Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor for the Week of December 18 – 24, 2008

Says Report On F.C. Planners Was Biased


I am writing regarding your article on 12/4 castigating the Planning Commission for its denial of site plan approval for the current affordable housing proposal.

The article was insulting to the Planning Commission and showed a complete disregard for the City’s governmental processes. For instance, you noted disparagingly that the Planning Commission members are appointed, as opposed to the City Council members who are elected. First, the Planning Commission members are appointed by the City Council. Aside from the impracticalities of directly electing every member of every City board or commission, the fact that they are not elected means they can focus on the merits of each specific issue without worrying about pleasing any specific constituency or interest group. Second, you observed that the Planning Commission was “fully aware of the City Council’s wishes” when it acted. Is the Planning Commission supposed to be a rubber-stamp body for the City Council? No, it is supposed to make recommendations to – and advise – the City Council.

Parking is certainly an issue to be concerned about with the affordable housing plan. So is the fact that the financial picture in the City, the state, and the country, is worsening daily. The forecast in Falls Church City has changed quite a bit over the past few months. It is fiscally irresponsible to proceed with spending large sums of City money on this project at this time when we don’t know how much worse things will get. And finally, let’s not forget that this plan proposes to add 174 units on top of the 562 apartments, condos, and townhouses – and a hotel – already proposed for the City Center South development. With all respect to the City Council, how many more people do they propose to pack into one dense area south of Broad Street? I should note that, with the exception of City Council member Nader Baroukh (who has been a voice of reason on the City Council since his recent election) none of the other council members live in the affected area.

The plug at the end of your article reminding people of the upcoming vacancies on the Planning Commission was appalling and your motives completely transparent. The job of a newspaper is to report the news, not try and shape it.

Patrick Lohmeyer

Falls Church

Planners’ Act ‘Elitist Provincialist’


The news that the Planning Commission voted against the affordable housing project was a huge disappointment. Although I moved to Falls Church fairly recently, I have been impressed by the caring and responsible attitude of its citizens and its government. The plan for 174 affordable housing units seemed a win-win for everybody to me–Falls Church taking care of its own, feeding managed and careful development, and helping the economy and creating jobs in a particularly tough downturn. To read that the appointed planning commission vetoed a plan approved by the elected members of the city council–especially so late in the game and when it was clearly well-thought out and carefully considered–smacks of elitism, insecurity, and provincialism. It is disappointing to consider that I may have overestimated some of the Falls Church “Powers that Be.”

Toni Eugene

Falls Church

National Trend for Fewer Parking Spaces


Given the amount of opinion about parking and affordable housing pertaining to City Center South Apartments I’ve seen in Blueweeds comments and letters to the editor in the News-Press, I thought it would be valuable to share some national trends and data about the issue. The general consensus on parking is summed-up nicely by the Congress for New Urbanism:

“Developers of low- and mixed-income housing nationwide often find themselves hamstrung by local requirements for minimum parking allotments. By mandating a minimum amount of parking, local governments often require the production of significantly more parking than residents actually need. This reduces the amount of housing that can be produced on a given site, limits additional amenities that could otherwise be provided and unnecessarily increases the cost of housing.”

In December 2002, Casa de Las Fuentes, an affordable housing residential development in the downtown of high-rent (and high auto use) Santa Barbara, California was dedicated. Casa de Las Fuentes embraced principles of “smart growth”-meaning a strategy (like City Center South Apartments) to increase pedestrian orientation of the downtown area. “Casa” was double the density of any housing development in Santa Barbara. There are 42-1 bedroom and studio apartments in the complex. During site plan evaluation, the Planning Commission stated the need for 40 parking spaces to approve the project. In 2004, after two years of occupancy, there were 16 parking spaces being used. The rest sat unclaimed. I checked in recently with Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and she said nothing had changed-it’s still over-parked.

Bob Burnett

Falls Church

Color Scheme of Building is Awful


I have a background in both art and architectural history, and have worked closely on a major retrospective on Art Nouveau. It might do your readers a service if you said the “flower building” was inspired by Art Nouveau. Because, frankly it’s a stretch either way. When I first saw a rendering of that building, it appeared that the background of the floral section was a dark green color, and the flowers a neutral cream. This intrigued me, and I eagerly awaited the chance to see the building. This new color scheme is just awful. The only redeeming thing I can say about it is thank goodness it is not within eyeshot of my house!

B. Heinbaugh

Via the Internet

New Building Façade ‘Sunny & Bright’


On rare occasions I find myself in agreement with the ultra-liberal editor of the FCNP and this is one of those occasions. The art deco facade is wonderful, wonderfully creative, a sunny and bright distraction in our little town. That said, the editor went way off the tracks when he ascribed the history of slavery and racism with those who have other aesthetic tastes. Come on, it is about art. It has nothing to do with the “village character” and racism. I grew up many years ago in a small village north east of Cincinnati whose main point of pride was a stop on the “underground railroad.” I am sure that there are many in that Ohio village who would disagree with both Nicholas and me on the new facade and they would not have the legacy of slavery/racism; in fact the opposite. Lighten up, it is not always about politics; sometimes it is about art and nothing else.

Dave Phelps

Falls Church

Unhappy With Talk of F.C.’s Racist History


Ah, it’s a comfort to know that vanity is a struggle at the News Press also, just as for us mere mortals: the News Press is vain about its tolerance. Tee-hee! The editorial praising (deservedly) the new “Flowers” Art Nouveau building on Broad Street, managed to strut and preen itself into a riff on racism a hundred years ago, when local Southern Democrats excluded post-Reconstruction black Republicans, the better to control the then-town council. But back to the future: the image that leaps to mind is a tom turkey spreading its tail and thrumming its throat, strutting for attention and respect. Yep, it seems likely the New-Press is written by humans.

Ron Parson

Falls Church