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.

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