To the editor:
I am an unabashed fan of the Alexandria Times, which is my go-to resource for news about my community. That is why I was particularly saddened by the Times’ recent editorial “Our View: The value of listening” about a recent zoning proposal. Allowing the possibility of increased density in select locations is not “an assault on single-family zoning in Alexandria.”
As the map the Times itself published in an earlier article demonstrates, height increase re- quests will still be barred in most residential areas regardless of whether the proposal is approved. Higher density could bring shading, strain on infrastructure and changes to the oft cited and highly mysterious quality called “the character of the neighborhood,” but these consequences can hardly be classified as an assault.
Nor will the proposal allow current single-family housing to balloon upward. As the Times itself noted in the same article with the published map, “[t]he zoning change will not apply to single-family, two-family or townhome dwellings and height districts of 50 feet or less.”
Suggesting that the proposal would “ruin single family neighborhoods” is insulting to existing single-family neighborhoods that abut multifamily development – whose residents may have strong feelings about being informed that their neighborhoods are, in fact, ruined. It also does a disservice to Del Ray, the neigh- borhood the editorial is most concerned about.
Past and present, those who make Del Ray their home have put time, effort and love into their neighborhood, and they have been rewarded with a truly special place that reflects generations of care. To accuse Del Ray of being so easily ruined is to diminish the neighborhood’s spirit and history.
Even more frustrating is the editorial’s discussion of the intersection between racial justice and housing. According to the Editorial Board, “ours is a living constitution” where “27 amendments have been passed, many of which correct oversights and barriers to progress,” and thus “progress is harmed, not helped,” when individuals suggest that housing issues have a racial dimension. This is a disheartening position to see the Times take.
Constitutional amendments are no panacea. A legal right has strength only when the communities it is designed to protect have equitable access to the legal system and the assistance of effective legal counsel. People of color continue to face challenges in both of those areas. More basically, though, a citation to the Constitution does nothing to address the problems at the center of the zoning debate.
Rents are up. Housing supply is dwindling. As has often been the case in America and Alexandria, people of color have disproportionately borne the brunt of these economic dangers. That disproportionate impact deserves a place in the conversations around zoning.
It may not be racist, standing alone, to oppose increased density. But it certainly verges on ignorance to suggest that our neighbors should stop discussing housing affordability from the perspective of race and instead take silent solace in the Constitution.
-Anderson Vereyken, Alexandria