get on the ballot for our local races in November. As the former newbie with no political or city experience when I ran for office 6 years ago, I can assure you all that is needed is a willingness to show up, serve, and do the hard work. I am excited to see new voices stepping up and hope we remain open-minded to learn about all the candidates on the ballot. If elected office isn’t your thing, our volunteer boards and commissions are a great way to wade in. I’m willing to meet and help you navigate either or both!

We had a miraculously short City Council meeting this week, so I’ll instead highlight upcoming agenda items that have been of high community interest and when you should tune in: social justice, post-COVID flexibility for businesses, and the development pipeline. City Council will meet next on June 7, so my weekly posts will resume in two weeks.

Take care,

What’s Coming Up:

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

(1) Social Justice

This week marked the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. In the past year, we’ve re-affirmed our commitment to racial and social justice. Three key areas of work have happened, with updates at our next June 7 work session on the first two.

  • Following the report out in February, staff committed to quarterly progress updates for the recommendations from the Police Use of Force Committee. We expect a discussion on body cam and policies, deploying this year, now that they’ve been funded in the recently adopted FY22 budget and budget amendment.
  • We enlisted our boards and commission to begin an equity review in their respective areas this spring and provide us their recommendations that we’ll also discuss in our June 7 work session. Some examples: transportation investments that we should make to ensure the city is accessible to all abilities, scholarship opportunities for recreation programs, more diverse housing stock beyond single family homes and apartments. This will be an important first effort, and for it to be successful, it will need to be an ongoing and regular discussion across local government.
  • Staff also piloted the use of an equity lens in this year’s budget and capital planning so that we could prioritize projects that would benefit those under stress, reduce current disparities, or avoid implicit bias or increased inequities.

(2) Post COVID Business Flexibility

During the pandemic, the city granted businesses additional flexibility in signage and additional outdoor dining and vending onto sidewalks and parking spaces so that they could adapt their business. These creative solutions have also added vibrancy and activity in traditionally unproductive spaces. Now that we’re coming out on the other side of the pandemic where more activity can safely move back indoors – I hope these new ways of doing business can be here to stay.

At our next work session on June 7, we’ll be discussing a process and zoning mechanism to grant that flexibility while balancing considerations of neighboring businesses and residents. I’d welcome your thoughts on this “silver lining” in post COVID life.

(3) Development Update

Beyond Founders Row (wrapping up construction and expected to open this summer, with retail tenancy announcements coming soon) and the Broad and Washington (aka Whole Foods) project that we approved in the winter and is now in site plan, we have several additional projects in the pipeline. For those concerned that we are moving too fast – keep in mind that re-development proposals have looong lead times. Proposals iterate and improve, and there are many opportunities for community input along the way before approvals. For reference – Founders Row was my first big vote in 2016 and Broad and Washington was first approved in 2018!

The West Falls project (aka 10 acre project on the site of the former high school) is going through site plan reviews now and will come back in front of City Council at the end of June.

The Founders Row 2 and One City Center projects are in the process of incorporating feedback based on their initial work sessions with us in the spring and community input. City staff expects re-submissions of both projects later this summer.