Dear Friends,    

January has been focused on missing middle, mental health, and economic development. I also joined Arlington's MLK Day of Service, participated in our annual Point in Time Count to help us serve the homeless in Arlington, helped kick off Arlington's Food Security Coalition, and joined Kojo Nnamdi to talk about Metro and missing middle. 
With Arlington County staff and my colleague Takis Karantonis for Arlington County's
Point in Time Count of the Homeless in Arlington.
January's big news: the public hearings on missing middle and the Board's advertisement of hearings in March. This month we had in depth discussion. 171 people shared their thoughts on the Request to Advertise (First Draft Language) of the proposed policies over hearings on two separate days. A slight majority spoke in favor of missing middle. This support was in contrast to the 65% of emails we have received that have been opposed to missing middle. 

After thorough and passionate debate and adoption of two important amendments that I offered, I voted to move forward with consideration of the proposal along with the four other Board Members. As I have shared in prior emails, I voted to move forward because we should allow for additional flexibility in our zoning ordinance so that the economic ladder that has worked for some in Arlington has a better chance of working for more residents over the coming years. For the Washington Post's summary of the debate and our action:
Listen to my Comments on Missing Middle on the Kojo Nnamdi Show
The best way to hear my thoughts on the amendment and missing middle is to click on the blue button above to listen to my interview on the Kojo Nnamdi show last Friday. (The discussion of missing middle begins at 13 minutes 39 seconds: you cannot search it, but can let it play at low volume until that time, if you are pressed for time.) I offered an amendment to remove 7 and 8 unit dwellings, and that amendment passed by a three to two vote. The amendment is consistent with how I campaigned last year: I believe the costs of including 7 and 8 unit dwellings in the debate over the next two months, and in our policy over the years to come, outweigh the benefits.
Watch the County Board's Discussion of Missing Middle
To dig further into my thinking and the Board's deliberation and the amendments I offered, click on the above link to watch the 3 hours of debate the Board had last week. In it, I share my view that 7 and 8 unit dwellings are almost certain to be one and two bedroom units and that I believe we can best add to our supply of one and two bedroom units in our transportation corridors--Rosslyn/Ballston, Crystal City/Pentagon City, and right along Columbia Pike.

I believe that allowing 7 and 8 unit dwellings to be developed under missing middle across the County does not sufficiently serve the goals of the missing middle study as articulated in the scope of our study in September of 2020:

• Incentivize the production of moderately-priced ownership housing through land use and zoning policy.
• Encourage production and preservation of family-sized (e.g. 3+bedroom) moderately-priced ownership units.
• Explore flexibility in housing types and residential uses in single-family neighborhoods. (To see the Final Scope, go here: )

It is the third of these three goals--flexibility in housing types and residential uses in single-family neighborhoods-- that I believe provides a reasonable basis for missing middle policies that encourage the economic integration of parts of our County that are not economically or racially diverse. However, I believe 5 and 6 unit dwellings can accomplish that goal without the planning and parking implications of 7 and 8 unit dwellings. 
Over 1500 Arlingtonians for the MLK Day of Service put on by Volunteer Arlington
I also put forward an amendment that is an option that will allow for consideration of 5 and 6 unit dwellings close to transit and on larger lots. This option is one I think is worthy of consideration, along with the many other issues that were raised in this initial Board discussion of the actual language that would become County zoning law in March.

To see the actual language that we approved as a draft, go here:

For a two page summary of the missing middle draft, go here:

There is much left to debate and consider over the next two months: the text of the Request to Advertise includes at least eight parts where there are options that the Board will choose from in March. The decisions on each of the options matter. The decision and the details are as consequential over the long-term as our decision to underground the Orange Line in the late 1960s. That choice helped lead to the prosperity that has come with the transit oriented development of the last 50 years.

This set of choices on missing middle is also very important over the long-term, but calls for a different approach. Instead of more prescriptive planning, we must recognize that more flexibility is necessary to allow for additional supply of housing --allowing duplexes, 3 unit, and 4 unit dwellings, and 5 and 6 unit dwellings on lots near transit and larger lots. To be clear, we will only be allowing additional dwellings in the same size building space as the house size currently allowed for single family homes.

I continue to listen and engage with any who ask in an effort to build consensus over the next two months. Consensus--not unanimity--is the goal as we consider the options before us in March.   
I was sworn in as Vice-Chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission earlier this month
The Board and our staff also took four important steps that have elicited very broad/near unanimous support. First, we signed a letter of intent for a mental health facility with VHC Health. There are significant details ahead, but the mental health need in our community is clear and this is a step forward. To learn more go here: 

Second, we approved over 1400 housing units near the Crystal City Metro. To be clear, these are market rate units and will not be what I and most Arlington residents think of as "affordable housing." They will, however, add to our housing supply very close to metro and are an investment that will help with housing supply, affordability, and economic growth. The project also includes what we call 'community benefits' under our zoning ordinance: millions in contributions for affordable housing and 37 dedicated affordable housing units nearby, along with open space and transportation infrastructure. This is economic growth that makes sense with community benefits: 

Third, progress on traffic safety. County staff announced last week that two stop signs will be placed near Nottingham at intersections that have seen fatalities over the last decade. This step, along with a stop sign near TJ Middle School that was requested by residents after a fatal drunk driving accident last year, are very important steps that I worked on. Working to deliver on traffic and pedestrian safety is a key part of my ongoing commitment to serve every Arlingtonian.   

Fourth, a step forward on fighting climate change. The County Manager appointed Arlington's first Chief Climate Officer. This is a step the entire Board supports and worked on last year. Bill Egger will help Arlington accelerate our progress by coordinating our climate work across County departments. To read more about his background and appointment, go here:

With a sense of responsibility and a full heart, it is my continued honor to serve you.  

Authorized by Matt for Arlington

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