Updates from Letty – September 6, 2018

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,

Happy fall-but-doesn’t-feel-like-fall-yet! I hope the end of summer and for fellow parents, the start of the school year has been good to everyone. After a few weeks off, we are back in the saddle, with a full docket coming up. You may notice that this email is in your inboxes a day early. Tonight (Thursday), we have a double header of community meetings that I wanted to call to your attention, hence the earlier post:

  • Founders Row Meeting – tonight at 7 pm (Community Center) – the developers are hosting a meeting to continue providing updates on the project we approved at our last meeting in August. Old news by now, but since I didn’t blog about it at the time – I voted in favor of the project which passed 6-0. The Planning Commission will be reviewing the project’s site plan at their work session next week; site plan approval is the key next step before construction can begin.
  • New GMHS Meeting – also tonight at 7 pm (GMHS Cafeteria) – there will be updates since the August town hall and then the subcommittees will have breakout sessions. No worries if you haven’t registered to join a subcommittee (topics range from transportation, academics, community use, athletics…), all are welcome to provide input before the design is final in October. If you haven’t seen the Q&A about the project, read on for links to that too.

And of course, the big news is that the final proposals for the 10 acre West Falls Church project were posted online yesterday. The city’s press release is here, but more info below. We’ll be discussing the proposals in our meeting next week, with recommendations from the evaluation committee and a vote by City Council to choose the master developer in October.

Finally, besides tonight, you’ll see there are many other gatherings as we head into an exciting fall – hope to see many of you around town!


PS – Parking was the hot topic at the end of the summer. Take note that September 21 is PARK(ing) Day  Click through – it’s not what you may think! If you have thoughts or ideas on parking, I’d love to hear from you via email or at my office hours on the same day.


What Happened This Week:

(1) Affordable Living

The main topic at our work session this week was a review of the Affordable Living recommendations (aptly re-named from Affordable Housing, to be more comprehensive). As I’ve written before, I believe affordable housing/living is a critical problem to address – it’s not only an important way to live the community values we espouse, but also key for economic development, traffic, and our future as a city. One staggering data point from the staff report: while we’ve been making progress on inclusionary zoning and adding 6% of new units built in the city as affordable dwelling units (ADUs) and negotiating the affordability provision to be in perpetuity for the two recent approvals, existing market-rate affordable units have plummeted – from 224 units in 2012 to 27 in 2017. Due to the increasing cost of land and rising rents, Lee Square and Merrill House – while more affordable than newer buildings – are no longer officially affordable.

The task force makes a number of recommendations – such as down payment assistance, lowering the range of incomes to qualify for units, partnering with neighboring jurisdictions, and increasing the percentage of ADUs in new developments. I personally would love to see an increased focus on workforce housing – not only city and school employees, but providing more affordable housing options for all who work in the city. Given our small city footprint, limited resources, and the importance of increasing our daytime worker population, more affordable workforce housing makes sense to me.

If you’re interested in affordability, take note that there are vacancies on the Housing Commission, which I’m the Council liaison. Serving on the HC is a great way to influence and advocate for these policies.

(2) GMHS & West Falls Church Economic Development Projects 

  • GMHS Q&A – based on the community feedback and questions about the new high school design, a Q&A page is up. You can keep submitting questions to: NewGMHS@fccps.org
  • West Falls Church Economic Development Project – as noted in the press release, we received two detailed proposals from the finalist developers for the 10 acre site. We’ll get a briefing at our meeting next Monday. Similar to the downselect process, an evaluation committee will be reviewing the two proposals and make a recommendation to City Council before we vote to select the final master developer.
    • Take note from the press release: “Virginia Tech has announced that it received an unsolicited proposal for the redevelopment of the Northern Virginia Academic Center and recently issued a request for competing proposals.” Falls Church owns and leases that land to the universities, but it remains outside of City limits in Fairfax County, so both Falls Church and Fairfax County will have roles in any redevelopment.
    • I encourage you to look at the proposals and let us know what you think via email or public comment. The executive summaries do a nice job as overviews if you don’t have time to click through all of the documents posted.

(3) No smoking in our parks (please)

Spotted around town! As part of an initiative led by the student reps on the Recreation and Park Advisory Board (another board & commission I’m the Council liaison), you may have seen these new stickers and signs posted in our parks to encourage non smoking. As a jurisdiction, we can’t legally prohibit smoking in our parks, which is another example where our hands are tied by the General Assembly, but we can ask nicely. Help spread awareness to make our parks smoke-free for children at play and others enjoying our parks.

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What’s Coming Up:

  • TONIGHT – Thursday, September 6 – Founders Row Meeting (7 pm, Community Center)
  • TONIGHT – Thursday, September 6 – GMHS Update & Sub-Committees (7 pm, GMHS)
  • Monday, September 10 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Friday, September 14 – GMHS Community Tailgate (530 pm, GMHS) – You can see the latest renderings on the high school, learn about the 10 acre proposals, and City Council members will be available to chat about city happenings
  • Saturday, September 15 – Cherry Hill Playground Official Ribbon Cutting & Fall Festival (Ribbon cutting at 9 am, Fall Festival 10-4) – City Council members will be available at the information booth to chat about city happenings
  • Monday, September 17 – City Council Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Friday, September 21 – PARK(ing) Day
  • Friday, September 21 – Letty’s Office Hours (9 am, The Happy Tart)
  • Sunday, September 23 – Sunday Series Town Hall (2 pm, GMHS)
  • Monday, September 24 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Friday, September 28 – Campus Coordination Committee (730 am, School Board Offices)