Editor: Many of us have grown and changed with Arlington.
I arrived 40 years ago, fresh out of the Peace Corps, with my Turkish husband and little money. We found an affordable rental in the Buckingham community. (A $900,000 townhouse sits there now.)
Like other young people with college degrees, we were eventually able to buy, in our case, a 100-year-old wreck of a place in Glencarlyn. That $60,000 purchase later sold for $575,000, and that sum allowed me to pursue a dream of scaling down and moving to a condo on Columbia Pike.
Much has changed in Arlington; much has remained the same.
My neighborhoods of Buckingham, Glencarlyn and Columbia Heights were and continue to be neighborhoods of rich diversity. Two of these places have a collection of mixed-income housing that eludes most of America. Many of us along the Pike speak with pride about the many languages, income levels and cultures you will encounter if your heart and eyes are open to the possibilities. Visit the Penrose Square Fountain on a summer evening. I love that scene.
Contrary to what some say, the schools in South Arlington have been diverse and have had substantial percentages of low-income children for many years. My own kids were not only well-prepared for higher education by Arlington Public Schools, but were in relationships with children from all walks of life. They speak of their school experiences with pride.
My APS connection outlasted my children’s, but my pride is the same as theirs. As a K-1 teacher in Title I schools, I witnessed places of great learning, hard work, struggles and challenges, joy and friendships. I saw children enter school with just a few words of English and, less than a year later, hypothesize in oral and written language on why a grape sinks and a watermelon floats in science class.
I never witnessed the so-called “un-recoverable effects” of being in a school with 40 to 50 percent (or higher) poverty rates. Rather, I saw a highly professional, dedicated staff with low turnover, continually reflecting on their methods and interventions, using best practices to reach all children regardless of income, language ability, level of giftedness or housing situation. Successes are many.
We talk of protecting the integrity of a neighborhood. I believe that is what the proposed Affordable Housing Master Plan does. It is not a plan to drastically change any neighborhood. It is a plan to address the affordable-housing crisis.
Since 2000, Arlington has seen a loss of 13,500 market-rate-affordable units; more than 60 percent these units were in South Arlington; 3,300 were along the Pike.
What an opportunity we have at this moment to preserve our vision of being a diverse and inclusive county. Let us endorse the Affordable Housing Master Plan as we embrace our schools and our people.
Pat Findikoglu, Arlington