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The recently departed and unmourned 2020 went into the history books as the year that Arlington officials teed up their efforts to kill off single-family zoning by way of the “missing middle” study that is now under way.
You can’t say we didn’t give the community plenty of notice.
It was several years ago, in this very space in fact, that we cautioned Arlingtonians that housing activists and their enablers in elected and staff positions within the county government would be gunning to eradicate single-family zoning in the community.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” came the reply. (Not unlike the reply when we opined, even earlier, that having eliminated “Lee” from Washington-Lee High School, the spigot would be opened for a vast renaming effort countywide in order to assuage some misplaced guilt of self-flagellating progressives. And each case, well, here we are.)
You can tell which way the wind blows on housing by the phraseology of the government’s community survey designed, ostensibly, to set the table for the discussion to follow. In the best bureaucratic traditions, questions were crafted to ensure the exact responses desired, with those responses used to “prove” that the community is backing the effort. Not particularly subtle, but often effective.
2020 also was the year of the great pivot on this issue, not unlike the great pivot that occurred in the midst of the Columbia Pike streetcar debate.
If you can remember back to that imbroglio, the initial rationale given for the streetcar by proponents was to move people faster and ease congestion. When it became clear those were fantasies (buses prove just as fast, and woe unto the Pike if a streetcar broke down), advocates shifted to an economic-development argument.
When it comes to “missing-middle” housing, the first justification put forth was that changes to zoning would allow for less-expensive housing.
That too appears to be largely fantasy, so now the argument has moved to the need for more housing, with virtually no discussion on the impact on everything from transportation to sewers to schools. It is coupled with contention that single-family zoning is a vestige of a racist past and therefore has to be exorcised as an act of penance.
(County Board Chairman-of-2020 Libby Garvey kept flogging that spurious thesis, another example of her, mmm, shaky leadership during a calamitous year.)
We have no dog in the hunt; if Arlingtonians really want to throw out the once-sacrosanct zoning maps and move to Ayn Rand-inspired free-market housing development, gussied up in a cloak of equity to appeal to liberal sensibilities, who are we to stand in the way?
But if those with valid concerns about the very real negative impacts of such a policy shift don’t get moving, this train will not just have left the station, but will have arrived at its destination, before this new year is out.