To the Editor:
Good planning is one of the main themes of my campaign for city council, and one of the most important things a city council member can influence. Unfortunately the planning in the West End of Alexandria, the Beauregard Small Area Plan, lacks vision. The only vision being offered is that of the development group, and there is no alternative on the table. One central issue has emerged — closely associated with what kind of city we will be and our future as a caring community — housing.
Yes, there is no "permanent workforce housing" in the small area plan, but there is a lot of very affordable housing. It is good to know that most of this housing, in the area known to many Alexandrians as The Hamlets, but now called Lynbrook and Meadowbrook, would be the last to be demolished, but they would eventually be demolished in 25-30 years if this plan is passed. But this demolition and dislocation can’t happen without the proposed rezoning. The demolition of much of the affordable housing in Alexandria means the displacement of many of the residents who will be forced out of Alexandria to other jurisdictions, because they will not be able to afford the new "workforce" housing. The 703 new units do not replace the 2519 units that are proposed to be demolished.
The current proposal calls for 10 percent of the 6,000 new housing units to be affordable, but there have been numerous requests to increase this to 20 percent. But neither number will solve the problem. As Katy Cannady said during the meeting "You must have housing at all income levels to work in the hotels and restaurants being built in other parts of the city." What should be built if there is redevelopment, is a true mixed income community, with affordable rental apartments, townhouses, and some set aside for affordable housing, instead of trying to completely displace the current population for a new more upscale population, we should be creating an area where the current residents will be welcome.
Who are the current residents? Many of them are Hispanic, and one of them, Hector, expressed very well the feeling that many residents must have when he spoke. "Throwing our families outside of the city, bringing in people of higher income, because we are poor, we are getting affected. Where is our government that fights to keep diversity in this area? I don’t know numbers, I don’t have a tie or a suit, but I want a place to live with my kids." All I can say, is hopefully that government that fights for its most vulnerable is on its way.
I was on the Hunting Towers/Hunting Terrace Task Force and by rejecting the proposal for a complicated formula of affordable "workforce" housing we ended up saving both Hunting Towers and Hunting Terrace, and preventing replacement with luxury condos. Hunting Terrace was vacated when the owner wanted to redevelop the area, but when his proposal was rejected, he renovated and re-rented the existing apartments which are still relatively affordable when compared to the rest of Old Town. Sometimes the best way to negotiate is to reject the first proposal that comes forward, and this plan would not have my support. I think we can do better, and come up with more creative solutions. We need to think outside the box. As Councilman Rob Krupicka said "We are not even close to an acceptable plan yet." I agree.