Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Assault on Jones Mill Rd., disorder on Old Georgetown Rd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 22, according to crime data:

Disorderly conduct. Old Georgetown Road at Woodmont Avenue.

Theft from vehicle. 4700 block Bradley Boulevard.

Vehicle burglary. 5500 block Devon Road.

Vehicle burglary. 7100 block MacArthur Boulevard.

Assault. 8700 block Jones Mill Road at 11:13 PM.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Drug arrest. 6000 block Executive Boulevard (Pike District).

Westfield Montgomery online gift finder helps Bethesda shop for the hard-to-shop-for

Westfield Montgomery Mall will be one of the hot spots for Black Friday shopping, and the property is decorated appropriately for the holiday season.

They also have a new online gift finding tool useful for those hard-to-shop-for people on your list. It's set up in a Mad Libs form, where you fill in 3 blanks using pull-down menus. Specify "Girlfriend" aged "22" and your price range of "under $200", for example, and you'll get a selection of possible gifts.

Using your Tinder skills, you'll click thumbs up or thumbs down on each gift until you find the right one. Very handy, although the results included many items far less than $200. If you didn't know there was a Kendall & Kylie Bomber Jacket ($60 at PacSun), you do now.

Boosting girlfriend's age to 30 yielded a Casta Clutch, $129 at bebe, and a 13-piece Skin Wonderland set from Sephora ($68).

One downside - the app covers all Westfield properties, so even if I wanted that Shake Shack t-shirt, it won't be found at Westfield Montgomery. Overall, it is a very handy tool for holiday shopping.

Westbard Sector Plan decisions cut residents out of process (Photos)

Residents affected by the Westbard Sector Plan revision currently underway testified at a September 24 public hearing before the Montgomery County Planning Board. But the Draft Plan they commented on no longer exists. The Board has proceeded to thumb its collective nose at the taxpayers (and even planning staff) by accepting - and then approving - a barrage of last-minute requests from developers and Montgomery County's Department of General Services at its most recent meeting. This is now a completely different plan, and one the public has been unable to offer testimony on.

The worksession last Thursday included a stealth request from DGS for the right to build a 75' urban-style affordable housing project on the site of the Little Falls Library. This was a violation of at least the spirit of open meetings rules, as no public notice was given on that specific request, other than its inclusion on a fine-print chart linked to the meeting agenda.

A memo from DGS Deputy Director Greg Ossont was termed a "late note," and one planner assured the board that this document had been received in the last week prior to the hearing. But it's nowhere to be found in the file posted online that supposedly contains all correspondence received between October 14 and November 18, 2015. There's a memo from Ossont in there, but it's about forwarding feedback on transportation and public safety issues from other County departments, not the library site. Was it in the single, pitiful attachment provided to the public on the November 19 Planning Board agenda? Nope.

Putting a 75' building on a green, forested corner surrounded by one-and-two story residential and religious structures, and in a suburban residential area, is absolutely preposterous. And a complete deception.

Ossont assured residents that there were no plans to demolish the library at an April 22 meeting this year. He most certainly did not suggest the County was even considering placing an apartment building there.

There's no debate that affordable housing units will be coming to the "Westbard" area in any redevelopment plan. But the constant attempt to suggest that current residents aren't "doing their part" for affordable housing needs remains a laughable talking point. A representative of Action in Montgomery cited Westbard as an example of housing inequality in the county. In fact, it has the most affordable housing relative to population/unit density of any part of the county. The existing Westwood Tower has many times the percentage of affordable units that any project approved in recent years by the Board and County Council. Park Bethesda has historically had lower rents than downtown Bethesda apartments, and the Kenwood Place condos have been a relative bargain to purchase, and a veritable steal to rent.

I am not aware of any major crime or otherwise-negative issues related to the substantial affordable housing already on Westbard Avenue. But there's little common sense in declaring "Westbard" a future hub for affordable housing. The area is completely disconnected from downtown Bethesda via transit, and has no County or private services for low-income residents.

Contrast this to the past failures of the Board and County Council in downtown Bethesda. The Arlington Road corridor had once been designated as a site for substantial affordable housing, within easy walking distance of County services and transit. Instead, it today houses literally the most-expensive residential units in downtown Bethesda.

After tossing the homeless and poor downtown aside in favor of cash from developers for personal and political gain, they now want to lecture about affordable housing? Please.

The community is not going to accept a 200-unit apartment building in a low density area, on a school site, to boot. Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson expects that. And he made clear that he doesn't much care what you want. "A lot of people are going to be unhappy with the idea," Anderson predicted, in what was the biggest understatement of the year.

I urge everyone to watch the meeting so you see the arrogance in action. The Planning Board whose salaries you pay say this process isn't about you - it's about them, and the people they would like to live in Westbard one day. They're kind of tired of you, and a bit annoyed, too.

Commissioner Natali Fani-Gonzalez said this plan is about "the community that's going to live in there in 30 years...people who haven't even been born yet." Wait a minute, they keep talking about how the 1982 Westbard Sector Plan is so many decades late in being updated - and now they're saying this is a 30-year plan? They're going to wait 30 years to update it again?

If you're really writing a 10-20 year plan, why would you include the potential for a 75' building on the library site because it might be relevant in 20-30 years? Hint: Because an unnamed developer is interested now, and has set this plan into motion behind the scenes. Note to Board - "people who haven't even been born yet" don't pay taxes, and don't vote.
Distorted Google Maps
image the Planning Board
used to determine the future
of a whole neighborhood
I also urge you to watch so you can see just how unprofessional the Board was in putting politics over sound planning. At one point, the Board reaches a conclusion on a future building height, that will tower 90' over single-family homes directly across the street from it, by referring solely to a warped Google Street View image. They acknowledged they didn't know the correct grading of that site relative to others around it, and then just decided to wing it on a decision that will impact the neighborhood for decades to come.

After changes at Thursday's meeting, Kenwood will now have a 75' building on the Whole Foods site towering over its single-family homes, rather than a gradual step-down from the center of that block of River Road. A future building on Westwood Center II's site will rise 90' over Springfield homes. Final recommendations were not solidified on the Capital Properties land around the Park Bethesda, but the Board was supporting 110', a whopping 35 additional feet over what planners recommended.

Redevelopment of the Westwood Shopping Center site also will be taller - 10' taller, at 60'. Residents of Kenwood Place who had reached cordial agreement with planners and developer Equity One on 50' height previously? No notice and no chance to speak. Developers? Unlimited time to speak at Thursday's worksession.

Planners and Equity One said the 10' difference won't change the actual height of the structures, but was simply a technical issue in response to where the County starts measuring the height from. Given that the retail buildings will be at street level and up to the roadside, it's unclear how there is a dispute over where to make the measurement, but perhaps someone can explain that in the comments below.

It's critical to note that all of these taller heights will only be the starting point, with bonus incentives available that would allow developers to add additional stories to these. By allowing 90' and 110' to start, imagine what the final heights will be.

Surely there were additional perks for residents added to the plan to offset the additional giveaways to developers and politicians? No, in fact, the list is shrinking by the hour.

The realigned Ridgefield Road that was supposed to solve truck-turning and cut-through traffic problems? It's now essentially dead, with Planning Director Gwen Wright the lone advocate for leaving it in the plan.

Worried about whether or not naturalization of Willett Branch stream will happen? Get a little more worried. Page 49 of the draft now has "new language" kowtowing to landowners' requests to keep Willett Branch as an urban sewer: "stream buffer areas may be modified or reduced".

What's left on the list? A postage stamp civic green on Westbard, a slightly-larger postage stamp urban recreation park (a.k.a. skate park) by the Capital Crescent Trail, "interior community use space", private shuttle service, and bikeshare. Private shuttle service will actually allow the developers to add additional density beyond what they're getting in the plan, which defeats the whole purpose of the shuttle service. Bikeshare? It's already there on River Road at Landy Lane. So no meaningful green space, and certainly no recreation center or significant County facility.

It's also worth noting that of the minority of people writing to the Board supporting the Draft Plan, most do not live in what will be the eventual shadow of these buildings. Not only do most live away from the site, some live outside of the state of Maryland!

Also, examine the supporters' letters closely. You'll notice virtually all focus is on updating the "outdated" Westwood Shopping Center. This is the classic planning-by-Stockholm-Syndrome strategy that's been going on for several years. Dr. Tauber could have built a new shopping center 30 years ago. He refused to do so. Capital Properties refused to do so. Equity One has acknowledged it could make money even if nothing changed at all, and certainly with a new non-residential shopping center. So why would you support urbanizing a suburban neighborhood, if all you want is a better shopping center? It makes no sense.

It makes about as much sense as having the public testify on one Plan, and then giving developers and politicians the opportunity to write a new one 60 days later, and have the Board ram it through to the County Council, where a majority of councilmembers receive more than 80% of their contributions from developers.

The Board said the majority opinion of residents in Westbard in 30 years will be different from today's. No kidding, when you jam the equivalent of a whole town's population of transient renters into a 2 block area around low-density single-family homes. This is what happens when no one is advocating for residents. We're told that the County's "serious fiscal constraints" prevent funding of a People's Counsel to represent our interests, but we can mysteriously afford a $200,000 Development Ombudsman. Hmm.

When does Councilmember Roger Berliner weigh in on this last-minute deception of his constituents, and Dumb Growth plan for high-density urban development nowhere near walking distance to a Metro station? He could, but as we saw Thursday, the public can't.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sex offense reported at Suburban Hospital, car stolen from Westlake Crossing + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 21, according to crime data:

Assault. 7800 block Woodmont Avenue.

Disorderly conduct. Fairmont Avenue at Old Georgetown Road.

Other sexual offense. Suburban Hospital.

Theft. 5500 block Friendship Boulevard.

Assault. Capital Beltway Inner Loop exit at Connecticut Avenue.

Drug arrest. 9900 block Pomona Drive.

Drug arrest. Stillwater Avenue at Flanders Avenue.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Stolen car. Westlake Crossing shopping center.

Theft. 12000 block Chase Crossing Circle (Pike District).

New happy hour at Del Frisco's Grille at Pike & Rose (Photos + menu)

The biggest question for regulars at Del Frisco's Grille at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda has been, "When will they add a happy hour?" Now it's happened - choose from a selection of top beverages and small plates for $6 or less.
Asian Street Tacos
Happy Hour is 4:00 - 6:30 PM, Monday through Friday at the bar. See the full menu below.

11800 Grand Park Avenue
(301) 881-0308
Cheesesteak Eggrolls

Repair of Fresh Grill building to begin in Bethesda

Greenhill Capital has retained the architecture firm of Steven J. Karr, AIA, Inc. to repair damage to its 4905 and 4909 Fairmont Avenue buildings, which once housed Fresh Grill and Dansez! Dansez!. The damage was caused "by an adjacent high rise building's deep foundation excavation operations," referring to the construction of the Bainbridge Bethesda luxury apartment tower next door. The damage, which led to a lengthy legal fight, was diagnosed in a prior report by Karr's firm.

The work will include foundation repairs, reconstruction of load-bearing masonry walls, and replacement of steel roof joists. In addition, alterations will be made to prepare the structures for tenants, and to repair and update the front facades. These changes are also in preparation for an extensive update to the entire Lot 667 property Greenhill owns, which has also been designed by Karr. That makeover is expected to reinvigorate several portions of Fairmont, and Norfolk and St. Elmo Avenues.

The estimated cost of the repairs is $500,000. Sigal Construction is the contractor, and the work is expected to be completed by May 2016.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Assault at Whole Foods, drug bust in Pike District + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 20, according to crime data:

Assault. Whole Foods Market (Kenwood Station shopping center).

Theft. 5400 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 8300 block Burdette Road.

Drug arrest. 11400 block Rockville Pike at 10:19 PM.

Theft. 12000 block Rockville Pike.

Sugarfina installs signage on Bethesda Avenue (Photos)

Sugarfina has installed permanent signage on its future Bethesda Avenue storefront. The "candy store for adults" is aiming to open this holiday season in the former Knits, Etc. space.

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt will be opening at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, the latest addition to the retail center's dining roster.

The company started with a location in the Los Angeles suburbs in 2007, and is aiming to open a total of 2000 stores worldwide. So far, they've opened more than 350.

Husband and wife team Danna and Adam Caldwell had their first date at a frozen yogurt shop, inspiring their new business venture.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Theft at Safeway, drug bust on Bou Avenue + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 19, according to crime data:

Theft. 4700 block Elm Street.

Theft. 7000 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. Willard Avenue at N. Park Avenue.

Theft. Safeway at Shops at Sumner Place.

Theft. 10400 block Old Georgetown Road.

Theft. Sears at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Drug arrest. 5800 block Bou Avenue (Pike District).

More "For Lease" signs at homeless shelter-turned-restaurant in Bethesda

A new set of "Leasing Opportunity" signs have popped up in the windows of the former men's shelter recently converted into a restaurant space on Cordell Avenue. An interior restaurant buildout has not begun yet. An anonymous commenter had previously posted that the New York/Las Vegas-themed mural along the side wall of the building was tied to a specific tenant, but would not identify the prospective tenant.

Mysterious waste barrels return to the Woodmont Triangle (Photos)

Those mysterious barrels labeled "non-hazardous waste" have returned to the corner of Cordell and Woodmont Avenues in downtown Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle. This is the future site of a luxury apartment tower, and the containers may be related to soil samples being taken as part of the process.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2 cars stolen from Hendry Estates, assault in Edgemoor + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 18, according to crime data:

Drug arrest. 7700 block Woodmont Avenue.

Theft. 7500 block Old Georgetown Road.

Assault. 7800 block Wisconsin Avenue at 1:11 PM.

Drug arrest. East Lane at Montgomery Lane.

Theft. 7200 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Assault. 7100 block Clarendon Road at 3:12 PM (Edgemoor).

Vehicle burglary. 5500 block Johnson Avenue.

Theft. Bloomingdale's.

Vehicle burglary. 5900 block Johnson Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 5800 block Walton Road.

Stolen car. 5800 block Melvern Drive.

Stolen car. 9400 block Kentstone Drive.

Death. 5300 block Western Avenue at 7:59 PM.

Strange art at Bethesda construction site painted over - but more appears (Photos)

The odd artworks inside the pedestrian walkway at the Solaire Bethesda construction site I wrote about recently have now been painted over. But the same artist, or someone else, had returned (as of the time these photos were taken) to create anew on this illegal canvas. 

No Hillary Clinton or George Washington depictions, though. The only famous face I can make out this time is Lindsay Lohan. Who, coincidentally, recently expressed her own interest in making a White House run in 2020 on Instagram.

VIP Outdoor opens second storefront at Westfield Montgomery Mall

VIP Outdoor has a second storefront now at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. This one is located next to Brookstone. You may recall VIP returned to the mall back in April, across from Crave on Level 1.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Burglary in Westmoreland Hills, car stolen from Selkirk Dr. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 17, according to crime data:

Theft. Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Theft. 7000 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Burglary. 5100 block Dalecarlia Drive at 12:15 PM (Westmoreland Hills).

Vehicle burglary. Saks Fifth Avenue.

Disorderly conduct. Primrose Street at Connecticut Avenue at 4:31 PM.

Theft. 5300 block Merriam Street.

Drug arrest. Grosvenor Place at Grove Ridge Way.

Vehicle burglary. 9700 block Montauk Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 7400 block Nevis Road.

Stolen car. 7200 block Selkirk Drive at 7:04 AM.

Vehicle burglary. 6300 block Ridge Drive.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Bethesda construction update: Pike & Rose Phase 2 (Photos)

The new parking garage and solar canopy just opened yesterday at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda's Pike District. But this is only the beginning for Phase 2 of the Federal Realty property's development.

Still to come at the growing site are 264 luxury apartments, 104 luxury condos, a 177-room Canopy by Hilton hotel, and 200,000 SF more of retail and restaurant space. Phase 2 also includes Rose Park, which will not only provide public space, but room for events as well. Nearby streets can be closed off for concerts and other activities, as they will be controlled by Federal Realty, not Montgomery County.

A 2017 delivery is expected for Phase 2.
Phase 1 ends here now, but
will continue northward in
Phase 2

Grand Park Avenue
runs horizontally near the
bottom in this westward view

Construction workers walk
along the future Rose Avenue

A rendering of Rose Park and
adjacent retail building
Landscape rendering of Rose Park
Rose Park renderings
courtesy Federal Realty
Montgomery County Planning Department

Restaurants open Thanksgiving 2015 in Bethesda (Photos)

No cooking skills? No time? No family? Not to worry, the annual Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row guide to Bethesda restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day is here.

Make sure to call ahead to reserve your seat, and ensure there are still reservations available for the time you plan to dine.


Positano has been a fixture in downtown Bethesda since 1977, and is open every day of the year. While known for its Italian menu, you can also get a traditional Thanksgiving day feast with turkey and all the fixings at this spacious restaurant on Fairmont Avenue. They'll be open regular hours on Thanksgiving.

4948-4940 Fairmont Avenue
Butterscotch Pudding Pot,
one dessert option on the
Thanksgiving menu at
Del Frisco's Grille
Del Frisco's Grille

A welcome new entry to the annual list is Del Frisco's Grille at Pike & Rose. Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with hand-carved turkey, cornbread stuffing, gravy and cranberry relish, a butternut squash bisque to start, and a choice of 2 sides and three choices for dessert. See the full menu for more details.

11800 Grand Park Avenue
(301) 881-0308
Dine with an aerial view of
the holiday lights of
Pike & Rose at City Perch
this Thanksgiving
City Perch

Another new entry also comes from Pike & Rose. City Perch's Thanksgiving menu switches out mashed potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes, gives you a choice from two starters, and plays up the restaurant's semi-secret weapon, renowned pastry chef Sherry Yard. That means not only five-star desserts, but a puff pastry lid on top of your Parsnip + Apple soup.

11830 Grand Park Avenue

The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille in Chevy Chase will offer their Executive Chef's take on Thanksgiving favorites, as well as their regular menu.

5310 Western Avenue
(301) 718-7812

Founding Farmers

This popular American restaurant at Park Potomac will be serving up popular American Thanksgiving dishes from noon until 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day.

12505 Park Potomac Avenue
(301) 340-8783

La Ferme

Choose from classic turkey, or salmon or New York Strip at this longtime Chevy Chase restaurant,

7101 Brookville Road
(301) 986-5255

Le Vieux Logis

Yes, the revamped restaurant in downtown Bethesda raved about in the Washington Post is entering the Thankgiving sweepstakes this year, from 4:00-8:30 PM.

7925 Old Georgetown Road
(301) 652-6816


A long-standing fixture on my list, Maggiano's will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal family-style.

Chevy Chase Pavilion
5333 Wisconsin Ave NW
(202) 966-5500


A veritable Thanksgiving tradition, atop the Bethesda Metro station.

7400 Wisconsin Avenue
(301) 657-2650

Union Jack's Bethesda

Union Jack's will open at 6:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day, and will be serving its full menu.

4915 St. Elmo Avenue
(301) 652-2561

Oakville Grille and Wine Bar

For those in the Wildwood Shopping Center area, this is an easy drive with easy (and free!) surface parking.

Wildwood Shopping Center
10257 Old Georgetown Road
(301) 897-9100


Now here is a best-kept secret. Tucked away in the Shops at Sumner Place (better known as Little Falls Mall to longtime residents).

The Shops at Sumner Place
4611 Sangamore Road
(301) 229-8180

Ruth's Chris Steak House

The Thanksgiving restaurant meal that can start with a Louisiana seafood gumbo, if you wish. Another Thanksgiving tradition in downtown Bethesda. Check out the menu here.

7315 Wisconsin Avenue
(301) 652-7877

Urban Heights

Local celebrity chef Robert Wiedmaier is behind this rooftop restaurant also making its debut on my Thanksgiving list. They'll be open from 12:00-7:00 PM with an a la carte menu that will include some special Thanksgiving dishes.

7940 Norfolk Avenue
(301) 312-8282

Happy Thanksgiving
Robert Dyer
Bethesda Row!