Lots of education research confirms that children who read below grade level in the 3rd grade have a very hard time ever catching up. And if children can’t read well, they really struggle in school. If they don’t enjoy reading, they tend not to spend the time to learn to read better. Many even drop out of school early and rarely pursue post-secondary education. 

Even though Arlington is a highly educated community overall, we have lots of children in Arlington elementary schools whose reading skills fall behind. The impact may be most significant in families where there are few books at home, where the native language isn’t English, and where parents have little time to read with their children due to job schedules. COVID has obviously exacerbated this challenge.

In the spring of 2022, a few volunteers began a pilot program in partnership with Hoffman-Boston Elementary School.  That pilot was very successful and gave us an opportunity to fine tune the logistics. We’re now planning for the 2022-23 school year and expanding to Drew and Long Branch, in addition to continuing at Hoffman-Boston.

The minimum commitment is 45 minutes one day per week, between 4and 6 PM, simply reading with a student one on one and chatting about the book(s) (and anything else the child wants to discuss!).  There is a formal process for approving volunteers and a short online training class on Safe Schools. School staff provides books and coordinates the schedule for each volunteer.If you’d like more information or just want to sign up, please contact Dan Dixon (202-262-8338 or dandixon97@aol.com).

Who Was Dr. Charles Drew?

By Kalkidan Ausink

You may be familiar with Charles R. Drew Elementary or Community Center, but not the local hero for whom the school is named, a Black physician whose blood transfusion discoveries transformed emergency medicine and surgery. When Dr. Drew started studying blood, it only had a shelf life of a few days, which meant the donor had to almost be co-located with the recipient—an unmanageable situation in times of war, for example. Drew made two remarkable discoveries: 1) he figured out that cells are what determine blood type and that plasma, when separated from cells, could be given to anyone regardless of blood type and 2) he invented a method by which plasma could be dried and reconstituted when needed. 

Dr. Drew was born in 1904 as the eldest son of a carpet layer. He grew up in Washington D.C. and attended Dunbar High School, the first public high school for Black students in the United States. In 1920, Drew’s oldest sister died from tuberculosis and influenza during a city-wide epidemic. Drew’s family blamed the city’s air for her death and moved to Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood that year. 

Drew attended Amherst College on an athletic scholarship, lettering in four sports. He suffered a college football injury and credits the ensuing hospitalization, along with the death of his sister, as inspiring his interest in medicine. After Amherst, Drew earned medical and surgery degrees from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He returned to our area in 1935 as a pathology instructor at Howard University and later earned a Doctor of Medical Science degree from Columbia University, the first African American to do so. 

Drew saved thousands of lives as the medical director for “Blood for Britain,” creating what would eventually be today’s mobile blood bank for British soldiers in World War II. As Drew ramped up plasma stockpiles for America’s entry into the war, the military stipulated that the American Red Cross exclude African Americans from donating, later deciding that they could donate blood, but only for Black troops. Drew, the leading expert in blood banking, was ineligible to participate in the program he helped establish. He resigned in protest. In 1950, at age 45, Drew’s life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in North Carolina. Drew’s home at 2505 1st Street South is a historical landmark.

Missing Middle Housing: Arguments For and Against

By Chris Thompson and Elaine Simmons

On November 12th, Arlington County leaders will decide whether to implement new zoning laws to allow for denser population on our existing county footprint; in this case by rezoning current single-family-only residential zones. 

First, a few facts. County data indicate that about 24% of the county’s housing stock is detached single-family homes (SFH) and about 47% is mid- or high-rise multifamily housing. Most of the remaining 29% is low-rise garden-style apartment buildings. In 2018, under then current zoning rules, the county forecast a net growth of 68,300 residents from 2020 through 2045 (a 30% increase in our population), with many or most of these presumably housed in an expanding number of mid- and high-rise buildings. Our county has more room to build “up” to accommodate expected population growth than to create new, low-density, single-family neighborhoods. In fact, the notable recent past trend in the Arlington SFH stock is not the growth in quantity; it is the growth in the size of homes via renovation or total replacement. According to the Alliance for Housing Solutions, the average size of a replacement home for an Arlington “teardown” in the past 10 years was three times the size of the original house, with an average sales price of $1.7 million. The concept to use the limited space we have to grow the proportion of housing that is neither SFH nor mid-/high-rise is called “Missing Middle (MM) Housing.” 

Proponents of MM support this land-use approach because they see SFHs on typical lots (1/6 acre in the case of Arlington) as beyond the economic reach of those in the middle class. The county also aims to rectify the injustice inflicted by racial exclusionary practices dating from the 1930s of limiting neighborhoods to SFHs. The MM approach is to rezone current SFH-only neighborhoods to allow for a mix of duplexes, triplexes, and even 8-plexes as, long as the building meets the same standard as a single-family dwelling. The desired outcome is more units of housing that are less expensive than new single-family units, with an intended focus on walkable/shoppable neighborhoods. This should benefit those looking to move into Arlington, those wanting to up-size within the County, and older residents looking to downsize within the same neighborhood. Environmental arguments for MM are that multi-family units have a lower per capita carbon footprint than large SFHs and increasing housing density within Arlington will reduce sprawl outside our county. Look for the County’s slides promoting the MM approach at https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Programs/Housing/Housing-Arlington/Tools/Missing-Middle   Also, you can find a major MM advocacy group’s website here: Five Things to Know About Missing Middle Housing — Alliance for Housing Solutions

Opponents of increasing the allowable density in low-density neighborhoods say that duplexes (which have sold in Arlington for $1.2M) and tri-plexes will be unaffordable for middle-income buyers. They agree that 6- or 8-family dwellings in neighborhoods like Lyon Park should be more affordable but expect them to be mostly rentals. They also consider the MM proposals as environmentally unsound (especially in reducing the tree canopy) and unduly taxing on County infrastructure (to include road congestion, stormwater/flood control, parking, schools and other public facilities). Opponents point to County data indicating that 60% of Arlington’s trees are found in the residential areas targeted by MM, which reduces the tree replacement requirements by up to 50%. Look for arguments against MM on the Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future website at: https://www.asf-virginia.org/missing-middle-housing.

If you are a first-time buyer in Arlington or are up-sizing within the county, a key question is what size MM housing unit (duplex through 8-plex) will be within your financial reach?  If you already live in an Arlington SFH neighborhood, how will multi-family units nearby affect you? Will MM optimistically yield a more accessible and diverse community, or will that optimism be tempered by issues often associated with higher density living, such as school crowding, competition for parking and traffic congestion? The county has sent up engagement opportunities at this link:  

Keeping “Abreast” of the Turkey Trot

Based on an interview with Mark Riley, member of Christ Church of Arlington and Turkey Trot race director (aka “Chief Turkey”)

With the 17th running of the Arlington 5K Turkey Trot fast approaching, Mark Riley talked turkey on how the race started, how it has changed, and why it is important. While the race now has a max of 4,000 registrants and is a beloved tradition in Arlington, it started as a suggestion by the wife of the former pastor of Christ Church to reach out to the community. She had some prior experience organizing a race; the rest of the church volunteers had a very steep learning curve, but they were game!

The first race in 2006 had 275 runners and disbursed $4,200 to two beneficiaries right here in the neighborhood: Doorways and Bridges to Independence. In recent, “normal” times, with the help of about 100 volunteers and corporate sponsors, the typical net is about $120,000—all gravy!!  The beneficiaries have grown from two to 18. The organizers target non-profits with modest budgets doing important work locally. The goal: inclusion of these organizations in the community as well as inclusion of the people they help (who often don’t feel included). 

Covid was a challenge for the race, especially in 2020. The choices were suspending the race entirely or conducting it virtually. The decision was the latter option and participants “did their own thing,” including one family that sent pictures of themselves at an Atlantic beach jogging in turkey regalia. But the race still took a hit: registrants dropped by 75%. 

Last year the in-person Turkey Trot rebounded with 3,200 registrants but there were other challenges, such as not enough police on the force to support the effort. Cancelation was one option, but organizers decided instead on a “course correction”—literally, which meant running up and down Pershing Drive. No, not terribly exciting but it allowed the race to happen. This year the organizers expect the course to be back to normal, with the same route as in 2019. 

While the Turkey Trot attracts serious runners with 15–16-minute times (that’s a sizzling sub-5 minute mile pace), many participants are there to have fun, with a costume lineup to include a gorilla, dinosaur, flamingo, families of bananas and squirrels, Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, pilgrims, and, of course, TURKEYS!!!  There are adults who now run it with their kids who once ran it as kids with their parents. 

There are many ways to participate: you can donate, promote, register, sponsor, or volunteer. All are opportunities for organizing community resources, inspiring family fun, and addressing charitable needs. So don’t chicken out:  join in and help the community!

Let’s Recycle…Properly

Nearly all our residents participate in recycling, but many blue recycle bins contain items that don’t belong there. Plastic bags are a major no-no, since they get tangled in recycling machinery. Anything in plastic bags is discarded as trash. Here is a list of items that should not go in your blue recycle bin:

Does Not Belong in Blue Recycle BinWhere Can it Go?
Plastic bags, bubble wrapSelect grocery stores* take clean, dry plastic bags or put in trash
Glass of any kindPut in the big metal bin at the Quincy Recycling Dropoff on Washington Blvd, near W&L High School, or put in trash
Plastic less than 4 inchesGoes in the trash
Disposable drinking, coffee, and condiment plastic cups/tops and plastic platesGoes in the trash
StyrofoamFor the highly motivated recycler, EPS Recycling in Crofton MD takes Styrofoam. Google them for more info. They do not accept packing peanuts
Styrofoam packing peanutsParcel Plus in the Lee Harrison shopping center accepts packing peanuts for reuse. Other packaging/mailing stores may also
Food and food tainted paper productsPut all food and food tainted paper in your beige, countertop compost bin; transfer to your green yard waste bin for pickup
Wire hangersDrop off at select dry cleaners** if in good shape for reuse or put in the trash
Shredded paperGoes in the trash
Plastic eating utensils (e.g., forks)Drop clean utensils at The Lamb Center for the homeless in Fairfax City for reuse or put in put the trash
Electronic waste, kitchenwareSee Arlington county’s recycling website for more info
* Including Giant Food (3450 Washington Blvd) and Harris Teeter (600 N Glebe Rd)
**Including Hurt Cleaners (3410 Wilson Blvd)

Saving Our Diminishing Tree Canopy

By Anne Bodine

Several months ago, after a lively discussion at an LPCA meeting, the association’s co-presidents encouraged a group of Lyon Park tree lovers to form the Lyon Park Tree Group to explore how to save or boost our precious tree canopy. 

Our Canopy is Shrinking!  Lyon Park lost 11% of its canopy from 2011-2016, the highest percentage of any large civic association in Arlington. The canopy reduction from 2000-2016 was a worrisome 23%. Here are additional key facts that drive the mission of our group:  

Lyon Park Area and Tree Canopy

Total land area30 acres
Potential tree canopy cover59%
Actual tree canopy cover34%
Land area that could be covered with canopy but currently is not25%
Based on 2017 county data

Trees are vital to human and planetary health, and we need more, not less of them. Trees cool and raise the value of our homes, they absorb stormwater and pollutants, they control erosion, sequester carbon, offer stress relief/shade, and provide habitat for birds and other animals. Despite these crucial qualities, we are well below the landscape space that could be planted with trees. As the table above indicates, 25% of the land in Lyon Park could be covered with canopy but is not. 

To increase our canopy, the Lyon Park Tree Group has taken the following actions:

  1. Begun identifying lots where we will approach owners to ask if they would like to receive one of the free trees available through Arlington’s Tree Canopy Fund;
  2. Met with two Alexandria women who increased the canopy in their neighborhood by almost 300 trees via outreach to neighbors. We hope to launch a similar effort in mid-September; 
  3. Coordinated with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Arlington’s Urban Forestry Office to green a section of Route 50 near Cambridge Courts with 129 new trees;
  4. Created an interactive map of the trees in Lyon Park, showing approximate age and species/genus. We were helped by group member and Lyon Park tree steward Bill Anhut. We drew on a 100-year-old map showing the full scope of waterways – part of the Long Branch of the Potomac River – that transected the park back in the day. 

But the volunteer Tree Group can’t do this alone. Community involvement is key to restoring canopy. You can get new trees for free for your property through the Tree Canopy Fund, you can help get more trees planted on other properties, or you can volunteer to save trees via activities such as cutting invasives. Email Lyonparkeditor@gmail.com if interested. Read the Arlington County Tree Canopy Report.

Our Solar Journey

By John Ausink

This is not about billionaires’ vanity projects in space, it is about the process of getting solar panels on our roof and dropping our electric bill to zero. Arlington County has, on average, 201 sunny days per year. Why let that sun go to waste?  Why not use it to save money and reduce your carbon footprint?

Our solar experience began when my spouse saw a sign in a neighbor’s yard with the name of the company that had installed their panels. I chatted with the neighbor and then contacted the company. 

To my initial irritation, the rep wanted our home address before we could set up an appointment. However, in our first Zoom call with the company, they produced an image of our home’s roof, showed the exact panel design, predicted the impact of the growth of our trees on energy production, and determined the exact cost–all in the first meeting!  We signed a contract in February, and the system was installed in May – a 10kW system with 25 panels. 

The Feds still allow a 26% tax credit for solar systems, so comparing the cost of the system (minus the credit) to our annual electric bill allowed us to calculate how many years it would take to “pay off” the upfront cost of the panels. There are two ways your personal electrical production can save you money:

  1. You will remain connected to your power company, but your electric meter will be changed to a “net meter.”  If your panels produce less electricity than you use, you will still draw (and pay for) power from the grid. If you produce more power than you use, the net meter puts it into the grid and your next bill will be reduced by the value of that electricity. In other words, you won’t get cash for over-producing, but you will get credit.
  2. You will be invited to sign a contract related to Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). SRECs help utilities meet state regulations that require a certain percentage of electricity be produced from renewable sources. Power companies buy and sell them, and SRECs allow you to sell credits for the energy you produce.

Our system is easy to monitor with a cell phone application. Despite what my wife says, I do NOT check our energy production rates every day. Well, maybe sometimes. 

Be aware that several considerations will affect the financial impact of a solar system. First, since the panels have a guaranteed 25-year life, our company required a roof inspection before installation to make sure the solar panels won’t outlast the roof. Second, our house was built in 1920, and our electrical panel required an upgrade to accommodate the solar panels ($1800). Finally, we added an electric vehicle charger to the system ($2200) so the sun can power our future car as well. 

You can explore savings on your own by going to this website: https://www.novasolarmap.com/. Simply enter your home address and a map will show an image of your neighborhood, your roof, an estimate of annual savings on your electric bill and the reduction in your carbon footprint. I hope you will check out the website and consider how you might help the environment and your pocketbook.

Memories of 1950s Arlington

By Rita O’Brien

I moved to Arlington in 1952 with my sister and parents from Bedminster, New Jersey. While it was a good opportunity for my father’s career, it must have been a bit of a shock for my mother leaving behind a big house with 88 acres that had been General Knox’ headquarters during the Revolution for a two-bedroom apartment in Lee Gardens (now Woodbury Park). My sister and I, however, despite trading fields, a barn and a hayloft for playgrounds, friends, and even storm sewers, found it great fun and loved it from Day 1. Our brother was born in 1953, and my sister and I, at the ages of 9 and 10 were allowed to take him in his stroller to Lee Shopping Center on Pershing Drive at Route 50 to pick up groceries for my mother at Lee Market. My father would stop at Lee Bakery for doughnuts after church on Sundays – and birthday cakes and other celebrations always consisted of baked goods from Lee Bakery. Years later, they catered my wedding. 

We moved to Lyon Park in 1954, which as I remember looked pretty much the same as it does now, with the exception that houses were not being torn down to be replaced. Neighborhoods were tree-lined with sidewalks to ride bikes and skate. There were some businesses in Lyon Park at Pershing Drive and Washington Boulevard – a restaurant that we always called “Eat” due to the sign outside (it’s now Texas Jack’s – and a favorite of ours). I remember my grandfather and uncle coming to visit and telling my mother they’d take my sister and me for an outing. They gave us money for ice cream, but it turned out we spent the whole time waiting for them in the car while they went into “Eat” for beer!

We loved Lyon Park, with its proximity to the shops: in Clarendon – JC Penney’s, Murphy’s, Sears, shoe stores, etc.; Virginia Square shopping center with Kann’s Department Store, where I worked while I was in college, as well as the bus line down Wilson Boulevard where we would catch the bus to go into Washington to shop. Rosslyn, as many people will remember, was mostly pawn shops. My only recollection of Rosslyn as a child is the streetcar, which we would take to meet my father downtown at his office for dinner. Parkington (now Ballston), I remember for more shopping – I worked at McCrory’s while in high school, and of course, Hecht’s, with its huge wall of glass with messages – and probably ads.

I went to St. Charles from second through eighth grade, then to Bishop O’Connell for high school. Schools (at least mine) were racially segregated during the 1950s. I remember our first black classmate in 5th grade. Sister Marion explained ahead of time that this young lady was joining us, and we were expected to treat her with respect. I remember friendship with her was something to which we all aspired. Back in the 1950s during the Cold War, we would have air raid drills fairly often, where we would have to crouch down under our desks with our hands behind our necks. Looking back, I wonder why educators put us through that trauma (and it was, and to some extent remains) as I sincerely doubt that exercise would prevent harm in the case of a nuclear attack.

We rented in Lyon Park, moving to our 4-bedroom house in Ashton Heights in 1960, and I believe my parents paid about $17,000; they sold it around 1970 for about $26,000. My husband and I purchased our first house nearer to Falls Church in 1967 – a 3-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath – for $28,000, and my father was shocked that we paid so much!

We lacked a lot of what kids these days have. Most moms – not all – stayed home; as a rule, families had one car and one television. We did not have structured activities but were free to roam and to play what and with whom we wanted. It was an amazing place to grow up – and for that matter, it’s an amazing place to grow old!

Professionals Talk About our Local Housing Market

By Natalie Roy (Bicycling Realty Group | KW Metro Center) and John Eric (Compass Real Estate) 

Lyon Park is one of DC’s most desirable areas, as it provides the best of urban/suburban living with its easy access to stores, shops, and restaurants. Not to mention that the commute to many jobs is very easy. Numerous corporations have chosen Arlington to host their corporate headquarters, which will only continue to drive up the desirability of our neighborhood.

Pricing in Lyon Park generally sits on the higher side, and our current market inventory is still bearing that out. Limited inventory always means high prices. The COVID era created a hyperactive sellers-market, with much more demand than inventory. Remote-working professionals wanting to improve their living situation, historically low interest rates and low inventory set the market on fire. For competitively priced homes, multiple offers, waived contingencies, and escalations over list price were the norm. Offers made sight unseen and contracts done in one day were not unusual. Home prices skyrocketed, increasing 20%-30% in just over two years. 

However, we are seeing an easing in the market due to inflation concerns as well as the rise in interest rates. While there is still competition, home inspections and financing contingencies have returned, and if a home is not competitively priced or presented well, it will sit longer on the market. Buyers are becoming pickier because of the cost of the home (price + interest).

Housing inventory continues to be a challenge. In June, active listings in Arlington were down again by 20% from the same time last year. With a decrease in supply, one would expect to see an increase in average prices, and in fact the average sales price in June was up a slight 2% in the past year. Unit sales were down by 21%, pushing Months of Supply up to a moderate 1.5 (this means it would take about 1.5 months for all available inventory in our market to sell). The average days a house sits on the market experienced no change, continuing to hover around three weeks. 

At the end of the day, unless you are an investor, you should worry less about resale value and more about what kind of home you will enjoy living in. If the past is any indicator, this region is very resilient. It has been able to weather many economic downturns and should be able to do so in the future.

Don’t Commit “Crepe Murder”!

By Elaine Simmons and Dean Amel

The gardening term “crepe murder” has been called the high crime of horticulture. If refers to turning crepe myrtles or other trees into ugly stumps by indiscriminately cutting the ends of healthy branches. This practice creates stress on the tree, can lead to decay, and destroys the natural form of the tree. No one should do this to any tree. 

Large shade trees should be pruned by reputable companies with trained arborists specializing in tree care; these are different from a lawn service. Smaller ornamentals are suitable for select trimming by owners, but it is important to know what you are doing. Websites such as the International Society of Arboriculture (Trees Are Good), extension services from universities such as Oregon State or Clemson, and even commercial websites such as Fiskers provide good information on basic principles of pruning: tools, techniques, when to trim and what to trim. 

You can also call a local arborist in for a walk-through for all your trees to learn more about what to trim and how. Some people hire consulting arborists, who are paid to evaluate your trees but not to do any tree work, because such professionals don’t have any incentive to recommend unnecessary tree work. If cost is an issue, you can Google Tree Stewards of Arlington and Alexandria, a group of volunteers who have gone through classroom and field training on how to plant and prune trees. Tree Stewards are not professionals and can’t advise on tree diseases and cannot do extensive pruning, but they love to give free advice.

Often the pruning problem starts when the tree is planted in the wrong place and gets bigger than the owner desires. Thus, it is important to know the mature size of trees before you install them, since no tree should be topped because it is too big.

What should you trim?  Weak, dead, or diseased wood is fair game. Crossing branches are also candidates for pruning. Very select trimming is also acceptable to increase air circulation and penetration of light. But please, the less you trim the better and be aware that poor pruning can wound a tree in such a way that it is damaged forever. Pruning can be like giving someone a bad haircut; there’s always one more cut you need to make. So please be careful and remember that it is much more expensive to remove a large ailing tree than it is to take proper care of it throughout its life.