News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

BREAKING: Reston Becoming More Elite By The Nanosecond, And Maybe We Should Say Something About That

RTC Leet

Let's set the earth-toned wayback machine to ought-sixteen, when we were all shocked -- shocked! -- that our favorite "stressful, city-like shopping center" decided to charge for parking, calling itself too elite for poors without smartphones or those unwilling to shell out cash for an authentic faux-urban midscale dining experience.

But now, the riffraff have calmed down we've been told that things have "settled down," and we've learned to stop worrying and embrace the kind of elite status that allows a shopping center to charge, at least sometimes, for the privilege of breathing its rarified, Sephora-scented air. Make no mistake, Reston is "l33t," as the kids might have said on their Snapchat texting machines a few years back, and it's getting more elite by the minute!

Just consider the awesome brutalist condo mauvescraper thingy proposed to be built across the street from Reston Town Center (which is currently building elite housing of its own). The 20-story mauvescraper proposal was denied last week by the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee, but is being considered by the countywide planning commission tomorrow. Both Reston's P&Z and the county's staff, which also recommended the proposal be denied, singled out issues with how developers wanted to deal with workforce housing. Mainly, they'd rather not cut into the whole elite vibe too much! Give us some not-so-elite blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

In a Nov. 22 staff report, the department raised concerns that workforce housing does not appear to be “a vital element” of the proposed development, which will include up to 150 units and 294 parking spaces on 1.5-acres of land currently zoned for office uses.

Renaissance Centro, the developer, is seeking one market-rate unit for each workforce dwelling unit — an incentive allowed by the county to encourage inclusive, affordable housing — while also creating a condition would allow the developer to convert unsold workforce housing to market rate units under certain conditions. Plans include 24 workforce dwelling units, allowing 24 market rate units in bonus density.

The developer also opted out of a proffer that requires bonus market rate units to remain similar in size to workforce housing, possibly allowing the developer to sell significantly larger market rate units while only building small efficiency units for workforce housing.

“The county would only receive a monetary contribution at a loss of affordable housing provided onsite. The monetary contribution is not likely to be sufficient to purchase comparable affordable units,” according to the report.

It's not the first Reston developer with issues with the county's affordable housing requirements -- and to be fair, at least Renaissance Centro didn't try to simply ignore them completely, like the developers of another massive proposal that shall go unnamed but not unlinked. Of course, the county doesn't exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to listening to local objections -- or its own staff recommendations -- when sweeeeeeeet sweeeeet development revenue is on the line, and a sampling of comments on the aforementioned Reston Now article doesn't exactly show... a great deal of concern about affordable housing. And in its flyer urging Restonians to oppose the proposal, our BFFs at the Reston Citizens Association don't mention the workforce housing issue at all, focusing instead on the (very real) density issues with the proposal.

Still, though, we ignore Reston's workforce housing needs -- and the fact that it was part of the founding principles of our earth-toned community -- at our own peril. The less those of us with (very legitimate!) concerns about the county's eagerness to developmentsplain its way into changing Reston's zoning while supposedly being powerless to build roads in an expeditious manner talk about holding developers accountable for affordable housing, the more ammunition we give pro-development forces who claim that resistance to development is all about NIMBYism, and keeping new people out (looking at you, Supt. Hudgins). Besides, if we're not quite elite enough to accept having to pay for parking at our favorite emporium of midscale chain dining, we're probably not elite enough to not want at least some semblance of workforce and affordable housing in our plastic fantastic future of mauvescrapers and woonerf.

It's tough being so elite. If all the awesome gets to be too much, we could all just head out of town. Let's just jump on 66 and see what happens, right?

Oh, wait.

Update: Planning commission decision on the proposal deferred until January.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NSFL: Turns Out Brambleton Has *One* Amenity Reston Doesn't

Earlier this fall, we all thrilled to the v. v. exciting news that scientifically proved that Reston is exactly one better than our particleboard, Metro-curious neighbor to the west, better known as Ashburn. But it turns out that Brambleton, the extra-Ashburny planned subdivision where we've done field research in the past, now has one amenity that Reston... doesn't.

We're not radiologists, but we might get that pond area checked out at some point.

Shout out to the filthy Loudoun "web log" smutpeddlers "The Burn" for being brave enough to share the truth with the broader world. Sometimes a map is just a map, as famous cartographer Sigmund Freud once said, but we always suspected there was something weird going on back behind all those Wegmans and one-sided brick facades. Who knows, maybe behind closed doors, consenting adult Brambletonians dress up in their finest business attire and play-act granting each other excessive numbers of building permits for bland, cookie-cutter housing.

Don't believe us? See for yourself, you pervs. Sadly, Google Street View doesn't let you go into the actual "park" itself, but this is one of the closest views we could find:

Wow, that is obscene, the end.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

At RTC, Paid Parking Takes a Holiday, Sort Of (Updated)

As we head towards the holidays, how are things going at our favorite ersatz downtown "stressful, city-like shopping center"? Well, there's probably no connection between this:

All garage parking will be free in Reston Town Center from Saturday through [Dec.] 26 due to the holiday season... Parking activation is not required.
And this:
Boston Properties expects 200,000 square feet of space to be vacated at Reston Town Center in 2018, a company official said during the BXP quarterly earnings call on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Baghdad Beige RTC spokespeople felt compelled to tell our BFFs at Reston Patch that everything there is going super, thanks for asking:
A top executive at BXP told Patch in a recent interview that having 200,000 square feet of space vacated is quite typical, and demand is actually strong at RTC.

"It's actually quite typical," said Peter Johnston, Boston Properties executive vice president for the Washington, D.C. region, in an interview with Patch. "The prior three years, the rollover in RTC was 201,000 square feet, 188,000 square feet, and 236,000 square feet. While those numbers seem large, they only represent between 5 and 6 percent in square footage we own and manage."

So maybe the move to app-free, cost-free parking is just a bit of holiday goodwill from the big-hearted folks at BXP. But what happens come January, when retail sales drop and paid parking returns? They won't have a blizzard from the previous year to fudge their own traffic numbers, but we're sure they'll be "great," to quote another awesome real estate developer.

In the meantime, always remember and never forget: street parking is still being enforced, except on Sundays. So be careful, lest you get a brightly colored Bumblebee from our BXP buddies for the holidays, the end.

Update: Don't hold your breath for a Christmas miracle:

Peter Johnston -- Boston Properties' executive vice president for the Washington D.C. region -- told Patch that things have "settled down," and that he thinks the response to the decision to roll back paid parking hours has been "exceedingly positive."

"I would say there's not going to be changes in the near-term," he said. "My guess is we'll evaluate as we get closer to the arrival of the Metro. Once they begin charging and the service is up and running, as we get closer to that, we might reevaluate what hours to charge for. I don't see anything happening before then."

Friday, November 17, 2017

Profiles in Courage: Land Use Edition

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

"We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

"We can’t stop development waiting for the roads to be built."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Representational Art or Unintended Irony? You Be The Judge

At long last, the socialist realism movement in our beloved earth-toned community has moved beyond the primitive black and white photos of the 1960s to embrace the YouTubes the kids are always sharing viral "snaps" of on their "Tinders," or whatever, these days. Though in the eyes of county officials, it's getting hard to tell whether we're the hard-working proletariat whose taxes keep Reston "great" or the (metaphorical) leaves clogging the drain of some sweeeeeeeet sweeeeeet woonerf, the end.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Caddyshackpocalypse Meets Groundhog Day: Now Hidden Creek Golf Course Threatened By Development, Maybe, Eventually

Hey, remember that time one of Reston's two golf courses changed hands and the new owner wanted to develop it as a zillion gazillion mixed use bollardy condos worth of awesomeness, and after failing to get a legal slam dunk giving it permission to do so carte blanche is now attempting to hand it off to a greater fool sell it touting a potential $200 million development payoff?

Yeah, that was awesome. Only while we all were paying attention to the action on the south side of the Toll Road, Reston's other white meat golf course has changed hands. Give us some alarming blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

According to an email sent by the country club to its members Tuesday, real-estate developer Wheelock Communities purchased the club earlier this week from its previous owner, Fore Golf Partners. According to the email, signed by Fore Golf CEO Charlie Staples:

Wheelock owns properties along the East Coast and in Texas that range from private golf clubs to large master-planned communities, to luxury waterfront condominiums and urban mixed-use projects. They look forward to becoming part of the highly respected Reston community. Fore Golf will continue to manage the club for the new owner, according to the email, and club memberships will be unaffected by the change in ownership.

In the email, it is announced that Wheelock plans to invest more than $300,000 in upgrades to the club. This is to include upgrades to the club’s dining and events facilities, the lobby, and the locker rooms. A new fleet of golf carts is also expected to arrive in December. More “potential changes” are listed, though:

Over the next few years, Wheelock will be working in partnership with the club members and the Reston community to explore potential changes to the property that could provide the Reston community with additional public amenities, environmental benefits and new housing choices.

Hmmm. All of a sudden that wacky error made by county officials earlier this year proposing a citylike grid of streets covering a couple of the holes of Hidden Creek seems.... interesting, doesn't it?

As we adjust our tinfoil hats, what's even more interesting is that news of this long-rumored acquisition became public the day after it was raised during public comments at the uneventful, sparsely attended public hearing on proposed density changes in parts of Reston. County officials claimed they knew nothing about it but stressed, like Reston National, Hidden Creek is designated as a golf course in the comprehensive plan and would have to go through the full rezoning process for that to change. (Which we've always argued wouldn't be that tough, given what we've seen and heard from county officials of late, but we digress.)

But it's hard to know what the plan is. Wheelock is investing $300,000 in golf-related activities right now, although that would be more than offset by selling just one sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet midscale condo on the property somewhere down the road. And given the county's willingness to chip away at the back nine in its own planning, would they accept some sort of not-so-grand bargain which maintains a nine-hole golf course (all the better for busy strapping-bombs-to-dolphins executives to squeeze in after lunch) in exchange for some sweeet revenue-generating development on the other half of the course? And if so, which adjacent homeowners will get screwed in the process?

Rescue Reston, whose members know a little something about potentially being screwed by developers, posted thoughts about the acquisition earlier today, basically crediting Wheelock for being more public about its plans than Reston National owner-for-now Northwestern Mutual and arguing that its willingness to work "in partnership with club members and the Reston community" is a good sign:

If HCCC’s owner, Wheelock, develops a plan that includes “new housing choices,” here is the process they must follow:

Property owners must follow county process for requesting a land use designation change. Any residential development plan would require a review by County Planning Commission staff, a public hearing before the County Planning Commission, a public hearing before the County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately an amendment to the County Comprehensive Plan. It will be the Board of Supervisors’ decision to approve or NOT approve a land use change.

Restonians care about the recreational space at Reston National Golf Course and continue to wait and wonder what uncaring entity will buy RNGC on speculation of future development. We cannot stop a sale, but we CAN stop a reprehensible comprehensive plan change of the land use designation. In the meantime, HCCC has been purchased by an entity that, at this point, is planning to work "in partnership with the club members and the Reston community.”

It is the civic duty of ALL Restonians to monitor land use sales and ownership activity of our Designated Open Space areas. We hope that HCCC’s new ownership will maintain open discussion with the Reston community.

For now, all we can do is hope, and wait for the next rodent-related development:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rescheduled Due To Overcrowding County Meeting On Reston Overcrowding Was Overcrowded, Resulting In Overcrowding Of Opinions (Updated)

If you get nearly 700 Restonians in one place and it doesn't involve paid parking at our favorite "stressful, city-like shopping center," you know something's amiss. Last night's county-held meeting on the fun zoning changes proposed for Reston, initially rescheduled because of overcrowding, was overcrowded -- people were shunted into an overflow room. It involved plenty of developmentsplaining and dozens of speakers, all of whom were critical of the county's approach. Your Restonian earned time-and-a-half "live twittering" the meeting, sharing trenchant insights like these:

Fortunately, others capable of thinking in more than sentence-long insights also were there, including our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, who shared this account:

All that was missing were the pitchforks and torches.

Whether the appropriate analogy is that of the peasants marching on Dr. Frankenstein's castle, the French hoi polloi storming the Bastille, or the East Germans tearing down the Berlin Wall, Monday night's meeting at South Lakes High to discuss increased residential zoning density brought forth a huge crowd of amped-up Restonians ready to rebel.

No doubt the Fairfax County authorities in attendance found the huddled masses indeed revolting, in both senses of the word.

An SRO crowd of 600 or so Restonians showed up to hear our County Supervisor and several Fairfax County officials explain the proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would allow more than 10,700 new dwelling units in those parts of Reston designated a planned residential community. The existing village centers would be prime candidates ripe for such future redevelopment

Observing the sea of yellow Rescue Reston shirts, The Peasant momentarily thought that he had transcended the space-time continuum and somehow been transported back to circa-1986 Manila, where the "color revolution" that brought Corazon Aquino to power in the Philippines used yellow as a rallying point -- not that we would dare compare anyone on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to the autocratic Ferdinand Marcos and his 21-year rule.

After a few opening remarks from Commissar Cathy, a 'facilitator' explained the evening's format of short presentations by County officials for "clarity of information" followed by an open mike session for the audience. County officials used many exciting buzzwords in their presentations. Prioritize! Framework! Implementation! Front-loading! Perhaps as in, "Prioritize the implementation of a front-loading framework?"

Anyhow, judging from the two hours of the session that The Peasant attended, the basic takeaway from the County was that the new zoning proposals for the village centers were merely codifying what had been suggested by the Reston master plan in 1989. This did not sit well with the audience, one of whom simply asked, "Why this? Why now?"

We noted that throughout the Q-and-A session our County Supervisor was noticeably reticent, allowing the various department flunkies to be the sacrificial lambs bearing the brunt of citizen outrage, while she did a classic duck and cover maneuver, much like those Cold War civil defense drills schoolchildren practiced in the 1960s to survive any incoming Ruskie ICBMs.

But perhaps Commissar Cathy was merely attempting to avoid yet another communications miscue, such as the one she suffered in her recent attempt to invite herself onto the Next Door Neighbor website, where she announced her presence as one more way to communicate with, and we quote verbatim here, "the masses" (leading one irate Next Door user to note that perhaps the Commissar had mistakenly added the letter "m" to that collective noun).

Of all the excellent questions and comments made by audience members on Monday evening, the best came from one older man who, with a simplicity worthy of Hemingway, addressed the assembled officialdom thusly:

"You're reading your own talking points too much. Listen to the people. You don't get it. Why is it so hard for you to stand in our shoes and serve our community? I'd ask everyone here in the audience who doesn't think the rezoning is a good idea to stand up."

On cue, the entire audience stands up.

At the end of the evening, we were relieved that the Board of Supervisors at least had not secretly lined up a fleet of RIBS buses outside South Lakes to transport unenlightened Reston homeowners directly to a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp in hip and edgy Clarendon so as to learn the joys of transit-oriented development -- or even worse, to exile in the particleboard wasteland of Ashburn to contemplate among the acres of vinyl siding their wrong-think until they are suitably "woke" and embrace their glorious TOD future with all the wide-eyed fervor of North Koreans praising Little Rocket Man.

Hudgins clearly believes passionately that development is important because it will keep Reston open to all kinds of people -- and good on her for that. But developers putting aside a tiny amount of apartments for affordable housing -- and grudgingly so at that -- in expensive condo complexes isn't going to achieve that goal. If she wants to push for affordable housing, Hudgins and the rest of the county could shame -- or flat out require -- developers to do more. Calling people with legitimate concerns NIMBYs and lumping them in with a handful of xenophobic Internet commenters isn't going to help.

Also, the format of the meeting and these comments painted this debate in very binary terms: these changes are just to fix what amounts to a rounding error in a previous master plan tweak, and you're either supportive of keeping Reston open to newcomers or a NIMBY. Frankly, we think this lets the county off the hook for its big failing here: approving massive development while being perfectly happy to let existing (and new) residents wait for a decade-plus for infrastructure improvements that are needed right now. Development is going to happen to some extent -- and to the extent it's focused in places where it can be served by mass transit, decent infrastructure, and open public spaces, that's not a bad thing. In all the supposed question-and-answer exchances last night, we didn't hear an answer as to why that was allowed to happen -- and why there's still no urgency to addressing it.

A commenter shared this account:

I never go to these things, but I went to SLHS and I wore yellow. As did nearly everyone else. The nice people from the county told us what we want. But everyone attending felt differently. Hudgins and co. said that we need more people on metro, and she closed with a stock impassioned plea for workforce housing. The parks person told us that she was actively making sure that we had enough parkland as we develop, to much laughter. And we had to wait over 20 minutes until the first invocation of Bob Simon's wishes, later than expected. But what was tonight's conclusion? Hudgins wagged her finger by hinting that this crowd was anti...something. Were we being anti-Restonian? NIMBYs and the developers recognize that they have overdeveloped, which translates to a recognition that more pigs at the trough will shrink the amount of food available to each pig.And yet she persisted! We need to increase our density, described in terms of avoiding some future debacle, while attendees see the density cap as a final failsafe. I admire Hudgins' willingness to tell this audience that they just don't get Reston. They just don't understand what it is to be in Reston. Wow, what stunning arrogance.
And there was this comment from a county planner, which we think will look great written in purple neon on top of a 96-story mauvescraper located atop of the transit-oriented node of St. John's Wood more than a mile from a future Metro station, or nearly anything else:

Update: Action McNews coverage:

And here's video of the full meeting:

Update: Reston Association Board of Directors formally requests that the county "defer further consideration of the PRC amendment until certain elements in the Reston Master Plan portion of the comprehensive plan can be reviewed."