Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor for December 11 – 17, 2008

F.C. Planner: About More Than Parking


I had little doubt that the Planning Commission vote on the FCHC project would be taken to task (to be polite) in this paper, so I thought I’d just write a brief note.

Critics vote will say that this was about “19 parking spaces.” Far from it. There were fundamental concerns about many aspects of this project, parking was just one of the most egregious. From the start, FCHC refused to change or consider change. Add more parking? Can’t do it. Find offsite places that meet Code? Can’t do it. We were told to bend, ignore, or waive multiple sections of Code and, in effect, to treat affordable housing with less respect than regular housing in a dramatic departure from City history.

If we had voted for a site plan that was so drastically under-parked, we would have been saying, “Oh, well, it’s good enough for poor people.” I’m not going to say that and I won’t let my vote say that. This wasn’t good enough.

We even took the unprecedented step of specifically asking the Council for help on parking. When we voted in the summer (I voted for it), we said we needed help and urged the Council not to “leave it to Site Plan.” We got no help. Numbers stayed the same. We were told parking is a Site Plan issue and it was up to the PC. So here we are.

A local study of low income transportation patterns didn’t even help. When I used their figures for low income access to cars, I came up with a deficit of more than 100 spaces. The bottom line is that FCHC acted like the Red Queen in Alice. They wanted “sentence first, verdict after.” They wanted Site Plan first and then a discussion of how to make it work. Site Plan IS about how to make it work. Other applicants have always worked with us to find compromises. I wish that had been the case here and I’m still willing to look at real solutions to the problems.

Albert Einstein said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” FCHC came back to the PC many times over many months with the same parking number and was told that wasn’t going to work. Now people are surprised at the result? That’s crazy.

John D. Lawrence, Vice Chair

F.C. Planning Commission

Why Not Scale Back Total Units?


I knew the editorial position the News-Press would take on the Planning Commission’s denial of City Center South Apartments (CCSA) affordable housing plan from reading the front page “news” article on the decision. Although it is a sad commentary on the FCNP’s “fire wall” between news and editorial commentary, that is merely tangential to the substance of the Planning Commission action.

Since it is a national event, I am amazed that the FCNP Editors and news staff have totally missed the parallel between the sub-prime mortgage collapse and this issue. They are philosophically similar. In both, you have a Progressive attempt to provide affordable housing to the working poor without regard to the consequences of excesses often associated with overzealous social engineering. That was not the first time. Try the Great Society’s housing “projects,” welfare “entitlements” and the left’s inflexible solutions, consequences be damned, to the global warming problem.

With the sub-prime fiasco you have both the Clinton and Bush administrations pressuring Fanny and Freddie to either drastically lower the bar (in the Clinton case) or ignore the bubble (in the Bush case). It did not matter that their “risky business” was creating a huge bubble (“house of cards”) in the financial markets. All that mattered was that we had gone from 20% to 60% home ownership since 1980 and they looked good to the press. Most Republican and Democratic “surfers” in Congress were happy to just ride the Tsunami.

Based on the FCNP’s explanation of the Planning Commission’s rationale, the problem with the CCSA application is inadequate parking. In its overt social engineering zeal, the FCNP wants the Commission to ignore adequate parking. Clearly the Editor feels that full scale social engineering should supersede all consequences.

Hasn’t the FCNP vigorously complained about the region’s traffic problem? Now in its zeal to force an unrealistic amount of affordable housing in one spot the FCNP has chosen to ignore that problem. I looks like the FCNP “cherry picks” its traffic problems.

Inadequate parking for a large apartment complex in the center of Falls Church will adversely affect everyone travelling in that area, including those living in CCSA. Does the FCNP wish to have CCSA be a “no party zone” or “no guest zone?” Cripes, while we are in a social engineering mood, why not go “hog wild” and make it an “only people without cars need apply zone?” We do want the government to force more people to use public transportation, don’t we?

The concept of zoning for affordable housing in Falls Church is fine. So why not reduce the number of units sufficiently to allow for adequate parking for those units that are built? The applicants should have recognized the problem or discussed it with the Commission earlier, and then scaled back the number of units. That would have been the appropriate position for the FCNP. Who knows? Maybe the working poor might also like less crowding, i.e. a better quality of life in their neighborhood.

Since one cliché is as good as another: the definition of unwarranted arrogance is “making the same mistake over and over again, while expecting a different outcome.” Over zealous political activists on both the right and left have penchants for this kind of activity. Sadly, as with the sub-prime collapse, the “projects, “entitlements” and now CCSA, the buck almost never stops with the social engineering activists. Someone else almost always pays, often dearly.

The Planning Commission is merely holding the social engineers accountable for their mistakes.

M.F. Johnson

Falls Church