Friday, March 28, 2014

New Columbia Heights' voting recommendations for the election on Tuesday

This Tuesday is the primary election for mayor, some city council spots and a few other positions in the city. Hopefully you're already registered (if not, you can register there, just read the rules here.)

There are a lot of folks running, so here's my recommendations for who I think you should vote for. But like Reading Rainbow, don't just take my word for it! Check out the City Paper's voter guide and Greater Greater Washington's endorsements

Mayoral Primary
Short version: don't vote for Gray or Bowser. I like Tommy Wells, but David Catania more than any of them.
If it weren't for Vince Gray's scandals and possible indictment for the "shadow campaign" where donors funded people working for his campaign, I would say vote for Gray. The city has gotten better since he's been in charge, even if he has lately started pandering pretty heavily, for example by trying to exclude churchgoers from Sunday parking rules.

On the other hand, I can absolutely not support Muriel Bowser. As Ward 4 councilmember, she has been utterly unresponsive whenever I've reached out to her with problems or with my opinions on city issues like Uber and the DC United stadium. Considering one of a councilmember's main job is to help her constituents with problems (I live on Spring Road now) she has completely failed. My alleyway and the parking space behind my house has experienced a lot of problems like loud people yelling late at night, and we've found human feces and dozens of used condoms there. We worry that the alley is being used for prostitution or drug use. I've called the police a couple of times and wrote her to ask for her help, maybe with getting a light installed or having police patrol the area more often, and nothing. I received no response from her. Since then, the landlord has added a fence and motion-detector lights. I've also written her about my support for Uber, my support for the DC United stadium (twice) and about her parking illegally on Rock Creek Church Road. The only thing she responded to was an email asking about the large abandoned Jewish home building on Spring Road, which is owned by the city. She basically said she thinks something will happen there, and after a year of nothing, I followed up. As usual, no response. Since then, however, I've received dozens of emails about her mayoral campaign. For that reason alone (aside from the fact that I don't think she has done much and will be a business-as-usual mayor) I cannot support Bowser.

The other candidates, to me, haven't done a great job to differentiate themselves from each other. Tommy Wells and Andy Shallal both promote progressive platforms, and while Wells has worked to implement it as a councilmember, the City Paper notes that he might not have enough allies to get it done. Jack Evans seems like a decent guy and has a lot of experience on the council, but hasn't really inspired me. In that case, I say Vote for Tommy Wells. I know that's not a very strong argument or endorsement, but I don't really feel very strongly in any of these three guys, who all seem decent. (And note that whoever wins will face current at-large councilmember David Catania, who is an independent so not running in a primary, in the Novermber mayoral election. I support Catania over any of these candidates, he's a hard-working, straight and narrow guy and I think would make a great mayor. I believe Bowser will win the primary and I hope Catania beats her. The Post supports Bowser.)

At-Large Council Primary
Short version: Vote for John Settles
I'm not super familiar with this election. I haven't heard much from Anita Bonds since she won the special election last year with 31.5% of the vote -- as the Washington Post noted, due to the number of candidates and the special election itself, she was elected with less than 1/3 of 10% of DC's electorate -- a prime reason why instant-runoff voting should be instituted in the city. The City Paper said the same thing, that she hasn't done a whole lot. And based on the interview he gave me and what else I've read about John Settles, he seems like a good guy with an outsider viewpoint, which is something the Council needs.

Ward 1 Council Primary
Short version: Vote for Brianne Nadeau
This race pits long time Ward 1 councilmember Jim Graham against U Street ANC commissioner Brianne Nadeau. Former candidate Bryan Weaver dropped out to give Nadeau a better shot. I've liked Jim Graham for some time, he's always super responsive when I have problems and puts me in touch with the people who can fix them. He's also worked hard for the ward. However, he has also been the subject of various ethics charges, such as the one where he didn't report an attempted bribe to the city. He was reprimanded and lost his seat on the alcohol committee and his chief of staff went to prison for taking a bribe. The council also dinged him in an alleged vote trading scheme. Recently, Graham accused Nadeau of falsifying her income on a home loan, which she denies. The Post hit Graham hard over the accusation. None of these have been enough for criminal charges against Graham, but that's not much of a defense when it seems they keep happening. For that reason I support Nadeau, but wouldn't be sad if Graham won anyway. He has done a good job, but maybe it's time for a change. The Post also supports Nadeau.

Council Chairman
Phil Mendelson looks to win in a landslide.

But those are my opinions. What do you think?

An interview with At-Large city council candidate John F. Settles

The other day, the City Paper was live tweeting a debate they held between the at-large council candidates. Anita Bonds didn't bother to show up apparently, and not being a fan of live-tweeting, I tweeted some sarcastic remarks.

Candidate John F. Settles, a mortgage banker and charter school founder, responded and asked me to get in touch with him. I appreciate the initiative, and he answered a few questions. I like what I heard. Here's the brief email interview:

Why are you running for the Council?
I'm running because I'm tired of the ethical scandals and inaction by our leaders on key issues facing the city, Columbia Heights included. I believe it's important for those of us with real in-depth experience to step up and lead -- we are either going to be a part of the problem-by not acting, or a part of the solution. For 20 years I've worked on all sides of the issue of Housing Affordability, I know solutions that will work. I have 3 kids in public schools, am a parent leader, and serve on board of early childhood organization. I not only understand education, I'm affected by it and live it everyday.

Unlike many of my opponents, I am not a part of the D.C. political establishment and can provide an outside voice, one that has not been influenced by operating within the ineffective status quo. I'm more like most District residents: I'm a D.C. public school Dad, a former small business owner and a community volunteer. I understand the issues facing our residents, because I deal with them everyday from both a personal and professional perspective. Moreover, I have significant experience working in the public, private and non-profit sectors which gives me a well-rounded understanding of how different stakeholders can best come together for the benefit of the District.


What do you think the biggest issues are for Columbia Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods?
Columbia Heights, like Logan Circle where I live has many of the same quality of life issues. Public safety-not only crime, is a concern for all of us living in dense communities. We all have grave concerns about the dysfunction at Fire/EMS situation. I have spoken with many Columbia Heights residents and I hear alot about street crimes, the collateral damage of gang activity, and the tensions that exist when diverse cultures and socio-economic levels come together. I also understand that there needs to be an increased emphasis on supporting small businesses.

Education is a big issue, Ward 1 DC CAS scores are 53.2% for math and 47.5% for reading. Many parents I talk to in Columbia Heights are worried about the boundary/feeder patterns and middle schools. Housing Affordability is a major issue. As a mortgage banker I counsel many single individuals that are paying $1,500-1,800 to rent a bedroom with others. It's not sustainable, and they can't afford to move out on their own. It's worse for families, low income to middle class, from columbia heights to Petworth and other areas of NW.

Other issues are parking-we need more multimodal transit solutions.

What are some specific policies you'd push to address those issues?
If you look at HELPSDC.COM you will see several policy positions that I have released. Under each there are various policies that I would push.

What do you think about proposals to change the way officials are elected in DC, like instant-runoff voting and open primaries?
I am for publicly financed campaigns, open primaries, and runoffs. We have to create more voter involvement and limit influence of money so we can get the best candidates elected.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

U Street historic walking tour coming April 5th

If you'd like to explore some of the history around U Street while getting outside, check out Washington Walks' Get Local! Saturday on April 5th. The tour starts outside the U Street Metro's 13th Street exit at 11 am and it's $15. It'll happen rain or shine, and you can sign up on their website.

I've gone on a walking tour from Washington Walks before, the Columbia Heights Historical Drinkabout (where you learned about history and stopped at local bars) and it was great -- really interesting and fun. The guides are knowledgeable and nice folks.

Here's more:
Explore the neighborhood that was shared by African American intellectuals, business leaders, and families of all economic levels. The businesses they owned and the houses they lived in are featured on this walk. U Street was dubbed “Black Broadway” for the numerous movie theaters, nightclubs and ballrooms frequented by jazz musicians like Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Jelly Roll Morton, and Duke Ellington himself. You’ll see a theater and club where these performances took place. The first full service YMCA for African Americans; one of the few hotels that welcomed a black clientele; and the first memorial to African American soldiers who fought in the U.S. Civil War are on the walk route, as are homes occupied by the Ellington family as Duke grew up. You’ll stand on the corner where riots started that extinguished the heyday of the area–but only temporarily. 
Led by David

More on Lyman's bar coming to 14th and Spring: coming soon, pinball, popcorn, more


I've been following Lyman's for some time, it's the new bar coming next door to 3720 14th Street NW, next to the Red Derby.

Last we heard (and saw) there was going to be an indoor/outdoor bar, a jukebox with classic soul, country and doo-wop, a pinball table, and snacks. The idea is for it to be a relaxed neighborhood bar with 70 seats inside and 20 outside plus a small kitchen for snacks.

Since then we've heard some more. They're close to opening, but we don't know exactly when. They were hoping for March a few months ago, but it seems they might miss that.

They'll also have four pinball machines, enough to host a league, and a popcorn machine. And unlike their neighbor the 'Derb, they'll accept credit cards.

So it's not a ton of news, but it sounds pretty great to me!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Don't forget: vote on Tuesday, or early vote before!

If you haven't been paying attention, you may have missed that DC's primary elections, which often serve as the de facto general election, are almost upon us.

On next Tuesday, April 1, voters will go to the polls to vote for the primaries for mayor, chair of the DC Council, at-large Councilmember, Ward 1, 3, 5 and 6 Councilmember, as well as the Delegate to the house, "Shadow" Senator and Rep, and Democratic committee offices. You can find your polling place here.

Early voting is already underway, and in my opinion is a great option -- it's much easier and you don't have to worry about lines. Early voting centers (listed here) are open every day but Sunday from 8:30 am to 7 pm. You can vote at any center, not just the closest to you, and for Columbia Heights, the Columbia Heights Community Center at 1480 Girard Street NW is probably the closest.

If you're not sure if you're registered to vote, you can check here and you can also register in person when you vote early or on election day -- you'll receive a special ballot. You'll also need to bring documents to prove your identity -- more on that here.

So, who's running? Since it's a primary, a lot of people. Here's a list of the Democrats running in this primary (most other parties have unopposed candidates), and I'll write my recommendations in the coming days.

Mayor:
Vincent Gray
Carlos Allen - Businessman & '10 Candidate
Muriel Bowser - City Councilwoman
Jack Evans - City Councilman, Attorney & '98 Candidate
Reta Lewis - Ex-US State Dept. Official & Ex-DC Public Works Dept. Chief of Staff
Vincent Orange - City Councilman, Attorney, Accountant & '06 Candidate
Andy Shallal - Restaurant Chain Owner, Artist & Community Activist
Tommy Wells - City Councilman, Ex-School Board Member & Social Worker

Council Chair:
Phil Mendelson - incumbent
Calvin Gurley - Accountant, Community Activist & '10/'12 Candidate

At-Large Council (2 seats):
Anita Bonds - incumbent
Nate Bennett Fleming - DC Shadow Representative & Attorney
Pedro Rubio - DARPA Contract Specialist & Graduate Student
John Settles II - Real Estate Developer & Mortgage Broker
Kevin Valentine Jr. - National Guard Veteran & Ex-FDIC Employee

Ward 1 Council:
Jim Graham - incumbent
Brianne Nadeau - ANC commissioner and activist

Update: Dog found! Missing beagle: have you seen Jimbo?

UPDATE: The dog was found in PG County.

I got this email from a reader yesterday, a missing beagle!

Our dog bolted without his collar this morning and we lost him around Meridian Pint this morning. His name is Jimbo- He's black, white, and tan with a tan face and white legs with little tan freckles. He's about 30lbs. he may come if you call him in a high voice, crouch and seem like you have a treat. He might just hide (if you spot him please call 202-503-8604).
He may have been seen in Brookland, but no matter where you are, keep looking out. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Watch out: packages stolen from the 1300 block of Otis Place

If you live around Otis, be careful when receiving packages in the mail, some folks are reporting that they're being stolen. A reader wrote in with a story:
Starting about two to three weeks ago, residents on the 1300 block of Otis Pl. (between 14th St. and Holmead Pl. NW) have been reporting theft of mail packages left on their porches.  It appears that someone is walking down the street in the middle of the day and stealing packages that have been left out.  At a guess, this is happening between about noon and 3 PM, since that is when many deliveries arrive. Residents should be aware of this if they are receiving packages, and if they see someone unfamiliar going up on people's porches you may want to check them out, take a picture, etc.

If you lose or have lost a package, you can file reports with the police (http://mpdc.dc.gov/service/file-police-report-online) and with the Postal Inspection Service  (https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/investigations/mailfraud/fraudschemes/mailtheft/ReportMailTheft.aspx).  It is doubtful that the police will make an effort for one or two reports, but if this continues it may get their attention.

At least one family on Otis has reported the repeated theft of several hundreds of dollars worth of baby clothing and gear – which is really sad and unfortunate.
This is definitely a shame, and as far as I know there it's a good solution to preventing it, aside from more police patrols. You could try putting in a camera, which would possibly identify the thief, but then the police would have to find him. Another option is to get the packages sent somewhere else, maybe work. Or the low-tech method, if you're friends with a neighbor who's around, they might be able to grab the packages when they arrive to drop them off to you later. You'd be surprised how friendly folks can be, one of my old neighbors used to do that for some of us.

Any other ideas to avoid this unfortunate crime?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Playback the Tape found VHS show at Petworth Citizen tomorrow

If you remember sitting around your house, recording your favorite shows or music videos (remember those?) on VHS tapes in the 80s and 90s, this sounds like a show for you. Playback the Tape comes to Petworth Citizen at 829Upshur on Tuesday at 8 pm.

The event features "Fluppy Dogs," a 1-hour Disney cartoon apparently not shown since 1986, plus vintage commercials and more.

What is it, exactly?
playbackthetape gets behind unique events that might not happen otherwise. this includes a wide variety of worthwhile content, including our signature effort – the eponymous monthly VHS screening series in which we preserve, promote, and present a lighthearted feature-length touring show of curated videotape content, hosted by ace partner venues in washington, dc and beyond.  
our VHS shows are: (a) always all ages; (b) never a cover; (c) comprised largely of collected submissions 
come and contribute, or just to explore!
Sounds awesome to me. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trader Joe's at 14th and T is now open!


So it's not technically in our neighborhood, but I plan to go all the time. The grocery store, which sells lots of packaged meals and quality store brand stuff, is finally here. 

Are you excited? I hope it makes Giant less crowded. 

Photo by Rosemarywardley on Instagram

Is this the last snowman of the year? I sure hope so.


I spotted this on Tuesday night on Spring Road. I hope we don't see the likes of him until next December, at least.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"It kills us": How power outages affect local businesses like Kangaroo Boxing Club

Aside from just being tough on residents, power outages, especially unexpected ones, can be major problems for local business.

During last night's power outage, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Flynn emailed a number of folks with Pepco's response. One of those in copy was Josh Salzman, owner of Kangaroo Boxing Club on 11th Street north of Park Road, as well as the owner of Ivy & Coney on 7th Street and the PORC food truck.

Local business owners are getting very frustrated at the continuous power outages in the area, which cost them business and lost inventory. I asked Josh a few questions about how the power outages affected Kangaroo Boxing Club and here's what he had to say. As you can see, there are major impacts.


How many outages have you had, and for how long?
We've had four outages in the last year. The shortest was 15 hours and the longest was over two days (during thanksgiving to boot).

How do they affect your business?
It kills us. Not only do we lose massive amounts of revenue, but our refrigeration goes down too, obviously. That means we lose all of our food , and considering we are a BBQ joint, it takes us another day to recover.

You mentioned that Pepco had told businesses that there would be outages and would work with you. Can you tell me more about that?
They said they would work with the neighborhood to minimize impact to both residents and businesses as they improved our local power grid. Obviously, it hasn't happened soon enough as we are still having the same issues.
Do you get any advanced warning for them?
We were told we will get advanced warning, but once last year they did not inform us and the power went out in the middle of service with a full restaurant. It was incredibly careless of them considering how dangerous it is to not be able to see while standing in front of hot flames.

Have you reached out to anybody else to try to fix this? The city or others?
We've reached out to [Ward 1 Councilman] Grahams office, but there's not much anyone can do. They have a monopoly and we all need power.

Is there anything you'd like to tell Pepco and the readers about the outages?
All I'd say is that a company should not show unbelievable profits and ask for rate increases if they're providing shoddy service and using an aging infrastructure. It's time for them to step up their game. I think we can all agree on that.


Power outages hit Columbia Heights yesterday: businesses, houses out for hours

Pepco is not making any friends in Columbia Heights. Last night around 6 pm there were tweets from Kangaroo Boxing Club, Meridian Pint and The Coupe saying power was out. Later other residents reported the same, and around 10:30 pm I was riding in a taxi up 13th around Park and noticed everything was pitch black.

ANC commissioner Patrick Flynn did some reaching out and got a response, of sorts, from Pepco, which said the outage was related a "fault" and they were hoping to fix it by 1 am. The email, posted below, also said other repairs and installations were needed, but it was unclear if that meant more power outages.

A lot of folks on Twitter are complaining about it as well -- folks have said there have been multiple outages in the past few months. One Twitter user, @webrownjr, posted the above photo of a crew working at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza at 14th and Park/Kenyon.

Let's hope this is coming to an end, but I have a feeling it's not. Here's Pepco's email:

Commissioner Flynn:Please be advised that Pepco's crews have located a fault and are preparing to make new splices to restore the circuit with an ETR of 1 am, presuming there are no further damage locations.  The fault was in a switch that we had planned to replace as part of the work we outlined to this community last week.
In addition to the work being performed tonight, we are currently replacing cable on 14th St. between Columbia Rd. and Monroe St., NW, over the next 3 - 4 weeks. We will also replace cable on Park Road between Holmeade and 14th St., NW. In order to complete the cable replacement, we need to install new conduit in 2 areas.  We are currently expanding a manhole and installing new conduit near Park Rd. and Holmeade Pl. NW. This work will take approximately eight weeks total to complete.

We will also install conduit in the following location:15 - 20' of 14th St. near Park Rd. and also 350 - 400' on Park Rd. east of 14th St., NW. Once the manhole and conduit work is complete, we will replace cable on Park Road between 14th St. and 11th St., NW. In addition, we will increase the capacity of two transformers and will replace one switch.

We have completed the installation of 500' of new primary cable along Park Road near 11th Street and have completed an AMI review of overload trends and have identified transformers to upgrade in 2 locations.  We are targeting the end of May to complete these activities at this time.

Once again, we regret the hardship these outages have caused, and remain committed to making the necessary repairs and upgrades as quickly as possible.

We will provide additional updates as information becomes available.

Thank you,

Marc

Marc K. Battle, Esq.
Vice President
Pepco Region, District of Columbia 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Asian taco pop-up at Dodge City today on U Street

I like tacos, I like Asian food, and I like Dodge City, the bar at 917 U Street NW. Sounds like an awesome combo.
With spring (almost) here, Dodge City is excited launch a new series of culinary pop ups! Tonight we are hosting our good friends from PhoWheeLs Food Truck, who will be setting up shop and showcasing their delicious tacos starting at 6 PM.  Enjoy happy hour specials like the
Pho Wheels Spiked Punch while you munch one their five tacos:

-Duck: Roasted duck breast, Asian coleslaw, hoisin, scallions, sesame seeds, roti canai
-Bibimbap: Beef brisket bulgogi, kimchi slaw, rice, cucumbers, gochuchang mayo, scallions, sesame seeds, chili flakes, fried quail egg, roti canai
-Musubi: Spam, Chinese sausage, rice, pickled radishes & carrots, roasted seaweed, kewpie mayo, soy glaze, wasabi furikake, wasabi sesame seeds, roti canai
-Porkbelly: Caramelized porkbelly, pickled radishes & carrots, sriracha lime mayo, scallions, roti canai
-Mushroom-onion tofu tacos (vegan): mushroom-onion tofu, pickled radishes & carrots, cilantro, vegan sriracha lime mayo, roti cana
 
See more: https://www.facebook.com/events/219145908285742/?ref=5 
Here's their website for a bit more info.

Salt and Pepper Grill Indian opens a second location at 14th and Quincy

There's a new takeout and delivery Indian and Pakistani food option for northern Columbia Heights folks -- popular restaurant Salt and Pepper Grill has opened its second location at 3925 14th Street NW, between Randolph and Shepherd.

If you recall, the first location is at Georgia and Fairmont, and also features a small dining room. I've heard nothing but good reviews and my friend who lives nearby is a big fan -- he says he goes maybe once a week. I've tried a few samples when then opened and thoroughly enjoyed them. Yelpers agree, giving then an average of 4 stars on almost 140 reviews -- a pretty great showing.

The new Salt and Pepper II has an even better rating, 4.5 stars from 10 reviews. Sounds like I'll have to check them out.

Here's the website and menu for the Georgia Avenue location. I don't yet have one for the new location, but their number is (202) 723-0404.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Want to buy the Rib Pit and Rib Pit Lounge?



Walking around northern Columbia Heights the other day, I noticed that the Rib Pit, the longtime rib joint at 14th and Randolph, is now for sale. It's been closed for some time (and the adjoining Rib Pit Lounge has been closed for even longer) but I haven't noticed the for sale sign before.

Food-wise, at least, it doesn't seem like we'll be missing much. I never tried it, but it gets mediocre reviews at best on Yelp and the bad ones seem more convincing than the good ones -- folks mention spoiled-tasting cole slaw and inedible mac and cheese. Not good.

I can't find much about the place online, but it looks like it's been there for some time.

And considering it's for sale, it might be a good spot for another restaurant, a bar, or even a coffee shop. Would be nice to have a coffee shop up in that neck of the woods, right?


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Someone is advocating for a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street, and we can't agree more


I've written a lot about how slow the buses are in the mornings in our area -- I once calculated that it took me about 40 minutes to go two miles to downtown on the 14th Street bus, or just over two miles an hour. I could walk backwards faster.

There have been some proposals, like more express buses, but this is an interesting one -- Dupont Circle ANC commish Kishan Putta has started a campaign for a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street. BeyondDC snapped this photo, which argues that 50% of all trips in the morning are on buses, so why not have a lane?

I'm no transportation expert, and I'm sure there would need to be studies, but still, worth a shot right?

How about you? Think it's a good idea, or got any other suggestions? (I, for one, always think about riding my bike, but that's not a possibility for everybody.)

Art book swap coming next Monday to Petworth Citizen

Do you like art books? If so, get yourself to the Petworth Citizen and Reading Room at Upshur and Georgia.

The restaurant/cafe/hangout is living up to its newly-completed Reading Room portion and is holding an art book swap, sponsored by the Pleasant Plains Workshop, the neat little art gallery and events space at Georgia and Fairmont. And there are drink specials -- can't beat that.

Here's more details:

WHEN:
March 17, 2014 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
WHERE:
Petworth Citizen's Reading Room
829 Upshur Street Northwest
Washington,DC 20011
CONTACT:
Event website

Presented by Pleasant Plains Workshop. Join us in the Reading Room at Petworth Citizen for an Art Book Swap & Happy Hour! Bring a book or two (or more) to swap with others. Remaining titles will be donated to the Reading Room’s ongoing Free Library shelves.
What to bring: coffee table books, exhibition catalogs, art instruction books, indie publications, zines, and bring a friend! 
Enjoy happy hour and St. Paddy’s Day specials in the restaurant & bar (Petworth Citizen opens at 5pm on the 17th)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Columbia Heights Home and Garden Tour coming in April, sign up your house soon, tickets on sale Monday

Our neighborhood really must have made it, as the folks at DC Home Buzz have organized the 2014 Columbia Heights Home and Garden Tour, where you can see nice houses and their gardens. The event is April 27th, but tickets go on sale on Monday.

They're also looking for homes and gardens to include, so if you think your place might make the cut, sign up below before the 14th.

Here's more info. I'd be interested in seeing the kinds of places that get selected.


What: 2014 Columbia Heights Home & Garden Tour
When:  April 27th, 2014 from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Ticket prices: $10-$15/pp - ticket sales begin March 17th
Website: ColumbiaHeightsHomeandGardenTour.com
Contact: Krysten Copeland, columbiaheightshometour@gmail.com

More info: Call for homes! We're looking to showcase home in Columbia Heights that have incredible architecture, interior design or history during the first ever Columbia Heights Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, April 27th. Homes should be within the following boundaries: Spring Rd (N), 16th Street (W), Georgia Ave (E), Florida Ave (S).  Selected homes will receive a small honorarium as a token of thanks. If interested, please follow the link below to sign up by March 14th.

Additionally, tour volunteers are needed for the day of event activities. If you’d like to be notified when tickets are made available to the public, please visit the website below to RSVP. Ticket prices will range from $10-$15 per person and proceeds will go to support a local deserving charity, to be announced prior to the commence of ticket sales.

For more information or to sign up to volunteer, have your home on the tour or learn when tickets become available, please visit ColumbiaHeightsHomeandGardenTour.com

Columbia Heights Dog Park meeting on March 20, help with their mission statement

If you have a dog (or just like them) read on. The Friends of the Columbia Heights Dog Park, a group working to improve the dog park at 11th and Park, are having their next meeting March 20th. They're looking for ideas for improvements and for folks who can help.

The meeting is 7pm at Coffy Cafe, 3310 14th Street NW. Here's the RSVP page.

They're also looking for feedback on their mission statement, which they'll vote on at the meeting. Here it is, and if you have feedback, send it to robynswirling (at) gmail [dot] com.

No word on whether Air Bud will be present.

The mission of Friends of Columbia Heights Dog Park is to beautify and maintain the Columbia Heights Dog Park as a safe and attractive place for dog owners, their pets, and the Columbia Heights community. Friends of Columbia Heights Dog Park collaborates with city and other agencies and with neighbors and community members to plan improvements and maintenance tasks, raise money and volunteer for park improvements, perform basic maintenance and upkeep, and establish and enforce operating rules and norms.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Le Caprice, the great French bakery on 14th, applying to serve beer and wine!

Le Caprice at 3460 14th St NW is a fantastic bakery, and one of my favorite breakfast spots around. And it looks like they're expanding their purview, as WAMU's Martin Austermuhle tweeted that they're applying to serve wine and beer -- the info came from the DC Register, or the official document that tracks government activities.
I don't have any more info so I'm speculating, but I'm guessing this means they're expanding to be more of a proper cafe where folks can hang out at night and have a drink or two -- sort of like Bar di Bari down at 14th and R, which serves baked goods and breakfast but also small dinner plates and drinks at night.

And if that's the case, that sounds great. I'm a big fan of the place.

Beer Run: 14th Mini-Market at 14th and Randolph is pretty awesome and cheap


It's been a while since I've done an installment in the Beer Run series, where I rate corner stores for their selection, ambiance, cleanliness and such.

The other day I was walking up 14th Street north of the Red Derby and spotted the 14th Mini-Market. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

For one, it seemed like they had a nicer selection than most mini markets -- aside from the usual corner store staples, they also had things like Annie's Organic microwave dinners, plus a big beer and wine section.

And their beer selection was surprisingly good too, both in variety and prices -- you know if it's a good sign when there's a Hoegaarden sign in the window. Almost every fancier beer, like Sierra Nevada, Fat Tire and the like, was $9.99, while other corner stores they're more like $10 or $11 (or more.) So maybe it's not D'Vines, but definitely more and cheaper than most corner stores (aside from the 13th Street Market, my favorite one.) They also had good and a bit more rare stuff like Sierra Nevada Torpedo and a few others.

I didn't check the wine prices, but there was a pretty big area for that too. And randomly, they had a ton of winning lottery tickets from this month -- so maybe the place is lucky.

If you're in the area, it's definitely worth a stop, and seems to be better than the other stores within a few blocks.

So the ratings:

Selection: 4 of 5, a wide range of cheap to good
Price: 5 of 5, the consistently cheapest I've seen
Ambiance: 4 of 5, bright and cheery.

That makes for a 13/15, or the highest score yet on my fairly subjective ratings!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lecture on Frida Kahlo and other female Mexican artists next Thursday


This sounds like a good opportunity to learn something about famous Mexican artists, including Frida Kahlo. The Mexican Cultural Institute on 16th Street, part of the Mexican Embassy, is hosting a lecture about Kahlo and two other female artists, Lola lvarez Bravo, Mar a Izquierdo

Because if you've only heard about Frida Kahlo you are missing out.

Don't miss Lola lvarez Bravo, MarĂ­a Izquierdo, and Frida Kahlo: Pressure from the Margins, a lecture that explores the contributions of three dynamic women to the vibrant cultural "renaissance" that followed the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Although frequently overshadowed by their male counterparts, each made a pioneering contribution to the advancement of Mexican art and culture. This lecture will consider their role as women within the Mexican art world of their day, as well as expounding on their work at the crossroads of revolutionary culture and the international avant-garde.

Adriana Zavala is Associate Professor of Art History at Tufts University. She received her PhD from Brown University, with a specialization in modern Mexican art. Her book "Becoming Modern, Becoming Tradition: Women Gender and Representation in Mexican Art" (Penn State University Press, 2010) was awarded the Arvey Prize by the Association of Latin American Art in 2011. She is presently writing a book on the collage technique in Mexican art. Her curatorial work includes: "Lola Alvarez Bravo: the Photography of an Era", shown at the Diego Rivera Studio Museum in Mexico City (2010), the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach (2011), and in expanded form at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ (2013); "Mexico Beyond Its Revolution" for the Tufts University Art Galleries (2010); and, "Maria Izquierdo: Un Arte Nuevo" for the Blaisten Collection at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (2007). She is currently developing an exhibition on Frida Kahlo.

2829 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
Thursday, March 13th, 6:45pm
Free Admission
RSVP to rsvp@instituteofmexicodc.org

Here's the link for the event. The Mexican Cultural Institute has all sorts of interesting events, most of which are free. Check out their site here.




Thursday, March 6, 2014

Some Mt. Pleasant parents are opposed to changing school boundaries; meeting today with DCPS staff

Some folks in Mt. Pleasant are not pleased that DC Public Schools is planning on changing some boundaries, meaning that MtP kids may go to schools like the Columbia Heights Education Campus, Cardozo or Roosevelt High Schools rather than Wilson, located in upper Northwest.

Some parents have put together a petition and have also gotten a meeting with DCPS officials. The petition argues that people might leave the city if their school gets changed.

The meeting is tonight at 6 pm at the Mt. Pleasant Library. So if you have kids in the area, check it out.

The Mount Pleasant Families Association invites you to a 

Mt. Pleasant Community Meeting with Abigail Smith, Deputy Mayor for Education

 
Topic: The School Boundaries Review Process and Mount Pleasant


Deputy Mayor Smith is leading the effort to review the District’s student assignment and school choice policies and practices. Learn more at:

 
This is your chance to sit down with Deputy Mayor Smith and discuss MtP Concerns

Join us on

Thursday, March 6, 6:00pm
Mt. Pleasant Library


RSVP to Josh.Louria@...
Please note that this meeting will focus specifically on Mount Pleasant, and is separate from the Ward 1 schools meeting on Tuesday.
The Mt. Pleasant Families Association thanks you!

DC Water's boil water advisory does not affect our area

Well, a silver lining. Yesterday, DC Water sent out an alert that everybody who experiences low water pressure should boil their water for drinking, cooking or giving to pets, especially west of Rock Creek Park. 

However, there's an update which includes a map, and it's all west of the park, so not our area.

Good news, though if you live west of the park, better check their site, which also includes a list of the addresses affected. If you do have to boil your water, here's what you do:
Customers should:
- Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
- Allow water to cool before using.
- Store cooled water in a clean container with a cover.

Customers should use cooled, boiled water or bottled water for:
- Drinking
- Brushing teeth
- Preparing and cooking food
- Making ice
- Giving water to pets
At least it's not ectoplasmic slime or a three-eyed fish, right? 

New rowhouses coming to parking lot and church site at Sherman and Morton



Sherman Avenue will have some new neighbors soon. A development of townhouses is coming to the large parking lot and the Iglesia ni Cristo at Sherman and Morton. Part of the development will be inside the existing church building, and part will be new construction on the parking lot site.

The development calls for 26 2-level rowhouses to be called Morton Street Mews. Mews is a term for a group of rowhouses not facing a street but rather sharing a central sidewalk or walkway -- there are examples in Foggy Bottom. It's a good way to fill a big lot but keep density lower than a big building. I like the designs too, and it's cool that it's reusing the existing building rather than tearing it down.

The units are priced from the $600s for ground level units and $800s for the upper level units, all with parking, and 3-4 affordable units.

This seems like a good use of space to me -- that parking lot is quite large and was rarely used, and it also means more folks coming to the area, plus some affordable housing.

The press release is below, and here's with more info and developer OPaL's website. Another plan is below.


Announcing a Colorful, Eclectic New Community in Downtown, DC.

Morton Street Mews takes the 11th Street, NW neighborhood to a new level with its interesting architecture and modern twists.
Cabin John, MD, February 28, 2014 Two-time GALA Home of the Year award winner, OPaL announces a refreshing addition to the 11th Street, NW neighborhood in Washington, DC.  Part reclaimed church, part new architecture and thoroughly colorful, Morton Street Mews is a new condominium community that commands attention.
The community of 26 two-level homes will partly inhabit an existing church on the site. The rest of the complex will be new construction brownstones echoing the Colonial and Federal styles of Georgetown and DuPont Circle. To make the property even more distinct, the brick facades along Sherman Street will be painted in colorful tones while the facades along Morton will consist of lap siding and shutters, offset with black windows throughout.
Another key part of the Morton Street Mews story is its location. The community is at the corner of Morton Street and Sherman Avenue, NW, two blocks from the Petworth Metro station, four blocks from the Columbia Heights Metro station and one block from 11th Street’s row of delightful coffee shops, pet stores and restaurants—perfect for anyone seeking a unique city lifestyle. Other conveniences, like a new Safeway, dog park, zip cars and DC Bike Share are also close at hand.
Inside, open spaces, flat panel cabinetry and cable railings set a thoroughly modern tone, sharply contrasting the traditional architecture you see from the street. Each condominium comes with parking within a gated motor court and some will feature rooftop terraces.

“There aren’t a whole lot of options for buyers who want to live in this part of the city, especially for those desiring new construction,” says Sean Ruppert, OPaL’s president. “Morton Street Mews offers buyers a funky mix of tradition and modernity in a great downtown location.” OPaL is known for finding prime projects in highly desirable locations and building unique homes on them, while being sensitive to the architecture and residents of the surrounding neighborhood.
Morton Street Mews will be designed by award-winning architect, Gregory Sparhawk. Based in Pasadena, M, Greg brings a unique aesthetic to all his designs, satisfying the tastes of those who seek something beyond the region’s traditional architecture. The condominiums at Morton Street Mews are projected to be priced from the mid $600’s.
Other current OPaL projects include Canal Mews, a small enclave of coastal graystones in Palisades and 39 Up, a community of 40 contemporary townhomes and single-family homes across from the Westfield Wheaton Mall in Maryland.
###
About OPaL
Based in Cabin John, MD, OPaL is a local builder specializing in developing small, well-located, close-in communities. With over 15 years of experience in the homebuilding industry and numerous awards, OPaL's extraordinary vision brings a whole new dimension to the Washington, DC and Baltimore areas. The company builds only a handful of new townhomes and single-family homes each year, preferring quality, individuality and location over cookie-cutter appeal. All of the more than 120 homes built by OPaL since its inception are characterized by truly unique architecture, impeccable details and deep thought for the lifestyles of their owners. To learn more, visit www.opaldc.com

Contact Sean Ruppert at 301-320-3979 for more information about this release.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Awesome hip-hop/electronic/jazzy album about Rock Creek Park: Oddisee - "Rock Creek Park"

I'm not sure how I missed this when it came out, but the other day my buddy posted a link to Rock Creek Park, an album by Oddisee, a hip-hop producer and MC from DC.

The album is tangentially about the park, with song titles like "The Carter Barron," "Closed at Dark," "Clara Barton" and others referencing the park and actually came out in 2011. It received a lot of good press, with the BBC calling it "a flawless soundtrack for the historic Washington, D.C. park and a moving blueprint for other producers to follow" while popular music blog Stereogum named it the mixtape of the week when it came out.

The songs are mostly instrumental and sample-based, with lots of jazzy flourishes plus a bit of rapping by local MCs. There's also record pops and hiss and lots of atmospherics. But even if you don't like hip hop, it's a great listen -- it's mellow, interesting, jazzy and funky. It feels like good music to put on during a lazy Sunday or a long walk. The first track, "Still Doing It" actually features a sample of "Rock Creek Park" by DC's own the Blackbyrds, a great jazz-funk song (which I could have sworn I've written about before, but I guess not.)

Oddisee, real name Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, is a PG County native and part of the Diamond District hip hop trio, members of which also appear on Rock Creek Park. The album, the Post reports, was actually inspired by his time in New York City, and became an underground hit.

He's since done a lot more, but I have yet to get to that because I've been enjoying Rock Creek Park too much. Check it out, I bet you'll like it. (And if you like this local connection, check out the rest of the music in the neighborhood.)

Here's Oddisee's Twitter, blog, and Wikipedia too.

All the details on every CSA/farm share in Columbia Heights!

Last week I wrote about some CSAs that deliver to our area -- CSAs being Community Supported Agriculture, or farms that people can subscribe to, then they receive a box of produce, veggies and such on a regular basis. Some also include meat and dairy options.

I wrote about a few I'd used and commenters offered some more, but then I was contacted by reader Jennifer M. T., who put in the time to find a whole bunch and add them to a spreadsheet with all the relevant details -- cost, delivery location, and the like.

It's pretty awesome! I added it to a Google Doc (linked here if you want to edit and add more info! She said there might be more that don't advertise online, so if you know of any, please add them.) The spreadsheet is also embedded below. So thanks to Jennifer for doing this!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Volunteer to shovel your neighbors' sidewalk (or ask for help yourself!)


Snow is here again, which means everybody needs to shovel their sidewalks. However, some folks aren't able to, and there are nice folks out there who want to help -- enter Snowcrew to connect them.

The folks behind SeeClickFix, the system to send service requests and problems to the city, have launched the site as a technical solution where you can volunteer to help your neighbors or ask for help yourself -- maybe if you're elderly or injured or just can't for whatever reason. And while it's rarely enforced, it's actually the law to keep your sidewalk clear, and even if it wasn't a law it's still a nice thing to do, as it makes it safer for everybody.

It looks like some folks are already using the site, though it seems to mostly be Snowcrew's founder who's responding to the requests and shoveling the snow. That said, maybe he's just getting the ball rolling, and I did see another person or two.

So if you're interested, check it out! It seems like a great way to get some exercise and meet some of your neighbors you might not have run into before. You can see the site's utility for people posting too, one person has two parents over 90, one person has a back problem, and so on.

And of course, the site is a clever idea, but there's no substitute for just getting to know your immediate neighbors! Though maybe this will also help facilitate that.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Councilman to introduce instant runoff voting for all elections -- about time!

Seemingly every year, politicians in DC get elected with a very small percentage of the total vote. Because of DC's system and the huge majority Democrats have, the primary election becomes the de facto general election. Since there can be many candidates, that means the winner may only get 30% of the total vote, or less.

It's a crazy system, one which gave us Anita Bonds winning the at-large election last year with just 32% of the vote and Vincent Orange winning his race in 2011 with a measly 28%. To put it another way, 68% and 72% of people voted against Bonds and Orange, and yet they're our councilmembers. And because of the primary system and the small tournot, when Anita Bonds won with just over 16,000 votes, she was supported by a total of 3% of the registered votes in DC. That's insane.

But maybe that's about to end. Councilman David Grosso has introduced a bill making all primaries open to all parties, and making them instant runoff voting -- that means people can rank their preferences in candidates. Here's how Wikipedia describes instant runoff voting:

It is a form of preferential voting (or ranked choice voting) in which voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than simply selecting a single candidate. 
Ballots are initially distributed based on each voter's first preference. If a candidate secures more than half of votes cast, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to eliminated candidates are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining candidates based on the next preference on each ballot. This process continues until one candidate wins by obtaining more than half the votes.
So basically, more people will get a candidate they actually like. It also means you don't need to worry about "electability," which I heard a lot talking to people about in previous elections -- they liked people like Patrick Mara or Bryan Weaver or Matthew Frumin, but didn't think they could win, so they voted for somebody else. I've written about it twice before and the Washington Post made the same argument at least twice before.

The idea would also probably encourage more interest in the elections, since everybody can now vote at the same time, and they'd have more of an opportunity to vote for who they wanted. And more interest in elections is always a good thing.

The system is slightly more complicated than regular voting, but it's being used successfully in other big cities like Oakland, San Francisco and Minneapolis. And considering the benefits, I don't see how anybody could be opposed.

I sure hope this passes. I'm going to email my councilmembers immediately, asking them to support it. I hope you do too.

Check out the new YMCA at 14th and W, it's awesome


After my post about nobody liking the Washington Sports Club in DCUSA, I got an email from a reader raving about the new YMCA at 14th and W. I asked her to write more about it, and here's the result! Sounds great to me.

By Danielle Lapierre

After reading the NCH post on all the WSC hate, I wanted to tell those that don’t already know about the latest and greatest WSC alternative that came to our hood in the last 6 months. I've actually had memberships at several gyms over the past few years but nothing drove me thru the door...until now. 

The Y Anthony Bowen is a brand new facility on 14th and W that boasts state-of-the-art equipment, awesome group exercise classes, a pool, and a rock-climbing wall. Since I made my way into the gym, over 4 weeks ago, I have been 6-7 days a week and honestly have loved every second of it. I've enjoyed some pretty rock star classes, a personal trainer that showed me how to use all the things women fear in the weights section of the gym, and some sweet equipment some of which you can use to charge your phone, track your daily progress (with the use of jump drive), watch television, and for the must-always-be-connected types, check your email, log onto FB, and even send a few tweets. 
                                                                                                     
The locker room reminds me of the $120/mth Equinox membership I had in Manhattan years ago with a spa-like feel, but most importantly, it's clean and always fully-stocked with towels. It is a decent size and has lockers that do not require your own padlocks. Oh, and the sauna? Sooo good. 

The spin room is supposedly the largest in the city (but I haven’t confirmed this with management), with over 40-something bikes and the instructors are some of the best I've had. There are seriously so many classes with a variety of types and times, from Barre and Body Pump to Vinyasa Yoga and Zumba. Some classes, like Aerial Yoga, require a few extra bucks, but from I hear, are an incredible and unique workout. And when the weather clears up, they will hold yoga on the roof deck.  What’s better than that?

I signed on early so I scored 3 free personal training sessions with the Best Start Program but all members get a 30 min assessment and 1 free session. You can pick your fave from a catalog with trainer picks and experience descriptions. 

And to bring your healthy lifestyle full circle, the Y offers cooking classes too!

The staff is super nice and always willing to help. Oh, and the best part of the Y, is that your $$ goes towards the community which offers “subsidies and scholarships to YMCA programs, such as membership, swim lessons, and summer camp.” It’s not just some massive corporation that cares less about where they are and who they serve. With that, you will probably see more kids on the weekends compared to most gyms in the city but they have a great kids program that seems to keep them secretly hidden from the working out world once they walk in.

So if you live in Columbia Heights and hate WSC or Gold's) as much as I do, check out the Y, at $78/mth (it’s cheaper if you join with another person or family), it's worth it. With a charter membership, you get access to all facilities in the DC Metro area and up to 2400 eligible Y’s across the country, with their AWAY program.

As much as it kills me to think that this gym could get overcrowded with the right publicity, I really do think everyone should get a taste of the Y Anthony Bowen, so stop in soon!

Hours
Monday - Thursday • 5:30AM to 11:00PM
Friday • 5:30AM to 10:00PM
Saturday • 7:00AM to 7:00PM

Sunday • 7:00AM to 8:00PM

Photos provided by Anthony Bowen YMCA