The following was sent to the Reed advisory committee, based on responses to the Reed Proposals from HPOK residents:
January 18, 2018
Dear Arlington County Board and Arlington Public School Board:
Highland Park/Overlee Knolls (HPOK) representatives to the BLPC/PFRC have conducted multiple meetings with civic association members and solicited comments via social media. Our members have consistently voiced the following five key take-aways:
The community is strongly in favor of the “integrated” option, and has deep and serious reservations about the Standalone scheme. A sampling of some of the formal comments we have received makes this clear. “Integrated option,” one neighbor writes: “none of the others are acceptable.” “I like the plan that preserves as much green space as possible,” another adds. “I attended the meeting,” another resident notes, “and it certainly seemed like the Integrated Plan was by far the best option: it allows for the most functional school with the smallest possible footprint, which will leave as much green space as possible.” He and his wife added “We strongly oppose creating any parking on the upper soccer field / sledding hill.” Another couple agreed, stating “We like the Integrated Plan the best. It’s really the only acceptable one in terms of the school size and green space preservation,” and added “the Standalone Plan is awful. The school is too big and it takes up too much green space.”
The newly re-added “bridge” option also has some support, although much more limited than the ‘integrated” option. “The bridge option is my #1 choice,” voiced one neighbor. “The bridge option allows the school to be more unified with the commercial center of Westover,” said another.
The community is uniformly and deeply concerned that the county and school boards are not adequately planning for the parking mayhem that will occur with a 725-student school. These residents also insisted that “a traffic study is incredibly important because unlike other school neighborhoods with narrow streets (Discovery comes to mind), we have a library, a retail area, AND a commuting thoroughfare in the mix.” When this resident told her daughter, now 14, about the idea of parking lots on the sledding hill, “she really freaked out. Honestly, I think the kids would be willing to do a sit-in at the APS offices if that ever moves forward.” A long-term resident asserts “I can’t tell you how destructive that Stand-Alone plan would be to the Westover community and how betrayed by Arlington Public Schools the community would feel if it were to materialize.” He adds. “That scheme goes would go against everything everything APS, Arlington County and the Westover community have agreed upon since the late 1990s and especially during the $22 million Westover/Reed reconstruction of 2009.”
The community is dubious about an exit onto Washington Blvd from a northwest parking lot – it may or may not be effective (it could create a bottleneck, there are limited views, the slope of the roadway could make it dangerous for pedestrians and bikers), there’s no indication that the county has taken any steps toward assessing that idea, and the community is doubtful that the state would even approve that change given recent investments in Washington Blvd. There is no indication that the boards are taking into account the additional parking that would come with weekend or evening events at the school – the community is concerned that this lack of sufficient parking could paralyze the community and even drive out fragile businesses.
Community members do not want a parking structure in the existing lot behind the library/school for fear of bottle necks created by narrow entry points and lack of space for ramps. There is also concern about how a parking structure would impact residential properties.
Two ideas presented to the BLPC/PFRC—(1) a partnership with the Westover businesses to expand the parking behind Ayers, Westover Market, etc. and (2) a potential county purchase of homes on18th across from the school for parking – should be explored.
Community members are concerned about a “concrete tunnel” will replace the current walkway in the northwest part of the school. We understand this is a potential space for a new parking lot, but this is also a critical path for residents to access the Westover village.
Lastly, any model chosen must be designed to take into account the scale of the residential neighborhood and commercial areas. We understand this the next phase of the building process, and the community looks forward to working closely with the boards and architects to ensure this is accomplished.
Thank you for your interest in recommendations of the HP-OK civic association. We would be happy to engage in further conversation if and when helpful.
Mike O’Malley and Dianne Hasselman