Friday, April 29, 2011

Problems with Capital Bikeshare: no empty spots, no bikes

First off, don't get me wrong, I like Capital Bikeshare, the bike sharing programs with docks around the city. I've taken it a number of times and it's handy. It's a great way to take short trips instead of a cab, bus, or Metro -- you pick up a bike at one station and drop it off at another. There are lots of stations, including a bunch in our neighborhood.


However, there's still some kinks to be worked out. The other day at about 7:30 pm I decided to see if I could ride from the Giant and save a bit of time. The station outside Giant was almost full so I had no problem getting a bike. I checked the Spotcycle iPhone app, which shows where stations are and how many empty spots and bikes there are at each one. The one at 14th and Harvard, which was the closest to my destination showed 7 open spots, so I went there, but it was full. I rode over to the 16th and Harvard and luckily there were some openings, but that meant I was farther out of my way. Another friend went to 4 different stations around U Street last night (5 total, trying one twice) before he found an open spot to drop off his bike.

It seems like there are two problems: one, the Spotcycle app seems to be wrong sometimes. The other is that the bikes aren't getting redistributed. I read recently that Capital Bikeshare just got another van to carry bikes from station to station, which is good, but still, it's frustrating. If you look at the map now, there are very few bikes in our neighborhood, for example.

Having to ride around or go farther to find a bike means the service is less convenient than alternative means of transportation. It's ok if you're not trying to get anywhere or when the weather's nice, but once it gets hot out it's going to be not much fun.

Anyone else have these issues?

UPDATE: The Post did some analysis for a recent article and it looks like our neighborhood, Adams Morgan, and Mt. Pleasant have the vast majority of originating trips. Let's hope they focus on our area then.

Awesome master's thesis on Columbia Heights and hyperlocal media (blogs, Twitter)

Kara Hadge, a Georgetown grad student just completed her thesis, called "Networked Neighborhood," on hyperlocal media and Columbia Heights. It's pretty interesting stuff, on how blogs, Twitter and more affect how people get local news and if that makes them more involved, plus some on the communications infrastructure and actors in the neighborhood.

In short, it finds that people who contribute to hyperlocal media (blogs, Twitter, etc) are more engaged and involved than people who don't, people who follow hyperlocal media are more informed than those who don't, and interestingly, that long-term residents are more involved with hyperlocal media. That sort of disproves the idea that new residents only use the internet to be involved in the community. Of course, that depends on the methodology, and some of it is a little too technical for me to fully grasp.

Aside form the thesis itself (which is worth a read) there's also some cool things she put together, like a timeline of Columbia Heights history, a timeline showing new blog and twitter posts about the neighborhood, and a list of all the hyperlocal media in the neighborhood.

Always nice to see some intellectual work on our neighborhood. Plus using some statistics she analyzes which kinds of hyperlocal media are the highest level of centrality -- ask Wikipedia for more about that.

What do you think of Kara's findings?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Google Maps says Columbia Heights is no longer in Va. Now it's in Washington D.C., DC


If you recall, last year I wrote about an error with Google Maps: if you searched for Columbia Heights, DC, the result showed our neighborhood but said "Columbia Heights, VA." I reported the issue and today they wrote back and said they fixed it. It does say DC now. However, instead of saying Columbia Heights, Washington, DC, it now says Columbia Heights, Washington D.C., DC. Any other DC address or place gives you the same result.

Seriously Google? How hard is this? The city is called Washington. The state (or district, in this case) is DC. If you type in any other state you don't get it twice. It's not Mountain View Ca., CA or New York, N.Y., NY. What gives? I reported this issue too.

Check out this video on 826DC for a travel journalism contest

Local resident Seth Berger put together a nice video on 826DC's Museum of Unnatural History, their funky storefront on the Civic Plaza. 826DC works to tutor kids, and if you haven't been to the Museum it's worth going to: lots of funny, interesting and random items, from shirts to books by kids they've tutored to unicorn tears. Lots of good stuff for presents. I wrote about them a couple times before, and they're always looking for volunteers.



The video is for "Host our Coast," a contest for budding TV travel journalists. You can vote for Seth's video here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Red Cross benefit for Japan tonight May 3 at Lou's City Bar

Got this yesterday, it's a nice event put together by a group of neighbors in Columbia Heights:

With the help of Lou's City Bar, we are holding a fundraiser to benefit the American Red Cross's efforts to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to this region. 

 We've all seen pictures and continued news coverage of the devastating effects the earthquake and tsunami have had there, and are hoping our neighbors in the area can join us to support this effort. 

 A suggested donation of $20 will get you a free buffet, drink ticket and bar specials from 6-9pm. Of course, pay-what-you-can donations are also welcome!

WHEN:   TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011
            6:00PM - 9:00PM
WHERE:  Lou's City Bar
            1400 Irving Street NW
            Washington, DC 20010

We've also created a Facebook page for the event:  http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=167258153332870 and here's a flyer.
Questions or can't attend event but still want to donate? E-mail:  HelpOutNow@hotmail.com

Vincent Orange wins: results, and is it time for instant runoff voting?

Last night's city council at-large special election is over, and Vincent Orange won with just over 28% of the vote, beating Patrick Mara by about 1,200 votes (Mara had 25.68% of the vote). In Ward 1, which includes Columbia Heights, Bryan Weaver came out on top with 34% of the vote, with Mara second with 23%, Biddle in 3rd and Orange in 4th. Orange took wards 4, 5, 7, and 8, while Mara took 2, 3, and 6. Turnout was less than 10%.

Citywide, however, Vincent Orange's 28% of the vote means 72% of DC residents didn't vote for our new councilman. Is it time for instant runoff voting? A lot of people on Twitter and the blogosphere have been talking about it.

Basically it means that instead of voting for one person, you put your preferences for different candidates -- 1, 2, and 3 for example. Then if no candidate has a majority of #1 preference votes, the person with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are distributed based on the 2nd choice preference, and so on until somebody gets 50% of the votes. It's best for ballots where there's many candidates, such as special elections or even at-large seats during regular elections.

What do you think? I think it'd also be good for things like ANC elections, if people can form that many opinions of ANC candidates.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coffy Cafe, incoming crepe and coffee place at 14th and Park, has signs up

A reader sent me this shot, it's signage for the incoming Coffy Cafe coming to the Kelsey building on the west side of 14th just north of Park (where the Subway is.) The spot sounds interesting, a mod/60s/70s-themed creperie and coffee shop. I do like crepes. PoP reports they're hoping for late summer to open. Here's their Facebook page with some more photos.

I like how the sign references Coffy, the blaxploitation movie with Pam Grier. From their Facebook page:
The goal of Coffy Cafe is to create a warm and inviting neighborhood cafe that caters to the Kelsey Apt senior residents, surrounding community and visitors to the area.  We are looking to create a Mod-70's (late 60's early 70's) cafe with Mod, action hero posters--the Mod Squad, Cleopatra Jones, Barberella to name a few.  The aim is to create a cafe lounge where people can relax, enjoy a bite to eat and interact with friends.

Monday, April 25, 2011

City council election tomorrow: Who should you vote for? I'm leaning Weaver

As you may know, the special election for at-large councilmember is tomorrow. This is the seat vacated by Kwame Brown when he became council chair. There are a lot of candidates running, but only a few with legitimate shots at winning. DCist has a great voter guide which I encourage everyone to check out, but here are my brief picks. Here's the Board of Elections guide with all the questions you might have: where to vote, how, who, etc.

The main candidates running are former councilmember and mayoral candidate Vincent Orange, Adams Morgan ANC commissioner Bryan Weaver (he of the cool campaign commercials), Ward 1 school board member Patrick Mara, who I believe is a part owner of Meridian Pint, current temporary councilmember Sekou Biddle, and newcomer Josh Lopez, who worked on Adrian Fenty's campaign.

So who do I like and who don't I like? In short, I'm leaning towards Bryan Weaver. Here's the longer explanations:

First off, I won't be supporting Vincent Orange. He's the definition of insider, having run for election for about 20 years in DC. I've never really seen him do anything positive or anything negative, which leads me to believe he'll just be a seat-filler. Plus he recently had a campaign vehicle parking illegally at 14th & Girard while the vehicle broadcast a message about enforcing DC laws. Not the best example to set. He also put out a (presumably) racially-themed ad in Ward 8 saying "He walks like us. He talks like us" -- presumably as opposed to the white and Hispanic candidates. It seems like he's doing whatever he can to get elected.

I also won't be supporting Sekou Biddle. He's heavily involved with both Kwame Brown and Vincent Gray, and neither of their terms so far have gone very well -- see the Lincoln Navigator or Sulaimon Brown. Kwame Brown's father was on Biddle's campaign staff until he was fired after he made some controversial remarks about white residents of DC. Biddle seems like a decent guy, but the remarks and the deep involvement with Gray and Brown rub me the wrong way.

I like Patrick Mara, who is a Republican claiming to be socially progressive and fiscally conservative. He also vows to meet with a different Republican congressperson every week if he's elected -- that's a strong plus for me, as I'm strongly for DC voting rights and against Congressional interference in DC's budget. He also got the Washington Post's endorsement, as well as Congressman Tom Davis and others. That said, the city may need to raise taxes to balance the budget and he's strongly against that.

I also like Bryan Weaver. He's an energetic, involved ANC commissioner who gave Jim Graham a good run in the last election. He's campaigning heavily on cleaning up the Wilson Building, and as DCist mentions, he also got the endorsement of the City Paper, Greater Greater Washington, The InTowner, the Georgetown Voice, the D.C. YouthPAC and the D.C. College Democrats and the Current newspapers called him "the most knowledgeable challenger we've interviewed over the past 16 years." The Current didn't endorse him because they don't think he is well-known enough, but turnout is sure to be low. I say vote for him.

Josh Lopez seems like a good guy, and I like his connection with Fenty who I supported last time around, but I think he's a little inexperienced.

So in short, I like Bryan Weaver and Patrick Mara. I'm probably going to vote for Weaver. I suggest you vote for either of them, but whether you do or not, go vote! What are your thoughts?

More complaints about Washington Sports Club: basketball courts taken over

Recently got this from a reader: it's the newest in a long series of complaints from neighborhood folks about the Washington Sports Club in DCUSA. If you recall, I've posted about how it's crowded, there was an alleged robbery there that the security didn't respond to, and lots of people have asked for recommendations for other clubs.
I know in the grand scheme of things, it's really not a big deal.... but I am pretty annoyed.  Without consulting any of the regular hoops players or giving us a heads up, WSC-CH suddenly began scheduling group exercise classes, for every Saturday and Sunday, during what has traditionally been prime basketball usage time for casual players (10-noon or 10-1 on weekends, after that time, the gym gets so packed that it is difficult to even get on the court).  Most of the guys I showed up with today, expecting to play, are primarily members for the indoor court, and now the entire court is completely off limits for half of each weekend day.

There are a million things they could have done differently ... lease the long-vacant space next door if they need more room, schedule these classes in the already-existing exercise rooms, schedule these classes for early morning (ending before 10) when the courts are rarely used, etc. etc.  Instead, per usual, they have zero regard for member service or even communicating / consulting with long-time gym regulars.  With WSC, it is always about squeezing as many dollars as possible out of as many members as possible, and never about making the member experience better, or heck, adequate.  Unfortunately, since it is the only gym and only indoor court in the area, they can get away with it. 
Doesn't sound too fun. There are outdoor courts around, like 14th and Girard and the Columbia Heights Education Campus, but not any indoor ones I know of. Anyone have any suggestions for indoor courts? Or other gyms?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday procession is tonight: Jesus, statues, more

The City Paper reminds me that tonight is the Good Friday procession in the neighborhood. It's a traditional Catholic celebration with lots of pageantry: people dressed up in AD 1 style, priests in traditional garb, statues, and more.

It starts at 8:30 pm at the Sacred Heart Church at 16th and Park and goes through Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant.The City Paper has a handy map for the procession, which goes down Park, 14th, Irving and Mt. Pleasant.

The City Paper has some photos from last year, and below are a bunch of a the 2007 procession in Columbia Heights:




Is Columbia Heights one of the greenest neighborhoods in the area?

It's Earth Day, and a press release by a real estate listing company says we're one of the greenest. However, their blurb about the neighborhood is pretty short: "Columbia Heights is home to DC’s first solar powered condos, as well as DC’s largest residential solar thermal project."

That's it? I looked up these projects, and they're actually pretty interesting. The solar-powered condos are the appropriately-named Capital Solar Condos at 1337 Harvard Street NW, a house converted into 3 units. The Washingtonian reports that with the solar panels, the owners could even sell power back to Pepco.  Kind of a neat idea. As for the thermal solar, that would be 3501 13th Street NW, which has a solar water heater and solar panels on the roof.

Admittedly these are cool projects, but I'm not sure if those alone make us the greenest. However, you could probably make the argument: for one, there are lots of bike riders and bike share stations in the neighborhood, we're well-served by Metro, Metrobus and the Circulator, and the one huge parking lot we have at DCUSA is rarely used -- a sign that not many people drive.

Plus there's also smaller things, like the eco-friendly yards around the neighborhood and people who have those carbon-donation stickers on their cars.

So, maybe we are pretty green? What do you think?

UPDATE: Apparently there's a bit more to the rankings, thanks to the City Paper: "by collecting the most recent MLS data, and surveying local parks and area green initiatives," whatever those are. Still not a lot of info, though.

Cool Earth Day event: help Bloombars make a sculpture with booze bottles, metal, etc

This is a great idea: partially inspired by the Street Booze game, the good folks at BloomBars and Ann Bouie, a sculptor, are looking to make a "guardian" sculpture for the art space out of liquor bottles, oxidized iron, and more, and they need your help. It's this Saturday from 9 am - 5 pm. They're looking for these items and volunteers for any part of the time:
Participants in BloomBars’ Earth Day art installation are asked to keep an eye out for, and bring:
  • Pieces of oxidized iron, bottle caps and nails no larger than 3 x3”∙
  • Small liquor bottles–preferably glass, not plastic∙
  • Colored ribbon or fabric–preferably red, white, blue, green, yellow and black∙
  • Jute twine∙
  • Small, straight and crescent-shaped twigs
We will need people who:
  • Are handy with a Dremmel∙
  • Can do calligraphy or print beautifully
  • Will work to stabilize the piece in the northwest corner of the patio
  • Can bring positive energy that moves the work along.
Sounds cool!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pet supply shop is open at 11th and Lamont

Looks like those folks with pets will have a good place to go for supplies: I walked by Mr. Larry's Pet Supply Store at 11th and Lamont this weekend and saw it was open.

From previous posts, here's a bit about Mr. Larry and what his store will carry:
Known as Mr. Larry and owner of Libra (my dog) have lived in the D.C. area all of my life and in Columbia Heights the last 11 years.........have watched the changes in the area and I want to be a part of it!  I want to provide a service to the area,thus Mr.Larry's Pet Supply Store.  Feel free to tell me what you want and need!
I  would welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and deliver you the best service in the industry.
I will carry 80% all-natural/organic food and of course my neighbors "favorites" and USA products. I'm very excited for this opportunity! Thanks againn for your support! Welcome any suggestions and feedback. I can be reached at e-mail sgtlarryb@aol.com Remember 10% of all sales goes to Pet 2 Vet, please check their web site!

The Columbia Heights Street Booze game

A commenter on the last Street Booze post wrote about this game, pretty funny stuff. Of course, you only win if you throw the items away.

Anonymous said:
My roommates and I have started a game that you can play while commuting to/from the CH metro: 1 point for every street booze-related mixer or insinuating drinking (arizona tall boy fruit punch cans, black liquor bags, etc), 2 points for beer(40's, cans, bottles, 30 rack boxes, bottle caps, etc), 3 points for liquor (plastic vodka bottles, occasional patron bottle), and 4 points for witnessing someone in the act of street boozing, not on private property. So far I've gotten up to 14 points in 3 blocks. Try to beat me!
This sounds like fun, I'm going to try. I wonder which directions will have the most points? I'm guessing down Irving Street.

Easter event for kids this Sunday

Just got this from the folks at Grace Meridian Hill Church, a newish church in the neighborhood:
On Sat, 4/23, we are hosting a fun-filled neighborhood event at Girard Street Playground — a dynamic time for building relationships with our local neighbors (especially the little ones!) through various activities, including face-painting, egg-decorating, crafts, snacks, an Easter Egg hunt, sports and games, and more! See photos of last year’s event here.

Event Details:

What: a great opportunity to serve our neighborhood kids and families, build new relationships and strengthen our own relationships as we serve our community together.
When: 11am-1pm, Saturday, April 23
Where: Girard Street Playground (Girard & 15th St NW, next to the Columbia Heights Rec Ctr)Who: our local kids, families, our church community, and some local partners! 
How: with your help — sign up now!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tenants for View 14: YWCA, martial arts academy

Looks like the retail spaces in the View 14 building on the northeast corner on 14th and Florida will be getting some tenants: YWCA National Capital Area and the Beta Academy martial arts school.

Maybe not the ideal tenants everyone would hope for (say a bookstore, Asian restaurant, or one of the other things we're missing), but still not too bad. The YWCA National Capital Area space will house their offices and also space for programming. They're moving from downtown. The Beta Academy was located in the Calvary Methodist Church on Columbia Road between 14th and 15th. They do, among other things, Thai boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes.

I think this will be good for foot traffic in the area, both during the day with YWCA employees and at night for people going to classes at both the YWCA and Beta Academy. Plus it could have been worse, like another bank or cell phone store.

There are still two retail spots open in View 14, and the WBJ article above says they've gotten a lot of interest, including from restaurants. The building was recently sold to Denver-based UDR.

I highlighted the building in January when I wrote about all the empty street-level retail on 14th Street. Nice to see some spaces getting filled.

What do you think: good tenants or not?

Street Booze Salad Dressing: Ken's Thousand Island

So it's been awhile since I've posted a Street Booze, partially because I haven't seen too many. A friend sent this along, it's a bottle of Ken's Thousand Island salad dressing at 13th and Girard.

Maybe our neighborhood is getting healthier? People are loitering and having a nice salad instead of say, Mad Dog 20-20 or ponies of Heineken?

Curious about more Street Booze? Check out the archive.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

VegWeek 2011: Cupcakes at Sticky Fingers today, Pete's pizza deals all week

This week is VegWeek 2011, where people can pledge to be a vegetarian for a week and get recipes, deals and more. It was started in Takoma Park (makes sense) in 2009 and has since spread to a few other cities. And this year, a few spots in our neighborhood are taking part.

Pete's Apizza has a 25% off coupon for all vegan items and (fittingly since we've been talking about cupcakes), Sticky Fingers is selling "compassion" cupcakes all day today with $1 from each cupcake going to Compassion Over Killing, an animal advocacy group.

I'm not a vegetarian, but Sticky Fingers does have some pretty good stuff, even of the fake meat variety.

Earth Day event at Meridian Pint on Wednesday, with Sierra Nevada beer & Community Marketplace

This sounds cool: Meridian Pint is hosting an Earth Day event on Wednesday the 20th featuring beer from Sierra Nevada. In addition, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., The Columbia Heights Community Marketplace organizers and some farmers will be there.

If you're wondering, the Community Marketplace's first day this season is May 7.

Fun event at the Girard Children's Community Garden this weekend

This sounds like a cool event for kids and adults this Saturday the 23rd: 

Hello Neighbors,
We would like to invite you all to come out and get closer to the earth next weekend at Girard Children's Community Garden! We will be working in the garden from 10-1 to:
- turn and mix in compost
- make repairs to existing structures
- mulch
- paint
- plant
- get to know fantastic local gardeners of all ages!
Work days are a lot of fun and open to kids and adults. If you are interested in participating and/or making a donation to keep Girard Children's Community Garden going green, please contact Lola lola@cityblossoms.org Rain date will be Sunday, April 24, same time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Proposed Metro weekend service cuts mean trips could take longer

Looks like your trips downtown could take longer on the weekends: Metro is discussing reducing service on the weekends as a way to cut their budget gap, meaning waits could go from 12 to 18 minutes during the day on Saturday and up to 25 after 9:30 pm. Better leave early if you're going to Gallery Place for a movie, for example. The plans won't go into effect until September if approved, and there's a public comment period in May.

Here's the full rundown. The Metro board did drop one idea to raise money: selling station naming rights. Guess we won't be getting off at the Potbelly-Mattress Discounters/Columbia Heights station anytime soon. Or would it be Wonderland-Meridian Pint/Columbia Heights?

Fact check: Lou's City Bar did not replace CommonWealth

A few times recently I've heard people talking about Lou's City Bar replacing CommonWealth: this is not the case. CommonWealth and Lou's are different spaces, Lou's is down the street from CommonWealth's space.

In addition, CommonWealth didn't go bankrupt, which I've heard as well -- it apparently did quite well but was sold by its owner, Jamie Leeds, who apparently got a great offer from her landlord, Terry Cullen. Leeds said she wanted to focus on expanding her other restaurant, Hank's Oyster Bar. Cullen also owns the Highland Park building and Lou's City Bar and said a few months ago that he'd be reopening the place with a similar concept.

So hopefully all is not lost for CommonWealth fans. Let's hope the new place, which I hope to learn more about, will have Scotch eggs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Yard Sale Roundup: First of 2011!

It's getting nice out and it's yard sale season again. Here's the first Yard Sale Roundup for 2011! There aren't too many on Craigslist, but there are a few that sound fun:

--Sunday starting at 10 am, "Big mutli-house Columbia Heights yard sale" at 2702 13th Street (between Fairmont and Girard): men's and women's clothes, computer equipment, books, music, "and lots of other interesting, random must haves, like an Obama bobblehead, a whale statue, a gold-painted motorcycle helmet and much more. Priced to move!" link

--Saturday all day (rain date Sunday), "YARD SALE," 1851 Columbia Road NW: bike, bed, camera, kitchenware, typewriter, cassette deck, lots of clothes, gardening equipment, flute, encyclopedia, suitcases, etc. etc. link


Meridian Pint first to sell new DC Brau beer starting today

For the first time since the 1950s, DC will have its own production brewery, DC Brau, and the first place that will sell its wares is Meridian Pint, starting today. Nice to see beer finally being brewed and bottled (or canned, in this case) in DC.

The brewers, Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock, will be on hand to unveil their Public Pale Ale, which will be $4 from 5-8 pm and $5 afterwards. Meridian Pint will be the only place with the beer until Monday.

DCist reports there are other breweries on the way too, including Chocolate City, which some of the folks from Wonderland and Looking Glass are involved with, and Three Stars. I for one support this beer renaissance, and it's good timing that we have a good American beer bar to catch the trend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

IHOP to deliver to Highland Park, then the rest of Columbia Heights

I can't decide if this is a great or terrible. The Wash Biz Journal reports that our always-packed IHOP will start delivering across the street to Highland Park, and then sometime later to the rest of the neighborhood. This sort of makes sense, as the place often has long waits, but as Missy Frederick points out in the WBJ article, it's not hard to make pancakes.

That said, it does take longer to make certain things on the menu (say the Stuffed French Toast Combo, the 11-piece Breakfast Sampler Combo, or whatever this is), and some might argue that IHOP's breakfast stuff has a special goodness -- and special badness for you.

Plus they already do carry-out.

Seriously drivers, yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk

Twice this week I've almost been hit by cars as I crossed Girard at 14th street. In the middle of the sidewalk crosswalk, during the walk signal.

Both times the drivers were going south, making a fairly quick turn left from 14th Street, and both times I was already in the middle of the sidewalk crosswalk by the time they turned. The first time was a blue DC government car and the driver yelled "asshole" to me through the window as she blew past me. Nice. Unfortunately I didn't get the number of the car. The second time was this morning, a white SUV was making the same turn as I was in the middle of the intersection, and the driver yelled "walk faster!" I walk at a normal speed and I'm in a crosswalk during a walk signal. Screw you.

I get that crossing against traffic isn't the easiest, but neither is getting run over. This stuff drives me crazy.

(Note, I meant crosswalk both times above. Too grumpy this morning.)

UNICEF fundraiser in the neighborhood this Sunday

The UNICEF Tap Project is an effort to get safe drinking water for kids, and they're hosting a fundraiser this Sunday at the Josephine Butler house on 15th, across from Meridian Hill Park. Here's more about it from them, below is the press release, and here's a video about it. 
Purchase a ticket to paint your own umbrella and help UNICEF provide clean water to kids around the world! We supply the materials and mission, you supply the vision!  A $40 ticket (one umbrella and up to 4 painters) will provide a child with clean drinking water for 4 years!
Sounds neat, and you can get tickets here.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Park Road streetscape improvements look really nice

 
The Park Road streetscape and building facade upgrades, which I wrote about last year, are done and look great. Check out the before and after above -- a world of difference. No security grates, no ugly white concrete, no plastic signs, nicer curbs, fresh coat of paint, etc. Everything looks more inviting and a lot of the stores look brand new even if they aren't. I had no idea that one place on the left was a Chilean restaurant, for example, and would like to check it out. Plus a lot of the empty spaces have permits on the window.

The money for the rehab came from a $526,000 grant to the Coalition of Park Road Businesses from DC's Department of Housing and Community Development. Here's a bit more from the Development Corp. of Columbia Heights and from Metro Diversity.

Great to see small businesses banding together to do good stuff like this. Let's hope this continues to attract small businesses. What do you think? Please don't say lipstick on a pig.

UPDATE: A commenter said they think the two photos are different blocks -- they're not, they're the exact same buildings.

Cardozo High School expanding, getting renovated


Looks like the Cardozo High School building is getting bigger: the home of the Clerks (as the sign says) may be getting a new gym and pool area. Their current ones are pretty small, according to the Left for Ledroit blog, which posted about it. They'll both be built into the hillside, so views from uphill won't be obstructed, which is cool. The expansions will have parking lots on top, so you can presumably still go there for July 4th.

The outside is getting restored too, which is nice. It's a really great building, in my opinion. Here's the documents about the plan:

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that the additions won't block the view because they're built into the hillside.

Cardozo Senior High School Renovation Concept

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Council candidate debate tonight at 7 pm!

If you missed it, we're having a city council election on April 26th for the at-large seat vacated by Kwame "The Navigator" Brown when he became council chair. There's a debate tonight hosted by Washington City Paper, NBC4, and WPFW’s DC Politics show.

Sekou Biddle, Patrick Mara, Bryan Weaver, Vincent Orange, Arkan Haile, and Joshua Lopez are invited.

Should be an interesting time. It's tonight from 7-9pm at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW.

From the press release:
Loose Lips columnist Alan Suderman, NBC4’s Tom Sherwood, and “DC Politics” host Chuck Thies will ask the tough questions. Former Loose Lips writers may drop by for a zinger, too
Here's more from the City Paper.

Who's the guy on the horse at 16th and Mt. Pleasant?

If you've been to Mt. Pleasant or down 16th, you've probably noticed the equestrian statue in the triangle where Mt. Pleasant Street hits 16th. It's a man in a hat and a cape with the words "Francis Asbury 1745-1817 Pioneer Methodist Bishop." So who is he?

Asbury was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which became the United Methodist Church, today the second biggest Protestant denomination in the US behind the Southern Baptists. He has a pretty interesting story, beginning with the fact that his mother had a dream that her son would be a great Christian leader. He was born in England and was in the US during the Revolutionary War, where he was the only Methodist minister in the colonies at the time.

He traveled all over the country, averaging about 6,000 miles a year and preaching where ever he could, including along the frontier of the time. He became quite popular and earned the nickname "Prophet of the Long Road," which is also inscribed in the statue. John Wesley named him the head of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the USA with Thomas Coke and under them, the church went from 1,200 members to 214,000, or about 2.5% of the total US population at the time. Lots of things were named in his honor, including schools, colleges, and Asbury Park, New Jersey, which you may know if you're from New Jersey or a Bruce Springsteen fan.

The statue on 16th Street (which has a Wikipedia page of its own) was completed by Augustus Lukeman in 1921. It was funded by the Francis Asbury Memorial Foundation and Congress approved it in 1919, as it sits in Federal land (most triangles in DC are Federal land.) Lukeman was a prominent sculptor of the time, he also worked on Stone Mountain in Georgia, the big Confederate monument.

Along with the text with Asbury's name, the statue has other inscriptions. On the left: "HIS CONTINUOUS JOURNEY THROUGH CITIES VILLAGES AND SETTLEMENTS FROM 1771 TO 1816 GREATLY PROMOTED PATRIOTISM EDUCATION MORALITY AND RELIGION IN THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC; Act of Congress," On the right: "IF YOU SEEK FOR THE RESULTS OF HIS LABOR YOU WILL FIND THEM IN OUR CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION," and on the back: "THE PROPHET OF THE LONG ROAD".

UPDATE: Here's Pres. Calvin Coolidge at the dedication, and the speech he gave.

First photo by Mr. T in DC
Second via Library of Congress and NCinDC

Meridian Pint to have outdoor seating, Wonderland putting out tables on May 1st tables already out


Good news for fans of eating outside: I spotted this notice in the window at Meridian Pint, which soon will have some outdoor seating. The original plan was to have 45 seats outside, so a pretty good size. In related news, Wonderland will put their tables out on the 11th Street side on May 1. already put their tables out on 11th Street. I guess they did it ahead of schedule. The patio has been getting a little packed recently.

And it's pretty funny that the LLC for Meridian Pint is called "Notta Bike Or Bar, LLC" -- a reference to Asylum, which at times is a biker bar.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New coffee shop coming to Mt. Pleasant Street soon

While it's technically not our neighborhood, it's always nice to get another coffee shop nearby. The other day I ran into a guy named Mike Visser, who's opening Flying Fish Coffee & Tea at 3064 Mt. Pleasant Street NW. They hope to open in the next few weeks, depending on permits. They'll have prepared food plus coffee and tea.

Here's more from Mike, and here's a link from PoP when the shop was announced.
As for prepared foods, i will only have pastries and some fresh fruit. My breakfast items will be coming from Hawthorne Fine Breakfast, and will be supplemented by vegan and other late day options (cookies, biscotti, etc...) from Chez Hareg. Unfortunately lack of kitchen space precludes anything more elaborate from being prepared in the space. 

One of the things I would like to highlight about Flying Fish is that all syrups and mixes will be made in house from whole ingredients. No extracts or chemicals, just things like vanilla beans, toasted almonds, sugar, and water. The chai and cocoa syrups will also be made in house and the mixes will all be vegan friendly so they can be made with soy milk if desired.

Sounds pretty tasty. Here's their Facebook page. Tynan and Columbia Heights Coffee are often quite busy, so I suspect they'll do well.

Vincent Orange car parked illegally while recording says he "favors aggressive enforcement of DC laws"


I tweeted about this before, but thought it deserved a full post. On Saturday I was walking down 14th and noticed a car with a Vincent Orange sign parked illegally outside the 14th and Girard Street Park, there was some kind of event going on there. Ironically, the recording that was being broadcast from the loudspeaker, Blues Brothers-style, said "Vincent Orange favors aggressive enforcement of DC laws." I guess parking is not included.

Orange is running for at-large city council against Patrick Mara, Bryan Weaver, Sekou Biddle, and Josh Lopez.

Vincent Orange is an ok guy, but I'm not going to vote for him -- he's basically a career politician, he was on the city council for ward 5 and ran for mayor, council chair, and pretty much everything else. He hasn't been involved in major scandals, but he doesn't seem to really do much either. Just sort of a status quo guy. Then again, I wish he would have won the council chair race instead of Kwame Brown.

Craigslist ad: "Free rent for a cute girl!"

Just spotted this on the housing ads on Craigslist, "$1 free rent for a cute girl!" Pretty bizarre. You'd hope that nobody would actually accept this deal.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Need beer for your gov't shutdown party? Giant has weird mixed 6-packs!

A reader sent this in, pretty funny:
Thought you might get a kick out of this. Giant found a way to sell their rogue beers.  You can find these lovely cellophane wrapped- variety packs on the sales shelf in the back.  Who doesn't want two bud lights, one shock top, one bud heavy and a few sam adams?  Sadly.  No price listed.

Shots fired near Columbia Heights Metro

UPDATE: I've been told by a reliable source that a gun has been recovered.

I don't normally write about crime, but this is too crazy not to mention. About 11 8:45 am today, security guards fired at a 17-year old they believe had a gun after he allegedly tried to rob someone at gunpoint on the 1300 block of Harvard. No one was injured and the suspect was captured and is being charged as an adult.

Simon Landau with Channel 9 has the story, including an interview with the suspect's friend who claims his friend didn't have a gun and wasn't involved. The security guards were from Columbia Heights Village at 2900 14th Street NW. There was a foot chase after a witness pointed the suspect out to the security guards, and the shots were fired on the 3000 block of 14th Street, between Columbia and Irving. DCist has more.

Strange story. Who tries to rob somebody at 11 8:45 am?

Even more on 1483 Newton: disagreements between owners

1483 (left) and a neighbor
1483 Newton, the big abandoned apartment building, has become quite a saga. I learned a bit more recently: apparently the building was owned by two brothers. When they both passed away, the building went to their wives. One of them wanted to sell it, but the other didn't want to, and they've disagreed with what to do with it since then. And that's where we stand today.

As I noted previously, they owe $130,000 in taxes and if they don't pay, it will go to a tax sale in July. Apparently there's some interest in the place, so we'll see, and it doesn't make any sense to sit on a building if you don't plan to do anything -- that's the whole reason behind the $10 per $100 assessed value tax.

It's really a shame, because as some readers have noted, identical buildings on the same block are quite nice. You can see on Google Streetview what the building could become. Let's hope.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kids' Festival this Saturday at Girard Street Park

Got kids? Check it out! Sort of fits into the whole "what can you do with kids in the neighborhood?" question from awhile ago. I kind of wish I had kids so I could go to the bouncey house.
This is a reminder about the Kids Festival taking place on Saturday, April 9th from 12:00 - 3:00 pm at Girard Street Park (on the corner of Girard St and 15th St NW).  There are a few new partners on board with the event:
 
The District Church
Columbia Heights Youth Club
Columbia Heights Young Life
Department of Parks and Recreation
DC Child Care Connection
Head Start
 
Along with FREE food, face painting, sports, a bouncey house, photo booth, dance, and sign-ups for free senior portraits for those graduating from high school there will also be a range of live music, from a drum circle, to a family blues band.
 
Come celebrate as we kick off the Week of the Young Child!

Park Road cleanup on Saturday

Check out this Park Road cleanup on Saturday organized by Past Tense yoga studio:
Please join us for a Park Road Cleanup.

WHEN: Saturday April 9th, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
WHERE: Park Road NW from 14th St. to Mt. Pleasant St.

We're looking for folks of all ages to help clean up Park Road between 14th Street and Mt. Pleasant St.

Join neighbors and friends for a fun spring morning to make our neighborhood cleaner.

We supply: gloves and garbage bags.

You supply: a helping hand.

Please meet in the park across from Sacred Heart Church (16th and Park) at 9:00 a.m. and we'll hand out supplies.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Temporary jobs in the neighborhood for furloughed Federal workers?

As you probably are aware, the government may shut down soon, meaning potentially a lot of Columbia Heights residents will be temporary without an income. A reader posed this question, got any ideas?
...I am looking for full-time or part-time (anything, really) work in our neighborhood (Columbia Heights, Petworth, Mt. Pleasant, Admo) I could do temporarily until they decide to make us go back to work.  The problem is that we don't know how long we are going to be furloughed for - it could be a few days, could be a month - but regardless I need some sort of income starting next week while I'm not getting paid, otherwise I won't be able to pay my rent on time.  Does anyone know of a job that I could get quickly in our neighborhood which wouldn't mind hiring me temporarily?  Does anyone know of any place that is hiring?  Was wondering maybe one of the readers could help me with suggestions...thanks!
Good question. Anybody?

How to report things to the city

After the post about 1483 Newton Street NW, I received a few questions from people asking how to report things to the city. The first thing I always use is the city's 311 number, which also has a website: 311.dc.gov : you can report most issues there, as well as request bulk trash pick-up and lots of other things.

Another, newer option (though I'd recommend doing both) is the Washington Post's Daily Gripe, where you report something and they direct it to who is supposed to handle it. I've never used it, but they write about different gripes and what's been done: for example, the bent bike rack on Park Road, which I also mentioned awhile ago. But really, I'd recommend both.

You can also try contacting your ANC commissioner: here's maps of ANC1A (north Columbia Heights) and ANC1B (south Columbia Heights). And if all else fails, there's always Jim Graham and the other councilmembers.

For abandoned lots (but not abandoned buildings, that's different) you can report them to DCRA: (202) 442-4332 or by emailing dcra@dc.gov.

Has anyone used the Daily Gripe? Or have any other suggestions for getting stuff done?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crime and abandoned buildings: 1483 Newton, again

As I was writing up the previous post about 1483 Newton, I received an email from a reader whose friend had their car broken into. The perpetrator then apparently took the stuff over to 1483 Newton Street NW, the abandoned building, where they looked through it and got rid of the stuff they didn't want.

Just another example of how aside from being eyesores and a waste of real estate where people could live, abandoned buildings can also harbor crime. Here's the reader's full story. It also serves as a reminder to always be careful about having things in your car in plain view, as the reader notes. If you saw any of this happen, please contact the police.
Yesterday, a friends car was broken into on Meridian Place just east of 16th St when he was visiting my apartment.  This occurred between 1 and 6 PM on Sunday April 3rd, right next to the awning of the Meridian Place entrance to the Urban Village apartments.  The rear window was broken in and a bag, containing a laptop and camera among other things was taken.  Yes, this stuff should not have been left visible in his car, but I would like to pass the details along to hopefully prevent such things from happening to others in the future.  I also feel horrible that my friend was at hy house when I was not around and was not there to make sure he took all valuables out of his car, as he is not used to parking in the area.  I hate that this reflects so poorly on my neighborhood., which for the most part, I love and feel very safe in.

The police in this case were next to useless.  An officer showed up and stayed for quite a while. but the crime scene investigators he called never showed up(Im sure that they were short staffed and had more important things to tend to, which is annoying but understandable).  my friend received a phone call while waiting for the investigators from a woman who had found his bag, albeit without the camera or laptop.  The officer went to take a look, but left the bag and its contents there until the investigators showed up.  When they did not, and it started to rain, he told us to go get the stuff, but as he could not get back in touch with the woman who had found it, had us do it ourselves.  We later managed to get in touch with the nice woman who had found the bag by the dumpster at the apartment building at 1489 Newton street, and she took us back there.  She said however that she thought there had been more stuff there and it had disappeared in the time the officer would not let us retrieve it, but left it unattended.  We observed some more of my friends stuff, mostly CDs, strewn around on the other side of the fence, which is the abandoned building at 1483 Newton.  we called the police hoping they could come out as we could not get into the padlocked lot and while we could have hopped the fence, it did not seem to necesarily be the smartest plan to approach an abandoned building in the dark.  The cops never came, so we left the stuff there.  For all we know, the perps and some of the more important items (laptop, camera) could have been in the building.

I live at the Allegro Appartment building.  I can actually see the abandoned building in question from my deck.  I think those six or so identical older style buildings on Newton and Meridian which back to the alley behind Allegro are beautiful.  But my guess is that these perps ran through the Urban Garden parking lot, hopped the fence into 1483 Netwon, rummaged through the bag there, and tossed what they didnt want over the fencce to the dumpster at 1489. 

The rest of those older buildings have been rennovated and seem to be very nice places.  I am sure that there would be an economic incentive to do the same for the building at 1483.  Whether they turn it into expensive condos or subsidized housing, it would certainly be better than the blight that it seems to be today.  I love Columbia Heights, blemishes and all, and I think the worst thing to do would be to overreact to things like this and further the pushing out of the people who live here and are virtually all good people.  But this should not be the kind of activity we just take for granted, and I think that something needs to be done to prevent the kind of behavior that no one here wants to continue.  I would hope that something can be done to clean up that abandoned building and keep that from being an attractive hangout for those who would swipe things from cars.

In addition, if anyone has any information that would help solve this crime, that would be very much appreciated, but I have no illusions that this will ever be solved.  It is also worth noting that some residents near the scene of the burglary mentioned that there had been quite a few crimes in that area recently. 

Abandoned House Watch: The saga of 1483 Newton Street NW

I've written about 1483 Newton Street NW before, it's a big, abandoned apartment building on an otherwise decent block. It's been abandoned for some time, the city tried to buy it for $3.1 million in 2009, but that was squashed since it seems way too high for an abandoned building.

Finally through much digging and working with the city and Jim Graham, I found that it's owned by "ROBERTA ONG ROUMEL TRUSTEE" with a Macarthur Blvd address, who apparently bought it (or was given it, it's unclear) on January 11, 2011. (The link may not work, if not just type in the address.)

The place is assessed at about $1 million and is being taxed at the blighted property rate ($10 per every $100 assessed). The owners currently owe more than $130,000 in taxes from 2010 and 2011, including penalties, and if they don't pay the building will go on the tax sale list. They were also fined $2,000 for not registering it as an abandoned building.

Of course, going on the tax sale means someone has to buy it and fix it up, but it's a start. If it does go on the tax sale list, the owners are notified in April, the list is published in May, and the sale is done in July. Unfortunately the city can't just seize it if it's delinquent.

Here's what happened to track this info down -- per a reader's email, I first asked Councilmember Graham, who let me know some of the backstory and asked DCRA about taxes. At the same time I emailed the Office of Tax and Revenue, who said the taxes were being paid, which I found hard to believe since they would have had to pay $100,000 on an abandoned building -- no small change. Graham then got in touch with DCRA, who confirmed that taxes had not been paid and it was delinquent. The city's condemnation board discussed the property, but I'm not sure what they agreed to do, the agenda is unclear. I'll follow up on that.

Thanks to everyone who helped from DC Government and to Jim Graham. Let's hope this place goes on the tax list and is sold to someone who develops it into something good for the neighborhood.

If you'd like to check on a property, the city's Taxpayer Service Center can give you assessment and ownership information, and at the bottom of the page for a property there's a link to the tax information: this link under the Real Property Service Center. This is what the info looks like, and you can see the tax links on the bottom. Click for a bigger version:

UPDATE: A little googling finds a Roberta Roumel who owns Roumel Properties, and she's listed elsewhere around the metro area as a property owner. Hmmm.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Learn more about Meridian Hill Park tonight

Henderson Castle on 16th, demolished in 1949. The walls still exist.
U Street Girl has a little post about a cool-sounding event tonight from 7-9 in the community room at the View 14 at 14th and Florida:
Architectural historian Kimberly Prothro Williams, DC Office of Planning, will give a presentation on the history of the Meridian Hill neighborhood.
She will answer questions like:
  • What is that piece of stone castle wall at 16th Street and Florida Avenue?
  • How did Meridian Hill become a park?
This is one of the few times I've heard of the Meridian Hill neighborhood, but in any case, the history of the area is pretty interesting.

There really was a castle on 16th, the Henderson Castle. The Henderson family who built it were interesting folks: John Brooks Henderson was a senator from Missouri and with his wife Mary Foote Henderson, they bought a lot of the land around Meridian Hill, developing it as mansions and embassies. Mary successfully lobbied Congress to get them to make it a park and unsuccessfully lobbied them to move the Presidential home to Meridian Hill Park. There's a bit more on the Wikipedia page and a lot more in this book, Washington, D.C. Off the Beaten Path, 4th: A Guide to Unique Places, on Google. The castle was demolished in 1949 but the walls on 16th Street still exist.

Sure to be an interesting presentation.

New neighborhood jeans store called Chickass -- best name ever?

Is this the best store name ever?

The other day I was walking up 14th Street and spotted this: Chickass, which sells Colombian jeans. I remember it opened as Chickas, and there's still one sign that says that, but two, including this main one, say "Chickass." Chicas is "girls" in Spanish, so maybe it's an extremely obvious pun? As in, "women: this is for your ass." Weird.

The store is located at 3533 14th Street NW, just south of Perry. Here's the other two signs, one with some prominent pictures of booties.




Cool new mural at Giant

As part of the Great Day of Service on Saturday, the folks from BloomBars and others painted a mural in the foyer at Giant on Park Road. The link has a ton of photos of the work in progress. Always nice to see this sort of public art, especially at businesses.

Did anyone check out the Great Day of Service? I saw lots of yard sales around.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Gaithersburg Heights: Chili's of the Day

As part of my continuing Chili's of the Day series, in which I check out all the local Chili's locations, I decided to go to the one in the shopping center with the nail salon and the arcade, next to the car wash. This one was a lot better than those jokers in the Rockville Chili's, that's for sure. Those guys didn't know authentic Mexican cuisine at all! They had something called "Menudo." What is that? That's a band, not Mexican food.

So anyway, how was it? I got the $20 dinner for two, but I ate it all myself. The fried cheese was delectable, much superior to the crap from the Germantown Chili's. For entrees I had the Quesadilla Explosion Salad, which was a little disappointing but still exploded a lot more than others I've had. Plus it's a salad so it's good for me. The Honey Chipotle Crispy Chicken Crispers® were probably the finest expression of Mexican cooking I've ever had. I felt like I was in Oaxaca, except for the Creed they were playing on the stereo. I also tried the Triple Dipper™ which is basically a cheeseburger -- a cheeseburger de Mexico!

The service was good, they smiled a lot, but they didn't refill my chips and Kicked Up Queso.

Drinks-wise I felt like being healthy so I got the Skinny Patron Margarita, and I even pronounced Patron correctly, like Pah-Trone. I wanted some more though so I also tried a Perfect Patron Reposado Margarita, a Blue Pacific Margarita® and finally a traditional Mexican beer called "Corona." It had a lime in it! The dessert, the Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie® was certainly paradiso! (That's Spanish.)

In all, I'd say this was one of the better Chili's of the Days I've been to. Certainly better than Montgomery Village, but not quite to the level of the Aspen Hill location.

New Gaithersburg Heights: Awesome way to walk your dog: from your SUV!

Don't you hate walking your dog? You have to turn off America's Next Top Food Network Loser (vs 100) and then go outside in the heat or cold! And get pollen on you and talk to people! It's terrible.

So I came up with an awesome way to do it: from your SUV! Just hook Fido up to your leash and hold the leash out the window. Then you can drive down your cul-de-sac (in my case Meadow Heritage Terrace Trace Way) while Fido does his business. Make sure you don't drive too fast though.

You can play your smooth jazz station and even roll the window up most of the way so you can turn on the A/C full blast. It's like you never left the house! Then to reward yourself hit the Cold Stone Creamery on the way back.

Moving to Gaithersburg, See you later Columbia Heights

So I got tired of the walkable neighborhood, nearby Metro, cool bars and restaurants and plentiful retail and decided to go to Gaithersburg. It's great! I can drive my SUV to the mailbox and back, or drive my SUV to the drive in Starbucks and back, or just drive it around in circles. There isn't much chance to run into any neighbors, thank God, and Pier One has lots of awesome rattan furniture for my walk-in closet. I got to throw away my bike since there's nowhere to ride it anyway, and why ride when I can drive, and I just applied for a cake of the month club. Plus I'm tired of Obama in my neighborhood all the time -- boring!

People say it's far out here, but I like the commute. I can shave, read the newspaper, and brush my teeth while driving down 270. Well not really driving, more like sitting for 5 minutes then going 5 feet. It's fun. And I'm not far from anything I want to do: Chili's is the bomb!

Plus there's a lot going on here: for example, girls softball lost to Sherwood -- I hate Sherwood. The other big problems are that we are all really mad because the school district didn't notify us immediately when a school bus driver was arrested, and they're going to fix the out of order addresses in the neighborhood. Finally! Plus there was some suspicious kid playing basketball in our cul de sac, all the neighbors were talking about it. I'm going to keep my eye on him, why isn't he inside playing Call of Duty?

Anyway, have fun in your city "neighborhood" suckas!