Your Views: A stealthy urbanist agenda

Your Views: A stealthy urbanist agenda
Photo/Cody Mello-Klein

To the editor:

I think that most residents agree that keeping housing affordable is a noble endeavor. So do I, but it’s becoming clearer that we can’t build our way out of that challenge without creating extreme density and all the negative consequences that come with that.

Undaunted by the flooding woes of residents, Mayor Justin Wilson and our tone-deaf city officials continue their quest for more density in Virginia’s most densely populated city. There has to be a better path to housing affordability than adding 30,000 more residents over the next decade, but city leaders aren’t considering alternatives.

The level of planned development will undoubtedly place unfathomable pressure on school buildings, roads, sewer systems and storm water drainage networks, not to mention the City budget and operations.

Anyone needing more evidence of the City’s commitment to reckless development need only review the events of the past few weeks. City staff presented the Planning Commission with a proposal to eliminate a longstanding limitation on the ratio of building square footage to overall lot size on school properties.

Why? In part, because city officials want to build affordable housing on school grounds. Due to opposition from Commissioners David Brown and Stephen Koenig, a compromise was reached to increase the ratio from 0.65 to 0.75. Not great, but much better than the alternative of unlimited building density “by right.”

Then there was the first City Council meeting of the fall season. Council considered forgivable loans to developers of three new affordable housing developments. Together, these projects would add 721 housing units, which would bring in 2,000 new residents.

Two of these taxpayer-funded loans were approved. The third was deferred only because one civic association was able to mobilize and councilors Mo Seifeldein and Amy Jackson heard them.

The projects approved for taxpayer-funded loans to developers: a 375-unit apartment complex near the corner of Glebe Road and Mt. Vernon Ave., and a 291-unit building on the grounds of the existing Parc View Apartments on Holmes Run Parkway.

Yet, residents in Holmes Run, Landmark, Beverley Hills, Del Ray, Ivy Hill and other affected neighborhoods knew nothing about these projects. No outreach from Housing Director Helen McIlvaine or her staff, nothing in Wilson’s monthly newsletter, nothing from any of our at-large council members who claim that we don’t need wards to be well-represented and nothing from our reclusive city manager. Crickets all around.

So, with almost no public input and within an environment of growing resident concerns about density and overburdened infrastructure, the mayor led a discussion about adding 721 new housing units. This in addition to a proposed 777-unit project in Old Town’s southwest quadrant.

And they did it when most Alexandrians were already in bed, as the discussion occurred after 11 p.m., not unusual when it comes to potentially controversial issues. It’s become clear that “Mayor Density” and his supporters will continue to pursue their stealthy urbanist agenda, executing as much of it as possible before the next local election in June 2021.

There has to be a better way.

-Bill Rossello, Alexandria