Community Palette

Urban Chic: Harper on 14th Street

April 21, 2014

I’m always amazed when walking 14th Street, NW, to see the ever changing landscape. It represents total gentrification with its good and its bad depending on the point of view of the beholder. But since urban renewal won’t be stopped, the idea is to hopefully direct it in a good way. I think urban chic at its finest is represented in the The Harper, the recently opened rental building at 1919 14th Street, NW.

Uniersal Gear (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Uniersal Gear

My connection to The Harper is tenuous but I do know and respect the people involved in bringing this exciting new project to fruition. One of them is David Franco of Level 2 Development, a D.C. native who partnered with Keener/Squire Properties on this project. David is also the owner of Universal Gear, which had its formal grand opening last week; the popular clothing store with branches in New York now occupies the street level of the development.

Another person helping to bring this project to the market is one of my best friends Randy Overbaugh who works for Keener/Squire Properties and is also the rental agent for The Harper. I first met Randy in the early 80s when he came to D.C. and was assistant manager at Waterside Towers, next to Arena Stage, in SW. After a great Easter Sunday brunch at another new place on 14th street, Ted’s Bulletin, Randy was proud to show off The Harper.

I heard about it from friends who talked about the apartments being on the small side but added the layouts made them feel really comfortable. Also the great amenities in the building were a real draw. Word of mouth was right. The apartments are a little on the small side but you can clearly see how great it would be to live there with lots of light and fine finishes. Red oak floors, custom cherry cabinets, silestone countertops (I don’t know what silestone is but it sure looks great), stainless steel appliances, washer/dryers in each apartment, large windows and mobile kitchen islands available.

(Photo by:

The Harper isn’t for those looking to entertain large groups in their apartment. It is more for busy professionals who want a great looking place to live with all the modern amenities on one of the best streets in town. The new Trader Joe's is across the street. Plenty of restaurants, bars, café’s and even theater all within a few blocks of the front door.  There is a business center, a large roof deck with lounge chairs and fancy grills along with tables and chairs to dine out. The gym has great views over the city; a beautiful community room with bar and fireplace; and even a formal dining room that tenants can rent for the evening.

The dining room with incredible city views can seat up to 10 formally and has a full kitchen and bar. What a great place to invite friends for an exotic home cooked meal or have a caterer prepare dinner for some special occasion. Most of us don’t use the dining room in our own apartment very often and this is a great idea allowing the space in the apartments to be used much more efficiently.

The Harper open for rental only a short time is nearly 50% rented and tenants have already moved in. It is definitely worth a look.

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Mason Jar Salads: The Cure for Sad Desk Lunch

April 15, 2014

Julia Mirabella (Photo by: Jessica Mirabella) Julia Mirabella

A good friend, Julia Mirabella, is a young up-and-coming attorney in town. My morning coffee group at Java House on 17th and Q Street, NW, first met Julia when she was what we dubbed a high powered paralegal with the firm of Sidley Austin, LLP. That was about seven years ago. She has come a long way since that time. After a couple of years as a paralegal Julia knew she wanted to go to law school and headed off to Boston University. We followed her career long distance and heard the details when she came back and joined us for coffee during vacations. She graduated magna cum laude in May of 2012. We weren’t the only ones who recognized her brilliance as she received among many other honors the Melville M. Bigelow Scholarship Award for the member of the graduating class who has shown the greatest promise as a scholar or teacher of law. We could have told them that just from talking with her over coffee.

But Julia wanted to practice law and she went on to clerk for Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr. on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisville, KY. She then came home to D.C. and did a stint at the Center for American Progress, as a D.C. Bar Pro bono Fellow and is now back at Sidley Austin, LLP. as an Associate where she handles white collar and complex commercial litigation.

Now clearly that would make for a very satisfying career for most people. But for Julia that’s not enough. She has now added a new line and title to her impressive resume and it’s that of cookbook author. This has clearly been a labor of love for her. Julia talks about the inspiration for doing the cookbook as really coming from her family. She grew up in a household that emphasized Italian food and taught her to love cooking with fresh ingredients. When starting her first job as an attorney she realized she needed to rethink her work lunches so she could eat better and healthier. Her love of food has even led her to start a blog which you can follow at Julia says, “I was busy at work, working late hours, and eating out every day for lunch. A few months into the job, I knew something had to change. My solution has been to make my salads in Mason jars. By spending a little time on the weekend making Mason jar meals for the coming week, I’ve solved many of the difficulties of bringing my lunch to work.”

(Photo by: Julia Mirabella)

Julia’s solution could be the right one for a lot of people who are short on time but want to eat a healthy meal for lunch. These appetizing salads in a Mason jar are easy to make and will have everyone at work asking where you got the idea. The Mason Jar Salads cookbook is now available to pre-order on Amazon.

Here's a recipe from her book:

Southwestern Salad

Colorful with lots of protein and antioxidants, this hearty salad will keep you satisfied until dinnertime. You can step it up a notch with a little hot sauce in your salad dressing if you want to make things interesting.

Makes 1 serving

3 tablespoons lime vinaigrette

1⁄2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

1⁄2 red vine-ripened tomato, diced

1⁄4 red bell pepper, diced

1⁄4 yellow bell pepper, diced

1⁄2 cup diced avocado (optional)

1⁄2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

2 cups mixed salad greens

1 ounce Cheddar cheese, grated

1 quart-size Mason jar

Start by pouring the vinaigrette dressing into the Mason jar. Then layer in the black beans, tomato, bell peppers, avocado, and corn. Finish with the salad greens and, finally, the Cheddar cheese. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.


Lime Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

dash of hot sauce (optional)

3 tablespoons olive oil


Whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing thickens.


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The Hobby Lobby Contraception Case and the Rights of LGBT Individuals

April 3, 2014

While it may not be obvious at first glance, there is a clear intersection between the Hobby Lobby case on contraception now being decided by the Supreme Court and the rights of LGBT individuals. If the Supreme Court accepts that a business owner has the right to pick and choose what contraception they will cover for their employees based on their own religious beliefs, the obvious next step is to allow that business owner to determine which customers they will serve based on their religious beliefs.

One person making these arguments in the name of "religious freedom" and supporting ultra-right wing organizations that are promoting them is University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock. The simple form of the argument that appeals to some is if you don't like the health care your employer is offering, work somewhere else; or if the business doesn't want to serve you, just shop somewhere else.

One would have thought that we settled the issue of whether a business could serve you with the public accommodations decisions related to the United States Constitution. However, Laycock was one of the signers of a recent letter to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona asking her to sign SB 1062, the bill that was considered to be rabidly anti-gay and would have allowed businesses to not serve gay people. The Bill Laycock support was opposed by, among others, both of Arizona's Republican United States Senators, and even some of those in the Arizona legislature who admitted they didn't understand the bill and its ramifications when they passed it. The letter Laycock signed supported the purposeful misreading of the bill stated in the sentiment of Alliance Defending Freedom senior Council Doug Napier who said:

The government has no business telling its citizens what they can't say or what they must say, and it must be prevented from punishing its citizens for their ideas and beliefs as has occurred to people in other states. That's all SB 1062 is about.

Laycock is a supporter of both the Alliance Defending Freedom -- a right-wing, anti-gay organization that helped craft Arizona's SB 1062 bill, as well as being one of the top lawyers for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a right-wing group supporting the owners of the Hobby Lobby store and their court case. In that case what Laycock is supporting while he may couch his views in fancy legal terms is the right of the owners of Hobby Lobby to determine which contraceptive devices they will include in the health insurance they are making available for their employees in contrast to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees access to coverage for all approved FDA contraceptive devices. Walter Dellinger, acting Solicitor General in the Clinton administration explains in an op-ed in the Washington Post that the result of what the owners of Hobby Lobby are asking to do is, "Selectively denying insurance coverage for contraceptive methods an employer considers sinful effectively makes the employer a party to a woman's medical consultations."

Individuals like Laycock are often insidious. They claim to want people to have rights such as marriage-equality, and then at the same time attempt to create a legal loophole for discrimination to thwart full equality for LGBT people. They use a freedom of religion argument to create the legal opportunity to undermine the fight for full and inclusive equality for LGBT people in our society. It is clear that the use of these legal loopholes must concern both the LGBT community and those who support a woman's right to control her own health care.

There is another issue that needs to be focused on with regard to Laycock. He happens to be the husband of University of Virginia (UVA) President Teresa A. Sullivan. I support his right to his views. But some consider his efforts to be questionable because he is paid by the University of Virginia, a public university using taxpayer dollars. Be that as it may what I want to know is where the president of the University of Virginia stands on these issues that her husband is a leading spokesperson for. The University of Virginia continues its effort to promote an "LGBT friendly" brand for the university and campus. In recent years, efforts at UVA to hire a full-time LGBT program coordinator have increased the university's standing to 3.5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride organization's "LGBT friendly equality ratings index." It is my understanding that the university has yet to speak out on the efforts of the president's spouse to promote these anti-LGBT and anti-woman positions. It would be appropriate for President Sullivan to separate herself and the University from her husband's positions if she doesn't agree with them or feels that the university must not be attached to such positions.

If she doesn't do that one has to question her values and how they impact the students at the university and it is something that donors and alumni should be made aware of.

This article was first published in Huffington Post.

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