Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Union Station Named DC's Busiest Metro Station

Photo courtesy of
Washington Business Journal reports that the busiest DC-metro area metro stations are as follows:
  1. Union Station
  2. Metro Center
  3. Chinatown/Gallery Place
  4. Farragut North
  5. Farragut West
The least busiest station, according to WBJ, is Friendship Heights.

Hello Cupcake Coming to Eastern Market/Barracks Row

Photo courtesy of
As DCmud reports, a new outpost of Dupont Circle's Hello Cupcake will be coming to Barracks Row. The new location at 705 8th St SE will be a continuation of the original locations' s whimsical decor. The owner and founder, Penny Karas, will again be using her husband Bill Bonestra's design team (Bonestra Haresign Architects). Bonestra's company designed the original Hello Cupcake, located right off of Dupont Circle, and have also had a hand in projects like 14th street's Studio Theatre.

Photo courtesy of
According to DCMud, the new location is a 3-story rowhouse, which the owners intend to liven up with flower boxes, etc in keeping with the residential facade. Additionally, a basement floor will allow Karas to start a delivery operation, for which she apparently has nationwide aspirations. Because, let's face it, DC just doesn't have enough cupcakeries...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Metrobus Improvements--Limited Service Buses

Photo, courtesy of
Recently, Greater Greater Washington's Malcolm Kenton reported that WMATA was adding a new bus line to supplement the 90's series buses. The 90-series buses run from Southeast to Northwest, and as Metro-Venture comments, despite serving U Street, Eastern Market and Adam's Morgan (all popular nightlife destinations) the ridership on the 90-series is more local, lower-income commuters than those seeking nightlife destinations (here's looking at you, Circulator).

The newly proposed bus, the 99 bus line, will have a limited stop-service much like the S9 16th street line. I think this is a great development, especially because limited-stop service lines are a boon to longer-range commuters.

However, this article did get me thinking back to an article I read on Human Transit, about justifying increased fares during peak hours. The post specifically cites the inefficiency caused by routing buses and metro cars back to the initiation of the line (since most riders are coming from the suburbs into the city center).

Photo courtesy of

Does the inefficiency really have to exist? What's keeping metro from sending a full service bus from the suburbs into the city center, and then making the bus a "limited stop" express bus when it finishes the loop from city center back into the suburbs? Obviously we wouldn't want to replace all return routes with express buses. People do reverse commute, afterall. But wouldn't this alteration speed the buses return to the high-demand area, and increase the frequency of buses going where people want to go?

A few possible obstacles I see to implementing.....
  • Bus exteriors Express buses are a different exterior color and have a general design different than many of the other regular-series buses. If I understand WMATA's intentions, the differentiation is to make it clearer that the express bus is has fewer stops and  is more expensive than the regular-series. But, is this really necessary? Couldn't the older buses be programmed to flash "42-Express" for example, or an abbreviated "42E?"
  • Programming the revised cost into the fare machine. Express buses cost more than regular buses--over twice as much, actually. As you may recall, WMATA already had quite a bit of trouble re-programming the fares when it implemented the peak-of-the-peak fare rates...adding additional fares would likely also be problematic. But if increased efficiency meant increased ridership, wouldn't this cost be justifiable?
  • Cost of disseminating information about the changes. Can't really get around this one...if you change a public transportation route, then you need to adequately inform people (although, some might comment that the Circulator was less than clear about its recent changes)
I personally think it's a feasible option, but given WMATA's bureaucracy, I don't think we'll see this sort of common-sense solution soon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Update: Bag Tax...Too Successful?

On Friday, the Examiner reported that--in an interesting twist of fate--DC's bag tax may actually be too successful. The tax, which was anticipated to raise $4M this year has only raised about $1.5M. DC's fiscal year ends 9/30, so there is no way that this remaining amount will be made up during the next few days.

However, as Christophe A.G. Tolou, director of the D.C. Department of the Environment, noted, the tax "revenue is in addition to efforts already underway," so any reduction in anticipated tax revenue will not hurt existing efforts to clean up the Anacostia River and its tributaries.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Out of Boy Toys!?

Thank you,, for warning any nearby cougars about the devastating boy toy shortage.

Cute Puppy of the Day

The posted this picture of Gibson the English Springer Spaniel...a breed that holds a special place in my heart, as my childhood dog Chelsea was a Springer Spaniel.

Restaurant Review: Ping Pong Dim Sum

Photo, courtesy of

Last night I had an enjoyable group dinner at Ping Pong Dim Sum, in Chinatown (nearish the the Convention Center, see map below).

View Larger Map

Don't let the name fool you...there is no ping pong, and it may even be a stretch to call this place a dim sum establishment. There aren't dim sum charts being pushed around, and the feel is more swanky Chinatown lounge than dive-y ethnic (Tyler Cowen would have a fit!). But if you can get past these two assumptions (perhaps by instead referring to it as "that nice place that sells dumpling small plates"), you're in for a treat.
Steamed Dumplings, Photo courtesy of
 Ping Pong serves a variety of steamed and fried dumplings, soups, spring rolls, and baked puffs. The latter is somewhat reminiscent of a vaguely Asian croissant with meat or vegetable filling. The rest are fairly standard fare for an Asian restaurant, but well-executed. 
Steamed Dumplings, Photo courtesy of
Standout dishes included Crabmeat and Prawn Dumpling served in an open-style dumpling (instead of completely closed, they form a little purse), the (very) Spicy Seafood and Wonton Soup, and the slightly sweet Honey-Roasted Pork Puff with caramelized onions. Less impressive were Crispy Hoi Sin Duck Spring Rolls, which at $6 didn't feel like a good deal for the small serving and the Crispy Prawn Balls, the flavor of which is overwhelmed by the fried, shredded egg pastry. Pork Shu Mai has been hit or miss, bordering on too doughy, and the Honey Glazed Ribs were OK but not particularly unique or flavorful. 
Asian Manhattan, Photo courtesy of

The drink menu at Ping Pong is ranges from the inventive (unique cocktails, flowering teas) to the typical (draft and bottled beers). Some unusual choices include the Tennessee Tea Tingle (with szechuan buds), an Asian interpretation on the Manhattan, and a St. Germain and lemongrass sangria. Previous experiences with the flowering teas have been disappointed--the menu promises that they'll unfurl while you watch, but the unfurling never happened and the tea tasted like barely flavored hot water.

Glazed Ribs, photo courtesy of  
Service at Ping Pong varies...admittedly, the small plate, dim sum style does not lend well to uniform courses. But my most recent trip was fairly disappointing--our server forgot plates, mixed up who in the party had ordered what, had to be asked to bring missing dishes from the kitchen, and was slow to bring drinks orders to the table (which shouldn't have been a bar back-up, since the only drinks ordered were Sapporo in cans).
Despite poor service during my most recent visit, I'd definitely recommend Ping Pong for a date night, or for treating a less adventurous friend to 'exotic' cuisine that won't really shock their palate.

Ping Pong Dim Sum on Urbanspoon

Bag Tax Successful Thus Far

Photo, courtesy of Good.Is

The Wall Street Journal reports that DC's plastic bag tax, which places a 5-cent surcharge per plastic bag used by shoppers, has been an overall successful endeavor.

When the tax was initially introduced to a grumbling public, opponents cited it as another example of government interfering with free market economics. Personally, I disagreed...I hoped that the bag tax would help mitigate pollution from plastic bags by encouraging, but not requiring different consumer behavior. According to the Washington Post, almost half the trash in the Anacostia River tributaries is plastic shopping bags.
However well-intentioned the tax seemed though, I honestly did not anticipate it's success. As Matthew Yglesias pointed out, people tend to be wedded to their habits, adding the (intentionally) humorous comment that many view plastic bags as an intrinsic right, like guns and religion. What concerned me more was that a mere 5-cent tax might not be enough to entice consumers to make the extra effort to replace disposable bags with canvas.

However, I'm glad to see that my expectations were wrong! Recent data shows that the tax was successful in altering consumer behavior.

As WSJ reports (by way of Good Is), DC consumers used about 270 million plastic bags last year. Since the implementation of the bag tax, that number has been reduced by 60 percent. Good Is was an early supporter of the tax, but other sources (such as The New Republic) cite similar findings.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
So back to my previous concern--will a 5-cent bag tax truly incentivize people to make the extra effort to buy, store and carry canvas bags? As The New Republic indicates, even a small incidental tax on an item like plastic bags can change the way people think about them. TNR further compares DC's revised consumer mindset to Thomas Friedman's conclusions about cap-and-trade. In fact, a smaller tax may actually be more successful and more politically palatable (as compared to Seattle's failed attempt to instigate a 20-cent bag tax).

It still remains to be seen whether, in the long term, a bag tax will harm jobs in the plastics industry as some critics have asserted. But for now, I think we can hail DC's bag tax as a success!

Is It Fair to Increase Peak-Time Metro Charges?

Photo courtesy of
 When WMATA recently rolled out their "peak-of-the-peak" fare increases, metro riders were universally outraged. According to Metro Board Chair Peter Benjamin, these increases would help close Metro's $189M budget deficit without the Transit Authority having to reduce or cut service. Personally, I agree with this Greater Greater Washington post, that sometimes service cuts are necessary and useful for culling superfluous bus lines, and would have preferred to see WMATA at least consider making some route and schedule alterations.

But this posting from Human Transit brings up an interesting point that I had not considered...peak-usage fare increases may be justifiable if the operational costs during these peak hours are significantly higher than non-peak hours. In other words, a universal flat fare would result in the non-peak users essentially subsidizing those who use metro during the peak hours. Raising fares only during peak hours means that only those people using the metro during those more expensive times pay for the increased operational costs. As Human Transit argues, we may consider this result positive from a social justice standpoint...people travelling to work at 8:30 in the morning are more likely to be salaried, higher income earners while the mid-day ridership more likely consists of lower-wage hourly workers. On average, yes you will see these wage discrepancies, but it's not a universal truth...what about people with hourly jobs requiring them to be in at 9am? While I don't entirely agree with this rationale, it is still an interesting point to consider.

So what exactly makes peak-operation hours so much more expensive? Well, as Human Transit explains, the driver unions don't do Metro any favors here--train and bus operators must be paid for a minimum number of hours work, even though they're not normally needed for the full shift. So immediately, there's an inefficiency. Of course, the more train cars and buses in operation, the more maintenance is needed. And another point I'd never considered, it's extremely cost inefficient to drive buses and trains back on the reverse route, considering most commuter traffic is flowing in one direction--towards the center of the city.

The Transport Politic offers a different opinion on peak-of-the-peak surcharges, which tends to echo my initial reaction to the fare increase. To summarize...DC's metro system is essentially a commuter rail system. It was designed that spokes to a hub. The city center is where jobs are, so of course metro should be aware of this traffic pattern and price it's offerings accordingly so that it can operate as needed when increased demand necessitates it. Specifically, Transportation Politic asks, "Why penalize the people who are using the system in exactly the way that the system was designed to work?"

It's a contentious issue, for sure...I for one plan on skipping metro altogether and taking the bus.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cute Puppy Picture

This pic from made me smile...enjoy!

So THAT'S Why We Gave Our Panda Back to China

Because he was a cheesemongering ***hole!

Signs That You are in a Terrible Chain Restaurant

During my daily blog review (I check several on a daily basis), I ran into one from U Street Girl about ChiDogO's, the Chicago-style hotdog place opening up near 14th and U. I had no idea that Chicago-style hotdogs were even a thing (I mean, they already have pizza), so I checked out their website.  Sheesh I haven't seen so much red and yellow in one place since I was in Chi Omega in college. After reviewing the menu, I have concluded that this new establishment is the Jumbo Slice of hotdogs. I haven't found any info on their intended hours of operation, but I'm assuming they will be catering to (cough cough exploiting the captive audience) of late-night, drunken eaters.

U Street Girl's commentary about the name pretty much sums up my sentiments...ugh. But it did get me thinking about a blog post I've been mulling around for a while...are there ways to know, instantly, that you've unwittingly walked into a crappola chain restaurant?

Here are my initial thoughts:

The name is a little too punny. I mean, I love puns. But ChiDogO's? My sense of humor is questionable, and even I know that's terrible. OK you're not a chain,

The decor theme is simply "Americana." You know the type. A Mickey Mouse figurine is on the wall, right next to a picture of Marilyn Monroe, which was hung over a fake oldtimey photo of farmers, which is adjacent to a reproduction of something by Jasper Johns, and oh what the hell let's add in some 1950's black and white checkering somewhere.

It's like a 9-year old European child's idea of America threw up all over the interior of this restaurant. ("Oh also, let's add a sweet picture of the Simpsons in here!") There is no cohesion, no overarching theme or relationship to the food...just hodgepodge.

There are too many options on the menu. Like, there is no way that 'authentic' Thai lettuce wraps, chicken curry, rustic pasta primavera, and ceviche are all prepared well by one kitchen. Pretty good chance you're getting a lot of pre-mixed, pre-packaged ingredients that are being heated up back there.

There's a theme to the cuisine...and no one who grew up in the pertinent culture would ever eat there. I mean, how often have you seen someone take their Italian grandmother to an Olive Garden?

You see commercials for them on TV. I cannot think of a single restaurant TV commercial I've seen that wasn't a chain. Bonus points if a jingle is involved.

They distribute coupons. Maybe you'll eat this crap if it's discounted? On that note, I did recently receive a coupon for Ruby Tuesday's, and look forward to eating there ironically.

They take their mascot a little too seriously. OK, you have a rooster on your sign. That's cool. What's not cool? That his name is Cocky the Rooster, he wears a cowboy hat, makes multiple goofy appearances on the menu, narrates all your radio ad's, and occasionally makes in-person appearances. That Cocky the Rooster is a multitasker. I heard his album drops this fall.

The dessert costs $5, and it is the most beautiful piece of pastry-work you've ever seen. Yeah...that beautiful Oreo pie? That Key-Lime pie with the elaborate lime and whipped cream construction? That perfectly gooey lava cake? That was mass-produced by a machine, frozen, and shipped to the restaurant in a box, where a 'pastry chef' cuts it into slices. Oh but don't worry, all the slices will be even, because there are pre-made indentations showing said 'chef' where to cut.

Can I tell you a story? I once worked at a restaurant claiming to specialize in cheesecakes. They made NONE of them. Every single flavor and variation was made elsewhere and shipped to them, where the Cheesecake Chef (complete with white coat and jaunty chef hat) stood in the very public chef station, cut them into slices, and topped them with whipped cream. The boxes were not allowed to be brought into the highly visible, glass-walled chef station. Clearly, the intent was to imply that each cheesecake had been freshly made on location. What a sham.

The food is not exotic, but there are still pictures of the menu item on the menu itself. OK, if you're running a restaurant that serves cuisine potentially unfamiliar to the general public, I give you a pass. Maybe the consumer should see a picture of Stir-Fried Grasshoppers before they order it. But, I know what a cheeseburger is. I don't need to see a picture of it.

A frequent offender here is often the drink menu. Super choco-mudslide-kahlua smoothie-a-colada? Trust me, the complicated, layered drink you see in the picture is not what your $2.13 an hour bartender is making for you. Oh and now you have diabetes. Congratulations.

The menu overuses hyperbole. Someone decided that the name of every menu item must overuse descriptors. Why order Chicken Fajitas, when you can order "Super Sizzlin' Texas-style Mexicali Chicken Fajitas!" How about "Rockin' Rustic 4-cheese Ravioli with Multi-Herb Fresh Spring Pesto*?"

(*Don't worry, no herbs were harmed in the making of this pesto. It's been chemically re-engineered from sodium bicarbonate and contains no herbs, thus requiring no refrigeration. It may also cause cancer in lab rats).

If you see the following words on a menu, run. You're in a crappy chain..... Slammin' (no G. There's never a G.) Dynamite, Twisted, Decadent, Jammin', the letter "N" used to denote "and," such as "Shrimp 'N Chicken," Irresistable, Fiesta, Steakhouse when used to describe anything other than a steak, Sinful, etc

The wine list consists of only Sutter Home, Kendall-Jackson, and--maybe if you're lucky--Yellow Tail. OK that is a snobby comment, but I'm not going to pay $20 for a $5 bottle of wine. Bonus points if they serve Franzia.

The menu refers to people who do not actually exist. Grandma Medici's Florence-style basil marina? You just took a name of an Italian historical figure and added Grandma in front of it, didn't you?

White People Ruin Neighborhoods

This post from Prince of Petworth is one of the most offensive things I've read in a while. Many of the blog comments echo my sentiments, but I cannot believe how incredibly racist this writer is. If a white person wrote this about black people, it'd be an outrage. What a complete double standard

What's terrible is that the poster--BJ--has a few valid points (i.e. people moving into neighborhoods should be active in their community, be friendly to their neighbors) that people should discuss. But they're veiled by such venomous anti-white statements that they're almost beyond recognition.

And perhaps the worst part of these comments is that they truly do represent the beliefs that other city residents hold. DC was better 30 years ago. White people are taking over a black city, and ruining it. All white people want is more dog parks and bike lines...they don't care about incorporating into the existing community at all. I've heard these comments and others like them far too often lately, especially with DC's recent, racially-charged mayoral primaries.

It actually sickens me to see how openly racist comments like these are. The true fact of the matter is that racism is alive and well in the United States...and blanket statements about all white people or all black people mask the much more inimitable racial undercurrent in our country. Are most racists as openly extreme as the PoP guest poster? No. They're the people who would never use the n-word, but would also never consider a resume from an job applicant named Lakisha. Or the people who would never post anti-white statements on a blog, but who don't ever call the police because they assume white cops will only respond to complaints from other whites.

Instead of opening up a forum for true discussion of gentrification issues, all BJ did was open a big can of worms, with mudslinging on both sides. Sad. I hope one day, when we talk about making DC a better place to live, the discussion doesn't have to revolve around race.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brunch Review: Commonwealth

I recently had a very enjoyable brunch at Commonwealth Gastropub, next to the Columbia Heights metro station. The Sunday brunch was my third experience eating at Commonwealth, and one of the most enjoyable.

My first visit was during snowpocalypse, and my much needed sustenance was the beer-battered Smithwick's fish and chips. I figured, hey for my first visit, I ought to try one of the house specialities. Unfortunately, the dish was entirely too greasy. After the first 3 bites, greasy deliciousness turned into an overwhelming heaviness that obscured all flavors of the constituent ingredients. It's the kind of dish that if someone else orders it, you should have a bite, but I wouldn't recommend ordering the full dish for yourself. The bloody mary I had, however, was a standout--yes, I drank at lunch. Give me a break, it was blizzarding and took me over an hour to metro to Target, only to find it closed. I wanted a drink, dammit.

My second visit to Commonwealth, I decided to learn from my previous dining experience. Super greasy food? I'll order the grass-fed burger. That's fairly difficult to mess up. I was pleasantly surprised to find my burger well-cooked and enjoyable. My dinner partner, however, ordered a vegetable curry dish that was extremely disappointing. The only thing positive I could say, upon trying it, was that it "tasted very....healthy?" I didn't see this dish during a  recent review of Commonwealth's online posting of their menu, which makes me wonder if the management removed the dish from the menu.

This past weekend marked my third visit to Commonwealth, and I happily sat on the outside patio (no snow, hurray!). A caution to readers: this is not a Georgetown waterfront patio. You will see buses. But overall, a fairly sizeable patio for a DC restaurant and generally pleasant atmosphere considering how centrally located the restaurant is to both the metro and a major traffic intersection.

The brunch I had was an enjoyable experience, if not a complete knock out of the park. Each table received complimentary bread and jam. The bread was nothing to write home about...frankly, it didn't taste terribly fresh...but the yummy strawberry jam more than made up for the bread quality.

My dining partner and I both ordered eggs benedict (see brunch menu, here), one with smoked salmon and the other with country ham. Because we had both ordered from the brunch portion of the menu (as opposed to 'sandwiches' or 'mains'), we each also received complimentary mimosas. The mimosa was sufficiently champagne-y (especially considering it was free), without being overwhelmingly boozy. The benedicts were delicious (how can anything with hollandaise sauce not be good?), although fairly standard in execution. The only real deviation from the standard benedict equation was that instead of being served on an english muffin, our eggs were perched on a thick slice of bread. All the better for soaking up the egg-y deliciousness! The side, breakfast potatoes, were delicious when doused with malt vinegar.

For $25, all in all not a bad brunch. While none of the food was novel, so far I've only had one or two poorly executed dishes at Commonwealth, and the service has always been friendly and prompt. Many restaurants rely on their metro proximity, not the quality of their dining experience, to draw customers. However, I think that Commonwealth maintains a respectable quality in spite of its relative convenience. Definitely a restaurant I'll be revisting!

(note: all pictures provided by

Commonwealth on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 20, 2010

Links I Like

Here are 15 news stories I've read recently and enjoyed--but didn't have the time (or's to you, James Lipton) to write about!

  1. The Struggle of Older Workers
  2. Unattended Metro Stations
  3. Lego Does Transit
  4. Shocker--People at Farmer's Markets Don't Use Food Stamps
  5. Questioning the More Jobs More Transit Theory
  6. The Rent v Buy Debate Heats Up
  7. DC Cracking Down on Illegal Billboards
  8. James Lipton Bongs a Beer
  9. Open Table Copies Groupon
  10. Post-Vincent Gray victory: What's In? What's Out?
  11. Hank's Can't Catch a Break
  12. ...and 14th & U is all over it!
  13. What's in a name, WMATA?
  14. 7-11 Creates Jobs, Even Bad Ones
  15. RIP English Language

Parking Meters--Extended Times a Good Idea?

WTOP news reports that the Fenty administration's extended meter hours may be one of the first policies that Vincent Gray attacks. Gray has not yet won a general election for mayor, but in cinching the Democratic nomination he only has to bide his time in the staunchly blue District.

The revised meter regulations state that driver's must pay to park until 10:30 pm (instead of 6:30) in the "premium demand zones" that WTOP identifies as:
  • Adams Morgan
  • Georgetown Historic District
  • Penn Quarter/Chinatown
  • U Street, NW Corridor
  • Downtown Central Business District
  • Maine and Water Street, SW
  • The National Mall
  • Wisconsin Avenue, NW (from Van Ness Street to Western Avenue)
The parking revisions will not affect residential parking, and DC residents may freely park on non-metered streest in their residential zone with a parking permit.

The meter debate is the typical tax debate--extending paid parking hours (essentially, taxing parking) will raise $6m in revenue that the District badly needs. But, some local business leaders fear that the revised meter hours will harm their bottom line. One example I've heard is that a couple in a restaurant may elect to skip dessert, instead of running out to the car to put another quarter in the meter.

While this is true--and I'm usually anti-tax--I would remind folks that one generally conceded use of taxation is to help mitigate externalities.

An example of a driving and parking externality? Adam's Morgan is well-traversed bar district that provides business owners with an extremely profitable nightlife. However, it is extremely dangerous to walk or drive through 18th street on a weekend night because of the intense congestion on this strip of road. It's not uncommon for pedestrians to be hit, and I've personally seen several close calls between multiple drivers, and drivers and pedestrians. While 18th street is pending some future renovations (including removing the diagonal parking spaces and widening the sidewalks), I think that any regulations that might help reduce the extreme weekend traffic here would be helpful.

I'd also venture that most of the people who are parking in these neighborhoods at night are not local. While certainly many District residents do drive, many more take public transportation or walk to their destination. I think it's much more likely that NOVA and Maryland residents who live farther out/have less knowledge of the metro system will be driving in for dinner, nightlife, etc. By virtue of our central location, DC frequently sees non-residents enjoying our many offerings...admittedly a boon to local business owners.

While we certainly don't want to discourage out of towners, I do think increased paid meter parking hours help compensate the city for road wear-and-tear, etc from drivers who don't necessarily pay income tax to DC for this type of maintenance. Personally, I think that people will continue to drive into the city no matter what...and while I do give some merit to the hurting business argument, I think that can easily be mitigated by making the meter system simpler for users. If meter fees are clearly communicated and charged in easy to pay increments (including the new credit card parking kiosks), I think people will easily account (and pay) for an extra 30 minutes to eat their dessert. 

Map of DC Racial Divides

Update: After reading a similar posting on Beyond DC about this data, I realized that I did not clearly state that this map was generated using the 2000 census date (and thus, is 10 years old). It'll be interesting to see any changes once the 2010 data comes out--and, sorry if the original post incorrectly implied this was more recent data. --W, 9/23/10

Photo courtesy of, data generated by Eric Fischer

An interesting post from DCist today shows a geographic representation of DC's racial divides. The above picture was the one posted on DCist with the District lines added for reference, but the original by Eric Fischer can be found here. Interesting to compare Fischer's map to the below map from the Washington Post, outlining mayoral primary votes by precinct.

There's been much media speculation about the role of race in the Gray-Fenty mayoral primary. While it's nice to these assertions are backed up by the quantitative data, it's sad to see how racially divided DC remains (both politically and geographically).

Photo courtesy of

New Mexican Restaurant to Come to 14th and V

Various bloggers are reporting today that a new restaurant is slated for the AM/PM carryout space at the intersection of 14th and V streets, near the U street corridor. Apparently it's a project that's been in the works for months.

I'm extremely curious to see the final result of this development, as I think the current AM/PM carryout is a bit of an eyesore (see photo, below). The surrounding area has seen quite a bit of renovation, with various higher-end apartment and condo buildings and the addition of Eatonville, etc.

Photo, courtesy of PrinceofPetworth
The new restaurant will be called La Fonda, and will be serving a Tex Mex menu. According to their liquor license application, they'd like to stay open until 2am on weekdays and 3am on Friday and Saturday, so clearly the proprietors are hoping for a bar/late night dining atmosphere in the evening. Given that the rent in this area has probably increased substantially, it's not surprising to me that the owners are looking for high-profit margin alcohol sales to boost their revenue. It may, however, be a bit a nuisance to the surrounding residents.

I'd personally rather see a fast-casual restaurant here than a bar, but hopefully the proprietors will renovate the location in fitting with the surrounding neighbhorhood's character (re: nicer than AM/PM without completely gutting the building).

Friday, September 17, 2010

In defense of hedgehogs

Once upon a time, I watched a You Tube video that really made me want a hedgehog. Here it is. I don't necessarily expect anyone to watch all 3+ minutes, but you should at least watch until the 30 second mark because he starts cutely flipping around (instead of somewhat looking like he's frantically trying to get out of the tub). If you can at least watch for a minute or so, it starts to get pretty cute. Although, I'd recommend mute, because the cooing lady in the background is super annoying.

I got many many questioning comments from my friends about wanting a hedgehog...and I finally ended up not getting one. Not because of peer pressure, though. The story goes something like this....I had found someone, a friend of a friend, who had a hedgehog and said that I could come over and check it out. I did. It did not go well.

So OK, let me explain something to you. A hedgehog is really sharp. I realize that sounds stupid. But you look at those damn pictures and think...oh, I bet he's a little pokey but if you pet him the right way it probably feels soft. Ok, maybe not soft. But at least not like picking up a ball of needles. However, ball of needles he is. A ball of needles that is deathly afraid of you. And might bite you. And has a substance on his spines that irritates your skin. And in spite of all this, a strange tendency to crawl into your pockets or sneak down the back of your jeans. Sigh...

So maybe this is more "in defense of me at one point thinking I wanted a hedgehog." However, in true defense of hedgehogs everywhere, I think this person had a crappy hedgehog they hadn't socialized very well. I mean--look at how cute it is on the You Tube video! And you know everything on You Tube is real! (Kidding with the last statement...I don't want to start hearing about that now).

Fema for Kids!?

Ugh how much of my taxpayer dollars went to designing a "Fema 'Zine" and Herman the spokescrab? I wonder if the "Games and Quizzes" section includes a "Guess how long it takes us to respond to an emergency?" quiz. Geez.

Bravo's 'Work of Art' Judge Explains, He's No Sell Out

Photo of Jerry Saltz, Andrew Eccles/Courtesy of Bravo; reproduced from

In this great piece posted on, Jerry Saltz clarifies that he's not a sell-out just because he was  a judge on the Bravo reality TV show about finding "the next great artist." 

An intersting read about his take on the art world's response to the show, the filming process and his role as that you can enjoy even if you didn't watch the show's first season (which has allegedly been renewed for another season).

Encyclopedia Article for "Baby Got Back"

Photo courtesy of
 To quote a section of this Wikipedia article (OK not enclyclopedia article, persay):

"Mix-a-Lot also briefly touches upon the roles that ethnicity, nutrition, and physical fitness play in determining the shape and size of the female buttocks. He recommends that any exercises performed should be limited to the abdominal area. He cautions against a fitness routine strenuous enough to diminish the heft of the gluteal muscles. Though he offers no broad dietary guidelines, Mix-a-Lot contends that the dish "red beans and rice" is an important food staple for maintaining healthy buttocks."


In honor of National Cheeseburger Day, Who has DC's Best Burger?

Photo courtesy of

According to DCist, Zburger is offering $1 cheeseburgers on Saturday, September 18th in honor of National Cheeseburger Day. I wonder who thinks up these pseudo-national days of recognition? Probably the retailers themselves...

But it did get me thinking...who has the best burger in DC? Here are my rankings of ten popular establishments, based on previous experiences at each of the following:
  1. Ray's Hell Burger--A bare-bones burger joint by Michael Landrum with a league of undying fans (I once went at 9pm on a random was still jam packed and I had to wait in line to order). The delicious food makes up for the dearth of ambiance.
  2. Good Stuff Eatery--A superb choice for a classic, relatively unadorned burger. The fries are limp and flavorless, essentially a delivery system for the flavored mayo (which is enjoyable, nonetheless). The milkshakes are a much better use of your caloric intake. Try to go at an off time, or risk waiting in the long line of hill staffers and foodie tourists.
  3. Rogue States Burgers--By far the superior Dupont burger establishment, Rogue States offers a variety of speciality burgers with fixin's mixed into the meat (my favorite? The 'No Burger, No Cry' with habaneros mixed into the ground beef). Hopefully a recent spat with a neighboring law firm won't force them to close (the firm alleged that burger exhaust was wafting into their office).
  4. Matchbox--Not just for pizza, the sliders are out of this world. Check out the Eastern Market location for a much quieter alternative to the oft over crowded Chinatown location.
  5. Chef Geoff's--Delicious to pair with one of their super-mugs of beer...but good luck getting a table during their small, ultra-crowded bar area during happy hour.
  6. Ceiba--Sadly, the chorizo burger is no longer on the menu, but the supplemental (sigh) normal burger is almost as enjoyable (and probably less likely to give you a heart attack). Go for the abbreviated happy hour and sit in the pleasantly commodious bar area to get half off the burger and other bar food specialties.
  7. Clyde's--It's a chain, which is typically a turn-off for me, but the burger is good enough to merit a mention. I especially like the travel-themed downstairs of the Friendship Heights location.
  8. Five Guys--For a fast-food-y burger, it's not bad. French fry portions make supersizing look like child's play.
  9. BGR, The Burger Joint--Arguably one of the worst burgers I've had in DC--overcooked and overpriced. The Dupont location is convenient, but judging by the quality of their burger I think they're banking on a lot of the post-Dupont bar, drunk food-eating crowd.
  10. Z Burger--A Five Guys knock off that is somehow even less endearing than the original, if that's possible. Nothing terribly special about it, although the staff is generally very friendly.
For other's opinions, please see:

Proof's Designer Revealed

Recently, I mused about Proof's strangely designed bathroom, and who would design it--such a jarring contrast with the restaurant's interior. Ironically, I got my answer a few days later from DC real estate blog DCMud.

It's Grizom Dwight, of Grizform Design Architects, who has also designed DC restaurants PS7's, Tonic (Mt. Pleasant and GW locations), Tackle Box, Cava, and most recently the new 14th street/Logan Circle spanish restaurant Estadio (pictured below...I actually think it looks very nice)

Photo of Estadio's interior, courtesy of DCMud
 Here is the infamous women's room in Proof...judge for yourself (the picture really doesn't do it justice):

Photo, courtesty of Grizform Design Architects

And the men's room at Proof (complete with naked lady):

Photo, courtesy of Grizform Design Architects
 That got me wondering...are all of his bathrooms weird? After flipping through some more pics on GDA's site, I found this snapshot of the men's room in PS7's...are those fishbowls on the wall, next to the urinals?

Photo courtest of Grizform Design Architects
 And actually, come to think of it, now that I realize he designed the Mt. Pleasant outpost of Tonic, I'm remembering another jarring bathroom that I personally experienced at brunch a few weeks ago...

Photo courtesy of Grizform Design Architects
The above photograph really doesn't do it justice...there are various portraits of musical artists arranged in a collage, including some people I would rather not have starting at me while I'm using the toilet (read-Marilyn Manson).

Silver Line Construction to Commence this Fall

Photo courtesy of, Breaking News Blog

The Washington Post reports that the newest DC-metro area metro line, the Silver Line, will begin construction of Phase 1 this fall. The two-phased project (outlined above) is scheduled for completion in 2016.

According to WaPo's breaking news blog Phase 1 of project will link the existing East Falls Church Metro station to Tyson's Corner, terminating at Wiehle Avenue in Reston, Va. Phase 2 will pick up where the Phase 1 construction left off in Reston, working it's way out to Dulles Airport over the subsequent 3 years. Phase 2, clocking in at an estimated $3.83 billion, is considerably more expensive than Phase 1 ($2.76 billion). Part of this increased cost is associated with building a two-mile tunnel and underground station to service the Dulles Airport. A breakdown of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 costs is listed on the second page of this press release from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, as published by the Washington Post.

Dan Malouff, of Beyond DC, argues against the multi-billion dollar second phase of the Silver Line's construction. While Phase 1, he argues, will help tame the jungle of office buildings and haphazard development that is Tysons, he posits that Phase 2 will primarily consist of park-and-ride stations that do little to mitigate the area's transportation nightmare. Malouff argues for a less expensive, more extensive network of streetcars, possibly paired with a rapid bus transit line to Dulles.

While I agree with Malouff that park-and-ride stations can be problematic, especially from an aesthetic standpoint, I have to think that his concerns will predominantly fall on deaf ears. While a streetcar system would be more easily used by intermediate travellers, I have to think that the current Silver Line plan (like all of WMATA's lines) is planned to accomodate suburban residents travelling long distances to downtown-DC jobs (hence, the spoke and hub shape of DC's metro system). Dulles has also thrown clout and money behind getting the line extended all the way out to the airport, so I seriously doubt they'd settle for a bus stop instead (rapid transit or not).

He's not wrong, of course. The extended DC metro area would be greatly served by an intricate infrastructure of public transportation. However, I think for now, we're going to have to wait for the post-Silver Line realization that this new metro line, while beneficial, is not the area's public transportation panacea.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Cheat Groupon

I found this blog post linked from Washington City Paper. Very intriguing....and dishonest. I have a feeling that now that this error has become public, it will only be a matter of time before Groupon resolves. Still though, it is fairly astonishing that this glitch even happened--it does seem like a pretty obvious loophole.

Anti-McDonald's Ad to Air in DC

Photo courtesy of
Washington City paper reports that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medecine (PCRM) will be airing an attack ad against McDonalds in DC, before rolling out the ad in other cities. PCRM is quoted by the Wall Street Journal, citing some interesting statistics about DC and fast food.

Most intriguing to me is the allegation that DC has the highest concentration of McDonald's, Burger King and KFC restaurants of any US city. Surely DC's geography must come into play here, but it's still a shocking claim. Really--more than NYC or LA? Wow.

I have to say though, I find the attack ad campaign (which cost the organization $7,000, by the way) a bit ridiculous. You can watch the video here, if you're interested. Personally, I think this kind of fear-mongering is hypocritical--people should make informed decisions about what they eat. Being too terrified to eat a chicken nugget because of something you saw on TV is just as bad as eating the chicken nugget because you saw it on a commercial while watching a King of the Hill rerun. Is this commercial informative? Vaguely. It's kind of hard to focus on the facts when you're having propaganda shoved down your throat (but hey, better than a Big Mac, right PCRM?).

PCRM also advocates a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants. If their proposal is anything like the one LA passed in 2008, I'm sure it would be predominantly focused on limiting fast food expansion in DC's poorest neighbhorhood. Right. Because that's what DC's poor neighbhorhoods need. For us to limit the availability of new jobs and restrict the potential for tax revenue.

Yes I realize that a disproportionate number of low-income Americans are overweight or obese. But policy like that offends me because you're basically saying--OK, poor person. You're clearly not smart enough to make this choice yourself, so I'm taking the option away. Instead, why not propose tax credits or other incentives to encourage healthier restaurants in these areas? Part of the reason there's only unhealthy fast-food restaurants in poor neighborhoods is because other restuarants don't find it economically viable. Economic incentives change that, give people options--and, newsflash, change a culture by familiarizing people with new options.

Educate people about their decisions, let them make their choices and move on, PCRM.

Shaw Dog Park Gets a Facelift

What's a grant?

Photo courtesy of

I've already come down as pro-dog park, not mention it's a great excuse to find a cute puppy picture to post! So, as you can imagine, I was pleased to find this post on Borderstan.

Looks like the non-profit that maintains this dog park at 11th and R St NW recently received a grant through DC's Neighbhorhood Investment Fund. You can find out more about these grants here. I actually had no idea that the District had this kind of grant program, but I definitely approve. There are only certain areas where the grants can be used, including Shaw, Columbia Heights, Bloomingdale and Eckington, Anacostia, and H St NE. The full list of the 12 target areas can be found here.

If you'd like to know more about Shaw Dogs, the non-profit running the park, please visit their website. They look like an extremely active, civic-minded organization. It's great to see this interest in the Shaw neighbhorhood, congratulations on the grant!

Hemlines Stabilizing, Economy to Follow?

Photo courtesy of

The Wall Street Journal recently had a couple of very intersting articles about New York fashion week. Specifically, both articles referenced a return to designer's individual identities but with a continued focus on courting consumers who want investment pieces. Carolina Herrera, who makes $1,000 white blouses, must be loving this atmosphere.

WSJ continued their analysis with comments that today's high-end luxury consumer is still shopping. It's the "aspirational shopper" that designers must now consider. In other words, the woman who buys 25 Jimmy Choo shoes a year is going to continue doing so. The woman who buys one pair of Jimmy Choo heels, treasures them as her most valuable possession and wears them to work everyday--she might think twice about spending $800 on a pair of shoes now. If they're classic, she might still consider them. But she now feels frivolous and wasteful if she drops $800 on a pair of shoes that are going to go out of style in a year. And contrary to popular belief, it's these aspirational buyers who are driving designers' styles (not the ultra-wealthy elite).

In the middle of this commentary, WSJ draws a frequently cited conclusion--that fashion trends indicate the health of the economy. While I don't think this is an accurate blanket statement (the Dow's up! raise those hemlines!) I do think that WSJ makes a few interesting inferences. They note how this fall season is markedly different than the previous seasons' ultra-ultra safe can actually see designers' tastes and influences reappear. People, the aspirational buyer in particular, are still demanding value though. So for the time-being, the runway still looks more Gweneth Paltrow than Lady Gaga.

It's corny, but this whole discussion makes me think of this commercial...Allstate, maybe? There's a line where the narrator asks, "Is this the great recession? Or the recession that made us great?" It then cuts to a picture of a man eating a sandwich on a bench, presumably saving money by bringing lunch to work.

Ok. It's really corny. But I do think that this silly commercial gets at the underlying question that WSJ also asks--is this economic recession creating savvier consumers? I definitely think that we'll see a permanent effect on consumer behavior from my generation...time will tell exactly what that effect will be.

Bathroom Humor: DC's strangest restaurant bathrooms

While reminiscing about a recent dinner at 1905, a new U street restaurant, I thought about what I liked and didn't like about the experience. Strangely, the bathroom made the "did not like" list. It was just...strange. A dirty bathroom obviously diminishes the quality of a diner's experience, but does a weird one have the same effect?

Specifically, 1905 had some sort of strange, saloon style double doors on the bathroom. This is probably a nod to the tight space in the bar area, where the bathrooms are located. But I think it actually compounds the issue, since you're going to spend 20 seconds lingering in the space while you figure out how to open the damn things. And seriously, when you're leaving the bathroom, you feel like you're busting into an old-timey saloon for a stick up. Fail.

That got me thinking--I've experienced some other very strange bathrooms in my many dining experiences.

Take Zengo, an Asian fusion restaurant in Chinatown. The are no doors. Just beads. Your lack of privacy is furthered by the fact that this bead door is right next to the kitchen...with clanking dishes, you're constantly reminded that just on the other side of those slinky beads, busboys and serveres are whizzing past. As I was exiting the bathroom, I contemplated how stupid this bathroom was. Clearly, I had a look of contempt on my face, because a very confused girl made eye contact with me as she entered through the beads. She looked perplexed, then concerned, then embarassed. I realized that this girl didn't know I was frowning at the idiotic door. She thought I was looking at her bead-door-confusion and sneering at her. She doesn't know how to walk through a bead door? What a rube. Don't you know that bead doors are all the rage this season in Paris. Oops.

But I think the restaurant that takes the cake is the wine bar Proof, also in Chinatown. The bathroom is a complete departure from the restaurant interior, which is all dim lighting and classy wood know, a wine bar. A little too dim, actually (they have custom-made flashlights that they hand out for you to read the dessert menu--seriously). And then you get up to go to the bathroom. What the &*$!. The women's bathroom walls are outfitted with a garish silver and neon pink argyle patterned wallpaper. In the diamonds of the argyle are cartoon depictions of women's lingerie. The mirror over the sink is a stylized, pop-art pink heart. The men's bathroom (so I'm told) is all black and features a larger than life naked woman. I mean, I've never actually seen any children here, but I feel like there should be a disclaimer. Warning. The ladies room is PG-13 and the men's room is rated R. I wonder what genius designer talked the restaurant owner into these bathrooms.

Silver Spring's Only All-Affordable Apartment Building Opens

Photo courtesy of Perseus Reality's website.

DCMud reports that the Argent apartment building is opening in Silver Spring, MD. In an interesting twist, the apartment building was originally outfitted as a luxury condo building, but faltered in the languishing economy (DCMud reports that not a single condo unit was sucessfully sold). Perseus Reality, the original developer, has also built the snazzy building near the Foggy Bottom Trader Joe's at 24th and M and another pricey condo building off of Wisconsin. Currently, they're developing the space at 14th and W street, near the desirable U Street corridor, which will also contain some affordable units for low-income families.

Pallas Properties purchased the 24.8 million dollar building with the assistance of LIHTC. Per the tax credit requirements, 90% of the units will be reserved for tenants making less than $43,000 per year (60% of the area median income). The remaining 10% of the units will be leased to tenants making less than 50% AMI. These restrictions will remain in place for 30 years.

I think it's an interesting twist of fate to see this luxury building--with underground parking, stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops--become a low-income, multi-family housing building. While critics of assisted housing will likely point to these ammenities as frivolous, I personally think that this scenario is a great example of how tax credits can be extremely beneficial to both businesses and the surrounding community. Perseus was able to get  a non-performing asset off it's books, and Pallas now has an investment that it certains expects to appreciate greatly once the LIHTC restrictions expire. And the citizens of Silver Spring gain a building that serves the needs of their low-income residents.

Granted, not everyone is thrilled with this new development because as DCMud points out, Silver Springs' rental market may be overly saturated with subsidized rental housing. The Argent will add 96 new units to existing 561 dedicated low-income units that DCMud cites in existing apartment buildings and those currently under construction in the surrounding area.

While I don't necessarily agree with that concern (trust me, there are more than 561 low-income families in Silver Spring), I would like to raise another one. Why designate the entire building as low-income? Last time I checked, entire high rises that house low-income people don't have the best track record (ahem, Chicago Housing Authority). Mixed-income developments have shown much greater successes for their residents, especially for the children who grow up in them. Baltimore, for example, implemented a resoundingly successful Housing Mobility Program specifically granting housing vouchers to assist families in moving to higher-income, more racially diverse neighborhoods with better public schools. Tenants there reported a general sense of increased quality of life, and that they felt their children were in higher performing, safer schools.

While I appreciate the humorous irony of stainless steel appliances here, I do think that the designation of this building as entirely low-income was an irresponsible policy decision. I just hope that the surrounding neighbhorhood doesn't suffer from this mistake.

Hungover Owls

I think my sorority affiliation skews my liking of this very random site.

Captcha Art

I've never actually gotten a real word from one of these, but the random phrases listed here are hilarious!

HEMA website

Here is the website for HEMA, which is apparently some kind of German retailer. Wait for the page to load (laden) and then don't click anything. Wait for a few seconds and see what appears...cute!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Dog Park in McLean Gardens, More in the Works for Petworth and Northeast

When I originally read this PoP post, I thought--hey! great! Another dog park. The one at 17th and New Hampshire is a real boon to the area, and a great gathering place that fosters a sense of community (hi, I'm Whitney. Oh that's your dog? Mine's the one who's humping him).

Then I looked up the location on Google Maps. McLean Gardens!? I certainly can't imply that the 17th street dog park is exactly low-income, but aren't there some neighborhoods that would benefit from a park more than this wealthy enclave? How about the SW waterfront, Columbia Heights or Petworth?

Initial outrage behind me, I then read the rest of the article. Oops. As PoP indicates, there are two more dog parks in the works--one in Petworth near Arkansas and 14th St NW, and one in NE between 14th and Tennessee Avenue (I struggled with what neighborhood to classify this as--East Capitol Hill, perhaps?)

A lot of folks would hold up this development as an example of Fentyism--pro-white, pro-gentrification, DC economic developments that benefit DC's wealthier set while taking money away from the true DC residents. Well, I suppose there is some merit to that attack...using taxpayer money to build a dog park DOES take dollars away from other potential government programs. But I disagree with those who say that DC isn't benefitting from these changes.

I'm extremely pleased with both the proposed locations--NE and Petworth. I think you're taking two, somewhat iffy neighborhoods and giving them a tremendous leg-up...are you moving to Navy Yard, with the stadium and little else? Or would you move to Petworth, where things may still be rough around the edges, but you've now got an organic market, a soon-to-be renovated Safeway, new apartment buildings and restaurants opening, and A DOG PARK! OK the last one may not necessarily seal the deal for anyone. But still, it's a signal of progress and economic investment in a neighborhood where some buyers are banking on the area becoming a more robust neighborhood in the next 10-20 years.

Now to the rabble rousers...I know there are people who are going to read this post and think that these dog parks are a sign of a terrible thing-GENTRIFICATION. 1) You're ruining the authenticity of the neighborhood. 2) You're bringing in more rich (read-white) people at the expense of the poorer (mostly black) residents. 3) When property values and rents go up as a result, poorer residents will be forced out of the neighborhood and into more suburban areas without public transportation. 4) The last thing this neighborhood needs is a dog park when there are so many other pressing issues facing residents.

A response to the haters.

1) Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that boarded up houses, vacant lots, and liquor stores behind bullet-proof barriers were so authentic. Admittedly, the development in Adam's Morgan is an example of development of sucking the life out of a neighbhorhood...a walk up 18th street proves just how badly gentrification can erase a neighborhood's character. But I think DC residents are getting smarter, demanding that each neighborhood's unique culture be preserved (so, OK, rabble rouse a little bit). While certainly gentrifying, the legacy of jazz continues to have an indelible imprint on the U Street corridor. And who can deny the continued presence of hispanic culture in Columbia Heights (you know, minus Target and...bleh...Ruby Tuesdays).

2) and 3). Yep. That is completely true, and is one of the undesired effects of economic development in a neighborhood. But here's the kicker--it doesn't have to be! If these ramifications bother you, then don't deny a neighborhood some economic investment. Instead, remain (or start getting) active and involved in local politics and in your community. It is possible for economic development and social consciousness to be reconciled, but not if you don't vote--with your ballot and your wallet. You hate the Columbia Heights Target so much? Don't shop there. But everyone else will, because it was a convenient and necessary addition to the city.

4)  False. I realize that it's a rough world out there, folks. But I think that these community features help foster neighborhood pride and encourage residents to get to know eachother. Much like churches in decades past, community centers and coffee houses and, yes, dog parks are the meeting grounds for community-minded people in an age where religion is becoming increasingly less prominent in the average American's life. I'm not implying that we suddenly raze all our churches for dog parks, but I do think these features encourage an active, engaged neighborhood with many rich, varied options for its citizens.

Gee, I'm sure at the end of this post you have no doubt where I fall on the Fenty-Gray debate.

The Yards Park Opens Near Navy Yard

Prince of Petworth's 5pm post last week covered the opening of the Yards Park, a 30 million dollar development project that's part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The 5.5 acre park features some lovely green space and an (interesting) sculptural bridge (picture, PoP).

I personally think this is a great new development for the area. DC has an amazing waterfront that seems pretty underutilized to me.
A lot of folks thought that the new Nationals stadium would be the impetus for changing this neighborhood, but a combination of factors seems to have derailed this economic development. Many claimed the lack of residential ammenities as reasons they wouldn't consider purchasing a home here--hopefully the addition of Yards Park is a step in the right direction!

9/15/10 Update: I found an enjoyable write-up of this opening on Two DC.

Shaw's Shiloh Baptist Church Starts Neighborhood Development Project, Leaves Many More Properties Vacant

I was reading the City Paper this morning and stumbled on this article: shiloh baptist church finally gets started on victory village maybe

Here's a question--why is Shiloh Baptist Church sitting on all these properties? This entity is not a real estate developer, it's a religious organization. While I appreciate the intent to develop some community-oriented facilities, I still think it's an ethical stretch for a church to be snatching up parcels of real estate (see map from Rob Goodspeed ). Rob also details a full listing of Shiloh Baptist's holdings here.

I'll venture that this real estate is an investment, not a community service. DCist reports that their own neighbors complain that "the empty, crumbling buildings" attract prostitutes, drug users, rodents, and that these spaces accumulate piles of trash that constitute a fire hazard. Hardly sounds beneficial to the community. It's good to see some people are stepping up to help improve their neighborhood, although it's sad and ironic that the church leadership can't be counted among them.

The church claims that it is just lacking the necessary funds to redevelop it's holdings. But if it were really so well-intentioned, why not sell its properties to a non-profit, or to a developer who will agree to rehab the property? ANC 2C01 commissioner Alex Padro notes concerns that "based on the church's history with these properties, the leadership will attempt to list them far above their actual value, and they could end up sitting on the market for another long stretch of time." Clearly, this is a charitable endeavor without hope for monetary gain. (DCist).

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Leaving buildings vacant blights a neighborhood, and these empty structures are especially a problem in Shaw. Here's a snapshot I found posted on DCist of one of these beauties. Wouldn't you love to live with this across the street from your home? More pics and comments here....what a pillar of the community.

I realize many Shaw residents are pushing back against the encroach of gentrification, and their concerns aren't entirely unwarranted. But, development doesn't necessarily mean luxury condos and wine bars. The Washington Post quotes church leader Rev. Wallace Smith as stating that the church prefers to turn the properties into affordable housing rather than allow developers to build condos, drive up neighborhood prices and "displace persons." This statement misrepresents the church's situation (as does the entire article's portrayal of Shiloh). There are socially-minded developers who could actually deliver the community services that Shiloh has been promising for years and years.

Thanks, Shiloh Baptist, for this foray into outrageous ineptitude and questionable ethics.