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Letter: Will Missing Middle bring more affordable housing? Don't be silly.

Upzoning will be a boon for developers, a mess for residents

To the editor: This letter is written to Arlington County Board members as a former member and chair of the Arlington County Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), as well as a member and vice chair of the Arlington County Planning Commission, to voice my displeasure if not outright anger with the both the process and expressed intent of the Missing Middle program.

After dedicating so much of my spare time, along with my fellow members, to protect, maintain and improve the character of our neighborhoods, your Missing Middle effort is both wrong-headed and likely to fail. It leaves me baffled by your insistence on solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

I live just off Langston Boulevard on a cul-du-sac. There has been no evidence of any kind of racial prejudice over the past 35 years (since 1988). My neighbors include a mixture of families – whites, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. If there was any sense of housing restriction, it is based on simple economics.

Any serious planner will confirm that people have always traded housing dollars for housing location – especially in relation to time and its relationship to their workplace. As such, anyone has an unimpeded opportunity to afford Arlington, as I did, by career and economic growth, savings and patience. The notion that everyone should be able to live in Arlington is as absurd as suggesting an inalienable right to live in County Club Hills, Chevy Chase or Georgetown.

The notion expressed by your studies that more affordable housing will become available with Missing Middle is laughable – and your study leaders have admitted as much. Only residential developers will benefit from wide-open rezoning of our single-family neighborhoods. Developers will target the highest market prices, and nothing near your objective of reduced housing costs will be realized.

Lastly, if you had suggested a careful and considered study of county areas with adequate social services, appropriate infrastructure, transportation, schools and residentially related retail adjacencies, then I could wholeheartedly support a carefully conceived plan for upzoning. As such, the plan is doomed to destroy the character of our existing single-family neighborhoods, our tree canopy and our utility infrastructure – not to mention further stress our schools.

Without the critical guardrails of setback distances, massing and height limitations, and on-site parking, your imprint on Arlington will be a slowly evolving disaster.

I close in noting that it makes me regret that I spent so much time protecting Arlington’s character, over so many years, to see it ruined by ill-conceived, misguided and hamfisted planning.

Michael Gick, AIA, MRTPI, Arlington