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Public Land for Public Good

Excerpt from Justin's November Newsletter

A few months ago, I wrote about the City's efforts to dispose of surplus properties. Pursuant to the City's Real Estate Disposition Policy, most of these properties were sold using a sealed bid competition to achieve the highest return for the taxpayers.

One of the strategies in the recently approved Housing Master Plan was for the City to leverage our City-owned properties. This was done to improve the availability of affordable housing.

Last year, in the City Council's approved budget guidance for the City Manager, I included language that called for the City Manager to assess whether some of our surplus properties could be utilized for unmet social service needs.

Last week, as the first example of such an arrangement, the Council approved an agreement with New Hope Housing, a local non-profit for the operation of 211 Aspen Street.

In 1989, this property was purchased by the City and used as a group home for a few decades. In 2013, the program was shut down due to a budget reduction, and the property designated for surplus.

With the acceptance of the offer from New Hope Housing, this new arrangement now allows for the property to be re-purposed this as a facility for three homeless single men, with a focus on veterans.

Coincidentally enough, this property sits a few houses away from my residence and I'm excited that this arrangement will help us reduce homelessness and give its residents a chance to start anew


Each of these tragic incidents change the lives of the victims and their families in dramatic ways. But for each tragedy, there are also countless close calls and near misses.

In Alexandria, we are fortunate to have pedestrian scale, walkable neighborhoods with urban amenities throughout our City. Yet if residents do not feel they can safely traverse the streets of our City, then all the urban amenities are for naught.

The City has invested millions of taxpayer dollars in attempts to improve pedestrian safety throughout our community. Those resources have included improving pedestrian access to schools, building and improving sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming efforts, bike lanes, new signalization, and more. With the recent large increases in road resurfacing budgets, the Council has also steered new dollars into our "Complete Streets" efforts, the City's program for improving non-vehicular infrastructure.

Yet there are still areas of our City where sidewalks are non-existent or unusable, intersections are unsafe and unsafe driving is rampant. We must improve the safety of our streets for all users.

In the aftermath of last month's fatal accident, the Police Department and the Transportation and Environmental Services Department hosted a community meeting at Maury Elementary to solicit feedback from the community. The result was a lively meeting resulting in great feedback from City residents on ways we can make Alexandria's streets a safer place for all. We continue to solicit input from residents.

The most recent tragedy has made the City's on-going updates to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan all the more important. We have an opportunity, with the adoption of significant revisions to the plan, to change the mindset on our streets.

One of the concepts being discussed by the citizens involved in the process is the adoption of a Vision Zero initiative for Alexandria. While such an initiative would involve significant resources and planning, it simply means that we would design road spaces, traffic regulations and operations to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries.

While eliminating fatalities and serious injuries is a bold and ambitious agenda, we must take steps now to make sure Alexandria streets are safer for all users.



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