Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
While there was no City Council meeting this week, there’s enough going on to warrant a post that I hope you’ll find helpful. Three things: (1) Early voting starts today, so I’ll include links to upcoming candidate forums, endorsements, and voter guides that are available so you can get informed before voting. (2) I’ll also include the top takeaways from the Falls Church Forward discussion on housing which had amazing turnout, important learnings, and new faces. (3) And ICYMI – there’s exciting news on one of the FAQs I’ve been fielding for months! Read on, and I look forward to hearing from you.
PS – It’s forecasted to be a soggy weekend – stay tuned for weather updates on Saturday’s Fall Festival.
What Happened This Week:
(1) Stratford Motor Lodge
If you haven’t seen the news yet, there is a new proposal for an “adaptive reuse” of the Stratford Motor Lodge – a proposed restaurant with indoor/outdoor dining, taking down part of the motel structure while rehabbing another part. This is exciting news, as it’s been an eyesore since 2021 and a prominent part of our commercial downtown. As a restaurant is a by-right use for the property, it’s a “site plan application” which is under the purview of the Planning Commission (and not City Council), who will take up the matter this fall. More to come.
Letty’s Thoughts: this is one of the FAQs I’ve been fielding: why isn’t the city doing anything about the Stratford Motor Lodge? As it’s private property, the city can’t compel the owners to do anything other than maintain it and ensure it remains safe under the blight ordinance. There’s also important real estate economic reality at play: it’s a small parcel at 0.7 acres which makes it challenging for new uses unless the property owners pursue a parcel consolidation with adjacent neighbors. And as often the case across Falls Church – high underlying land costs require property owners to maximize their return, which means height and density. At the same time, a more interesting and people-first city is one that has a mix of buildings. None of our city plans calls for a tall, multi-acre development at every corner. As such, we have been encouraging more adaptive reuse (the most recent example being The Meeting House, which is under construction, and Northside Social being one of the originals in 2018) so this news and continued investment is welcome!
(2) Falls Church Forward – Housing For All Meeting
We welcomed two guest speakers – Alex Horowitz of Pew to learn more about his latest research on how to tackle the housing crisis and from Meredith Anderson, the chair of our Housing Commission, to learn about current efforts underway. It was a packed house at the club room of Founders Row, which was a fitting location to talk about housing – it’s our first building that has affordable housing units that will never expire.
Alex shared two main takeaways (you can see his entire presentation here)
- In studying jurisdictions across the US, the ones that added more housing saw much slower rent growth.
- Even adding market rate housing – because housing is a chain – it frees up housing across the income spectrum.
Meredith shared an overview of current housing programs underway and our current housing stock, including two programs I’ve written about in the past – our new affordable homeownership program and the acquisition strike fund.
If you’d like to join the Housing Commission and work on ideas like this, we have a vacancy. We would especially love to see more renter voices represented on the Housing Commission!
(3) Endorsements, Voter Guides, & Forums
- The Vote411.org voter information is published and includes information about all City Council and School Board candidates.
- And patch.com is publishing theirs on a rolling basis – my profile is up now as is Tim Stevens.
- We’ve also been asked to submit candidate questionnaires from VPIS (Village Preservation and Improvement Society) which is not published yet, so I’ll share those when available.
Thanks to our friends at the CBC for compiling a handy calendar of upcoming forums where you can meet and hear from the candidates:
What’s Coming Up:
Saturday, September 23 – Fall Festival & Meet the Council
Tuesday, September 26 – City Council Meeting*
Monday, October 2 – City Council Work Session*
*Mondays (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings