Alexandria Council Notebook

Alexandria Council Notebook

Leaning on Developers

Are developers doing enough to make sure Alexandria has affordable housing?

City officials say it’s a delicate dance, encouraging developers to build housing for the crush of new people coming to Alexandria while also encouraging the construction of new affordable housing units. Requiring too many affordable housing units might scare off developers, leaving the city with a shortfall of market-rate housing and spiraling costs. The result of that push-and-pull is that developers end up contributing a stock of affordable housing that some say is inadequate.

“Puny,” is how Councilwoman Del Pepper described it this week, adding that she worried that people in Alexandria might end up “being forced to move to Manassas.”

The days of wine and roses may be over for developers. This fall, city officials are planning to come out with a new plan to make sure that they’re delivering enough units to handle the dreaded Amazon Effect.

Goodbye, Columbus

He didn’t discover America. He wasn’t battling the notion that the earth was flat. His name wasn’t even Christopher Columbus. The explorer Cristoforo Colombo was revered by generations of Americans as kind of an Italian heritage celebration every October, celebrations that started in New York and spread to Chicago and other urban areas. By 1934, Congress declared it as an official holiday and the Virginia General Assembly followed suit to make it an official state holiday as well.

These days Columbus has fallen out of favor, a genocidal zealot who is symbolic of generations of prejudice and discrimination. That’s why the Alexandria City Council is saying goodbye to Columbus Day and hello to Indigenous People’s Day.

“Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be a crucial first stop in acknowledging the deliberate and systematic oppression of indigenous people,” said Councilman Mo Seifeldein, who helped craft the resolution with Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. “People have been and continue to be the victims of prejudice and systematic discrimination, which perpetuate high rates of income inequality and exacerbates disproportionate health, education and social standing.”

The resolution, which passed unanimously this week, does not specifically mention the Washington football team. But it does call on sports organizations to cease "heinous use” of indigenous people as mascots.

Big Old Kettle

During the dark days of the Depression, neighbors in Del Ray responded to the economic crisis by — what else — throwing a huge party. Alexandria native Norman Grimm described the annual celebration to city archeologist Pam Cressey, locating it outside the Poor House at the intersection of Monroe Avenue and Route One.

“It had a big old kettle,” explained Grimm. “Everybody brought whatever they had, threw it in. Potatoes, carrots. I don’t care what, you just throw it in there.”

While officials from the city’s recreation department built a fire under the kettle, children from the neighborhood played in the open fields. After the competitions were over, everyone would gather and use the cans they brought the vegetables in to dip into the kettle and enjoy the Del Ray gumbo.

“It was so beautiful,” he said. “You didn’t realize it when you were doing it what was happening, but everyone was togetherness, everybody at Del Ray.”

This week, the Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to honor that memory by renaming a plot of land near that celebration currently called Simpson Triangle to Kettle Park. A public hearing for this name change is scheduled for this weekend.