Thursday, January 19, 2017

Car stolen in Friendship Heights, armed robbers working just over D.C. line + more - Bethesda crime update

If you live close to the D.C. line, be alert that three violent crimes took place on Monday in Friendship Heights, Spring Valley and the Palisades, and gun-toting suspects remain at large. See full details at the bottom of this report.

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 16, according to crime data:

Theft. 4600 block Rosedale Avenue.

Drug arrest. Connecticut Avenue at W. Melrose Street.

Stolen car. 4600 block N. Park Avenue.

Theft. 11300 block Rockville Pike.

Just across the D.C. line:

Assault with deadly weapon (knife). 5300 block Wisconsin Avenue N.W.  at 12:57 P.M.

Armed robbery (gun). 4600 block of Tilden Street N.W. (Spring Valley).

Armed robbery (gun). 2700-5300 block Arizona Avenue N.W. (Palisades).

Metropolitan Police Department says they believe the robberies were committed by the same suspects, who remain at large. Stay alert out there.

15 local governments & organizations call on MoCo Council to revise Bethesda Downtown sector plan

Fifteen Bethesda-area governments and organizations have delivered a joint letter to Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, asking for major changes to the draft Bethesda Downtown sector plan. Chief among the requests sought are staging of the development permitted in the plan, heights and building designs more compatible with the communities surrounding the downtown, adding more parks and amenities, retaining fire and rescue stations as single-use public safety sites, improving transitions between new downtown development and adjacent neighborhoods, and the use of better and more-accurate data in formulating the plan.

The letter is also calling for not only the return of citizen advisory boards for master plans, but also a Design Review Advisory Panel with citizen representation, which would weigh in on building designs. Many residents have complained that their input no longer matters since those advisory bodies were replaced with week-long charettes.

Several elected officials signed the letter, including Scott Fosler, a former County Councilman and current Mayor of Chevy Chase; Jeffrey Slavin, Mayor of Somerset; Michael Denger, Chair of the Board of Managers of Chevy Chase Village; and William Brownlee, Chair of Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase.

Also signing were many civic associations, including the East Bethesda Citizens Association, Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association, the Edgemoor Citizens Association, the Sacks Neighborhood Association, the Battery Park Citizens Association, the West Fernwood Citizens Association, the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, residents of Middleton Lane, the 7420 Chevy Chase Drive condominium association, and the Bradley House condo association.

Rounding out the signatories was Mary Flynn, head of the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents, the citizen group that has spearheaded the efforts to scale back the plan.

One notable detail that jumps out - 25 life members and former members of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad submitted a separate letter in which they endorse the Squad property and the Bethesda Fire Station 6 remaining as public safety facilities only. Rather than have new stations built by a developer who would also add residential units, they say station renovations and replacements should instead be co-funded by the County. Both stations are owned by their respective organizations, not the County.

Flynn said those signing the letter are optimistic that the high level of detail in their recommendations will lead the Council to take their concerns and proposals seriously. All told, the letter represents over 10,000 Bethesda households.

To read the full text of the letter, recommendations and attachments, click here.

Faryab to reopen in Bethesda (Menu+photos)

Faryab Afghan Cuisine, the restaurant at 4930 Cordell Avenue that closed in August 2015, is planning a comeback. The owner says the restaurant should reopen the first week of February. Expect the same menu with a few tweaks. Speaking of which, here it is:

During its initial run, Faryab was well-reviewed, and a perennial resident on Washingtonian magazine's Top 100 Restaurants list. They are currently hiring waitstaff for the reopening.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Assault at Walter Reed, 2 domestic violence assaults + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 15, according to crime data:

Assault. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Drug arrest. Capital Beltway interchange at Pooks Hill.

Domestic violence assault. 7400 block Bradley Boulevard.

Theft. 2200 block Washington Avenue.

Domestic violence assault. 11200 block Academy Way.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Bethesda's legendary Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis discusses his past, future in new podcast

Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis (left)
with Congressman Jamie Raskin, who
won after receiving Curtis' endorsement
One of the most legendary figures in Bethesda history, Tommy "The Matchmaker" Curtis, has still got it. His iconic Yacht Club of Bethesda remains arguably the most-missed nightspot in town, and his film production ventures continue full steam ahead. But even in Beverly Hills, like Clark Kent hearing a scream for help, Curtis can't help but turn into Tommy the Matchmaker sometimes. Just ask actor Vince Vaughn.

To hear more about that episode, and many more topics that will be of interest to Bethesda residents, don't miss Curtis' interview on WMAL legend Andy Ockershausen's new podcast, Our Town. Curtis talks about his career from radio to screen, other DC-area notables he's worked with, and - of course - his days as the captain of Bethesda's Yacht Club.

Listen (or read the transcript) and find out about the Hollywood royalty Tommy Curtis is descended from, how he invented the phrase "meetin' and greetin'," his new movie project that will "be the biggest news in cinema for the last year or two if it works," and why you should never eat Thai food before hitting a singles bar.

Never underestimate Curtis, the man who endorsed Congressman Jamie Raskin - - and Raskin went on to beat an opponent who waged the most expensive congressional campaign in history. If you're nostalgic for Bethesda's past, or want to know what Curtis is planning for the future, this podcast is worth a listen.

File photo courtesy Jamie Raskin for Congress campaign

Just when you thought MoCo Council couldn't get any more anti-business...$15 min. wage

The Montgomery County Council burnished the county's reputation as the most-hostile-to-business jurisdiction in the region yesterday, voting to raise the minimum wage to $15. That's the highest minimum wage in the D.C. Metro area, putting the already-moribund county in an even more disadvantageous job creation position.

In a county that is the only one in the region to experience a net loss in private sector jobs (3885, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)  - including the loss of 2141 retail jobs - since 2000,  local Dunkin' Donuts franchise operator Boris Lander has been a one-man job creation machine. In just the last few years, he has opened up so many locations in Montgomery County that I've lost count. The jobs these stores create are opportunities for those at the entry level of the job market, exactly the type of person the Council purports to care so deeply about.

Lander has become the point man for the business community's concern over the latest wage hike. He has put real numbers on the table, to quantify just what the negative impact a $15 wage will be on jobs. The Council ignored the data, and actually even boldly stated it was doing so.

One thing that really jumped out in the wage discussion, was that the Council is not conducting any legitimate research on the fiscal impacts of the laws it passes. It's left up to private business owners like Lander to take their time to produce such data - and then the Council simply dismisses the evidence.

Montgomery County started behind the 8 ball even before this Council passed two minimum wage increases. The high-tax jurisdiction hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in two decades. Its wealthiest residents are fleeing in numbers so significant, their exit has cratered county revenues, and shuttered the vaunted "Rodeo Drive" retail strip in Chevy Chase.

But the impact of the previous wage hike has been explosive - and not in the way the Council promised. Many fast food restaurants I patronize all across Montgomery County - all of them except one - have radically slashed the number of employees. You'll often find one cook in the kitchen, and one or two cashiers out front (depending if there is a drive-thru) - and that's it. Some restaurants have even installed touch screen ordering systems.

It turns out the touted "success of Fight for $15" was a complete failure. And this is in a Montgomery County where restaurant growth has "slowed since 2012, and remains flat," according to Melvin Thompson of the Restaurant Association of Maryland (by comparison, Frederick's grew 5.4% and Fairfax's by 6% in 2015 alone).

The impact on us, the residents who patronize businesses here, has been even greater. Prices of Big Macs and fries have significantly increased. There's essentially no such thing as a Dollar Menu anymore at McDonald's. Not only have workers lost jobs, but those at the bottom have lost the ability to get a substantial amount of food for a low price (and if you feel the urge to make a snarky comment about those who get by on fast food, you're probably a paid Guy Friday for the $130K-salaried Whole Foods elites on the Council).

CEOs - and the relocation firms they contract with - are getting the latest headlines from Montgomery County, and the news is not good. Even though the new $15 wage doesn't target the kind of high-wage firms we should be convincing to move here, it is a strong indicator of MoCo's hostility to business. The Council's willingness to recklessly jump off the $15 cliff by itself in the region for purely-self-serving political reasons sends a clear message to businesses here and around the world - Montgomery County is closed for business.

First look: Long & Foster/Christie's office in Bethesda (Photos)

Here's a look inside the new Long & Foster's/Christie's International Real Estate offices in the ground floor of The Darcy condominium, along Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Assault on Park Lane, burglary on Sentinel Dr. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 14, accordiing to crime data:

Drug arrest. Woodmont Avenue at Rugby Avenue.

Pedestrian struck. 8100 block Woodmont Avenue.

Drug arrest. Battery Lane at Keystone Avenue.

Assault. 8000 block Park Lane.

Theft. 4400 block Willard Avenue.

Burglary. 4900 block Sentinel Drive.

Burglary. 10200 block Grosvenor Place.

Theft. Balducci's.

Theft. 10400 block Old Georgetown Road.

Drug arrest. Rockviille Pike at Bangor Drive.

Bethesda construction update: Cheval Bethesda ultra-luxury condos (Photos)

The Cheval Bethesda ultra-luxury condo tower's skeletal facade is beginning to take on the distinctive shape seen in the renderings of the project. Located at 4960 Fairmont Avenue, the building will be 17 stories when completed later this year.

There will be only 72 condo units, and 7000 SF of non-residential space. Prices will be in the ultra-luxury tier: From the $900,000s to over $2.5 million. Delivery is expected next year. Duball, LLC is the developer.

McDonald's Grand Mac arrives in Bethesda (Video+photo)

A bigger Big Mac is expected to make its debut in Bethesda today. The McDonald's at 5214 River Road will begin serving the Grand Mac today, according to an employee.

Grand Mac features all of the standard Big Mac ingredients, but in greater size and quantity. McDonald's is using the classic, thin burger patty, not Quarter Pounder or thicker patties, as some early reports claimed. The burger is simply wider, rather than thicker, as are the buns and cheese slice.

I managed to locate a Grand Mac early, at the McDonald's in Derwood yesterday. Here is my review of the super-sized Grand Mac.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Assault reported at Suburban Hospital, drug bust on the Beltway + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 13, according to crime data:

Theft. Bethesda Metro Center.

Drug arrest. 7900 block Norfolk Avenue.

Burglary. 6900 block Ridgewood Avenue.

Assault. Suburban Hospital.

Drug arrest. Capital Beltway Inner Loop between MD 355 and Connecticut Avenue.

Theft. 9200 block Kensington Parkway.

Theft. 4900 block Sentinel Drive.

Theft. 10800 block Antigua Terrace.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Bethesda construction update: 2nd District police station (Photos)

You can get a sense of what the future Montgomery County 2nd District police station will look like with glass installed, as construction lights on each floor shine through plastic tarps on the building facades. This is located at 4823 Rugby Avenue, where it meets Del Ray Avenue. The developer is StonebridgeCarras.

American Apparel closing, Rumi returning at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda (Photos)

Even as thousands of manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States after the election victory of Donald Trump, the country will lose about 4500 such jobs with the demise of American Apparel, which boasted the largest sewing facility in North America. All 110 stores are closing, including the Bethesda location at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

But the "closing sale" prices are definitely nowhere near liquidation sale savings. Discounts are only 40%, according to signage at the store. A true "everything must go" sale would be 80-90% off. I'm calling BS on this, and it's fairly clear they have other plans for much of their inventory.

Meanwhile, Rumi Tea & Spice is returning to the mall with a pop-up cafe where Peet's Coffee & Tea just closed on Level 1.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Assault on Westlake Dr., burglary on Brennon Lane + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on January 12, according to crime data:

Burglary. 7200 block Brennon Lane.

Collision with injury. 8600 block Old Georgetown Road.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Assault. 10200 block Westlake Drive.

Theft from vehicle. 6400 block Rock Forest Drive.

Theft. 11400 block Rockville Pike.

Sears not closing in Bethesda - and here's one reason why (Photos)

Sears-is-closing lists seem to pop up every six months or so, but our local Sears Roebuck here in Bethesda has eluded the guillotine every time, so far. The store is well run and organized, Kenmore appliances are still in demand, and whoever plans the displays for the holiday shopping season should get a promotion.

Along high-traffic aisles where mall patrons not necessarily shopping at Sears use the venerable department store as an entrance pass, genuinely great gift ideas that appeal to the impulsive (a.k.a. desperately running out of time) shopper are stacked and displayed. I happened to notice some gift baskets on display recently that weren't the same old candy-and-nuts-in-a-plain-basket model.

Iconic retailer Sears called on fellow American icons Budweiser and Coca-Cola for some branding heft, as well as newcomer Chef's Cut for upscale beef jerky. This past Christmas may have sadly been the first in my life that didn't find a Sears Wish Book coming in the mail, but Christmas shopping was alive and well in the bricks-and-mortar Sears here at Westfield Montgomery Mall.