Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Announcement—Changes in the New Year:

This is it for the year for me. I’m dead tired, and have people in town, and the whole bit. I plan to sleep all of next week, and when I wake up, I’ll go right back to bed to sleep some more. (Should we have some major event next week, I’ll be there.)

I’ll see you again Jan. 3, just after the new year. My next About Arlington comes out in the Connection at about that same time. Simply call 703-917-6465, and they’ll set-up a FREE SUBSCRIPTION for you (if you live in Arlington).

I’ll be changing my posting in the new year, too, as I’ll have to teach more next semester. I won’t have time to do two a week. I’ll only post on Wednesdays, with “Extras” as needed.

My daughter is a world record holder*

My daughter Hazel, along with most of the other students at F. Scott Key Elementary School, won a Guinness World Record** by reading “Charlotte’s Web”*** simultaneously, aloud, on Wednesday Dec. 13.

Walden Media, producers of the new Charlotte’s Web movie, were the coordinators of the event****.

According to the Break the Record Web Site:

“The current record for Most People Reading Aloud Simultaneously is held by 155,528 students from 737 schools in the United Kingdom who read William Wordsworth’s poem, ‘Daffodils,’ on March 19, 2004.*****”

We wait to hear results from the brewers******. In the mean time, I say quaff a few for luck*******.

*Along with 547,825 other kids, in 50 states and 28 countries—I’m still wondering if they woke up kids at 2 a.m. in some of these countries to read, just askin’.
**The results haven’t been verified yet, and it’s quite the process, including police officers (or even newspaper editors) to verify the number of readers at each location and that such thing.
***They didn’t read the whole book, and in fact, I arrived at 12:04 (four minutes after the start) to find it was all over.
****Along with a few other media mogul types, such as Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon.
*****I tried both the Guinness Book itself (the 2005, 50th Anniversary Edition) and
their web site, but couldn’t verify the number listed by the Walden Media web site.
******The documents from the schools showing that they completed it, the number of students involved, etc., are due to the coordinators on Jan. 3.
*******As this is my final post before the new year, I might just start now!

Truck Blocks Southbound George Mason

This is the least news-filled news I’ve ever written:

At about 8:30 a.m. today, an 18-wheeled tractor-trailer blocked the southbound lanes of N. George Mason Drive at N. 4th Street. The rear tires of the trailer were up on the median; the front tires of the tractor were on George Mason’s sidewalk. Traffic backed up to the Lubber Run Center at Park Drive.

Neither the truck nor other vehicles appeared damaged; police were on the scene, but no ambulances or other emergency vehicles.

The police had no further information. They will have a report soon.

This reporter’s guess: the truck driver left 4th Street and miscalculated how tight the turn onto George Mason was and got himself stuck, nothing more. When we hear from the police we’ll let you know.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Galactika!, Emails: Boulevard and Affordable Housing

Galactika! at TJ.

This was my favorite part: Temple I, the comet that swings by earth every five years, was running from the “Deep Impact” NASA probe. She, that is Temple, hid behind planets and ducked behind Haley’s Comet while the NASA probe chased her around. At one point, they were pressed back to back, spinning trying to find each other.

Picture Bugs Bunny running around the tree with Elmer Fudd, or a dog chasing its tail, and you’ll get it. Judging by the laughter in the audience, they got it, too.

Parts vaudeville, slapstick, and hip hop, “Galactika,” a one-act play celebrating “Star Light Literacy Night” Wednesday at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, delivered the “outerspace news” from comet reporters Halley and Temple-1. The play covered solar wind, star formation, the ice and dirt of comets, and even “smelly” solar gas (ha!—a little light potty-mouth humor had the crowd going).

“Galactika” is a production of Arlington’s Classika Theatre and the powerhouse acting troupe at the Goddard Space Flight Center. OK, I’m guessing the NASA scientists provided the science and facts, while Classika provided the words, music and choreography. Still, it was a nice collaboration.

This “annual Title I celebration” was paid for by Title I funds, which are part of the mammoth “No Child Left Behind” federal juggernaut. Students from the dozen Arlington schools receiving the funds were entitled to go. They filled a little under half the seats in TJ’s auditorium, by my estimation, and there were as many parents as kids. The organizers who spoke were happy with the turn-out, but by the end, I was wishing there were way more kids.

Classika has partnered with Title I for seven or eight years, said Sheryl Leeds, the Title I supervisor for Arlington Public schools.

“It’s our partnership with Classika that let’s us have this evening tonight,” she said.

Every kid who came got a free book of choice (Reading Is Fundamental was there), and another in a goody bag of astronomical fun—stickers, mazes, tattoos, and cookies (I’m not really sure how M&Ms cookies are astronomical, but my kids weren’t complaining).

A dozen schools in Arlington qualify for Title I funds by having at least 35 percent of their students eating free or reduced-price lunches.

I have to shout out a thanks to Key’s Principal Myers who helped make sure my kids and I could go since I hadn’t responded in time with reservations. (I’m still embarrassed that I got her involved, as though she had nothing better to do. She’s a good egg.)


Email to Editor:

HALRB is Tasked with Pointing Out Historical Inaccuracies (Takes Issue with My “Boulevard” Remarks from Dec. 10)


I've enjoyed reading your blog and have been following it closely with regard to your comments on the development of Buckingham Villages 1, 2 and 3. Your comments are well thought through and I appreciate the time you have taken to follow and report on this controversial project.

In your recent posting you mentioned that members of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) attended the recent SPRC meeting on Buckingham and said –
"Then the same gentleman (and I don’t have his name, or else I’d post it), said that he didn’t like the boulevard at the center of Scenario 8. His reason: Buckingham isn’t a boulevard community. Historically, we haven’t had boulevards in the neighborhood."

And then you took issue with the asserted conclusion that Buckingham is not a boulevard community.
You must be referring either to me or to Robert Dudka, the HALRB vice chairman, as we were the two male HALRB members who attended the meeting.

I don't think I mentioned anything about boulevards in my comments (but I wasn't following a script during my comments so perhaps it was me), so I assume you must be referring to some comment that Robert made. Regardless, I think I can speak for both of us in saying that we don't have any disagreement with your description of George Mason Drive as a boulevard, so I think you must have misconstrued Robert's comments.
Robert did discuss the reason why the HALRB believes that the street through the center of Village 1 is not compatible with the design of the rest of Buckingham, and I suppose that he described that street as a boulevard in his comments.
[See the images below—Steve.]

The reason why the HALRB is opposed to the street bisecting Village 1 is that Buckingham was designed as a community with mega-blocks, with multiple buildings on each block and without streets on each side of the buildings. As part of the MOU process for Buckingham, the HALRB was tasked by the County Manager with making recommendations for the design for Village 1 to meet the goal of achieving a design that it is "sensitive to the historic context of the surrounding properties" in Buckingham as stated in the MOU.

In keeping with that tasking, the HALRB is compelled to state its concern that the bisecting street (or "boulevard" if you will) proposed in Scenario 8 for Village 1 is not compatible with the design of the other villages of Buckingham as well as the Arlington Oaks section of Buckingham.

The HALRB's assignment to make recommendations for a historically sensitive design for Village 1 also motivated our comments concerning the size of the buildings proposed in Scenario 8.

During the meeting Robert and I both spoke about our objections to the increase in size of the buildings facing Pershing Drive. Contrary to the comments in your blog, we have always recognized that "Paradigm Development Companies isn’t ever going to bring a plan to the SPRC that has 20-odd two story buildings" as you point out in your comments.

However, Paradigm did bring a plan to the SPRC that proposed three-story buildings facing Pershing Drive, and that plan was the Scenario 2 that was presented to SPRC and the HALRB prior to Scenario 8. HALRB raised an objection to Scenario 8, as we specifically explained during the SPRC meeting, in that the increase in size (or "massing" or "scale" - similar concepts that we used during our comments) of the buildings facing Pershing Drive made Scenario 8 a less historically sensitive design than the previous iteration of the design submitted by Paradigm as Scenario 2.

The HALRB recognizes that there are multiple interests that the county must weigh in determining which design is best for Buckingham Village 1, and that historic sensitivity to the rest of Buckingham is only one of those interests. Our task, however, is to make recommendations regarding historic sensitivity and we will leave it to the county manager and county board to weigh the other various interests.

I stayed around after the SPRC meeting to answer any questions concerning the HALRB's recommendations and would have been happy to address the comments you ended up posting in your blog. In the future, please feel free to email me or call if you have any questions about the HALRB's position on Buckingham or any other issue.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get a confirmed sighting of a northern goshawk in Buckingham!

Kevin Vincent
Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board

Image of Scenario 2:

Building A: Five stories; the ground floor is a parking garage with windows and other detailing to make it look like living space.

Building B: Four stories; the above-ground parking garage in the central courtyard of the buiding is four stories, and would not be visible from the streets surrounding the building.

Townhouses: Three stories; they line Pershing Drive.

All buildings have peaked roofs (not flat) similar to most buildings in Buckingham.

Image of Scenario 8:

Buildings A and B: Four stories, with underground parking.

Townhouses: Three stories; they line George Mason Drive.

All buildings have peaked roofs (not flat) similar to most buildings in Buckingham.

(All images provided by Paradigm Development Companies at the December SPRC meeting.)


Email to Editor:

Is Affordable Housing What the Community Wants?


I enjoy reading your blog. It keeps me well-informed about the Buckingham neighborhood, in which I reside. Keep up the good work.

Last evening (Tuesday, Dec. 12), Pat Hope [the Buckingham Community Civic Association president] presented the
new Buckingham Neighborhood Conservation Plan to the Arlington County Board. After holding a public hearing, the Board unanimously approved the Plan, which was item number 41 on the Board's agenda.

I informed the Board during the public hearing that the Plan recommends that the County preserve Buckingham Villages 1, 2 and 3. (The plan actually recommends that the county add the three Villages to its Buckingham Historic District). I noted that this is no longer possible for Village 2 (which Paradigm Development Companies has demolished), but expressed my desire that the county's current Memorandum of Understanding process would fail. This would permit the county coard to add both Villages 1 and 3 to the Buckingham Historic District.

I also informed the board that the plan contained no recommendations that support the retention of affordable housing in Buckingham. I explained that only 10 of the 322 responders to the Buckingham Community Civic Association's community survey stated that affordable housing was an advantage to living in Buckingham, whereas a larger number of responders stated that crime was a disadvantage to living there. I noted that the results of the survey suggest that there appears to be little local community support for the county's efforts to retain or create affordable housing in Buckingham Villages 1, 2 and 3.

I also informed the board that crime has recently decreased in the Buckingham area, as stated in the plan. I stated that parts of the "affordable" Gates of Ballston are now unoccupied because of the apartments are being renovated. I suggested that this may account for the recent decrease in crime.

Board members' comments following my statements suggested that the members had different views. One board member asked staff why the Buckingham neighborhood survey asked questions that were apparently different from those that surveys for other Neighborhood Conservation Plans have asked.I also stated that the plan identified the intersection of N. Carlin Springs Road and N. Glebe Road as being especially dangerous to pedestrians.

I informed the board that the county staff's comments on the plan erroneously stated that, to increase pedestrian safety, the traffic signals at the intersection now provide an interval during which no traffic may enter the intersection. Pat Hope confirmed that the signals presently do not provide any such interval. After some discussion (during which [County Board Chairman Chris] Zimmerman stated that he understood that the county had conducted a trial of such an interval at the intersection), board members asked the county manager to provide them with a report on this matter.

Bernie Berne

[I'll point out here that the BCCA has never taken a stance on the affordable housing issue regarding Buckingham Villages. BCCA's position has been one of historic preservation of the buildings and neighborhood. --Steve]


Keep the Emails Coming

Since August, I’ve gotten quite a few emails, mainly positive, from readers. I haven’t posted them because they just tended to say, “Thanks for doing this,” or something similar. As much as I appreciated the kind words, I didn’t feel right posting them (though I’ve kept a bunch in my inbox!). I guess I just didn’t want to toot my own horn.

I’d be very happy to post emails that deal with the issues of Buckingham or Arlington in general. Drop me a few electrons:

Don’t forget you can always post a comment: click the word “comment” below, and you’ll see how to put in your two cents there.

Finally, notice that little letter icon, too, that lets you forward the Herald Trib to an interested friend—feel free to use that all you want!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Urgent Care, About Arlington

The New Locale for the Urgent Care Center was the Right Choice.

On Thursday, Virginia Hospital Center is going to move its urgent care center from S. Fern Street in Pentagon City (across from Costco) to the grounds of the former Virginia Community Hospital, on S. Carlin Springs Road. It’s about halfway between Arlington Boulevard and Columbia Pike. There, the center will remain open 24 hours.

This irked County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman and civic activists from the Pentagon City area. If the
story in the Arlington Connection is correct, Mr. Zimmerman thought the deal the county had made with VHC years ago required VHC to remain in or near Pentagon City. Seth Rosen, a reporter for the Connection, wrote:

“The source of Zimmerman’s ire is the disputed details of an agreement the hospital made with the county in 2000 when it sought to expand its main campus in North Arlington. In return for the right to add to its main building, Virginia Hospital Center consented to open a medical center in the Pentagon City neighborhood — which a year earlier had lost its hospital.
“Zimmerman contends that the hospital is obliged to find new space for the facility in the surrounding neighborhood. By moving out to the Arlington-Fairfax border, the hospital is shirking its commitment, he said.”

But Mary Curtius, in the county public relation’s department, double checked with County Manager Ron Carlee that the deal simply asked the hospital to keep the facilities in South Arlington, which they did.

I don’t see the big problem here. I can see that the urgent care facility is no longer on the Metro line. But it’s certainly not off the beaten path. Buses get there easily and quickly, as quickly and easily as they can, anyway. I can understand that the Pentagon City area had an urgent care facility and they still want one, but rents in that area are too high to afford one. Plus Virginia Community Hospital (I believe it was once called Doctor’s Hospital) is moving out—use the space, for crying out loud. It seems to me that this means less down time. Move out of one and into the other; they’re not waiting for the space to be ready or working with landlords who might not want to make the necessary renovations (VHC now owns the property; they rented space in Pentagon City).

A friend of mine, who happens to be a doctor, said she thought we were lucky in Arlington, a rather small county, to have two facilities, but not everyone can have one in their neighborhood.

About Arlington

My latest dispatch appears in this week’s Arlington Connection.

I know you can pick up a copy at the Barcroft Community Center on Four Mile Run, at Murky Coffee in Clarendon and Bob and Edith’s diner (the original store) on Columbia Pike—I’m sure there are other places in the county where you can snag one. Or
simply call 703-917-6465, and they’ll set-up a FREE SUBSCRIPTION for you (if you live in Arlington). It takes about six or eight weeks to get your first, so be patient.

Next issue (with luck):
"Galactica!" (a sweet little production from the Big Minds at the Goddard Space Flight Center—nothing says “fun” like scientists writing a play!).

Also, I’ll be getting in something about the county board meetings regarding Buckingham news. A couple items have piqued my interest.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

SPRC, Parking, Etc.

The SPRC Overview:

The estimated cost of the renovation of Buckingham Village 1 is anywhere between $20,000 and $85,000 per unit (at about 520-some units) with the renovation of Village 3 running from $17 to $25 million in total, and there’s now a proposal on the table to add units (and density) to historic BV3 by renovating the basements in some buildings.

All this from the final meeting (“in theory” said Committee Chair Nancy Hunt) of the Site Plan Review Committee last Wednesday.

For a basic understanding of why the estimated costs of the renovations are so large and varied, read the Dec. 3 post (below). The variables are laid out there.

The SPRC meeting ended with committee members saying they needed to contact County Manager Ron Carlee’s office to set-up a “working session” with the county board in order to get more guidance.
No final decisions were made concerning which basic plan to pursue (Scenario 2 or 8, as they’re being called). For a basic run-down of Scenario 8, see the Nov. 19 post, below; Scenario 2 can be found on the
Oct. 29 post.

Pictures of the two layouts are found here (notice the new higher-quality images):
The image above is the design of Scenario 2 with "The Stick" (Building A) and "The Octopus" (Building B). Townhouses line N. Pershing Drive.

The above image is the design of Scenario 8. Townhouses now line N. George Mason Dr.


A New, Bigger BV3

An idea that could raise the population density of Buckingham Village 3 by 25 percent and offer even more affordable units for sale to current Buckingham residents, was presented at the Site Plan Review Committee meeting Thurday Dec. 7.

Long-time civic activist and member of the Save Buckingham Coalition, Charlie Rinker and others presented the plan that would raise the total bedrooms in BV3 to as much as 278 in 175 units. Currently, BV3 has 140 units. BV3 sits on the north side of N. Pershing Drive between N. George Mason Drive and N. Thomas Street.
Two basic plans were presented. In one, some basements would be converted into one-bedroom apartments accessed from outdoor stairwells on the fronts or backs of buildings.

The other version of the plan would convert some basements into two bedrooms and a bathroom that would be attached to the one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor above it, making a three-bedroom sort of townhouse.

Planners said they could do this while maintaining the historic nature of the property. However, the parking allowance would have to change. One of the potential combinations of units would call for only 0.88 parking spaces per unit.

My take: I like the idea of basement use (I’m typing from my basement which isn’t a bad space). But the parking can’t fall below 1 space per unit (and that’s not even enough in my opinion). We have enough parking congestion in the neighborhood. People who want or need a car will still buy one, even if they live in units without a dedicated space, and they’ll park those cars someplace.

In the Dec. 3 post, the idea that BV3 might go on the block for sale rather than as affordable rental property is covered (see below).

George Mason Drive is a Boulevard

Members of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board also voiced their opinions at the Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Thursday. The concerns for one member revolved around the size of buildings, especially in Scenario 8.

That in size they looked nothing like the current buildings on the property bothered him. I’ll grant him that. Paradigm Development Companies isn’t ever going to bring a plan to the SPRC that has 20-odd two story buildings. It’s just not going to happen; whatever gets chosen as the plan they’ll follow, will alter the landscape here. I just don’t think it’s a fight worth pursuing.

Then the same gentleman (and I don’t have his name, or else I’d post it), said that he didn’t like the boulevard at the center of Scenario 8. His reason: Buckingham isn’t a boulevard community. Historically, we haven’t had boulevards in the neighborhood.

Excuse me?

What’s N. George Mason Drive if not a boulevard?

American Heritage Dictionary: “A broad city street often tree-lined and landscaped.”

N. George Mason is broad, tree-lined and landscaped (at least in front of Arlington Oaks). Our main street in Buckingham is a boulevard.

Granted, the gentleman probably meant interior streets weren’t, typically boulevards. OK. But come on, to say the neighborhood doesn’t have a boulevard at all, when clearly it does, is a little silly.

Sweet New Parking Stickers. (Or, Enough about the Villages, already)

These new stickers the county’s Division of Transportation has stuck to the parking meters are sweet; they show in large block numbers and letters just how many minutes or hours the meter will run. Given my complaint with them just a few short months ago, I figured I was the cause.

To catch you up [
See my first post, August 30, 2006]: I was caught unawares pumping two hours worth of quarters into a one-hour machine. This prompted a call to Sarah Stott, the county’s parking manager, who told me the color of the meter shows how much time it runs. She said I was welcome to swing by and get a nice key chain with all the meter colors and their times listed on it (which I did—I have it in the console of my car for referential purposes).

Now, just a few months later, the stickers appeared, so that people who hadn’t either memorized the color/time system or hadn’t gotten their own key chains, could just look out their windows to see for how long the meter allowed a driver to park.

I had to call Ms. Stott back and let her tell me that it was all my doing.

“You identified the problem, but we had planned it,” she told me, insisting that they’d been planning this for awhile. But I grilled her with tough questions like, “Really?” and “You don’t say?” Still, she stuck to her story, and even said that D.C. has done the same with their meters, proving in her eyes that Arlington is just part of a national wave of which I was just a little flotsam on the beach. Alas. Still, the stickers are a nice help.

Police Notes for Buckingham:

Dec. 5: Armed Robbery, 300 block of N. Thomas St. At approximately 10:16 p.m. a man talking on a phone outside of an apartment building was approached by three men. One of the men displayed a knife and demanded the victim’s wallet. After taking the victim’s cash, the three men fled the scene in a blue Nissan Xterra. All three suspects are described as white Hispanic males, 25 to 28 years old, and 5 feet, 3 inches to 5 feet, 5 inches tall. One of the men was wearing a black coat.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hawks and Scrubs

Cooper’s Shmoopers

“We get calls all the time,” Laura Stephens told me. She is the program manager/artworker for the
Northern Virginia Chapter of the Audubon Society and said people, including herself, are always hopeful that they’ve seen a rare bird.

I, of course, had asked her about my sighting of the
northern goshawk. [See the Nov. 26 and 29 posts, below.] She deflated my balloon, but then back tracked and told me not to lose hope.

“Boy, it would be cool if it was,” she said.

It turns out that juvenile
cooper’s and red-tailed hawks look much like juvenile northern goshawks. I must admit that I haven’t seen the bird close enough and long enough to get enough identifying marks.

I’ll admit, I’m still holding out hope. Ms. Stephens said our northern friend has been sighted before, but nothing has really been confirmed. Buckingham could be historic in a whole new way, if only it’s true!

I’m OK with it, though, if it’s not a goshawk. A cooper’s hawk is good. No, it really is; it better not be a common old red-tail, though.

We need PICTURES people. No birders will take us seriously without photos, Ms. Stephens told me, so I’ll offer my undying gratitude and $10 to current, legible photos of hawks (not pigeons, vultures, crows or others—just hawks) in the Buckingham neighborhood. This’ll be fun. No, really, it’s OK.


Don’t know how the rest of you feel about this, but I’m just tickled that
Scrubs has returned to NBC, finally, and that it’s on Thursday night, the crème of TV slots. Last week’s show wasn’t their strongest, I don’t think, but it’ll do. The real tragedy is that the show isn’t offered a day late on the ‘Net. You can only read about the different episodes. Bummer.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I read someplace recently, was picked up for the full season officially, and you can view each episode on the Internet the day after it runs. The only problem with that show is that it looks and sounds just a little too much The West Wing.

Aaron Sorkin produced West Wing and produces Studio 60. Both shows take looks and pot-shots at social and political issues. It’s fun. However, Sorkin, uses the same fonts to title the different scenes of both shows. As well, Bradley Whitford acts on both shows, and Matthew Perry guest-starred once or twice on West Wing and now stars in Studio 60. I don’t know why I care, actually, but there you have it.

Now I have two shows to watch.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Money Issue


Before I get into the meat of today’s post, please notice a few things:

  1. An email address change (so glad to be out from under Verizon—they don’t seem to understand that they’re a communications company). The new one: (please make a note of it and update your spam filter).
  2. I’ve signed on with FeedBurner. Now you can automatically get notified when I update the blog (and then tell me and I’ll cut you from my email list). Sign up here.
  3. This is a new version of blogger; the photos and scans I post can be larger. With luck, you’ll see the neighborhood as never before.

Showing You the Money

Looking at how the county might help fund the redevelopment of Buckingham Villages 1 and 3 is a journalist’s dream: it’s a lot of complex information dealing mainly with tax breaks and AMI. Plus, I'm exhausted as I write this. It's a recipe for disaster. Cue the “Ocean Sounds” CD right now and head off to dream land…

A developer has to consider the different shapes, sizes and types of buildings it will construct, obviously; parking lots are cheaper than above ground garages which are cheaper than underground garages.

Consider this: the way the buildings in Buckingham Village 1 are structured—literally the number of affordable units per building—changes what federal and state tax benefits Paradigm Development Companies is entitled to for the affordable units they build.

Once they figure out the plan for the site, some of the tax credits must be won from the state on a competitive basis; so where they qualify automatically for a lower tax break, they have to compete with other builders of affordable units for a better tax break. Who knows if they’ll win.

The buildings they build and the size of the tax breaks affect the size of the subsidy the county will have to put into each unit, and therefore how many units the county feels it can afford.

Add to that the idea of what “affordable” is. People involved in all this, talk about the AMI, or the area median income, a number that the federal department of Housing and Urban Development comes up with to tell counties and developers where the “affordable” threshold is. The county and Paradigm look at different tax breaks and different subsidy levels depending on which threshold they want to use: households that earn below 50, 60, or 80 percent of AMI. Each number comes with a different batch of tax incentives. [See Ducks, below.]

Complicate that with the idea that some of the affordable units may actually be for sale, not for rent, and the subsidy numbers shift again. If nothing else, the county must change which line in the budget pays for them. [See Co-op-eration, below.]

Finally, it could all fall apart, come March. That month, the Memorandum of Understanding reached between Paradigm and the county comes due, and either Paradigm or the county could say they just can’t reach an agreement over all of this.

What happens then is the county labels all of Buckingham Village “Historic” (the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board has already said this property easily falls within the definition). A legal battle ensues in which destruction and construction are stopped, but the county must find a market-rate, affordable housing buyer within a year. Estimates put the property at somewhere around $100 million. A buyer who would maintain the affordable nature of the site would not be easy to find.

At the end of the year, if there is no buyer, Paradigm sweeps back in, and develops it “by right,” meaning, basically, they can do whatever the current code allows, about 36 units per acre. BV2, where the buildings have already been razed on N. George Mason and N. Henderson Road are being developed “by right” as part of the MOU compromises.

Village 3 Co-op-eration.

All or parts of Buckingham Village 3 may turn co-op or condominium, allowing current BV3 and BV1 renters to become owners at subsidized rates, say county officials.

The 140 units of BV3 would first be refurbished, including renovations inside, and possibly a pool and “bump-out” additions at the rear of some buildings (similar to Gates of Ballston). All of this must first pass through the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board process, currently underway.

The county held a meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 29, to gauge the interest of the residents and turn-out was at least 50 people, attendees have said.

County Board Member Walter Tejada, who attended the event, said he was “pleasantly surprised” at the turn-out, which he placed at about 75 people. “Good turnout for a weeknight.”

“It’s good to see people roll up their sleeves and work,” he said in a telephone interview, adding, “It made me feel good that there are people willing to fight hard” to save the community. He said there’s a lot of work left, however, if people want to pursue this.

“People want to buy,” Lois Athey said in a telephone interview. She is a long-term activist with the Buckingham Village/Gates of Arlington Tenants Association. “The idea is to give people options.”

BV3 sits on the north side of Pershing Drive, between N. George Mason Drive and N. Thomas Street. It is bordered on the north by N. 4th Street.

Paradigm Development Companies owns the property and would be responsible for refurbishing the units, paid for in part with county subsidies, as per the county’s
memorandum of understanding with the developer, signed at the end of last summer.

According to the MOU, the county wishes to maintain the historic apartment complex, and preserve the community. That is, the buildings have to look much the same as they do now, and people who live there now shouldn’t be forced to move away.

What’s more, Athey said many of the families living in the villages now earn between 60 and 80 percent of AMI. It’s more expensive for the county to subsidize people at the 80 percent level—that is, who are relatively better off than those who only earn 60 percent of AMI.

For Mr. Tejada this brings into question whether all 16 buildings of BV3 can be turned co-op. Perhaps a portion would remain rental.

Money to help subsidize the purchase of the units could come from a move the county made in October to OK the sale of properties it owns in the Rosslyn-Ballston metro corridor. (It’s not quite as simple as this; see the
Nov. 8, Arlington Connection story or listen to the board meeting—Oct. 24, Item 51—for more information.) The county earmarked about $6 million of the estimated $7 million of the sale to help people purchase units in Buckingham.

Many questions remain, both Ms. Athey and Mr. Tejada said. But here are two big areas:

If Paradigm decides it’s willing to sell these units, who buys them? What entity would need to be created to buy all the units at once and then resell them to the individual renters? Would the entity agree to Paradigm’s asking price?

Also, the MOU states that the county is trying to maintain 300 affordable units in the neighborhood. The 140 units in BV3 have been tallied into that 300 by people at different meetings. What happens if the units are no longer rentals, but condos?

“Would that be credited toward a committed [affordable] unit?” asked Lois Athey. “I don’t know.”

Ducks in a Row

Which duck, of all those different variables above, is the Mother Duck, the first duck that must fall into place for the others to follow? I put that question to David Cristeal in the county’s housing division. (Yes, we finally got together at the Cosi Café in the Courthouse neighborhood.)

He said the basic plan for the site needs to be chosen first, and then the county and Paradigm can work out which mix of rentals, purchases, tax credits and the like will make this valuable both to the county and the developer. He started rubbing his brow in tension at one point while running through all the options.

This Thursday’s
Site Plan Review Committee meeting (Dec. 7, 7 p.m., Walter Reed Center, 2609 S. 16th Street) will be very important as the SPRC makes some final decisions about the plans.

“Hopefully we can keep the compromise going,” he said, referring to the months of discussions and meetings since the MOU was signed. “We have to make this comparable to by right” development, he said, in order to keep Paradigm at the table.

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