Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Voice From the Neighborhood

Tonight was the first meeting of the Braddock East Advisory Group, which has been tasked to work on the issues relating to the development of public housing properties in our neighborhood. The meeting went smoothly, but there were many, many questions. One of the most important was one that was not directly answered: how many of the public housing units here will eventually be dispersed elsewhere in the City.

On this topic, the Growler would like to share a letter sent by Inner City resident Gerri Madrid-Davis today to the Mayor and Council regarding the Braddock Road Plan:
Dear Mayor Euille and members of the Council,

I write to express my disappointment over the recently issued Braddock Metro Neighborhood Road. After much time and at great expense to city residents the plan once again shoves far too much density into an area that can hardly afford the congestion and associated problems that come with putting far too many people and far to many vehicles into a tightly confined space.

The plan does not address the most pressing issue presented by neighborhood residents, instead punting the issue--that of the over concentration of public housing in the Braddock Road/Parker Gray neighborhood--off once again to another planning process where I can only assume that we will be forced to listen to highly compensated experts espouse their beliefs on the new urbanism and the need for more density on existing public housing sites while virtually ignoring our desires to see the neighborhood enjoy the promise of the City's commitment to public housing de-concentration and “Fair Share”.

The Braddock Plan as proposed is not in keeping with what the majority of taxpayers in this neighborhood want. Once again the city has raised land values in our area, making the neighborhood once again a giver rather than a receiver in the city's holy war for tax revenue. We have long stated through the BR process, through our community blog-- the Parker Gray Grow--and in numerous emails and public statements before Council that the over concentration of public housing and more importantly the City's complicity in over concentrating poverty to the detriment of the neighborhood and ALL its residents must be addressed by the City. Further we have repeated expressed frustration that ARHA must become a more transparent, responsive and fiscally responsible partner to the City in the provision of housing to the most vulnerable in our community.

I do not support the Braddock Road Plan as proposed and urge the Council to reject it in its current iteration. The last version of the plan was derailed because it had far too much density. This plan has even more density than the last. Given the housing market as it currently stands "a build it and they will come" philosophy is foolhardy at best and dangerous at its worst.

That said, I urge you to create an open, honest, transparent and RESPONSIVE process as the Braddock East plan moves forward. More neighborhood collaboration is necessary in this plan. We are not the audience; we live with the fallout of over concentrated poverty in and around the ARHA housing developments every day. Neighborhood homeowner’s bordering the housing developments, especially those bordering Bland, should have more than token seats at the table. As of today there is no public information available on the City's website regarding the Braddock East Plan--no list of appointed members, no discussion of the process or goals of the process. That is flatly unacceptable in a representative democracy.

While I understand that the Braddock East plan will focus on a larger discussion of the City's partnership with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) including discussion of Bland Addition, Samuel Madden Uptown, Ramsey Homes and Andrew Adkins as well as the planned redevelopment of James Bland and Glebe Park, I urge you to reconsider the scope of the plan to focus exclusively on short-term planning for the redevelopment of Bland and Glebe Park. Neighbors are well aware that redevelopment of the other projects are well enough away that planning for these projects at this early date would merely detract attention away from the opportunities currently available to redevelop Bland and off-sight significant numbers of public housing units to other parts of the City in keeping with the City’s Fair Share promise.

I support the 4 goals established by Braddock East/Parker Gray neighbors to guide the Braddock Road East Planning Process and urge your support for these principles as well:

1) The primary goal of the Braddock East Plan should be the dispersal of Public Housing units to other city neighborhoods. Braddock East and Parker Gray have an over concentration of the City’s Resolution 830/public housing units. The City’s own goal of “Fair Share” has been violated and concentrated poverty has persisted under the current public housing system. The primary goal of redevelopment of Braddock East public housing units should be to disperse at least 50% of these units to other parts of the City so that the City can finally begin to show real commitment to Fair Share and to decentralizing poverty in Alexandria.

2) Density should be limited to that level which makes the redevelopment possible but should be in keeping with the scale of the existing historical and bordering neighborhood. Heights should complement Alfred, Columbus, First and Powhatan residential properties and should also complement the architectural design of the new Charles Houston community center.

3) BE/PG should not be an experimental zone for more affordable housing. The neighborhood maintains its status as one which affords both rental and ownership properties that are affordable in nature. The redevelopment zone should not make the addition of new affordable units a priority in order to increase density for developers or to extract additional proffers from developers. Again there are many development and redevelopment projects on-going in the City that should be looked at first for opportunities to expand affordable housing.

4) Bland has adequate open and green space under its current configuration and maintaining an adequate amount of useable green space for recreation and community building should be a priority in redevelopment.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Gerri Madrid-Davis