Friday, June 28, 2013

4th of July fireworks now for sale: buy them in Columbia Heights, Petworth

Fireworks Stand, 2300 Block of MLK Avenue SE If you like fireworks, this is your time and Columbia Heights is your place to buy them.

The city's approved fireworks vendors are now open for business, and a lot of the vendors are in our area. (The city published a map of all the vendors here.)

There are two on 14th Street, at 3429 14th and 3531 14th, plus two on Georgia Avenue at 4140 and 4013, and another at the corner of Georgia and New Hampshire.

You won't be able to get the huge ones that shoot up in the air and explode, but you can get sparklers, ones that make noise and shoot sparks into the sky, and other fun stuff.

Unfortunately they don't allow the tanks either -- those are my favorite. We staged a reenactment of the Battle of Kursk on the roof of a Park Road townhouse a few years ago. (The residents were cool with it, though for safety reasons it is probably not recommended.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mexican/Salvadoran restaurant El Atardecer opening in old DC Fish Carryout space (eventually)


You may recall DC Fish Carryout -- the place at 14th and Otis that was busted as a front for crack dealers. The owner and two others either plead guilty or were convicted, and it's been closed for some time. But now something else is coming in.

The other day I spotted a liquor license application in the window and some work going on. It seems the place is going to be called El Atardecer and they're planning for 60 seats and 29 patio seats. It'll have Mexican and Salvadoran food. There isn't much else more than that, but we should hear more in the next few months as they go through the alcohol board process.

Considering that I've heard and seen very little about the place, it may be aimed more at the Latin American community in the neighborhood, like some of the other spots on that stretch of 14th Street.


Looking for housing (or anything else?) Craigslist now has maps!


This looks like a boon to apartment, bargain and whatever else-hunters: Craigslist now has a map for many of their listings. Simply click on your category, then map view, and pow, all the results are mapped out. The results are clustered, so zoom in and they'll start to spread out. Then click and you can see the listings.

They also added a "grid view" with big pictures and a "pic view," oddly with smaller pictures.

Of course, that's reliant on the people accurately putting their locations on there, but for things where that's important (like, say, apartments) you'd hope they would. I would guess that means it's less handy for things might not put their address in the ad, like stuff for sale, but still, pretty handy.

I wish I had this when I was looking for places in the past. Definitely a big help.

City pools are now open every day! (Except one)

To me, summer is really here -- the city's outdoor pools are open. Banneker Pool at Georgia and Euclid, the closest pool for most folks in the neighborhood, is open 1-8pm weekdays (except Thursdays, when it's closed) and Saturdays and and Sundays from noon to 6 pm.

If you haven't been, the city pools are pretty great. They're free for DC residents, just show your DC drivers license, DC college ID, utility or tax bill with your DC address, or one of these things. Non-residents have to pay $7, or $4 for kids -- still not bad. 

The pool is big enough that you generally have some room to swim, cavort with buddies or just relax. They do adult swim every now and then too. There's a separate baby pool as well.

Banneker is pretty big, though chairs go quickly so you'll want to bring a towel to sit on. They're also sticklers for people to shower before they get in, which is something I can support. And they don't technically allow drinks, but you can usually drink from a water bottle. 

Food is a no-no, but if you want to run out for a snack, there's always McDonald's next door, and just up Georgia Avenue is Mama Chuy's, a great spot for post-pool tacos and margaritas. J. Bell's Winghouse on Euclid is also pretty tasty.




Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Don't Block the Box standup night, June 28 at Wonderland

Do you like jokes and comedians? Let's hope so. If so, get yourself to Wonderland for the third anniversary of the neighborhood's Don't Block the Box comedy night!
This Friday Night at the Wonderland Ballroom fresh off the the Three year anniversary, Don't Block the Box brings you the next installment with the fantastic headliner Aparna Nancherla! Info is listed below and we hope to see you out!

Don't Block the Box is back and starting our year off right with a show you will definitely regret missing... so don't miss it!

HEADLINER 
Aparna Nancherla!!! (Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, SXSW, WTF podcast, Nerdist podcast, DC's best and brightest who headlined our first ever show!) https://twitter.com/aparnapkin 
FEATURING
Dana Bell (DC Improv) https://twitter.com/danacbellNatalie McGill (Winner of 2013 Commedia dell Media D.C. Funniest Journalist Competition)  https://twitter.com/littlenightowlPat Riley (The Charlie Visconage Show) https://twitter.com/PatRileyComedy 
HOSTED BY
Reggie Melbrough (The host with the most)
$3.00
21+

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Room 11 wins best beverage/mixology program at 2013 DC Rammy restaurant awards

Pouring The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington's annual Rammys food and beverage awards were held Sunday night, and a local spot was a big winner: Room 11, the great cocktail and wine restaurant at 11th and Lamont, picked up the award for best beverage/mixology program.

The restaurant staff seemed pretty surprised, tweeting "Wait, what?" after the results were announced. They then went to celebrate at El Chucho across the street.

I've been a big fan of Room 11 since they opened in 2009 -- they have good drinks and good food. I got to know some of the staff and would love sitting at the bar and chatting with the bartenders who would talk about why he chose which ingredients for drinks. I like that you can ask what a drink is (often the ingredients are unusual or exotic) and learn something while still getting a tasty cocktail.

The food is good too, with good cheese and charcuterie and tasty small entrees -- I really like the risotto. If you haven't been, check them out.

They were the only spot in the neighborhood to win a Rammy, but two places on 14th Street won, Estadio for best upscale casual restaurant and Bar Pilar for hottest restaurant bar scene, and Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan picked up the best new restaurant award.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Have you been to Z-Burger? It's delicious (and they have a fence up)

While Z-Burger at 3301 14th St NW has been open for some time, I hadn't checked it out yet. The other day I went with a buddy, and was really impressed. I got a hot dog with Z sauce, fries and a mango-kiwi milkshake and my buddy get a bacon burger. Everything was delicious.

The hot dog was split and grilled and the Z Sauce, which is sort of a tangy mayo-ish thing, was good. The fries are tasty too but not as greasy as Five Guys, and my buddy really enjoyed the burger. He's from California and said it was the closest he's had to an In-n-Out burger -- high praise. 

The shake was quite tasty too, very fresh and fruity. It wasn't particularly mango-kiwi-tasting, but was really good and tropical. And they have 75 flavors, which is pretty great.

And you may remember the fence saga -- the company wanted to install a permanent fence to enclose their sidewalk seating, while the city disagreed. It led to the business opening much later than they anticipated. When I was there I saw a movable fence in place, so I expect sidewalk seating to come soon.

Their milkshake window at the corner of 14th and Park is open now too, so you can get one to go. Maybe a good way to counteract your healthy purchase at the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace!

I'll definitely be back. Have you been? What do you think?

I didn't notice any ghosts, however.

Another reason to like RedRocks: responding and fixing a customer's problem on Twitter

I'm a fan of RedRocks, the pizza place at 11th and Park -- they have good pies, good beer, and good brunch (on a nice patio.)

On Sunday, Twitter user Justin O'Neill tweeted this picture to RedRocks and myself, with this caption. Red Rocks saw it, quickly responded apologizing and offering a gift card, and Justin was happy. Nice to see this kind of responsiveness and customer service by a local business!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Coupon King of Columbia Heights: how can you save lots of money with coupons?

The other day I saw an article in Bloomberg News about Edward Daniels, an actor and DJ who lives in the neighborhood and who has saved tons of money with coupons -- they call him the Coupon King of Columbia Heights.

This isn't just your usual $0.50 off coupons though, Daniels has learned how use coupons on top of coupons, resulting in deep discounts when buying in bulk. For example, Bloomberg reports he recently bought $2,800 worth of merchandise for less than $100.

It's pretty cool and similar to the couponing reality shows out there. He reached out to me on Twitter. I asked him a few questions about couponing, where you can do it in the neighborhood, and more. Here's what had had to say!

How did you get into couponing?
I was home just before Thanksgiving last year and caught a few episodes of Extreme Couponing and was very intrigued with the show. Customers were making purchases upwards of $500-$600 and only paying around $10 or so. I wasn't aware of so many facets of couponing (using coupons on sale items, BOGO deals, stacking manufacture coupons with store coupons, using your store card, etc)...in order to save tons of money. I returned to DC and attempted my first coupon run at a Rite Aid and it was awesome. I scored a few high priced body wash items for only .50. I've been couponing since then and have used it as a way to save money on groceries, household, and personal items.

Are there local stores where you do it?
YES, CoHi is a prime location because we're in between 4 CVSs, 3 Rite Aids, Target, Harris Teeter, and Safeway. Those are my hotspots.

How can somebody in the neighborhood get involved with this idea? 
You have to be highly organized, follow the coupon blogs, other couponers on Twitter, keep up with store sales, and have the time to actually hit up a few stores. I am an actor and run a small business, so my schedule allows flexible time to do this. Again, you have to be organized. You have to keep the Sunday coupon inserts and know where to print coupons online for the best deals. Since this thing has blown up, nationally, I'm going to be planning a few dates to offer couponing seminars for those looking to start and save money.

Do you ever have trouble using the thing you buy in bulk?
Using the item that I buy? No. I only spend money on anything that I am going to use or that will add to my supply. So, if I have a year's supply of a product that's only costing me .13 a pop, then I'm getting it because I don't need to purchase it later...or don't need to pay retail for it. If an item is free and I don't use it (ie, feminine products), yes I'm still buying it because it will be donated to family, friends, or a local shelter or food bank. I gave my family a huge donation when I went home for Mother's Day recently. I'm planning a donation locally as I type this. So, yes, everything goes to good use. I never pay for anything that I wouldn't ordinarily buy at some point.

[He recommended some local groups for donations: Bread for the City, Capital Area Food Bank, Calvary Women's Services, Martha's Table]

And finally, what stores aren't good for couponing, but you wish were?
Honestly, the local Target in Columbia Heights is horrible for couponing because the cashiers are completely unaware of the store's coupon policy. I just had yet another issue there yesterday and ended up calling corporate AGAIN. Coupon fraud is a huge issue in the retail world. I'm a very honest person and also know that it is illegal to photocopy coupons, sell them, etc. Also, as most retail cashiers and managers are unaware of, if you photocopy and use a coupon it MAY work, but most likely it will NOT scan twice. Also, you can print a coupon twice from each computer that you're using. Each coupon prints a separate digital code on the coupon for redemption. IF you are photocopying coupons, when they arrive at the manufacture for redemption and they are seeing duplicates from one computer code, they can block your pc from printing further. So, yes, I do everything by the book.

Target is the only place where I've had major issues with my coupons, but I rarely find 'amazing' couponing deals there anyway.

If you'd like to learn more, Edward is @edwarddaniels on Twitter and his site is  www.EdwardDaniels.com

Community meetings about loud fire truck sirens (no, really)

Are you annoyed when fire truck sirens make noise when they're on their way to put out fires and save people's lives? If so, here are some meetings for you.

I'm being somewhat sarcastic here, but some neighbors have organized a couple of community meetings to complain about the noise generated by emergency vehicles from the 14th and Monroe street firehouse. See the flyer above. They invited DC fire chief Kenneth Ellerbe and people from Councilmember Graham and Mendelson to come, plus ANC commish Pat Flynn.

Now I do agree that fire trucks are noisy -- but that's the whole idea. People are supposed to hear them so they get out of the way and the trucks are able to go as quickly as possible to put out the fire or administer medical care.

I also admit that I don't live next to a firehouse and I'm sure it can get tiresome to hear sirens all the time. But at the same time, if you live next to a firehouse, you should expect some fire truck sounds, just as if you live next to a hospital you'll hear ambulances, or if you live next to an airport you will probably hear some planes flying. That's living in a city. And it's not like this fire station just opened a week ago and it would be a surprise to residents -- it opened in 1895! That's 118 years that people should have known that a fire station is nearby.

I'm sure it's annoying, but to me there are much bigger issues out there than fire trucks that are supposed to be loud being loud. What's next, people being mad that ambulances drive fast? That coffee is hot? (Ok, I guess that is already an issue.)

Feel free to disagree in the comments or let me know what you think if you live in that area. Personally, I always thought that Zeba Bar, across from the fire station, should have a special drink deal when the fire truck siren goes off, $1 beers or something. That would be pretty fun.

UPDATE:  Maryam, the organizer, just wrote me in response to an email. Here's what she had to say.
People do argue that [if you're living near a fire house, you'll hear sirens] and they also have many other good arguments for why everyone should just tolerate the noise.   We all understand that we live near a firehouse and of course we want our tax dollars to be put to good use, so some level of noise is inevitable.  However, the noise has recently gone from present to omnipresent and oppressive.  
THE ISSUE
At this point, the narrow issue we want to eliminate is the excessive use of Monroe Street as a main east-west thoroughfare for the emergency vehicles and the related increase in sirens and noise.  After quite a bit of investigation, we believe - although at our community meetings we may find out otherwise - that there are two relatively simple fixes.  
THE SOLUTIONS 
First, the new medians on 14th Street just north of Park Road must be removed because they 1) create more traffic that 2) forces some of the emergency vehicles to use Monroe Street because they cannot get down the other east-west streets quickly enough.  Second, there are several new spots on our narrow street that were added in January that make it difficult for emergency vehicles to get through the narrow street, which is not ideal for them or for us because it causes them to lay on their horns and turn sirens on sooner and longer to try to get people out of the way. 
By the way, since we started this small effort to get everyone in our neighborhood together to speak with our elected officials and relevant agency officials, I have received emails from people all over the city who also are harmed by and tired of the excessive noise.  If you have visited other cities or even other more affluent parts of our own city, you surely have noticed that the type and level of noise is significantly less.  In the balance of citizens' right to be free from noise pollution with the community's need for safety, the citizens' voices are not being heard.  We seek to strike a better balance between emergency services and citizens. 
I am by no means an expert, but I do know that we barely get a full night's sleep and that our son is scared of the sirens, wakes up from naps and in the middle of the night crying from the excessive sirens, and these noises also interfere with enjoyment of our beautiful neighborhood and the beautiful park on 11th and Monroe.  We have the right to enjoy our property and our neighborhood, and we will not tolerate this noise any longer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Two neighborhood cleanups this Saturday: Park View Rec Center and Columbia Heights

Here's a good opportunity to help make our area look better: there are not one but two neighborhood cleanups this Saturday.

One is at the Park View Rec Center at 693 Otis Pl NW, where there will be weeding, planting a kids vegetable garden and general cleaning, followed by a pizza party.

The other is a more traditional street cleanup of Columbia Heights: folks meet at the Dunes at 14th and Meridian starting at 10am and make their way around the area. All materials will be provided.

So get out there and do some good! Here's more info on the Park View event, and see the flyer for the Columbia Heights one.
We are reaching the end of the planting season, and are going to have one more planting event putting a small shade garden in the flower bed in the Rec Center courtyard and helping DPR with its kids vegetable garden. We will also do soe much needed weeding and address other maintenance concerns. 
We really depend on community support to make these events possible, so please come out and bring your friends and neighbors!
*Park View Park Cleanup and Planting Day!*
*June 22nd*
*10:00 - 10:30am Safety Training*
*10:30am - 1:00pm Planting, weeding, cleanup*
*1:00 - 2:00pm Pizza Party* 
Come help us plant a shade garden in the courtyard of the Park View Rec Center, help out with the kids vegetable garden, and carry out maintenance and cleanup throughout the park. Kids and families welcome! 
Safety first: wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. 
Sponsored by the United Neighborhood Coalition, Friends of Park View Park, and Department of Parks and Recreation. 
Pizza and flowers provided through community donations, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our event!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

First trip to Mi Cuba Cafe on Park Road: not blown away, but I'll give it another shot

Last week, the Post wrote a glowing review of Mi Cuba Cafe located at 1424 Park Rd NW, and I thought I'd give it a try. I must admit I wasn't too impressed, but I'm willing to give them another shot.

The place, which formerly was the really tasty Paila Chilean Grill, was packed when we got there -- a good sign for them. Paila, which got good reviews and which I was a fan of, never had much of a crowd at all. I think the crowd we saw was because of the Post reviews, but I think it might also have been the cause of some of the problems my friend and I had on our visit.

My buddy, who's been before, said the Cuban sandwich was really good, but I figured I'd try some things I haven't had. I went for the pollo aporreado (shredded chicken in a tomato sauce) while my buddy got the bistec empanizado, breaded and fried thin steak. Each entree comes with two sides,  so I got garlic yuca and arroz congri, a traditional dish with black beans and rice with spices, while my buddy got the regular black beans and white rice.

The first red flag was that the food came out in about five minutes, and my buddy's steak was lukewarm. To me, that means they were making things ahead of time and leaving them out for awhile. His tasted ok, but certainly would have been better hotter. My chicken was decent, my buddy said it was sort of like a sloppy joe, which is true. I should have gone for the sandwich or ropa vieja, a traditional steak dish. (Here's the whole menu.) As for the sides, the congri was tasty, while the garlic yuca was super garlicky, and not in a good way.

But considering the place was slammed, and I tried some new things to me, I'll give them another shot. The decor was pretty nice and the fresh squeezed orange juice hit the spot. I would have liked a beer or a mojito, but they don't have a liquor license.

Have you been? Any good dishes to recommend or avoid? Yelpers like it too, giving the place 4.5 stars out of 45 reviews.

Acre 121 celebrates 2 years this week: $2 beers, food deals, music and more


Acre 121, the southern restaurant in the Highland Park building (1400 Irving Street NW) celebrates their 2nd anniversary from Wednesday through Friday. There are deals aplenty, including $2 drafts, bottles and cans from open to close Wed-Fri (which is awesome) plus 1/2 price wins and more. There are also bands each night and giveaways.

Here's the full list of things from their Facebook page.
We've been in the Columbia Heights neighborhood for two years and we'd love nothing more than to celebrate with you all! Come out for a great week.

SPECIALS:
● $2 drafts, bottles & cans OPEN to CLOSE Wednesday thru Friday
● Half-priced Wine Wednesday with bottles all night & glasses 5-8
● $5 Sangria 5-8 on the patio on Thursday
● Free hush puppies and peel-and-eat shrimp on Friday 
MUSIC
● Wednesday: Band Showcase with Levi Stephens, Blue Pinto and the Boss Chiefs starting at 8PM
● Thursday: Tom McBride at 8PM
● Friday: Soul Gravity Trio at 9PM 
PLUS great prizes and giveaways all week!




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mexican street corn (elote) stand at 14th and Newton!

Elote (Grilled Mexican Corn): Topped with Butter, Mayonnaise, Cotija, Cayenne & Lime Juice

I think I just found my new meal. Yesterday a buddy and I were at Zeba Bar at 14th and Newton (pretty decent happy hour until 8) and saw a street corn stand on the corner. If you aren't familiar, street corn, called elote in Spanish, is a traditional street snack of grilled corn on the cob covered in Cotija cheese, spices and mayo. It's pretty fantastic, and El Chucho has an awesome version of it.

I had just eaten so I didn't try out the actual street variety at this lady's stand, but she said she's out there most days until 8 pm. I'll definitely be back.

(Photo by Julia Frost of elote not from 14th and Newton, but that's what it looks like.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Here's a video of a guy chewing on a tree on U Street

Well, there's something you don't see every day:



According to DCist, the video's uploader explained the situation thusly: the guy was visibly intoxicated, and "He approached the tree and proceeded to slap the it semi-sexually, like he was spanking it. Then he really got in there and chewed the bark off the tree for about five minutes. He didn't actually eat it, just chewed. Cops showed up, but they seemed just as confused as the rest of us. I think they told him to be on his way and that was that."

The plant-chewing occurred near the U Street Music Hall.

Commenters on DCist speculate that the drunk person might have thought he was being funny for passersby.  That seems logical. Or maybe he just needed more fiber in his diet.

Visit the Soldiers Home on July 4th: activities, food, tours, and more

Chillin at the Old Soldiers' Home The 4th of July is coming up, and the Friends of the Soldiers’ Home and the Armed Forces Retirement Home are hosting a day full of events at the Home. 

Located just north of Howard University and east of Park View, the home serves as a retirement community for veterans and has a lot of open space and nice historic buildings, like Abraham Lincoln's summer cottage. 

I was there for part of the day on July 4th and it was pretty neat -- there were food trucks and walks around the campus. It sounds like this year is even better. (They also just opened their golf course to new members.) Read on!

A July 4th Celebration

Local Food Vendors * Children’s Fishing * Family Fun & Games
Watch the fireworks at the National Mall
from one of the best vantage points in Washington, DC! 
Thursday, July 4, 2013
4 pm to 9:30 pm
 The Armed Forces Retirement Home
 (Entrance: Randolph Street, NW at Rock Creek Church Road)
****STREET PARKING IS EXTREMELY LIMITED****
Please walk or bike; take the H8 bus; or park inside the gates (convenient for picnicking, the elderly and families with children) for a suggested donation of $5 per vehicle. 
FOOD
Carry in your own picnic food (no glass containers) or purchase from various vendors.
CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES
·         Harambee with Baba Ras D is an engaging musical Early Childhood Education experience promoting peace. Don’t miss it at 4:30 pm!
·         Trout Unlimited is the nation’s foremost organization for restoring fisheries. Catch-and-release fishing is from 4 pm to 7 pm. Poles and bait provided.
·         DC Bike House will help you decorate your bike, trike, stroller, scooter or skateboard. Our 4th of July Parade begins at 7 pm.
 FAMILY FUN (sorry – no dogs!)
·         Tour Lincoln’s Cottage for a reduced fee at 4 pm (one tour only).
·         Engage in organized Games and Play with the entire family!
·         Dance to the DJ’s tunes.
·         Pose for a Souvenir Photo.
…and much more! 
Fireworks begin shortly after 9 pm
For more information:http://friendsofsoldiers.org/
or
www.Facebook.com/FriendsOfSoldiers
Print out the colorful flyer attached to this e-mail, hang it up, share it with friends!
Friends of the Soldiers Home is a non-profit organization serving to strengthen the bond between the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington and the surrounding community.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mad Momo's grand opening party this Saturday

Mad Momo's, the Himalayan/American restaurant at 3605 14th Street NW, has been open for a few months, but is now having their grand opening party/celebration of being open 6 months. The event in on Saturday, June 15th from 9pm to 3am, with specials, DJs and dancing.

I've liked the spot so far, their momos (Himalayan dumplings) make for a good snack and it's a really nice space. I haven't gotten to their upstairs beer deck or tried brunch yet, but they're on my list. Other folks have enjoyed the spot too, they have 4 stars on Yelp.

Here's the Facebook invite for the event, everybody is welcome! Here's their website too.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How does the city deal with abandoned building owners it can't find? Answer: it's tricky

The City Paper has an interesting article today on how the city deals with abandoned buildings, especially those where the owner can't be found. And in short, it can't do a lot.

That's not to say the city doesn't try. The article talks about the process for finding homeowners (they send letters to the owner's address and visit the building) and if nobody responds, the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs can declare it vacant, which means the owners pay $5 per $100 of assessed value (the normal rate is about $0.85 per $100). If the building is in bad shape, the city can declare it blighted at $10 per $100. That's a steep rate, and it does result in some owners either paying or fixing it up.  The Office of Tax and Revenue handles the tax part.

DCRA will make sure the blighted buildings are not dangerous, by sending the abatement team (whose funny nickname is the A-Team) to cut the grass, make sure windows are boarded up, and the like, and then they file a lien against the owner for the amount of money it cost to do that.

However, that assumes people pay. The article says the city has a list of 698 owners who it can't find or are deceased without heirs. But due to the legal limbo if a house hasn't gone through the probate process, there isn't a whole lot the city can legally do. You don't want to seize a building when you aren't sure who actually owns it, or they're fighting over it. (Or, do you? Maybe it would get some of these problems fixed faster, like the saga of 1483 Newton Street NW where groups of heirs are fighting.)

Since there isn't much to be done and the people can't be found or won't respond, that often means that liens and tax bills keep piling up, so the house wouldn't be very attractive for a tax sale. Tax sales are fairly rare anyway, and rarer still are those where the city will just give away (or sell very cheaply) houses with big outstanding tax and lien bills. The city's Department of Housing and Community Development can seize houses too to use as public or discounted housing, but that hasn't happened yet this year -- they currently are more focused on getting the properties they already own developed.

And not having owners around means a lot of the taxes levied aren't collected -- only $3 million of the $10.3 levied last year were actually obtained by the city.

So, what's to be done? The City Papers suggests merging these various functions into one office, rather than three that currently handle it (and there's also the Department of Public Works, which handles vacant lots separately) and also passing some laws giving the city more enforcement.

It's a tricky problem, and while it sounds like the city isn't doing a lot, that's not really true -- they do work hard to identify, tax and keep vacant buildings safe (just see the map I published a bit ago with how many there are in Ward 1 alone) but the enforcement is where it gets tricky.

What do you think? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mi Casita Bakery open again, seems to be operating legally

Mi Casita Bakery, a new Latin American bakery at 3429 14th Street NW, has been having a few issues lately. They opened a few months ago in the old Carolina Market space, a welcome addition as Carolina was a truly bizarre place -- dark, unwelcoming, devoid of anything on the shelves. The new bakery looked nice, had some good pastries, and plans to serve tacos and tortas (sandwiches.)

Then all of a sudden, they were shut down for operating without a license, and then tried to reopen anyway a few times by taking down the city's notices on their doors. Police showed up, as did WUSA TV, and they were closed again.

But like a phoenix rising from the oven they're back now. They're open and seem to even have police as customers, rather than enforcers.

Let's hope this was just a misunderstanding and Mi Casita is going to continue to be an upstanding local business.

Parking rules change then change back on Sherman Avenue

If you park on Sherman Avenue between Euclid Street and Barry Place, it might have been a rough few weeks. After the streetscape construction finished, the city changed the normal "2 hour parking-Zone 1 exempt" to 4-hour parking, meaning residents couldn't park there during the day or overnight.

After a resident complained to Jim Graham, Graham got DDOT to change the changed parking back to normal.

So don't fear, parkers whose zones get changed, you might have some recourse.

Here's the resident's email to Graham.
My tenants at a small six unit building on Sherman between Euclid and Barry (across the street from the Howard parking lots and firehouse) have been parking on Sherman for the last 15 years. The block was posted with the standard "2 hour parking, zone 1 permits excepted" signs for years. After the streetscape was done, the city put up signs on one side of the block indicating "only zone 1 permits" which was fine for my tenants. The other side of the street was posted with 4 hour parking for everyone. Last week, the city took down the signs indicating "only zone 1 permit" parking. Now, there is 4 hour parking for everyone on both sides of the street. My tenants now have to troll for parking on Euclid and Fairmont and other side streets, making parking more congested for residents on those blocks than they were before. And Sherman between Euclid and Barry sits empty of cars because of the new signs.

There are no businesses, restaurants, etc. on this block to necessitate 4 hour parking with residents excluded. It is very unfair to the few residents on the block and a bad use of city parking resources. Did Howard pressure the city to remove resident parking on this block? No one ever parks on this block, so why would residents on the block be excluded?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Help schools overseas with Pencils of Promise at Local 16 on June 13


Here's a nice-sounding event coming up at Local 16 for Pencils of Promise  a group which helps build schools overseas. The event is this Thursday, and here's more. And despite the acronym, it doesn't seem to be affiliated with any similarly-named blogs.
The PoP DC Leadership Council, with co-host HyperVocal, is holding their first fundraising event and launch party on Thursday, June 13, 2013, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the roof deck at Local 16 on U Street. Attached is our save the date, and below our eventbrite link. popdcs2013.eventbrite.com 
We are very excited to host our first event in the District, with the goal of raising enough funds to build one classroom within the year through several events. The $25 ticket price of our first happy hour correlates to the cost of educating one child for one year through Pencils of Promise.  
Happy Hour specials will be available through the duration of the event, and attendees will be entered into a raffle with a variety of prizes, including Wolf Trap tickets.

About Pencils of Promise - PoP is a non-profit organization that builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world. Founded in 2008 with $25, the organization has built over 100 schools in Ghana, Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala. PoP has built a powerful movement with thousands of supports across the globe and a social media presence that is +300K strong and growing. Celebrity supporters include Justin Bieber, Sophia Bush, Usher, Jordan Sparks and more. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Taylor Gourmet stops serving breakfast

Sad news for breakfast sandwich fans: Taylor Gourmet, the Philly-style hoagie chain, has stopped serving breakfast. The chain, which has a location at 14th and T, said they weren't getting enough business to justify being open then.

Breakfast was 8-11am on weekends with breakfast sandwiches as well as breakfast risotto balls with beer cheese sauce.

I think the hours were part of the problem though -- if you're looking for a breakfast crowd on the weekends, they're probably not going to be all up and at 'em by 11 am -- I know I often laze around the house until around then. I think I only got a chance to try the breakfast stuff once since they started serving it.

Too bad. However, I should note that the breakfast sandwiches at Le Caprice are fantastic and available well into the afternoon.

City wants to develop McMillan Sand Filtration Site, but some neighbors are opposed


For some time now, the city has planned to redevelop the old McMillan Sand Filtration Site, a former water filtration plant located south of Michigan Avenue (which becomes Irving Street) and west of North Capitol Street -- just east of Howard University's campus and the McMillan Reservoir.

The city has long planned to redevelop it with condos, apartments, offices, retail and parks, including a Harris Teeter, but lately opponents have turned up their volume, arguing it should be redeveloped into a park. Here's more on the development plans from the plan's own website and from Urban Turf, a real estate blog. Currently the site is closed to the public, although there used to be tours which apparently were awesome.

Last week, the Friends of McMillan Park stuffed a meeting about the plan -- basically, they're arguing that the city shouldn't declare the land "surplus" so it can be sold to developers. They prefer restoring it into a park. (You can see their press release below.) They also have a petition with about 2,000 signatures.

The developers, on the other hand, argue on their site that they're going to preserve as much of the historic features as they can, which includes leaving some of the towers and underground vaults intact up as parts of parkland (as you can see in this image from one of the plans.)

The site is pretty interesting to look at, even from afar -- there are rows of giant brick towers, hillocks in the grass next to them, and other interesting features. The grounds were designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who also worked on the National Mall, White House grounds, Jefferson Memorial, and a lot more (his father designed Central Park.)

He was also a part of the 1902 McMillan Commission, which looked into ways to plan DC's parks and led to the National Mall we recognize today, with the Smithsonian museums, Lincoln Memorial, and the like. Both McMillan Reservoir and the Sand Filtration Site got their name from Sen. James McMillan, who started the commission.

Personally, it's sort of hard to balance the two -- the McMillan Site is a really interesting historical place, but at the same time, DC has a real shortage of housing and it's the probably the biggest open plot of land in the city, certainly the biggest not too far from downtown. What do you think?

Here's the Friends of McMillan Park's press release.
Community Says “NO SURPLUS!” for McMillan Park
Posted on June 7, 2013 by WHY

Overwhelming Support for Park, Against District Plan

Community members from the areas surrounding the Historic McMillan Sand Filtration Sitecame out in full force last night to declare loud and clear to the Gray Administration thatMcMillan Park should not be declared surplus and sold to private developers, and thatMcMillan should be restored to its previous glory as a public park.

More than 110 people came to the surplus meeting, over 40 people testified, and only about 3 of those people testified FOR Mayor Gray’s privatization proposal. Shiv Newaldass, the Project Manager at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), convened the meeting, and Jeff Miller, Director of Real Estate at DMPED, was also present. Conspicuously absent were Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins, and Mayor Vincent Gray – the current plan’s biggest supporters.

Those who spoke at the meeting reflected the racial, age, and length-of-residence diversity of the surrounding communities. With minimal contradiction, the vast majority who testified said that the land should be kept a park with its historic identity intact for the neighborhood, Ward 5, and the District. Pointing to the convener, the crowd demanded that DMPED and the city government stop disrespecting their positions. Phil Blair, an older gentleman, said that he has been coming to these meetings and appearing as “the grumpy old man” who opposes development of the site for over twenty years, but he was happy to see last night that he was one of many grumpy old men. A few shouted out, “Mayor! Tear down this fence!” Long-time resident, Wanda Foster, who has lived on the 2900 block of North Capitol since 1986, said that she enjoys her view of sunsets over McMillan Park each night from her home and that she hopes to stay there and someday pass this gift to her grandchildren.

The speakers also strongly challenged DMPED and Mr. Newaldass for not listening to them before in previous meetings and questioned whether their testimony would mean anything now. Many also noted that while there was no microphone or recording equipment present for the meeting, two MPD officers were there for the entire evening.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Community meeting on redevelopment of 965 Florida Avenue on Tuesday the 11th


965 Florida Ave NW, a big, empty property just across from W Street, is up for redevelopment, and the city wants to talk to locals about it. Here's more info about, which includes something called a Best and Final Offer, which details the things the developers have to do. Here's more info from the Georgia Ave Community Development Task Force.

The Deputy Mayor's Office of Planning and Economic Development has sent a request for Best and Final Offers (BAFO) to the developers applying to develop the site at 965 Florida Ave. This site at Sherman and Florida, just south of HU's Towers, is public property which is undergoing a bid for development. JBG/Gragg and Ellis Development have both submitted proposals.

Preliminary ANC meetings, community presentations and a Task Force survey provided the developers and the city with many comments and suggestions from the community. Most of feedback was included in the BAFO request and the developers will address them to the best of their ability. The BAFO request can be viewed at https://sites.google.com/site/pleasantplainsdc/task-force/965_Florida_BAFO_Request.pdf

The schedule for community review and feedback is as follows:

BAFO presentation: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 6-8pm at the DC Housing Finance Agency 815 Florida Avenue, NW
ANC special meeting: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Comment deadline: Monday, June 24, 2013
Final selection: No later than Friday, June 28, 2013

The June 11th meeting, hosted by DMPED, will be the next opportunity for the community to see the final offers being presented. Everyone is encouraged to come out and participate in this process. Please forward this widely to neighbors and Howard University residents and faculty.

You are also encouraged to participate in Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force meetings on the 2nd Monday and 4th Wednesday of the month. Our next meeting is Monday June 10th at the Emergence Community Arts Collective, 733 Euclid St. NW. Email Sylvia at sylvia@ecacollective.org to be added to our mailing list.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Latin American Youth Center's Do More 24 campaign: open house today or donate on their website

The Latin American Youth Center, the great group on Columbia Rd that works with low-income young people and their families on education, prevention, housing, mental health, the arts, and a lot more, is holding an open house today from noon-8pm to learn more about their projects and for people who want to volunteer. It's part of the Do More 24 campaign, a nationwide campaign to raise money and awareness of local organizations who are doing good stuff.

There's also a "Twitter party" today using the hashtag #laycdomore24 to talk about the group. You can also donate money on the Do More 24 website!

Click the flyer for a bigger version too.

Here's more on LAYC:
The mission of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) is to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs. 
For 45 years, LAYC has been committed to transforming the lives of low-income young people and their families. LAYC offers multi-service, comprehensive, and bilingual enrichment, prevention, and intervention programs and opportunities in education, workforce readiness, housing, community building, mental health services, arts, and healthy recreation to over 4,000 individuals each year 
LAYC has special expertise in serving underserved youth, low-income teen parents, homeless youth, youth in foster care and juvenile justice systems, and youth facing mental health, substance abuse, or complex family issues 
While LAYC initially worked with Latino youth of diverse backgrounds, today all youth — Latino, African American, African — are supported by LAYC at sites in the District of Columbia and Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Check out this awesome 1970s Metro promotional video



Oh man, this is great. DCist published a real gem: a 1970s promotional film for our Metro system. The video shows the brand new Red Line, which was the only line operational when the system launched, running from Farragut North to Rhode Island Avenue. This film includes Dupont Circle Station, so it must have been from around 1977, when that station opened.

There's has a lot of amusing throwbacks, but at the same time it has a lot of things we'd recognize today: namely that the cars and stations look identical. Amusingly, a lot of the people in the film look like they could be stylish folks today (or, less charitably, a DCist commenter joked "Man, the 70s sure had a lot of f**king hipsters.") That said, I could go for more afros these days.

Some of the predictions are a little out there though, like that you could travel from Shaw to Medical Center in 13 minutes or East Falls Church to Metro Center in 12. Maybe that would happen if the trains skipped every station in between and time somehow slowed down. They also talk about "no long waits, just train after train moving people" -- joke's on you, Red Line.

There's also a few other interesting historical nuggets, like the shots of big parking lots downtown. Those are mostly gone, as the last ones I can think of around New York Avenue and 5th Street have been condo-ified. There's also the Union Station-Visitors Center Station, named for the National Visitor Center, a plan to turn Union Station into a tourist hub for folks visiting our fair city and its monuments. However, it failed to attract many people and closed in 1978, so the station was renamed. Occasionally you can still see an old sign with that name on it -- mainly pylons whose updated station lists have fallen off.

But that said, I really like it, it's kind of strangely heart-warming. What do you think?

Come chat with the principal of Cardozo HS on June 18

Cardozo High School


Are you interested in learning more about the school, future plans, giving any comments or suggestions, or seeing how you can get involved? The last Morning Tea with the principal, Dr. Tanya S. Roane, is Tuesday, June 18 at the school's temporary facility in Meyer Elementary. Here's a bit more info from the school. Sounds like a nice event.
Morning Teas with the Principal (Dr. Tanya S. Roane)
Tuesday, June 18 9-10:30 AM in the Senior Café
Cardozo at Meyer Elem 2501 11th St NW

This is an informal event where we invite community members and parents and organizations to chat with the principal about the school, future plans, questions and suggestions and ways that the community can get involved. You should come out- it's our last one! :)
Photo by Mr. T in DC

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Big Fat Greek Wedding writer Nia Vardalos coming to Latin American Youth Center

If you liked My Big Fat Greek Wedding or anything by star and writer Nia Vardalos, or you just want to help a great local organization, get yourself to the Latin American Youth Center on June 12.

Ms. Vardalos will be speaking about her new book, Instant Mom, and proceeds go to the center, which works with young people and families in the neighborhood. They're at 1419 Columbia Rd NW.

Here's more info and how to get tickets!

A slice of life: late night with the workers at the Coupe


A few days ago, the City Paper ran an interesting little slice of life on those workers who are at the Coupe, the 24-hour diner at 3415 11th Street NW, late at night. It follows some of the late night workers dealing with a big crowd, drunk people and boredom as the night goes on.

Pretty neat stuff. I've been to the Coupe a few times late at night (hopefully not too inebriated) and it's been pretty tasty. Sometimes you just need some 3 am pie.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Help support a local youth boxing program: film, raffle, reception at The Coupe

This sounds pretty awesome -- the Coupe is hosting a film screening, raffle and reception to benefit Lime Light Boxing a Fitness, a youth program in the neighborhood.

The film screening is of "Into the Lime Lite," a short about Columbia Heights resident and program participant Malik Jackson, who recently won the 2013 national championships.

Pretty cool to have a champion among us, and this sounds like a great event. There are 30- and 50-second trailers here, embedded below too.

Here's more about the event!

Film Screening * Raffle * Reception
for Lime Lite Boxing and Fitness
Tuesday June 11
6:30 - 8:30 
The Coupe, 3415 11th St NW

Join The Coupe and the 11th street business community in celebrating  Lime Lite Boxing and Fitness,  a Columbia Heights boxing program that trains champion boxers and provides a safe haven to local youth.

Just steps from new restaurants and development on 11th Street, Lime Lite has had tremendous success this year and the community is coming together to congratulate them. One of Lime Lite's star fighters, Malik Jackson, recently won the 2013 USA national championships and secured a spot on the Olympic training team. Another, Greg Newby, is rising up the pro ranks with a 7 and 0 record with 4 knock outs.

The event features a screening of Into the Lime Lite, a documentary short that follows Malik as he prepares for a tough match in the Belfast Beltway Classic. The soundtrack includes music from local band Buildings and Brendan Canty (Death Fix, Fugazi), Special features and trailers can be found on the Into the Lime Lite Facebook page.


The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and Lime Lite coaches and fighters. Organizers will also be giving away Lime Lite posters designed by Nick Pimentel. 

The Coupe’s owner, Constantine Stavropoulos explains why they are sponsoring the event. “It was really exciting to learn that just steps from our new restaurant, there’s a gym training an Olympic champion in the making. Lime Lite also does a lot for local youth. We’re glad to be part of their support network.”

After the screening the short Q and A there will be a reception with a buffet, drink specials and a raffle featuring boxing lessons and gift certificates from 11th street businesses.