Wednesday, February 27, 2013

City Place - Still Crappy After all These Years

Apologies for the delay, but here are the final results of the Silver Spring Hater's Poll. My goal for this was to quantify the complaints of commenter/readers to determine what the real top gripes were about Silver Spring and whether certain complaints have been overrepresented in the comment section.

City Place (aka "Shitty Place") 42%
The Transit Center fiasco 11%
There’s no nightlife 9%
Unruly teenagers on Ellsworth 9%
The Whole Foods parking lot 7%
It’s all chain restaurants 6%
I’m stuck here when I really want to live in Bethesda or Clarendon 4%
Too many Ethiopian restaurants 3%
The downtown McDonald’s 3%
Other 3%
Piratz Tavern 2%
All changes to Silver Spring after 1950 1%
Overzealous DTSS security guards 0%
I will have to cross the street to get to the new library 0%
The skate park is too small 0% 

In the end, it wasn't even close - it's Shitty Place by a mile. City Place has sucked ever since it opened way back when, and it's only gotten worse in the intervening years. At least it used to have a movie theater that for a time was reasonably serviceable (former employee here). Now it has nothing. We keep hearing grand plans about the upcoming revitalization of City Place, but in the end, it's all just vaporware.

Finishing a distant second was the sad joke that is our unfinished Transit Center. Unlike City Place, at least I can envision that issue being resolved in my lifetime.

In a tie for third were the popular "Lack of Nightlife" complaint and the oldie-but-goodie "Unruly Teenagers on Ellsworth". Is the latter even still A Thing? I remember when that there would regular reports of verbal assaults or brawls, but it's been years since I've heard a peep. Maybe I just don't get out at night enough these days and I'm oblivious.

(Also, my apologies for not including "NIMBYs" as an option. Major oversight on my part.)

Lettuce Welcome Sweetgreen

As you may have heard, Silver Spring is set to get its very own salad restaurant in the form of Sweetgreen, opening this summer in the former Georgia Avenue home of Living Ruff. If Silver Spring wasn't fully gentrified before, the arrival of a salad joint would likely make it official. The only salad-focused place I have ever really patronized was the Mixt Greens in the Wildwood Shopping center in sort-of Bethesda, but that closed after less than a year of operation. Hopefully our Sweetgreen will fare better.

Downtown Bethesda has of course been home to a Sweetgreen for some time, and many commenters will be quite pleased that Silver Spring is becoming just a little more like Bethesda. Apparently even Bethesda wants us to become more like Bethesda - this week I received in the mail a complimentary copy of Bethesda Magazine, encouraging me to become a subscriber. It's certainly a good magazine to subscribe to if you like to peruse plastic surgery ads and  $2M+ real estate listings. Seriously, their cover story this month is entitled "Extreme Homes". (The issue did include a Silver Spring Guide, which I imagine is intended for Bethesdans who want to go slumming.)

Also in new developments:

- I haven't seen it myself, but I've received a number of reports that there is ongoing activity in the former Mayorga location in South Silver Spring. Anyone know what the deal is?

- It has just been announced that Busboys and Poets will be opening a new location in Takoma - that's Takoma, D.C. not Takoma Park, Maryland. You may recall that owner Andy Shallal refuses to open a location in Montgomery County because the MoCo government wouldn't ask the feds to spend less on defense. Clearly the government of Arlington (home of the Pentagon) must have bravely made that same request, as he opened a Busboys location there. And that is the reason I will never go to Busboys and Poets. So stupid.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Blairs to be Brought into the 21st Century

The Washington Business Journal has details today of a planned $625 million revamping of The Blairs apartments that includes demolishing some existing buildings and getting rid of the Giant Food. The project is expected to take two decades (LOL, this is MoCo - actual time: four decades) and include features like a dog grooming station and something called "bioswales". I could regurgitate more information here, but you're better off just reading the article yourself.

The renderings sure do look nice, but don't they always?

Silver Spring: A Hater's Poll

Ok, let's settle this once and for all. What is the worst thing about Silver Spring? Responses are a selection of gripes from commenters over the years. No doubt I forgot some important complaints, so feel free to select "other" and note it in the comments. The poll will remain open through Sunday.

online surveys

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MoCo's Traffic Cameras: Cash Grab or Benefit to Public Safety? Both?

As anyone who drives the streets of Montgomery County has surely noticed, the proliferation of speed cameras has proceeded apace since the devices were legalized seven years ago. Now we welcome Silver Spring's newest speed camera, recently installed on 16th Street just before the 2nd Avenue intersection. I'm not entire sure if it's one of the obvious models that rest atop a pole, or one of those shorter, more devious, droid-looking ones that are much harder to spot (there's one on the 9000 block of Georgia Avenue). No doubt the county's accounts receivable has increased by tens of thousands in the brief time that this device has been in operation.

I've never really been particularly keen on traffic cameras, as I always saw them as more as a revenue-generating mechanism for municipalities rather than a real deterrent. Furthermore, most of the money isn't even collected by the county - it goes into the pockets of the company that operates the camera. I suppose cameras do have the effect of slowing down some drivers, but it tends to often do so in a way that creates erratic driving that is dangerous in a way different from speeding. Drivers spot the camera at the last second and hit their brakes, causing a danger to the vehicle following immediately behind. I've seen this happen countless times on Wayne Avenue and elsewhere.

I imagine that most fines are issued to those who don't regularly use the route on which the camera is placed. Locals know where the speed cameras are and will often temporarily slow down when they approach them, speeding up immediately after the camera's range is cleared. I have to wonder if they are significantly decreasing the number of speeders on a particular route if the offenders don't drive that stretch of road frequently.

Last week it so happened that I had two separate experiences with speed cameras that left me somewhat conflicted on the whole practice. Over the weekend I received a speed camera violation ticket from the City of Greenbelt that stated I was 13 miles over the limit on a certain stretch of road in that municipality. The problem was that I have not been to Greenbelt in years, and the car in the accompanying photos was definitely not my vehicle. WTF? After some research, I determined that the offender was using my old tags, which I had returned to the MVA months ago. They had re-issued the plates to a new driver, but I guess no one ever bothered to update their records to reflect this fact. Of course, I could have challenged the citation in court, but when weighing using a vacation day to sit in a Greenbelt courtroom versus just paying a $40 fine for a crime I didn't commit, I was leaning towards the latter (very bitterly, though). Fortunately, I was able to resolve the whole thing over the phone, though it took four days and really left me wondering how reliable the whole camera system is.

Fast forward to last Friday evening, when I was driving northbound on 16th Street and a white Volvo with DC plates went flying past me and dangerously cut between myself and another car. I immediately recalled the speed camera that had just been installed a couple blocks ahead and made sure to keep pace enough with this clown to fully enjoy the schadenfreude I would experience at the instant he was issued a ticket. I was not disappointed, as I saw the camera's flash pop as he sped by. At least for that moment I had a much more favorable opinion of speed cameras.

I'm a little more accepting of red light cameras, though I don't know what the hell is up with the one at Colesville and Dale Drive. I swear the thing is always snapping photos of my car, even when I come to a standard stop at a red light. I have seen it flashing over and over for cars that have not violated any traffic laws. I guess it may take photos preemptively, though it is very distracting to see the flash constantly going off.