The Alexandria City Council advanced a development project that would tear down 2,500 units of affordable housing Saturday despite opposition from potentially displaced residents.
But council members said they are going to do whatever they can to reduce the negative consequences for low-income families that occupy those units.
The Beauregard project zoning plan, which passed the council 6-1, would transform the western portion of Alexandria to include a least one new hotel, office buildings, parks and new housing units.
The plan could displace up to 70 percent of the people currently living in that area, most of whom are low-income.
Veronica Calzada, a tenant of the Beauregard neighborhood, told members through tears that she and her neighbors are extremely stressed and saddened that they might be forced out of the development.
Using a Spanish translator, Calzada said she, her husband and two sons might have to move out of Alexandria because of the lack of affordable housing. She asked one of the property owners JBG Co., to think about the effect the plan would have on current residents if the buildings were torn down.
"I hope that they take this moment to realize we know the laws don't protect us, but still they should be aware, they should have a heart and know what they're doing is driving us out," she said through a translator. "It's hurting us."
City staff said that since the plan went before the Planning Commission last week, they've evaluated ways in which they can increase the total number of affordable housing units, how they can work with residents to inform them when their buildings would be demolished and establish assistance for those who are displaced.
The only council member to vote against the proposal was Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg, who said she wouldn't vote for the project unless the number of committed units for affordable housing increased.
She proposed the city put $2 million a year toward funding affordable housing for the next 25 years.
Alexandria Mayor William Euille said he felt uncomfortable increasing the number of affordable housing units above the 800 already in the council's formal plan, but said he would commit to getting as many affordable housing units in the plan as possible.