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Thursday, October 30, 2008

SeaTac International Airport In Security Lockdown?

posted by on October 30 at 11:11 AM

This just in from Hot Tipper Janna:

A friend is at SeaTac airport which, he reports on his blog, is in security shutdown, though he has no word on why. Here's the entry and, knowing him, he'll continue to report as he gets news.

The news so far, from blogger Jay:

Sea-Tac is in a security lock down. No flight operations, everything is frozen. No further info. Group of writers trapped at C2D.

Stay tuned.

Beware the Eyeball Man

posted by on October 30 at 10:33 AM


This week's Last Days features the following item:

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23 In lighter news, today brings a report of "a little weirdness at Southcenter Mall" courtesy of Hot Tipper Desiree: "I was on the lower level, buckling my little girl into her stroller when a woman walked by, pointed her finger at a man, and yelled 'Stay away from me!' The man was just standing there, seemingly unaware of why the woman was freaking out. Then he turned to me and said, 'She must have seen me do this a couple weeks ago,' after which he placed his pinkies near the outer corners of his eyes and popped his eyeballs out of their sockets. I said, 'Yes, that's probably why she asked you to stay away,' and went about my business. It definitely made my trip to Southcenter worthwhile."

Today brings a follow-up report from Hot Tipper Spencer:

Unless there are several men out there in the greater Seattle area who are fond of disturbing passersby with eyeball stunts, I've run into the same guy as Desiree. A couple Sundays ago, I think it was, I was walking through Pike Place Market with my boyfriend, enjoying one of the last sunny days of the year, and doing a little grocery shopping. As we turned the corner up the hill at Stewart and Pike Pl., we passed a maybe-homeless guy, who suddenly shouted, "Hey! Look at that!" I turned to look at him just in time to see his eyeballs pop out from their sockets as he chuckled to himself. As someone with a couple eye-related phobias or neuroses, I looked away as quickly as possible and hurried up the hill, though the image stayed with me for some time. (Think this, but with added pink veins.)

One of these days, his eyes are going to stick like that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Transit Agencies Facing Cuts

posted by on October 29 at 1:46 PM

As King County Metro is mulling cutbacks to service (and the potential elimination of some voter-approved service upgrades) in the face of declining sales-tax revenues, our neighboring transit system to the south, Pierce Transit, just announced it is cutting 64 positions by laying off 19 employees and 13 contract workers and eliminating 32 unfilled positions. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, the agency says it will try to "keep the cuts from affecting service." Pierce Transit is also raising fares 25 cents.

And that's in response to an anticipated $17.5 million deficit--a fraction of what King County Metro is anticipating. According to Metro general manager Kevin Desmond, Metro's deficit is expected to grow from $83 million in 2009 to $87 million in 2010, dropping to between $60 and $70 million in 2011. Metro plans to make up some of that shortfall by raising fares another 50 cents, but at some point, they, too, are going to have to make cuts. It'll be a shame if those cuts impact transit service at a time when ridership is as high as it's ever been on Metro buses and on transit systems nationwide. Throughout the US, public transportation use has risen 32 percent since 1995, with 10.3 billion trips on public transit last year--the highest level in 50 years.

One potential source of funding is the federal government. Transit advocacy groups like the American Public Transportation Association have been lobbying Congress to adopt an economic-stimulus package that includes $8 billion in federal financing for local public-transit agencies. According to APTA, every dollar communities invest in public transit produces $6 in economic returns; every $1 billion the federal government invests in transit, meanwhile, leads to the creation of approximately 35,000 jobs.

"R.I.P. Ed Jackson"

posted by on October 29 at 1:03 PM

Sent to Last Days by Hot Tipper Josh:

I don't know if you'll be doing any kind of an article about him, but it would be cool if you could put a kind word in the paper about Ed Jackson. He's the manager at 1605 Bellevue who passed away [Monday] morning, and he was the best damn apartment manager on the Hill.

I lived there for almost three years and Ed was money: from dealing with the meth heads down the hall to fixing a broken garbage disposal, he had the entire building covered. He was a one-man security system, who, I swear to God, once chased an ornery hobo away from the building by threatening to kick his ass. Once Ed threatened to whoop his ass, the hobo smartly retreated, and we went back to watching Law & Order re-runs.

A few years later, I now live in the Capitol Steps, a couple buildings to the north and my window looks onto 1605. I used to have a nice view of the city, but now all I'm going to see is the charred remains of a great man's life.

Sincerely, Josh

P.S. If it turns out that Ed set the fire, that's cool with me. It was his building as much as anyone else's, and they were going to demolish it anyway. However if Ed didn't do it, there's a hot place in hell for the bastard that pulled this one off.

Turns out Ed did do it, and injured a fireman, which is a pretty crappy thing for a "great man" to do on his way out, but still, RIP.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

School District to Close, Combine Several Hippie Schools in NE Seattle

posted by on October 28 at 6:11 PM

Tomorrow, the Seattle School District will announce a plan to close Alternative School #1 in the Pinehurst neighborhood. The district will also convert Summit K-12 in Lake City, near Pinehurst, to a middle school.

The district, like every other public agency on the planet, is facing a budget crisis and has been looking for a solution to overcrowding in north-end schools. Under the plan, AS #1's building will be repurposed as a traditional elementary school. Summit would also likely absorb students from nearby Eckstein Middle School and become a traditional middle school.

Parents at Summit have been lobbying the district to keep the school intact, citing Summit's numerous arts programs, improved WASL scores, organic garden and apparent status as the only K-12 school in the state.

Summit parents have also been circulating a letter, complaining—as parents often do—that they haven't been adequately included in the district's discussions about the future of the school.

Summit's Jane Addams building can house 800 students—it currently only has about 500—while AS #1 is attended by about 200 students.

The change could come as early as next year.

Club Tax Rollback May Not Happen

posted by on October 28 at 5:27 PM

Musicians and club owners are starting to fret that a proposed rollback of the five-percent tax on ticket sales for small venues may be the next victim of city council budget cuts.

Earlier this year, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed rolling back the tax, which brings about $300,000 in revenues to the city every year, for venues that hold fewer than 1,000 people; regular show live music; and have a clean legal record. In theory, the tax cut would create a friendlier atmosphere for nightlife and put more money in musicians' pockets; according to nightlife lobbyist Tim Hatley, the money "all goes back to the musicians, because everybody gets their cut of the door." He adds, "Five percent may not seem like a lot, but every little bit helps."

However, with critical direct services to homeless people, low-income residents, kids, and the elderly facing potential budget cuts, some council sources say it's hard to justify a giveaway to clubs. The council's budget deliberations will continue through November.

Interbay Infighting

posted by on October 28 at 4:11 PM

Yesterday, the city council postponed a proposal to increase building heights in the Interbay neighborhood from 40 feet yo 85, as three proposals competed for council members' support.

The first two proposals are both versions of the one Dominic wrote about a few weeks ago. Both would allow the Freehold Group, a development company that owns two acres in Interbay, to build taller than is currently allowed in the neighborhood in exchange for building some "workforce" housing (housing affordable to people making 80 percent of the Seattle median)--a proposal that parallels a nascent citywide proposal to allow developers more height in exchange for housing incentives (also known as "incentive zoning").

The first, sponsored by land-use committee chair Sally Clark, would require that 20 percent of the housing above 65 feet be affordable; the second, sponsored by Nick Licata, would have the same requirement but would start it at 40 feet. Critics of Clark's proposal call it a giveaway to developers; in a letter to the council, David West, director of Puget Sound Sage, wrote that Clark's proposal would "erode much of the incentive for developers to provide public benefits." In another letter, the Housing Development Consortium, which represents nonprofit housing developers, expressed its support for Licata's proposal, noting that giving the developer a 25-foot height increase with no strings attached represents a nearly $600,000 giveaway.

Since making her initial proposal, Clark's office says, she developed concerns that the council would be setting a precedent that would allow developers to negotiate how much affordable housing they had to pay for. That's not exactly true--as council member Richard Conlin (whose own proposal I'll get to in a minute) points out, the council did the exact same thing for Vulcan's Amazon headquarters, at the mayor's behest, a year ago. Nonetheless, both Clark and council member Tim Burgess are reportedly lining up behind Licata's proposal, which Mayor Greg Nickels also supports.

Council president Conlin, meanwhile, has proposed his own very different version of the legislation. It would give the developer the upzone with no affordable housing requirement attached. Conlin says he's OK with letting the development move forward with no affordable housing incentive because the council hasn't come up with a citywide incentive zoning proposal yet, "and these guys have been waiting three years" for their upzone.

"These are small developers and small property owners," Conlin says. "We let Vulcan and Amazon jump the queue. I think it was fine to do that, but I don't think we should treat these guys differently" just because they're smaller, Conlin says.

A theory circulating in other quarters holds that Conlin is trying to make nice with the consultant for the developer, an influential Seattle lobbyist named Joe Quintana who co-founded a local PAC called Forward Seattle last year, in preparation for a possible run for mayor. Conlin scoffs that that theory. "We try not to do those kinds of things," Conlin says. "If [the mayor's office] wants to play those kind of games, that's their problem." Quintana has given $650 to Conlin's reelection campaign, and $475 to Mayor Greg Nickels's. Forward Seattle, which is funded primarily by developers, including Vulcan, and Builders United in Legislative Development (BUILD), a construction-industry PAC. BUILD has given $250 to Conlin, and Vulcan has given $250 to both Conlin and Nickels.

The full council is scheduled to take up some version of the Interbay rezone next Monday, November 3.

City Sustainability Office Deemed Unsustainable

posted by on October 28 at 2:39 PM

UPDATE: Council president Richard Conlin, who was rumored to be the source of the proposal, says that although "it's perfectly valid to put [OSE] on the table," he doesn't "think it's going to happen."

The city's Office of Sustainability and the Environment could be eliminated or drastically downsized by the city council, as part of an effort to restore some of the direct service cuts proposed in Mayor Greg Nickels's budget. The city, like the county, is facing a shortfall in sales-tax revenues that is only expected to worsen over the next few years; in addition, real estate excise taxes, which apply to real-estate sales and fund capital projects, have more or less evaporated.

OSE is widely regarded as one of the city's biggest recent success stories. Currently, the office is working to implement the Seattle Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce Seattle's greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050. OSE is also in charge of the Urban Forest Management Plan, which maintains, preserves and protects in-city forests; the Restore Our Waters strategy, which promotes stream, creek, and shoreline restoration; and the Green Building Task Force, which is pushing to increase energy efficiency in all new buildings by 20 percent.

The council is considering three proposals, which could be adopted separately or together. The first would cut OSE's budget for professional services by $75,000, which would mean cuts to the office's climate-change and urban forestry programs. The second would require OSE to come up with a tool to help the city quantify the climate impact of various legislative proposals--a new, unfunded responsibility. The third and most significant would eliminate OSE and consolidate some of its functions into the mayor's Office of Policy and Management, saving $250,000 and eliminating at least two jobs (including OSE director Mike Mann's; Mann did not return a call for comment.)

A report created by city council staff acknowledges that getting rid of OSE would "arguably 'lower the profile' of the Climate Change and Green Seattle initiatives. That's an understatement, according to environmental advocates (and, naturally, the mayor's office). "I don't get it," says Michael McGinn, head of the Seattle Great City Initiative. "The OSE has been a source of really positive change. ... Considering the leadership that's come out of that office, I don't know what the rationale for cutting it would be." As an internal memo issued by the mayor's office put it, "The issues around environmental protection and addressing global warming are becoming more relevant for municipalities, not less."

On the other hand, OSE is hardly the only city department being targeted for budget cuts. For example, the council is also proposing to eliminate the Office of Economic Development and shift its duties to the Office of Housing--eliminating 12 positions and saving an estimated $1.1 million a year. Other OED programs, including the Office of Film and Music and programs that provide job training for low-income people, would move to the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Human Services Department.

For more on potential changes to the mayor's budget proposal, check out the council's budget page.

Marion Apartments Fire Ruled Arson, May Have Been Set By Last Remaining Tenant

posted by on October 28 at 12:33 PM

Seattle Fire Department investigators have determined that the blaze which killed 89-year-old Ed Jackson and injured one firefighter was intentionally set.

However, SPD is not investigating the case as a homicide.

As Dominic reported yesterday, Jackson—the former manager of the building—had ignored two orders from the Marion's owner to vacate his first floor unit and was the last remaining tenant in the building, which had been scheduled for demolition.

Capitol Hill Seattle is reporting that a gun was found at the scene of the fire. SPD would not confirm, but it doesn't appear that Jackson was the victim of foul play.

UPDATE: According to a source familiar with the investigation, Jackson was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

UPDATE 2: King County Medical Examiner confirms it was suicide.

Monday, October 27, 2008

County Unions Agree to Furlough in Exchange for Raise

posted by on October 27 at 4:07 PM

King County Executive Ron Sims just announced that he has reached an agreement with KC union members, under which all county employees (including non-union employees, and excluding transit and safety staff) will take an unpaid furlough of ten days; in exchange, all county employees will receive a 4.88 percent cost-of-living raise. The furlough days would be adjacent to paid holidays--giving county employees, a series of four-day weekends, with one of the two days off unpaid. The furlough-pay raise combo should still result in higher pay overall (the furlough would reduce pay by about 3.8 percent, which works out to a 1.08 percent net pay increase); however, for salaried employees whose workload stays the same whether they're paid or not, the "furlough" could just mean ten unpaid days of work per year.

The furloughs, offset by the raises, will save the county about $10 million per year.

Roosevelt: New Deal or No Deal

posted by on October 27 at 3:55 PM

At an open house on Saturday, developers presented a plan to build apartments on 52 properties in the Roosevelt neighborhood to dozens of conflicted residents. On one hand, neighbors welcome any improvement to the lots. Many of the properties, mostly rental houses owned by controversial landlord Hugh Sisley, have unkempt lawns, cracked paint, and overgrown gutters. On the other hand, the developers want to replace those houses with “the highest and best use” for the sites—and some neighbors revile the idea of towers.

The proposal, as it happens, coincides with the neighborhood's plan to allow taller buildings. A Sound Transit station will be constructed underground at 12th Avenue NE and NE 65th Street, if Proposition 1 passes next week. Residents are fine with buildings as tall as 40 feet around the station, but many residents say that Sisley wants 12-story towers—akin to proposals near the Northgate light-rail station.

“My concern is that all stations [would be] created equal,” says Jim O’Halloran, chair of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association’s land use committee. "Sisley has not proven himself an urban planner.” O’Halloran think the city should limit buildings to between four and six stories.

But if Sisley doesn’t get more height, he may back out of the deal and leave his houses as-is. Ed Hewson, a principal of Roosevelt Development Group, says “We will have to walk away and hand back our options to Mr. Sisley … if we can’t get enough density and reach a reasonable compromise.” The development company would manage the properties under a 100-year lease agreement. Hewson, however, would not divulge what a "reasonable" height would be. Sisley did not attend the meeting and did not return calls.

At Saturday's meeting, Roosevelt residents enumerated their concerns—most of them typical of groups facing taller buildings. Those worries included out-of-scale developments, shadows cast on houses, and an influx of renters.

“If it’s a big swath of rentals—I’m not trying to be classist—it can be run-down,” says Kristen Lohse, a homeowner. She says she’s seen drug busts in the area while walking around with her two kids. But, she acknowledges, “I have to imagine anything would be an improvement.”

Bellevue's Business Establishment: Yes On Proposition 1!

posted by on October 27 at 3:17 PM

Last week, I reported that the Bellevue Downtown Association, which represents downtown Bellevue developers, landowners, and businesses, had endorsed Proposition 1, the mass transit expansion measure. I called the BDA "Kemper Freeman's own group," a reference to the largest landowner in downtown Bellevue and a member of the downtown association's board. Since then, some close readers have pointed out that the real Freeman-controlled group isn't the BDA, but the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, which Freeman used to chair and in which he is heavily involved.

Well, today, the Bellevue Chamber voted 22 to 18 to endorse Proposition 1 -- a huge break for the group, which has consistently opposed light rail in the past. Of all the communities served by Proposition 1, Bellevue (specifically, Freeman's own Bellevue Square) may see the biggest benefit. But the Chamber's endorsement remains a huge burn on Freeman, who tried to get the group to make a "no" endorsement.

A Death in the Marion Apartments

posted by on October 27 at 1:28 PM

After defying repeated calls to vacate his apartment, the last remaining resident and former manager of a Capitol Hill apartment building died in a fire that started this morning on his floor. More info from the dailies is here and here.

The blaze started on the first floor of the Marion Apartments, at the corner of Bellevue Avenue and East Pine Street, says Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Dana Vander Houwen. “The fire expanded pretty quickly all the way up to the roof,” she says.


The 89-year-old man had lived there for 40 years, says a friend, Capitol Hill activist Dennis Saxman. The building’s owner had sent the man a notice five or six months ago, Saxman says, informing him that the building would soon be demolished and requiring him to vacate the premises within 90 days. But he stayed in his apartment. Then, more than two weeks ago, the owners issued another notice telling him to vacate the premises within ten days. But he stayed.

The man had also owned another business that left him with tons of surplus equipment—such as flashlights, electronics, hardware, water bottles, batteries, papers, and other stuff—which he kept in his cars, in the apartment, and on the balcony.

“His apartment was such that there were boxes and papers stacked five to six feet high,” says Saxman. “You could only walk through a narrow path—through what I think was his living room,” he says. “He had enough pens to last all the elementary schools of Seattle.”

“He had all this stuff that he couldn’t bear parting with,” says Saxman. “But it wasn’t just stuff--this was his life.”

The fire department’s Vander Houwen didn’t know if the fire started in the man’s apartment. But, she says, “His unit was the only unit with anything in it. The rest of the building seemed to be cleared out.” Seattle police are joining the investigation because there was a fatality.

The man had contacted Saxman about six months ago to applaud his land-use activism. Saxman had filed an appeal to block a six-story development planned on the site of the Marion Apartments. Saxman contended the proposed contemporary building design conflicted with Pike-Pine neighborhood’s design guidelines, which promote designs like the older buildings in the area. He recently lost the appeal.

RapidRide Under Fire?

posted by on October 27 at 11:45 AM

Last week, the Daily Journal of Commerce reported that King County Metro's proposed RapidRide bus routes--the five "bus rapid transit" routes approved as part of 2006's Transit Now taxing measure--may not materialize. By 2010, when RapidRide buses are supposed to start running, the county will need another $60 million a year to run its transit division, "and county officials do not know now where that additional money will come from."

The DJC's story isn't quite accurate--the reporter apparently based her statements on some very general remarks about service cuts made by Metro general manager Kevin Desmond at a briefing more than a month ago--but the fact remains that the RapidRide routes could go away, if Metro's budget situation remains dire enough to warrant a council vote to kill the three voter-approved routes. Because the specific programs were approved by voters, killing them would require a vote by a supermajority, or six members, of the nine-member council. Right now, Desmond told me Friday, Metro "doesn't contemplate cutting back any service or scaling back Transit Now." However, Desmond acknowledged, Metro is in a serious financial crisis.

"We do have a very significant financial problem caused by a very sharp downturn in sales tax receipts," Desmond said. "Hopefully by 2010," when the RapidRide routes are supposed to open, "we'll have a sharper recovery than is expected. Otherwise, we'll have to identify some other revenue sources to keep the program going."

Could Transit Now programs be on that list? Desmond says nothing is off the table. "With the sales tax dropping so much, we're not collecting the money from Transit Now that we had planned. And for the rest of the [Metro] program, we're also not collecting as much as we had anticipated," Desmond said. "It certainly does call into question, in the long term, our ability to maintain our current programs."

Washington State, which does not have an income tax, relies heavily on sales tax receipts to fund basic government programs. Sales tax revenues to state and local government agencies fell more sharply in Washington State than anywhere else in the country--11.3 percent, compared to a 7.3 percent national median decline, according to the Wall Street Journal.


posted by on October 27 at 11:14 AM

Former City Council Member Jeanette Williams.

Friday, October 24, 2008

OPA Actually Sustains Some Complaints In This Month's Report

posted by on October 24 at 5:22 PM

There are five sustained complaints in this month's report from the Office of Professional Accountability, which handles internal investigations for the Seattle Police Department.

Three of the charges were against one officer involved in a domestic violence incident. Another was against an officer who failed to file a use of force report.

The best one (and by best I don't mean good):

An SPD dispatcher, while off duty, apparently picked up a 16-year-old boy—who was a runaway—took him home, gave him alcohol and had sex with him.

OPA reports do not include information about employee discipline.

I Read the County Budget So You Don't Have To

posted by on October 24 at 4:35 PM

When he announced his plans to deal with a projected county budget deficit of $93 million, King County Executive Ron Sims put $10.5 million of those cuts in a category he called a "lifeboat"--programs that will be cut on June 30, 2009, unless the county comes up with a new long-term, stable funding source to pay for them. The "lifeboat" programs include critical health, human-services, and public safety programs.

Although the proposed cuts to public safety have been drawing the bulk of media coverage--thanks in large part to KC Sheriff Sue Rahr's relentless PR campaign--cuts to other county programs, including transit, health, and human services, strike at the very core of what county government is about. Food banks, aid to homebound seniors, domestic-violence services, programs to help struggling mothers, disease control, and public health centers all would be eliminated or drastically reduced.

Some of the specific cuts and changes, culled by reading the budget itself (YOU'RE WELCOME!) follow.

• Mental Health Court. King County's mental health court has been extremely successful in getting mentally ill convicts out of jail and giving them access to treatment, job training, and other services. If permanent funding isn't found elsewhere, Sims's proposed budget would eliminate mental health court completely by 2011.

• Domestic Violence Programs. Sims's budget would (again, if the "lifeboat" programs aren't funded elsewhere) eliminate the county's domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs. This includes the Step-Up program for violent teens at risk of becoming violent adults and all other county domestic-violence programs.

• Drug Diversion Court. Another "lifeboat" program, drug diversion court offers nonviolent defendants the chance to go through treatment in lieu of jail. If no money is found, drug court will go away by 2010; according to a 2006 study, each graduate of drug diversion court saves the state $14,848 due to reduced prison costs.

• Cuts to Discretionary Jail Programs. In addition to public-safety cuts, the county jail will save money by cutting the number of inmates in psychiatric housing (putting them instead in "community programs"); ending funding to the Central Area Motivation Program, which provides food, emergency shelter, job training, and housing; eliminating county funding for Sound Mental Health's prisoner re-entry program; and ending King County library services at county jails. And that's just the immediate cuts; long-term (as in, next year), cuts could include the Community Center for Alternative Programs, which provides classes and treatment to reduce recidivism; the Helping Hands program, which hooks ex-inmates up with community service; and the Learning Center, which provides job, literacy, and life-skills programs to former inmates.

• Chemical Dependency and Detox Programs. The county's budget could also eliminate or cut a number of programs aimed at helping former inmates with chemical-dependency problems, including chemical dependency classes for work-release inmates, housing vouchers for former inmates who get out of jail and have nowhere to go, help and supportive housing and detox case management for people who go through the county's sobering center and detox facilities.

• The Racial Disparity Project. The executive's budget would eliminate funding for the Defender Association's Racial Disparity Project, which helped kill a controversial Seattle impound law that disproportionately impacted poor people and minorities.

• Public Health. Public health is one of the areas hardest hit by Sims's budget proposal, in part because most of its programs are legally considered "discretionary." Sims's budget could reduce the county TB control program; eliminate a program that provides street outreach to pregnant women with substance-abuse problems; close the White Center Family Planning Clinic, which serves 2,500 clients, half of them uninsured, and eliminate family-planning services at two other public-health centers; eliminate or cut several programs that investigate communicable diseases like Hantavirus, bird flu, and hepatitis; eliminate all school-based dental health prevention programs outside Seattle; close the county's Northshore clinic, resulting in more "unintended pregnancies, more difficult pregnancies and more babies born underweight with associated health and developmental problems," according to the budget; eliminate visits to isolated seniors with chronic diseases in rural King County; and end vaccination services at some county health clinics, among many other cuts.

It's far from clear, of course, whether all the budget cuts Sims has proposed will actually be implemented. King County Council member Larry Phillips, who is thinking about challenging Sims for executive, may come out with a competing budget of his own. And there remains some mystery about how the county got in this crisis in the first place; three years ago, Sims declared the "turnaround complete, [the] county transformed," asserting that "Cost control, stable revenues and prudent management has put us on the verge of solving the structural deficit we faced these last few years." Two years later, the county budget has ballooned from $3.35 billion to $4.9 billion--a 50 percent increase. Could that extra spending help account for why the county currently finds itself in a budget crisis?

Second, Sims's proposal assumes county unions will make a number of large concessions, including accepting smaller cost-of-living increases than they agreed to in their contracts. So far, however, the unions have not agreed to any actual concessions, and some union members reportedly worry that reopening contract negotiations will lead to a major labor dispute.

Seattle's Scariest Lady

posted by on October 24 at 3:52 PM

Tonight: Talking with Spirits with Chantelle! At the Seattle Museum of the Mysteries:

Meet one of Seattle's most talented sensitives.

A Clairsentient all her life, Chantelle has an ability to communicate to the other side. Ask your questions about life, career and those that have passed on. Come meet what people say is Seattle's scariest lady and see for yourself—if you dare! $5 sugg. donation


She DOES look scary! Her coffeemaker in the background: not so scary looking. The big question: Will she "disgorge a cloud of white stuff like a medium in an oldfashioned seance"???

This Is What Happens When You Play In the Street

posted by on October 24 at 3:48 PM

The Seattle Urban Golf league has apparently been dissolved and several golfers may face criminal charges after a bystander was hit with a foam golf ball during a drunken game of golf on Capitol Hill over the weekend.

Seattle Urban Golf has been around for about three years. Participants bring their own putters and swat foam golf balls through the streets in a 9-hole course, drawn with chalk. Each hole is conveniently located near a bar.


During this weekend's event, police were called to Boylston and Pine around 8 pm after a golfer struck a bystander with a foam golf ball. The golfer has since posted a lengthy apology on Craigslist.

I was playing my way to the final hole, in the street between the BMW
dealership and the mini-mart on Boylston.

My swing was good and connected squarely with the ball, and for the first time that outing I got some decent loft - unfortunately my technique was far from perfect
and it began to hook. My ball flew over an obstacle and hit a man on a cell phone squarely in the face!

I was embarrassed, and flustered, and, since it was nearly the last
hole, I may have been a bit hasty in my reaction. I offered to pay for
any medical bills, but apparently this was taken as sarcasm.

According to Eric, one of the golfers who was arrested, at least four squad cars showed up after the man called 911, and police rounded up about 20-30 golfers.
"I was just putting my way down the sidewalk when a bunch of police cruisers swept in," he says.

Eric—who asked that we not publish his last name—was not involved in the golf ball "assault," but he says he was arrested for obstruction after he refused to show an officer ID—earlier today, a Tacoma judge ruled that refusing to show ID is not a crime. At the precinct, Eric says he saw two other golfers in holding cells. He was released after about two hours.

This isn't the first time Seattle Urban Golfers have gotten in trouble. Eric says police were called to an event in Georgetown last year after someone hit a car with a golf ball.
Still, Eric says, golfers try to play safe.

"Yes people get good and drunk but there’s a pretty major emphasis on don’t jaywalk, don’t block traffic, don’t piss off the neighbors, always use foam balls and plan on having a safe ride home," Eric says "[But] there’s a credible effort to mitigate the recipe for disaster that is 100 drunks wandering around Capitol Hill with golf clubs."

Eric has contacted the ACLU and will be filing a complaint with SPD's Office of Professional Accountability.

"I think [this is] a predictable lesson in what happens when you get a large group of people together to drink, swing golf clubs and walk around the neighborhood together," Eric says.

Seattle Parks Wants You To Keep It In Your Pants

posted by on October 24 at 2:06 PM

Bad news, freeballers: the Seattle Parks Department is "revising" its policy on nudity to make sure no one has to look at your junk in a public park.

Although that's pretty much been Parks' stance all along, there's been a push by, well, one dude—who just so happens to be groundskeeper for Parks—to get the city to allow nudity in public parks.

On November 13th, the Parks board will meet to firm up the city's park nudity policy but according to Seattle Parks Department spokeswoman Dewey Potter, nudity is (still) "going to be allowed indoors but not outdoors."

Parks took another look at its policy after receiving complaints about an unauthorized naked bike ride in a Seattle park last June. Last year, a nudist group also made several requests to rent an outdoor parks facility, all of which were denied.

Potter says that after examining the state's indecent exposure laws and looking at other cities policies, the Parks department will allow groups to rent indoor parks facilities for nekkid parties but cannot rent outdoor facilities like Colman Pool to "keep nudity from disrupting enjoyment of parks by the general public."

Never fear, pantsless parkgoers. While you may not be able to have an officially sanctioned event in a Seattle park, you can always have a spontaneous, unapproved event. "We’ve never permitted [a nude event]," Potter says, "but they take place all the time."

Currently Hanging

posted by on October 24 at 1:42 PM

Near the intersection of Broadway and Madison:


Mass Transit Now Volunteer Opportunities!

posted by on October 24 at 10:18 AM

If you, like us, are supporting the Mass Transit Now campaign, now's your chance to do more than just vote for 36 miles of light rail and 100,000 new hours of express bus service. This weekend is full of opportunities all over the region to volunteer with the campaign.

In King County:

The campaign will be dropping literature in the Green Lake neighborhood starting at 10:00 this Saturday morning. Volunteers will meet at the Green Lake Starbucks. The campaign recommends bringing a bag for literature and comfortable shoes; the lit drop will go for about two hours.

Later that same day, from 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon, they'll be handing out stickers and literature outside Husky Stadium. Meet at the bus stop in front of the UW Hospital at 3:30.

In Pierce County:

The campaign will be doing a rally in Tacoma on Saturday morning, followed by a lit drop in the 27th legislative district. The rally will feature Tacoma City Council Member (and Sound Transit Board Member) Julie Anderson and light rail supporters from the Tacoma and Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the Tacoma Streetcar group. Rally starts at the Tacoma Dome Link Light Rail Station at 10 am; lit dropping will start right afterward and go for about two hours.

In Snohomish County:

The campaign will be passing out stickers and literature to shoppers attending Galapalooza and Skate America in Everett on Saturday afternoon. Meet at the corner of Hewitt and Broadway at 1:00 pm.

For more information on these or any other campaign volunteer opportunities, contact volunteer coordinator Rebecca Hansen here

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Freeman's Own Group Backs Light Rail

posted by on October 23 at 2:38 PM

Yesterday, the Bellevue Downtown Association--perhaps the group most closely associated with light-rail opponent Kemper Freeman, the largest landowner in downtown Bellevue and a BDA board member--voted to endorse Proposition 1, the mass-transit measure, striking a blow to its most prominent member. Freeman reportedly convinced the BDA to put the Mass Transit Now campaign through extra hoops to get its endorsement.

According to the campaign's press release,

The BDA said Proposition 1 was a necessary step in providing near and long-term transit solutions for the fast-growing number of downtown Bellevue workers, residents, and visitors.

“Our ability to grow and thrive as an urban center is linked to accessibility,” said BDA Board Chair Jill Ostrem. “We approached this decision asking, ‘What’s best for Downtown Bellevue?’ Connecting downtown with the region through safe and reliable mass transit is essential to our community’s future success.”

This is a pretty astonishing endorsement. It shows that Freeman—a guy who, 13 years ago, declared private cars the victor in the war against transit—is out of touch with the very business establishment he helped establish. Bellevue's moving on, and Kemper isn't keeping up.

Lima vs. Lima

posted by on October 23 at 1:42 PM

This Lima...

...still dominates this Lima...
Picture%202.png ...on the first pages of a Google image search. We must thank the gods of the universe that Sarah Palin's name is not Seattle Palin.

County May Eliminate Bike Subsidy

posted by on October 23 at 1:16 PM

Amid all the talk about the so-called "bike bailout" included in the recently adopted financial rescue package (which is actually a tax break for employers who choose to subsidize biking to work), one employer--cash-strapped King County--is actually talking about eliminating a $20-a-month subsidy for bike commuters, for a total savings of $37,000 a year. That's approximately .04 percent of the county's projected $90 million budget deficit, which could cost several hundred county employees their jobs. The King County Council will consider legislation to eliminate the subsidy on Monday, November 3.

Yesterday's Mismatched Transit Debate

posted by on October 23 at 11:53 AM

A scene from the rally outside.

I rode my bike out to the University of Washington yesterday to catch the debate on Proposition 1, the mass-transit expansion measure, between Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Bellevue land magnate Kemper Freeman. Freeman was so outmatched by Nickels on charisma, statistics, and general coherence, however, that it seems almost unfair to call it a "debate."

Traffic jam.

Almost. This is the man, after all, who has poured more than $100,000 into the effort to kill Proposition 1; who put twice that amount into the campaign against last year's roads and transit ballot measure; and who once, according to legend, refused to set foot on a bus that had been chartered to give him a tour of East King County--just, you know, on principle.

So--however doddering he seemed yesterday, however out of touch, rambling, and just plain inaccurate his arguments--it's hard to feel too sorry for the guy.

Yes, that's a weird bandage on his nose. No, I don't know what it was doing there.

Freeman's main argument seemed to be that light rail doesn't serve enough people, and that buses and lots of new freeways would. (Never mind that he also supports Initiative 985, which would clog all those wonderful bus lanes Freeman envisions with single-occupancy drivers--or that freeways aren't exactly cheap.) "This proposition is about one in 200 of us who are not using transit today using transit in the future," Freeman said, a phony statistic he also pulled out at last week's CityClub debate with King County Council Member Dow Constantine. "They are pretending that we can somehow solve our transportation problem with public transit, and in fact it is impossible." Freeman even charged that the only way light rail will serve as many people as Sound Transit says it can--up to a million trips per day--is if "you hire people to shove people in like they do in Japan."

Freeman also argued that because Seattle isn't as dense as New York--an example he brought up half a dozen times--light rail won't work here. "I've studied Portland... I spent three days in Portland ... I saw buildings [along the light rail line] that were totally empty, that had gone bankrupt. I saw retail spaces that were totally empty." It wasn't the first, or the last, time Freeman would refer to his extensive (and expensive) work "studying" transit systems in other cities, only to find every single one of them lacking. Finally, he argued that light rail was a dirty technology because it runs on electricity, and "over 40 percent of the electricity in the US is made from burning coal." Nickels quickly eviscerated that fish-in-a-barrel argument, pointing out that the Puget Sound region's electricity is almost exclusively (clean) hydropower--something Freeman presumably knows.

On his game.

In contrast to the jumpy Freeman, Nickels appeared relaxed, comfortable, even funny. Maybe it's that he really feels strongly about light rail, or maybe he just shouldn't read his speeches, but Nickels was more on game than I've ever seen him. He noted, first, that light rail boosters aren't trying to solve all the region's transportation problems--they're just trying to make it easier for people to get around during the busiest times of the day. "The trips that we’re particularly concerned about are the trips into and out of our major urban centers, like UW and downtown Bellevue and Northgate," Nickels said. "This will not eliminate congestion. … What it will do is create the capacity for up to a million people a day to take light rail rather than get on the freeway in their individual automobiles." Freeman, bizarrely, made the same point in arguing against light rail, noting that trips to and from work "are less than one fifth of our trips in this region. Our public leaders have been leading us down a wild goose chase and we can't do that," Freeman said.

But that, Nickels noted, was exactly the point: Transit is supposed to serve people at the most congested times. "The problem is that we all try to get to and from work and to and from the university at the same time every day," Nickels said. "We wouldn’t have to put down another cubic foot of concrete if all those trips were spread out throughout the day and night."

As for the ultimate number of people the system could serve, Nickels acknowledged that a million is on the high end. (Officially, Sound Transit predicts there will be about 300,000 light-rail boardings daily by 2030.) But, he noted, Nickels's and Freeman's car-dependent generations are being overtaken by younger people who want new ways of getting around. "As we shape our cities and our region around transit, and as young people replace those of us who grew up totally dependent on the automobile, I think that those models vastly underestimate what we’re likely to see happen," Nickels said. "I expect that the actual use will far outpace what the models show today."

SPU, You Know Not What You Do

posted by on October 23 at 11:50 AM

Seattle Public Utilities is looking to rebrand itself and is taking suggestions for a new tagline. Which is probably a mistake, but whatever.

There's an online survey here where you can rate SPU's service and suggest a new tagline—I suggested "Soylent Green is people!!!—so we don't end up with something embarrassing like "recycling 2.0" or "waste not Seattle."

Sloggers, get to work.

Letter of the Day

posted by on October 23 at 11:43 AM

HEY STRANGER: Thanks for your article of 21 October on "Ending the Occupation." I just want to say that I am pissed off at military recruiters. They are quite possibly the most corrupted human beings on this planet, with the exception of Dino Rossi and John McBush. They lie to children (like they lied to me when I was 17), and how the city of Seattle can allow them free-roaming access to teen events on public property is beyond me. If the city allowed carnival workers to set up recruiting tables and harrass teens at their events, there would be a major shitstorm. (And carnival workers don't even make you do pushups).

Seattle needs to wake up and see military recruiters for what they are: vultures selling our children into servitude. Take this Iraq veteran's word for it: Once you let the army set up gimmicks and violent videogames in city parks, you are only a step away from getting calls in the middle of the night from your children while serving multiple tours in Iraq. Don't believe me? Ask my mom.

Evan Knappenberger
OIF 05-07 Veteran

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who Killed The Wall of Death?

posted by on October 22 at 3:12 PM

Yesterday, Dan posted that someone at the city had installed a strip of rocks along a concrete ramp at the Wall of Death, an art installation along the Burke Gilman Trail which has been used as a makeshift skatepark for years.

Well, It looks like we've figured out who killed the Wall of Death: the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

"SDOT was responsible for installing those rocks," says SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan.

Sheridan says SDOT—which maintains the Burke Gilman—decided to install the rock work after receiving "a number of complaints from users about skateboarders" in the last few years.

According to Sheridan, SDOT has received seven complaints about skaters and in August, a skater and a cyclist were involved in a "head-on collision." That's when SDOT decided to install the rock barrier.

"[When] we have a crash on the heels of a number of complaints we just couldn’t ignore it anymore," Sheridan says. "We decided we couldn’t’ wait any longer."

Skaters have already begun emailing city hall about the loss of their makeshift park and there's rumbling on some skater message boards about installing a ramp on top of SDOT's rock work.

Sheridan wouldn't comment on the possibility of makeshift ramps being installed at the Wall of Death. He did say, however, that any DIY construction "would undermine the safety of the trail."

Kiss and Make Nice

posted by on October 22 at 3:10 PM

You may recall that Mike Ross’s plans for kissing fighter jets in the Capitol Hill Sound Transit Station nearly incited a riot in spring. Well, designs for the station—including those pastel jets—are now 90 percent complete. So you better start liking them.


Tonight Sound Transit will unveil a near-final draft of art by Ross and the talented Ellen Forney, who is creating a mural for the station, as well as station architecture, green-wall landscaping, and the art installations they’ll be planting in storefronts while they get ready to build.

Writes Forney:

I'm hoping people come so they can ask their questions to Sound Transit instead of to me: what Broadway is going to look like between now and 2016 (dunno!), if Mike is going to buy his planes directly from the defense department (no), why they're excavating (yawn) instead of burrowing under the ground (neat-o).

Check out the open house from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. in room 4106 of Seattle Central Community College, 710 Broadway. Forney says there’ll be big displays on easels, computer-generated movies, and free water.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Overheard at 1st & Pike

posted by on October 21 at 4:57 PM


Drunk #1: "Where the ffffuhck did the coffee place go?"

Drunk #2: "They closed. I guess—I guess they got tired of throwin' us out, I guess."

Drunk #1: "I'd say that's a good guess."

Seattle's Best Coffee, Johnny Rockets, Stone Cold Creamery, that second-floor porn shop—all attempts at classing up that block seem to have failed.

SE Seattle: Bus Service on Rainier

posted by on October 21 at 4:43 PM

In my post on bus service changes in Southeast Seattle yesterday, I mentioned in passing that it seemed like Metro was planning to cut an awful lot of routes that currently run on Rainier Ave. South. Although all the Metro staffers who might know exactly how many routes run along Rainier are busy hosting two public meetings on the bus changes at the Holly Park Community Church today, I used Metro's route list to get a sense of what kind of service will remain on Rainier if all Metro's route cuts go through. First, here's a (probably noncomprehensive) list of the routes that run on Rainier: the 7, the 7 Express, the 9 Express, the 34, 39, the 42, the 42 Express, the 48, the 106, and the 107. Of those, only the 7 and the 9 would be unaffected by Metro's rerouting proposals. (Like yesterday, I'm ignoring the changes Metro says it may consider "depending on resources available," such as more-frequent service on the 9, on the assumption that a bunch of resources aren't going to fall on Metro from the sky any time soon.) The 7 Express would be eliminated; the 34 would be eliminated; the 39 would be either eliminated or shortened; the 42 and 42 Express would be eliminated; the 48 would either be shortened to exclude most of South Seattle or no longer serve Columbia City; the 106 would be moved off Rainier; and the 107 would be moved off Rainier. So that's eight bus routes that currently run on Rainier that Metro is proposing to eliminate, shorten, or move away from Rainier.

Despite all those cuts, Metro is not proposing to increase service along other routes on Rainier; of three potential new all-day routes, only one--the new one-way loop, Route 108--is partly on Rainier. And it's in Renton.

Lest you think access to transit is a simple matter of walking to the nearest light rail station, think again. Light rail will do a great job of serving people who can get to MLK by bus, bike, or on foot. But if Metro doesn't greatly enhance bus access from points east of the light rail line, they could be leaving whole neighborhoods without easy access to transit service. Right now, Metro's proposing exactly three new bus connections that would only improve access to light rail for residents of Mount Baker, Rainier Beach, and Seward Park. That isn't enough. Rainier and MLK aren't close together in most of the Rainier Valley, and there are lots of neighborhoods east of Rainier besides Seward Park.

In the comments yesterday, someone suggested that Metro might have targeted Rainier for so many cuts because of a "road diet" it had planned for Rainier that would reduce the number of lanes in the road. Not true. According to a letter written by Seattle Department of Transportation planners Tony Mazzella and Eric Widstrand and posted on the Columbia Citizens web site, SDOT has abandoned plans to shrink Rainier, because doing so "would result in very significant delays on Rainier for transit and all other traffic." Instead, they're widening sidewalks near bus stops, improving striping, and adding--you guessed it--sharrows. A better solution would be to get rid of all the on-street parking (it slows traffic, right? so SDOT should like that) and turn those "extra" lanes into bus-only lanes or lanes for buses and bikes. But, this being Seattle, pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders get lane markings, "bus bulbs," and "special signs in business districts."

Incidentally, while I was looking up bus routes, I came across Metro's real-time bus tracker. It's pretty cool, if utterly useless unless you're sitting at a fast computer. (And actually even then--it's not like you can make the buses move faster WITH YOUR MIND). Anyway, I grabbed a screen shot that illustrates the problem with bus service on Rainier as it currently exists: Four 7s, all lined up a few blocks away from one another. Somewhere down the line, someone has been waiting a long, long time for one of those buses to show up.


RIP Wall of Death

posted by on October 21 at 2:29 PM


Responding to my post yesterday about the city's destruction of a famous and much-loved skate spot, Seattle Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter writes...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your phone message yesterday. Seattle Department of Transportation, which owns the property, did the work because the number of complaints and incidents of cyclists and walkers being hit made it clear it was a safety issue.

Parks recently opened a new skatepark at Woodland Park, and we're working on new skateboard parks at Delridge Community Center and Playfield in West Seattle, at Dahl Playfield in northeast, and at Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill.


My response...

Dear Dewey,

Can you provide me with some documentation—police and emergency reports—of incidents where cyclists and walkers were hit by flying skaters? Do you have any proof that there was a safety problem at the Wall of Death? I'd like to see it, please.

It has been my impression, as a frequent user of BGT, that skaters there, like skaters at skateparks, are very conscientious about when it is and isn't safe to "drop in." I ride the BGT on my bike several times a week, and I've never seen an accident or even a near miss. It is also my impression that the Wall of Death skate spot is used—excuse me, was used—more frequently by skaters in the winter and rainier months, when the BGT isn't being used by many cyclists or walkers.

And as cyclists and walkers are primarily menaced and harmed by drivers, can I look forward to the banning of cars from our streets?

Please respond about when I can expect to see some documentation of the safety problems at the Wall of Death. Thank you.

Dan Savage

We're filing a public disclosure request with the Seattle Police Department about any incidents involving skateboarders colliding with cyclists and walkers at The Wall of Death.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What He Said

posted by on October 20 at 6:19 PM

Just in case your eyes aren't bleeding from my zillion-word post on bus route changes, here's another transit post--this one about another good reason to vote for light rail. In brief: It creates neighborhoods in a way that buses don't and can't. Dan Bertolet:

There have been buses running down Rainier Ave. for more than half a century, but development over those years has been unfocused and highly car-dependent. The difference between buses and fixed guideway transit is that a decade from now the oceans of asphalt parking lot surrounding the McClellan light rail station will be gone, replaced by the mixed-use residential buildings and open spaces of a vibrant new urban village. Over in Bellevue we can expect to see a similar transformation in the Bel-Red Corridor if Proposition 1 passes.

Pretty much any time light rail is proposed anywhere in the U.S, people will impugn it by reducing the total investment to a cost per ride that sounds expensive. Left out of their equation, however, are long-term, systemic and transformative effects that are not easily quantified, but are substantial nonetheless. Others deride the “light rail faithful” for supporting a transit system that doesn’t provide the direct benefit of a stop right outside their own front doors. Similarly, what’s missing with this gripe is the insight to grasp that most light rail proponents recognize the big picture benefits, and are willing to be unselfish.

The benefits of light rail aren't just for the people who ride it. Transit transforms cities, directs neighborhood development, and makes it easier for everyone to get around--not just the people who live a block away from a transit station.

Big Changes Coming To Bus Service in SE Seattle

posted by on October 20 at 5:56 PM

Big changes are underway for bus service in Southeast Seattle, where King County Metro plans to re-route, reschedule, or eliminate more than a dozen existing routes. (Details and route maps available here). I got my flyer in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Here's a rundown of the proposals, along with some observations (I'm ignoring the "potential service enhancements" on the theory that Metro isn't going to have a lot of discretionary cash for a long, long time).

1) Get rid of the Route 7 express, which runs infrequently between Rainier Beach and downtown during morning and afternoon rush hours, and extend service on the Route 9 (Rainier Beach to Capitol Hill) to serve the Rainier Beach light rail station. As a frequent Route 9 and non-express rider, I won't actually benefit from these changes (I would benefit from one of the fabled "potential enhancements," "more frequent service on Route 9 express," but I won't get my hopes up); but it's a no-brainer to improve access to light rail from points east of MLK. However, if Metro improves access to Rainier Beach without making it easier for everyone else in the Rainier Valley between Othello and MLK to access light rail too, they aren't going to see many people leaving Rainier for light rail; it doesn't matter how fast it is if you can't get to it.

2) Extend Route 14 (Mount Baker to downtown) to serve the light-rail station at Rainier and MLK (the "Mount Baker station."). From here, the Mount Baker proposals break into two options. Both would eliminate the Route 42 on MLK (which duplicates light rail), and both would eliminate a small segment of the 14 between the Mount Baker station and S. Hanford Street. Plan A would extend all 48 trips to Rainier Beach but eliminate service to Columbia City along S. Alaska St., and eliminate service between Beacon Hill and SoDo on the 38. Plan B would create a new route 109 between Skyway and Mount Baker, but would basically eliminate service on the 48 to the south end. It would also eliminate the 38. Both plans seem like mixed bags for South Seattle residents--the first one screws Beacon Hill who need to get to SoDo and Columbia City residents who want to head west (to light rail, for example); the second might improve travel times on the 48 for north end residents, but for southenders, it creates a new milk run that could be as slow and unreliable as the 7.

3) Eliminate the Route 34 between Rainier Beach and downtown, and either: a) also eliminate Routes 35 and 39 and "replace" them with a new, infrequent (every 30 minutes to an hour) Route 50 serving Seward Park and the northmost end of Columbia City; or b) keep the 39 but end it at Othello instead of Henderson in Rainier Beach. It's hard to see why cutting a route entirely and replacing it with one that serves fewer people is better than cutting it somewhat but serving almost everyone.

4) I don't know enough about Renton/Skyway transit issues to speak fluently on them, so I'll just tell you what they're proposing: Eliminating service on the 7 between Henderson and Prentice Street, and either: a) extending the 107 from Renton to serve the Rainier Beach rail station; moving the 107 off Rainier and onto 62nd Ave. S., eliminating service for some riders; and creating the Route 109 mentioned above; or b) rerouting the 107 even further east, along the route of the 109 (not included in this proposal), and making it longer; and creating a crazy-looking loop Route 108 to serve Rainier Beach, Skyway, and West Hill.

5) No more route 32 from downtown to Beacon Hill and Rainier Beach (who knew so many bus routes ended up in Rainier Beach?), and a shorter, all-trolley Route 36 that would only run to the Othello light rail station (instead of, once again, Rainier Beach). A longer Route 106 would pick up some of that slack, but it would no longer serve Rainier Ave. S. Is it me, or does an awful lot of service on Rainier get eliminated under Metro's plan?

6) Cut the 194 to the airport, which light rail would duplicate, and replace it when light rail isn't running with a new Route 195. This seems like a totally common-sense move that no one except anti-rail zealots could oppose, though I suppose someone will try to prove me wrong.

A few observations from other places. Seattle Transit Blog points out that Metro's proposals miss a big opportunity to link the Rainier Valley to other parts of South Seattle--in other words, it still assumes, like the current bus system, that you're trying to get downtown--and not, say, between Beacon Hill and Rainier. As nice as it will be to get to points north without having to go through downtown, sometimes you just want to go from Georgetown to Columbia City (which is currently more or less impossible).

The Rainier Valley Post has (uncharacteristically) little to say about the changes, but commenters there note that what Southeast Seattle needs is more bus service, not less. Given that Metro's recent "service improvements" failed to provide a minute of additional service in Southeast Seattle, I'd say that's about right.

Scott at the Central District News is psyched about the changes, noting optimistically, "it would be nice if this all worked out as planned."

I agree. And I'm optimistic. I hope Metro will find the money, political will, and vision to create a bus system that works with light rail and makes the whole city easier to access without a car.

If you want to learn more about changes to bus service in Southeast Seattle (or to share your thoughts or concerns with Metro staff), Metro is holding a series of community meetings on the proposal. The first one was last week, but there are still seven more to go; information, including addresses and times, below the jump.

Continue reading "Big Changes Coming To Bus Service in SE Seattle" »

City Destroys Famous Skate Spot

posted by on October 20 at 4:36 PM


The "Wall of Death" is a piece of public art under University Bridge. It's also the nickname for a famous skate spot—it was the nickname for a famous skate spot—under University Bridge. For years skateboarders have been doing tricks on the steeply sloped concrete ramp that faces the "Wall of Death," a ramp that abuts the small segment of the Burke Gilman Trail that cuts under University Bridge. Skaters would wait for a lull in bike/jogging/walking traffic, and drop in. In the winter, when it's wet and cold and few people bike, skaters had the spot pretty much to themselves. You can see skateboarders riding the "Wall of Death" here (@ 3:28) and here (@ :36) and here. This blurry screengrab from one of the YouTube videos above shows you what the "Wall of Death" used to look like:


And here's a picture I took yesterday showing what the "Wall of Death" looks like now...


The city—SDOT? the parks department?—recently tore up a three-foot wide trench in the ramp and set large rocks in concrete. There could only be one reason to do this: to prevent boarders from skating the "Wall of Death." Here's a close up of the city's handiwork. You can see in my "after" image that someone has placed a piece of plywood over the rocks in an effort to make the ramp skateable again.

I put a call in to the city to find out why, after all these years, they felt that they had to destroy this famous skate spot.

In the meantime, skaters, it's clear the city wants you to find a new hobbies, something else to do, some other way of occupying your time. Perhaps the city would rather you all take up, oh, tagging? There's a whole fuck of a lot of blank concrete under the University Bridge that you can't skate anymore, and the place obviously isn't landmarked or anything—otherwise the city wouldn't have altered it they way they did—so, hey, if you're looking for something to do...

It's Hailing...

posted by on October 20 at 2:40 PM


...right now, outside my window.

Viaduct Death Watch!

posted by on October 20 at 12:10 PM

A 25 foot piece of concrete guardrail fell off the Alaskan Way Viaduct earlier this morning after a hit and run accident.

According to Washington State Department of Transportation engineer Ron Paananen, a large vehicle—possibly a delivery truck— hit the guardrail on the Seneca Street offramp, knocking a sizable piece of concrete to the street below.

"It was a solid piece about 25 feet long or so. It's an old piece of guardrail," Paananen says. "The railing is not built to the standards we would build railings to today."

WSDOT crews have removed the piece of guard rail and will close a lane of traffic at some point to install a temporary barrier.

The viaduct was closed over the weekend for a safety inspection.


Photo by cliff1066 via Flickr

Coming Soon to a Dino Rossi Attack Ad...

posted by on October 20 at 11:44 AM

...15-foot chunk of concrete falls of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Does the City Have the Guts (and the Money) to Protect Pike-Pine?

posted by on October 15 at 5:27 PM

About 30 people milled around a room at Seattle Central Community College last night, cocking their heads to read color-coded maps of the Pike-Pine neighborhood. On one of the maps, yellow represented buildings that are susceptible to redevelopment.


The group had come to discuss ways to protect Pike-Pine's older buildings, low-income renters, and arts organizations threatened by new development. Since 1990, Pike-Pine's population increased 21.3 percent--mostly residents of new buildings--and 12 more buildings are in the works

“I think what many of us want to do here is retain the character of the neighborhood,” said City Council Member Tom Rasmussen. He commissioned a report, which was released in September, that makes several recommendations. Primarily, the strategies revolve around incentives for property owners to preserve the old buildings and their historic uses, such as payment for not redeveloping old buildings, bonuses for leaving facades intact, and limiting the footprint of new buildings. He expects to introduce legislation next year.

But several neighbors doubted whether incentives were enough to protect the neighborhood. Chip Wall, director of the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council said the proposals lacked “teeth.”

“A lot of incentives are great, but they are not enough to preserve the buildings without land-marking each one of them,” said Betsy Hunter, director of property development for the low-income housing provider Capitol Hill Housing. The neighborhood has 278 buildings over 85 years old.

But Rasmussen wants to avoid landmark preservation as a strategy, even though it is listed as the last of the 10 recommendations in the report. “There could be so much push back from property owners,” he said after the meeting, that “it may not be worth it.” Instead he is trying to find a compromise that satisfies property owners, residents, and arts organizations.

Dennis Meier, a urban designer for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, says landmark nomination "would take a number of years to do, and substantial resources to do it." But, he says, “there isn’t anything preventing it.”