News and notes from Reston (tm).

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 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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reston Native Plays Jeopardy, Sadly Gets No Question About Landlocked HOAs

Yet another Restonian has taken the stage on Jeopardy, everyone's favorite teevee show of obscure trivia. Our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, weighs in with a recap:
"Today's Jeopardy categories are: Planned Communities - Earth Tones - Charrettes - Cathy Hudgins - Massive Overdevelopment - Willie Reston East Metro"

Alas, no, nary a Reston-themed subject in the mix, but we are still hopeful that Reston's own Scott Simpson will prevail in tonight's Jeopardy. Scott, a Foreign Service officer who by definition must be well-rounded, is up against current champ Rich Blashka and fellow newcomer Kelly Lasiter.

In the first round, Scott gets off to a somewhat slow start but then comes roaring back a couple of minutes in as he knocks out a string of correct answers in categories as diverse as video games and Shakespeare. At the first commercial break his $4,000 puts him in the lead. When Alex Trebek interviews the contestants afterwards, he notes that Scott has served in some dangerous countries, and Scott lists among his overseas assignments Libya, Afghanistan, and Australia. No doubt the first two are indeed very hazardous; not sure about Oz, though, unless those 'roos have gone rogue. At the end of round one, Scott is in the lead with $6,200 to Kelly's $5,000 and Rich's $4,600.

Double Jeopardy features a Trebekian potpourri of categories from "Italian Composers" to "Cowboy Talk" and, ironically enough, "Oz". In the category "When Walls Fell", Scott does extremely well, making us think he has just taken himself out of the running for the job of Ambassador to Mexico (Build that wall, Scott! Not the exact opposite!). But since he also scores well in the category of Italian composers, maybe the job of cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Rome is his for the asking. An incorrect daily double answer by champ Rich, combined with a correct answer by Scott on the other daily double, extends Scott's lead, and with only one category left, he pulls far ahead of his two competitors. At the end of the second round, Scott has $19,000, Kelly $11,400, and Rich $10,200. Scott's total is subsequently upped even more to $21,400 when the judges accept an answer previously marked against him.

The final Jeopardy category is "Landlocked Country Names", and given Scott's worldwide career, we figure it's Reston for the win. But it's a tricky question: "One in Europe and one in Africa, these two countries have the same two letters at the start and end with the same four letters." Only Kelly comes up with the correct answer of Switzerland and Swaziland, giving her a winning amount of $22,800. Scott ends up in second place with $19,999 and ex-champ Rich a distant last with $200.

Swaziswitzerland notwithstanding, we are proud of Scott for playing a very good game, even if there is no tickertape parade awaiting him on a victory lap through Reston Town Center in a RIBS bus.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Reston Development: Choose Your Poison

Lovely renderings of proposed developments adjoining the future Vaguely Near Reston Town Center Metro station on both sides of the Toll Road provide a glimpse of our hellish dystopian post-urban future what transit-oriented development is starting to look like in our beloved earth-toned community. As the kids may have liked to say back in the 1940s, choose your poison:

Super-dense high rises or undistinguished midrise residential with the (possible) much-delayed Reston debut of the beloved "Texas donut", with nary an interesting parallelogram in sight. Great choices!

To be fair, the RTC Gateway rendering at top, which recently resurfaced in the media, is actually at least a few years old. No doubt developer Boston Properties has since been feverishly fine-tuning the plans to be as responsive to community concerns about cramming a whopping 3.94 million square feet of mixed-use awesomeness into the current gaps between RTC and the Toll Road as it has been about paid parking and.... sorry, we thought we could get through this sentence without laughing, but then we remembered the collective breath-holding until the county approves its fun new proposed zoning ordinance amendment to allow essentially no caps on density in some parts of Reston and the laughter stopped.

If the county wants to know why Reston groups are getting so riled up, including the recent Reclaim Reston proposal to issue a moratorium on all unsubmitted development projects, maybe they should look at these renderings. Or maybe approach Reston's much-needed infrastructure improvements with the same urgency as they implemented the taxes to pay for them.

We actually think Metro-oriented development is a good thing; we'd rather live in a community that's thriving and growing than one that's not. Besides, Reston really needed another Starbucks and some sweeeet pop-up retail, and we can't wait to woonerf our way to McTacoHut. But the county really needs to step up and be more responsive to Restonians' concerns, and maybe make sure what they're approving makes sense and is supported by infrastructure the day it's completed, not some vague point in the future after the Sleestaks emerge from level G7 of the Wiehle Metro garage to rule the earth.

And lest we think that it's totally normal for it to take a pedestrian bridge nearly a decade to be built, please to be checking out this exciting You Tubes video of the second-largest ball of twine on the Eastern seaboard one of only 24 covered bridges in Virginia, lovingly (and much more quickly) restored by the Reston Association:

If you like lengthy discussions of corroded I-beams, whatever those are, this video is your "jam," as the kids probably no longer say, the end.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

80spocalypse Now: Yet Another Reston 'Landmark' Falls To The Wrecking Ball

From the Facebooks, this poignant cellular telephone photograph depicts the demolition of this 30-year-old office building along Sunrise Valley Drive, right next to where a legitimate brutalist masterpiece of concrete and unflattering right angles was flattened last year to make room for some unremarkable townhouses. Looks like our efforts to spark a similar wave of support for preserving this equally iconic reminder of the last great unfettered Fairfax County building boom went unheeded. As another great real estate developer might say, Sad!