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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Magnolians Sue to Block Homeless Housing

posted by on October 15 at 2:26 PM

UPDATED: 3:30 P.M.

The Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council is suing the city of Seattle to stop a housing development on the Fort Lawton Army Reserve Base in Discovery Park.

In 2005, the federal government decided to close the 55-acre base, and the Department of Defense had asked the city to redevelop the land and include homeless assistance. So the city council passed a resolution in September, proposing the city's Office of Housing develop more than 150 new housing units, including 85 units for the homeless.

But the MNPC, which describes itself in the suit as seeking to “maintain the environmental quality and residential character in the Magnolia neighborhood,” alleges that the city is violating the Discovery Park Master Plan, established in the 1974, and that it has failed to follow proper procedures for approving new development there.

But the city says the plan was thoroughly vetted with neighbors. "We went through a really long process with the community to redevelop the plan, which is what they are complaining about," says Julie Moore, a spokeswoman for Office of Housing. "We had around 20 public meetings in 2008 alone."

Although the group is framing this as an issue about unwanted housing and density, calling for "No Housing Developments at Discovery Park," the gripe seems to stem from the prospect of homeless people invading Magnolia. Discovery Park historically has included a housing development--for military families. But in September, KING-5 Television reported that a member of the MNPC, Elizabeth Campbell, said, "It called for homeless assistance as one element and also the homeless could be located at a substitute site.” The MNPC, since the council passed the resolution, has been gathering funds for this legal challenge.

"The city is committed to the plan to end homelessness [in King County]," says Moore. "When the army closed the base we saw it as opportunity to build a mixed-income community. Right now there are a lot of parking lots there."

The MNPC’s attorney hasn't returned calls to comment.

Re: Elevated Blogging

posted by on October 15 at 10:15 AM

Left Coast writes in the comments...

[Anyone] who knows Chicago will tell you that the traffic there is as bad anywhere. Dan is whining about Seattle being worse than Chicago, but he'd be hysterics if he had to deal with Chicago traffic on a daily basis. That's not to say that Chicago doesn't have perks—Wrigley is awesome, and the architecture is very interesting—just to say that Dan is a passive-agressive whiner.

I may be a passive-aggressive whiner, Left Coast, but I grew up in Chicago and I'm familiar with the traffic in my hometown. And I don't think I've ever written that the traffic in Seattle is any worse than the traffic in Chicago. (Chicago, however, isn't on the US Department of Transportation's list of the nine US cities with the worst traffic jams—and Seattle is.) What I've hammered away at for years now is that we lack of options in Seattle. In Chicago, if you don't want to sit in traffic, you take the train. If you don't want to take the train, you can sit in traffic. It's your choice. But you can't bitch about your ass being stuck in traffic if you decide to drive since you chose get your ass stuck traffic in the first place.

Well, you can bitch about it. It's just that no one will take you seriously.

Again, I grew up in Chicago—but I never had to "deal with Chicago traffic on a daily basis" because I took the El wherever I needed to go. Still do. Flew in to town yesterday, took an Orange Line train from Midway Airport to the Loop, had dinner with my brother, caught a commuter rail train out to my stepfather's house. And it's true: the traffic in Chicago was terrible—or it looked that way, at least, from the windows of the trains I took yesterday, trains that allowed me to avoid Chicago's hysteria-inducing traffic.

Building light rail in Seattle won't solve our traffic woes but it will give us options—including the option of moving closer to light-rail stations if we so choose, and avoiding, when possible, Seattle's own brand of hysteria-inducing traffic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Freeman Dumps $100K Into Anti-Transit "Campaign"

posted by on October 14 at 3:49 PM


Until this week, opponents of this year's mass-transit expansion measure--AKA Proposition 1, which you'll find on the bottom of your King, Pierce, or Snohomish County ballot--have been laying low, dropping only $20,000 into the anti-transit, pro-roads "No to Prop. 1" campaign. In the past week or so, however, the road warriors have come out in force, dumping $112,000 into the anti-Sound Transit effort. Fully $100,000 of that money came from Bellevue land mogul Kemper Freeman--a perennial transit opponent who's working to defeat light rail even though it would go directly to one of his largest downtown Bellevue developments. The remaining $12,000 came from Belltown zillionaire Mark Baerwaldt, Fremont landowner Suzie Burke, downtown developer Matt Griffin, and cell-phone magnate Bruce McCaw. Those five contributors are joined by longtime anti-rail zealots John Niles and Donald Padelford, Oak Harbor Freight Lines and the Washington Asphalt Paving Association, and H. Chaffey Investments--bringing the total number of supporters for the anti-light-rail "campaign" to ten. In contrast, the Mass Transit Now campaign has more than 200 donors... and has raised more than half a million so far, to the "no" campaign's $150,000.

Sally Clark: A Welcome Exception

posted by on October 14 at 11:02 AM

In a city notorious for drawn-out decision-making, City Council Member Sally Clark is pushing two housing bills through her committee with refreshing speed. Her agenda is sure to upset some housing advocates, developers, and the mayor’s office—but she’s deftly striking a balance.

Clark received two proposals from the mayor’s office within the past six weeks. The first--already four years in the sausage grinder--would increase height limits in the Interbay neighborhood. The second would allow developers, as the city increases height limits in neighborhood centers, to build taller buildings as long as they include a set amount of "workforce housing" (housing affordable to the middle class) in the additional space.

Clark responded to the mayor's proposals by almost doubling the affordable housing requirement, and sending the Interbay legislation to the council for a full vote on October 27.

But the divergent political agendas facing Clark may have frozen many Seattle politicians, particularly after a hearing last Tuesday. Affordable housing advocates and developers joined forces—with opposite goals, of course—to delay both bills.

Michael Woo, representing the Construction Clearing House, which advocates for low-income renters, said, “We are asking that the council slow the process down and allow us to have the time to reevaluate the proposals.”

“It would be hard to be slower than we’ve been, Michael, but we hear you,” said Clark.

Woo and other affordable housing advocates, such as the housing and labor group Sage, are also pushing for “development with justice,” which would bundle the workforce housing legislation with a requirement for better pay and benefits for construction workers. They say Clark should postpone the Interbay proposal until the citywide housing legislation is complete.

Developers, meanwhile, argue that the new affordable housing program, when applied around the city’s patchwork of existing height limits, would provide a disincentive to build in places where the city has said it wants taller buildings. For example, the city has identified South Lake Union as a target for greater density.

Lyn Tangen, a spokeswoman for South Lake Union developer Vulcan, says, “If it costs more to develop north of Denny as opposed to south of Denny, that is a problem for us.”

Despite pressure from advocates (who will likely never reach a consensus), Clark says it makes sense to pass the affordable housing legislation now, setting “clear rules that are easy for us to follow.” With the intention to pass the legislation before the end of the year, she is holding another meeting next week. She acknowledges the importance of better conditions for construction workers. Still, she’s unsure that issue should share an ordinance with affordable housing requirements. In the meantime, she pushing an increased affordable housing standard--20 percent of additional space required as workforce housing--that could be applied around the city, but which would still allow flexibility in places like South Lake Union. “I wouldn't want this to be a sign that we don’t have the political will to set a threshold number,” says Clark.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sims Announces Major Budget Cuts; More, Possibly, To Come

posted by on October 13 at 2:38 PM

King County Executive Ron Sims just announced what he called an "unconventional" plan to reduce the county budget by $93 million, the projected shortfall for next year. In addition to slashing jobs across the board--400 positions, "some of them friends I have known for decades," will be cut--Sims proposed creating a "lifeboat" fund that would keep certain critical services, including public safety, human services, health, and housing programs, afloat until after the next session of the state legislature. The county hopes to convince legislators in Olympia to give it new authority to fix a structural deficit that can be blamed largely on Tim Eyman's Initiative 747, which limits property tax increases to one percent a year. (Although the courts struck 747 down, the state legislature codified it in 2007). If legislators decline to lift the property-tax cap or give the county another avenue for raising revenues, those "lifeboat" programs--which will cost the county about $12 million to maintain for half a year--will go away. By 2012, Sims estimated, the county's parks system would have to be shuttered as well.

The county council is in recess, and is expected to respond to Sims's budget announcement in a moment.

Safety First!

posted by on October 13 at 11:17 AM

I'm sure it's entirely above board for an ominous, black bundle of electrical wiring to swoop down from above and just kick it there on the sidewalk, inches from the feet of passersby and the noses of dogs. I'm sure that one lonely, brave orange cone is the standard safety precaution for this type of—what?—maintenance? And I'm sure there's absolutely no way I could possibly get zapped by this big rubber sidewalk snake.


But STILL. This has been alarming me for like a week now. ZZZAP!!!

One of My Favorite Bars Moves Even Closer to My Front Door

posted by on October 13 at 11:14 AM


Central District News has the scoop:

The Twilight Exit is on the move. They've called Madison St. home since the early aughts, creating a friendly spot for neighborhood drinks since way back when that area was still the stalking ground of many a crack addict. But their current home is slated for they've been on the hunt for a new spot. And last night I heard from the Mayor of Miller Park that they had found one, and are preparing to take over the old La Louisiana spot on Cherry between 25th & 26th. The current plan is to make the move sometime in December, pending permits and other assorted official steps.

Here's hoping the Twilight's chicken-fried bacon (pictured above), karaoke, and swoony sunset mural make the jump, too.

How Was Your Saturday Night Blackout?

posted by on October 13 at 9:28 AM


I mean the literal one, in which a falling tree branch took down a power line on 22nd between Marion and Union, knocking out power for a big chunk of southeast Capitol Hill/northwest Central District from roughly 9 pm Saturday till 3 am Sunday.

As the Central District News reports, Seattle City Light described the outage as stretching from Pine St to Main St (north-south) and from 24th Ave to 12th Ave (east-west).

My household was in the dark thick of it, and we enjoyed a lovely evening of candles and previously downloaded This American Life podcasts played through a battery-powered MP3 speaker system.

How was your blackout?

Who Says Our Economy Isn't Creating New Jobs?

posted by on October 13 at 8:43 AM


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Big Sister Is Watching

posted by on October 12 at 4:57 PM


Followed this bus all the way down Capitol Hill yesterday on our way to the U-District. Now I'm feeling terribly self-conscious about my ugly bathroom. It's tiny—7' by 7'—and every surface is covered in lavender formica. A huge Japanese soaking tub takes up most of the tiny space, the sink is wedged in behind a door, and the narrow shower stall was designed for a recreational vehicle, not a house. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Since our full-size hot water heater doesn't heat enough water to fill the Japanese soaking tub, we use it to store cleaning supplies and empty aspirin bottles.

But we live with it, we live with it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Probation Officer Who Accused Police of Harassment Charged With Assault

posted by on October 10 at 10:14 AM

A King County Superior Court juvenile probation officer who says she was harassed by Seattle Police Department officers last month has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

Yvette Gaston, who described her encounter with police at an NAACP press conference on racial profiling two weeks ago, says she was grabbed and harassed by officers in September after she attempted to intervene in an encounter between police and one of her teenage clients.

Last month, Gaston says she took a young man clothes shopping and dropped him off in the Central District. Minutes later, she received a call from the teen, who told Gaston that police had stopped him for jaywalking and accused him of stealing the clothes.

Gaston, who is black, drove to the scene to show the (white) officers the receipt for the clothing.

Gaston says the officers then grabbed and harassed her, and claims that when she tried to call 911, one of the officers involved in the confrontation told the 911 operator to cancel the call. Gaston says officers later called King County Superior Court to complain. She is now being charged with assault for the incident.

Gaston—who not arrested during the incident—has filed a complaint with SPD's Office of Professional Accountability.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pancakes Are the Bomb

posted by on October 9 at 4:28 PM


On October 2nd, Seattle Police were called to the International House of Pancakes on Capitol Hill after the business received a bomb threat.

According to a police report, IHOP staff members told police they received a call around 11pm—possibly from a black male in his 40s, the report says—who told an employee "everybody needs to get out because I'm gonna blow the mutha fucka up."

IHOP staff called police and evacuated the building. Some time later, an employee went back in the the restaurant to search for a bomb and found nothing.


Photo by jmoisesreyes via Flickr

That Clumsy Homeless Man Must Have Provoked That Dog Somehow

posted by on October 9 at 1:34 PM

This just in from Slog Tipper Matt Fuckin' Hickey:

This morning at 3rd and Pine, my bus stopped at one of those in-the-middle-of-the-street stops. Three people got on at the back door, one with a pitbull on a leash.

The bus driver said over the intercom, "Sorry, no pitbulls on my bus."

The guy said, "What? He's just a puppy, he won't hurt anyone."

The driver said, "I don't care, I'm not comfortable having a pitbull on my bus. I'm sorry, you have to take the next bus."

The guy (and his pitbull) got off the bus, obviously upset. As I watched out the window, a homeless guy walked by them and bumped the lady he was with. The pitbull bit him on the leg and the bus pulled away. It was surreal.

I'm not sure what happened next. The dog seemed nice enough when they got on the bus, but I think this just illustrates how these animals can be.

Grouse about confirmation bias in the comments.

King County Deputies, SPD SWAT Team Evict Man From Capitol Hill Apartment

posted by on October 9 at 12:54 PM


King County Sherrif's Deputies called in the SPD SWAT team to assist with an eviction earlier today after a man refused to leave his apartment on 11th and Denny.

Police were told the man had a gun in his apartment and called in brought in SWAT as a precautionary measure. Officers blocked off the intersection at 11th and Denny and north side of Cal Anderson Park.

After SWAT arrived, police say the man came out peacefully and no crime was committed. Officers recovered a shotgun and ammunition at the scene.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Michael Seiwerath Moving to Capitol Hill Housing

posted by on October 8 at 12:15 PM

Just yesterday the Stranger arts crew was wondering where Michael Seiwerath—the outgoing artistic director of the Northwest Film Forum and a certified Stranger genius—was headed after his triumphant stint at NWFF. Today brought an answer to my inbox, from Mr. Seiwerath himself:

I want to left you know I have accepted the offer of a position at Capitol Hill Housing as the Director of Fund Development. For years, I have been a huge supporter of this non-profit Public Development Authority and their mission of providing affordable housing in a cultural context on Capitol Hill and throughout Seattle. The position is focusing on fundraising, external outreach, cultural and community relations and the larger mission of growing the number of buildings for CHH.

Capitol Hill Housing has long played a leadership role in Seattle. In protecting and expanding affordable housing stock in Seattle, they have won awards for smart mixed-use design, and embraced affordable green building early on. CHH was one of the key organizations behind the revitalization of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and recently began a new initiative to guide the thriving 12th Avenue corridor in the Central District and International District. They are committed to diverse neighborhoods and preserving the cultural fabric of the city, and are a leader to others working in affordable housing.

I am proud to say that I am leaving Northwest Film Forum in excellent shape. The staff and board are stronger than ever, and excellent leaders of the organization and advocates of its mission. Last week, we closed our fiscal year in the black, with stable finances and a surplus. This week, we close our Local Sightings Film Festival, which is expertly curated and full of packed screenings. As the city’s first cinematheque, a center for filmmakers and film lovers, the work of NWFF continues without pause.

Congrats, CHH, and best of luck, MS.

The Big Ban

posted by on October 8 at 4:00 AM

At around 3:45 am, suddenly from the street below, a sharp and determined car alarm struck the heart of my sleep and killed it. I'm now doomed to see the day, whose dawn has not yet arrived, through dead-red eyes. Car alarms must be banned from the city! Banned!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Layoffs Coming at King County

posted by on October 7 at 4:17 PM

King County executive Ron Sims just sent an email to all county employees informing them that there will be "a substantial number of layoffs" due to the county's projected $90 million shortfall.

From Sims's letter:

Through hard work, tough choices and innovation we have closed all but $15 million dollars of the gap. However, in the end it was not possible to find over $90 million in program and service reductions in one year without drastically compromising King County's first rate criminal justice system or dismantling King County's public health and human services safety net.

Much of the county shortfall, as I reported in August (third item) is due to the county's formula for determining cost of living adjustment raises, which relies heavily on gas prices. When gas prices increase, employees get big raises--which the county must then figure out a way to pay for. In this case, cuts to health and human services and public health weren't enough to make up the shortfall.

Sims again:

No one ever expected a financial situation where this unprecedented COLA increase could occur in combination with an overall economic slow down and large budget deficits. I cannot make devastating cuts to public health and public safety and ignore the real dollar impact of a 5 to 6% COLA. We have had positive preliminary discussions with organized labor about possible changes to both wages and benefits but we have not had time to reach any final agreements. I needed to make some final assumptions to balance the budget.

Sims also announced his budget would freeze pay increases for non-union employees and elected officials.

Layoff notices will go out on October 14, one day after Sims's annual budget speech.

Developer Balks at Affordable Housing Requirements

posted by on October 7 at 3:45 PM

While the country obsesses over tonight’s presidential debate, some developers and local residents will have another debate. At a public meeting in City Hall at 5:30 p.m., they will oppose and advocate for a proposal to add "workforce" housing around the city. Here is how it would work: As the city increases height limits in neighborhood centers, developers could build taller buildings (thereby making more money) as long as they include a set amount of affordable housing in the additional space. Sounds like a winner for everybody, right? Not so fast.

Led by City Council Member Sally Clark, the council is attempting to push through two ambitious plans before the end of the year. The first is related to the affordable housing package described above; the other would increase the height limits and allow residential development in the Interbay neighborhood. Both jibe with the city’s vision for a denser city. But some people say that Interbay—a hodgepodge of industrial and big-box retail between Queen Anne and Magnolia—cannot support the affordable housing requirement.

The map to the lower right is a proposal for height increases and changes from commercial to mixed-use development on certain blocks of Interbay.

interbay_upzone_map.jpg “It becomes counter productive,” says Jeff Thomson, a partner of the Freehold Group, which owns two acres in Interbay. Bruce Wynn, director Interbay Neighborhood Association, agrees. Under the affordable housing program being considered by the council, rents for 10 to 20 percent of the new floors gained from an upzone would be affordable to those making 80 percent of the King County median income. More info, and the pro-affordable housing side, is here. That means a one-bedroom "workforce" apartment would rent for $1,153 a month.

“When you rent below 80 percent, rents are so low relative to costs of creating the building that it loses money,” says Thomson. If the council does push an affordable housing requirement on Interbay, he says, “I think you are going to find that it develops out with one- and two-story retail.” In other words, a Target or a Fred Meyer. “We want them to approve the upzone without the incentive housing tax on top of it."

A second opinion after the jump

Continue reading "Developer Balks at Affordable Housing Requirements" »

6th & Union

posted by on October 7 at 3:03 PM


Monday, October 6, 2008

Council Cracks Down on Supersized Houses

posted by on October 6 at 6:21 PM

This was the problem: You live in a humble little bungalow next to another little bungalow, both on small property lots. Then a developer buys the lot next to yours and constructs the biggest vinyl-sided blond dog allowable under the zoning regulations. To boot, the thing has two garage doors and a tundra for a driveway. These are the mega houses. And people haaaaate them.

So today the city council, lead by Council Member Richard Conlin, unanimously passed legislation that reins in the out-of-scale houses in single-family neighborhoods. Whereas before a house on a small lot was allowed a 1,750 square foot footprint, now the size is tied to a percentage of the total lot size; the smaller the lot, the smaller the house. The ordinance also limits the visibility of garage doors, decreases the right to overshadow neighboring houses, and waives requirements for off-street parking on lots smaller than 3,000 feet.

These look like good ideas. While big buildings are swell in parts of the city that are zoned for bulky things, a massive garage-faced house can ruin a block of single-family houses. But the risk, any time zoning gets very specific in a limited space, is that it will inadvertently promote a uniform prescript for all the new houses built under these conditions. For example, way back when, the city wrote rules requiring that townhouses build tall fences around tiny impractical yards and required off-street parking—all while providing an incentive to build the shitbuggers in endless four-packs. What a mess that turned out to be.

Bank Robbery In Rainier Beach

posted by on October 6 at 5:58 PM


SPD and the FBI are on the hunt for yet another bank robber after the Key Bank in the 9200 block of Rainier Avenue South was robbed earlier this afternoon.

According to FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs, the suspect is "a black male, 28-30, 180 lbs, wearing an orange beanie and a camouflage jacket."

Burroughs says the suspect should also be identifiable by giant red stains on his clothing as bank employees apparently slipped him a dye pack.

Burroughs did not know whether the robbery is related to a recent string of other bank robberies in the Seattle area.

Poor, poor banks. They just can't catch a break.

Hat tip to the Rainier Valley Post.

No, No, No

posted by on October 6 at 5:55 PM

Is there any transportation solution Sound Transit opponents actually like?

They opposed the original light rail measure in 1995 on the grounds that roads were a better idea; defended Tim Eyman when he tried to kill rail again in 2003; worked to keep the county from even asking voters what solutions they wanted in 2004; opposed buses in 2006, this time on the grounds that they were too expensive; and opposed roads and transit in 2007 on the grounds that the package "costs too much and does too little."

Now they're at it again. Here's Phil Talmadge, one of the hardest-core opponents to light rail (and biggest fans of putting poor people on buses) among the core group of Sound Transit opponents, in yesterday's Tacoma News Tribune:

Sound Transit’s latest forecasts for Prop. 1 show that it will have little to no effect on traffic congestion even in 2030, just a few years after the bulk of Prop. 1’s light rail expansion is promised to be complete.

Why? Because most of Sound Transit’s riders are taken from existing bus routes; only a few are “new” riders. We need relief now, not promises for much later coupled with big tax increases now.

But Sound Transit opponents don't want "relief." They don't want anything that will actually help solve the region's transportation problems. And they never have.

Check out Mass Transit Now's web site and "No, no, no" radio ad; then go read what those wild-eyed crazies at the King County Municipal League have to say about expanding light rail now.

New Group Slams Sims

posted by on October 6 at 1:02 PM

The latest volley in the ongoing battle between animal advocates and county executive Ron Sims over the fate of two county-run animal shelters has been fired by a new group called King County Animal Care and Control Exposed, which wrote a letter to the council last month demanding that they censure Sims for "libel[ing] private King County citizens" and "engag[ing] in shocking attacks against people who disagree with Mr. Sims or his policies." The letter, signed by attorney and no-kill activist Claire Loebs Davis, asks the county council to "publicly denounce Mr. Sims's conduct, and declare it will not participate in creating this atmosphere of fear and repression."

The accusations came in response to a post on Sims's Twitter site that indirectly questioned the credibility of a veterinarian who said he had stopped volunteering at the animal shelters because of poor conditions for animals at the shelters. Sims' site directed readers to a blog run by a King County animal shelter volunteer called KCAS Creatures (since removed) which accused the vet, Brad Crauer, of prescribing himself drugs in the name of his dead dog. (The blog also included numerous unrelated attacks on individual county council members). In a Seattle Times story about problems at the shelter, Crauer alleged that the county did nothing to improve problems at the shelters; isolated animals; and did nothing to help sick animals in shelter custody.

For nearly two years, county council members and consultants have decried the conditions at the two county-run animal shelters, and recently called for the shelters to be taken over by a private group such as the Humane Society.

Last week, all nine members of the county council sent Sims a sternly worded letter expressing their "concern and disappointment with your Twitter post... You used the influence of your office to endorse a personal blog that lacks the editorial standards and accountability of the professional news media. We urge you to disavow this apparent endorsement of divisive attacks on private citizens and public employees, and make a personal apology to those who were named."

Sims spokeswoman Natasha Jones says Sims has not responded to the letter and has no plans to do so. "We don't take responsibility for the other things" that were printed on the blog Sims linked, Jones says. "It's no different than if we send anyone to the Seattle Times or the Stranger's blog—we're not endorsing everything that appears on that blog."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Whole Foods Still Wants to Shrink Interbay Store, Says West Seattle Location Still On Track

posted by on October 3 at 5:16 PM

Whole Foods just sent me an email regarding the future of its planned Interbay and West Seattle stores.

The grocery chain is being sued by the developer of an Interbay shopping center after Whole Foods attempted to renegotiate its lease.

According to Whole Foods Regional President John Clougher:

"Whole Foods Market is disappointed that TRF Pacific was unable to meet the schedule we all agreed upon several years ago. We have been in ongoing discussions with TRF about downsizing the Interbay store for several months. We continue to believe these negotiations are a work in progress. While we acknowledge that there are legal complexities, we hope to come to a resolution.

Whole Foods Market's West Seattle store project is unrelated to this issue, and its development schedule is on track.

There you have it.

Update: TRF Pacific responds to Whole Foods' response:

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve been forced into taking this action. This is the first time in our company’s history that we’ve had to file a lawsuit against an anchor tenant for breach of lease. “TRF has had a great working relationship with Whole Foods. In fact, this is the third development with the company. “The Interbay Whole Foods was configured and custom built based on Whole Foods’ specifications. Whole Foods notified us of its intentions to terminate its lease one week before we were scheduled to turn over the building shell to the company. “We’re hopeful that Whole Foods will reconsider its decision and honor the commitments it has made.”

Man Accused of Threatening Autistic Child Arrested Again

posted by on October 3 at 5:12 PM


Story updated. Originally posted at 3:13 PM

A South Seattle man accused of threatening to burn down his 13-year-old autistic neighbor's home last summer is back in jail after another ugly incident.

According to court documents, at around 10:30 last night, Levison stood outside of his neighbors' home in the 5500 block of South Leo street and began screaming threats at the autistic boy's family. Documents say Levison told the boy's father to "fight [him] like a man" and that he "[did] not want to see that idiot staring at [his] house."

Police arrived and arrested Levison for investigation of malicious harassment, Washington's hate crime law. Court records say Levison told police he "told [the boy's parents] to keep that fucking idiot out of my sight. I pay rent and I don't have to put up with that."

The family already has a no-contact order against Levison for a July 8th incident where, court documents say, Levison told the autistic boy's mother that she needed to “keep [her] fucking retarded son in the house or the backyard like a dog; if you don’t, I’ll burn you[r] room down.”

King County Prosecutors have filed charges against Levison, who is being held at the King County Jail on $500,000 bail.

A Great Idea

posted by on October 3 at 4:28 PM

You know that block and a half of prime Capitol Hill real estate where Sound Transit is building an underground light-rail station? When the station is finished, the entrances will only take up a small part of the above-ground space, and the agency doesn’t know what, exactly, it will do with the rest.

“I don’t want it to be a big frickin’ Walmart or a bunch of condos out of Belltown,” says Carter Kinnier, 48, a Capitol Hill resident. He resents the explosion of boxy condos but he does like the farmers market. So you can imagine his disappointment when he recently heard that his beloved weekly food fair, a block north of the transit station, would be displaced by a four-and-six story apartment building.

Then Kinnier had an idea.

Kinnier wants a new home for the farmers market, one that exists permanently—like a little Pike Place Market—right on top of the light rail station. He envisions a place that supports local vendors, selling everything from butternut squash to local cheeses and ladling out halibut chowder and miso soup. Sound Transit expects 14,000 people a day will board at the station--all potential customers. “Imagine getting a sandwich or a piece of fruit on the way to school or work,” he says.


Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, B.C. Photo via Matt Jones on Flickr

Reality check number one: Kinnier, wearing a black beret and a lime-green hoodie poking out of a thick brown sweater, acknowledges that his schedule as an IT manager prevents him from personally making this happen. “I am just tossing the idea out there,” he says.

But he’s finding allies. Chris Curtis, director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, says, “It would be lovely to have a permanent location somewhere.” For example, she would like to join “part of project like with Sound Transit,” she says. She cites the increased popularity of the Capitol Hill Farmers Market—up 30 percent from last year—as evidence that Capitol Hill may support a farmers market more than one day a week. She has started talking to Sound Transit about the idea.

Reality check number two: Regardless of what is eventually built above the transit hub, it must house hundreds, if not thousands, of residents. A one- to three-story, Pike Place Market-esque bazaar will never happen. If this were to manifest, the market will be in the first story and basement of a massive residential building. But is that possible; would Sound Transit even go for it?

“You could potentially see some development pretty quick after the station is finished,” says Bruce Gray, a spokesman for Sound Transit. Sound Transit plans to lease the land, rather than sell it, so the agency would retain some control over how the land is used. “Whether it is a farmers market or is mixed use is unknown,” he says. The agency will hold a series of public meetings to field ideas, modeled after the meetings for the station design.

Reality check number three: Farmers are poor. They can’t pay the going rate for retail space in a new building unless it’s subsidized (for example, the Pike Place market is run by the city and will be asking for more public funding on the general election ballot). The city council would have to allow the developer on Broadway to exceed the 65-foot height limits, give them at least two extra stories, so the additional rents from the apartments above pay for the market below. Would neighbors go for an 85-foot building on Broadway? Would it be different enough from the failed Broadway Market formula--corporate clothing retailers and imports stores--to actually stay busy?

It would require a lot of public support, but Kinnier thinks it would be worth trying between now and when the station is finished in 2016. “There is a lot of potential for a footprint of this size on Capitol Hill,” he says. “We will never have an opportunity to do this again in our lifetime.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

More Budget Cuts

posted by on October 2 at 1:28 PM

In addition to the cuts I wrote about yesterday--namely, three programs aimed at keeping youth and others off the streets and out of jail--Mayor Greg Nickels's proposed budget includes significant cuts to youth-violence prevention, emergency preparedness, and domestic violence programs. Here are a few more of Nickels's proposed cuts:

•$135,000 in city funding for SOAR, a program aimed at helping kids succeed early in life and promoting early-childhood education. SOAR's other funding comes from United Way and cash-strapped King County.

• Funding for domestic-violence and sexual abuse prevention programs, including $20,000 in funding for CHAYA, a community-based program in South Asian immigrant and refugee communities that Nickels has targeted for elimination before; and $19,000 for "protocol development for conducting parenting evaluations in domestic violence cases." (City Council budget chair Jean Godden's office says she plans to propose restoring funding for both programs.)

• $500,000 for emergency preparedness assistance to community organizations.

• $278,000 for services for senior citizens, including $78,000 from the homesharing program, which matches homeowners with seniors looking for a place to live, and $200,000 added in 2008 for senior centers.

• $288,000 from programs that match homeless and low-income people to community services.

• $78,000 from Reinvesting in Youth, a countywide effort to reduce the high school dropout rate.

For a complete list of budget committee meetings, public hearings on the budget, and documents related to the budget itself, go to the city council's budget page.

Debate About Sidewalk Cafes

posted by on October 2 at 12:59 PM

As the city council debates new legislation that would make it easier for restaurants and bars to open sidewalk seating, an interesting tension is developing between proponents of more outdoor seating (of which Seattle has woefully little) and advocates for pedestrians and the disabled, who argue that the proposed rules trample on pedestrian and wheelchair access. From an email being circulated among pedestrian advocates (by all-purpose city gadfly Chris Leman, hence the hotheaded tone), urging them to contact the council and human rights commission before a meeting of the Human Rights Commission this evening and the council's regular weekly meeting next week.

Among the points Leman suggests people hype in their testimony and emails to council members:

Don't turn this decision from a Master Use Permit decision into a street-use decision, which will compound the City's current tendency to ignore a café' or bar's impacts. Keep and strengthen the role of the Department of Planning and Development; don't turn the decision over to the Seattle Department of Transportation, which already does a poor job on the street-use permits it now issues. [...] Write into the ordinance a higher priority for pedestrian safety, convenience, and dignity. On public sidewalks, the benefit of the doubt should be with pedestrians, especially the disabled. [...]

Don't allow sidewalk cafés or bars within fifteen feet of a bus stop (current proposal is only five feet, leaving no space to stand). Don't allow sidewalk cafes or bars within six feet of the curb (current proposal is three feet, making it difficult to use curbside parking).

Require at least six feet of straight, clear walking space in neighborhoods, and ten feet downtown (under the proposed legislation, pedestrians would be guaranteed a space only six feet wide downtown and five feet in neighborhoods—amidst an obstacle course of poles, circuit and newspaper boxes, signs, trees, and parking kiosks.) [...]

Require that the sidewalk café or bar barriers be removed during the roughly nine months of the year when they are not being used. The supposedly "temporary" enclosures, which typically are used only in the summer months, remain as year-round barriers to pedestrians, and a risk to public safety.

Although Leman's tone can be a bit hysterical (and although I could frankly give a shit about giving people six feet of clear space in front of their cars), his email does highlight an interesting question: Who are the public sidewalks for, and to what extent should the city be willing to mortgage off this right-of-way? I tend to think that the best cities in the world are that way, in part, because they enable people to live part of their lives in public--by encouraging things like sidewalk cafes, parks, and other public gathering spaces. Agree? Disagree? Attend the meetings or let council members know by email.

Another Casualty if Prop. 1 Fails: First Hill Streetcar Line

posted by on October 2 at 12:13 PM

The fate of a critical link on Sound Transit's initial light-rail segment depends on this November's election. In 2005, the Sound Transit board voted to eliminate a long-planned light rail station on First Hill from the initial light-rail line--a decision that prompted protests from First Hill residents and board member Richard McIver, who argued that it made no sense for rail to bypass one of the densest neighborhoods in the city. The compromise solution was a streetcar line connecting First Hill, Capitol Hill, and downtown, allowing Sound Transit riders to get off light rail in either the ID or Capitol Hill and take the streetcar to First Hill. However, because the Sound Transit plan included no funding for the streetcar, the fate of the $158 milloin line (which, whatever you think of streetcars, remains the only viable potential non-bus link between Capitol Hill and First Hill in Sound Transit's proposal) rests on whether voters adopt or reject Prop. 1 in November.

Black Bears In Da Hood

posted by on October 2 at 10:01 AM

Trapped in a culture of poverty:

Black bears that live around urban areas weigh more, get pregnant at a younger age, and are more likely to die violent deaths, according to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

...[B]ears in urbanized areas weighed an average of 30 percent more than bears in wild areas due to a diet heavily supplemented by garbage.

...[T]hey are giving birth at an earlier age – on average when they are between 4-5 years old, as compared to 7-8 years for bears in wild areas. Some urban bears even reproduced as early as 2-3 years of age around Lake Tahoe.

...Urban bears also tend to die much younger due mostly to collisions with vehicles.

Fast cars, fast food, fast sex? The urban black bear is just another statistic.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Read the Mayor's Budget So You Don't Have To

posted by on October 1 at 5:34 PM

In addition to the two budget changes I've written about elsewhere--namely, a $4.4 million boon to the Department of Information Technology to convert the city's email system to Microsoft technology and a the elimination of planned pedestrian improvements on Aurora and Linden Avenue in North Seattle--Mayor Greg Nickels's 2009-2010 budget includes a number of changes beyond the mere "administrative" cuts the daily papers alluded to in their coverage. As revenues from sources like real estate taxes continue to drop (in the words of a finance department staffer at this morning's council budget briefing, "we have now completely fallen off the cliff"), it's safe to say that the relatively minor cuts the mayor has proposed this year are just the beginning. A few highlights and lowlights:

Remember when the city council announced, with great fanfare, that the city was finally increasing the library's collections budget--allowing the Seattle Public Library to fill up all those shiny new branch libraries with actual books? That didn't last long--as I noted in June, the library was one of the the most vulnerable city departments going into this year's budget cuts, and the increase they received last year to buy more library materials--a relatively modest $2 million--is going awa. However, city finance department director Dwight Dively noted a silver lining: At least "there are no proposed changes in library hours." Which is good, since most libraries are open no more than six hours on Sunday, and neighborhood libraries don't open until 1:00 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Three public-safety programs--Get Off the Streets, Co-Stars, and Communities Uniting Rainier Beach--are being proposed for elimination. Get Off the Streets is a program aimed at "lowering crime in the Central Area by providing services to people involved in non-violent street crime who are drug or alcohol dependent and homeless"; Co-Stars was intended to help homeless people get into and stay in permanent housing; and CURB, formerly known as Clean Dreams, attempts to identify, reach, and reeducate young people at risk of causing public safety problems in crime-ridden areas. Cutting funding for all three programs--which Dively said were targeted because they "did not actually save any money in jail usage... by the people that were actually served by the programs"--will save the city $456,000.

The city will also be eliminating a $350,000 fund to pay tenants displaced by condo conversions - a subject Jonah has covered here and here--on the grounds that, according to the budget,"due to the significant reduction in condominium conversions, there has been little demand for this program."

In contrast, funding for the Mercer Corridor Project--a street-widening proposal that I also wrote about in this week's column--is slated to go up by $82.5 million, reflecting the mayor's belief that, as Seattle Department of Transportation deputy director Bob Powers told a meeting of the Othello Neighborhood Association last week, Mercer constitutes "critical infrastructure" to serve the additional 20,000 workers the city estimates are coming to South Lake Union. According to the mayor's budget, "none of the money appropriated for 2009 for SDOT's Major Project Budget Control Level can be spent to pay forconstruction until authorized by ordinance."

More, doubtless, to come. For more on the budget, including a schedule of upcoming council meetings and public hearings, check out the city's comprehensive budget web site here.

Developer Sues Whole Foods For Breaking Lease, Delaying Opening of Interbay Store

posted by on October 1 at 5:17 PM

The developer of a new shopping center in Interbay is suing hippie grocery store giant Whole Foods after, the suit says, the company broke the terms of their lease when it tried to delay the opening of a planned store, setting back construction of the project.

In a lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court on September 26 by the Interbay Urban Center (IUC), the developer says Whole Foods—which was supposed to open the new 60,000 square foot store on December 10th, 2008— claims that grocery chain's absence as an anchor store will cost IUC millions of dollars for delayed construction and "will create an appearance of a ghost town at the Whole Foods Interbay Shopping Center."

IUC claims Whole Foods also attempted to renegotiate its lease, reducing the size of the planned store to 40,000 square feet. According to court records, Whole Foods told IUC that its larger stores are not currently profitable.

Whole Foods has four other stores in the Seattle area. The Westlake store is 48,000 square feet, the Roosevelt Square location is 50,000, Bellevue is 56,000 and Redmond is 60,000 square feet.

IUC says that Whole Foods owes $655,000 for construction costs and estimates that the value of Whole Foods' lease and property at about $37,128,000.

It's unclear whether Whole Foods still plans to open the Interbay store, but IUC is asking a judge to force the company to stick to its lease and pay for the delayed construction

Whole Foods also has a store scheduled to open in 2010 the Fauntleroy Place shopping center in West Seattle. Eric Radovich, spokesman for the Fauntleroy developer Blue Star, says the store is still expected to open on time.

Whole Foods would not comment on the status of future projects in Seattle.

The Perils of Voting

posted by on October 1 at 2:27 PM

Voting in Seattle is dangerous! So dangerous, in fact, that the city is stepping in to hold a voter-registration conclave this Saturday in the relative shelter of City Hall. October 4—one month prior to the general election—marks the registration cut-off. City Council Member Bruce Harrell said in a statement today that Seattleites know the challenges that “prevent youth from engaging in the election process.” He has vowed to provide those youth “a fun, safe environment to assist with voter registration while finding solutions to barriers that may keep young people from ages 18 to 25 from voting.”

Jonah, across the office from where I sit, is a 25-year-old youth, and I’d hate to see him hurt. So as a 31-year-old infant, I share Harrell’s concerns. A pitfall lurks under every voter-registration card. Cardstock ballots cause papercuts. Chads may punch back. Pens really are mightier than the sword. So watch your back, doe-eyed voters and 70-year-old toddlers, and head down to city Hall this Saturday between 1 p.m. and 4p.m. ... if you dare.


posted by on October 1 at 2:24 PM


Seattle Police are investigating a bizarre burglary in Maple Leaf after a foreclosed home was stripped bare just days before it was auctioned off.

On September 17th, a Seattle man called police to tell them that the home he'd purchased a home in the 8800 block of 5th Avenue NE "sight unseen." Three days after the sale, the man went to the house and discovered that the toilets, sinks, piping, cabinets, appliances, marble counter tops, furnace, two gas fireplaces, light switches, floor boards, front door and even the house's cedar fence had been removed.

The buyer told them police he'd been by the house several days before the sale and and didn't see anything missing.

Neighbors told police that a week before the auction, a work crew showed up and spent three days gutting the house.

The police report estimates as much as $200,000 worth of damage was done to the home.

According to King County records, the house sold for around $400,000 in 2006.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Last Dance for Neighbours?

posted by on September 30 at 6:48 PM

Neighbours, Seattle’s venerable gay dance club, filed a lawsuit last week fighting for its right to remain in a warehouse-style building in the Pike-Pine neighborhood. The bar opened there in 1983, started serving liquor a few years later, and has since made a patchwork of remodels, from go-go cages to another dance floor in the basement.

But the building’s owners, a land trust comprising several individuals, sent a letter to the bar owners in early August terminating the lease and telling the bar to vacate by the end of the month.

In the letter, landlords claim the bar violated terms of the lease signed in March of this year. It says the lease allows the tenant to use the space as a “tavern… commissary, restaurant. ... and cabaret.” But, it says, “No food, however, is prepared and served on the premises. Furthermore, the current operation of the Premises as a dance club is not a permitted use.” The letter goes on to say that the club remodeled without permission and allowed liquor to be taken outside of the bar, as examples of further lease violations.

But there is no secret that Neighbours is a dance club. Leases over previous decades used similar language, the lawsuit shows. So it seems extremely unusual that the landlords would, after signing another lease in March, suddenly act surprised that Neighbours is, in fact, a dance club. An attorney for the landlords has not returned calls to comment.

“We don’t think there is any merit whatsoever to the landlords’ claims,” says Mark Kimball, an attorney representing Neighbours. He says owners were informed about how the space was used. “We believe the business is accurately described in the lease."

Kimball would not speculate on why the bar owners were attempting to negate the lease after 25 years. He says the bar owners and the landlords are currently in negotiations. “I am extremely confident that the dispute will be resolved favorably to Neighbours,” he says.

Charges Filed Against Green Lake Penis-Wagger

posted by on September 30 at 4:17 PM

A 35-year-old Seattle man has been charged with indecent exposure after, prosecutors say, he wagged his genitals—as well as a prosthetic penis—at several teenage girls in Green Lake Park earlier this month.

King County Prosecutors say Kelly Lee Fischer repeatedly exposed himself to a 38-year-old woman, the woman's 17-year-old daughter and her daughter's 18-year-old friend in three separate incidents at Green Lake.

On September 11, records say the 38-year-old woman spotted Fischer at Green Lake, playing with himself through his gray spandex shorts.

The next day, the woman and the two teenage girls were sitting near the park's playground when they saw Fischer in the park—again in his spandex shorts—doing stretches, pelvic thrusts, and masturbating with what was apparently a fake penis attached to his penis with rubber bands.

The girls began laughing at Fischer before he approached them and, court documents say, told them they "must like what they saw," Fischer also told the girls that "what turns me on is you guys looking and laughing," before he left.

Again on September 15 the 17-year-old girl's mother again saw Fischer at Green Lake—this time with a fake penis hanging out of his pants—and called police.

Fischer was arrested and, court documents say, later told an SPD detective that he "has a fetish of exhibitionism" and admitted that in the past he has approached women in his car and asked them for directions before masturbating in front of them.

Court records indicate Fischer has a prior conviction for a similar incident in July 2007 and has also been arrested four times since 1997 for exposing himself, including a 2004 incident where he locked a woman inside of a business so he could expose himself.

Fischer is being held in the King County Jail on $100,000 bail.

Why We Need a Parking Maximum

posted by on September 30 at 2:40 PM

The building under construction at the north end of Broadway, across the street from the nearly-finished Brix development, is slated to include 357 underground parking spaces--or more than 1.2 parking spaces for every single residential unit in the building.

Contrast that to legislation the city council adopted in 2006, eliminating minimum parking requirements for new buildings in urban centers and around light-rail stations. (Outside urban centers, multifamily buildings must still include 1.25 parking spots per unit). The legislation was an explicit acknowledgment that people who live in dense parts of Seattle don't necessarily need to own a car; it was also intended to reduce the traffic impact of thousands of new center-city residents. The added benefit of eliminating parking requirements is to reduce the cost of housing; parking adds between $20,000 and $30,000 to the cost of a unit.

The problem with simply eliminating minimum parking requirements is that developers can still build as much parking as they want--and that extra $20,000-$30,000 gives them a strong incentive to do just that. It doesn't matter that this new development will be four blocks from a light-rail stop, and on three Metro bus lines; as long as developers can build, and charge for, additional parking spaces, they will.

Parking maximums, in contrast, both acknowledge that you don't need a car to live in the central city and eliminate the incentive to build as much parking as possible. And they work: In San Francisco, maximum parking standards in the densest neighborhoods range from .75 to one parking space per unit. According to one study, housing without parking sells for 12 percent less in San Francisco than housing with parking, and is affordable to 24 percent more households. Other studies have found that reducing residential parking decreases traffic congestion and improves streets for bikers and pedestrians.

Another smart reform--also in San Francisco--requires developers to sell parking separately from residential units. This, again, makes housing cheaper, because people only have to buy as much parking as they need. As Seattle's neighborhoods densify and it becomes easier to get around the city without a car, these are the kind of reforms that both non-drivers (who'll save money on housing costs) and car owners (who'll benefit from reduced congestion in the urban core) should be able to get behind.

Urine is Sterile

posted by on September 30 at 10:34 AM

scaled._dsc3514_seatcover_internet-1.jpg this occurance reported by Hot Tipper Jessica is nowhere near as bad as what happens annually to bike seats at this. But still:

When I was walking out of the Olympic Athletic Center towards Ballard Ave around 8:40 pm, I saw a homeless man standing strangely close to a locked-up bike. Once I walked closer, I noticed that he was drenching the middle section of the bike (including the seat) with his pee stream. Bummer. Maybe I should have left a note for the owner.

Dear Jessica: Thank you for noticing and sharing.
Everyone else: Should Jessica have left a note for the bike's owner?

Seattle Police Looking For Bank Robbery Suspect in Downtown

posted by on September 30 at 10:01 AM


Seattle Police have shut down Third Avenue between Cherry and Columbia as they search the area for a bank robbery suspect.

Police describe the suspect as a white male in his 30s, about 5'7.

I'll update if more info becomes available.


Thanks to Slog-tipper Brian for the pic.

Update: FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs says the robber "left behind a backpack and a note that said something about a bomb."

Officers have cleared the building above the bank.

SPD says no one was injured in the robbery.

UPDATE 2: 3rd Ave has been reopened.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Woman Steals Candy, Threatens Pro Parks Levy Supporters at Weekend Kick-Off

posted by on September 29 at 5:01 PM

A weekend kick-off event for Proposition 2, the Pro Parks Levy, ended with threats of violence, children crying and a call to police after, witnesses say, a mentally unstable woman crashed the Prop. 2 party.

Proposition 2 supporters spent the day on bikes and in buses traveling to a number of parks around Seattle, ending the event at Hing Hay Park in the International District. At Hing Hay, parks advocates watched a dragon dance performance and handed out boxes of rice candy to children in the park.

About a half-hour after the group of 40 or 50 park proponents arrived at Hing Hay, Prop. 2 supporter David Hiller—who was at Saturday's event—says a woman in her late 30s or early 40s began threatening members of the group. "She said we owed her beer for interrupting her space," Hiller says. "We did everything we could to ignore her work around her work with her."

Hiller says the woman became agitated, and began attacking people in the park, pulling one woman's glasses off and making clawing gestures. Then, Hiller says, "She literally [stole] candy out of the hands of children and [began] throwing the boxes at them."

The police were called but by the time they showed up the woman had left the park.

Hiller does not believe the woman was at the event to oppose Proposition 2.