• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens online on Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 5,2021 at 7 pm. For Zoom meeting ID and password, email us at info@greensofarlington.org

September 27, 2021

Arlington Greens virtually Tuesday, Oct. 5, 7PM

Uncategorized — @ 4:10 pm

Arlington Greens will meet online on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7 PM. Major topics include:

Main topics are:
Arlington community energy plan–getting to zero carbon implementation by a carbon neutral building code and free energy audits for homes
Plastic bag tax of 5 cents 
Historic preservation of threatened sites in Arlington, update on changing state law
Should Arlington Greens support or oppose the Arlington bonds on November ballot of total $86 million:      the 4 bond referenda are #1:  $39 million for Metro ($20 million) and local roads and bridges ($19 million);

#2 $7 million for parks (mainly $5 million to repave Bluemont tennis courts);

#3  $17 million for county infrastructure (mainly to build new courthouse development);

and #4 $23 million for schools (mainly $11 million for new HBW school entrance in the Heights Building in Rosslyn).             See 2021 Bond Referenda – Budget & Finance (arlingtonva.us) for more details.

To join, email us at Info@greensofarlington.org and a zoom link will be emailed to you.

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March 18, 2021

Greens ask county board to increase housing (rental) grants and emergency housing assistance in fy 2022

Uncategorized — @ 12:15 pm

Arlington Greens support the county manager’s proposal to increase FY 2022 spending on housing grants to $12.7 million, and also the $17.5 million proposal for emergency Covid spending that includes emergency rental assistance for unpaid rents, food assistance and related help to residents who lost income or jobs during the pandemic.   

While the good news is that widespread vaccinations will make possible reopening, many tenants are facing unpaid back rents and need help in FY 2022 to avoid eviction.
We have reservations about the $8.9 million the manager proposes to spend for AHIF to fund the building of more subsidized apartments CAFs) next fiscal year. 

There is a glut of market rate apartments and subsidized units available for rent today in Arlington, and now is a bad time for any new units to enter the market, private or nonprofit. 

Commercial realty companies report that rents in Arlington for apartments have dropped from 8 to 15 percent in the past 12 months, depending on the neighborhood, and there are at least 15% of existing apartments are now vacant.  The county housing division this month listed about 100 CAFs available for rent, and thus even CAFs are empty, and the nonprofit providers having a hard time renting existing CAFs. 


The best way to provide housing assistance right now is a housing voucher or an emergency grant to pay back unpaid rents.  There are still thousands of renter households who maintained their jobs but still pay over 50 percent of their incomes for rent (generally tenant earning under 50% of the area median income).  The county should shift all of the new AHIF funds into housing grants or emergency back rent grants so that tenants can stay in their apartments and not have a heavy housing cost burden.

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March 15, 2021

Arlington residents protest demolition of historic Febrey house and property Saturday, March 20, 10 AM

Uncategorized — @ 4:05 pm

We invite you to a silent, socially distanced protest on Saturday, March 20, at 10 am outside the Febrey house (6407 Wilson Boulevard, at Wilson and McKinley Road) to grieve the county board’s decision to allow demolition of the house and estate before the April 17 public hearing on historic preservation of the estate.   

The county board granted the demolition permit to the property owner despite our pleas and common sense to keep the house intact until after the public hearing. 

The property owner has refused to allow county historians to even visit the house and grounds–we believe there are Civil War artifacts and possible human remains of Civil War soldiers buried on the property.  Many mature trees, some a hundred years old, and shrubs will be lost in addition to the house. 

Our county government refuses to use its authority under state law and county ordinance to save this historic site and places the profits of a developer above our community’s interest in more parkland and keeping an important Civil War historic site.

Bring your camera and your own sign urging the county borad to reverse its decision and stop the bulldozers.

The county board under state law could have delayed issuing the demo permit and followed state historic preservation law.  Instead, the board really wants the estate bulldozed before its April 17 public hearing. 

The county parks and rec commission has repeatedly asked the county board for a decade to purchase the property and add it to our parkland, but the county board refuses and pleads poverty even though Arlington voters have repeatedly approved many millions of dollars for parks bonds to purchase more parkland.  

It is outrageous in a wealthy community such as Arlington with a rising population that these 9 acres of mostly open land cannot be purchased as a park for all to enjoy, and the house preserved as a historic center and community house for all residents to enjoy.   Thousands of Union soliders camped and lived on the Febrey house which also served as a hospital, and significant battles fought nearby.

Silent protest:    Wear a mask, bring your own sign if possible                           

Saturday, March 20, 10 AM  Outside the Febrey House,

6407 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington VA  22205

                            Please park on McKinley Road or on Madison Street.

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February 27, 2021

Arlington Greens meet online March 3, 7 PM

Uncategorized — @ 12:50 pm

Please join us online on Zoom on Wednesday, March 3 at 7 pm (see meeting information below).
Major topics:
Eliminating gasoline  blowers in Arlington
Preservation of Lothrop Rouse historic estate on Wilson Blvd
Arlington County Board budget proposal for FY 2022–increase proposed for housing grants and tenant assistance due to Covid  (for details go to Proposed FY 2022 Budget Bridges Arlington Through the COVID-19 Pandemic – Newsroom (arlingtonva.us)

For Zoom meeting log in information, please email Info@greensofarlington.org

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December 29, 2020

Arlington Greens meet online on Wed, Jan. 6 at 7 pm

Uncategorized — @ 11:18 am

Happy Holidays to Arlington Green members and community supporters.

Please join us online on Zoom on Wednesday, January 6, at 7 pm (see meeting information below).
Major topics:
Eliminating gasoline mowers and blowers in Arlington

Preservation of Lothrop Rouse historic estate on Wilson Blvd

Virginia Pipeline expansion

2021 county board vacancy

and election of 2021 Arlington Greens chair and treasurer

We hope to see you online.

For Zoom meeting information, email Info@greensofarlington.org

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December 7, 2020

Reduce noise and air pollution in Arlington: Ban Gas Leaf Blowers and Mowers in Arlington

Uncategorized — @ 4:04 pm

Reduce noise and air pollution in Arlington:  Ban Gas Power Blowers and Mowers and Lawn equipment

With the fall season of dropping leaves, the scourge of loud gas powered leaf blowers has returned to disturb the peace, and worsen the air quality of Arlington neighborhoods.  While many Arlington residents may accept this as just a necessary but largely harmless nuisance, research on noise and air quality indicate that gas-powered mowers and blowers pose a significant health risk to people. Many U.S. cities, and the District of Columbia (starting in 2022) ban the gas-fired equipment and require the use of quiet and clean electric models.

The development of electric blowers, mowers and other lawn equipment and reliable batteries now provides homeowners and lawn service companies with a 21st Century advance that can radically cut the harmful noise and air pollution of gas engines. The noise level of electric motors is very quiet and there is no generation of air pollution.  With climate change, eventually all gas engines will need to be eliminated in vehicles and appliances, so changing to only electric lawn equipment is a needed step for climate change mitigation and reduces harmful greenhouse gases.

About 100 U.S. cities have banned or restricted use of gas-fired blowers.[1]  According to a January 2020 article in Electrek,[2] the State of California is looking to ban all gas powered lawn equipment while 16 California and 3 Colorado cities and the District of Columbia (beginning in 2022) already ban these fossil fuel nuisances.  The advent of reliable battery-operated electric models and their modest cost and reliability make gasoline model a harmful anachronism.  Electric models are cheaper to run than gasoline fired ones.[3]

The two-stroke gasoline motor in lawn equipment is very inefficient in burning gasoline, as compared to automobile 4 stroke engines, and thus emit high levels of harmful pollutants.   One hour of operation of a gas-fired blower generates as much pollutants as a Toyota Camry driving 1,100 miles, according to the California Air Resources Board.   Gasoline itself is highly toxic and flammable, and causes many fires in homes or garages.  The EPA estimated that 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled annually just filling up lawn mowers.

Lawn mowers and blowers worsen allergies and asthma, and irritate the lungs by propelling clouds of dust, and dirt and chemical into the air.  Blowers remove beneficial soil mulch and harm living plants.  As to noise, gas powered blowers noise level are often over 100 decibels (dB).  A jet plane take off generates 100 dB of noise; any noise level above 85 dB is considered harmful to human health.  The CDC indicates that two hours of 91 dB noise for 15 minutes daily can result in permanent hearing loss.[4]

Gas blowers also have a unique and low penetrating frequency that makes them much louder than electric models even with the same rated decibel level.  Most electric blowers are rated at or below 70 decibels, and gas blowers at the operator level at 100 or more decibels.  The decibel level measure is logarithmic function rather than proportionate, and thus, a gas blower at 90 dB is 100 times noisier than an electric blower at 70 dB.   Electric lawn mowers are similarly quieter than gas fired mowers which generally operate at above 80 db. 

The Arlington noise ordinance is out of data and unenforceable

Some may say that the solution to this environmental problem is the Arlington County Noise ordinance[5] that was enacted in 2014; it provides a maximum noise level in residential neighborhoods of 90 dB.   The basic problem with the ordinance is that the 90 dB level is too harmfully high, but more importantly there is no enforcement of the ordinance today as it applies to excessive lawn equipment noise. 

An Arlington noise inspector indicated in December 2020 that no enforcement action is taken until generally 5-7 business days after a complaint is filed, and by the time the inspector arrives, the noise violation is most likely over.[6]   The county will not accept as evidence citizen-recorded noise and videos of the noise complaint.   Therefore, even if the maximum level were lowered to 70 dB, the lack of enforcement means the ordinance is useless in most cases for lawn equipment.

The only practical solution to the environmental problem of gas-fired lawn equipment is their ban.  Limiting their hours or limiting the maximum noise level is insufficient since there is no enforcement of even the current ordinance.

Replacement of current gas-powered blowers and mowers is practical and not costly

A proposed three-year phase out of current gas-powered models will allow landscaping companies and homeowners time to replace these with battery-powered models;  most gas-fired models wear out within three years and have costly maintenance.  Electric blowers and mowers have little or no maintenance cost and last years if not decades.  In addition, electric models have lower operating costs of fuel than gas models, so that the cost of an electric can be lower than today’s polluting gas models.

In Arlington, most yard maintenance is done by landscaping companies rather than homeowners.  So, most of the capital cost will be absorbed by the companies rather than homeowners.  


[1] James Fallows, “Politics:  Get of my lawn, how a small group of activists got leaf blowers banned in the nation’s capital,” the Atlantic, April 2019.

[2] Charles Benoit, “California looking to ban gas-powered lawnmower, leaf blowers,” Jan. 9, 2020,  Electrek,  https://electrek.co/2020/01/09

[3] “Myth 4,” Facts and myths about leaf blowers, Quiet DC, Dec. 4, 2020.  Facts & Myths — Quiet Clean D.C.  http://www.quietcleandc.com/factsmyths

[4] Facts and myths about leaf blowers, Quiet DC, Dec. 4, 2020.  Facts & Myths — Quiet Clean D.C.

[5] Chapter 5 of the Arlington Code,  https://building.arlingtonva.us/codes-ordinances/noise/

[6]  Phone conversation with Arlington Noise code inspector, Nov. 27, 2020.

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October 26, 2020

Arlington Residential Energy Conservation Program: Give out $1,000 grants to Arlington homeowners to weatherize, conserve, and reduce carbon emissions by up to 20 percent

environment,Uncategorized — @ 4:28 pm

Carbon emissions in Arlington averaged 9.1 metric tons (MT) per capita in 2016 or a total 2.0 million MT for Arlington.  About 23 percent of carbon emissions in Arlington came from homes, according to Arlington County.  In 2019, the Arlington County Board set the goal in the Arlington Community Energy Plan (CEP) to have a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050.

There are 28,500 were single family-detached houses, and 11,200 single family-attached houses in Arlington, most of which are owner occupied. Energy conservation (generally weatherization, insulation, and sealing air leaks) is the most cost effective way to reduce carbon emissions in a house; many houses in Arlington were built decades ago, and while some have been improved to high energy efficiency, the majority have not.  

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has indicated that low cost weatherization and more insulation can cut household use of electricity by 7 percent and heating by 18 percent, and save the homeowner about $300 a year.  Such energy conservation is the ‘low hanging fruit’ of addressing climate change.

To encourage Arlington homeowners to undertake energy conservation, the county government should fund a program to give out a $1,000 grant to cover the costs so every household can have an energy audit, and then do the most effective and lowest cost recommendations to cut heating and cooling.   The goal would be to reduce the energy use over 5 years in three-quarters of the 40,000 existing single-family detached and attached Arlington households by up to 20 percent. This will NOT make the house carbon neutral, but it will cut carbon emissions in homes substantially, and perhaps homeowners would take additional steps like solar panels on roof on their own.

The program would operate on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis to recruit Arlington homeowners to have a free energy audit of their home that would provide a detailed plan for energy conservation measures to cut use of electricity, water and natural gas.  The program would pay the homeowner $50 for participating, and then up to $1,000 for the highest priority energy improvements recommended in the energy audit.   This program’s goal is to have all homeowners eventually get an energy audit, and to begin to at least do the low cost changes that will reduce energy use.

Existing weatherization programs today in Arlington are targeted at low income homeowners of whom there are few in Arlington, and thus weatherization has not met its full potential.  EcoAction Arlington has had a small program of weatherization done by volunteers in low income apartments and houses.   Inertia and lack of interest by many homeowners and the hassle of getting an energy audit, and then following up with contractors or the homeowner doing the work them self, has impeded energy conservation in Arlington.

Funding for the residential energy conservation program would be obtained by raising the Arlington utility tax on electricity and the separate tax on natural gas from current $3 per household per month to $6 per month and eventually to $15 per month.  This is a carbon tax that makes electricity and natural gas more expensive.  The tax proceeds from the additional utility tax would mostly be rebated to homeowners to weatherize and reduce their utility bills by more than the additional tax would cost.

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October 19, 2018

Greens Oppose County and School Bonds, but Favor Metrorail Bond

Arlington Greens Oppose as Wasteful the Three County and School Bonds on the Arlington County, Virginia November Ballot, but Support the Metro Bond

Arlington Greens voted at their October meeting to oppose three of the four bonds on the November ballot, but to support the $75 million bond for Metro and transportation.  Greens felt that the need for more spending on Metrorail is imperative given safety, and improving bus and rail reliability, and urged Arlington voters to vote “Yes” for the Metro bond on the ballot referendum.

Greens however oppose the $29 million parks and recreation bond, the $37 million community infrastructure, and the $103 million public schools bond.  None of these three bonds are based on well thought out projects that have already been carefully designed, bid for construction costs, and scrutinized for waste.  The parks and recreation bonds will actually destroy or impair parkland since it will be used to build and pave over existing green space, demolish trees, and build extravagant energy-wasteful buildings.

The county government is issuing $80 million in bonds this year, and moreover has another $108 million in unused authority to issue more bonds, with more than sufficient funds for its needs. The county government and the school board both need to go back to the planning boards, and come back with precise and accurate information on projects for Arlington voters to consider.

About $44 million of the proposed $103 million school bond is to be used to build an entirely new Reed Elementary School in Westover.  The latest estimated cost of Reed is already far more at least $55 million, with possibly tens of millions of dollars in costs for a parking garage.  The school board has no idea what Reed School will cost.  In 2009, the school board spent about $20 million to fully renovate and expand Reed School which now will be demolished. Why?

The City of Alexandria just opened a new elementary school that cost around $22 million and was completed in about one year.   The City bought an commercial office building and re-modeled it into a 500-student school that opened in one year.   Fairfax County Public Schools did this several years ago to build an elementary school at 7-Corners within one year.   Why does Arlington have to build the most expensive schools in the U.S. and then tear them down ten years later?

If the county goes ahead and issues another $243 million of bonds on the ballot in November, it will likely endanger the county’s triple-A bond rating for municipal bonds since this will pass the 10 percent limit on bond service used by leading municipal bond rating companies.

The county already has issued $1.1 billion in bonds, and adding $243 million as well as the $188 million in already authorized bond will raise the debt service to over 10 percent of the county’s general revenue.

 

 

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February 11, 2014

Convert Empty Commercial Office Buildings in Crystal City and Rosslyn into Affordable Apartments

crystalcitypic1crystalcitypic3The rapid exit of many Defense Department agencies from both Crystal City and Rosslyn left an astounding 25 percent of the existing commercial office buildings empty in the fourth quarter 2013, according to the Arlington Economic Development Office. The overall Arlington commercial office vacancy rate is not much lower—20 percent in the fourth quarter 2013 (Economic Indicators, http://www.arlingtonvirginiausa.com/?LinkServID=8CBD27F2-1D09-08FB-3B16404C0DD82AE3&showMeta=0

The vacancy rates in Ballston and Virginia Square area are now 15 and 17 percent, respectively. The Northern Virginia average vacancy rate is now about 17 percent so there are plenty of other vacant buildings in other Metro adjacent areas competing for office building tenants, particularly along the Tysons Corner -Reston corridor. These buildings become more attractive with the opening of the Silver Line.

Arlington vacancy rates are going to rise higher as more Defense agencies and related military contractors leave Arlington for military bases like Fort Belvoir owing to BRAC. The General Services Administration (GSA), the real estate arm of the Federal Government, has so far terminated about 20 building leases in Crystal City the most impacted area in the Metro region through the end of 2013, and will end another 34 building leases by 2019, according to a Washington Post article (“D.J. OBrien, “CoStar: Despite jump in office vacancy rate, Crystal City shows resilience,” September 29, 2013.)

The end of 20 building leases led in part to a 25-percent vacancy rate in Rosslyn and Crystal City, the end of another 34 building leases is going to raise the vacancy rate much further.

There are a total 22 million square feet of commercial office space in Rosslyn and Crystal City (9 million and 13 million square feet, respectively), 5 million square feet vacant. A typical, 11 story- office building has about 225,000 square feet of usable space, and thus there are the equivalent of 22 empty office buildings in Rosslyn and Crystal City today.

A typical residential apartment building of 11 stories can accommodate around 200 apartments; this was the size of a recent residential apartment building in Crystal City built over the old post office site. Twenty-two commercial office buildings renovated into residential apartments could provide roughly 4,400 apartments; more if the units were smaller in size.

How much would a vacant office building cost to acquire? The county recently purchased a fully occuppied 7-story office building at the Courthouse for use as a county office building and homeless shelter for $27 million. An empty office building is worth considerably less since the dollar value of a building is largely a function of the office rents received or potentially received.

If an empty 11-store office building can be acquired for $20 million and potentially converted to 200 apartments of about 1,100 square feet each, the un-renovated cost of each apartment is about $100,000. Keeping renovation costs down to $100,000 per apartment, would mean an affordable apartment could cost $200,000. If the building contained 200 small efficiency 600 square foot apartments and 100 1,100 square foot apartments, were built instead of the larger 1,100 mix, the average costs would be $170,000–$70,000 per unit acquitision and $100,000 per unit renovation.
This cost is still below what the most recent affordable apartment complext cost ($250,000 per unit at Arlington Mills).

Together Rosslyn and Crystal City have 13,000 residential units (respectively 7,000 and 6,000). Another 4,000 apartments would increase their total residential units by about 30 percent, and bring in a good mix of mixed income residents. Neither area has an abundance of affordable units; Rosslyn in particular has lost many thousands of low rise affordable apartments owing to gentrification.
Both areas are “office building deserts,” lacking a good balance of residents and commerce. From an urban planning perspective, adding 4,000 affordable apartments would be good.

Arlington today needs about 14,000 more residential apartments to meet its shortage of affordable housing, according to the Va Tech Center for Housing Research. If 4,000 affordable apartments could be acquired at a modest cost from owners of empty office buildings, it would be a major boost to meeting the shortage.

Arlington County owing to the high cost of acquiring or building new apartments (even on public land) has been unable to add even 300 units annually. In 2013, the county added only 55 units. Meanwhile market forces eliminate about 900 units annually owing to demolition, (more…)

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November 22, 2013

Arlington County Board Campaign funding–Democrat Fisette raises $107,000, with real estate and private business interests the top donors

Uncategorized — @ 12:41 pm

Democratic incumbent Jay Fisette according to State Board of Elections data raised about $106,500 as of Oct. 23, 2013; his leading donors according to VPAC data were from the real estate/construction industry ($5,105), businessmen ($4,210), healthcare ($2,910), and defense industry ($2,200). About $14,000 of Fisette’s contributions came from residents who do not live in Arlington; what is their interest in Arlington?
Virginia Public Access Project reports are at:
http://www.vpap.org/committees/profile/home_financials/2840?start_year=2013&end_year=2013&lookup_type=year&filing_period=all
SBE reports at: http://cfreports.sbe.virginia.gov/Committee/Index/9da1603d-869f-e111-8def-984be103f032

His largest single donor was Christine Milliken ($2,120) whose husband is a prominent lawyer representing many of the large developers operating in Arlington such as Vornado Realty Trust, JBG Companies, Clark Realty,
and Gould Property Company. Vornado and JBG own large commercial properties in Crystal City and other Arlington areas. The county board recently allowed higher development in Crystal City despite many neighbors opposition and to the financial benefit of these large developers.

Why did Jay Fisette take money from developers, real estate interests and other private business interests with past and possibly future matters before the Arlington County Board? The Northern Virginia Realtors PAC gave Fisette $1,000; does this weigh on his ability to impartially regulate developers in Arlington? Unfortunately Virginia’s weak ethical laws allow politicians to accept unlimited business funds.

Our Green candidate Audrey Clement raised less than $8,000 with nearly half of this coming from her own pocket, and her other leading contributor the chairman of the Arlington Greens Steve Davis.

Thus, the incumbent Democrat outraised the Green by about 14 to 1.

How can we have fair elections in the United States with corporate and business interests and those of wealthy people tilting the scales of competition?

The U.S. Green Party bars its candidates from accepting corporate and business contributions. Both the Democrats and Republicans are identical in their dependance and subseverience to the money interests. Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Government of the People, for the People and by the People? Today we have government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

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