Wednesday, May 31, 2017

WaPo article on local activist and development opponent Chris Otten

The Washington Post recently had an interesting article on Chris Otten -- you may recognize the name from various mailing lists or press releases, or seen (or heard) him at community meetings.

Otten is an activist against many local development projects, often calling for more affordable housing or for the development to be stopped altogether. Sometimes he succeeds, with community groups getting settlements or concessions, or delaying the project, such as with the McMillan Sand Filtration Site redevelopment, where he got a court to delay the project. He's also opposed to development at Union Market, homeless shelters in Ward 3 and 5 and the new soccer stadium in Buzzard Point, for example.

Various neighbors, developers, local officials and planners are opposed to him though, as the Post cites. In one example, his opposition to the Adams Morgan Line hotel project, the developers offered his group $2 million to drop their challenge. They accepted, and the money went into a group he set up to manage it.

Some of that money went to him, some of it to a group on whose board he sits, and he refused to tell the Post more details about where it goes. The Post also claims he built anti-hotel websites and offered to take them down if the developer paid him $20,000, which Otten denies. I remember seeing the websites too, it was unclear who actually ran them. One of his tactics is to make a name of a group that seems like a citizens organization, but it's never clear who (if anyone) is in the group. (This was also a common tactic among neighbors in Foggy Bottom who opposed George Washington University, to form organizations that seemed to be representative but may have only been a couple of people.)

Some of Otten's points are good -- the city could certainly use more affordable housing, but he seems to argue that any proposed affordable units are not the right kind or are too expensive and rather than advocating for a change to rules about affordable housing in the city. He seems to oppose any projects that includes affordable housing (in my opinion.)

On the other hand, he also opposed to project to remove the plaza at 18th and Columbia Road, which I agree with him on.

In my opinion, he opposes everything, and is a perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-good type -- rather than letting a pretty good project happen, he fights it because it's not perfect. What usually happens is the project gets held up in court or other red tape (like McMillan), or as in the case of the Adams Morgan hotel, the developers make a settlement with his group and it gets built anyway.

He also seems to be opposed to things that nobody else is opposed to, like WAMU's Martin Austermuhle says: he was opposed to small homeless shelters in Wards 3 and 5, which homeless advocates want, and thinks DC General should be fixed up into a huge city shelter, which very few if any homeless advocates want. It almost seems like he's a NIMBY, but sort of an activist NIMBY who wants nothing to happen rather than the usual kind. The Post quotes former city planning director Harriet Tregoning as saying “I know what he’s against. What’s he for?"

He also seems to constantly change his story for why he's opposed to various projects. His McMillan group has gone through any number of reasons, and once one gets shot down they bring up something else. I had a run-in with him at a while ago at a Ward 1 event: I met him and was friendly and polite, saying I agreed with him on the Adams Morgan plaza and appreciated his work, but I disagreed with him on his opposition to the McMillan project, the large area between North Capitol and First Street NW south of Washington Hospital Center. I probably should have not talked to him, in hindsight.

For one thing, his group always calls it "McMillan Park," a sort of propaganda argument implying it's always been a park and thus should be returned to one. However, the site was never a park and it's been off-limits to the public since World War II. I think the project provides much-needed housing to the city, some of which is affordable, and will bring in some retail, some office space, some jobs, and be generally beneficial.

The current plan would have 1 million feet of healthcare space (I think doctors offices and other medical offices), 655 housing units (20% of which is affordable or affordable for seniors), 80,000 square feet of retail space with a Harris Teeter, a 17,000 square foot community center with a pool, and an eight acre park for 10 acres of total open space, or about 41% of the site. So where there has been zero usable land for anything for decades, there's parks, market-rate housing, affordable housing, offices, health facilities, community centers and retail. It's also preserving all of the (abandoned) historic brick towers there. Sounds good to me.

He didn't like this at all and got very angry. He raised his voice and said I'd never been inside the site so I didn't know how nice it was (I walk and ride by it a lot, you can see through the fences) and that the housing was not the right type and that it would generate more traffic and that traffic would cause kids to die of air pollution. He was basically yelling at this point so I turned around and left. In my opinion, he will find any cockamamie reason to oppose something. Rather than get more affordable housing at McMillan, for example, he prefers none because he says it's not the right type or price, even though those requirements are set by DC law.

And it sounds like that's part of his strategy, to be obnoxious: the Post reports other incidents where he made a ruckus at local meetings, including calling Concilmember Phil Mendelson a racist for not allowing testimony at a hearing from people who hadn't signed up ahead of time, which is how the city does its testimony.

Should activists be friendly and nice all the time? No, of course not. It's important to make a stink about big issues. But opposing everything all the time no matter what and saying that supporting a development project that seems to benefit lots of people means you want kids to die is pretty bonkers. I'm probably inviting upon myself a rain of comments by writing this, but it's frustrating to always see this opposition. And I think the Post covered him well.

First Friday on Georgia Avenue this Friday: deals at local businesses, retail, bars, food and more!

First Friday is back! The event, organized by Georgia Avenue Thrive, has local businesses on Georgia Avenue open their doors with various specials -- freebies, deals, giveaways and performances.

There's a lot of great deals and some new participants this month: Story District, Midlands, Bravo Bar and more. It's a great way to check out local businesses, meet your neighbors and have a nice Friday evening. Check it out!
Start your weekend with First Friday on lower Georgia Avenue! Join us Friday, June 2nd from 6-9 pm for our monthly celebration of the Georgia Avenue community with specials and live events at our local businesses. Check out June's participating businesses below. More and even better!
We have partnered with @Petworth Arts Collaborative to bring you more art, music and theatre and community engagement while supporting our local businesses, so stayed tuned for more!
Last month's was a blast, there was a buy 5, get 5 free deal at Walls of Books, free coffee at Heat da Spot, goodies at District Dogs and a lot more.

There'a also a Facebook invite and a map with all the participants.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pedestrian changes to 14th and Irving intersection: "Barnes Dance" all-way crossing going in, like Chinatown

One of the main intersections in our area is getting some changes: the District Department of Transportation has announced that 14th and Irving is getting a "Barnes Dance" pedestrian crossing in early June, which is when all vehicle traffic stops at a red light and people can cross in any direction -- diagonal across the intersection or along the existing perpendicular crosswalks. There's a similar crossing at 7th and H in Chinatown. The crossing is also called a scramble or barnyard crossing.

The city has a lot more info on how it works for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists. In short, pedestrians can only cross when it's "all-red, all-walk" -- there won't be walk signals when one direction is green. That means pedestrians may have to wait a bit longer as well. For drivers, there are no right turns on red and wait times will be longer at rush hour. Cyclists may ride through during "all-red, all-walk" but must yield to pedestrians.

The city says the intersection is aimed at reducing pedestrian/vehicle conflicts in the area. To be honest I'm a little surprised it's not at 14th/Park/Kenyon, which is kind of confusing, but there is more pedestrian traffic at 14th and Irving. The Post has a bit more, with DDOT planners saying the turn from eastbound Irving Street onto 14th has had a number of pedestrian-vehicle crashes in the past. The intersection has 3,500 pedestrians and 1,500 vehicles an hour during the peak times of the PM rush hour.

They'll also have traffic control officers there at first to make sure people understand what to do.

We'll see how it goes. The Chinatown one has been pretty successful from what I can tell. They're also popular in Takoma Park, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

Here's more about the Barnes Dance:
Columbia Heights (14th and Irving Street NW), June 2017
  • The 14th Street and Irving Street, NW, Intersection was evaluated as part of the DDOT Crosstown Multimodal Transportation Study in 2016 and a Barnes Dance was recommended to reduce the pedestrian/vehicle conflicts in the intersection and to improve transit service in the area. 
  • Barnes Dance signal operation is often an effective solution for intersections where pedestrians outnumber vehicles.  When this imbalance occurs, a shift in the signal operation can reduce conflicts caused by turning vehicles and pedestrians as they attempt to cross the street during their designated “Pedestrian Walk” signal phase.
  • The Barnes Dance timing eliminates this conflict by allowing all pedestrians to cross without vehicle movements and vehicles to move without pedestrian crossings (provided all drivers and pedestrians obey their traffic signals). 
  • After successful implementation of a Barnes Dance at 7th and H Streets, NW in Chinatown in 2010, DDOT began looking for other locations where this treatment could improve pedestrian safety and access.
Photo from DDOT from 1962-63

Friday, May 26, 2017

Video: Potter's House cafe on Columbia Road has neat pay it forward campaign

This is a little out of our area, but pretty cool. Potter's House, the cafe and bookstore at 1658 Columbia Rd NW, has a "pay it forward" option where you can pay for someone else's coffee or meal, donating when you buy your items. The proceeds pay for a pay-what-you-can meal program. 

Ad 2 DC, a local advertising group, put together a neat little ad about it as well as a documentary about the spot, which has been around since 1960. (They also have good coffee, it's a nice place.)

Here's the ad and their press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Adams Morgan Reminded to Pay It Forward in New Advertising Campaign for The Potter’s House

The Potter’s House, in collaboration with Ad 2 DC, is proud to announce its newest advertising campaign, “Pay It Forward.” Launched April 15, the campaign showcases how donating to The Potter’s House’s long-standing Pay It Forward program brings the Adams Morgan community together. Donations to the Pay It Forward program directly fund the corresponding Pay What You Can program, where Adams Morgan neighbors can visit The Potter's House and receive a nutritious meal regardless of income, and be served with dignity.

One of the highlights of the “Pay It Forward” campaign is a cinema-quality commercial showing a glimpse into the radical hospitality that happens every day at The Potter’s House, a coffeehouse, bookstore, and community hub in Adams Morgan founded in 1960. The spot was filmed onsite at The Potter’s House, and it depicts patrons of all backgrounds coming together over food in the space’s welcoming atmosphere.

Ad 2 DC also produced two mini-documentaries celebrating The Potter’s House’s history and mission, as well as the Pay It Forward program, with exclusive interviews from The Potter’s House’s board members, employees, and patrons.

“One of the goals of the Pay It Forward program is to have a starting point for connection,” says Tim Kumfer, The Potter’s House’s general manager. “We’re really seeking to re-weave the fabric of the community and bring people together. Through donations to Pay It Forward, we’re able to serve 25 meals a day through the Pay What You Can program, and as that number grows, we’ll also need to grow the support accordingly.”

The Potter's House's video commercial is featured on NBC4, News Channel 8/ABC 7, and YouTube. Other components of the multimedia campaign, which runs through June, can be found on iHeartRadio’s DC partner stations (WASH-FM, WBIG-FM, WIHT-FM, WMQZ-FM, WWDC-FM), in print in El Tiempo Latino, online on, on Digilant Media’s partner sites, including, and in-store at The Potter’s House at 1658 Columbia Rd. NW, Washington, DC, 20009.

Donate to the Pay it Forward Program through The Potter’s House’s Go Fund Me page and learn more at

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cool: Odd Provisions has iced coffee with frozen coffee ice cubes

Today I stopped into Odd Provisions, the cool little market at 11th and Lamont, and noticed they had iced coffee -- but with pre-made frozen coffee ice cubes.

Pretty clever idea -- the cubes were already in a cup in the freezer so you don't water your iced coffee down as you drink it. They used to do something similar at Zombie Coffee and Donuts, so maybe that was the inspiration.

If you haven't been, Odd Provisions has a lot of nice produce, food, drinks, beer and wine as well as delicious pre-made food like sandwiches, pimento cheese and a tasty buffalo cauliflower salad.

It's not traditional corner store stuff, most of the items are pretty high quality or locally made. I like it for a lunch bite or some dinner ingredients. Good beer and cider too.

Whoa, free bottomless mimosas and micheladas at Lou's for brunch

This is a pretty sweet deal at Lou's City Bar at 14th and Irving: free bottomless mimosas or micheladas (a Mexican drink, like a Bloody Mary but with beer) if you buy a brunch item. It starts this Saturday and goes until 6/25, from 11am-2pm.

Below is their brunch menu.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Short Eats, new Sri Lankan breakfast pop-up at Ten Tigers, is awesome

Today I checked out Short Eats, the new pop-up inside Ten Tigers Parlour, which offers Sri Lankan roti, a flaky stuffed pastry sort of like empanadas and Compass Coffee. And they are pretty delicious.

The roti are designed to be eaten on the go, which is traditional in Sri Lanka: they come in a little paper sleeve so you can take them with you. They're open 7am-10am Monday-Friday and offer pork sausage, ground turkey, and veggie, all with potatoes, poached eggs and spices, plus optional pol sambol, a spicy condiment. I got the sausage, it was nice: a crispy, brown pastry with a bit of kick and all the ingredients. I almost got a second but decided not to.

I spoke with owner Yohan Ferdinando, who organized it along with Jonathan Beyoghlow, who said that the sausage is their nod to American breakfasts while the veggie is the most traditional. Ferdinando was born in Sri Lanka but moved to the US as a kid. DCist writes that he's using his family's traditional recipes.

Along with the rotis, they have Compass coffee, cold brew Ceylon ginger tea, mango juice and water. The rotis are $5.50 or $7 with a drink. They have wifi too.

They're also selling them at the Petworth Farmers Market, Saturdays from 9am-1pm.

Ferdinando said they'd see how business goes until the end of June, and might also keep serving at Ten Tigers.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Meeting on Thursday about redevelopment of old Hebrew Home building at 1125 Spring Rd

The old Hebrew Home building at 1125 Spring Road NW has been empty for some time and the city is planning to redevelop it as housing. If you want to learn more or let your voice be heard, there's a community meeting this Thursday at 6:30pm at Raymond Rec Center.

I've written about it a fair amount before, some people want the development to have more affordable housing, while some want less or none at all. It's been fairly acrimonious, there are groups advocating for or against affordable housing, with each claiming the others aren't actually from the neighborhood.

The last I heard, the plan was for the building to have 200 units: about 80 in the Hebrew Home building at 120 more in a new building on the site, where the Robeson School is currently (that weird modern building.) Each building will be 30% affordable units, according to these plans.

The building itself was built in 1925 and sold to the city in the 1960s, and it's been vacant since about 2008. Here's the city's page about the project.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dinosaur-themed toga party tonight at Ten Tigers Parlour

Well that's something you don't see every day: there's a dinosaur-themed toga party tonight at Ten Tigers Parlour from 10pm-3am. Called Animal House Rules, there will be DJs (Godbrother, Raptorstein and the amusingly named The Barber Streisand) spinning and there's no cover. Togas are optional, but who goes to a toga party without a toga?

I love this neighborhood.

(Ten Tigers, part-owned by the Hilton Brothers from Thievery Corporation, hosts a lot of DJ nights and house music dance parties, check them out.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DC rapper Wale has a song called "Colombia Heights (Te Llamo)" (sic) on his new record

I've written about D.C. rapper Wale a few times before, he's done a few videos in and around our area -- including one with a virtual Lady Gaga at Cardozo High School.

His latest record Shine has a track called "Colombia Heights (Te Llamo)" (sic, that is Colombia and not Columbia. The song features J. Balvin, who is from Colombia the country, so it's a play on words.

Here are the lyrics -- it doesn't talk directly about our area, but still but kind of cool to see the neighborhood in music.

My favorite Wale record was his first mixtape, 100 Miles and Runnin', which featured Mark Ronson and had remixes of Justice, Lily Allen and others. He also did one about Seinfeld, The Mixtape about Nothing. Apparently him and Jerry Seinfeld are buds.

Then again, there's also a song called "F*CK WALE" by a local rapper called DC Jay that prominently features the buildings on Columbia Road between 14th and 13th. So, maybe not everybody likes him.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Help Powell Elementary this Saturday at their Spring Carnival: dunk tank, fun for kids, raffles & more; Annie's Ace donating too

This Saturday, Powell Elementary at 1350 Upshur is holding their Spring Community Carnival, a fundraiser and fun event for kids and adults. It's at the Roosevelt High School field across from Annie's Ace Hardware from 10am-3pm.

And along with that event, Annie's is holding a fundraiser for the event -- they'll round up any purchase you make on Saturday:
Annie’s Ace Hardware in Petworth supports a number of schools in the area but we have a special partnership with Powell Elementary which is right down the block from us.  Our employees happily volunteer to be judges at their spelling bees, participate in Dr. Seuss reading days, and host tours of our store.
 This Saturday, May 20, the Powell Carnival will be held at Roosevelt High School’s athletic field.  As part of this event, Annie’s Ace Hardware will do a “round-up” fundraiser.  What this means is that all customers will be asked if they would like to round-up their purchase to support the Powell Padres, the parent organization for Powell Elementary.  If your total comes to $13.49, you will have the opportunity to “round-up” to $14.00 and 51 cents will be donated to Powell. We appreciate your support of this event!

Here's more about the carnival itself:
On May 20th, Powell Elementary School we will be holding their 3rd annual Spring Community Carnival at Roosevelt High School football field. This event is open to the public and all proceeds go towards funding field trips, classroom technology, classroom supplies and other school-support activities. 
Fun Activities to Expect:
  • Dunk Tank
  • Climbing Wall 
  • Moon Bounces for younger and older kids
  • Carnival Games and prizes for kids
  • Powell Teachers vs Parents soccer Classic
  • Sno-Cones, Popcorn, Hotdogs and other treats
  • Live performances!
  • Raffle for cash and an iPad!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jenkins Capital BBQ opening in Ruby Tuesday space in a few weeks with sidewalk cafe; is mysterious

Well, I've written a few times about Jenkins Capital BBQ, which is coming to the former Ruby Tuesday space at 14th and Monroe. A reader just sent in a few pictures on the interior, and it looks to me like it's ready to go, there also appears to be a worker inside. I spoke to their lawyer, who said they are just finishing up some construction and should be open in a few weeks.

They applied for a liquor license a while ago including a 48 seat sidewalk cafe and 235 seats overall. I can't tell if they were granted it or not, and there was a protest by some ANC commissioners, acting as residents rather than as officials. I'm trying to find more about that.

However, it's a pretty mysterious spot, in my opinion. They don't have a website, Facebook or anything else I can find, and there's very little other info out there. The website on their opening soon banner,, doesn't work.

PoP wrote that he was told they're related to a Jenkins Quality BBQ in Jacksonville, but when I called that restaurant they said they weren't related at all, they only have three Florida locations. The lawyer for Jenkins Capital BBQ said said the same thing, they're not related at all.

If you're with Jenkins, please email me! I'd love to know more about your restaurant. I like BBQ.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ever see those kids fundraising for Roosevelt High? Odds are it's a scam -- but actual fundraiser today at Chick-fil-A

Every now and then on the Metro and elsewhere I've seen groups of kids, and sometimes adults, walking around saying they're fundraising for Petworth's Roosevelt High School, a Roosevelt sports team or something similar. They have a piece of paper, sometimes laminated, with info about the team. However, WUSA reports that it's a scam.

DC Public Schools say the Metro fundraiser isn't affiliated with the school, and that they only do fundraisers on campus. They also said to check the school's Twitter or call them, 202-576-6130.

The scammers had the misfortune of talking to both Petworth News blogger Drew Schneider and DC Councilmember Robert White, who both thought something was fishy. Pretty shitty of people to do this to people who think they're helping a local school.

However, there is an official, legit fundraiser today though -- if you eat at Chick-fil-A today and bring the flyer with you (or show them the flyer on your phone) the store will donate to the school.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Acre 121 has closed, to be replaced by cycling bar from Hilton Bros (Thievery Corp., 18th Street Lounge, Gibson, Ten Tigers, etc.)

More bar turnover! Acre 121, the southern spot at 14th and Irving in the Highland Park building, has closed. A couple of weeks ago, PoP reported that it would be replaced with a cycling bar from the Hilton Brothers, local businessmen and musicians. Known as Thievery Corporation for their musical endeavors, they've opened a series of lounges and spots around town, such as the 18th Street Lounge, the Gibson, American Ice Company and more recently Ten Tigers Parlour, often working with other restauranteurs, developers and such. The New York Times has more on the bros.

I recently spoke with someone from the developers of the building, who gave me more details about the spot. For one, they plan to rejigger the interior to make it a bit more bar-friendly -- currently the bar is off the side and behind some big posts, making for a somewhat awkward space.

They also plan to make the patio area more of a patio, as right now it's covered in a kind of plastic tent (see above) -- maybe more of a canopy that's open to the street, similar to the bars on 17th Street in Dupont.

The vibe would be European with a cycling theme, lots of beer, especially Belgian, and European street food; PoP had mentioned Doner kebab, which would be awesome. The District Karaoke league, which had competitions fairly regularly at Acre, will be moving to another bar.

Sounds like a good option for the space, which has had some turnover -- it was originally the delicious CommonWealth, a British gastropub from the Hank's Oyster Bar folks, who closed it to focus on Hank's, and then Acre 121. I liked the food at Acre but only went once or twice, and it was kind of an odd vibe. Hopefully the Hiltons and the developers can make this a cool spot.

Photo from Google Streetview

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sour beers from Indiana's Upland Brewery now available in our area

If you like sour beers, you have some new options. Upland Brewing, based in Bloomington, Indiana, is now distributing their brews in the area. I tried a few yesterday at a tasting event and enjoyed them.

They're still working on getting them into local bars, but currently are selling them in bottles at D'vines on 14th Street and working on getting them into Lion's Liquors on Georgia.

They're also available on draft at Jack Rose and ChurchKey, not far from us.

They're also doing a 20-tap takeover event at Jack Rose tonight and another on Thursday at RFD.

We tried five of their sours, from the lightest Iridescent to the dark Cursed Kettle, which was barrel-aged. I really enjoyed the Iridescent and the hopped Hopsynth, both of which would be really good warm weather beers, or with some cheese or a burger. I could see having a bottle on the porch. The Cursed Kettle and Black Prairie were also good, funkier and tasted stronger, even though all the beers are around 6% alcohol. They'd be tasty with some strongly flavored food, maybe a funky cheese or something rich.

Many are wood aged and the brewers talked about using 10-year old barrels that have their own strain of yeast to get them started, then finishing them in other barrels to impart different flavors.

In all, good stuff, and give them a look if you're at D'vines.

(Also, if you'd be interested in writing a guest beer column for this blog, let me know!)