News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

LOL, We Mean BREAKING: Jacksons Sues RTC Over Paid Parking

Couldn't happen to a nicer purveyor of "stressful city-like shopping centers": Restaurant and noted purveyor of cougar nightlife Jackson's Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge has become the first restaurant to sue Boston Properties for the utter clusterf*ck the Reston Town Center paid parking system has become, arguing that their lease bans Boston Properties from creating a system that "unduly impedes" people from getting to their restaurant. While our correspondence school legal degree from an off-brand Trump University affiliate prevents us from dispensing legal advice in 48 states, we think it's safe to say a system that confuses actual astronauts probably fails that particular sniff test.

Give us some hubris-inspiring burn blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

"We did not want to have to sue and we tried to work with Boston Properties to address our concerns and our rights under the lease to give our customers free and hassle-free parking, both before and after Boston Properties implemented this parking system," Jon Norton, CEO of Great American Restaurants, said in the statement. "But they were uncompromising and appeared disinterested in working with us to provide our guests a better experience at Reston Town Center.

"It appears to us that they are focused on maximizing revenue instead of honoring the spirit and terms of our lease, and seem unconcerned with the impact their system has had on the Town Center," he added. "It is disappointing that they have spent so much time bolstering a PR campaign rather than working with us to fulfill their lease obligations."

Crisis-management campaign, not PR campaign. And given that even august NPR has now devoted air time to the issue, we think it's time for the elite crisis managers to put on yet another pot of coffee.

Here's not one, but three HOT TAKES on all this:

1) If you're a property manager, that's the one drawback to encouraging fancypants chains at the expense of mom-and-pop businesses: they have deeper pockets, smarter attorneys who actually read their leases, and the ability to credibly pursue legal action against a giant corporate propertyholder.

2) Tenants sue over leases all the time. You generally don't get hundreds of people to march around what is essentially a shopping mall (it's more than that, but in deciding to charge for parking, it's clear that's what BP believes it is) in frigid weather unless they're worried about something bigger than paying a couple of bucks to park. BPX really stepped into something that touched a nerve about what our community is about on this one, and their ham-handed "PR campaign" and paid community outreach still shows no signs of recognizing this. (Having said that, we're still waiting for some of that sweeeeeeeeeeet sponsored content cash. Maybe a nice thinkpiece on frivolous lawsuits driving up the totally reasonable cost of paid parking for everyone?)

3) LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Thursday, March 16, 2017

ParkRTC or RA WebTrac: Which Reston App Is The Worst?

As the ongoing war of public opinion between Reston Town Center and its own tenants over paid parking continues, with the fancy Washington Post "news paper" finally catching wind of the recent unpleasantness with our "stressful city-like shopping center," the most recent rebuttal of Boston Properties' exercise in crisis management "open letter" to the community by the RTC merchants included a world-class burn:

The “parking ambassadors” are unfriendly and not helpful, and seem to be on hand mostly to warn you that you must pay. They are not knowledgeable about the system and generally can’t help guests figure it out. Educational signage? The signage is not succinct and/or user-friendly. One customer – an astronaut! – was having trouble figuring it all out in a timely fashion, and complained to the proprietor of the store she was in.
Yes, apparently figuring out the unhelpful ParkRTC app is rocket science.

But ParkRTC has some competition of late. For unknown reasons, the Reston Association "upgraded" its own web infrastructure to something called WebTrac, which as far as we can tell, will allow us to pay for our pool passes at warp speed or with lasers, or something. Look at how convenient it is, as this photo sent to us by a Confidential Restonian Operative shows:

The whole "variety of reasons" thingy doesn't exactly give us confidence about the new brilliant plan to ensure that the RA can finally bring to an end the scourge that is bringing it to financial ruin. No, not future purchases of leaky lake houses, silly rabbits! We're finally getting serious about that time your kid borrowed his brother's pool pass so his friend from the uncivilized wilds beyond the pale beige, like Herndon or (gasp) Sterling, could check out what our fancy ce-ment ponds look like without paying the $5 guest fee. Once we start cracking down on this MASSIVE FRAUD, we'll recoup the Leak House purchase price almost immediately, or at least just as soon as we bring 520,000 of these cheaters to JUSTICE. Alls we need to do is upload photos, unless we really don't want to, and lasers or something will chime whenever an IMPOSTOR tries to breach the impenetrable fortresses that are RA's pools:

What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Caddyshackpocalypse North: Planning Loophole Threatens Hidden Creek Golf Course, Prepare For Hellish Future of 16-Hole Rounds Of Golf

Life's just a little bit faster in the big city planned real estate development. That's why, one day soon, you might be able to whip through a 16-hole round of golf with your fellow dolphin bomb-strappers business clients -- an amazing 12 percent time savings! Or maybe just do the back eight and celebrate with drinks at a golf-themed bar called the 17th Hole.

You see, as part of the broader reworking of the Reston comprehensive plan, county planners have proposed a hellish, Manhattan-like grid of streets near the Wiehle Avenue Metro station. As part of this wonderland of woonerf, planners have proposed a new road that connects Issac Newton Square with American Way. While this new connection would allow lunchtime Taco Bell runs from the office building there to approach Mach 2, the topography suggests that it would shave two holes from the Hidden Creek golf course, as shown below.

Either that would make Hidden Creek a 16-hole golf course, or it would be one killer bunker. Maybe golfers could shave one point from their handicap every time they bank shots off slow-moving SUVs.

But we digress. Some have speculated that this is the county's way of trying to have things both ways: pretending to be supportive of Reston remaining a two golf course community while finding sneaky ways to undermine that goal in their relentless pursuit of swweeeeeeeeeet Metro-fueled developer tax revenues. If that's true, and this new road wasn't the byproduct of an overcaffienated planner with a square rule, then the recent hilarity involving that other golf course on the other side of the Toll Road could easily be rendered moot if the county allows a new owner to go through the normal development channels instead of claiming "by right" development, as Northwestern Mutual clumsily attempted to do.

Fortunately, the Reston Association has, as they say in the movies, a plan. The RA has explicitly asked for the offending road link to be removed from the comprehensive plan; we'll see if that actually winds up happening. Watch this exciting YouTubes video in which threats to both Reston's golf courses are detailed:

"There is no such thing as a valid 16-hole golf course," Reston council John McBride says, urging us all to stay engaged in protecting Reston from inappropriate development. We only wish we were more confident that the county will do the same.

Monday, March 6, 2017

As RTC Parking Protest Happens, We Suggest More Sponsored Content Topics For Our Elite Shopping Overlords

So that happened.

In the meantime, the elite crisis management team assisting Boston Properties spent good money buying a sponsored article on Reston Now, sharing their account of how great the transition to paid parking has been, arguing that activity from last January to this January is essentially unchanged -- which sounds great until you remember we had a little bit of weather last January. Oh, and people couldn't question the alternative facts discuss the topic because comments were disabled.

We seriously can’t fault Reston Now for this — they clearly designated the letter as sponsored content, they were up front about the fact that comments were disabled, and hey, us filthy “web loggers” have to eat just like everyone else. And Boston Properties and their handlers still seem to be slow to grasp the concept that people, apparently incorrectly, see Reston Town Center as an extension of their community and its unique identity, not just an amalgamation of revenue-generating real estate. Otherwise, why would people care enough to march around over a couple of measly bucks a pop to park there?

But mainly, we’re jealous. We want some of that sweeeeeeeeeet sponsored content cash too, BP! And just take a look at the click-friendly sponsored posts we’re just champing at the bit to write… if the price is right.

The 10 Best Easter Eggs In The Park RTC App (But Not The One Where Your Current Location And Contact Info Is Put Up For Grabs, Allegedly)

Fashion Tips: Which $150 Linen Shirt To Wear While Parking at RTC

Doctors Explain Why Protesting, While A Valid Expression Of Your First Amendment Rights, Will Give You Cooties

Want To Play A Fun Game? You’ll Never Be Able To Guess Which Garage Validates For What Retailer

More Like 666 Loudoun: Why One Loudoun Is The Devil Incarnate, Literally (Don’t Shop There)

Shocker: Driving To Mosaic For Dinner And A Movie Will Give You Scabies (Don’t Shop There)

Warning: Tysons Garages, While Free, Are Filled With Pits Of Angry Rottweilers Who Hunger For Shopper Flesh (Don’t Shop There)

Quiz: Are You Elite Enough To Meet And Greet At RTC?

Crisis Managers: The Unsung Heroes Of 2017 America

Tech Tips: No Your Web Browser Isn’t Glitching, Comments Are Disabled For This Post

Yellow Is Hot in 2017: The Best Outfits To Complement That Bumblebee Strapped To Your Car

Why Vibrant Crowds Are Out And Deserted Cityscapes Peppered With A Handful Of Wealthy Shoppers Are In

Commentary: An Open, Honest and Frank Discussion Among Those Of Us Willing To Accept That Paid Parking Is Here To Stay And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It, Peons!*

(*Comments disabled for this article)

We’ll just be over here, waiting for the wheelbarrow of cash to come rolling in. You’re welcome, Boston Properties, you’re welcome.

Update: More images from Saturday's protest.

And Boston Properties has decided to put its sponsored content in an old-timey "news paper":

Fortunately, comments there have not been disabled, inasmuch as you're welcome to scream at the page all you like, the end.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Parkers Of The World, Unite! RTC Protest March Sort Of Near RTC Happening Saturday (Updated)

On Saturday afternoon, protestors fed up with paid parking at our favorite elite outdoor shopping mall will march near Reston Town Center, starting kind of at one side of said mall and ending at a midscale chain eatery just across the street from it, as the map below shows. We'll call it the March on the Macaroni Grill (RIP).

As we suspected, Boston Properties decided not to give the group permission to march on the private property we think of as our fake gritty downtown -- which they can do, as RTC is about as public a public gathering place as the food court at your friendly neighborhood shopping mall. There's supposedly a "family fun event" there on Saturday, which likely involves introducing the adorable tykes to the bad words mommy and daddy say when they can't figure out how to download a, whazzitcalled, "app" to park the minivan in one of the garages. We're sure, however, that Boston Properties will be more than happy to take protesters' $2/hr while they're out marching on public property far away from those dwindling numbers of citizens consumers enjoying a leisurely Saturday brunch at a midscale chain eatery.

The march's organizers got permission from police for the route shown above. They shared the following guidelines:

1) Remain on the route identified as Reston Town Center is private property and we do not have permission to march there

2) Remain on the sidewalk at all times

3) Do not block pedestrians or cars from passing

4) Do not block business or residence entrances

5) Please be sure to park in public parking

6) Please keep in mind this is a peaceful march – do not violate any laws

Please DO make and bring your own signs for the protest

So much for looting the saladary and going home with enough roughage for a month.

Meanwhile, Boston Properties insiders continue to sell stock, crisis managers continue to manage crises, cheaper stores are being replaced by the kinds of upscale retail that attract the right kind of people who wouldn't think of complaining about paying for parking since that kind of tacky grumbling is for the poors, not folk worthy of a $150 linen shirt, and as winter turns to spring, we're starting to get our first glimpse of those bumblebees in the wild. Look closely. Can you spot one?

Now that's a premium parking experience. L33T!

Saturday's protest runs from 1 to 4; as of Friday morning more than 400 people have pledged to attend. The organizers plan to post the starting locations and more details on their fancy "Face Book" page later today.

Update: Boston Properties has now paid cold hard cash to post an "open letter" to the community (in other words, advertising), basically asserting that paid parking is here to stay, that reports of adverse impacts on retailers are lies, and that protests are and forever will be verboten so as not to harm their elite customers' fee-fees:

As part of our obligation to provide a safe and family-friendly environment, RTC has never granted, and will not grant now or in the future, permission for any demonstration or protest on the privately-owned property that is Reston Town Center. This has been the policy of each owner dating back to Reston Town Center’s inception.
Crisis management, FTW. Appropriate hyphen usage? Not so much.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Caddyshackpocalypse Again, Maybe: Reston National Golf Course Owners Shopping Property Around

Hey, remember that time when the owners of Reston National Golf Course decided they wanted to replace all those sand traps and "links" and paths for fancy little golf carts and probably those flags they put in the cups, and whatever, with some perfectly nice sweeeeeeeet multifamily developments of middling height and dubious architectural adornments, probably, and maybe even some vowels, because money? And then Reston residents were all unreasonable, what with their talk about "master plans" and "open space" and whatnot, and legal hilarity ensued and owner Northwestern Mutual decided to back off, all the while ominously promising to "pursue additional development options in the future"?

Yeah, that was awesome. But now, with the other unwanted architectural jewels of Sunrise Valley Drive having fallen to the wrecking ball or soon to be demolished for undistingushed residential development, it looks like Reston National's owners are shopping the property around with a fancypants real estate broker, looking for the greater fool someone who hasn't read the newspapers for the past couple of years and thinks they can cash in on that sweeeeeeeeeet Metro development bonanza.

Give us some alarming blockquote, BFFs at Rescue Reston:
This morning Rescue Reston was alerted by a supporter that ARA Newmark, an investment advisory firm, has listed the Reston National Golf Course property as being for sale for development purposes. The marketing materials state that the property consists of “168 Acres of By-Right Residential Development.”

The statement that development of the land is “By-Right” is highly misleading. The Development Plans filed with Fairfax County for the Golf Course and the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan clearly designate the land as open space to be used as a golf course. 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.

“After consulting with our attorney, we suspect this is the first round to determine what the market will bear. A call for bids, if you will,” said Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston. “RN Golf let it be known in this letter of March 4, 2016 that they intend to pursue “available redevelopment options” to develop Reston’s permanent open space. This is why we have remained vigilant and are able to react so quickly to this news today.”

The asking price? TBD, or "what the market will bear."

Let's read the real estate listing in its entirety (warning: requires annoying registration asking you, among other things, where you want to put your "investment stack." We replied "pancakes," so we expect to be contacted by a member of their wealth management team within minutes):

This is where you would be providing some information about your listing. When you have a moment, return to your account, and edit the "Content" section for this listing.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.

CHILLING.

Here's hoping that any prospective buyers will do a little due diligence and realize this fancy acreage isn't worth the hassle. (Here's a helpful starting point.) But as we've said before, the legal challenges of "clarifying" the property's zoning rights instead of going through the standard development approval process, which is what RGNC's owners originally tried to do, really don't mean anything if the right developer floats the right proposal to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which hasn't exactly shown a whole lot of sensitivity to Reston quality-of-life issues when serious tax revenue is on the line.

You know, there's a reason they stopped making Caddyshack sequels after the awful one with Jackie Mason -- comedy becomes tragedy, and then it just becomes annoying. All in all, it's just another worrying development in a long saga that's not likely to end anytime soon. There's not much to laugh about here, so please to be enjoying a picture of a cute puppy:

That's a good dog.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Flashback Monday: Ebony and Mauve, Living Together In Perfect Harmony

When its brutalist right angles and concrete emerged from the primordial Virginia forests in the mid-1960s, Reston attracted its share of press coverage -- magazines like Life and Time posted long think piece articles wondering why people would buy townhouses that weren't strictly in towns, among other things. At first glance, the photo from a late 1960s magazine pictured above doesn't seem that different. Except that the people photographed were black, and it was Ebony magazine with the big story calling Reston "an ideal city." Why, you may ask? At a time when the rapidly growing suburbs were still heavily segregated, Reston stood out as a place where homes were available to anyone. According to Ebony, we have Bob Simon -- and our groovy mauve modern architecture -- to thank for that, along with a headline that would seem familiar today:

Give us some good blockquote, 1960s magazine writer:

There may be a connection between Reston's modern design and its residents' lack of racial prejudice. Whites in nearby Herndon still shake their heads at "the crackpots in Reston"
Nice to see the SICK HERNDON BURNS began a half-century ago.
But Robert E. Simon committed himself to open housing a couple years ago when he let Edward E. Mitchell, a retired Army colonel now in Defense Sec. Robert S. McNamara's office, sign a contract for a piece of land in Hunters Wood Village. Simon's stand was criticized by some of his backers, but the white backlash they feared never developed.

People who move to Reston are not running away from anything. They are hunting for an ideal community where their children can mature under the best circumstances, while their own recreational and cultural needs are satisfied. They accept anyone who is trying to achieve the same goals in a congenial atmosphere.

But not all was perfect in our earth-toned nirvana.Reston used integrated pictures in its real estate ads, but still only attracted a handful of black families in the early days.

Ebony goes on to say:

Ignorance and built-in skepticism may contribute to the situation. Mrs. Mitchell said friends warned her and her husband when they revealed their interest in Reston, saying, "That's Virginia. They aren't going to have any colored out there."

Fear of being snubbed or isolated by white neighbors probably haunts others--quite unnecessarily. The Williams on their arrival were surprised when they received $50 worth of groceries accompanied by a letter of welcome and an invitation to participate in village activities.

The article goes on to suggest that it was finances that presented the largest obstacle to a more integrated community, but includes pictures to show that some very Reston experiences -- godawful interiors and waiting for public amenities to be built -- were colorblind experiences then, just as they are now.

As Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall said at Reston's dedication ceremony, "No town can claim to be truly American if it is an enclave of the well-to-do or the private preserve of any single ethnic or racial group."
It's easy to look back and smirk at this today, but at the time this was something radically different, particularly in ole' Virginny, and it arguably remains the most important strand of Bob Simon's legacy.