Letter to the Editor: The disconcerting rhymes of history

Letter to the Editor: The disconcerting rhymes of history
(Photo Credit: Richard Lawrence)

To the editor:

On Sept. 4, the Alexandria Planning Commission voted 6-0 to endorse the City of Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning’s proposed “Route 1 South Housing Affordability Strategy” in the city’s Southwest Quadrant. The planning commission expressed appreciation for the city taking proactive steps to preserve the affordability of 215 units for The Heritage of Old Town and Olde Towne West III commercial properties. Subsidized contracts for the two properties expire in 2019. The strategy’s plan for saving those 215 units is a commendable effort by the city given the nationwide affordable housing crisis.

The strategy proposes constructing 674 market-rate units over a 15-year timeframe to retain the affordability of the 215 housing units. However, a total of 889 erected units would undoubtedly include families, additional vehicles on the road and parking demands. After several information sessions hosted by the city since January 2018, SWQ residents still have significant reservations with the strategy.

First, the strategy estimates only 23 net new students generated over 15 years. Second, the strategy defers analysis on increased traffic patterns to commercial developers. Lastly, SWQ residents are concerned over the lack of transparency, and the implications of the Alfred Street Baptist Church’s parallel, but separate, housing development project on the strategy.

Mark Twain’s quote that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes” applies to each instance of the city’s prior development projects, including the Waterfront Implementation Plan, the Potomac Yard Development and Karig Estates; residents raised concerns, but were marginalized in favor of developers. City council will hear the strategy at its public hearing on Sept. 15.

SWQ residents do not oppose development improvements and affordable housing, but residents do share concerns with how this strategy overlooks strategic gaps, and its potential rhyming with the city’s development history.

-Stafford A. Ward, C.A. Crandall, Lisa Kempe, Janice Kupiec, Amy Morton, Brian Scholl, Alexandria