Saturday is “D” day for thousands of Alexandria residents living in the Beauregard neighborhood. In this case, “D” doesn’t just stand for “decision,” it also stands for “development” and “displacement.” On Saturday, April 13, the City Council considers whether or not to approve rezoning necessary for one of the biggest development projects in recent Alexandria history. For more than 40 years, this quiet wooded valley of garden-style apartments has been an affordable home for working families — one of the last havens of market-rate affordable housing in the Washington metropolitan area.
City staff and the primary developer JBG, have calculated the costs — how much will construction cost? What kind of tax revenue might the city expect? How much profit will the developers make from the new up-scale housing, retail, and hotels going in? Facts and figures are neatly laid out to answer those questions.
But what about the human costs? What will be the impact of losing one of Alexandria’s most diverse neighborhoods? What is the human toll of demolishing the homes of more than 8,000 people? Where will the families who already call the Beauregard neighborhood home, live? How many families can realistically expect to take advantage of the limited number of affordable units JBG is promising? What will it mean for Alexandria to lose another 2500 market-rate affordable housing units in the face of an already staggering loss of affordable housing in the city? No one has calculated these costs as carefully.
On Saturday, the Mayor and City Council can make it clear that people count more than profits — after all cities are not for-profit corporations; their “profits” are revenues aimed at sustaining a livable community. The current plans for Beauregard are not about sustaining a livable community, however.
In fact, should the City approve the rezoning requested by JBG and the other developers without insisting on a provision for replacement housing for the working class residents who call the Beauregard neighborhood home, the plan will destroy a vital Alexandria community. The developers stand to reap substantial profits either way, and Alexandria can count on considerable tax revenue.
And the families who are set to lose their homes: What can they count on? That is what the City Council and Mayor are really deciding on April 13.
M. Aurora Vásquez
Tenants and Workers United