To the editor:
At the Jan. 23 City Council public hearing, I testified on behalf of the Seminary Hill Association, Inc. regarding the proposed zoning amendment to allow accessory dwelling units throughout the city. While I acknowledge and respect that there are differing views on ADUs, a statement made by Zach DesJardins contained such blatant inaccuracies that I must set the record straight on behalf of the residents of Seminary Hill. Let me quote what DesJardins stated to council:
“The owner occupancy requirement is frankly a racist poison pill designed to suppress ADU construction to keep neighborhoods wealthy and white. … Omitting the owner occupancy requirement will allow more ADUs to be built within neighborhoods that frankly don’t have any rental housing at all today, places like Seminary Hill and Seminary Ridge. Adding diversity of race and income into our whitest and wealthiest neighborhoods is an admirable goal.”
DesJardins’ comments toward Seminary Hill were unfounded and reflect the kind of talk that divides a community into “us versus them.” We don’t want that. We are one city.ci
DesJardins’ incivility was out of line, factually incorrect and the kind of destructive rhetoric that destroys harmony among neighbors and irreparably harms our community. It might be informative for DesJardins and the members of City Council who did not challenge his inflammatory words to review a few statistics about our neighborhood, which refute his definition of the “whitest and wealthiest neighborhoods.”
Looking at diversity statistics from the data collection site, city-data.com, our 22304 zip code of Seminary Hill has a white population of 48.6%, a Hispanic population of 16.7% and a Black population of 30.6%.
For the purposes of comparison, it might be helpful to look at another large neighborhood in our city, such as Del Ray. The Del Ray neighborhood zip code of 22301 has a white population of 86.5%, a Hispanic population of 10.5% and a Black population of 7.5%.
If we look at income and wealth statistics from data provided by the point2homes.com website, the average income in 22304 is $106,124. The average income in 22301 is $181,521. The median value of a home with a mortgage in the 22304 zip code is $394,000. The median value of a home with a mortgage in the 22301 zip code is $775,300.
As far as DesJardins’ patently false assertion that Seminary Hill “does not have any rental housing at all today” goes, one block from my house is the large rental apartment complex on Quaker Lane known as The Fields of Old Town. Along Menokin Drive is the Braddock Lee rental apartment complex. A new 81-unit affordable rental housing development, the Waypoint, is now under construction. All of these rental properties are in Seminary Hill.
Further evidence of the false claims made by DesJardins can be seen in a graphic from the D.C. Policy Center, which shows demographic neighborhood changes in the region since 1970. The graphic, available at www.dcpoli- cycenter.org/publications/regional-de- mographic-shifts/, clearly shows how diverse Central and West Alexandria – including Seminary Hill – have become, while at the same time showing how other areas like Del Ray have lost significant diversity as gentrification has happened.
So, as DesJardins speaks of his “admirable goal to seek to add diversity of race and income into our whitest and wealthiest neighborhoods” with the addition of ADUs, perhaps he should do research to see where the problem lies before he states his prejudices against certain neighborhoods.
The residents of Seminary Hill are proud of our community and its healthy mix of diversity and income. His statements about Seminary Hill are dishonest and disrespectful. While they match a narrative he seeks to create, the data tell an entirely different story about our neighborhood.
Alexandria is an amazing community of different neighborhoods like Seminary Hill and Del Ray, and we are all proud to live in our city. We should respect the unique characteristics and attributes of each neighborhood.
There is no reason for DesJardins or anyone to create artificial divisions between us. We can agree to disagree on matters of policy, but we should all agree that such a lack of civility should not be condoned or tolerated.
-Carter Flemming, president, Seminary Hill Association