The Del Ray Citizen Weekly for 14 October 2012
A newsletter published every Sunday night (we hope) by the Del Ray Citizens Association.
Welcome to the Del Ray Citizen Weekly, a new publication that replaces the Del Ray Citizen that DRCA members have received monthly for many years. What you are receiving is the first attempt at creating an even more lively and timely compilation of news about various goings-on in Del Ray, as well as issues affecting our community. There will be commentary and opinion as well. Most of the articles will be relatively brief, but some longer pieces will be included, perhaps in summary form here with a link to the DRCA Web site. The length of the newsletter will depend on how much happens in any given week, as well as how much time I and other volunteers have to put this together. We will be seeking a fancier design than the basic one you see here, but that too will require some volunteer help. Please send your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. Bill Hendrickson, president, Del Ray Citizens Association.
A community informational meeting on traffic issues affecting Del Ray is being planned for mid-November, Rich Baier, the City’s director of Transportation and Environmental Services, told me. He said that continuing concerns by residents, particularly on East Custis and East Howell Avenues, about significant traffic increases are a main reason for the meeting. Traffic began increasing with the construction of the new Route 1 bridge near Monroe Avenue, which included a temporary closure of Monroe. Residents of those streets are very concerned that traffic will continue to increase because of development at Potomac Yard. They fear that many Potomac Yard residents will use their streets to reach shops and restaurants on Mount Vernon Avenue.
Baier told me that the City would soon release new counts of traffic on Howell and Custis that were compiled this month. He said traffic has indeed increased significantly, especially on Howell, but that the higher levels do not reach a threshold to justify action beyond steps that have been taken thus far. Six actions have been taken in recent months:
• More signs posted to direct delivery trucks to Monroe Avenue.
• Re-erection of no-thru-truck signs for Howell and Custis Avenues. They had been removed during the bridge construction.
• The addition of signal cut-off hoods on the traffic lights at Howell and Custis so that the lights, when green, are less visible from several blocks away. This can prevent speeding toward the signal.
• Replacement of stop signs with larger, rural-style hard-to-miss stop signs.
• The addition of reflective liners to stop sign poles to make drivers more aware that they are approaching a stop sign.
• Additional police enforcement of no-thru-truck rules.
Baier said the City would conduct additional traffic counts over time. He pledged to take more measures to mitigate traffic and protect the streets if traffic counts justified them. He said that the City Council reinstituted funding for the traffic-calming program last July 1. Funding for this program will be awarded on a competitive basis, and Howell and Custis residents would have to compete with about two dozen other potential projects.
Meanwhile, the DRCA Traffic Committee held its first meeting on Oct. 1 and plans to meet again this Monday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center. Potomac Yard related traffic concerns was the major topic, but the group also discussed other issues, including pedestrian safety on Mount Vernon Avenue. Jay Nestlerode, a DRCA board member, convened the meeting and has written a summary of the concerns that were expressed during the meeting. This document will be posted on the DRCA Web site, along with suggested revisions by DRCA member Paul Linehan of East Monroe Avenue. The Oct. 15 meeting will focus on refining the areas of concern as well as recommendations to deal with the various issues identified.
The city is beginning a process to create new park plans for Alexandria’s six large parks, including Simpson Park. Judy Lo of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities said that staff is seeking advice from as many Del Ray residents as possible on what they think is needed to improve Simpson and other parks and what future uses should be considered. The feedback will help the staff determine and prioritize park projects and budgets. This is an important opportunity for Del Ray residents to get involved. I urge you to fill out the park survey at http://alexva.us/aw3. In my view, Simpson Park could use a comprehensive new landscaping plan, including more shade trees.
A summary of the answers to questions at our Oct. 8 District A School Board candidates forum is now up on the DRCA Web site, delraycitizen.org. It was a lively and informative session with candidates giving mediocre grades to the school system and Superintendent Mort Sherman on issues of communication, transparency and candor. Several candidates were also critical of the relatively new “Success for All” curriculum that is now being implemented in some Alexandria schools. It is not clear how extensively it will be used across the school system. Kudos to DRCA secretary Jen Atkins for her work in taking notes at the forum and then turning them into usable copy for posting on the Web site. Kudos also go out to Drew Hansen of the Del Ray Patch for his excellent story on the forum.
A meeting will be held on October 22 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss issues related to the construction of a 276-unit, five-story multifamily apartment building on Monroe Avenue (across from the new multipurpose recreation fields at Simpson Park). Representatives of the developer and property owner will talk about construction worker parking, a plan for temporary pedestrian and vehicular circulation, and the overall construction schedule. The meeting will be held at the Reingold building, 433 E. Monroe Ave. The apartment building was approved by the City Council on January 21, 2012, and is part of the Council-approved 1999 Potomac Yard plan.
The DRCA Land Use Committee met on Oct. 11 to discuss a proposal by Connie Desrosiers to open a coffee and wine bar at 107 Hume Avenue. It will be called Emma’s. Del Ray architect Bob Larson, who designed the renovations for the Del Ray Café, has come up with another stellar design. The proposal appeared to meet with a great deal of support at the meeting, although some concerns, including possible noise problems, were raised by a neighbor in an adjacent residential property. I have met with Connie to discuss the proposal and understand that this project is a true labor of love. She should be a delightful new addition to the Del Ray community. The Land Use Committee will soon issue its recommendations for the proposal, and we will report on that here.
The Del Ray Patch reported that two Del Ray apartment complexes are being vacated in preparation for renovation, raising questions about the possible loss of affordable housing. Borger Management has already emptied the 22-unit Alexandria Commons complex on East Bellefonte Avenue, and the company plans to renovate its 102-unit Caylor Gardens complex on East Cliff Street. Rents are expected to rise by $200 to $300 per month at Alexandria Commons and new tenants will be responsible for all utilities. The City’s Office of Housing has been involved, and says that management has cooperated well with City staff in developing a plan that complies with Alexandria’s voluntary relocation policy. A City report vaguely stated that, “This renovation is not intended to reposition the property.”
The Washington Post reported on Oct. 3 that M.E. Swing Coffee Roasters hopes to begin coffee roasting operations at its new facility at 501 E. Monroe Ave. (the former Gold Crust Baking building) by late November or early December. However, the new 40-plus-seat coffee bar will not open until a month or two (or three) later. The new coffee bar will be one of the few places in the Washington area where customers will be able to sip, sample or buy beans freshly off the roast.
Upcoming event: Del Ray Historic Preservation Conference, Nov. 10, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.