Wednesday, March 14, 2007

UUCA Affordable Housing; Gangs; Wood Frogs

Talk of Affordable Housing at UUCA Called “Premature”
An unreported but rather surprising remark at the February County Board meeting stated that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, just across Arlington Boulevard from Buckingham, is considering building affordable housing on their property.

The remark was made by Dave Voorhees, a long-time member of the church, a citizen of the Barcroft neighborhood, and an Arlington activist. He was supporting the First Baptist Church of Clarendon and their pursuit of a housing complex that would include affordable units on the church's property. Mr. Voorhees said by approving FBCC’s project the county board would open the opportunities for other churches, such as the UUCA.

“That’s totally premature,” said Louise Van Horn, a member of the Unitarian church who is involved in the discussions. “It isn’t appropriate to say that.”

She said that developing affordable housing at 4444 Arlington Blvd. was only an idea that was talked about in discussions of what to do over the next 10 years. “We haven’t gone to the [church] board yet,” she said. They haven’t brought it before the congregation.

In an email, Rev. Michael McGhee the minister of the church wrote: “Our church is interested in exploring the possibility of developing affordable housing on our property, but financing is a major roadblock for us at this time. We do plan to keep that open as an option and would appreciate any information, help, and assistance that can be provided.”

The county board in February approved FBCC’s project, over vocal protests from Lyon Village residents.

South Side Locos Tag Street Sign
The South Side Locos, a regional gang, tagged a small sign on N. Thomas Street in front of Whitefield Commons. A black spray painted “SSL” mars the sign, and Det. Steve Gomez of the Arlington County police said it is up to the property owner to clean the markings.

Det. Gomez said that the gang is not necessarily from South Arlington, as the name implies, but that the name is an odd translation of a Spanish word, having to do with “surenos,” or “southerners.”

Det. Rick Rodriguez, who is an expert on gangs in Arlington, said, “It’s just coincidental that they are in South Arlington.” The name comes from whether or not a gang originates, or was active, south of Bakersfield, Calif. It is showing respect or a connection to the Mexican Mafia, he said.

After a 2003 homicide at a quincinera party, a sort of “Sweet 15” party, at the Econolodge on South Glebe Road, the SSL gang was largely hampered because seven of the gang’s leaders pled or were found guilty and are spending time in jail, Det. Gomez said.

"Buckingham has always had a gang in the area called the NPs,” Det. Rodriguez said. “Nueva [New] Pershing” replaced an older gang along Pershing Drive in the neighborhood.

"The economics have forced these folks out of the area,” Det. Rodriguez said. “They’re no longer able to afford living in Arlington County.” For this reason the gang problem is growing in Prince William and other outlying counties.

Still, the gang members used to live in Arlington and still have jobs or other connections here, so they come back. The tag on the sign in front of Whitefield Commons probably does not mean more activity, but a guy with time on his hands.

“If you think about it all you need is a spray can and a couple seconds,” Det. Rodriguez said.

The police ask that people watch for and report illegal or unusual behavior.


Wood Frogs Are Noisy; Wood Ducks Are Pretty
I shot a video with my phone yesterday at Gulf Branch Nature Center. Below, you can hear, but can’t see (sorry, but the video is shot with a cell phone), the racket that desperate male wood frogs create to attract a mate.

Denise Chauvette at the center said that the frogs have a couple different croaks: a “Come hither” croak of a frog ready to get busy; and a “Hey, get off me, I’m a BOY frog” croak. They’ll continue this, and are most noisy in the evening, for a short time. The frogs will lay and fertilize eggs in the vernal (springtime) pond there. The center plans to transfer a batch of eggs to one of their aquariums for the public to see the metamorphosis of the amphibians, said Ms. Chauvette the director of the center.

She said, she knew they’d keep croaking for days, but she couldn’t guarantee a time of day. When I saw them, mid-day, a few dozen at least were visible, and then I went inside. By the time I got back out to the pond after speaking with Ms. Chauvette (maybe 15 minutes), they’d all quieted and disappeared.

By the way, I had gone to the center to ask about their bees since

something (as yet unknown) is killing bees in at least 20 states. Ms. Chauvette hadn’t heard of this, and the bees of Gulf Branch seem to be doing OK.

In other news of Eco-Arlington, three sets of wood ducks have set up house-keeping, apparently, in Sparrow Pond on the W&OD Trail near Long Branch Nature Center; the birds are beautiful, almost decoy-looking in their flawlessness. My friend Liz reports hearing some woodpecker activity recently in the neighborhood.

Get Connectioned…
It often slips my mind to remind my blog readers to read my column in the Arlington Connection—the most recent two: my reaction to the First Baptist Church of Clarendon’s affordable housing project, and a little after-session fun with state rep Robert Marshall and his idea to lay track down the W&OD trail.

Remember: if you live in the 22203 zip code, call the Arlington Connection and get a FREE subscription to the paper: 703-917-6465. Right now we don’t have enough Buckinghamsters subscribing so the bulk mail takes forever—Sign Up Now!


Police Notes for Buckingham

March 7: Robbery by Force, 4300 block of N. 2nd Rd. At approximately 11:40 p.m., a man walking down the street was grabbed from behind by a masked man. A second suspect approached and hit the victim in the face. The victim was pushed to the ground and his wallet was taken by one of the suspects. The suspects fled in a white car. Both suspects are described as white Hispanic males wearing black jackets or hooded sweatshirts, dark pants, and bandannas covering their faces.


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