News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

From A to (Re)Zoning: A Helpful, Possibly Vaguely Accurate Developmentsplainer of Fairfax County's Planned Reston Rezoning

This fancy map from Fairfax County, which has made the rounds in recent weeks, is causing a bit of consternation in our otherwise tranquil planned community. Part of a response to questions posed by the Reston Association about exactly how many places we might expect awesome bollardy residential development if the county goes ahead with its long-desired plan to increase zoning limits through much of Reston, it turns out the answer is "25," if only because Fairfax County ran out of letters to use on their fancy map except for "Z," which apparently stands for Zoning, Massive Re-. Check the fancypants chart below:

All told, the county says that 8,189 residential units have been planned or approved in the Orange Bollard Zones in that fancy map, with another 14,103 units biding their time in the planning pipeline awaiting the construction of sufficient infrastructure to accommodate all those new Restonians and their Ford Foci. Oops, that was a typo, silly rabbits, because in county planners' minds, none of those new residents will need cars, because they'll just hop on the Metro at Wiehle and go one stop to Reston Town Center to enjoy their midscale chain eatery fare and stick it to the paid parking regime at our favorite "stressful, city-like shopping center," leaving the rest of us non transit-oriented flatlanders with beautiful, congestion-free streets to get our woonerf on.

Makes sense, except for one little thing: When you look at that fancy map, most of the Orange Bollard Danger Zones are well out of the concentric rings around the Metro stations that suggest how far people might be willing to walk. Some are part of the revisioning of big box nirvana and Macaroni Grill graveyard Reston Spectrum into mixed-use awesomeness that will extend Reston Town Center northward, and Lake Anne... well, we know how well that worked out the last time around. The rest, for the most part, are concentrated in and around the village centers -- developments like the CGI granny-infested plans at Tall Oaks, now approved and awaiting construction to begin in earnest, as well as all our other favorite strip mall locales.

That's not exactly new. Redeveloped, more dense and mixed-usey village centers have been part of the plan for ages. And beyond the green zones that RA controls, there's been talk about building apartments above Plaza America for years to draw the lucrative fans of mass transit and glitter guns from Michaels. And it definitely makes sense to concentrate development around the village centers -- if done right, it could make them more vibrant, less generic and strip-mally, maybe. We could even get a Wegmans! But it flies in the face of the idea that we can wait on infrastructure improvements.

So as the county continues making its plans, the Reston Citizens Association, Reston 2020 and Reclaim Reston are holding an informational meeting tomorrow to explain the proposal in better, less alarmist detail than, say, a filthy "web log" might. It's at 7pm at the Reston Association headquarters and you might want to check it out, as the kids could conceivably have said back in the '70s.

As for the RA, they created this fancy YouTube video explaining the issues:


Next Monday, the 25th, the county will hold its own public meeting at 7pm at Lake Anne Elementary. It's hard to say what the listening vs. developmentsplaning ratio will wind up being, but efforts to push back on development already have had some impact. The original plans for the zoning change were to have the county board of supervisors vote on this next month. Now it's looking like February. Maybe there's still time to speed up the timetable for infrastructure development now that the Very Special Tax District is in place and bringing in some ducats for the county. Crazier things have happened.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride -- at least when traffic is actually moving, the end.

Update: Coverage of the Sept. 20 community meeting.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

At RTC, Your Paid Parking Dollar$ At Work

Despite a few small bumps in the road, paid parking at our favorite ersatz downtown "stressful city-like shopping center" appears to be doing just swimmingly, thanks for asking. But now that everyone has learned to stop worrying and love the ParkRTC app and the elite crisis managers have moved on to their next Enron-level PR disaster and all the whining about revenues falling by 40 to 50 percent have died down to a dull roar, where is all that sweeeeeeet parking moneys that were promised to be used to "enhance the RTC experience" going?

If you said nonsensical uncrowded Instagram frames and improving the overall elite vibe, you'd be wrong, silly rabbits! True to their the crisis managers' word, the busy elves at Reston Town Center have been hard at work enhancing the paid parking experience to ensure that it's not only a convenient form of revenue enhancement, but a colorful one to boot! Check out this awesome chart in the garages making it crystal clear exactly how fun and easy it is to have your parking cheerfully validated by various retailers and eateries:

That's a little... overwhelming. Let's take a closer look:

You might think that this is the result of blurry cellular telephone photography, and not because RTC management simply pushed the enlarge button on whatever cheap color copier they had lying around the office to produce an amateurish, difficult to read piece of public signage. You might think.

But we digress. Alls you have to do is park, walk down the stairs to the garage exit and check this helpful chart to confirm that you probably parked in the wrong freaking garage to validate at your midscale chain eatery of choice, giving you the awesome opportunity of reparking your Ford Focus or cursing under your breath as you head off for some midscale chain fare. Unless, of course, you had the foresight to have picked the one eatery which hired decent lawyers read its lease:

It might not matter anyway, since some of our favorite retailers are either jumping ship -- or being pushed. Here's what the owner of Red Velvet -- a vocal opponent of paid parking -- said he was allegedly told when discussing renewing his lease:

"Basically they told us that for all intents and purposes, they're looking for newer, younger, and hipper brands, and if we wait until the end of the year, they might consider us."
Hipper than a cupcakery? Unless BXP can find a midscale chain eatery that specializes in serving locally grown cage-free salad on top of avocado toast inside poke bowls out of the back of a food truck, we think that's about as hip as Reston gets.

One of Boston Properties' other big promises about paid parking was that it would provide opportunities to enhance the safety of RTC for its visitors customers. And if you thought that was a cynical piece of PR crisis management, you'd just be a hater. Here's the photographic proof that they're taking this promise very seriously:

We feel safer already, the end.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Just a Totally Normal RA Community Meeting About Hook Road, At Least Until The Cops Showed Up (Updated)

It's not a party community input meeting until the cops show up.

Discussion over plans to build a 30,000-seat baseball stadium and boccedrome improve facilities at the Hook Road Recreation Area near Lake Anne got a tad heated last night, in large part due to an RA board member's suggestion to take out the existing tennis courts and basketball courts altogether and pave them over for parking, maybe? Alls we know is that RA board members bickered with each other, one got into an altercation with a little league president, and at some point the cops got called. Give us some Roberts Rule of Order-inspired blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Many of the more than 100 members in attendance, however, expressed their dismay with Ray Wedell — the At-Large member of the Reston Association Board of Directors who recently shared his personal thoughts on the project in a five-page statement. In the statement, Wedell said amenities such as the baseball field at the park do not need upgrades, and that consideration should be given to removing the tennis and basketball facilities altogether.

Sherri Hebert, president of the RA Board, made a point at the start of the meeting to mention that Wedell’s opinions in no way represent anything that is being considered by the Board as a whole.

[snip]

More than once during the meeting, Wedell circumvented the line of speakers waiting to give their public comment on the project. The crowd met him with point-of-order calls and shouted him down as he attempted to shout over them. At one point, some turned their backs on him and refused to listen to his statement.

Wedell said he was within his right to take the stand and respond to comments. Hebert and Sridhar Ganesan, the Board’s treasurer, at one point told him to step away from the microphone, which he had taken from the stand and was holding in his hand.

[snip]

After [Reston-Herndon Little League president Jason Walker] made his public comment, he and Wedell had a verbal confrontation at the back of the room. An argument ensued in which Wedell told Walker to “shut up,” and Walker was heard calling Wedell “a disgrace.” The men give differing stories on who instigated the argument. After the brief disruption in the meeting, Walker left the room.

The Fairfax County Police Department was summoned at some point, and a pair of officers responded after the meeting had concluded. They conducted interviews at the scene, but no report was filed.

So.... that happened.

Wedell told Reston Now that his five-page statement, which you can read here and which he defended extensively in comments at the end of this article, was deliberately provocative to "increase community conversation about the plan," which he adamantly opposes. In an era where governance has been replaced by trolling at all levels, we think it's safe to say that he succeeded, the end.

Update: Video of the meeting. Pop some popcorn and gather the kids around your glowing rectangle of choice.

Also, Wedell has announced his resignation from the RA Board. Full statement here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Mauvescrapers Sell, But Who's Buying?

As we prepare to exit the dog days of summer, how are things going with our favorite planned community's hellish, dystopian future rapidly rising mauvescrapers? Just swimmingly!

At first, we thought the fancy glowing adornments that were recently lit up on our favorite parallelogram at the Reston-Wiehle Metro station were a sign that after nearly landing Nestle's U.S. headquarters, Comstock had signed the world headquarters of a neon sign manufacturer -- the industry of the future! But, silly us, it turns out they're just a "festive shroud" intended to "emulate the movement and speed of the adjacent trains and cars on the highway -- your 70 mph experience." Well, duh!

Even perfect-fit midscale chain comfort food eatery Founding Farmers is dragging its feet on moving to the ground floor of yet another mauvescraper-to-be hotel at the Reston-Wiehle Metro station, saying it opted instead to focus first on opening a new location at -- of all places -- a giant shopping mall in suburban Philadelphia. A shopping mall! Oh, how far our transit-oriented champagne wishes and caviar dreams of mixed-use nirvana have fallen! Who knows if when this next partial parallelogram is built, they'll replace the fancy neon with a couple of bug zappers:

Meanwhile across town, what would be Reston's tallest building is still casting about for tenants, what with their original CGI renderings of awesome simulated DEALMAKING failing to win over a major contractor of the strapping-bomb-to-dolphins variety (at least so far). Which is surprising, given this sweeeeeet new rendering of the lobby giving it a high-tech Austin Powers sort of vibe:

Thanks to a Confidential Restonian Operative, we've also gotten our first glimpse of what the 20-story condo mauvescraper thingy proposed to be built across Reston Parkway from RTC would look like. Their promises of a brutalist wonderland.... hit pretty close to the mark.

This next photo looks a little Sim City-like, but it gives you a sense of what the RTC-adjacent skyline soon will look like.

Meanwhile, car dealership cloverleaf America's next great city Tysons Corner is preparing for its own, even more massive mauvescraper complex, including what would be the tallest building in the region and a snazzy name presumably inspired by mid-day television. We can only hope that its lofty heights will not block the sun's rays from hitting the giant statue of Crystal Koons to be built atop Tysons' fancy new underground intersection.

All in all, things are looking up! (Get it?) We can only hope that the longstanding predictions of the region's changing business environment, smaller office footprints and lower expectations as expressed in facile terms by the car of choice in area parking lots all are false and that at some point, we actually get tenants and residents to fill all these fancy high-rises, the end.

Monday, August 14, 2017

HBD Restonian 'Web Log': Ten Years of Covering Reston Like Invasive English Ivy, Or At Least Making Lots Of Dumb Jokes About Bollards

This Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of this filthy “web log.” Way back in ought-seven, by the flickering light of our candle-powered 300-baud modem, we launched Restonian.blogspot.geocities.aol.org.edu with a simple dream and some highly evocative poetry. Millions of page views, tens of thousands of comments, nearly 2,500 posts, one official DRB-Approved Color of the Week (Russet Brown, thanks for asking) and precisely zero (0) redesigns later, here we are.

So many memories. We mocked our less tolerant neighbor to the west before it became a model of comportment compared to our own grocery stores. We kept clapping for the Metro fairy to bring us a 54-minute E-ticket ride downtown, then wondered about the consequences of becoming “another Manhattan” and waited for our property values to septuple. (Still waiting!) We mourned the loss of Reston’s beloved founder, as well as some rad architecture and the less consequential disappearance of a midscale chain eatery. Savvy readers might have seen in our oft-professed love of the Macaroni Grill a pointed commentary about our inevitable destiny of bland big box development supplanted in turn by equally bland mixed-use development. Mostly, we just liked drawing on the paper tablecloths with crayon while enjoying a good breadstick or two.

Peeping tom

We saw Tall Oaks decline (farewell, "Susie de los Santos") and Reston Station rise. We saw efforts to describe Tysons Corner as another Paris first as comedy, then as dystopian tragedy. We gnashed our teeth and shook our fists when our favorite "stressful city-like shopping center" decided to charge for parking, like some common strip mall, all while declaring its eliteness and ignoring our offers to help with crisis management, which is something shopping centers just totally normally do. We discovered the real truth behind Reston’s creation myths, uncovering the crazed homicidal nudists in whose gnarly footsteps we now walk. And just like a homicidal maniac in a horror movie, we saw ill-advised attempts to redevelop a golf course return again, and again, and again. We learned lots of fun vocabulary—vowel-free developments, floor area ratio, brutalism, Texas donuts, and of course, woonerf.

There was opera. There were music videos, each better than the last. There were triffids, invasive plants, copperheads, rogue canoes. And then there were the bollards — the more fanciful the better. There was the time we became a campaign issue. And the time we were told we weren’t “professional journalists," even though, in true All of the President's Men style, we managed to find the smoking Bratz. But mostly we remember the awesome advertising that has — at least to date! — failed to land us the lakefront house of our dreams. At this point, frankly, we’d settle for a Ford Focus.

Will this filthy “web log” still be (sporadically) churning out posts in 2027? Maybe if people clicky clicky on those ads, we’ll manage to “graduate” to a one side brick/three side vinyl McTownhouse somewhere out beyond Ashburn and start the equally well-received Brambeldonianian web log (haha, just kidding, this web log was never well-received!) But there’s one thing we know for sure. The bike trail over Wiehle Avenue, much less the Soapstone Bridge, will still be on the drawing board, the end.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Flashback Monday: An Underground School? That's Mighty Funny (tm)

From its earliest days, Reston has always been the focus of media attention, as these old-timey things called "magazines," from Newsweek to Life to Ebony, sent these old-timey people called "reporters" to visit our earth-toned community and write deep think pieces about What Town Houses Not In Towns Really Mean while burning through their expense accounts with three-martini lunches. But once our favorite earth-toned community was featured in the publication of record for the under-12 crowd, we knew we had arrived.

The Mini Page, everyone's favorite publication of U.S. energy policy and macroeconomic analysis, hit newsstands in the midst of the energy crisis of the 1970s with a blockbuster scoop: AN ENERGY SAVING SCHOOL. And yes, it featured Terraset Elementary, our now-excavated underground school.

Give us some age-appropriate blockquote, Mini Page:

How would you like to go to Terraset, an underground school?

When you go out to play, you do not go to a regular field. You go to the top of the school.

We call it the hill with a school inside.

Our school has an unusual name, Terraset.

"Terra" means earth. So "Terraset" means set into the earth.

Terraset school is different from other schools. It is solar heated.

It is inside a hill and most important of all, it saves energy.

It is heated and cooled by the sun.

And if that wasn't enough excitement, there was this fun puzzle at the bottom of the page:

No telling if the remaining pages of the Mini Page included the usual word find fun that would inspire another great publication years later, or maybe a Reston-themed Goofus and Gallant ("Goofus always pays for parking using his smartphone app, Gallant forgets to notify his neighbors before painting his party wall.")

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hate May Have No Home In Reston, But Neither Do These Signs

Whenever we come across a story about a tone-deaf HOA doing something particularly tone deaf, like denying veterans the right to fly a flag in their yard, we chuckle a little. "Chuckle," we say to ourselves. "Reston may obsess a little about white stone and red mulch, but it's not quite that bad." And then people stare at us because we're standing in line at the post office, and we stop.

But we digress. Turns out we're wrong about our favorite red mulch-free planned community. Give us some Bizarro HOA blockquote, BFFs from Reston Now:

Signs claiming “Hate Has No Home Here” have popped up around the community, but one has caused controversy at the Orchard Green Cluster.

Rikki Epstein, of the 11400 block of Orchard Green Court, went before a panel of Reston’s Design Review Board on Tuesday evening to appeal a ruling by her cluster association that her 24-by-18-inch sign was not appropriate for display in her yard.

The written reason the cluster gave for opposing the sign?
A cursory review of the sign’s web site and underlying organization clearly reveals a political bias despite lip service to the contrary.
Yes, opposing hate is now apparently a political issue. And there are all those... weird squiggles on the sign. Who knows what insidious coded messages they could hide?

(To be Fair and Balanced, it should be noted that the "resident in question" did confirm, presumably under harsh interrogation techniques by cluster officials, that she obtained the sign from a booth run by the Democratic party at the Reston Farmer's Market, which is practically the headquarters of the dreaded Fifth Column).

You might think that all this is a bit tone-deaf, especially given recent events in our own backyard, but HOA regulations have never been known for their nuance. And you also might think that the DRB, which has focused on bigger issues than the usual piddling HOA minutae of late, would inject a bit of common sense into what sounds like your typical neighborhood spat. Hahahaha, you'd be wrong, because this Very Special panel of the DRB, instead of smacking the "affected parties" heads together and telling them to work this out like, you know, neighbors instead of creating an arbitrary new rule that will have to be enforced uniformly for everyone, decided to -- wait for it -- pull out their tape measures.

The DRB panel denied Epstein’s request to overrule the cluster association and allow placement of the sign, she said, on the basis of its size. Reston Association’s rules for small yard signs say they must be no bigger than one square foot in size to be displayed without a permit.
So now this dispute will likely go before the full DRB. And yes, you can put up temporary political signs, but they have to be taken down a week after whatever election they're about. Since hate never seems to go out of style, we'd argue the time limit doesn't really come into play in this case, but that's why we're not on the DRB, the end.