Letter to the Editor: Integrate the West End by not calling it that

Letter to the Editor: Integrate the West End by not calling it that
(Photo: Derrick Perkins)

To the editor:

In the May 31 Times voters’ guide issue, you asked the candidates how to “more fully engage Alexandria’s West End residents in the life of our city.” I would propose a radical first step: stop referring to western half of the city as the West End.

The area west of Quaker contains many neighborhoods and future neighborhoods that have vastly different interests and needs. Seminary Hill, Foxchase, Cameron Station, Eisenhower West, Edsall Hill, Beauregard, Holmes Run Parkway– the notion that these socio-economically diverse areas form a cohesive sector of the city is a myth. It is plausible only because these neighborhoods all rely on Duke Street as an umbilical cord to the rest of the city. And we all know what it’s like to drive on Duke Street.

Unfortunately, the city itself has lumped all of these neighborhoods into a single planning district, which only perpetuates the myth. Planning District III, covering the area west of Quaker, is, aptly, about the size of Planning District I plus Planning District II. As a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission representing Planning District III, I’ve seen increasing engagement from these communities year over year – just look at the participation of Eisenhower Avenue residents on the Cameron Run Regional Park engagement process; the leadership of Cameron Station residents on the Eisenhower West small area advisory group; the commitment of Seminary Hill residents to bike and pedestrian access; the tireless efforts of the Holmes Run Park Committee and Wakefield-Tarleton neighborhood groups to improving safety and investing in our native tree communities.

Yes, we need a broader base of engagement directed to the east to city hall that goes beyond the “usual suspects.” How can the city even start to think of splitting up Planning District III when this entire region fails to yield more than one city council member on a regular basis?

I personally think we will not get to the right level of engagement until we have more schools and PTAs, more community centers and meeting spaces, more residential and commercial density and listservs that foster communication and coordination.

That, in turn, requires putting an end to the concept of the “West End.” As long as half of the city is treated as an undifferentiated mass of taxable acreage, true political integration will be incomplete.

-Judy Coleman, Alexandria