Local Commentary

Editorial: The Affordability Imperative

It can hardly be surprising that as the City of Falls Church moves forward with its visionary and aggressive plans to develop the George Mason High School campus at the city’s west end, replete with a new state-of-the-art high school and 10.3 acres of dense mixed-use development, that Fairfax County neighbors to the site will start howling. We don’t need to remind our readers that, however, the neighbors to the site are not in the City and don’t get to make decisions about what the City does in its own interest, although they may hop up and down, file lawsuits and bring the weight of the county’s much much bigger resource base to bear.

We would hope that the City would enjoy the cooperation and win-win efforts from Fairfax’s Supervisor in the Dranesville District, John Foust, who is in the best position to realize that by encouraging Falls Church, and working with two adjacent sites, those of Virginia Tech and WMATA (the West Falls Church Metro station) to combine efforts for a truly transformative 40-acre development, will be in everyone’s best interest. It will be a huge financial boon to the county, city and WMATA, a huge educational resource boon to the county, city and WMATA, and transportation boon to all three, as well, as the region prepares for the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 campus down the road and very much more that will come with it.

We also look forward to improved cooperation that may come with the election of a new Providence District supervisor for the county this November. With incumbent Linda Smyth not seeking re-election, there is a robust effort to find her replacement, including no fewer than five candidates who will vie for the Democratic nomination for that post this June.

But while the City of Falls Church should go out of its way to elicit the good will of its big neighbor, the best way the City can move forward is with the conviction that its objectives are well established on a moral high ground. We are keenly aware of how any discussion of morality in this age is seen as almost laughable when it comes to grim decisions about matters of money, development and “not in my back yard” pressure. Education is a good moral issue, but it too often becomes something advocated by the rich for their kids, more than as a general value to society, and the moral state of souls, more generally.

The area in which Falls Church has been best opportunity to stake out the moral high ground is in the area of affordable housing. This, as always, presents a challenge, but we have never had a City Council more conscious of the need and benefits of it. Claiming that issue for the west end site with an abundance of micro and otherwise affordable units is valid for advancing a good cause with force and vision.