The Berkeley of the East Coast

Has the City of Charlottesville become the Berkeley of the East Coast, a college-dominated town populated with enough leftists to enforce their destructive brand of politics? Maybe not quite yet, but when anarchists are referring to the liberal Democrats on City Council as “fascists” (view the video above), it could be getting close.

“While Charlottesville’s government continues to spin wildly off-center, raucous public meetings and accompanying calls for social, economic, and legal anarchy come at great cost,” writes Rob Schilling, a local radio host who bills himself as the first and last Republican since 1986 to get elected to the Charlottesville City Council, in the Bearing Drift blog. Consider the following, taken verbatim from his article:

  • Most recently, local developer and perennial City Council ally, Keith O. Woodard, cancelled the long-planned $50 million West 2nd project, citing an “adversarial” relationship with the City and “uncertain” process. The development was expected to net Charlottesville nearly $1 million annually in direct tax revenue.
  • Adding insult to injury, Charlottesville City Councilor, Mike Signer, himself was General Counsel on the Project Team for WillowTree at Woolen Mills. In such capacity he presumably helped negotiate app developer WillowTree’s exodus from Charlottesville into neighboring Albemarle County—a $20 million, 200-job boon for Albemarle’s economy and another crushing financial blow to the City, this time delivered by a Charlottesville elected official.
  • Nine years on, the rusting hulk of the Landmark Hotel on Charlottesville’s downtown mall stands as a monument to ineffective, bumbling, incompetent governance. The economic implications are manifest; no rational developer would risk large-scale “investing” here presently.

Says Schilling: “The escalating social and civic anarchy promulgated by the current crop of councilors has impelled Charlottesville into a rapid downward spiral, wherein nothing much may be left to ‘tear down’ when all is said and done.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Charlottesville enjoys a historic opportunity for urban revival as broad economic forces across the nation propel investment capital and people back into traditional downtowns and urban neighborhoods. In other Virginia metros, businesses are moving from the suburban jurisdictions to the urban cities, not the other way around. It would be a shame — and an object lesson to others — if the crazies ruined everything.

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27 responses to “The Berkeley of the East Coast”

  1. djrippert Avatar


    You keep saying … “In other Virginia metros, businesses are moving from the suburban jurisdictions to the urban cities, not the other way around.”

    I think that’s very misleading. Neither people nor businesses are fleeing the suburbs for the core city (assuming you could consider any of Virginia’s “cities” to be real cities). Let’s look at migration of people in NoVa:

    Here are the DC numbers for population change from 2010 through 2017;

    Fairfax County +6.2%
    Loudoun County +27.5%
    Alexandria City +14.3%
    Arlington County +13.2%
    Prince William County +15.2%

    In fairness, the City of Washington, DC grew at 15.3% during that same period. However, the entire region is growing and growing rapidly – not just the core city.

    As an aside, the population of the US grew 5.9% during this period. Virginia’s population has grown 5.5% over the same period. Virginia added 444,814 people while the suburban entities I listed above added 260,904 of that total. In other words, the larger NoVa suburbs accounted for 59% of Virginia’s population increase from 2010 through 2017. The “City” of Richmond grew at 9.3% during that period adding 18,956 people while Henrico County grew by 6.4% adding 19,566 people.

    Either the suburban to urban migration you have been imagining isn’t happening or counties like Arlington and Henrico aren’t really suburban places. Drawing a bright line between the “City” of Charlottesville and Albemarle County may make sense in the pea brained politics of Virginia but not in the demographic sense of walkable communities. Reston Town Center is as walkable as anywhere in the so-called “City” of Richmond.

    You also miss the critical point of Charlottesville being a wholly separate political entity from Albemarle County. That ONLY happens in Virginia. In every other state in America there would be reasons for the city to cooperate with the county and visa-versa. In Virginia it’s a win/lose game.

    1. Don, I am well aware of Ed Risse’s core confusing words. But I stand by my statement that the movement is from the “suburbs” toward the center cities. I know for a fact that that’s the trend in the Richmond region, mainly because it has been so incredibly difficult from a zoning perspective to do urban development in Henrico and Chesterfield. If you want to live/work/play in a walkable, mixed use neighborhood in the Richmond region, you have almost no choice but to live in the city. The resistance by county politicians and staff has been extraordinary.

      Your oft-made comparison between densities in NoVa and Richmond aren’t relevant to the discussion. Within the Richmond region, densities are consistently greater in the City of Richmond than in the surrounding counties. I don’t know many people who live and work in the Richmond region who want walkable urbanism who are willing to consider living in Northern Virginia as viable option.

      All other things being equal, larger metropolitan areas almost always have higher density cores than do smaller metros. That’s because larger metros create demand for higher property values in the core, and higher property values support higher density.

      As for Charlottesville and Albemarle, I have to agree with you. I have seen zero walkable urbanism in Albemarle. If you live in the Cville metropolitan region and want walkable urbanism, you have no choice but to live in the City of Charlottesville.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        “Within the Richmond region, densities are consistently greater in the City of Richmond than in the surrounding counties.”

        This is the core of your misunderstanding. Both cities and counties are too big to use as the generalizable entities. I’ve been in places within the City of Richmond which are hopelessly low density and “Un-walkable”. I imagine there are places in Henrico County that are high density and walkable … even if the county, on average, is not. A very smart female COO of a big tech company once said to me, “My average customer has one breast and one testicle. What do I do with that information?”

        I hear you about the resistance from county supervisors to density and walkability. I live in one of the most un-walkable places in Northern Virginia … Great Falls. You would quite literally take your life in your hands by walking down the sidewalk-less, shoulder-less streets. I’ve gone to meeting and advocated (along with a few neighbors) for sidewalks and bike trails. Hell, there’s plenty of space. I’m told (almost always by very old people) that Great Falls has a “semi-rural” atmosphere which can only be preserved by making the roads useless for anything but cars. It’s insanity! Nobody in their right mind sees Great Falls as any kind of rural any more. It’s a low density suburb. And it would be a much more valuable low density suburb with sidewalks and paved bike trails. However, down the road in Reston (also an unincorporated part of Fairfax County, like Great Falls) the density is high, the sidewalks and bike trails exist and it is a very walkable community. It is also an extremely popular place to live with almost constant construction occurring for the very mixed use buildings you and I both like. Reston’s growth and increasing density will be supported by the Metro extension you detest built by the MWAA you can’t stand and operated by WMATA which you ridicule. Do those entities have problems? Yes. Is it fair to pay for Metro expansion with Dulles Toll Road tolls? Probably not. But in the grans scheme of things the only hope for Fairfax County is full scale urbanization and that comes with a plethora of inconveniences.

        Now, if I can just convince my neighbors that sidewalks are not the devil’s playthings!

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Naw.. Charlottesville is no more Berkeley than Berkeley represents California which if it were a country would be the 8th biggest economy in the world.

    Likewise – Charlottesville has been reported to be …. ” fastest-growing for startup investment in U.S.” in 2016…. surely it has not collapsed into a smoldering and hollowed out shell in that time.

    I suspect the truth of the matter is that because Charlottesville has the University and Medical Center – it can be – and is – choosy about development and not afraid to let developers walk if the terms are not
    right for the city.

    Yes..they have the usual amount of “leftists” for a typical large University city…. but the fervent dreams of the right – that a city – ANY city – go up in flames because of it’s “liberal/leftist” governance – is unbounded!!!!

    The simple truth is that virtually all cities are, in the eyes of Conservatives…. nests of leftists and loons…. or in California’s case – full of “nuts and fruits”.

    The thing is – Conservatives are unfit to govern. We got the proof all around us… they want to trash the institutions.. whether they be health care or education or immigration – and they have nothing to replace them with other than ideology and failed economic ideas like supply side…

    By Conservatives own words – every single industrialized country on the planet is living proof of socialism on steroids… and apparently no where in the US or on earth itself is a good model of how Conservatives would run things… except in all those fetid 3rd world _hit-hole countries… 😉

    Va would so so lucky to have more Charlottesvilles …. and Blacksburgs… etc… more/better education and more jobs… and yes.. a few more of those pesky “leftists”.. 🙂

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Immigration. What’s wrong with enforcing the laws on the books? Go after businesses that hire unauthorized workers. Sue them. Prosecute them. We cannot have immigration reform unless and until we control the borders. When we no longer see an avalanche of poor people sneaking across the border and not overstaying visas, we can then have a compassionate plan to allow those who have been here for years, paid taxes and not broken laws.

    We would also see pressure on our institutions to educate children better so that they have the skills to earn a decent living, wages would increase, welfare programs would decrease and capital investment in better technology would grow. Open borders hurt Americans, except for those who exploit the labor market or work for the government delivering social services.

  4. College towns everywhere are subject to ill-conceived and well conceived urban projects and urban governments. Certainly in some college towns in New England in the mid 20th century, the starry-eyed forces of benevolent welfare, led by the local institution’s faculty and student community, attracted massive in-migrations of urban poor that it has taken decades to undo with anything approaching similar benevolence, More lately the dominant local university has had to spearhead the stabilization of the entire surrounding urban landscape by buying up properties and playing city planner and landlord in a big way. E.g., Hartford, Schenectady, New Haven. Why should Charlottesville be exempt from repeating these common mistakes?

    I think DJR understates the urban in-migration significantly: he gives net population growth by jurisdiction, but in areas that are gentrifying a large part of the in-migration replaces those who are squeezed out by price and culture. Yes, the suburbs are stable or growing due to infill or new developments; but I expect the relative growth of those walkable urban centers (including, certainly, Arlington and Alexandria and Falls Church and the inner, older towns in Fairfax and beyond) is much greater at certain middle-to-high earnings levels than in the remaining “suburbs.” The fact that even on a net basis the fully-built-out cities of Washington and Richmond grew so substantially is amazing.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      You miss the point. Jim Bacon tries to draw a bright line between the so-called “City” of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Charlottesville is a lovely place but it’s a fleck of spittle from a population perspective. At 48,000 people it’s considerably smaller than Reston, Va. The idea that the liberal politics of the “City” of Charlottesville compels people and businesses into the wilderness of Albermarle County is absurd. People and businesses may flee from the idiotic politics of the “City” of Charlottesville but they hardly end up in the hinterlands. At most of the borders of the 10.3 sq mi “City” of Charlottesville you’d have no idea that you just passed from city to county.

      You and Jim Bacon suffer from a misuse of what famous blogger Ed Risse used to call core confusing words. Terms like city and county are largely irrelevant as are terms like urban and suburban. Confusing legal jurisdictions with human settlement patterns is naive at best. The unincorporated area of Fairfax County known as Reston has a higher population density than the so-called “City” of Richmond. Which is urban and which is suburban? Which is walkable and which is sprawl?

      Your issue of where people come from in the fast growing NoVa “suburban” counties is also irrelevant. Yes, some come from gentrification in DC. But DC is a small population center compared to the counties (and “City” of Alexandria) I used as illustration. DC has a population of under 700,000 people. Fairfax County alone is pushing 1.2M. Sometimes you have to look past the percentages and count belly buttons. The growth in NoVa is not completely from displaced residents of DC. Not even close.

      As far as Washington and (especially) Richmond being “fully built out” … I couldn’t disagree more. Richmond’s population density of under 3,800 per sq mi is something of a joke for a so-called “city”. Baltimore is 7,561 per sq mi for example and Charm City is hardly NYC or Chicago. The real problem in both Washington and Richmond (Metro Areas) is that their density makes them “tweeners” – too dense to be leafy suburbs in the traditional sense and not dense enough to be real cities. They are both the equivalent of adolescent boys with acne and quivering voices. However, while adolescent boys invariably grow up to be men the conservatives on this blog would like to see Washington and Richmond remain forever stuck in that awkward age between boy and man (or girl and woman). What both places need is rapid population growth, significantly increased population density and “full on” urbanization including large scale mass transit, high occupancy dwellings and … like it or not … liberal urban politics. Absent a Detroit-like meltdown there is no other path forward.

      1. “The conservatives on this blog would like to see Washington and Richmond remain forever stuck in that awkward age between boy and man.”

        I presume you’re referring to me, although I can’t be sure because that would make the statement a LarryG-like misrepresentation of what I’ve opined on this blog. (Sorry, I know that’s a bit harsh, but it had to be said.) I have consistently advocated for mixed-use redevelopment in Richmond (as well as Henrico and other counties) at higher levels of density.

        1. djrippert Avatar

          It wasn’t just you. TMT is in that camp too, as are some others. Yes, you have advocated for mixed-use development. However, you have also advocated against things like subsidized mass transit. I’m afraid you can’t have it both ways. High density American urban centers require an ever increasing level of government services. This requires an ever increasing level of government and taxation. Thinking a place can have urban densities with rural levels of government and taxation is the flaw in your logic. I don’t like politicians, I don’t like government and I especially don’t like paying taxes. However, I recognize that NoVa and Richmond need to urbanize in order to thrive and I need to accept more politicians, more government and more taxes if I want to keep living here.

          You can’t have just half the solution, Jim. High density, mixed use, walkable = high government services, high tax.

          1. virginiagal2 Avatar

            I don’t think Richmond or Charlottesville would benefit from a big focus on high rise style development. The people I know investing and living there have made a deliberate choice for living in an area with an urban, but human scale, development pattern. The Fan is relatively dense, but a high rise would be wildly out of place. I’d also say both areas are currently thriving including quite decent tech sectors.

          2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            I agree that urbanized areas need more services that can strain government budgets such that taxes tend to be higher in urban areas. And then there is Virginia.

            Taxes probably need to be higher in places like Tysons and Reston. And to some extent, they are because of higher assessments. But the taxes there are not sufficient to sustain the necessary public facilities and services. Start with construction of the Silver Line. The landowners in Tysons and Reston had their Phase 1 share capped at c. $450 M. The feds contribution was capped at c. $900 M. The rest of the burden fell on the Commonwealth. That’s where then-Governor Tim Kaine gave the Dulles Toll Road to MWAA. MWAA in turn agreed to raise tolls on the DTR to over the remaining amounts needed to build Phase I, including the sole obligation to fund all cost overruns. I think the Commonwealth has kicked in another $150-200 M, but probably a good quarter of that money comes from state taxes on Fairfax County residents and businesses.

            The final EIS prepared under then-Governor Mark Warner showed that constructing Phase 1 would not improve traffic congestion for any driver on the DTR. So we have a huge subsidy from ordinary people to Bechtel, MWAA, WMATA and the Tysons-Reston landowners.

            Even more evidence that rail will not provide traffic relief came with Fairfax County’s 527 submission to VDOT. That showed that after rail arrived, along with massive increases in non-rail transit, billions in road improvements (including a widened DTR and another lane on the Outer Loop from Route 7 to I-66), once Tysons is built to 84 MSF, we have total gridlock on the Beltway, the DTR and Routes 7 & 123.

            And since the County approved more density than it modeled for its 527 filing, even more road projects are needed. With a rebellion by Tysons’ neighbors, the County came up with a plan that will require Tysons landowners and residents to pay 90% of the cost of improvements in Tysons, but left all taxpayers stuck with 90% of the costs for needed improvements outside Tysons and 100% of the costs for non-rail transit.

            And meanwhile, since the road network is inadequate, residential streets in McLean, Falls Church and parts of Vienna are overrun daily with cut-through traffic daily. Cut through traffic is so bad that VDOT is considering a four-month trial of shutting down the northbound entrance ramp to I-495 at Georgetown Pike for multiple hours per day.

            So we have crony capitalism at its very best. Urban development that enriches some but makes the quality of life decline for many and sees ordinary people paying higher taxes to fund the added facilities and services necessary for urbanization. Only in Virginia.

        2. “Both cities and counties are too big to use as the generalizable entities. . . . Terms like city and county are largely irrelevant as are terms like urban and suburban. Confusing legal jurisdictions with human settlement patterns is naive at best.” DJR, we agree. In fact we have agreed several times about the impediment that Virginia’s unique legal treatment of “cities” is to regional urban planning.

          But you missed my point, which was your disagreement with Jim. Jim started out with, “In other Virginia metros, businesses are moving from the suburban jurisdictions to the urban cities, not the other way around.” To which you responded, “I think that’s very misleading. Neither people nor businesses are fleeing the suburbs for the core city (assuming you could consider any of Virginia’s “cities” to be real cities). Let’s look at migration of people in NoVa:” — citing population growth of 15.3% in DC over 7 years, 13.2% in Arlington, 6.2 in Fairfax, 27.5 in Loudoun, etc.

          My point was, you must add to that DC number the % lost to outmigration to P.G. and Montgomery Counties, etc., as the net population gain over those 7 years understates the rapid influx of urban, gentrifying yuppies, and that influx is the measure of what Jim was talking about. Arlington is gentrifying but doesn’t have nearly as much of that out-migration offset; neither does Fairfax or Loudoun although Loudoun’s high population growth reflects that it is still building out rapidly as a bedroom community. In any event Jim was talking about business growth. In general population and business growth may correlate roughly, but the displacement of underemployed urban poor with little disposable income by relatively well-off yuppies is bound to throw that correlation ‘way off.

          You add, “The growth in NoVa is not completely from displaced residents of DC. Not even close.” We agree. I don’t think many of the urban poor displaced from DC are moving into NoVa; they can’t afford to, and I did not intend to suggest it. Some of those DC yuppies, when they have school-aged kids, are moving to NoVa for the schools and affordable larger homes and bring their “walkability” preferences with them — which is why I suppose they prefer Arlington and Alexandria and Falls Church, or at least Vienna and Reston, and voted unsuccessfully for streetcars — but that is another discussion.

          Finally, when it comes to needing more urban services to go along with that preference for the more urban, more dense, more walkable life-style (and the taxes they are willing to pay to get it), hear, hear. That includes a functioning, reliable Metro system.

          1. djrippert Avatar

            We probably do agree more than I thought. The biggest issue I have with Jim is in terminology. What is a “core city”? In my mind the “core city” where I live from a human settlement pattern would include DC, Alexandria, Arlington, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and perhaps parts of eastern Fairfax County. The “suburbs” would be western and southern Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, the northern and eastern Montgomery County, etc.

            Jim tried to make a human settlement argument using political sub-divisions. If the antics of the City of Charlottesville’s politicians get out of hand businesses and people will move to Albemarle County. And those areas of Albemarle County will become high density, walkable location while the “core city” of Charlottesville proper decays. Witness Arlington County as evidence of this. When DC was “Dodge City” with Mayor McCrackpipe at the helm people and businesses moved out. Those people and businesses created the urban renaissance of core Arlington along Wilson Blvd from Rosslyn to Ballston. That large swath of Arlington was low density, run down and somewhat scary after dark when I lived there in the early 80s. Today it’s as walkable and vibrant as any part of Richmond or DC.

            If you think the tiny City of Charlottesville will be destroyed by liberal politics don’t declare victory for sprawl, buy property in Crozet of wherever you think the high density, walkable communities of Albemarle County will arise … for surely they will arise.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        “The real problem in both Washington and Richmond (Metro Areas) is that their density makes them “tweeners” – too dense to be leafy suburbs in the traditional sense and not dense enough to be real cities.’

        I believe that there is truth in what Don says. There is also a collateral truth involved in his statement, this is the crying need in American cities for “closely interrelated and synergistic mixed uses.”

        Density and mixed uses should go hand in hand. No matter the “density” of today’s American “urban/suburban places” there is far too often a crying need for more mixed uses, “intelligently arranged”. I emphasize the last two words. It is rarely found in most American places.

        1. Reed, I think we agree also, but can you elaborate a bit on “intelligently arranged”? Are you talking about better mixing of urban residential and small businesses, as in older cities but contrary to the bleak neighborhood uniformity brought about by typical modern zoning?

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Yes, acbar, but also in other more recent cases.

            Think of it this way.

            1/ Large box stores like Walmart have buyer bosses expert at filling stores with the most potently synergistic mix of products that when sold together create the most store traffic that generates the most shoppers and the most revenue. Call that level one.

            And now there is a level 2, or there use to be.

            2/ Big shopping mall developers use to hire outside experts at high cost who had a knack for putting together the most potent synergistic mix of independent shops and big stores specifically tailored the market at that particular stores location. Many of these Mall served entire regions, many townships put together.

            3/ But more and more of our places with poor zoning and city management controls are only haphazardly put together. It often occurs by the random chance of strip development or quite frankly by decisions of ignorant people who should know better but don’t, or don’t care if they did know better – THIS NEEDS TO STOP.

            And, despite all its success and all the effort made, there were many mistakes made along the way in our building of the Ballston – Rosslyn Corridor. For example, Ballston still suffers from too much bulk single use density, creating a leaden institutional look and feel to this day that throttles vibrancy.

            But lessons learned in Ballston were applied to say Clarendon. You are always learning. The first big learning happened in the debacle building of Rosslyn in the 1960s. Despite big efforts there it’s never been gotten right, and likely never will be in our children’s lifetimes. But we learn.

            Another point – we need, as you suggest, to learn from history.

            We need to created multi level overlays showing the development of our major towns, and cities over decades and now even centuries.

            We need show decade by decade what went right and what went wrong, and where, and how it happened, and how it was fixed or made worst.

            I learned many of these city building history lessons from 9 very sharply observant great aunts who were borne in and living around DC since the 1880s and who lived well into the 1970s. And from a law partner mentor who wrote books and monograms on the architectural history of many aspects of DC’s building growth. Things like Victorian architecture. synagogues, office buildings and apartments. We need to teach this stuff to our city planners.

            We need to stop destroying this valuable history and its lessons, and learn to study these lessons already learned in places long ago that were wonderfully successful places. These are lessons of all sorts, use, bulk, light and air, transport, how it all best works together and equally important, how it needs to grow and thrive over long periods of time, because everything either changes or dies, unless properly put together and tended to from the start.

        2. virginiagal2 Avatar

          I tend to think mixed use, including things like apartments over stores, is a far more workable and appealing way to get increased density without losing sense of place. High rises tend to isolate people. There is so much room to improve, I genuinely can’t see why you would skip this obvious step for small cities.

          A lot of what makes both Richmond and Charlottesville appealing is that sense of place. You’re dealing with a smaller scale than DC or NYC.

          And it’s important to realize that people living in outlying counties often are doing so as a deliberate choice, and may not be doing traditional commutes at all. A person with horses who works remotely or owns their own local business isn’t going to increase traffic in the same way as a person who just wanted a cheaper housing option and commutes.

  5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Regarding the video, and its star, we should not be surprised. Our hero on film acts like many, and perhaps is, a law professor at UVa.

    Either that, or he’s on tenure track in the History Department, or the Curry School of Education, or works in the stacks of Alderman Library, UVA’s modern version of a professor of Library Science.

    You reap what you sow. And UVa has been sowing chaos lately.

  6. virginiagal2 Avatar

    The Woodard project didn’t go forward, if I understood it correctly from local press, because city council wouldn’t waive certain development requirements, and the architecture board had concerns. It would presumably have proceeded without issues had it conformed to existing code, and not required a special use permit. Whether you’re an ally to city council or not, you don’t get a guaranteed waiver of rules.

    If I remember correctly, the Landmark Hotel construction was halted because of project and developer financing issues that have nothing to do with Charlottesville. It was then sold to a group that publicly said they were sitting on it until another project was completed. This was extensively covered in the local press as there’s a good bit of interesting side story.

    I’m not clear on what you think Mike Signer should have done. He’s the lawyer for a growing tech firm. He has an obligation to look out for the firms interests. The new location sounds very suitable for what they want. It’s not a generic building and they wanted something specific and unique.

    I think Albemarle is more conservative than Charlottesville, sure, but either place is in high demand and a good place to live. There’s not a huge exodus of business out of the city. It’s getting a lot of small tech firms and startups, and relatively few people with startups get turned off over progressive politics.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      The question of exodus out of Charlottesville will play out over time. I founded one tech startup (which my co-founders and I sold) and ran another (which went bankrupt). So, I have some understanding of tech startups and their employees. My second start-up had an office in SanFrancisco, right in the city. I spent a whole lot of time in San Francisco and consider it America’s most beautiful city. However, liberal politics are making it almost uninhabitable. Beyond the hair-raising taxes … if you’re going to be a magnet for homeless people then you have to address the issues of homelessness. Having thousands of people, many with mental issues, lying about the streets using those streets as rest rooms, etc will eventually run off even the hardiest hipster full stack developer. They’ll relocate in Palo Alto or San Jose. The City of SanFrancisco is in for a rough ride if it doesn’t clean up its act.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Fully agree about San Francisco. We went there in April. Had a great time but the place is overrun with homeless people and the problems they bring with them.

        We also went to Mountain View to see a client. The place seemed well managed.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      As far as high density in Richmond or Charlottesville … it’s that or sprawl. As more people move into the City of Charlottesville the cost of housing will skyrocket unless there is considerable vertical development. Those costs will push people into nearby Albemarle County and the Rt 29 congestion will seem like a walk in the park as people try to commute into Charlottesville. Popular destinations really don’t have a choice of urban feel with human scale. Ask the people in Austin or Nashville.

      1. virginiagal2 Avatar

        Not really. Both Charlottesville and Richmond have significant room to increase density without going high rise. Mixed use and decent planning are better than random high rises that take away from the reason people want to live there in the first place.

        Route 29 is not how most people commute to work. Further, many people in Albemarle and the other outlying counties don’t work in Charlottesville. The current average commute time is 22 minutes, which is not bad. Many people in the area don’t work a standard nine to five schedule, including professors, medical staff, a lot of small businesses and agribusiness, and little startups.

        Anecdotally, from personal obervation, many people in the counties outside of Charlottesville are mid career or later who have arranged finances so they can have their own business and live in a rural feeling area. Lots of people with horses and other outdoor hobbies like gardening. Those people often aren’t commuting at all. Somewhat reminds me of Goochland, another very wealthy county that has a lot of horse oriented activities and is not hurting for money.

        The Post had an article today about insurance prices in Charlottesville. Of the three people featured, two have their own tech businesses.

        If you turn Albemarle County into an urban area, you’d pretty much destroy why they want to live there in the first place. If you’re there for horses and gardening, density isn’t your friend.

        Not every place needs to be Manhattan.

  7. djrippert Avatar

    TMT – I agree with your points. I especially agree that there is a right way to urbanize and then there is the Virginia way of urbanization. Tysons and Reston should both be independent cities with their own tax bases. They should also be able to annex adjoining property if the density of that adjoining property rises to city-like proportions. That’s the only way to cut back sprawl.

    As for traffic issues – yeah, it’s a problem. Fairfax County needs to bite the bullet and widen Rt 7. Arlington needs to be forced to widen I66. Rt 123 east of Tysons probably needs to be widened too. There ought to be dedicated bus mass transit lanes getting people from the hinterlands to concentration points around Metro stations.

  8. This is about as bad as it gets in “reporting.”

    I work in commercial real estate in Central Virginia, including Richmond and Charlottesville.

    First, the office vacancy rate in Charlottesville in August 2018 was hovering at 2%. Yes, you read that correctly. Hardly a sign of “anarchy.”

    Second, I have some familiarity with the WillowTree project and the Woolen Mills building(s). In effect, WillowTree is going to expand from around 200 to around 400 employees. They needed a space to house 400 employees. In a city of 10 square miles with an office vacancy rate of 2%, guess what? There is no such existing space within the City of Charlottesville on the market. WillowTree does have an office in Raleigh/Durham. It would not surprise me if they were looking to leave the Charlottesville area. I’m sure Raleigh/Durham has the office space. So, in effect, WillowTree had 3 options: A.) Build new in Cville; B.) Move to Raleigh/Durham/ or C.) Look at availability in Albemarle. The fact that they stayed in the Charlottesville area says a lot about the area’s desirability…contrary to this post.

    Third, does the author even know where Woolen Mills is in relation to the city? Doubtful. The parcel in question is a historical quirk. There is literally one street contained within the City of Charlottesville (Broadway) that is part of Albemarle County. The Woolen Mills property is on that street. It is bound by the Rivanna and the City of Charlottesville.

    This is actually a boom for the region and the City in particular. The City has been trying to activate that area, and this project is likely to do so. There are a couple of projects trying to get off the ground near that corridor. Willowtree’s location should help them.

    Fourth, as virginiagal stated, the Landmark has nothing to do with the City. A private developer went bust when it was being constructed. Another developer purchased the property and has not done anything with it. In what way is that a reflection on the city government?

    Fifth, as stated, I work on projects in RVA and Cville…if you want to talk about who’s tech/startup scene is better in terms of number of employees and leasing offices…it’s Cville by a mile. Has Richmond descended in social and economic anarchy because its tech economy isn’t doing as well as Charlottesville’s?

    Sad that this blog has degenerated to this point. 7 years ago, it was a great forum that discussed policy and didn’t touch ideology, culture, or politics. People from all political perspectives posted on here. Now, it’s the opposite: Almost all ideology, culture, and politics….barely any true policy analysis or actual reporting. Instead of collecting facts and visiting Charlottesville and talking to people in commercial real estate and tech for this “story”, we get a paste job of a local right wing talk radio host talking points.

  9. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Well then stop complaining and join in to keep pushing your point of view.

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    To understand today’s Charlottesville, Va., note its voting pattern:

    Presidential election results

    Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
    2016 13.2% 2,960 79.7% 17,901 7.1% 1,606
    2012 22.2% 4,844 75.7% 16,510 2.0% 443
    2008 20.4% 4,078 78.4% 15,705 1.3% 261
    2004 27.0% 4,172 71.8% 11,088 1.2% 190
    2000 30.5% 4,034 58.7% 7,762 10.8% 1,428
    1996 32.0% 4,091 61.9% 7,916 6.1% 782
    1992 31.6% 4,705 58.3% 8,685 10.1% 1,509
    1988 42.6% 5,817 56.2% 7,671 1.2% 164
    1984 48.6% 6,947 51.2% 7,317 0.3% 42
    1980 40.6% 5,907 47.2% 6,866 12.3% 1,789
    1976 48.1% 6,673 49.4% 6,846 2.5% 350
    1972 59.4% 7,935 39.2% 5,240 1.3% 178
    1968 49.4% 5,601 33.8% 3,831 16.8% 1,903
    1964 45.5% 4,415 53.6% 5,205 0.9% 84
    1960 55.1% 3,651 43.7% 2,894 1.3% 83
    1956 62.2% 3,746 29.6% 1,783 8.2% 494
    1952 60.1% 3,292 39.7% 2,174 0.2% 8
    1948 42.1% 1,419 45.4% 1,527 12.5% 421
    1944 32.4% 1,055 67.2% 2,188 0.4% 12
    1940 29.5% 743 69.9% 1,759 0.5% 13
    1936 19.2% 335 80.0% 1,393 0.8% 14
    1932 24.0% 409 75.5% 1,287 0.5% 8
    1928 41.7% 708 58.4% 992
    1924 18.8% 218 71.6% 831 9.6% 111
    1920 25.0% 351 74.0% 1,041 1.1% 15
    1916 15.8% 117 83.6% 618 0.5% 4
    1912 7.5% 39 87.0% 454 5.6% 29

    Charlottesville now votes like a third world nation.

    See also generally:,_Virginia

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