Yard Signs, Survey, and other ways to participate, 10/20/2018

Posted on October 24, 2018

Please attend the 8 PM Monday 10/29/2018 Town Council meeting.

Yard signs

I have more yard signs in stock.  Those who asked for one over the past week should have one planted on your lawn this afternoon (Friday 11/2/2018).

You may either pick up a sign at the end of my driveway (226 Glen Ave SW, see map below), or sign up below, and we’ll plant one on your lawn.

When you are done with your sign and no longer want it, you are welcome to bring it back to the address above, stick it at the end of my driveway, and I’ll deal with it from there.

Yard sign request


The survey is closed at this point, and I am not using any new entries. 

I have a proper survey about MAC zoning up and running.  After talking about it for some time, I finally executed a survey of Town of Vienna residents regarding MAC zoning.  I drew a random sample of 400 addresses from a commercial mailing list of addresses in the Town of Vienna.  I sent a letter inviting those 400 people to take the survey.  The letters went out on 10/19/2018, and all I can do now is wait for people to take it.

Despite my own feelings about MAC zoning, I went out of my way to offer (what I believe is) a completely neutral and even-handed survey.   You can take the survey via this link.  The survey is closed as of 10/28/2018 so that I can analyze the results.

Just to be clear, only the answers from a randomly selected 400 addresses in Vienna will be part of the formal statistical analysis.  Why would I want you to take the survey, then?  I am looking for a benchmark to compare to my random sample.  My guess is, the only people outside of the 400 randomly chosen who will take that survey are people who dislike these new MAC buildings.  (For example, people who take the time to read this website.)  I’ll use those responses as my benchmark for what the average MAC-hater thinks.  And use that to show that  my random sample — what I hope is a true cross-section of Vienna residents —  does in fact give me materially different answers.

I did this survey for a few reasons.  As I have discussed elsewhere, the Town’s prior survey questions around these issues were totally mom-and-apple-pie questions.  At some point, I realized that the Town of Vienna probably was not capable of doing a real survey because a real survey would have to address both benefits and drawbacks of MAC zoning.  For example, you will never hear the phrase “there will be more traffic with these large new buildings” uttered by most members of the Town Council.  A government that is officially in denial can’t produce any sort of realistic survey.

And my survey is, in part, a reaction to the Town’s “visual preference” survey, which I view as mainly a way to stall for time (and make no material changes to MAC zoning) until after the next Town election.  The very first illustration in the Town’s survey has them back to the trick of using cute little buildings to illustrate what can be done under MAC zoning.  I took pains to show how ludicrously out-of-scale their first illustration is, compared to actual MAC buildings, in the link just above.

So if the Town won’t and probably can’t do a real survey, to see what the Town really thinks about these changes under MAC zoning, I figured somebody should.  I’ve done surveys professionally, and I used survey data all the time.  Plus, it’s not like it’s rocket science.  You draw a random sample, you ask some questions.  In a totally anonymous survey like mine, you can’t even try to adjust for non-response bias (e.g., that people who really hate MAC would be more motivated to take the survey).  And SurveyMonkey and similar websites makes it easy to set up a survey.  Really, the only hard part was generating and mailing the 400 letters of invitation.

And once I have the time, I’m going to survey residents of Falls Church.  The Town denies it, but what they’re doing is more-or-less copying what Falls Church did.  In essence, the Town Council aims to turn Maple Avenue into something more akin to downtown Falls Church.  I have heard mixed reports of how the citizens of Falls Church like their new, big, “mixed use” buildings.  Maybe somebody should ask them, and at the same time, see if there are any mistakes they made that maybe we should try to avoid.

Other actions?


I have already noted here that I’ve (almost) stopped buying anything in the Town of Vienna.  Shopping on Maple is convenient, but it’s not necessary.  I’m convinced that the Town of Vienna is doing MAC zoning, in part, for the tax revenues.  It’s no secret that big mixed-use buildings have brought in a lot of new tax revenues to Falls Church.  And if some part of my spending goes to the Town government, at this point, that’s reason enough for me to shop elsewhere.

That said, it’s a one-man boycott, and I have no stomach for trying to organize something larger.  I’m pretty sure that the existing Town of Vienna restaurants and merchants are going to be hurt significantly by MAC, and there’s no use in trying to organize further damage.

Why do I think existing shops and restaurants will suffer under MAC?  Just look at McDonald’s, and the new MAC Chick-fil-A building going up next door.  It’s a pretty good guess that the new Chick-fil-A is going to siphon off some of what would otherwise be McDonald’s business.

And that’s a perfect metaphor for what the Town is doing.  Basically, they are force-feeding new retail space onto Maple avenue.  Lots and lots of it.   Absolutely mandatory to include it if you want to build housing on Maple.  And this new retail space may be “cross-subsidized” by the housing that sits on top of it.  In other words, the builders could, if they chose, offer low rents for the retail space, because the housing rent or sales price alone is enough to make these MAC buildings profitable.

The upshot is that any existing restaurant or retail location in Vienna is going to face a) more competition, in b) cute new buildings, where c) building owners may very well have to (and be able to) offer low rents to fill all this new space.

Honestly, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more negative feedback on MAC from existing businesses on Maple.  The mandatory-retail-space component of MAC is effectively force-growing their competition on Maple Avenue.

I’ve tabulated that information, I might as well provide it here.  The upshot is that what’s in the pipeline already, for MAC, is the equivalent of adding two new little shopping centers to Maple Avenue.  The net additional retail space for these first five building is more than all the retail space in the two little brown shopping centers on the west end of Maple (Jades Shopping Center and Vienna Plaza).