To the editor:
It’s easy to see why a city as generous and caring as Alexandria has conflicted residents on the proposal for zoning. But before anything is set in stone, there are questions and history lessons that the current City Council and residents must know and consider.
1. Why do our property taxes continue to rise much faster than inflation and neighboring areas? Has there been an audit of the city government to ensure that the large number of upper level employees are providing a needed service, especially since we lack police strength, inadequate parking and traffic enforcement, poor street and sewer maintenance?
2. Why isn’t Alexandria emulating Arlington in pursuing commercial development instead of more residential buildings? It is a known economic fact that commercial properties require fewer city services such as police, schools and hospitals. Adding commercial property would take the burden off city services – which already need improving – and reduce property taxes that are squeezing middle income budgets.
3. Why has Alexandria given up so much housing for really low income residents? In 2002, Alexandria turned the Berg over to a developer who created Chatham Square. I and others wrote letters to the Washington Post and testified that this property should not be taken away from the very poor people who were housed there. While 50 public housing units were retained, the children living there lost their playground.
4. Why does this zoning plan include more housing but few parking spaces despite the fact that most of us own cars? According to the National Automobile Dealers’ 2020 and 2019 data, only 8.5% of households don’t have a vehicle. In Virginia, 93.9% of households own at least one, and the average number of vehicles owned is 2.4. How many city employees and City Council members only use public transportation and don’t own a car?
5. Why isn’t Alexandria fixing its schools so low income children can move up the earning ladder when they graduate? Alexandria City Public Schools have been underperforming for many years, so the COVID-19 excuse no longer holds water. If we want middle income residents or families to be able to live here in Alexandria, we need to give them a quality education now.
6. Why are there no design standards? We continue to destroy the ambiance of this beautiful historic city and threaten our walkable neighborhoods, like Del Ray and Rosemont. To show how credible this question is, a mother at a local coffee shop overheard me discussing this topic. She offered that while driving north on Route 1, her nine-year-old son asked her why “they were building all those prisons.” Out of the mouth of babes! And yet, I was told by the planning office there will be no design standards.
In conclusion, it seems to me these questions should be pondered and answered by appropriate city government officials before moving forward with a zoning plan that appears to benefit developers and property owners, but does nothing to protect and preserve our neighborhoods, improve infrastructure and provide quality education.
-Linda Couture, Alexandria