City Charter does not authorize ZFH

City Charter does not authorize ZFH

To the editor: 

I write in protest of the proposed rezoning of Alexandria and to ask all residents to join me in expressing their opposition to City Council. 

Most people have no idea of the scope of the proposed Zoning for Housing and how harshly it may affect them. It is very difficult to understand the proposed ordinances. As an example, it is suggested that no parking may be required for new/expanded housing in enhanced transit districts. 

Comments from the city lead one to believe that these enhanced districts are located around Metro stations. The reality is that 45% of the existing housing in the city, including almost all of Old Town, is in an enhanced transit district and no required parking will be required for new developments. 

Council maintains their goal is to provide more housing through zoning in order to right the racial wrongs of the past. There is no authority for Council to enact zoning ordinances with that stated goal and more importantly no evidence that that goal will be achieved through zoning. 

Council’s zoning powers flow from the City Charter section 9.09. That provision contains a list of considerations on zoning actions and further mandates consideration of numerous criteria, not just one. 

Section 9.09 of Alexandria’s charter reads: “council shall have the power to adopt by ordinance a comprehensive zoning plan designed to lessen congestion in streets, secure safety from fire, panic and other danger, promote health, sanitation and general welfare, provide adequate light and air, prevent the overcrowding of land, avoid undue concentration of population, facilitate public and private transportation and the supplying of public utility services and sewage disposal, preserve existing and facilitate the provision of new housing that is affordable to all segments of the community, and facilitate provision for schools, parks, playgrounds and other public improvements and requirements.” (Emphasis added.) 

The proposed ordinances have been billed as facilitating the provision of new low/middle income housing but the problem is that there is no evidence that eliminating zoning requirements to increase density actually benefits low and moderate income people. Additionally, there is plenty of evidence that increasing the density in Alexandria will be at the expense of private transportation and will create more traffic congestion, sewer congestion and overcrowding or congestion of population, and an all-around lowering of the quality of life with more pollution, sewer overflow and the inability to drive in a crisis because of traffic congestion. 

I do not oppose density per se. 

If the infrastructure exists, I understand that others, like me, would find it desirable to live in an urban setting. However, our infrastructure structure cannot support these ordinance-projected numbers because our infrastructure doesn’t even support today’s numbers. 

My neighbors have their homes flooded every time it rains heavily. I sit through five red light cycles every weekday to turn left on Patrick Street from Gibbon Street at 2:30 p.m., and through four red light cycles to turn left from Quaker Lane onto Duke Street an hour later. 

I never see a police patrol officer in my neighborhood, and I read with horror the report of rising crime in the city. In just the first half of October, there were 500 reported crimes on the city’s crime database. We are already the densest locality in Virginia and we are not handling it well now. 

I have witnessed the dedication of many Planning Commissions and Councils – in the beginning as their legal advisor in my job as deputy city attorney, subsequently representing clients before them. In those 42 years I watched as elected and appointed city officials went from viewing citizens as knowledgeable and caring to today when they view citizen concerns as tiresome. 

The elected and appointed officials need to listen and hear the valid concerns being raised. This is not the time to further burden our infrastructure and it is not the time to lower our quality of life. 

The zoning for housing ordinances need to be rejected. 

-Barbara P. Beach, Alexandria