Jul 29, 2008

Madison revitalization survey: first look

Many thanks to all of you who completed my survey about the revitalization of Madison Street. Here's the quick report:

I'll summarize and post all the comments (there were lots) as soon as I can. I'll also tabulate and report on all of the suggestions for businesses desired in the Madison corridor, and then let you vote on the top 10 or so.

A quick glance suggests that coffee shop, hardware store, boutique and small restaurant are all top choices.

Thnaks again for your thoughts.

Jul 28, 2008

Tiny development at 19th & Madison

Some years ago there used to be a little fruit stand at 19th & Madison (SW Corner, Sunshine Produce?). The developers of the adjacent Hearing. Speech & Deafness Center project tried very hard to buy it out, but the owners weren't selling, so the project got built without that little corner. Fruit stand closed and was demolished, leaving a little awkward triangle that I thought would never get developed.

Last week the DPD Bulletin had a notice about dividing the property into 4 parcels. It seemed so small that I was convinced it was a mistake and ignored it. CD News noted it yesterday. Subsequent poking around revealed:

  • DPD Notice: Future construction of new commercial (eating est.) w/ live work, prior subdivsion to create 3 lots. Possible Short plat.
  • Pictures on the Pb Elemental website of a an "East Madison Live/Work" proposal that surely has to be the project. (thanks to CD News member Kevin. Yes Pb Elemental does have a staff member named Kevin, but it's a common name, though Kevin did join CD News on Friday). The site notes: This mixed use project includes 3 live/work units and 2 commercial spaces on a difficult corner lot between Capitol Hill and Madrona neighborhoods in Seattle
So there you have it. Looks like an architectural firm that's doing a lot in our area is planning a joint commercial and live/work development on that tiny little triangle on Madison. Yes, there does seem confusion as to whether it will be 3, 4 or 5 properties!

(Duly added to Madison redevelopment map).

And (as a follow-up) here's a P-I article about Pb Elemental's architectural style (with many astute comments).

Jul 24, 2008

More than you wanted to know about zoning etc.

(more from the Seattle Community Council Federation. Sorry, they're kind of wordy but I've no energy to edit.)

Alert - Please read the following post before attending the July 24th Federation meeting.

Mayor's Proposals Won't Fix the Townhouse Mess,
Will Make New Messes

Last winter, the Mayor issued a Multi-Family Update (MFU). It was supposed to simplify the multi-family code and fix problems with townhouses. A working group of citizens began evaluating it. All agreed that the townhouses being built in huge numbers and crammed on sites in ill-planned double rows were destroying once pleasant and affordable neighborhoods. The working group also discovered that the Mayor's MFU, much more than a minor update, would:

• Not fix the townhouse glitch.
• Not stop "micropermitting" where a large development is broken into many small permits in order to avoid street improvements and required design and environmental reviews.
• Reincarnate Mayor Royer's 1982 apartment house disaster.
• Focus on ratios and other means of calculating capacity and the value of property instead of on the livability and long term appeal of the new buildings.
• Wipe out the current focus on how buildings relate to their neighbors both in form and in function.
• Wipe out investment security by destroying physical predictability.
• Increase allowed lot coverages at the expense of natural vegetation and infiltration of s• stormwater—the least cost, most effective ecological response.
• Replace clear and concise rezoning criteria with vague criteria so that upzones anywhere become unchallengeable, doing away with the urban village strategy of matching development with infrastructure to produce livable urban communities.
• Set the stage for selling upzones, a new and untried concept in Seattle, by eliminating corrective downzones.

In March, the working group called on the City to fix the townhouse glitch and not make any new messes by rushing to adopt the Multi-Family Update. MFU never reached the Council for some reason, but the townhouse problem continued.

At its June 2008 townhouse workshop, the Seattle Community Council Federation adopted a resolution that called on the city to immediately enact an emergency ordinance that places interim restrictive controls on townhouses and then take the time needed to come up with a code that is both simpler to administer and which improves the way buildings fit together with their neighbors and encourages good design.

In July, the Mayor announced the townhouse glitch would be resolved through more careful administrative review. He turned out to be speaking of MFU2. MFU2 turned out to be MFU1 with all its problems along with an additional explanation claiming that the code would now be simpler because of increased flexibility. For the neighbors, unfortunately, "flexible" means unpredictable, at least to those not interested in developable square feet, unit counts, and capacities. And for good designers, MFU2 still features a very brief, very nanny-state set of inflexible design standards for only the fronts of only small buildings.

You might have heard that the micropermitting issue is to be fixed by taking all townhouses through administrative design review. What this means is that the same overburdened staff, untrained in design and focused on "we need the housing" (Stranger, July 18, 2007) will add review of all townhouses to their design departure workload. Because there is nothing, no authority in MFU2 or any existing design guideline, that would allow any reviewer to fix the townhouse glitch, we would still have with us:

1. Cramming too many units on the lot because extra lot coverage and building depth is granted townhouses (over that permitted apartment buildings). These exceptions would not only be retained for townhouses, but extended to apartment buildings, bulking up those buildings again as well.

2. Cramming too many units too close together to meet front yard, back yard, and open space requirements. All the yards would become mere setbacks as small as 5 to 7ft.

3. Encouragement for doubled rows of unsprinklered townhouses (dubious fire-safe in neighborhoods without alley access).

4. Inadequate driveways, turning radii, turn-arounds, and too low overhangs, resulting in over-burdened street parking and restricted fire department access. Language being informally interpreted to encourage this is to be left unclarified.

5. Profit-driven speculators and builders encouraged to outbid anyone interested in either the existing ground-related housing or quality design, resulting in accelerated loss of pleasant, affordable neighborhoods during booms and its replacement with less affordable housing with very short term appeal.

6. Use of bad manners to impact neighboring property and encourage forced sales.

You may not be aware that this plan would not be adopted until next spring. In the meantime, many more townhouse packs would most likely rush to get in under the wire, still micro-permitted and with undersized access.

Conclusion: The Federation's resolution calling for emergency interim controls followed by a better MFU with standards and means of departure to assure that both everyday and leading edge buildings are good neighbors in appealing neighborhoods, is needed more than ever!

The City Council needs to hear:
  • that your neighborhood will support them in declaring an emergency to stop the bleeding
  • and then taking the time to focus of where we are, where we want to be, and how to most effectively get there.

Jul 22, 2008

The Future of Seattle Neighborhoods

(This meeting should be of great interest to us all. Note the requirement, explained at the end, to register your name for entry to the NOAA facility).

Regular Meeting
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency),
Pacific Marine Center on Lake Union
1801 Fairview Avenue East
Thursday, July 24, 2008


The Future of Seattle Neighborhoods
Councilmember Nick Licata and
John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition

Councilmember Nick Licata will provide a rundown on current plans and legislation on the Council’s docket likely to significantly affect our neighborhoods over the coming months and leading to the Fall budget process. Councilmember Licata will provide suggestions on strategies to ensure that neighborhood needs come first.

John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition will provide his insights on the density debate and to will challenge the notion that by simply adding density in Seattle we either prevent sprawl or guarantee affordability. He also will talk about his efforts to form a coalition of community leaders whose aim is to ensure that neighborhood and housing issues come first at election time and that we elect candidates who are first responsive to these issues.

If you have informational materials you would like distributed at the meeting during the round robin, please email electronic copies or links to Jeannie Hale at jeannieh@serv.net and copies will be provided at the meeting.
7:00 Call to Order and Introductions
1. Changes to the agenda
2. Treasurer’s report
3. President’s report
7:15 Councilmember Nick Licata and John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition
8:30 Round Robin
  1. Land Use Issues—update on legislative proposals
  2. Proposed Changes to the Noise Ordinance
  3. Parks and Green Spaces Levy
  4. Market Levy
  5. South Seattle Transit Plan
  6. Other Issues/Projects
9:00 Adjourn

NOAA is a federal facility on high security alert, so attendees must enter by the security gate and may need to present photo ID. If you haven't attended a recent Federation meeting, please send your name, contact information, and address to rickbarrett@gmail.com to be added to the entry list. No e-mail? Call 206-365-1267. The building is ADA compliant, with ample parking in front.

Madison Street revitalization: a survey for you

It's official that the Starbucks in the Safeway building on Madison is going to close (anyone know when?) so we'll be left with 3 empty storefronts along Madison.

Jim Mueller (who'll be bringing life to the street with his redevelopment of the Deano's and Twilight sites, opening in ~ 2 years) had a suggestion about the empty storefronts:

That retail would lease if they could get 5-6 parking spaces on the street in front of it. Too bad no one’s working on it.

I strolled the street and found street parking available on all the adjacent blocks:

  • 2000 block E. Madison, north side (Deano's side): No Parking 7 - 9 AM. Otherwise allowed
  • 2000 block E. Madison, south side (Twilight, Planned Parenthood side). 30 Minute Load/Unload outside back clinic, 1 Hour parking (7AM - 6 PM) outside Twilight.
  • 2200 block E. Madison, south side: NO PARKING (and a bus stop)
  • 2100 block E. Madison, north side (Firestone, DeCharlene's): No Parking 7 - 9 AM. Otherwise allowed
  • 2200 block E. Madison, north side (empty lot opposite Chester Dorcey's): No Parking 7 - 9 AM. Otherwise allowed
  • 2300 block E. Madison, south side (Crush): one space 30 Minute Load/Unload, otherwise allowed.
  • 2300 block E. Madison, north side (Bottleneck): No parking 7 - 9 AM, 2hr parking 9 - 6.
I propose that we, the neighborhood, approach the City, and advocate for parking on the south side of the 2200 block of East Madison Street, to help stimulate economic activity in that block. Stores in that block would help bring more life to an otherwise little used area, as we wait the developments in the adjacent block and at 19th & Madison (the Fratelli's site).

I've created a Surveymonkey survey for your response. The survey also asks what stores you'd like to see on Madison.

Click Here to take survey

Survey will close after July 28th. Many thanks.

Seen on a walk around the neighborhood

Entrance to the Twilight Exit (admirable sentiment)

Some sort of gathering at El Gallito?

Yes, the soon-to-be-closed Starbucks in the Safeway is a Magic Johnson one.

Jul 15, 2008

Capitol Hill car parking etiquette

Comments on my post about car break-ins near 20th & John suggest that many people advocate the "leave the doors unlocked and the car empty" strategy for urban living.

I cautioned one correspondent that they might find people lurking in their unlocked car and he noted: Years ago my wife actually started to drive off with a vagrant in the back.

Talked to victim of latest window breaking: she's puzzled - car window was smashed, but no attempt was made to get into the car. Just plain vandalism (about 10:30 at night). Some things just make no sense!

Jul 13, 2008

Several car break ins

Location: Miller Triangle - the little area next to my house (20th & John).

Observation: three separate little piles of broken car window glass seen over the last few days. One car with broken window still there (and it had a "Club")

Question: is this happening elsewhere in the neighborhood or is our little area (which seems to be a visitor parking area for the neighborhood) especially blessed? Any clever ideas about what to do?

Jul 9, 2008

Worth Noting

Multifamily Zoning / Townhouses

Yesterday the Mayor released his proposals to update the City building code for multifamily buildings: in our neighborhood that's basically the area between John and Madison from the top of the hill down to about 24th - it's where condos used to sprout and where townhouses are now popping up everywhere. And that's why we might care: the revised rules (which will be given a good look over by Councilmember Sally Clark's committee before City Council votes on them) will affect how our neighborhood looks and feels for many years to come.

The Seattle Times article on the Mayor's announcement concentrated on the parts of the Mayor's proposals that will regulate townhouse developments and includes comments from a Miller resident. The Seattle P-I article article also concentrated on townhomes, but included good summaries of the main proposals in the legislation.

More info:

For a different point of view see:
If you want to help understand and influence these important changes to our neighborhood, you should come to the July 21st meeting of the the Central Area Neighborhood Plan Land Use, Open Space and Housing Committee (how's that for a name). Details:
CANP Land Use, Open Space and Housing Committee Meeting
July 21st (third monday of the month), 6:30 PM
Madrona Shelterhouse (near the corner of 34th and Marion in the Madrona Playfield)

We will be reviewing our Central Area Land Use Map and Zone Summaries.

I'll send out another email with links to materials for those who wish to prepare in advance. Ideally, it would be WONDERFUL if any of you would be willing to study a particular zone designation (or range) and be able to summarize the highlights of what can be built for the rest of us. Please let me know if you are willing.

Hope everybody is having a great summer! Kathryn.
(Contact Kathryn for more details, or to get on her mailing list)

Home Computer and Internet Security Workshop

Saturday, July 19, 10:00 - noon, Rainier Community Center, 4600 38th Ave South, Seattle

Learn tips and tricks for keeping your home computer safe from viruses, e-mail & money scams, spies and thieves.

Michael Hamilton and David Matthews work with the City of Seattle's Information Security Office. One of their most important responsibilities is keeping the City's computers and networks safe and secure.

Presented by City of Seattle Department of Information Technology with RecTech, a coalition of computer learning centers affiliated with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Community Centers and the Associated Recreation Council.

For more information visit www.seattle.gov/tech

Request to support swimming pools in Seattle

Dear Friends:
Five minutes of your time could literally make the difference for pools in Seattle! I hope you'll read my plea and then take action with a brief email - this is one of those battles we can win if we work together right now and blitz Council with emails in support of pools.

The Council's Levy Committee has submitted its final proposal for what's in and what's out of a potential new Parks Levy. View it at http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/council/attachments/levy/2008_2_final.pdf . As it stands now, the levy would NOT include aquatics. (Two new wading pools do not count.) However, one controversial item is an $11M allocation to the Seattle Asian Art Museum for facility upgrades. This allocation does not cleary fit the agreed upon project criteria and is becoming increasingly more difficult to justify as more and more parks activists are speaking out against it. When that money gets reallocated - let's make sure that at least some of it goes to funding a city-wide public pool task force - the mandatory step one in this long process. People can't fundraise for pools until City government legitimizes the cause.

This past Monday I asked Council to "do for pools what you did for skate parks." I also spoke about how pools mitigate a public health issue. See my testimony. Quoting Paula Bock's June 15th Seattle Times article The Power of the Pool, "Consider these startling numbers: Nearly 60 percent of African-American children between the ages of 6 and 16 can't swim, and they drown at three times the overall rate, according to a recent study by the University of Memphis. In Washington state, Asian-American children and adolescents have the highest rate of drowning — 18 percent of the deaths even though they are 7 percent of the state population. (Nationally, African Americans have the highest drowning rate.) See full article http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2004468944_pacificpswim15.html

Please contact 4 Councilmembers by July 17th (by email or phone.) In your own words, tell them:

  • To allocate funds toward a city-wide pool study
  • You are aware of my testimony on July 7th and support the request to fund Aquatics
  • You support the work of Elizabeth Nelson and the Project Seattle Pools Team (www.seattlepools.org)
  • You want to vote for another Parks Levy, but not one that ignores Aquatics - we live in a water town!

richard.conlin@seattle.gov; tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov; tim.burgess@seattle.gov; jan.drago@seattle.gov (members of the Parks Committee)

If you possibly can, make a personal statement at either of the remaining Parks Committee Public Hearings - Council Chambers, City Hall

Thursday, July 10 5:30 p.m., Thursday, July 17 5:30 p.m

For guidelines on how to effectively email Council and for address/phone info - please go to http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/council/councilcontact.htm


Christine Larsen 206-522-2522 christine.larsen@comcast.net

Jul 8, 2008

A quick spin around the block (Deano's, that is)

Will the Safeway Starbucks close?

Starbucks is planning to close ~ 600 underperforming stores. The one next to the Safeway on Madison might seem a likely target: the area was long depressed by the street drug-dealings, and is now awaiting the street activity that Jim Mueller's two nearby developments will bring (along with their own coffee shops?). Those won't be open for 2 0r 3 years, and the area (and the Starbucks) never seem terribly busy. I believe it is a a Magic Johnson "Urban Coffee Opportunities" store: don't know if that makes a difference.

The Wall Street Journal article has a map of closings confirmed by store employees, as does the Seattle Times, but neither mention it. Anyone heard any rumors about our local Starbucks?

Rash of burglaries in Central Area

An article in Tuesday's Seattle Times reiterates a recent report (and long comment thread) in the Central District News about a series of Central Area burglaries.

The usual platitudes apply: lock your doors, form a Block Watch (contact Mike Yasutake for information on that), look out for one another.

Jul 5, 2008

Care for a "Green Drink"?


Hosted by the Sustainable Central District

Greendrinks is an informal social networking event for those interested in sustainability and the environment to meet over drinks

5:30-8:00pm @ Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine
2000 South Jackson St. on the corner of 20th and Jackson
$2 drink and appetizer specials and a taste of cuisine of Eritrea

Tell your neighbors!

East Precinct Picnic Saturday, July 12th

East Precinct Picnic Saturday, July 12th (1:00-4:00 pm)

12th Avenue between Pike and Pine in front of the East Precinct (12th Ave. will be blocked off).
This annual event is a wonderful opportunity to meet all of your East Precinct neighbors and to meet all of your East Precicnt Officers and Personnel.

Official announcement:

There will be FREE food, fun activities for the kids, a raffle and information booths. Please let all of your friends and neighbors know too! NOTE: There are still opportunities for community groups and organizations to sign-up for information table. The deadline for this is Monday, July 7th. Please contact Mike Yasutake at: michael.yasutake@seattle.gov. Event is being sponsored by the Seattle Police Foundation.

Personal notes:

  • All the hotdogs you'll ever need
  • bomb disposal robots
  • armored car (I think we only have one)
  • police dogs
  • police horses
  • chat with Chief Kerlikowske
  • meet Police officers in a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere
  • maybe even win a valuable raffle prize

Lake Union Fireworks

Jul 2, 2008

Strange out-of-town event, Saturday July 12th

If you like beer and railroads (and who doesn't?) this could be just the day out that you've been looking for..... but maybe you'd better make a night of it and stay at the Iron Horse Bed and Breakfast afterwards.

Rails-To-Ales BREWFEST! GET DE-RAILED IN SOUTH CLE ELUM! At the Rails-To-Ales Brewfest on July 12, 2008, from 4-10 p.m. The event will be held in Iron Horse State Park located at the site of the Historic Milwaukee Road South Cle Elum Depot in South Cle Elum, WA.

Link to all you need to know.

Jul 1, 2008

Mysterious absence explained

Meg and I were away for a week's biking/camping vacation in Oregon and along the Columbia Gorge, including a stunning bike ride along the (then still closed to cars) Crater Lake east rim drive road.

Below is my amateur attempt to show you the joys of Crater Lake: a Quicktime VR panorama of some of it. Click on it to download it, open it in Quicktime Player, then zoom in & out and drag your mouse around in the picture to pan left/right/up/down. (Quicktime player for PC or for Mac available FREE here). Or you can view it using RealPlayer.

Here's the Quicktime VR file: Crater_Lake.qt (big 4 MB file, might take a while, but it's worth it)

Worth noting

Assorted housing/development related articles:

Cows: you missed 'em

But they will live forever in our hearts (or at least in hyperspace).

July 4th at the Bottleneck Lounge on Madison

Holiday Weekend travel predictions

WSDOT website predicts traffic backups on freeways over the July 4th holiday weekend.