Monday, November 29, 2010

"So you don't want to pay $25k a year for first grade?" ANC2F to Host Community Discussion on Area Public Schools

This Wednesday at their regular monthly meeting, ANC2F, along with the Logan Circle Community Association, will be co-hosting a special forum on DC public school education. From the flyer they distributed:

Please Join Us for a Joint Community Forum

Wednesday, December 1,
Washington Plaza Hotel
14 Thomas Circle, NW
(14th and Massachusetts, NW)
7:00 PM



Additional information can be found on the ANC's website.

Who's Picturing DC?

Welcome back from what was hopefully a relaxing weekend of eating, sleeping and...well, I think Jim Gaffigan put it best:

Thanksgiving. It’s like we didn’t even try to come up with a tradition. The tradition is, we overeat. “Hey, how about at Thanksgiving we just eat a lot?” “We do that every day!” “Oh. What if we eat a lot with people that annoy the hell out of us?”

(Just kidding, mom.)

Before we dive back into the fun and lunacy that is local neighborhood politics stuff, I thought I'd share something lighter and, to me at least, interesting in that wastes-a-lot-of-my-time-at-work kind of way. If you don't know who Eric Fischer is, he's the guy that does all of those colorful maps of cities around the world that show things like demographic data, transit usage and so on. (If you missed his series on race and ethnicity, go immediately and check it out.)

Because I am a nerd at heart, I found myself perusing Eric's Flickr photostream recently and came across a series entitled "The Geotaggers World Atlas," where he took data derived from images on Flickr and Picasa and mapped them to show where it was in each city that people take photos. But then he took it a step further and categorized each image based on whether they were taken by a tourist (red dot) local (blue dot) are undetermined (yellow dot). In addition to showing which cities get photographed the most (DC checks in at #8, ahead of Rome but behind Boston; #s 1-3 are NYC, London and Paris), it provides some insight into what sections of cities tourists go (and take pictures), and where they don't.

I'm struggling to find a great amount of "real life" applicability here, but I'll be damned if these aren't tremendously fascinating.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

HR-57 Moving to H Street

In what is sad news for Logan/Shaw/Dupont jazz fans, but great news for people around north Capitol Hill and the Atlas District, the City Paper is reporting that longtime 14th street jazz club HR-57 will be moving to a space near 9th and H Streets NE in January.

According to the City Paper, HR-57 owner Tony Puesan was quoted as saying "It's a very nice place, it's just in a little bit cheaper building." Puesan owns HR-57's current location, which seems to indicate that by "cheaper" he is referring to property taxes.

Though there is no shortage of jazz clubs remaining in the area--Bohemian Caverns, Twins and Utopia all have acts on a nightly basis, and many other restaurants and lounges feature jazz performances many nights throughout the week--HR-57's casual vibe, relatively low cover and top-notch acts will certainly be missed in the neighborhood, particularly by yours truly. Although the space could get a bit crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, the drink prices are high (although it is one of the few BYOB places in the city) and the food options aren't exactly options, it is also my favorite jazz club. Though I'm sure I'll make out to H Street for the occasional performance, the new location won't be particularly convenient.

HR-57's current building is up for sale, so it's a safe bet that something new will be moving into that space. Although what it will be is anyone's guess (trendy, small plate restaurant, anybody?)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ANC2B Files, Then Withdraws, Protest of Hank's; Residents Threaten Legal Action

Tossing aside months of statements amounting to "we're not going to get involved," ANC2B voted at last week's meeting to protest the renewal of the liquor license for Jamie Leeds' popular Hank's Oyster Bar--then promptly rescinded the letter of protest after working out a deal with Leeds.

Meanwhile, a group of resident protesters led by Q Street resident David Mallof have threatened to file an appeal with the DC Court of Appeals should the alcohol board allow the termination of Hank's VA with the residents, along with a request from Leeds to add a rooftop garden and french doors leading to the street-level patio.

That's right: residents are threatening legal action over french doors.

If you're wondering what happened, well, so are we. it's rather long and winding road towards what has been a rather absurdly drawn-out protest of a popular neighborhood eatery. (Our post from a few months ago covers the protest in excruciating detail. Pour yourself a stiff drink before reading it.)

Basically, what it comes down to is this: a few area residents have decided that Leeds' plans to expand into the adjacent vacant space, and to vacate her existing VA with them, amounts to the end of life as we know it. Or something akin to that. Never mind that Leeds is perfectly within her rights to pursue expansion into the adjacent space--the recently re-ratified 17th Street Liquor License Moratorium specifically permits Leeds to do exactly that. And never mind that said protestants were unable to demonstrate any actual or potential harm by such a move--or even why a VA was necessary.

The ANC had voted to take no action on either the' "substantial change" to Hank's license (namely, the expansion into the neighboring building and outdoor space) or Leeds' request to terminate her VA with the Dupont Circle Citizen's Association and the aforementioned neighborhood residents.

The ANC's decision to reverse course came as a result of comments made by Leeds' attorney, Andrew Kline, at a November 3 alcohol board hearing, where he mentioned that Hank's would be legally permitted to maintain sidewalk cafe hours until 2 AM weekdays and 3 AM weekends--which they would. Except, they had no intention of doing so. Leeds had stated repeatedly that she had no intention of expanding Hank's patio hours.

Still, the ANC, as commissioner Victor Wexler put it, "does not want to risk having those hours allowed for anyone." So they filed a protest. Leeds immediately filed letter with ABRA which restricted her hours to 11 PM and midnight, which matched the statements she repeatedly made under oath at the alcohol board hearing. Subsequently, the ANC withdrew its protest, leaving Leeds' last remaining hurdle an upcoming ABRA Board hearing on the resident's protest of the expansion and substantial change.

Or perhaps not. In a ridiculously hyperbolic email recently sent by Mallof to a group of "interested" residents (subject line: "Grave ABC Board actions affecting all of DC"), he threatens to pursue further legal action should the alcohol board not side with his and his group's opposition to Leeds' plans:

"We await word on theses dramatically proposed instant license change requests," the email states. "If the Board approves these without placarding and public comment, we shall appeal to the DC Court of Appeals as well."

Is it any possible wonder why Leeds wanted to vacate her VA with these people?

In case you were wondering, Leeds' request to vacate her VA is entirely within the bounds of the law--any business that has been operating under one for at least four years has the right to make such a request. And although such requests were rare, in Leeds' case the alcohol board found that the key points of contention which would otherwise be addressed in the VA--namely, occupancy and operating hours--were addressed in the licensing agreement, thus making the VA redundant.

And so here we are, nearly a year after Leeds launched an effort to expand her restaurant: the ANC is not opposing the move, and the alcohol board seems poised to permit it. So where does that leave Mallof and the other resident protesters? They could certainly appeal the alcohol board's decision, but it's unlikely that such an appeal would meet with success. Most likely, they're going to be left on the outside looking in: having only themselves to blame for behaving so unreasonably and essentially forcing Leeds to pursue remedies to vacate the agreement she had signed with them. Ultimately, they'll likely be left with no recourse other than sending emails to each other complaining of the "hurricane of precedent setting, DC-wide rule of law and negative externality impact implications happening here in Dupont Circle."

Goodness, you'd think Jamie Leeds was trying to install french doors or something.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TBD Reports on Hate Crimes Along 1400 Block of R Street

A truly horrific story appeared this morning on TBD detailing a series of brutal attacks on homosexuals gays that have occured along the 1400 block of R Street.

The piece centers around the recent efforts to attract moderate and higher income-earning individuals to the R Street Apartments along the 1400 block, following the successful effort last year to ensure that affordable housing units remained on the Block for the next 40 years. The initiative was the result of an agreement between the District government, the National Housing Trust and Hampstead Development Group.

That the 1400 block of R Street has a higher rate of crime that surrounding blocks has been the area's worst-kept secret for years. However, marketing efforts by the Trust were geared towards attracting more affluent residents to a development that had predominantly been home to low-income African-American residents. The dreaded "g word," in other words.

So how's that working out?

Not so good for at least a couple of white, homosexual gay males who decided to take the plunge. According to one excerpt from the story, within a week of moving in, a gentlemen named Stanley experienced the following:

On March 26, Stanley moved to R Street; by April 2, he found himself splayed out in the middle of it. Stanley was drifting in and out of consciousness, talking with a paramedic on the pavement. He remembered walking home on the south side of the street, his grocery cart in tow. He passed a group hanging outside the row of apartment buildings on the block. A woman led the group in taunting him. “She screamed at me about not wanting another white faggot on her side of the street,” Stanley says. A fight broke out, Stanley felt the cart pulled from his hands, and “after the whack on the head, I don’t remember much,” he says.

According to a police report, Stanley was punched in the face and repeatedly beaten on the back of the head. A neighbor from across the street recovered his cart and called an ambulance. He spent the night in Howard University Hospital.

Things weren't any better for Ted Puntanen, who moved into a studio apartment in the complex nad soon encountered problems.

The next day, Puntanen noticed “five young black guys standing around in my hallway, just standing around,” he says. “I didn’t think anything of it. I said hello, and they all just stared at me.”

Two days later, Puntanen noticed another group of black men inside the lobby. As he walked past them with his bicycle, the suspects said, “you don’t belong here, faggot, we’re going to kill you,” and “we don’t need any more faggots in here.” According to a police report, five to six suspects beat and kicked Puntanen in the eye, nose, and knees. “They had pulled my pants down and left me half-naked, half in and half out of the door, bleeding,” says Puntanen. His right eye swelled completely shut. “And out of all the screaming, all the run-around, all of the laughing and calling me faggot,” Puntanen says, “nobody called 911.”

In all, it's both a horrific and sad commentary on what human beings are capable of doing to each other. Crime has been a problem along that stretch of R Street for years...but to learn of the personal story behind such a violent act is particularly troubling.

According to the story, two of the men who beat up Puntanen--Michael Speight and Delonte Olden--were arrested and pled guilty to assault with significant bodily injury. The crime was deemed to be bias-motivated, meaning that both Speight and Olden are looking at longer jail terms. Practically inconceivable, however, was the statement made by Speight's mother: "Michael is a good kid. He just got in the wrong place at the wrong time." As if *anyone* would have beaten the crap out of Puntanen, it just happened that Michael drew the short straw.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Ms. Speight, but your son is not a good kid. Perhaps he looked out for you, brought the groceries in from the car, or picked up little sister after school sometimes. But he also pummeled a man senseless for no reason other than because he was gay. That is appalling behavior. I hope prison helps your son straighten out his life, because he is not a "good" kid now by any definition of the word.

As for the 1400 block of R Street: I guess old habits die hard.

Friday, November 12, 2010

So You Have a Question About the DC9 Case?

Well, who doesn't? Like, what was the deal with the blood in the infamous Washington Post picture? What's going to happen to DC9 now that the ANC voted not to support a renewal of its license? Do police suspect race as a motivating factor?

Today, TBD hosted an online chat (specifically, it was hosted by editor Sommer Mathis) where interested parties could submit questions that had been at the top of their minds. It's actually pretty informative, so if you have a few moments available head on over to TBD and check it out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Screw the Pedestrians, They Just Get in My Way"

I can't think of a better way to celebrate this blog's 500th post than to revel in the unique driving habits of DC's drivers. Damn the pedestrians, they say!

Arts District Branding Initiative: Update on Banner Designs

Last night at the Hamiltonian Gallery, the Arts District Branding Committee unveiled the latest round of designs for the street banners that will hang throughout the neighborhood. The designs unveiled last night are based off of the feedback received at last weeks meeting, when the original design ideas were unveiled.

As the DC Arts District blog states, "Five original graphic designs illustrate the vibrancy of the Arts District. Four strong, bold colors create the color palette. Each logo banner is topped by a "buzz word" that is descriptive of this Arts District."

The designs are included below, but first some context. The Committee raised several points regarding the "whys" of the designs previewed last night, including:

* We now have a slogan: "It's more than art"

* There was strong pushback from individuals and groups, including the residents of the Shaw neighborhood and councilmember Jim Graham, regarding the use of the term "Mid-City" in the name of the arts district. Reasons cited included the lack of a strong geographic identity conveyed by the term and potential confusion with other existing "mid-city" groups, such as the Mid City Business Association and Mid-City Artists.

* There was also overwhelming feedback that the names of the district's three core neighborhoods--Shaw, Logan and U Street--be incorporated into the branding.

* The Committee has finalized potential names for the district: the U Street/Shaw/Logan Arts District, or the U Street/Shaw/Logan Arts + Design District.

* Each "designed" panel will appear alongside a panel consisting of art provided by area artists, including photographs, sketches, paintings and other visual mediums. The "designed" panel will always appear on the "street" side, whereas the artist panel will appear on the sidewalk side.

* There was a conscientious effort to include "DC" imagery in at least some of the banners--you'll note in the images below the use of the District outline and Logan/Shaw streetgrid, replete with traffic circles. The circles, in fact, show up several times throughout the banners.

The banners that were presented last night ca be found below. What do you think--will they contribute to the ongoing development of the neighborhood? Do you like the design? More information about each, as well as updated status on the project--which is set for a public unveiling throughout the neighborhood in early December--can be found at the DC Arts District blog.

1. DC Arts District

2. Arts + Design District

3. DC Arts District ( generic)

4. 4 in 1 montage

Friday, November 5, 2010

Charges Against DC9 Employees DROPPED

According to the City Paper and DCist, the United States Attorney's Office announced today that it has dropped all charges againt the five DC9 employees accused of assaulting/murdering Ali Ahmed Mohammed.

The USAO released this statement, as reported by the City Paper:

Our work is not done. The tragic death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed demands that we undertake a careful and comprehensive investigation to determine precisely how he died. Today’s action was taken after a detailed examination of the evidence gathered during the first three weeks of the investigation and a determination that we need more information before moving forward. Our investigation will be informed by pending forensic analyses and the ruling of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on the cause and manner of death, important factors in any death inquiry.

The search for justice cannot be rushed, and we will continue to pursue an active and vigorous inquiry. This is a time of unbearable grief for Mr. Mohammed’s family and friends. We thank them for their patience and understanding as we continue our work.

So, not even an assault charge. Clearly, the door remains open for any and/or all of the individuals--Bill Spieler, Darryl Carter, Evan Preller, Reginald Phillips and Arthur Zaloga--to be charged again, depending upon the results of the DC Medical Examiner's report.

But still, this is a shocking turn of events. I'm inclined to believe what a DCist commenter wrote: someone f'ed up bigtime.

Tonight: Mid-City Artists Reception; This Weekend: Mid-City Artists Open Studios

This weekend is supposed to provide us with some sunny--if a bit chilly--weather. (In other words, perfect as far as I'm concerned.) So if you're looking for an excuse to be out-and-about in our neighborhood, you might want to take advantage of a couple of arts-related activities.

Tonight, Mid-City Artists is hosting an artist's reception at the Hounshell Real Estate/Gary Fisher Gallery located at 1505 14th Street from 6p-8p. Appetizers courtesy of the Cap City Brewing Company will be served, and all of the Mid-City artists will be in attendance.

This weekend, those same artists will be hosting open studios throughout the neighborhood. A map of all participating artists and their locations can be found here.

Finally, this Monday, November 8, the final of two public meetings regarding the Arts District logo/branding concepts will be held from 7p-9p at the Hamiltonian Gallery at 1353 U Street NW. Those interested in reviewing the preliminary concepts unveiled at the last meeting may do so here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Today: Vote Early, Vote Often

So, there's a little election going on today, and more is at stake then simply crowning Vince Gray leader of our constitutionally prescribed federal district. There are some contested ANC races (including several with potential ramifications in and around the 14th and U areas), City Council seats up for grabs, and an amendment that would grant the residents of DC the right, beginning in 2014, to elect DC's attorney general. A quick recap:

In area ANC races, several are worth watching. In ANC1B, Peter "The Commish" Raia is being challenged by not one but two residents for his seat on the ANC-- Tucker V.E. Gallagher and Aaron Spencer. Raia has been a controversial figure of sorts along U Street due to the ongoing debate about the volume of bars and restaurants along the corridor--although over here at 14th & You, we have to wonder if anyone could be non-controversial while heading up ANC1B's Liquor Licensing Committee.

A bit south and west, ANC2B is hope to another contested race involving a controversial figure. Ramon Estrada, who has served in the role for eight years and is seeking reelection, is being challenged by Sunit Talapatra. Estrada withstood a challenge to his seat in the 2008, so it will be interesting to see whether he survives another race, or whether those dissatisfied with his representation are successful in voting him out.

Finally, in ANC2F, in addition to a contest for a seat being vacated by current commissioner Andrew Werth, commissioner and Community Development Committee chair Mike Bernardo is being challenged for his seat by Kate McMahon. As individuals who are residents of ANC2F and thus very familiar with Mike's tenure on the ANC, we can personally vouch for his work as a Commissioner--and quite frankly, nothing in Kate's interview with Borderstan would sway us to her candidacy. So, I suppose this becomes our 14thandyou's first quasi-endorsement of a candidate.

Moving away from the ANCs, another issue on the ballot worth considering is the so-called "Attorney General amendment," which would allow the residents of DC to elect their attorney general, rather than have the AG appointed by the mayor. The Washington Post's editorial board and current AG Peter Nickles oppose this idea, which is reason enough for many to support it. Does it risk turning the AG into a political position? Of course it does. But having an AG independent of the mayor's own political agenda wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

Finally, there are a few City Council seats up for grabs--including Ward One's Jim Graham--but it's unlikely that any will change hands. We're still pretty much a one-party town, after all.

Oh yeah, and there's that pesky Fenty write-in campaign that continues to plod along...

If you're not sure of the location and hours of your nearest voting station, DC's Board of Elections website can help you with that. Now, get out there and exercise your civic duty.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"District Condos": What's in a Name?

There was speculation when details came out a couple of months ago about what JBG might call their new development at the former Whitman Walker site at 14th and S. After all, they have a lot of options to choose from in a neighborhood like Logan/U Street that is so rich in history and historical figures. We've seen the region's history used before in names like The Ellington and the Langston Lofts. (It has also been completely forsaken with names like The Metropole and Union Row, but no matter.)

So, what eye-catching name did JBG ultimately decide on?

If you guessed "District Condos," you have very little imagination--but you'd be right. If you're like me, you were more than a bit perplexed about the rather mundane name that was bestowed on such a significant project. So I contacted JBG's project manager James Nozar for a bit of an explanation.

"We’ve read the many comments about the “District” name," he said. "It’s impossible to please everyone, but we tried to find a name that would market the neighborhood (your “district”), the building (how the building is different), and the end-user’s personal style."

OK, but still. The name seems a bit...boring.

"It is obviously an incredibly simple name, but that was the point," said Nozar. "We’re confident the overall project marketing campaign will work quite well and will resonate with those in the neighborhood."

Fair enough--I guess we'll wait for the marketing campaign to kick in before passing complete judgment on the name. Onto more important information, such as when demolition and construction might finally get underway. On this point, Nozar sounded a familiar refrain.

"(We) should be in a position to start demo in the next few weeks. We’ll start actual construction in late November or early December, which keeps us on our schedule of delivering units in Spring 2012."

When complete, the project will feature over 120 units and over 18,000 sf of retail along the western side of 14th Street between S and Swann streets.