Skip to content

Transportation and housing decisions coming before Council

by on 09/23/2015

The Mayor and Council will be voting on several important transportation and housing issues at their meeting on September 29. These include:

  • Housing affordability: The city will consider an affordable housing resolution that will provide a stronger framework for including affordable housing units as part of new development.
  • University Drive “road diet”: The Council will vote on whether to implement a “road diet” on a section of University Drive near downtown. The proposal being considered is to convert the section of University Drive between Armstrong Drive and South Street from four travel lanes to three with a 5′ bicycle lane on either side.
  • Extensions of University Drive and Government Center Parkway: The city will vote on approving the submission of two street extensions for state transportation funding: the extension of University Drive from Chain Bridge Road to Eaton Place, and the extension of Government Center Parkway from Stevenson Drive to Jermantown Road. Both projects would help build out a more walkable and bike-friendly street grid and improve connections between housing, offices and retail destinations.
  • Sidewalks on Cobbs Grove: A developer is proposing to develop five residential lots in an area bounded by Chain Bridge Road and Norman Avenue currently zoned for two residential lots. The developer is asking for a waiver of the requirement to build sidewalks along Chain Bridge and Norman Roads. Pedestrians use this area and sidewalk improvements would greatly improve safety and access.

Fairfax City Citizens for Smarter Growth has provided the following comments on the housing affordability and road diet items.

Housing affordability

On behalf of Fairfax City Citizens for Smarter Growth (FCCSG), I am providing comments on the draft Affordable Housing resolution that the council will be addressing at its September 29, 2015 meeting.

  • We recognize that the Fairfax City Council has worked diligently for the last two years to develop policies that will ensure that Fairfax City continues to welcome residents of all incomes – low, middle and high.
  • We note that on November 12, 2013 the council amended the City Comprehensive Plan to add strategies to encourage the provision of affordable housing units in the development approval process for new residential units(HOU-1.4) and to articulate a Housing Affordability Strategy (HOU-1.5). The draft affordable housing resolution and the templates for development conditions and contribution continue the implementation of these strategies.
  • We support the City Council’s affordable housing resolution and supporting development conditions and contribution templates. We urge you to join your colleagues and vote in support of the resolution and its supporting templates.
  • We recommend edits to the draft resolution and supporting templates to ensure they are consist with the Comprehensive Plan. We recommend the following edits:
  1. Wording in the resolution reads:

“allowances for cash in lieu of providing affordable units through a voluntary development contribution … may be appropriate in certain circumstances, particularly in instances in which units are being developed for individual ownership;”

This should be revised to read:

“allowances for cash in lieu of providing affordable units through a voluntary development contribution … may be appropriate in certain circumstances, particularly in instances in which units are being developed for individual ownership;”

This revision strengthens the expectations that rental developments will provide UNITS not cash.

  1. Wording in the contribution template reads:

“The City of Fairfax places a priority on the provision of affordable units, but acknowledges that a monetary contribution in lieu of providing affordable units may be appropriate in certain circumstances, particularly in instances in which units are being developed for individual ownership (such as condominiums).”

This should be revised to read:

“The City of Fairfax places a priority on the provision of affordable units, but acknowledges that a monetary contribution in lieu of providing affordable units may be appropriate in certain circumstances, particularly in instances in which units are being developed for individual ownership (such as condominiums).”

The call out of condominiums suggests that those are the only types of projects for which monetary contributions are expected. Removing the reference to condominiums removes the perceived limitation. The Comprehensive Plan Strategy HOU-1.4 calls for encouraging the provision of affordable housing “… when the City considers land use actions for significant new residential development.” These developments were explicitly not limited to multifamily developments. Removing the call out of condominiums would ensure the template is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

  • We note that council endorsement of the templates provides developers with a clear statementof the city’s expectations. The templates set out how the city expects the proffers to be calculated. The templates also provide benchmarks for city staff and residents to judge if proposed proffers meet the city’s expectations.
  • Because of the clear statement of the city’s expectations for the provision of affordable housing proffers, the resolution and supporting templates will expedite the development process. Negotiation and back-and-for can be reduced when developers understand what the city expects.
  • We believe that “Smart Growth”means that people who work in our city can afford to live here. People living closer to their jobs means less congestion, less automobile pollution, and less time spent commuting. Ensuring the availability of affordable housing is Smart Growth.  

Road diet

The University Drive corridor between Old Town Fairfax and George Mason University contains a high concentration of residents and city employees, and a growing number of on-campus students who would benefit from improved bicycle and pedestrian connections to Old Town. In turn, Old Town businesses would benefit from improvements that make it easier and safer for these nearby residents to get into Old Town.

For these reasons, the 2014 Vision FairfaxMason charrette included a major emphasis on multimodal improvements to University Drive. As the charrette pointed out, the distance between the Mason campus and Old Town is longer than most people would typically walk, but it is a 5-7 minute bike ride. George Mason has invested significantly in recent years in making bicycling a more viable option for its students and staff.

The current traffic pattern in and around Old Town is not conducive to getting people to come to Old Town and patronize our businesses. When they are not stopped in traffic, motorists tend to drive at high speeds. This stop-and-rapid start traffic pattern makes walking in the area less pleasant and deters bicycling on city streets. It also makes it difficult for motorists to slow down, appreciate what Old Town has to offer and find parking.

Road diets have been done in communities throughout the United States, and they’ve succeeded in improving safety, expanding travel choices and managing traffic flow. In Reston, VDOT installed a road diet on a 2-mile segment of Lawyers Road in 2009.  Since then, crashes in the corridor have been reduced by two-thirds. In a VDOT survey of Lawyers Road users, 69 percent said travel times have not increased, and 47 percent of respondents said they bicycle on Lawyers more often than before.

In addition to improving bicycling into Old Town, the proposed road diet would fill in a small but critical missing link in the Mason to Metro bike trail, between Armstrong Drive and Breckinridge Avenue. The city and George Mason University convened the Mason-Metro bicycle task group, which created a 2012 report recommending a preferred bicycle trail connecting to Old Lee Highway via trails that connect directly to Breckinridge Avenue.

Ultimately, Fairfax City Citizens for Smarter Growth supports extending transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements through Old Town and all the way to Layton Hall Drive. While we recognize right-of-way constraints on some parts of this section, the focus should be on traffic calming and improving access into Old Town. The city has made tremendous strides during the past ten years in making Old Town a more attractive destination. One important way to leverage these improvements is to make our road network more oriented toward short trips, walking and bicycling rather than overly focusing on facilitating through traffic.

The proposed road diet is an important step in this direction. We fully support it.

 

 

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: