Around F.C., News

Apartment Dwellers Dominate In F.C. Now

A little noticed tipping point was reached in the City of Falls Church in the recent period, as for the first time ever, the majority of residences are now composed of units in multifamily dwellings as opposed to single family homes.


So reported City Planning Chief Paul Stoddard in an informative briefing to the monthly luncheon of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce last week. Dwellings in multifamily complexes now number 3,100 compared to 2,300 single family homes and 258 townhouses, and the number of multifamily homes is only going to go up, or as some may prefer to state, explode.


That’s based just on projects that are now going up, including at the West End and in the center city, where deep holes have already been dug that any passerby can examine. The number of as-yet-to-be- built homes in multifamily structures already OK’d for construction in the next couple years is in the thousands.

Some single family and townhouse residents are worrying that their interests may be subordinated to some others, including moves that could mimic the push now in neighboring Arlington to change the zoning in areas designated for single family homes to allow for a multitude of options, such as duplexes, triplexes and multiples of those on a single parcel of land.


The Arlington County Board is inclining to follow trends of other cities in the U.S. to address the needs of the so-called “missing middle” housing that is neither single family, in the area almost all of which are now going for $1 million and up, nor low-income, subsidized “affordable” units singled out for families earning only half or even less than the regional median income.

CITY OF F.C. Planning Director Paul Stoddard spoke to the F.C. Chamber of Commerce last week. (News-Press Photo)


Exemplary of “missing middle” housing are the famous “Railroad Cottages” developed by Falls Church builder Bob Young to offer options for seniors in the $700,000 to $800,000 range that have been cited as exemplary in the debate in Arlington, and have been the subject of a lot of national attention.


The F.C. Council will be considering a minor version of the “missing middle” policy this fall in the form of a revision of the City’s so-called “transitional zone” rules that will allow for some multifamily options that would apply to literally only a handful of properties if adopted. The matter is slated to come before the Planning Commission next Wednesday.


But those worried of the “camel’s nose in the tent” impact of even such a modest change are vociferous in their opposition to even that. Votes on that by the F.C. City Council will come later this fall and some on the Council are nervous.


There are other developments that Stoddard cited last week that also indicate changes in the wider environment are producing favorable results for the City, such as the stunning 9.3 percent drop in vehicular traffic rolling through the City on a daily basis between 2007 and 2019, amounting to 50,000 fewer car trips a day.


This is causing some rethinking on the impact of cars here, overall, such as whether or not parking restrictions on areas near to new multifamily developments will be required to protect the parking needs of nearby homes.


Now, Stoddard reported, half the City now lives within a 10 minute walk of the downtown Harris Teeter.
Still, 322 new residential units are planned for the Founder’s Row, 750 for the West End development, 310 for the Broad and Washington project; Founders Row 2’s planned 280 units and Atlantic Realty’s City Center’s 321 units at above the Ireland’s Four Provinces.


Stoddard added that there remains “a lot of interest” by developers to apply for more such housing in the City.


All of these have been accompanied by new requirements for affordable housing that increases the percentage of such units in new projects and allows the occupants to stay there with no time limit.
On the Council’s work plan, also, is the mulled expansion of the rights of homeowners in the City to develop accessory dwelling units on their land. Currently, such units are allowed only within existing home structures, but this might change to increase the availability of more affordable homes adjacent existing ones, a concept known as “granny flats.”


Accompanying all this is the achievement by the City of its brand new, 1,500 capacity high school, of a motion picture theater complex at the Founders Row 1 (Council members met with principals of the theater company that intends to go in there this week in what was reported by one Council member as a favorable pow-wow), and a just completed S. Washington St. multi-modal transit plaza with historic narration panels focused on the civil rights movement, bus shelters, seating and bike racks.


There has also been the completion of double paths for cycling and walking on the W&OD trail that traverses the City, and now plans for up to four so-called “parklets” in the downtown area modeled on the popular Mr. Brown’s Park.


There are plans to use federal money to develop Park Avenue between the State Theater and new Mary Riley Styles Library as a “Great Street” with 34 new trees, undergrounded utilities and pedestrian-friendly intersections, and new crossings on Broad Street, including four with Hawk signals, intersection bump-outs and sidewalk widenings.


Similar developments are slated for the S. Annandale at S. Washington intersection and W&OD trail crossings at N. Spring, N. Oak, Great Falls and Little Falls Streets.