Wednesday, March 28, 2007

News about BV, Police, Google

Buckingham Villages in the News
David Schultz, the new reporter for the Arlington Connection newspaper, did a fine job reporting on the Buckingham Villages vote at last week’s county board meeting.

The one thing I’d bring up: in the story, County Manager Ron Carlee says that the owners could have acted by right on all the property. Had they moved to act by right throughout the property, the county would have voted to place the property under the protection of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board.

Had the county made that move, Paradigm Development Co., the owners, legally could have forced the county to find within one year an at-market buyer for the property, estimated at $100 million. If they could not find an affordable housing developer that could buy the property, Paradigm could then do whatever it pleased. At day 366, the bull dozers would have moved in, officials with Paradigm once told me.

Scott McCaffrey relegated the news to
a spot on his blog. I’d say it’s pretty accurate, though I’d call the fights last fall over historical designation more than just saber rattling.

Of course, I wrote about the vote in my About Arlington column for the Arlington Connection. 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!

Letter: Clarification, ACCF Supports Bham.

One correction to your article [“County Board Votes on Villages” posted March 21, below]: it is true that Bob Atkins USED to be a Delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation. He is currently not a Delegate nor even an Alternate, although he DOES attend meetings of the ACCF Public Services committee—where he is a staunch supporter of improving DHS services for the less fortunate, a fact often overlooked when he puts on his fiscal review hat!

In his remarks last night [at the March 27 board meeting], I believe he made NO reference to any position of the ACCF -- and strictly represented himself, not the ACCF in any comments he made.

You DO know that ACCF has consistently been a strong supporter of Affordable Housing initiatives and, indeed the Chair and many members of the Housing Committee have been deeply supportive of supporting the Buckingham process, attending almost all meetings and, where appropriate, generating supportive resolutions for the ACCF membership to act on.

Take care,
Larry Mayer,
ACCF President

Police to Target Pedestrian Safety
Month-long Program to Step-up Enforcement

Tuesday saw the beginning of stepped-up patrols by Arlington County police targeting pedestrian safety. This is part of the regional 2007 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign, a press release said. The police planned a special detail yesterday on N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway where many cars, pedestrians and cyclists converge on their daily commute.

"It's an attempt to reach all three,” types of commuters said John Lisle, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police.

The police have another planned for S. Walter Reed Drive near Patrick Henry Elementary School.

These are the only two special details planned for the month, but that office will be patrolling for right-of-way violations.

"For the entire month the idea and plan is to step up enforcement across the county,” he said.

My take: I’d love to see more of this kind of thing in many neighborhoods. I know the Buckingham Community Civic Association has had concerns about each of the intersections with traffic lights on N. Glebe Road between Arlington and Wilson boulevards; let’s see more enforcement there.

If you know Buckingham, too, you know that much of the pedestrian activity is at night. All these programs seem to target commuter times, or lunch crowds in Ballston. Many of those dangerous-for-pedestrians areas are dead quiet when Buckingham’s pedestrian traffic is hustling.

I do have a couple phone calls out to the police department regarding pedestrian injuries for Buckingham. I hope to have you updated soon.

Police Notes for Buckingham
March 23, Armed Robbery
, 4100 block of N. Henderson Road. At approximately 9:15 p.m., two men walked into the Hyde Park Grocery and Laundry, and one of the men produced a handgun and demanded money from the clerk.

After receiving an undisclosed amount of money, both suspects fled on foot from the small mom-and-pop convenience store, on the ground floor of the Hyde Park Condominium at the corner of Henderson and Glebe roads.

Officers apprehended both suspects in the area and a police K-9 located the handgun. Gary Keith Whitaker, 28, and Jammee Togan, 23, both of Washington, D.C., were charged with Armed Robbery and held without bond. The police are seeing if these men are connected with other crimes in the area, said John Lisle, a spokeperson for the county.

Mrs. Kim, whose husband owns the store, said her son was working that night, and that he is OK and no one was hurt.

This is the second store robbery in as many weeks. A man stole an undisclosed amount of product from the CVS store at the corner of Glebe Road and Pershing Drive on March 15.

The Herald Trib is Googlable.
I’m happy to report that Google’s web trawler (the program that finds all the zillions of web sites out there so that you don’t have to look for yourself) has finally found the Buckingham Herald Tribblog!

I haven’t tried Googling the Herald Trib in months, so I don’t know when this blog popped up. Last fall, I don’t think it ever popped up, and I stopped looking to see if the site was mentioned at all after clicking through six or seven Gooooogle pages. Now a search including “Buckingham” and “Herald” should put the site near the top of page 1.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

County Board Votes on Buckingham Villages

The "Grateful" Living in Buckingham
(What a long, strange trip it's been...)

What a difference a few years makes.

With none of the rancor, yelling, or protests which came with the reconstruction plans of Arna Valley last decade—plans that displaced hundreds of low-income people, razed affordable apartment buildings and put in new upscale living and shops at that site on South Glebe Road—
the county board voted last night to endorse the Buckingham Village preservation plan and to continue the discussion surrounding it at the April 21 board meeting.

County staff has been instructed to finish many details of the project by the next meeting including the Affordable Housing Plan and sale of Buckingham Village 3 to the county.

Since the county itself cannot buy apartment housing, the county plans to spend $32,130,000 either helping a low-income property management company to buy the property or by following some other options, the county attorney said.

“It’s routinely done,” he said.

It was almost a love-fest at the board meeting last night.

Of the 16 public speakers only Robert Atkins, who has been active in the Arlington County Civic Federation, warned board members that they were endorsing a project that would haunt them over the next 10 years. He believes that the county cannot buy the property and that county staff has done an insufficient job explaining where the money for the purchase, and for subsidies of other programs—estimated in total to reach about $60 million—will come from. It’s the largest affordable housing project the county has undertaken, board members said.

“This [county staff] report has no fiscal impact” statement, Mr. Atkins said. “You have been warned,” he added later.

Caridad Palerm, of the civic activist group BRAVO, said, “It’s not about giving money away, it’s about building assets.”

Buckingham citizens, commission members, board members, county staff and others could not stop thanking one another for the hard work that many people put into the plan. Even Paradigm Development Co., which owns the property, was thanked directly many times for being a “willing partner” in the process.

The process moved in earnest starting last summer when the county and Paradigm entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that mapped out four major goals of the redevelopment: preservation of the community, preservation of affordable housing and historical preservation of Buckingham Village 3, and money enough to the owner that would approximate unrestricted development.

The process followed “The Arlington Way” of forming committees and talking an issue to death to come to last night’s plan. It has been reported here many times. (See, the Feb. 28 and 14 posts; and the Dec. 10, 2006 post, to name just a few.)

Paradigm Development said that more than 10 scenarios for the property had been drafted. Number 8 won the night—it includes razing Village 1, nearest Culpepper Gardens, and replacing the buildings with two large buildings and townhouses. Village 3, on N. Pershing Drive between N. George Mason Drive and N. Thomas Street, will be protected under county historical statutes, and the plan is for the county to purchase it and turn it into a co-operative, condominium, or other affordable housing ownership project.

To get to this point, citizens, county staff, and Paradigm officials met at least 35 meetings since last summer.
As Patricia McCullough, a Village 3 resident, said, quoting the Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” This became a theme, springing up in others’ remarks about the process, about how the “Arlington Way” actually worked this time—it does not always work, said County Board Member Jay Fisette.
The other theme of the night was home ownership.

“I’m hoping…home ownership will be available to us,” said Judith Sanchez, who also wants to make sure some larger, three-bedroom apartments for rent will also be available.

Anthony Mann who told the board he has lived throughout the region asked the board to explore home ownership options.

This was reflected in remarks by Buckinghamster Jose Meride, who said, “I think all of us want to live and purchase” in Buckingham.

The plan looks to move current residents into other apartments either in Buckingham Village or into other Buckingham neighborhood apartments while the new buildings are built.

Ms. Palerm of the civic activist group BRAVO and Lois Athey of the tenant association BU-GATA both said that maintaining the current buildings while the new ones are being built and giving enough help to displaced persons during relocation is paramount and the county must watch the process closely.

Police Notes for Buckingham
Apprehended Suspect May Be Boulevard Burglar
Officers with the Arlington County Police Department arrested a man who broke into a home in the Arlington Forest neighborhood on March 19.

Police report that at approximately 10 a.m., a woman returned to her residence and heard an intruder in the house. She saw a man run out of the back door of the house. She immediately called 911. Officers quickly set up a perimeter and the suspect was apprehended in the area.George Perez Levenberry, 45, of Arlington, was charged with Burglary and held without bond.

He was also wanted by the Sheriff’s Office for a probation violation stemming from a prior Burglary conviction.Detectives with the Police Department’s Burglary Unit say Levenberry is a suspect in close to 30 residential break-ins in Arlington since Aug. 24, 2006. Most of the burglaries occurred in North Arlington during daylight hours.

With one exception, the homes were unoccupied and the thief took jewelry, small electronic devices, televisions, cash and checkbooks. In January and February police stepped-up efforts to find the thief in those burglaries, sending out press releases which
warned the community, especially those houses around Arlington Boulevard, to be wary, and asking residents to watch over each others’ houses.

Detectives asked citizens to report any suspicious activity, and they credit the resident who interrupted Monday’s burglary with helping close the case.

March 20: Peeping Tom, 300 block of N. Oxford St. At approximately 12:58 a.m. officers observed a man peeping into the bedroom window of an apartment. Hector Antonio Herrerra-Roman, 18, of Arlington, was charged with Peeping Into an Occupied Dwelling and released on his own recognizance.
March 18,
Attempted Burglary, 300 block of N. Quebec St. At approximately 2:30 a.m. a man tried to enter an apartment by cutting a screen and prying open a bedroom window. He was unsuccessful and fled on foot. The suspect is described as a white Hispanic male, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 160 pounds, wearing a grey sweatshirt, blue pants, and white shoes.
March 15,
Robbery, 256 N. Glebe Rd. Between 11:54 a.m. and noon, a man entered the CVS Pharmacy, placed several items in two baskets and left without paying. As he was leaving he threatened a store employee.
March 14,
Felony Hit and Run, 300 block of N. Glebe Rd. At about 10:00 p.m., a pedestrian crossing the northbound lanes of N. Glebe Rd. was struck by a dark sedan which immediately left the scene. The striking vehicle has damage to the driver’s side mirror. The victim was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries to the face, shoulder, arms, and legs.

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.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Police Notes and Birds

Police Notes for Buckingham
Editor’s Note:
I haven’t been as vigilant as I should have been with my coverage of crime in the neighborhood, so now I’m posting the crime reports again. I’ve missed about a month worth of coverage, so there’s going to be quite a few postings. Sorry that it seems like a crime spree when it’s just bad reporting on my part. –Steve.

You may notice four residential burglaries; the police have posted a bulletin with the same information posted
to this site on Feb. 7 (see it below) about this burglar.

In another story, the police have arrested
Dwayne Waddell Johnson for commercial burglary. The police report that they caught him as he was exiting a closed restaurant that he did not own.

March 2:
Attempted Burglary, 400 block of N. George Mason Dr. Between 11 and 11:32 p.m., a resident of an apartment reported that while she was sleeping a man removed a window screen, poked his head inside her bedroom and then fled.

Breaking and Entering, 400 block of N. George Mason Dr. At approximately 11:32 p.m., someone entered an apartment through a kitchen window. A resident heard the suspect walk around the home and then exit through a living room window. Nothing was taken.

Feb. 23:
Residential Burglary, 4400 block of N. 4th Rd. At approximately 6:20 a.m., a woman left her apartment door unlocked while she ran an errand. When the woman returned a few moments later, she discovered a man in her apartment. When the woman screamed, the man fled. The suspect is described as a white Hispanic male in his 20s, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 180 pounds, wearing a dark-colored zip-up fleece jacket, dark-colored pants, and a gray woolen hat with ear flaps.

Residential Burglary, 2900 block of N. 4th St. Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., someone entered a home by forcing a rear basement door and took cash and jewelry.

Feb. 18:
Malicious Wounding, 300 block of N. Glebe Rd. At approximately 2:09 a.m., two men got in to an argument and one stabbed the other in the arm with a corkscrew. The victim was transported to a local hospital to be treated for a deep laceration. The suspect was located in the area and arrested. Mario Augusto Alfaro-Lopez, 20, of Arlington, was charged with malicious wounding and held without bond.

Commercial Burglary, 800 block of N. Glebe Rd.
Between 5 p.m. and 11:33 p.m., someone entered a business by damaging the lock on the front door and may have taken cash.


While we’re speaking of the police…
Tuesday morning, March 5, I saw a police car make a right turn through an intersection that a pedestrian had just entered at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard. The surprised pedestrian, no more than a few feet from the car, looked up suddenly, then took a step back and then another onto the curb where he shook his head. I shook my head with him.


For the record, I saw my first robin, a small, bedraggled looking thing, on Sunday Feb. 25 (meant to report this last week), just before our surprise snow. On Monday, March 5, a flock of them landed in the backyard to find some bugs and worms. Spring is coming.

As well, my family and I participated in the National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count on Feb. 25 (a record breaking year for this, the society reports on its web site). We saw goldfinches and sparrows, mourning doves and starlings, nuthatches and juncos. Alas, no northern goshawks swooped down to the feeder.

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