The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is again talking about building a $30 million levee and pumping station, although skeptical Huntington residents say it’s not much different from the berm that was first proposed at least as far back as 1977 — except that such solutions have only become more expensive.
Now, after the second serious flood in five years, many in the community have arrived at a crossroads, driven by desperation.
Some want to move. Some want to stay and fight for a levee. Others are ready to embrace redevelopment, even if it means giving up on a 40-year-old zoning plan designed to preserve the diverse, blue-collar community of affordable duplexes that has stood there since the 1940s.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think this isn’t going to happen again,” said Geoff Livingston, 39, who filed a lawsuit against the county and state after the 2006 flood. He expressed little hope that anything would change this time.
“This is the slum as far as Fairfax is concerned,” said Livingston, a media consultant who put up footage of the flood on his blog.
Livingston said he and his wife, Caitlin, 40, suffered about $50,000 worth of damage in the 2006 flood and at least $30,000 in damage last month, he said. In addition to wrecking their small brick duplex again, the Sept. 8 flood frightened their 11-month-old daughter, Soleil. They plan to move. So do others, who doubt that the county will ever come up with millions of dollars to protect such a small number of modestly priced homes.
Yet some hold out hope that this time will be different. Many want to preserve Huntington, a community of 11,267 people whose affordable housing serves working-class families, hipsters, young families, recent immigrants and retirees. Census data show that the community’s 5,804 households have a higher percentage of minorities and a lower average income than the rest of the county.
“What I hear from a lot of people is, they want to keep living where they’ve been living because this is a long-standing community with a lot of diversity and people looking after one another,” said Alan Ruof, a member of the Huntington Community Association. Ruof said people’s first choice would be building protective structures, such as the levee.
Others — mindful that state, federal and county governments are still struggling after the worst downturn since the Great Depression — are considering selling out to developers interested in building high-rises.
‘Quickest, easiest solution’
Eunice Johnson, 85, who moved into her Arlington Terrace duplex on May 26, 1948, is certain of two things. The first is that the flooding has worsened, especially in the past five years, perhaps because Cameron Run has not been dredged in decades. The second is that talk of a levee is likely just that — talk.