2018 NEWS

Latest News (as of 6/16/2018) 

SEE THE JUNE NEWSLETTER HERE

CCCA Meeting June 28:  "Cybersecurity:  What's That?"

Wow.  Have you seen the Cyber Security articles lately?  Including the FBI’s warning to reboot your router?  We will have a cyber security expert to give a very timely talk about “Internet Safety:  How to Protect Yourself.”   He'll brief us on vulnerabilities of using social media, as well as techniques to keep yourself and your private information protected while staying in contact with family, friends, and the digital world.  Afterwards, we will also provide updates on a variety of issues, including transportation and development.  As always, 1805 Crystal Drive, Crystal Park Condominium community room, 7-9 pm. 

THE CONNECTION LIBRARY WILL STAY OPEN!  

The Connection, the County’s popular Crystal City pop-up branch library, will stay open through December 2019 with the County Board’s unanimous approval June 16 of amendments to the current lease with JBG Smith.  The County was offered by the landowner (JBGS) such favorable conditions (not just not paying rent, but also having JBGS absorbing operating costs, utilities, etc.) so that for the County it was then easy to accept the offer of an extension.  Board Chair Katie Cristol noted that “the library started as a ‘pop-up’ arrangement but has become more of a ‘fixture.’  She noted that it had become very popular and a real asset in the community.  See the News Report here.  

This decision is definitely the result, not only of our  partnership with JBG, but to extensive lobbying by the CCCA and so many of you.  Many thanks for your efforts  It would be very helpful if some of you would email the County Board and County Manager, expressing thanks and appreciation.

  

Construction Update: Elevated Clark Street demolition

The contractor plans to start removing concrete barriers and street lights the last week of June. This work is located behind the current work zone barriers and will not affect drivers or pedestrians.   The first detour during this demolition project is now planned for July. It will close the westbound lanes of 15th Street at Clark Street and Route 1, including closing westbound access to the Route 1 ramps. View the planned detour during this closure, which is expected to last four weeks.

 

More information will be available as the bridge removal and detour dates are confirmed. There will be two-week advance notice before the start of detours.  Visit the project page

County Scores $83 Million in Funding for ART Facilities, Pentagon City Improvements

Arlington is now in line to receive nearly $83 million in funding to help the county afford four major transportation projects over the next six years, including the construction of two bus maintenance facilities and a major expansion of transit options in Pentagon City: 

·         $39 million for two new Arlington Transit operations and maintenance facilities

·         $28.8 million for Pentagon City road improvements and Transitway expansion

·         $10 million for improved traffic signals around the county

·         $5 million for a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station

The $5 million for the second entrance at the Crystal City station is also substantially less than the $87 million the county requested to complete the project. County Manager Mark Schwartz has previously warned that Arlington’s funding challenges will make it difficult for the county to build both second entrances without the NVTA’s help, but the $5 million will help the county complete additional design, engineering and environmental work.

In Pentagon City, the NVTA money will help the county fund a $46.6 million effort to improve the area running from Army Navy Drive near the Pentagon City mall to the Crystal City Metro station off Route 1. The project will involve adding new bike lanes and turning lane throughout the area, as well as an expansion of the Transitway service to the Pentagon City Metro station and Army Navy Drive.  Read more here.

VRE Updates on Proposed New Station in Crystal City

Comment on VRE station design by July 1:  A community meeting was held on June 6 to share the concept design for the project. The meeting materials are posted on VRE’s project page.  Comments on the station's design and its access from Crystal Drive may be submitted by July 1 via their online comment form. 

Reagan National Project Journey

Reagan National's current facilities were designed to serve 15 million passengers per year. But more than 23 million passengers traveled through the airport in 2016, setting new records and straining the existing infrastructure. In response, the airport has launched Project Journey, a $1 billion investment to transform the traveler experience inside terminals, at the gates and along the roads. The end result will provide passengers with greater connectivity, more shopping and dining choices and a more pleasant post-security environment. Future improvements to roadway and parking configurations will address the vehicle congestion produced by record-breaking passenger activity.  

     

Most customers who fly at Reagan National will be minimally impacted by Project Journey construction activities. Airlines and flights will continue operating throughout the project, with the usual services and amenities. Changes will be implemented in phases and announced here. Passengers are invited to become more familiar with the project, its major milestones and key benefits. Be among the first to know about upcoming changes by subscribing to Project Journey advisories and updates. You can read the Fact Sheet with the Project timeline here.

MWAA is anticipating serious traffic disruption for the next few months and advising travelers to come by Metro, not car.  In the most detailed timeline yet for the project, which will build new security checkpoints above the already-congested roadway between the Metro and Terminal B/C, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board documents show the “significant impact” to traffic is expected to stretch from January 2018 through July 2019.  The Airports Authority plans to encourage travelers to use Metro to reach the airport, and says those who drive should leave lots of extra time, and use the public parking areas to avoid driving through the most congested part of the airport.  Sunday afternoon and evening are the busiest times and you should expect delays.  Small portions of the passenger pick-up median will remain blocked for work-site safety purposes.  The sidewalk next to the terminal, where taxis and shuttles pick up, will not be affected.  Passengers crossing to the median for pick-up should take note of their location for reference when exiting the terminal. Use airline signs.  The speed limit in the work zone is 15 miles per hour.  There is now a new AM 1640 radio station to listen to traffic.  See the announcement here.

 Key issues:
--Beginning Friday, March 23, two left lanes will be closed at all times along sections of the Arrivals (lower-level) roadway for construction.

--To manage congestion, the airport will offer up to 60 minutes of free parking in Terminal Garages beginning March 21 and will deploy teams of police officers to direct traffic through the work zone.

--Taxi stands are at the north and south ends of the airport; no longer in the middle of the walkway.

--Beginning Wednesday, March 21, Uber and Lyft pick-up locations for Terminal B/C moved to the Arrivals (lower) level in the middle.

--Two Curbside Doors to Terminal B/C Ticketing Level Closing for Construction 

--Airport and Hotel Shuttles Relocated to Ticketing Curb

--American Airlines and Delta Air Lines ticket kiosks and bag drop counters moved about 100 feet from their previous locations near the Metro walkways into National Hall. 

  

CCCRC Letter to County Board

The Crystal City Citizen Review Council (CCCRC) was established by the Arlington County Board to monitor, identify issues and ensure the success of the Crystal City Sector Plan.  others appointed by the County Board.  The following letter was sent by the CCCRC to the County Board on March 30, expressing concern that the proposed budget will seriously limit resources for investment in the Crystal City ‘economic engine’ due to a reduction in the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) rate of income from Crystal City returning to Crystal City development projects.

"Dear Board Members,  

For some time now, increasing concerns have emerged in CCCRC discussions and among Crystal City stakeholder groups about a perceived lack of momentum for Crystal City development efforts at a critical juncture.  There is also a sense of being overtaken by other communities.

On the positive side, the emergence of JBG Smith as a determined and resourceful actor with clear ideas and energy gives us hope.  However, an acceleration of plans, in accordance with the expectations conveyed by our Sector Plan, will not be viable in the absence of substantially strengthened support from the County.  

 Our concerns on this point have been considerably heightened by the Budget Proposal which you are currently considering.   We are all aware of the role played by Crystal City and some other high-density areas in subsidizing services provided to other areas in our County.  When a budget dilemma is now finally being openly recognized, we struggle to find diplomatic language to express our reactions to your conclusion that tax rates shall not be increased and that services (read: consumption) will largely be protected, whereas the resources for investment in the Crystal City ‘economic engine’ are proposed to be severely limited.  We also hear comments that ‘development is becoming a burden on Arlington’, when the reality is just the opposite, viz., that investments in support of revenue-generating development projects are absolutely vital to our hope of creating a ‘virtuous cycle’ out of our current dilemma.  

 In our attached Biennial Report, we urge you to rethink the existing proposal for a cut in the Crystal City TIF, and we also ask for assurance that the CCCRC be invited to participate in relevant budget work sessions or other appropriate settings in future years.   Similarly, we request the opportunity for a dialog regarding the Crystal City items in the new CIP.

Many thanks for your consideration!

 Christer Ahl, Acting Chair, CCCRC"

See Biennial Plan here.

April 26 CCCA General Meeting

County Board Member Erik Gutshall talked about the challenges facing Arlington County and responded to questions from attendees.  Particular concerns were raised about:  the impact of a potential Amazon HQ2 on Crystal City; affordable housing; and budget impact on Crystal City projects.  He emphasized that residents should engage in the ongoing Capital Improvement Process (CIP) if we really want to have the 18th Street Park developed and prevent the loss of our beloved Connection Pop-Up Library.  In our April Newsletter, we published the March 30 letter from the Crystal City Citizens Review Committee ( CCCRC) to the County Board, expressing concern that the proposed budget will seriously limit resources for investment in the Crystal City ‘economic engine’ due to a reduction in the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) rate of income from Crystal City returning to Crystal City development projects.  [Weigh in on the CIP by May 16 for issues of importance to Crystal City like The Connection Library, the 18th Street park, and the bridge to the airport.]

Assistant County Manager for Communications and Engagement Bryna Helfer then presented the new Six-Step Public Engagement Guide (see article below) and urged residents to follow the issues on various social media and get more engaged.  (see article below on what those media are).  Erik Gutshall seconded this urging, joking that if something is important to us, we should “show up with pitchforks at meetings” to defend our interests.   

Are you aware that we are going to lose our beloved Pop-Up Library, The Connection, by the end of June? 

The library opened across from Au Bon Pain in the Underground in the Fall of 2016, with a projection of being open only for a year as a Pop-Up library.  It was the direct result of strong support by attendees at our CCCA meeting November 2015 to Diane Kresh, Arlington County Director of Libraries, when she first mentioned the idea.   Since then, the library has become an integral part of our community for residents and workers alike and the number of visitors has consistently gone up; it’s always busy. 

Unfortunately, The Connection was funded by discretionary one-time use County funds, and the County Board insists that it was never intended to be permanent in Crystal City.  Major Crystal City Developer Vornado supported the library by rent-free space and payment of utilities, and JBG Smith continues to do so.  So the County’s primary cost for the library, after initial set up, is only about $100,000 for staff costs.  Despite many efforts by the CCCA and residents to convince the County Board members to put permanent funding into the County budget, they chose not to.  We received two reprieves until December 2017 and now until June 2018.  This time, despite the outstanding success of the Pop Up Library in the Underground, the library will close at the end of June and we’ll be left once again without our own library.  Yes, we can walk over to Aurora Hills Library, but it’s not the same—our Connection Library has been a hub of activity geared towards the demographic of high-rise dwellers, rather than single family homes.  It is in fact the ONLY community facility and gathering place in Crystal City—and we’re losing it.

So, it’s sad to note, but it seems that Crystal City may again be losing out to other parts of the County with respect to budget and community facilities.  [See the CCCRC March letter to the County Board posted in our April Newsletter, expressing concern that the proposed budget will seriously limit resources for investment in the Crystal City ‘economic engine’ due to a reduction in the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) rate of income from Crystal City returning to Crystal City development projects.] 

Crystal Drive/18th Street Developments

You’ve probably noticed work on the 1750/1770 Crystal Drive building as JBG Smith moves ahead with its plans to convert that building from office to rental apartments, including construction of additional stories and a new facade. The developer has proposed the rehab and expansion of the 1770 Crystal Drive building, and also is requesting approval for a two-story retail building at the corner of 18th and Crystal Drive.  Earlier proposals that are further along in the consideration process would provide improvements to the north on the same block, including a cinema, a grocery store and other retail which are generally viewed as positive for the neighborhood.  Important public hearings are the next steps and rare open space in our neighborhood is at stake.

It’s critical that the pending proposal for a retail building in the open space be measured against the guidelines in the Crystal City Sector Plan (CCSP). The six-year effort to craft that Plan revealed just how inadequate open space is in Crystal City. The final Plan emphasizes the scarcity of open space planned for/envisioned in Crystal City – most of which currently is privately owned – and sets a goal to increase open space as redevelopment proceeds.  The CCSP clearly shows a park along 18th Street which currently exists today and should remain in central Crystal City.

       

SO THE MAJOR ISSUE HERE IS THE PROPOSAL TO REPLACE PART OF AN IMPORTANT EXISTING/POTENTIAL OPEN SPACE WITH AN UNWANTED AND UNNEEDED RETAIL BUILDING.

Your CCCA representatives have argued forcefully against this premature plan change that allows for a new structure in the park. The developer has not provided a justification for a retail building. The CCSP calls for street level retail all along Crystal Drive (from 15th Street to well south of 23rd Street) and at the ground level within the two existing office buildings that border the park’s northern edge between 1770 and the Metro entrance. There are more than enough existing and planned retail opportunities without encroaching on valued open space.

Equally important, there is no funding for park design, construction and maintenance, nor is there funding for a proposed new Metro entrance at 18th and Crystal Drive. If County officials agree to postpone the imposition of a building in the park NOW, it can be revisited when a need can be demonstrated AND funding for the park and Metro entrance becomes available.  The 1770 project and other improvements planned for the block north to 15th Street can of course proceed.

It is very important that County officials hear from Crystal City residents at the County Board (May 19 or 22). It’s also important that the citizens appear in person, even if they don’t choose to speak, to demonstrate public engagement and concern.

Please check the CPHD website (https://departments.arlingtonva.us/planning-housing-development) for further information and the County Board site for the meeting date and agenda (https://countyboard.arlingtonva.us/meetings).

Crystal City: Do You want an 18th Street Park?  To Keep the Connection Library?

CIP – Capital Improvement Plan:  Weigh in by May 16 on Arlington’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for FY 2019-2028 which is now under development.

JGB Smith's  plan for the Crystal Square (1770 Crystal Drive), with a grocery, movie theater, and community park on 18th Street which it will give to the County. But there's no money in the County's budget to make the park a reality--it could remain a construction site. Moreover, current County thinking is to reduce the tax income from commerce in Crystal City that would go back to Crystal City projects, further draining the capital improvement pool. We have little open space in Crystal City and this park would be a great addition to the community.

Please respond to the CIP survey by this Friday May16 and urge that money be put in the next CIP for developing the 18th Street park.

Help Keep Arlington Social Security Office Open

Arlington's only Social Security field office is scheduled to close in June.  If it closes, Arlingtonians will have to go to Edsall Road at the south end of Alexandria for in-person services.  That office already serves all of Alexandria and much of Fairfax and does not have the capacity to take on our needs.  This harms the most vulnerable in our community who have the least access to transportation and internet services, and may have the most complicated cases that need human interaction.  Please consider making a quick call or two in support of this office.

SSA Commissioner 410-965-3120

Rep. Don Beyer 703-658-5403

Sen. Tim Kaine 703-361-3198

Sen. Mark Warner 703-442-0670

Demolition of Elevated Clark Street  

Construction crews are demolishing the elevated section of Clark Street between 12th and 20th Streets South for the next step in the makeover of Crystal City’s street network.  February 5 marked the permanent closure of elevated Clark Street. The demolition project is anticipated to take up to 18 months to complete. The fly-over roads from 12th and 15th Streets to Route 1 have both been closed.  The contractor is working on permit applications, noise and vibration monitoring, and site preparation and pre-demolition items.  Once demolition begins, there will be temporary street closures and detours to accommodate removal of the bridge structure. The first major detour is expected to begin in late May or early June with the closure of westbound 15th Street at the Clark Street and Route 1 bridges.  More information will be available as the bridge removal and detour dates are confirmed. There will be two-week advance notice before the start of detours.  Visit the project page

Update on Long Bridge and a Bike Bridge

The latest version of the Long Bridge Project proposals has separated out a pedestrian/bike lane from the rail bridge project.  Earlier proposals looked at 2, 3 or 4 tracks, each with or without a bike/pedestrian path on the bridge.  The idea that a separate pedestrian/bike bridge would ever be built across the river is unrealistic.  Moreover, the proposal is that such a bridge would stop at the Mount Vernon Trail, instead of continuing to Long Bridge Park, thus necessitating a separate bridge connection across the George Washington Parkway to connect the Trail and the Park.

The President of the Friends of Long Bridge Park (and member of the CCCA) addressed Arlington County’s Pedestrian Advisory Board (PAC) on January 10, raising concerns and providing facts and arguments in support of a strong County protest to the Long Bridge Project.  (see his presentation here).  We understand that the PAC is urging the County to do so. 

The CCCA has also sent a letter to the Long Bridge Project expressing concern that a pedestrian/bike lane has been separated from the entire project.  (see the letter here)  Arlington County’s Department of Transportation has also sent a letter requesting reconsideration. (see letter here)

JBP Planning for PenPlace: 

Nearly five years after Arlington County approved Vornado's plans 1.8M SF of office at the PenPlace development, JBG Smith is starting the project as residential.   The developer plans to build the first phase of the Pentagon City project as two seven-story apartment buildings with 300 units and 40K SF of ground-floor retail.  There will be a small plaza between the two low-rise residential buildings.  The site is located along 12th Street between S. Eads and S. Fern Street, facing the Whole Foods block.   Planning for Phase 2, also approved previously in the Pentagon Development Site Plan for the northern section along Army Navy Drive, is on indefinite hold, according to JBG Smith. 

Note:  This is a pleasant switch from earlier Vornado plans to build two high-rise buildings along 12th street:  one a hotel, the other office.  The altered plans will go through the normal Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) process. 

January 16:  Rep. Beyers Helicopter Noise Meeting

On January 16, Representative Don Beyer convened what was effectively the 4th meeting on helicopter noise since 2010.  (The most recent was convened by County Board member Libby Garvey in 2015.)  This is a longstanding problem for residents all over the northern Virginia area, particularly stretching from Rosslyn to Alexandria and west to Falls Church.  County residents have complained for years about helicopter noise. Beyer inserted a provision into legislation in late 2016 directing the Pentagon to study flight routes and possible ways to minimize the noise.  The meeting was part of that study.

It directs the Dept. of Defense to work with the Federal Aviation Administration “to study changes to the region’s helicopter flight routes, operating procedures, and even the types of helicopters flown in the national capital airspace to mitigate the effect of noise on the region’s neighborhoods.”  Representatives of the Army, Marines, and Air Force responded to questions and sought feedback from the audience, although they emphasized that there are 21 agencies which fly helos in the National Capitol area.  Residents insisted that the helos are not sticking to the approved lanes, that there has been an increase in helo noise in recent years, and that the vibration from the Ospreys, in particular, rattles windows and frightens children and pets.  A key takeaway is that there is no central location to receive data on helo flights, deviations from FAA approved lanes, noise, etc. 

January 10:  I395 Meeting

The Aurora Highlands Civic Association hosted a meeting for all 3 civic associations in the 22202 zip code on the upcoming construction work for the I395 Express Lanes.  Transurban presented their plans for the new HOV lanes and the new intersection at S. Eads STreet.  (see pdf presentation here)  Construction work on and near the South Parking Lot is tentatively scheduled to begin on January 23, 2018 and is tentatively scheduled to conclude in spring 2019. Construction activities occurring on and near the South Parking Lot during this timeframe will include demolition of the roadway and existing light poles, placement or roadway stone, and installation of drainage and water lines, a duct bank, a new curb, sidewalk and roadway, fences and bollards, as well as the installation of lighting and new signalized interchanges.  Most of the work for this portion of the project should be completed during daytime hours; however, there may be a need for off-peak weekend work that may be noticeable to residents in the area.

However, there are potentially major traffic implications for us in Crystal City, as the new HOV connections at S. Eads will require street and sign adjustments for the additional traffic.  Moreover, the Army Navy Drive Complete STreet project is connected to this.  This project will consist of a rebalancing of the right-of-way (ROW) to permit improved bicycle, pedestrian and transit accommodations on Army Navy Drive (includes narrowing of existing travel lanes). This project will provide for a 0.7 mile, two-way dedicated bicycling facility (cycle track) on the south side of the ROW, alongside the existing sidewalk. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps, rebuilt driveway aprons and traffic signalization modifications will be included in this project. The project is being coordinated with the Transitway project where they overlap between S Joyce St and S Hayes St.  An Army Navy Drive Design Workshop is planned for January 31.  YOu can see the design plans at the open forum at the Aurora Hills Library from 4-7 pm.  https://projects.arlingtonva.us/…/army-navy-drive-complete…/