Updates from Letty – September 18, 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,

In person early voting starts today! Before you rush to City Hall, know that voting is open on weekdays and also a few Saturdays in October leading up to Election Day (check city website for details). And if you requested a mail in ballot, those were mailed this week and should be arriving in your mailboxes too.

For new readers – these posts are my digest of City Council business and an opportunity to share my thinking and analysis, beyond the headlines, so you can better engage with your local government. They are not meant to be a comprehensive review of all things on our agenda (those are posted publicly) nor all city news (subscribe to the very entertaining Focus on Falls Church). I’ll also preview important dates and topics in case you’d like to dive in before we vote. This week, read on for my thoughts on the Broad and Washington deferral and a preview of wayfinding work (fancy word for directional signs). I’ll also share some videos from the recent City Council candidate forum and others that I think are worth your time.

Next week’s work session will be a meaty topic: stormwater flooding, which has been an acute issue in pockets of the city, especially with climate change making summer storms more intense. We’ll hear the Stormwater Task Force‘s recommendations that were put on hold due to COVID budget impacts. I expect this to be the start of tough budget deliberations, harder than previous years when we enjoyed growing revenues.

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Broad and Washington project

We voted 5-0 to defer the Broad and Washington project until next month. We were glad to see developer make substantive progress on several issues – including parking, such committing to 50 parking spaces nearby for 6 months when the 64 public spaces would be under construction. However, we all felt that the project still had issues to resolve before it was ready to be referred. I reiterated the importance that the city receives assurance of a Whole Foods tenancy, increased public open space, improved architecture and transition to the neighbors, and most importantly – outreach with neighboring businesses and residents to hear and address as many of their concerns as possible.

(2) Wayfinding

If you’ve ever lamented about inconsistent signage, gotten confused where to park, or not know where city limits start or stop – we’ve heard you. There have been a lot of signs installed across the city, all originally well-intentioned efforts but over time have resulted in clutter and confusion. The Economic Development Authority (EDA) began a Wayfinding effort last year to inventory the existing signs and recommend new signs with a cohesive, unified branding – with the intention of making the city more welcoming to visitors, distinguish the city as a unique place, and facilitate economic development (and now importantly – economic recovery post COVID).

See samples of gateway signs at the 4 major entry points into the city, parking signage to direct drivers to public parking, and public landmark signs. The EDA is committing some of their funds to implement the first phase and will be looking to City Council to fund the rest.

(3) Videos worth your time

  • City Council Special Election – if you are looking for information about Council candidates before voting, the Chamber of Commerce forum this week was terrific, covering a broad range of the most important topics in the city. As the newbie 4.5 years ago, I am thrilled that there are three qualified and passionate candidates. They are all making housing and equity a key part of their platforms – which means only good things for the cause. Beyond that, I won’t be endorsing or commenting on any candidates. (I’ve provided dates and links to other upcoming forums below.)
  • National housing expert Dr. Jenny Schuetz joined the Planning Commission as part of their speaker series. Dr. Schuetz makes a strong case that local actions are critical to address the housing supply shortage, especially for both affordable and “missing middle” housing, undo systemic racism embedded in housing policy, and the idea of “gentle density”.
  • League of Women Voters – I enjoyed my hour chat with the LWV last weekend – we covered everything from housing to racial equity to what keeps me up at night. I highlighted that with COVID impacts to the budget and obviously with citizens and businesses also hurting, we’ll be forced to make hard tradeoffs in this upcoming budget.

What’s Coming Up:

Citizens for Better City (CBC) Conversations with the Candidate via Zoom:

  • Sun, 9/20 – 5-6 pm (Debbie Hiscott)
  • Sun, 9/27 – 5-6 pm (Josh Shokoor)
  • Sun, 10/4 – 5-6 pm (Simone Pass-Tucker)

League of Women Voters & VPIS Candidate Forum: Wed, 9/23 at 730 pm

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