Monday, March 31, 2008

The Breakup Letter

Today Blogging Georgetown linked to a Seattle Weekly blog item about this fake Sabey letter, on fake Sabey letterhead, that was recently seen posted on lightpoles around the neighborhood:

Dear Georgetown, I know we haven't been talking a lot, and we've been doing a lot of thinking, and, well, this is really hard to say. We think we should just be friends. All those neighborhood meetings and listening and one on ones, they were great, really. It was like there was a spark, like it was going to be different this time. Yes, we felt it too. But really, did you really think it could be, well, soooo intense forever? ...We know what you're thinking: that we were just after one thing. That when we got it we would move on. There is nothing farther from the truth! It was so special to us, and even though there is an empty space now, we will always remember how special it truly was! ...We mean, we're totally cool, right? We don't want you to think that we totally used you or anything, because we totally care for you sooo much! ...But for now, we think we should just be friends... And no, it's not because we're seeing other people. Your Friends, The Sabey Corporation

Especially now that I've turned most of my attention to the two-bit developers up on Beacon Hill (who are reluctant to even follow the law, let alone invite and then act on public input on their projects), I have more appreciation for Sabey than most. But still, I think the letter is hilarious.

Seattle School Board Backing Off on Southeast Promises

Story in the Times today about how members of the Seattle School Board are already talking about reneging on their promises to Southeast Seattle schools.

Some members of the board are rethinking the Southeast Initiative, the district's much-lauded effort to improve three underperforming South End schools: Aki Kurose Middle School and Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools.

The School Board launched the initiative last year with $250,000 and a three-year plan to draw back neighborhood students to the schools. But as the district staff has continued to propose arts programs, more rigorous classes, additional class periods, teacher bonuses and other extras for Southeast Initiative schools, several board members have wondered aloud whether it's getting too expensive. And some have expressed frustration that the superintendent has not yet identified specific goals for the schools.

There's no budget yet, but district officials have estimated the Southeast Initiative could cost $3 million to $4 million each year.

At a board meeting earlier this month, member Michael DeBell called the situation "problematic."

Board member Peter Maier questioned whether the effort would be sustainable.

"Let's assume this works," he said. "Then the question arises, are we committed to many years of these kinds of resources?"

In an interview Friday, board member Harium Martin-Morris said he is open to backing off the Southeast Initiative if necessary — even reneging on commitments already publicized in the district's enrollment guide.

"I must confess, I have some reservations," he said. "I have to look at that and say, 'Gee, that's a lot of money, and can I use that money in a better way to still help those schools, but help even more [schools]?'"

OK, so the school board is totally willing to just let South Seattle schools fail without providing them with the extra help they need. Where are these people from? I'm guessing they come from north of the ship canal. Pathetic.

And how is it even legal for the district to let the north-end schools put on two plays and a musical every year, while Rainier Beach has to resort to illegal downloads if they want to try to put on a single performance? What is the official justification for all this inequality in services?

Friends of Georgetown History Started a Blog

A few days ago I was pleased to find out that the Friends of Georgetown History started a history blog. We'll probably be hearing from them more often now, as posting a blog entry is a lot less daunting than writing an essay.

(I was also pleased to find out that I'm not the only local who drives to Burien to go grocery shopping. If only Georgetown still had 20 grocery stores to choose from, as it did in 1934...)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

SPD Crime Data: Still Screwy

The Seattle Police Department lists all sort of interesting crime statistics on its website. Trouble is, it's hard to tell what you can believe and what you can't. One thing's for certain: their "My Neighborhood Crime Statistics Map" feature is screwy.


I first started questioning their information back in January, when they were issuing glowing press releases about their 2007 numbers (and I was getting hooked on HBO's police drama "The Wire"). I compared their mapping data with news reports about a couple of people who'd been murdered and died on the scene on Beacon Hill in 2007, and the two did not correlate. At the time, I e-mailed SPD community liaison Mark Solomon about it, but he could not help, so I decided to let the numbers bake for a while and revisit them later.

After looking at this stuff again today, I question the numbers in SPD's official reports (more on that later), and I totally mistrust everything their website's mapping feature says. I think what's happening is that the report numbers are getting mangled by the software (or by the data entry people).

If you go to "My Neighborhood Crime Statistics Map" and select "View by Crime Type: Homicide" (but no particular neighborhood or address), it will say "Loading" then bring up a graph at the bottom called "Homicide Aggregated by Month for all Census Tracts." If you hand-add all the numbers from each month in 2007, you'll come up with a total of 20.


But if you click on the gray "1997-2007 by Year" tab right above that graph, you'll see that the 2007 number is higher than 20 -- it looks like it's 24. (And the 24 figure is echoed in the mayor's January 17, 2008, press release "Crime in Seattle hits 40 year low," which says "Last year, Seattle experienced 24 murders, a 25 percent drop from five years ago.")


Why shouldn't the sum of each of the months in 2007 equal the 2007 total? I can think of two likely explanations. One, maybe the police found four homicide victims whose dates of death they could not determine and they therefore do not fall under any specific month. Two, maybe this website feature just happens to be screwed up. (Or both.)

But there's more fishy stuff too.

On September 10, 2007, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that my neighbor was shot and killed in his front yard in the 2100 block of S. Graham Street on September 9, 2007. And I don't think they just made that up -- I personally saw news cameras and people in tears in front of the house the next morning. So let's assume that this incident really did occur. And the story says "Seattle firefighters tried to save the man, but he died at the scene"; let's also assume that this is true.

Graham Street is the boundary of two census tracts: 104 to the north and 110 to the south. Since I know exactly where this man lived, I know that his murder took place on the south side of the street, in census tract 110. Seattle firefighters witnessed his death of gunshot wounds on the scene on September 9, 2007, then that should, without question, place him on the September 2007 homicide list for Census Tract 110. Let's take a look and see what the map feature says.

The month-by-month part of the SPD map feature says there were no homicides in September (or any other month) 2007 in Census Tract 110:


(Before you suggest that this murder may have been mislabeled in Census Tract 104, let me inform you that there are exactly 0 homicides listed for Census Tract 104 for all of 2007, in either the map feature or the official reports.)

And if you go directly to the SPD's "Offenses Reported by Census Tract of Occurrence Report for September 2007," dated 12/3/07, you'll see that the SPD did in fact list a homicide for September 2007 in Census Tract 110 (the only murder in the city that month):


And it's this particular discrepancy that leads me to believe the SPD's "My Neighborhood Crime Statistics Map" feature is totally screwed up and can't be trusted.

Another Beacon Hill murder from last year is even more confusing.

On Sunday, December 16, 2007, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that police were investigating an apparent murder-suicide:

Seattle police are investigating what they describe as a murder-suicide, in which a man apparently stabbed his mother to death Saturday [December 15] before killing himself.

Officers were called about 5:15 p.m. to a house in the 8600 block of Beacon Avenue South, across Interstate 5 from Boeing Field, where they found a woman bleeding and unresponsive, police spokesman Jeff Kappel said. The woman, believed to be in her 70s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police searched several surrounding blocks after finding nobody else in the house, he said.

Kappel said officers eventually found the woman's 52-year-old son face down in the street in the 8500 block of 37th Avenue South.

"When they turned him over, they found multiple stab wounds to the chest," Kappel said of the man, who died at the scene. "Officers found a knife a few yards away."

A week later, the P-I did a follow-up story and reported that the King County Medical Examiner's Office "ruled [the mother]'s death a homicide and her son's death a suicide."

OK, so if you look up the 8600 block of Beacon Avenue South (near the intersection with South Cloverdale Street), you'll see that this medical-examiner-ruled homicide, in which the victim was pronounced dead at the scene in the middle of the month, occurred well within the boundaries of Census Tract 117. Because it didn't occur on the edge of a tract, this case seems even more clear-cut than the last one. Let's take a look at the map feature for Census Tract 117 for December 2007.

It says there were no homicides:


OK, not so surprising, given that we already know that map is totally screwy.

Except this time the official report corroborates the information in the map, claiming a total of 0 homicides for Census Tract 117 for December 2007.


If the P-I (and Seattle Times) stories are true, I just don't understand how that figure could possibly be right. (Does it not count as a homicide until someone is charged or convicted? That wouldn't make any sense. If so, this one will never make it onto the books since the apparent perpetrator is also dead.) And if it isn't right, then that also means that the mayor's proclamation that "Last year, Seattle experienced 24 murders, a 25 percent drop from five years ago" also isn't right.

I mean, I understand the site's disclaimer that "Data contained at this location is generally not reviewed for legal sufficiency" and that their "completeness or currency are not guaranteed." But, still, the data shouldn't look like total shit, should they?

I guess it's possible that all this fishy info makes sense if you happen to be someone who understands exactly how the SPD reports its homicides, and why they post different information in their reports than they do on their maps. (Though I suspect that some of this information is just plain wrong.) In any case, the information doesn't make sense to an ordinary citizen who's spent a dozen hours studying it. So I have no idea why the City of Seattle would choose to direct regular people there for information about crime in their neighborhoods. Good luck actually getting it.

After 50 Years of Toxic Dumping in Georgetown, GE Agrees to Do a Study

From yesterday's Seattle Times:

GE to consider cleanup options

The General Electric Co. has agreed to study cleanup options for contaminated soil, groundwater and indoor air at the Georgetown building the company used for decades to build and service aircraft parts.

Solvents leaked and were spilled in the building at 220 S. Dawson St., which GE used between 1949 and 1996, according to the state Department of Ecology.

Until it can get a cleanup under way, the company is running a system of sump pumps and fans to capture and vent pollutants.

Documents connected with the cleanup are available at, at the New Holly Library at 7058 32nd Ave. S., or by appointment at the Ecology Department's regional office at 3190 160th Ave. S.E. in Bellevue. Call 425-649-7190 for scheduling.

The public may comment by April 25 to Dean Yasuda at the Ecology Department: 425-649-7264 or, or by mail.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Clean and Green Event on Beacon Hill Draws 130

Craig Thompson's Beacon Lights blog has a photo of some of the 130 volunteers who worked to clean up the Jose Rizal Park area back on March 15. Thanks to every single one of you!

I swear to God, someday I will help out at one of these Beacon cleanup events. But ever since we moved here and inherited a jungle from the previous owner, I've felt that I want to finish cleaning up my own yard first before helping out with public spaces.

A picture of the jungle before we started cleaning it up (that much-abused willow tree was about to fall over and possibly kill someone):


And after we started working to tame it:


It's coming along. But the ivy continues to be a formidable opponent, especially along the neighbor's chain-link fence.

Why I May Not Send My Kid to South End Schools (or, the Longest Post in the History of the Internet)

A few days ago I posted about how the Mercer Island school district is responding to their dwindling pool of school-age kids by accepting about 60 applications a year from out-of-district parents. And how that's an attractive proposition to some South Seattle parents who'd like their kids to attend schools with high test score averages. I also mentioned that now that we're expecting, some of our friends have urged us to sell our house and move north where the schools are generally better.

Most who responded to the post said that the grade schools down here are actually pretty good, though they're less enthusiastic about the middle and high schools. And some made the argument that if all the hyper-involved parents leave the area, the schools will never improve, which is, of course, completely true. (And one's from LM, my awesome neighbor a few houses down the street, who probably doesn't want to see us move, just as I would be crushed if she and her family moved.) Anyway, I'm going to repost all the comments here because it sounds like they're all coming from a more knowledgable viewpoint than my own:

litlnemo said...
I have a feeling a lot of Beacon Hill parents will send their kids to Mercer Island now. It's not a terribly inconvenient commute, compared to some.

LM said...
Please don't sell your house and move north- at least not for awhile- maybe move when the little one is 5 or 6

JvA said...
Yeah, I still have some time to worry about it.

uppergeorgetowner said...
What about staying in the South End, in the district and getting involved? There are many good elementary schools in the south end - Beacon Elementary, Maple, Kimball, Orca, The New School, are all good and very diverse. Middle school is harder, but there are good alternative middle school choices which are all city draws. If everyone runs off, how does anything get better?

Mercer Island - Kiss my a**. They've spent half a century trying to keep South End people out. And now they want our kids to go to school there? Right.

ColumbiaCityDad said...
I agree with uppergeorgetowner (except, perhaps, for the kiss my a** part) -- there are some great choices among public elementary schools in the south-end.

I'll admit that the same thoughts that you're entertaining went through my head when my kids were conceived/born. We had settled in C-City a few years previous and were unsure about the school situation. However, a few years have passed and I can state that we're completely happy with the options available to us in the public schools.

Our oldest is currently in his first year in the Montessori preschool program at Graham Hill. We've found GH to be a terrific school, with a very active PTA that supports and funds plenty of enrichment programs. We especially value the extraordinary diversity of cultures that this school encompasses. To get a sense of the school, please check out the in-progress interactive website at You could also pick up a copy of this week's Beacon Hill News & South District Journal to see a wonderful article (not yet available online) on the school's partnership with the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

We also have friends and neighbors who attend Orca, which is a program that I've heard nothing but raves about. It recently became a K-8 school, which makes it a good option if you are concerned about the middle school situation.

Beacon (International) Elementary is another interesting option in the area which is adding full Spanish and Mandarin immersion starting this fall, modeled after the much-loved John Stanford School in Wallingford.

I'll admit I continue to have some trepidation about the quality of the local middle schools (Asa Mercer and Aki Kurose), but that step is still a ways away for us. I also believe that these schools are improving. I've spoken to several neighbors who are happy with Mercer (particularly it's AP program). Meanwhile, Aki Kurose is part of the focus (along with Cleveland and Rainier Beach High Schools) of the district's "Southeast Initiative" which is providing additional focus and funding to address achievement gaps in these facilities.

In short, I would encourage you to stay here and support the growth of our local neighborhood schools.

PM said...
I agree with what everyone else has said about staying in the district and in the South End schools. A lot of the elementary schools are pretty decent. Heck, one of my only regrets about moving away from Beacon Hill is that Maple would be a great school for our daughter. (The ones in East Ballard are pretty good, too, though.)

If we were two blocks further west, we'd probably be staying and making the best of it.

(And as my Dad, who taught in public schools for years, including in Seattle in the 1970s, keeps reminding me, parental involvement is more of a predictor of school success than anything else, something he saw at "good" schools as well as "bad" ones.)

steve said...
I've got an 18-mo old and another on the way, and we're constantly having the same discussions around our house. I'm not convinced the Seattle School District is reparable within the time it'll take for my kids to reach school age. And although I've heard similar great things about several of the previously mentioned elementary schools, the middle and high schools are terrible, and I don't want to have my kids change schools in middle school starting in some other district where they won't know anyone. The new superintendent has some good goals but I've heard from teachers she's not all that, plus her plan for improving the district is on something like a 20-yr time line. And you can bet they'll be improving the north end schools first. I wouldn't hesitate to send my kids to MI schools--they have a great reputation and are very well funded. But I'm not too keen on the commute, and sure can't afford to move there. Parental involvement will help, but momentum needs to be built now to get Asa Mercer or Aki Kurose to an acceptable level by the time my kids are old enough, and I just don't see it happening. We'll be shopping to move to another district in the next few years.

Jennifer said...
I want to join the chorus of support for south Seattle schools. My son is currently at Maple and he's very happy there -- and my husband and I are very happy with the school as well. As others have also said, I know families with children at Beacon, Kimble, Graham Hill, Orca, and the New school --and everyone is happy with their choice. I looked at most of these schools and I think I could have been happy sending my child to any. Yes, the middle and high schools aren't on par with the north end schools, but I'm going to still consider them when the time comes.

I'm not a religious person at all, but the argument that concerned parents need to stay in the area to improve the local school system reminds me of that New Testament quote: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (Or however it goes.)

I admit that this is the absolute height of arrogance -- if not outright sacrilege -- but I've been asking myself, "Do I so love the South End that I will give my only begotten daughter to try to improve the local schools from within?"

I know that if I did send her to the local schools, I'd channel all this ridiculous energy that I have for terrorizing local developers and government officials into making demands on school administrators. My kid would not be spending recess in a playground next to flaked-off sheets of 30% lead paint, even if I had to spend my weekends sneaking onto school property with a shop-vac.

But if I do try sending my daughter to Seattle Public Schools and I feel like she is not getting an excellent education from wherever my address and their lottery happens to put her, I'm pulling her out and sending her to a private school or Mercer Island, or we're moving north, or whatever. Since I last posted about schools a few days ago, I've been thinking a lot about my own early education, and now I remember that it actually kind of sucked compared to my later experiences.

I entered kindergarten in California already knowing how to read and write, and that was fine -- they just sent me up a grade for reading class. But by the time we moved to Oregon between second and third grades, I'd turned into quite the precocious little shit, and was reading college textbooks with footnotes and all.

I remember the very first day of third grade, we played one of those first-day-of-school games, where each kid had to name a word starting with the next letter of the alphabet. On the second round, I got E. The word "elephant" had been used the first time, and since I'd been reading Robert Graves's "The Greek Myths I & II," the next E word that popped into my head was "epic."

So that's what I said, and the teacher looked at me in a way that expressed neither love nor admiration, and paused. Finally she said, "I'm not familiar with that word. Please choose another." (I was too embarrassed to suggest bringing out the dictionary in my defense, so I just picked "episode," which was accepted.)

I remember thinking, OK, so this is how third grade in Oregon is going to be. I am going to have to talk down to the teachers.

Fourth grade wasn't much better. They started separating us all for reading and math classes, which helped a little, but even in the highest-level class, I remember getting docked points on a spelling test for "raspberry." I had to bring the dictionary to the teacher and show him that "raspberry" really did contain a "p."

"It's a silent letter," I explained. He admitted his mistake and regraded everyone's tests, but, again, there was no acknowledgment that I might have a better grasp on the language than my teachers and maybe I ought to be learning elsewhere.

I don't remember whether I ever told my parents about these incidents. They're both immigrants -- my dad is ESL and my mom left school when she was 15 -- so after I learned to read and write, they were never very involved in my schoolwork.

Anyway. As we got older and the schools got larger, they subjected us all to much more rigorous testing and did a much better job of sorting us all out according to academic ability (and started a new talented and gifted program, which was a fun opportunity to goof off with some really smart kids). Once in junior high and high school, I had a few brilliant and incredibly dedicated teachers to whom I'm still grateful.

My 8th grade English teacher refused to teach us any literature until we'd mastered the rules of grammar. He made us all get four-color pens so we could diagram sentences in black, blue, red, and green. I bet all my classmates who survived his class still to this day can explain what a gerund is.

My junior high school French teacher and an English teacher sponsored a trip to Europe and took a group of us to a dozen countries for a month. She let us 14-year-olds all ditch the scheduled trips and explore the European capitals on our own every day and night while she and the other divorced teacher went prowling for men. This sounds terrible, but it was fantastic. By the end of the trip, we were all more confident and adventuresome (and understood boys a little better and knew how to order beer in seven different languages).

My public high school offered every opportunity -- state-ranked sports teams, AP classes in everything, some International Baccalaureate classes, three major drama productions every year, band and orchestra, fine art, automotive, programming, four foreign languages, and a million different clubs. I asked the administration why we didn't have a Junior Statesmen program for kids into politics, and they invited me to start one (which I did). When we won statewide competitions, the school would always pay all the expenses for trips to the national competitions, so I ended up going to Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Florida for different things. And we never had to go door-to-door selling candy or anything like that. The school wanted us to spend our time preparing for competition, not bugging the neighbors for sponsorship. (Thank God.)

(Me all excited to represent Oregon at the national Academic Decathlon competition:)


And the teachers (except for the ones I clashed with until I had to demand that I be transferred out of their classes) all seemed personally interested in my development. My English teacher took me to a John Updike lecture with her, and my French teacher took me to a Bizet opera (I told her I'd meet her at the theater because I wanted to go to a Matt Groening book signing on the way). On another English teacher's rec, I read Kurt Vonnegut (though I went alone to that lecture) and Richard Brautigan.

(My souvenir from the night of the Bizet opera:)


And the school itself helped us all sign up for scholarships. In fact, they signed me up for things I didn't even know existed. I was somehow named a National Merit Semifinalist, and I remember leafing through the Oregonian one morning and being surprised to come across my name in an article about that year's Presidential Scholars, a federal program I'd never heard of before.

Anyway. If we end up with a little girl who's as much of a geek freak as I was, I want teachers who'll introduce her to writers not on the official reading list and invite her to go to lectures and operas and trips to the East Coast and Europe, not ones who'll tell her they're not familiar with the word "epic" or don't know how to spell "raspberry." If she's reading hundreds of pages of footnoted texts in third grade, I don't want the school to waste her time on picture books with the rest of the class.

And of course, I've never even met her yet. All I know is that she kicks and waves her hands around; I have no idea whether she'll give a shit about classical literature. (And if she does, maybe she can test into the troubled APP program at Lowell and we can avoid this issue entirely.)

If the South End schools can provide all that (or at least most, or maybe even just some of that), then great. If not, then I think I'll owe it to her to look elsewhere.

I've always listened to the school stories on KUOW, because the school reporter, Phyllis Fletcher, is a friend of mine. But now that we're having a kid, I've spent some time really thinking about things she's said. Like this KUOW story about the drama program at Rainier Beach High School from last year:


STEWARD: "We didn't have any money! Um—"


STEWARD: "They're calling us a performing arts school and we're trying to make it just that, but we do need the resources to make it that. We're doing everything that we can with as little that we have."

So the teacher, who sounds wonderfully dedicated (though a little naive), tried to put on "The Wiz" with a copy of the script she'd downloaded from the Internet. She got community volunteers to work the technical side, and she cast the play, and was getting ready to go, except someone called her out for not having bought the rights to do the performance. So the school district's attorneys pulled the rug out from under her.

This story happens to have a happy ending -- the teacher was able to negotiate a free license to perform the play in the end -- but it's still a shining example of how ridiculously underfunded the South End schools are. Somehow, Ballard High School manages to put on plays and musicals, as does Roosevelt. But if South End kids want to try to put on a play, they're pretty much forced to be accessories to a crime.

So please forgive me if I end up sending my kid elsewhere.

Friday, March 28, 2008

ABC Supermarket

I've never been to ABC Supermarket on Beacon Hill. Their grand opening sign a year ago turned me off from the beginning.

"$1 Dollar quality Food Meals"


Recently on a food-related mailing list I'm on, people started talking about the ABC Supermarket. I asked the contributors if I could repost their comments here, and they said yes.

From Jason:

ABC is not for the faint of heart -- or, really, anyone who considers shopping at the Uwaj "adventurous". There are definitely some gems in there (including really cheap bottles of delicious salsa verde), so some folks may feel comfortable picking through the packaged, shelf stable items. But the wall of cow ovaries and ungraded meat/fish products will definitely throw other folks off.

It's similar to the grocery stores you find on the edge of the ID: On the one hand you're left to wonder how shrimp in a jar of oil could possibly be shelf stable. On the other hand you're intrigued by the incredible variety of things you might not see anywhere else in Seattle.

Personally I love these shops and basically trust my instincts. Maybe I'm overly naive in my approach, but these are community institutions -- and I imagine if that they were poisoning people that people would stop shopping there and they would close down.

I also eat at hot dog stands, taco trucks, and street tamale/corn vendors and don't use hand sanitizers after crowded bus rides -- so it's possible that I've developed the kind of super resistances that George Carlin used to pontificate about back in the days when he was still cool.

And Brian:

I’ve checked out their meat, it’s not labeled according to common standards (what they call NY Strip is nothing like any NY Strip I’ve seen before), and on top of that it’s some other grade besides USDA grade A. While I avoid the meats at ABC I occasionally shop there for mex/asian foods, and find their prices to be very, very good. I doubt you’ll find live Dungeness crab elsewhere in Seattle for the low prices they charge.

Good to know!

And on a completely unrelated note, my friend and hairdresser Lucynda recently did a video for her latest bizarre project, "Chariots of Rubber" ("a Portland based rock opera about love and loss at the crash up derby"). The video is also a commerical for Voodoo Doughnuts ("located in the crotch of Portland" and featuring "the infamous cock and balls" doughnut). Apparently production sponsors get their own original jingle performed live by the actors during the show.

Have you ever noticed that Portlanders have about one million times more fun than Seattleites?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Introducing the Ice House

Today Sabey unveiled its plans for the building that will replace the demolished Stock House in the Rainier Cold Storage Complex in Georgetown. It will house six shops/restaurants, and they're now looking for tenants to fill those spaces.


Sabey and Johnson Architects seemed to have taken the community's comments to heart -- they came up with a building with the bricks and arches that everyone was asking for. And, honestly, on its own, I think it's kind of cute. (And I'd dance a jig in the street if this was replacing one of the godawful buildings up here at Beacon and Columbian.)



But I still worry what it will look like next to the real deal. You don't get any sense of that from the two photos above, or this crude rendering of all the buildings lined up on the street together. (This drawing includes an old section of wall that may or may not be saved, while the drawings above do not. If they have to keep the wall, they will construct a new building behind it.)


The bricks, very similar but not quite the same. The arches, very similar but not quite the same. I'm not loving it. But I think the neighbors will be relieved that nothing crazy will be going up there. And that's good.

Update: Here's the P-I story about this.

Quick Notes: Andy's Diner, Mercer Island Schools, Graffiti

Andy's Diner in Sodo to Reopen? -- A Seattle Times blogger reports that Sodo's major landowner, Henry Liebman, wants to reopen Andy's Diner, which sits on a 10-acre parcel that he owns. About the restaurant site, the developer said: "The building is a mess, but not beyond repair... The bums and cats have been evicted from under the railroad cars, so that's progress." If you'd like to help keep those, um, wheels of progress turning, e-mail the Times blogger at -- she wants to try to hook a restaurateur up with Liebman on this.

Mercer Island Accepting Outside Students -- This one's from a few days ago, but it's an interesting story about how Mercer Island is taking kids from other districts. It quotes a South Seattle mom who can no longer afford to send her kids to private school but wants to avoid South Seattle's public schools: "She worried that the public schools in her South Seattle neighborhood were overwhelmed with high-needs students. As many as 80 percent of the students in her neighborhood schools come from low-income families, and almost 40 percent are learning English." As a South Seattle mom-to-be, I understand her concerns. I want my child to have all the educational opportunities that I did: AP classes in every subject all the way up through calculus, the choice of band or orchestra, multiple foreign languages to choose from, Academic Decathlon, honor society, up-to-date textbooks, mock trial, political/environmental clubs, field trips, programming classes, a million different sports teams -- the works. I went to (prosperous) public schools, and I always felt challenged in every subject -- I felt they'd let me race as fast academically as I wanted to, and they would help me every step of the way. Now that we have a baby on the way, some of my friends are advising me to sell my house and move north. I don't know what we're going to do.

Graffiti at the Christian Restoration Center -- Cleanup is going to happen soon -- they're just waiting for good weather.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Theatre Off Jackson Not Buying Eagles Building

The cool folks at Theatre Off Jackson will not be buying the Eagles Aerie #1 building in Georgetown. From this afternoon's e-mail:

Hello Neighbors,

It is with much sadness that we make this announcement. Theatre Off
Jackson is no longer pursuing the purchase of the Eagles Building.

As many of you know, the Theatre Off Jackson (TOJ) has wanted to
relocate or expand to Georgetown ever since Patti and I moved to the
neighborhood 2 years ago. When the Eagles property at the corner of
Michigan and Corson became available last summer, we saw an
opportunity to make our dream a reality.

With much help, we pulled together a team to win the bidding
competition and successfully contracted to purchase the property in
November. In the last several months, we completed our review of
the building and all of the legal details associated with it. We
have also been making efforts to raise funds for the purchase and
have attempted to negotiate with others interested in sharing the
property with us.

We are very sorry to announce that TOJ has not been able to secure
the necessary funding to move forward with the purchase of the
Eagles property. Despite our best efforts, this particular project
proved to be too ambitious for an organization of our size.

We are still committed to owning a home in Georgetown, and will
regroup to build support before seeking out another property. Of
course we are incredibly disappointed that we could not secure that
particular corner for both the theater community and the
neighborhood. A non-profit arts organization would have been an
exciting addition to Georgetown and, we think, a great asset to the

On behalf of TOJ's staff and Board of Directors, we offer a
heartfelt thank you to everyone who has offered support and
donations. Special thanks go to Sabey Corporation (especially Jim
Harmon) for being so generous with their time and mentorship. Their
contributions are invaluable, and we consider ourselves extremely
fortunate to have received their advice and guidance. We are also
grateful for the efforts of Kathy Nyland (of Georgetown), Keri Healy
(of Printer's Devil Theater) and Robin Tomazic (of Remax): all
offered their time and talents to make this project happen.

We have learned much and come farther than we could have imagined a
year ago, and have contributed to the much needed city-wide
discussion about preserving arts space for small organizations. We
look forward to helping solve this issue in the future – by securing
a permanent home for the countless independent arts groups that are
using TOJ and creating a permanent addition to Georgetown to nurture
theater and community.

Thank you,
Amanda Slepski
Theatre Off Jackson

Times Has More Trouble Finding Beacon Hill

The Seattle Times says that "Police looking for suspect in Beacon Hill shooting this morning":

Police are searching for a suspect who shot a man on Beacon Hill early this morning.

The wounded man flagged down an officer near 12th Avenue South and South Main Street around 3:40 a.m., said Seattle police spokeswoman Reneé Witt.

The actual shooting took place in a wooded area west of that intersection, she said.

He was transported to Harborview Medical Center where he remains in serious condition.

If the nearest intersection really was 12th and Main, then this took place in the Little Saigon area, on the other side of I-90 from Beacon Hill.

I know some people think I'm too harsh on the local dailies for not getting the South End neighborhoods right, but they are in the business of facts, after all. And it's not hard to figure out that the other side of I-90 is not still Beacon Hill. It's a hill, after all. Interstates don't generally cross hills.


"Georgetown worries it'll be the next big thing"

Today's Times has a story about Georgetowners worrying about gentrification. "Gritty," "funky," "Fremont, Belltown, and Columbia City" -- you know the routine by now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Yet Another Asian Woman Attacked in South Seattle

The assailant pushed her to the ground and attacked her in her driveway around 2:30 this morning. A neighbor heard her screaming and scared off the attacker, who then drove away. The P-I story about this 23rd attack.

(In the headline -- "Another Asian woman assaulted on Beacon Hill" -- the P-I identifies the site of the attack, the 4200 block of South Webster Street, as Beacon Hill, though I consider that MLK/Renton Avenue area to be Rainier Valley instead.)

The police are asking for help finding this guy:

The suspect was described as black, 20 to 30 years old, possibly 6 feet tall and slender. He wore a green jacket, Jamieson said. Anyone with information is asked to call the Special Assault Unit at 206-684-5575.

Let's all keep our eyes and ears open. Beacon Hill residents have complained on this blog about how unfriendly their parts of the neighborhood are. Even if you've never met the people who live around you, please look out for them, like this woman's neighbor looked out for her. If you see or hear anything weird, investigate. You could be the one to stop this guy.

Developer Follow-up (Beacon Ventures, Sabey)

1. The Beacon Ventures folks still have not responded to my Saturday e-mail about when they plan to paint out the graffiti I originally alerted them to in mid-February.

2. Jim Harmon did write me back about my Friday e-mail about which "historical preservation principles" made saving the freestanding Brew House wall undesirable.

It's the piece of wall sticking out here in this photo I took in January:


From his Friday e-mail to the neighborhood:

Regarding where we are, the demolition of the Stock House will be
completed in the next few weeks. We have not reached a conclusion as to what to do about the remaining façade wall attached to the Brew House. While that wall does not pose an impending danger like the Stock House did, it does pose the matter of design and cost, as it looked to be several million dollars to retain it. In our discussions with the Landmarks Preservation Board, certain members expressed their desire to keep this façade. Additionally, certain neighborhood members expressed their concern and very much wanted to keep it. However, landmarks regulations recognize that the preservation of certain landmarked elements may be uneconomical and can grant an exception to the preservation rule. Our assertion is that it is not only uneconomic, but that it is undesirable from a design and historic standpoint (and there are certain historic preservation principles that this is based upon).

And from his response to me:

In response to your questions, the principle in question is termed façadism. Below are excerpts from submittals we previously made to the Landmarks Board and posted on our website:

* “We do not believe that retaining this wall is true to historic preservation and constitutes façadism since there is no structure behind it, historic or otherwise. We understand there to be divergent opinions, but façadism is not supported by many and is contrary to federal and local tax incentives, further indication of its standing.”

* “...we do not believe that retaining the North Wall is within the spirit of historic preservation as it constitutes façadism[1], and we see the removal of that wall as an opportunity to open the remaining historic structures to sight from Airport Way as well as reasonable vehicular access into the historic areas.”

* "[1] This point is emphasized by the fact that significant tax incentives are provided to retain historic structures by both federal income tax and local real estate tax credits; however, no such economic incentives are provided for retaining a building façade."

It’s also referred to as facadomy. See Wikipedia reference and citings here

Hmm. I'm no expert, but that Wikipedia link about facadism seems to suggest that preservationists believe that maintaining an entire building is preferable to maintaining just a facade. However, it does NOT seem to suggest that preservationists believe that destroying an existing freestanding facade is preferable to maintaining it. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about historical preservation would like to weigh in?

[Update/sidenote: Here's a 3/25/08 Crosscut article about Seattle's historical landmark designation process.]

Beacon Hill: Now Serving Queen Anne

A few weeks ago I think I mentioned that I regularly search the P-I and Times sites for mentions of "Beacon," in the hopes of catching a reference to the hill or avenue.

On an average day, the search returns no news stories. But today I happened to find a Beacon Hill reference in a story titled "Residential parking zone divides neighbors on Queen Anne."

The Beacon Hill mention comes from a quote from the coordinator of the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce. It turns out that some Hilltop residents are sick of competing for street parking with the customers and employees of local businesses. Here's the business-side quote:

"We believe a single mom working at one of the restaurants has as much of a right to park as anybody else. Taking a bus from Beacon Hill isn't really an option for them," said Margaret Irvine, coordinator of the chamber.

I wonder if she's thinking of someone she actually knows who's a single mom who lives on Beacon Hill and would have to take the loathsome 36 (and a transfer) if she couldn't find free parking for more than two hours.

Or I wonder if she just made that up to make it sound like she's protecting the relatively disadvantaged here in the South End, as opposed to the relatively wealthy who like to spend more than two hours at trendy bars, fancy breakfast spots, and posh boutiques.

And I wonder if she named Beacon Hill to gain some extra sympathy for her cause because any woman who takes the 36 and walks home may have to fend off that increasingly bold assailant/groper/asshole.

Anyway, it's just funny to me that the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce representative called out Beacon Hill in that ridiculous quote in which she pretends to represent the interests of restaurant workers instead of their employers. It's been a pleasure to serve you, Hilltop merchants! Just let us know if you need anything else from us today.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

3rd Annual Georgetown Super 8 Film Festival on 4/19

Mark your calendars:

The 3rd Annual Georgetown Super 8 Film Festival

This year 75 filmmakers are busy creating short films of epic proportions to
share with you. Over half of these people are your neighbors and the rest
come here to work and play. Come share in their artistic creations.

When: Saturday, April 19th
Where: Rainier Cold Storage Building, 5790 Airport Way South
Time: Doors open at 6pm, Films begin 6:30pm
Suggested Donation: $5, no one turned away for lack of funds

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Daffodils in Comet Lodge Cemetery

I went to go investigate that fairy ring down in Comet Lodge Cemetery.

It's not really a ring. More like a U.


And fairies probably didn't put it there.



I'm not particularly superstitious about this supposedly haunted place, which I've written about before, but this 1-year-old's epitaph does creep me out a little.


I think it says: "Weep not, father and mother, for me, for I wait in glory for thee."


A Tale of Two Parking Strips



(Is there anything trashier than a toilet on the curb? Folks, take that old junk to Second Use down in South Park. If they don't want it, well, the city dump's right next door.)

12th Avenue South Viewpoint

The 12th Avenue South Viewpoint is a city park of sorts on 12th Avenue South. It's a long grassy strip on the western edge of Beacon Hill. It has a bench and an expansive view of Sodo, downtown, the Olympics.


"Dump no material. Whatever." (A Seattle Parks and Recreation truck drove by while I was there, but they didn't stop and pick up the trash or anything. Your tax dollars at work!)


That's the transit building that someone mentioned at that Sabey meeting last fall. They hoped the Stock House replacement could look something like this.


Looks like someone's feeding the rats.


The neighbors must be thrilled.


Bye, viewpoint.


New Photos of the Christian Restoration Center

Bummed around the neighborhood this morning, snapping some pictures. Noticed that the Beacon Ventures folks have not yet painted out the graffiti at the Christian Restoration Center.



I just sent them a quick e-mail asking what's up with that. I'll give them a chance to respond before following up with the mayor's office. I submitted the original complaint about the graffiti to SPU on February 13 or 14, well over a month ago.

Broken Walk Signals?

A local jogger recently wrote to the P-I about a broken walk signal at Beacon and Spokane. From the 3/16 P-I:

Question: Eric Meltzer says his usual jog takes him to the intersection of Beacon Avenue South and South Spokane Street, where his run comes to a halt.

"I always press the walk button, but I have never seen the walk sign illuminate and end up crossing against the 'don't walk' symbol," he says.

He wonders if the button even works.

Answer: Marx of the Transportation Department says the button wasn't working -- but it works now. Marx said a Department of Transportation crew went out last week and fixed it.

Wow, that was fast. Has anyone else noticed any other broken signals around the neighborhood that we can report and get fixed?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stock House Replacement Plans to Be Unveiled 3/27 and 3/38

Sabey has decided not to hold another public meeting but to meet with individuals privately about the new designs. The claim is that this will allow more people to stop by when they like and give their input, but I feel that something will be lost with this approach. Community meetings allow people to hear what other people have to say, and they also give people the opportunity to observe quietly if they prefer. (It also provides people with a good excuse to get together with their neighbors for a beer before or after the meeting.) Showing up at a developer's office and personally asking to see designs take a little more guts, I think.

In any case, this will all go through the public design review process, so there will definitely be public meetings in the future.

I'll plan to take a look at the designs on Thursday and post pictures, if they'll let me, that evening.

Anyway, here's the Sabey mail about all this. It sounds like the wall attached to the Brew House might be saved after all, which is cool:

Hi All:

Well, it has been awhile, but we are finally ready to present our
plans for the building to replace the Stock House. We attempted to
reflect comments from the neighborhood and to improve the building
design both from a utilitarian and aesthetic standpoint. Hopefully,
you'll agree. Rather than having a big meeting, we'll simply have
open hours for people to stop by. This will allow for more leeway in
people's schedules as well as a greater opportunity to respond to
questions. Therefore, we will be available on Mar 27 & 28 from 4 to
6:30pm at our office on the backside of the General Office right
across the street from the 9 lb Hammer and Smarty Pants (6004 Airport
Way). We'll have various perspectives to help you understand the
design along with several people to explain it.

These plans will continue to flex as we move forward because of
design adjustments and changes required by the City and others. The
City will need to issue a Master Use Permit (MUP) and a Construction
Permit. The MUP relates to the use of the building (in this case,
office and retail). It focuses on the parking, traffic, site, etc.
requirements of the use proposed. These requirements aren't
generally difficult for a fairly self-contained development of this
size. Therefore, so we don't have to re-file every time there's a
small change, we try to show maximum use and impacts at the outset.
Our MUP application will be submitted shortly and will take about 6
months or more to be issued. A separate Construction Permit will
require what are called 75% drawings for the plan reviewers to go
through them in detail. These plans will go through design review
from the Landmarks Preservation Board. All of this will involve
public notice and input should you care to formally participate.
There will be notices posted on site regarding this. From an
informal standpoint, please feel free to share your feedback with us
for ongoing design consideration.

Regarding where we are, the demolition of the Stock House will be
completed in the next few weeks. We have not reached a conclusion as
to what to do about the remaining façade wall attached to the Brew
House. While that wall does not pose an impending danger like the
Stock House did, it does pose the matter of design and cost, as it
looked to be several million dollars to retain it. In our
discussions with the Landmarks Preservation Board, certain members
expressed their desire to keep this façade. Additionally, certain
neighborhood members expressed their concern and very much wanted to
keep it. However, landmarks regulations recognize that the
preservation of certain landmarked elements may be uneconomical and
can grant an exception to the preservation rule. Our assertion is
that it is not only uneconomic, but that it is undesirable from a
design and historic standpoint (and there are certain historic
preservation principles that this is based upon). However, in light
of the response and additional time, we are reviewing our plan for
both the wall and the Brew House to see if they can be economically
redeveloped together. The key here is the structural engineering.
We are midway on this process as we have been very much focused on
the Stock House's replacement. We will report back on this at a
later time.

So, there you go. We'll look forward to seeing you on the 27th or
28th. If those dates don't work, please contact me and we'll find
some alternative times after that. Also, the plans et al will be
posted on our website once we've had an opportunity to present them
to the community.

Thank you all,

ph 206 281 8700 | email | website

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Loretta's! (Or, South Park Is the New Georgetown)

Tonight we tried Loretta's, the new South Park burger tavern from the Nine Pound Hammer folks. (To find it, just head down the main drag until you see a bunch of white dudes standing outside, admiring each others' motorcycles.)


And I decided that every neighborhood needs three places just like this. (Beacon Hill doesn't even have one.)

Burgers, fries, steak, salad, beer.


Plus a little bit of liquor.


And pork, salmon, and soup.



They serve Roger's Pilsner, a rare treat.


The fries were the soggy kind, but really tasty.


And they put their salads on plates, not in baskets (thank you!).


We ate all our food.


(Which is OK because I'm finally starting to look pregnant and am just going to keep gaining weight no matter what, hurray!)


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Beacon Hill Groper"?

In a comment on a recent post about the Beacon Hill Groper, Kim said she was tired of hearing the media call him by that name because it downplays the severity of his crimes.

I've been calling him a "groper" because it's a specifically sexual reference; he's not randomly attacking people for no clear reason. No, the sick asshole is targeting only women, specifically Asian women. The term "South Seattle assailant" isn't meaningful. South Seattle is full of assailants.

Another commenter, apparently a Seattle Times employee, pointed out that his/her paper has not called him a "groper."

Out of curiosity, I looked up the term "Beacon Hill Groper" to see who all has been using it.

KOMO has. (That link goes to a story that recaps last night's Beacon Hill Elementary PTSA meeting, where police spoke about the incident. As I figured, they didn't say anything noteworthy. Just "walk in pairs," "scream," "call 911," "maintain extra vigilance," etc.)

King 5 has, but they feel guilty enough about it to put it in quotes. They've also called him the "bus stop groper."

And someone on MySpace is calling himself the Beacon Hill Groper.

Anyway. I'm happy to call him something else if there's a more accurate term -- I just hope that doesn't end up being the "Beacon Hill Rapist."

Graffiti on 14th

I've been complaining about all the graffiti on 14th in the blocks north of where a woman was attacked in broad daylight last week. Surely it couldn't hurt to get some of this cleaned up? Our neighborhood may be a crime zone, but it doesn't have to look like one.

I'm a Seattle graffiti ranger and have a city-issued paint wagon and everything, but while I'm pregnant I'm staying away from paints and turpentine and all that. But I can still complain! Last night I filed graffiti reports on two commercial properties with huge amounts of tagging facing the street. It's been there for weeks and weeks now.

I'd hoped to also drop the property owners a note about the situation, like I did with the Christian Restoration Center. But I couldn't find websites with any information for the property owners -- the Emmanuel Ethiopian Church at 2101 14th Ave. S. and Beacon Development LLC (contact name: Joshua Fletcher) at 1401 S. Holgate St.

Does anyone know anyone at the church? I'd love to know what their cleanup plans are. The paint is aqua colored -- they should get some new paint mixed up and have a church painting party.

And Beacon Development LLC seems to be a small-time operation based out of the main guy's apartment on Capitol Hill. (It is not the same thing as Beacon Development Group, also located on Capitol Hill.) He's turning the apartment building at 14th and Holgate into condos. Does anyone know Joshua Fletcher, and if so, could you ask him if he plans to paint out the graffiti soon?

By the way, if anyone wants to file additional complaints, go here.

Georgetown: "On-the-Verge Nabe"

It really is over, isn't it?

DailyCandy, originally a mailing list for pampered Manhattanites but now available in most rich American cities, has declared Georgetown an "on-the-verge nabe."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And Here's the Times Story About the Groper

From today's Seattle Times:

Seattle police bike officers have increased their patrols of the Beacon Hill neighborhood in response to the latest in nearly two dozen sexual attacks on Asian girls and women.

Police say the man has groped, chased and even knocked down 22 girls and women in Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill since August 2006. The victims have ranged from teenagers to a 52-year-old. No victim has been raped or critically injured, and police said the man normally runs off after his victims have screamed for help.

The cops quoted in this story are unusually frank, saying "We're highly unlikely to catch this guy," and that the intention of their stepped-up patrol is to make people "feel" safe.

The principal at Beacon Hill Elementary invites the public to come to the PTSA meeting at 7:15 tonight at the school; some police will be there to discuss the incidents.

Feel safe!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beacon Hill Groper Attacks 22nd Victim

I don't even know what to say about this anymore.

In the middle of the day on Thursday, this man attacked his 22nd (reported) victim, this time right by the 76 station on the 2400 block of 14th Avenue South.

From yesterday's P-I:

"The victim, a 28-year-old woman, was walking home from the store when a man approached her from behind, covered her mouth, knocked her to the ground and assaulted her. Two people nearby saw the attack. When the assailant noticed them, he broke off his assault and fled."

"[The perpetrator] has been described as a black male of medium height, thin build, in his 20s or 30s. He has worn a variety of clothing and in some cases has hidden behind a green ski mask or red scarf."

Interesting that the Seattle Times didn't think a 22nd sexual attack in South Seattle by the same asshole warranted a mention in the local section.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Late Afternoon Snack in Georgetown

I really wanted a Chopper from Smarty Pants but settled for a Southwest Chop Salad from Taco Time.



Taco Time's Southwest Chop Salad only contains 189 calories per 12-ounce serving (not including dressing). I'm not sure how many servings this is.


In any case, it's a very lonely meal.


My Beacon Hill Garden in Mid-March

(Like how I try to make this topical?)

It's Garden Bloom Day, and I'd like to show you some things that are and aren't in bloom in my garden today.

This elk grass produces brown flowers in summer. They should look nice next to the bronze container, whose Japanese maple will have purple leaves by then.


I've always loved this little Viburnum davidii, even though it doesn't produce metallic blue berries because it's all alone up here. It needs a cross-pollinating buddy.


It's lame that my winter hazel doesn't bloom until nearly spring.


I don't know what this plant is. I'm not crazy about white blossoms, but they don't last that long.


This Euphorbia self-seeds, I've noticed. I see little ones popping up here and there.


The rosemary blooms a lot.


We need to get these lovely sedum in the rock wall soon.


I think this counts as blooming.


Alliums on their way.


The sedum wall with some Scotch moss, which will unfortunately start blooming white at some point.


Bless these sedum for shutting out weeds.


I think hens and chicks are OK here and there.


So pleased with the way this section has filled out.





My nine Julia Phelps Ceanothus do not yet form a hedge, but you can see that they will. I will probably need to remove every other one at some point. It's always hard not to plant things too close together.


One of the plants has started to bloom.



In April, all the little purple buds on all 11 plants will bloom blue. It's incredibly beautiful.


The donkey tail Euphorbia is the success story of the moment.


They look so happy to be alive.




I fear the Point Reyes Ceanothus will eventually crowd this one out.


I want more fiery orange heathers.


The Cryptomeria, which looked iffy over the winter, are now doing fine.


Thank you, sedum and Euphorbia.


And hello to the girl fetus I've been carrying these last several months. You are already loved.