May 31, 2009

Letter to Parks Department asking for playfield improvements

Sent 5/29/09 to Superintendent Gallagher ( and Assistant Superintendent Christopher Williams ( 

Please send them your views and add them as comments to this post, or E-mail them to Andrew Taylor (


Dear Superintendent Gallagher,

I write to thank you and our City for taking the efforts (and no doubt making painful cuts elsewhere) to find the money to allow the replacement of the playfield surface at Miller to proceed. All the teams that play there will greatly enjoy the safe playing surface, the neighbors will enjoy the lack of dust and the more natural color, and we will all benefit from the savings in irrigation water.

I would like to suggest a few simple improvements that will make the renovated Miller playfield an even more pleasant environment for all. I have circulated these ideas to neighbors and sports teams via our neighborhood blog, and would refer you to the latest post there ( for a summary of the ideas, and links to more details of them.

In brief the ideas are as follows:

1) Free time on the field for pickup games ( we live in a neighborhood of active youths and adults, who would appreciate the possibility of pickup games on an ongoing basis. We appreciate that there is a great demand for field time, but believe that this is a workable idea. I note that time for pickup games has been advertised for many years at the Queen Anne Bowl, and that the schedule for the newly surfaced Loyal Heights playfield is available online ( We suggest that a modest fraction of the playing time be set aside for community use, and be advertised in the new kiosk at the site and on the Parks website.

2) Encourage teams to use off-street parking ( The 50 place lower parking lot at Miller (Parks property, but traditionally used by Meany school staff during the day) is very rarely used by playfield attendees. This creates some friction with the neighborhood [increasingly so as our neighborhood gets more dense] and can create great traffic jams during Summer Little League games. I suggest that our City provides better signage to the parking lot, and that teams be required to distribute maps to their players (I offer a prototype map).

3) Equip the outdoor bathrooms at Miller Community Center with automatic locks, to allow their use by players after evening games ( These outdoor bathrooms are rarely unlocked [I suspect Miller staff are too busy to unlock them] and are never available for players to use before their trips home after games: neighbors have reported on several occasions that players use the bushes near their homes for bathroom purposes.

I have seen such self-locking bathrooms in several parks around our State (Monroe, Tacoma, Manchester). The redevelopment of Madison Street has almost eliminated the drug dealing and vagrancy issues that used to plague our park, so I believe that they will cause no problems. I have had feedback from other park users (parents with small children) noting that the outside bathrooms are rarely open.

In summary, these proposed changes are simple and inexpensive and will help neighbors and players live in harmony around our resurfaced (and undoubtedly much busier) Miller Playfield. I note that some other neighborhoods have only accepted resurfaced playfields with great reluctance. We celebrate and enjoy our lovely, centrally located open space, and are eager to share it with others. These simple measures will help us all to get along even better, and continue to be a model of happy coexistence.

My neighbors and I would be happy to meet with you to explore these ideas further. Copied below is a letter from a ballfield advocate.

Looking forward to a new playfield,

Many thanks
Andrew Taylor
Miller Park Neighborhood Association
Vice-President, Miller Advisory Council





Hi Andrew – These three items are all worthy of consideration. I would think field users would readily support 2 and 3. The following are my personal opinions and do not reflect other boardmember positions.
#2: Parks can and should be working with the sports leagues at each playfield to encourage use of proper parking areas. A map with this info should be posted at each playfield. (Would be nice if each PF had a kiosk.)
#3: Players are all for keeping bathrooms open. This is usually either a neighborhood issue of not wanting undesirables hanging out or lack of money to maintain. We’d prefer not to have to pee in the bushes.
#1 is more controversial. We understand the desire for more pickup but the reality is that there is so much demand for field time that sports leagues already cannot get enough practice and game time. Sports leagues are made up of kids and adults from your neighborhood and that is how most participate in active recreation these days (for better or worse). Posting the field schedule on the web is an easy first step and there are no problems with that.
Not to downplay your issues but there are many other fields issues taking my time right now. I lend my support to your conversation with Tim Gallagher but just don’t have time to do it all. Good luck, BF


Bill Farmer/Friends of Athletic Fields

Updated: New 'townhouses' which are actually a SRO rooming house


(got this from a neighbor a few weeks ago, and sent it on to Marty Liebowitz : Marty  (  has built several innovative small developments in our area (eg Tempus Fugit, 2500 block E. John) and has been talking of a similar sort of development down on MLK, near the grocery store. His illuminating reply is below. )

Hi Andrew -
Wonder if you saw the fliers at the construction site on 23rd and John?  The owner of Calhoun Properties got a permit for townhouses (which went up rapidly right behind the John/23rd intersection.) However, these 'townhouses' are not that. 
Instead, he is building a high end rooming house.  I wonder if this is legal - and if it is, the neighbors should have been told these were not condos/townhouses, but rather a high end SRO 'short term' hotel.
here's the website attached to the flier - appears they are targeting students.  Although our blocks are L3 for multifamily, this is a new one on me.  I think the neighbors / Miller Area need to know about this new 'kink' in the system.
Thanks Andrew for getting the word out. 

Multifamily zoning has always allowed "congregate" housing- a new name for SRO or rooming house needs. I dont assume that the units are specifically geared to students but to anyone who wants to live alone (ie no roomates). The caveate on this housing type is that they have no individual kitchens within each unit- what a "kitchen" is according to land use officials is a space with a "range/stove", hence, a microwave in a unit is ok. They must share a common kitchen space. In these dire economic times, alternative forms of housing for people who are living on limited incomes is needed. Hotels are not permitted in this zone and dilligent moniteering by interested neighbors is important to make sure the project doesnt turn into an Inn, hotel, brothel, or other forms of transient housing. If this occurs, then the city can rescind the "Occupancy Permit" if neighbors bring the matter to the attention of the DPD enforcement division.  Regards, Marty

May 28, 2009

Coming June 12th: digital-only TV

Reposted 5/28/09:

If you only receive TV over the old-fashioned airwaves (no cable or satellite), and you haven't been paying attention, you may get a nasty shock after June 12th. After that date the TV towers in town will ONLY broadcast digital signals, and you'll need a converter box to turn those signals into something your old steam-powered TV can digest.

I sent for my two $40 off certificates, took them to Best Buy, and came home with two of their converter boxes: rated better but not best by Consumer Reports.

It all seems to work fairly well, with one (geeky) caveat. Most of our existing (non-digital) stations transmit in the VHF band: you use the long telescoping antenna on top of your TV. All of our digital TV signals (except KCTS, channel 9) are UHF channels, which you receive with the little circular or bow-tie shaped antenna on top of your TV. UHF signals travel "line of sight", so you may have problems with set-top antennas and the Queen Anne transmitters (channels 4, 5 and 7). I find I can get some of those stations only upstairs in my house.

Digital TV is essentially "all or nothing": no weak, snowy picture - you either get a great picture or a blank screen (or a picture that freezes and breaks up into lots of little boxes). I've noted that planes flying over can cause that latter sort of interference. The digital bonus feature is that several of the stations actually broadcast multiple digital signals.

Conclusion: it works, it's easy and (if you don't have cable) you'll really have no choice after June 12th, 2009. You might need to spring for an external antenna for channels 4, 5 and 7.

[Update, 9/18/08] See comments for updates (from KCTS) about which stations will switch back to VHF after the transition. See this KING-TV article (and links) for much more info.

May 4, 2009

Miller Playfield resurfacing will happen: time to lobby for extras

Last Fall, when I advertised the Nov. 5th Parks meeting about the proposed playfield resurfacing, I made 3 suggestions for ways that the project could be made even better (and which would minimize the impact of expanded field use on the neighborhood). 

Since then we've entered a recession, and the City has been making drastic cuts, and raiding Parks Advisory Council funds. Nonetheless the Mayor has decided to go ahead with the Miller Playfield resurfacing that we heard about last year. Project Manager Ted Holden tells me that a bid has been accepted for the project: work should start by the end of June and the field should be playable by mid-September. He noted that he'll be installing an information kiosk near the fountain pumphouse to display playfield rules, parking suggestions etc.

Now is the time to act on my suggestions: I'm seeking volunteers to join me in meeting with Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher to argue for them (E-mail Andrew) . E-mails/calls/letters  to him would also be useful.

My suggestions were as follows (see links for full details):

1) Free time on the field for pickup games.  Knowing the field schedule would help here: I note that the new Loyal Heights field has its schedule online.  We should push for a similar service: it could also be posted in the new field kiosk.

2) Encouraging teams to use off-street parking. This involves better signage to the lower parking lot, and a requirement for teams to distribute maps to the parking lot to their players. The reopening of the field would be a great time to start this. 

3) Keeping the bathrooms open to allow after-game use.  Several neighbors at last November's meeting noted that players peed in the park before driving home after games. 

Suggestions 1 and 2 should cost almost nothing. Please contact me if you'd like to come and convince Tim Gallagher that these ideas would make our resurfaced playfield an even better resource for the community. (E-mail Andrew).