Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seen or heard in the 'hood

New restaurant to take MP Conservatory space

Though we don't yet have the details, we do know that the space on 43rd Avenue E. vacated by Madison Park Conservatory in February will soon be the site of a new restaurant.  Owners Maria and Ricky Eng, doing business as Eng Seattle Restaurants, Inc., applied earlier this month for a liquor license for the site. Ricky Eng confirms that while the name is yet to be determined, the restaurant will definitely be a full-service, sit-down affair. We'll give you the full scoop when we have it.

Founder moves on but pizzeria still going strong

Tom Siegal, who created The Independent Pizzeria in 2010 and who has been the mainstay pizza maker ever since, moved to Providence, Rhode Island earlier this summer.  His wife was admitted to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design--and Tom, quite naturally, decided to relocate to the East Coast to be with her while she's in school.

While Tom is maintaining his ownership of our neighborhood pizza joint, Joe Heffernan and the rest of The Independent Pizza crew are carrying on the four-year tradition of making excellent Neapolitan pizza in Madison Park.  National foodie website Epicurious tapped The Indpendent as having one of the 10 Top Pizzas in the U.S. last year.

Former Mad Pizza space undergoing refurbishment

Construction of a new interior, along with some exterior refurbishment, is underway at the old Mad Pizza location on E. Madison St.  So it looks like what's rumored to be an Asian eatery is going to be part of Madison Park's future.  What's apparently not in our future, however, is a taco stand at the location of the old Best Buds flower shop on E. Blaine.  Nothing much happening there since the notice was taken out of the window months ago.   Both sites have been vacant since last year.

Ann Marie elects to stay

Although Ann Marie Lingerie announced during Spring that it was giving up its "bricks and mortar" in the neighborhood and migrating to an exclusively on-line business, apparently the moving-out sale and the interest generated from the publicity resulted in a re-thinking of that business strategy.  Manager Felicia Klabo reported to us earlier this month that the shop is staying in place.  The efforts to increase Ann Marie's on-line presence continues unabated, however.

HomeStreet almost ready to enter banking scene

It's taken a long, long time to get to this point, but the new Madison Park HomeStreet Bank branch seems to be nearing completion, with an anticipated late August/early September opening date.  The one-time Tully's site, which was vacated in October 2012, has been under such an extensive repair program that it could almost be argued that the result is a new building.  The original structure is over one hundred years old and has served host to many different businesses along the way, but never a bank. What's happening to this space is part of a trend, however, of Madison Park becoming a banking hub. HomeStreet, when open, will be Bank Branch Number Five.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Feds shut down Lakeside Capital

Firm's principal misused client funds says SEC

Madison Park's Lakeside Capital Management, founded in 1997 and solely owned by portfolio manager Dennis Daugs since 2010, is ceasing its operations as a result of a recent action by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  The SEC, in an order today instituting administrative "cease and desist" proceedings against both the firm and Daugs, states that Daugs "used over $8 million in client advisory assets to conduct undisclosed actions that fraudulently breached his fiduciary duty."  (The full text of the SEC order can be found here.)

Daugs, according to a report by Reuters, neither denies nor admits the allegations of the SEC but agreed to be barred from the industry.  A separate news report on the website FinancialPlanning.com states that Daugs is paying $590,000 to settle the SEC charges.  The website states that Lakeside has paid out almost $15 million in customer settlements over the past nine years (though we could not independently confirm this based on the information the SEC released today).

Lakeside has been a prominent neighborhood business, making real estate investments in this area and elsewhere on behalf of its well-heeled clients.  It recently negotiated the sale of the investor-owned Villa Marina apartment building on 43rd Avenue E. at the foot of Madison, which is next door to Lakeside's headquarters (shown above).

According to the SEC, "Daugs breached [his fiduciary] duty beginning in 2008 and 2009,
when he invested a senior citizen Lakeside client in $3.1 million in personal loans to himself. Daugs used the loans to buy a vacation home and refinance his purchase of a rare automobile, and the loans involved a material conflict of interest between Daugs and the client. Yet Daugs did not disclose the loans to the client until early 2010."  The auto in question, according to the SEC, is a rare 1955 "Gullwing" Mercedes, similar to the one shown below:

Also, says the SEC, "Daugs used over $5 million from [a Lakeside managed] fund in undisclosed self-dealing."  These and other compliance violations, say the feds, constitute willful violation of securities laws by the respondents, Lakeside Captial Management and Dennis Daugs, who have therefore been censured by the SEC for their conduct.

Daugs has six months to wind down Lakeside's operations.  The press report by Reuters notes that Daugs, in a recent letter to the firm's investors, states that their investments are not at risk.  The SEC reports that Lakeside had approximately $150 million in assets under management on average and served as investment adviser to about 100 individuals and over thirty private real estate funds during the period the alleged violations occurred.

[Gullwing photo from Wikipedia.]

Fat Salmon here Saturday

Expect neighborhood parking to be impacted

The annual Fat Salmon Open Water Swim will be returning to Madison Park this weekend, brining hundreds of swimmers, kayakers, and spectators to the neighborhood Saturday morning.  Check-in for participants starts at 6:15 am and the first swimmers are expected to arrive at Madison Park Beach at around 9:15. The 3.2-mile race begins at the Day Street Boat Ramp, just north of I-90.  Following the Swim there's the awarding of the fat salmons, so expect the crowd to remain around the 'hood through late morning.  It's always a fun event.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Welcome to Summer!

Bastille Bash returns

Bastille Day is just around the corner, so get prepared to enjoy a brief dip into French culture with Bastille Bash, Madison Valley's tribute all things francaise. The fun begins at 3 pm on Saturday, July 12, and continues until 8 pm.  Events will occur up and down Madison Street between 27th and 30th Avenues in this, the third year for the French-themed walkabout. There will be plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, listen to live entertainment, and shop the sidewalk sales. You can get the full rundown of participating establishments, slated entertainment, and how to purchase food and wine tickets here.

Who dosn't love a parade?

It always ends almost before it begins (the waiting time for participants is generally several multiples of the parade's duration), but it's an annual neighborhood event that is much enjoyed by participating and onlooking kids, parents, grandparents and (presumably) the assorted pets and occasional farm animals that (sometimes literally) get roped in to walk the five- or six-block route.  We are of course speaking of the Kids Parade, a part of Madison Park Days, sponsored each year by the Madison Park Business Association. This year the parade happens on Saturday, July 12.

Madison Park Days also includes sidewalk sales, beginning on Thursday July 10, and it ends with a picnic in the park following the big parade.  Those wishing to walk the parade route behind the fire engine may begin lining up in front of the Madison Park Wells Fargo branch at 11:45 am.  The parade begins at noon.  Straight down Madison Street to the park.

Park in the Dark! 

The Washington Park Arboretum, an easily accessible amenity for those of us lucky enough to live in Madison Park, has many programs and events each year that are designed to enhance our understanding of the the plants and animals with which we share the planet.  A great example is the UW Botanic Gardens' Park in the Dark series which takes place this year at each full moon during July and August.  Where else are we going to learn first hand about the crepuscular  creatures that inhabit the Arboretum if we don't search them out at night?  Park in the Dark is a bring-your-own-flashlight opportunity, especially for families with kids aged 5-12, to see the animals in their nocturnal environment and learn about their adaptation to the dark.  Information on the program is available here.  Registration is required.  The first full moon this month is on Saturday, July 12.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Locked-out scammer back at it

At about this time three years ago we reported on a guy who was scamming unsuspecting folks in the neighborhood with a story about being locked out of his place of employment and needing money to get a locksmith.  As we later learned, the guy had been using this particular ruse for years. Reports on this scammer, as we discovered, had appeared on the blogs of several Seattle neighborhoods.

Well it now appears that this con artist or someone working the same angle is back on the scene here in Madison Park.  The Seattle Tennis Club this week sent out this warning:

"To Our Neighbors:  

It has been reported that a man is going door to door in the Club's Madison Park neighborhood knocking on doors and asking for money for his car. He claims to be a STC staff member. He is not.  He has worked this scam in the neighborhood in the past and he's back. Please do not open your door to this man or give him any money."

We earlier had this report from a reader: 

"Last night at 10:45 PM someone was knocking loudly at my door.  I went out on the deck to see who it could be at that hour. It was an African American man, guessing in his 50s, claiming to be a janitor at McGilvra school.  He said his name was Patrick, and that he had locked keys in his car and needed $14 more to pay the locksmith.  He also said he was a gay man and I need not be scared." 

The Madison Park Blogger was a victim of this guy many years ago, so we can attest to his being a very convincing fellow.  

You are now informed.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Keeping Up

Tree Walk returns June 21

Last year's first-ever guided tour of neighborhood trees is being repeated this month for those who missed the first go-round, as well as for those who would like to learn more about what makes Madison Park one of Seattle's great arboreal neighborhoods.  The "walk around" will be guided by the former Pacific Northwest editor of Sunset Magazine, Steve Lorton, and Ronald Heibert of Madison Valley's City People's garden store.  Both are current on Pacific Northwest biota, and each of them is a story teller with an historical bent. So come prepared to learn something (and perhaps to take some notes).

Steve Lorton expounds during last year's Tree Walk

The Tree Walk begins at Park Shore Retirement at 10 am, Saturday, June 21, and ends there an hour and a half or so later. This year's tour is a fundraiser for the Madison Park Community Council, which is the sponsor.  Donations to the MPCC, which is a registered non-profit, are encouraged but not required.

Neighborhood-based Arts & Crafts Farm

If you're a kid aged 7-12 (or are the parent of one), you may be interested in knowing that it's possible this summer for neighborhood kids to spend a week at an art camp without having to go anywhere far for the experience.  Madison Parkers Gayle Jack and Ann Wyman, who each have extensive backgrounds teaching kids arts and crafts, will be offering three one-week sessions of an "Arts & Crafts Farm" here in the Park during the weeks of June 23-17, July 14-18 and July 21-25.

The location will be 1601 41st  Avenue E., which is just one block south of Bert's Red Apple.  Activities will include painting, printing, jewelry making, tie dying and beading. The fee is $220 per week. More information is available from Gayle or Ann, (206) 322-4342 or gayle.sjack@gmail.com.

Madison Park Conservatory for sale

Although the website was recently taken down and the restaurant's Facebook page now reads "Permanently Closed," Madison Park Conservatory is actually on the market, we've learned, with a sale price of $249,000. The current owners apparently have a long-term lease on the property and would like to sell the lease rights, leasehold improvements, furnishings and the name to a new owner/operator. We've heard there's some interest in the space if the lease becomes available. It appears that the MPC has been on the market since it shut down in February, after three years on the local scene.

Villa Marina sold

The 14-unit Villa Marina apartment building at the foot of Madison Street was sold last month for $4,025,000, according to real estate broker Paragon Real Estate Advisors. The building was built in 1921, but many of the residential and commercial units have been recently renovated and we understand the new owners intend to complete that process for the remaining units.

[Art photo above (Kandinsky riff) from the website, www.artprojectsforkids.org.]

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A buyer's or a seller's market?

We got some pushback recently when we described Madison Park as an extreme “buyer’s market” on the residential real estate front—in other words, a “very cold” sales environment.   That was not an original conclusion on our part, however.  We were simply quoting the opinion of real estate website Zillow.

Not surprisingly, some readers disputed the notion that this is not a seller’s market; and they seem to have a point.  According to Merriam-Webster, a buyer’s market is “a market in which goods are plentiful, buyers have a wide range of choice, and prices tend to be low.”  That seems to be pretty much the opposite of the situation here, where at the end of the first quarter there were only 22 residential listings, hardly a “goods are plentiful” situation for a market that saw more than 100 listings during the downturn, with prices significantly lower than the current median sales price.

Here’s a capsule summary of the market at the end of the first quarter:


Listings:  22
Median List Price:  $2,595,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,105
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $625
Average Days on Market:  78
Percentage with Price Reductions:  9%
New Listings:  22
Pending Sales:  10


Listings:  5
Median List Price:  $475,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,025
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $463
Average Days on Market:  132
Percentage with Price Reductions:  60%
New Listings:  2
Pending Sales:  0

This market snapshot seems to prove we’re experiencing a seller’s market, which the dictionary defines as “a market in which goods are scarce, buyers have limited range of choice, and prices are high.”

We went back to Zillow to get a clarification of their reasoning, and here’s how the website defines its approach:  “Based on three metrics—sale-to-list price ratio, the prevalence of price cuts on home listings, and time-on-market—the market temperature provides information on the current balance of bargaining power between buyers and sellers in this neighborhood relative to other neighborhoods in the same metropolitan area.”  So the “hot/cold market” issue for Zillow has do with other variables than simply inventory levels.  In the case of Madison Park, Zillow showed 21.3% of Madison Park properties as selling below the list price earlier this year, with 26.7% of properties on the market having undergone a price cut from the point of the original listing.  The days-on-market metric, however, was not high at the end of the first quarter.

Here’s an overview of the first quarter’s sales activity:


Sales:  11
Median Sale Price:  $1,499,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,457
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $434
Average Days on Market:  80
Average Discount from List Price:  5.8%


Sales: 6
Median Sale Price:  $597,500
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,500
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $542
Average Days on Market:  81
Average Discount from List Price: 6.8%

An average rate of six sales per month is certainly not barn-burning performance, but for the market as a whole it’s clear that discounts are still being required of many sellers and price cuts are common.  So Zillow has a reasonable point to make about a “cold” buyer’s market in Madison Park, using their definition of what that means.

Most expensive listing, at $6,450,000: 3414 E. Shore Drive, Broadmoor

As we discussed last month, however, the market here can really be divided into two segments, each of which is exhibiting a different sales pattern.  Houses priced under $1,500,000 or so are selling quickly, may garner multiple offers, and are sometimes being sold at a premium from the original list price.  At the upper end of the market, however, price cuts and discounts are the norm and the waiting time is longer.  Hotter (a seller’s market) at the bottom, but colder (a buyer’s market) at the top.  Interestingly, Zillow has now removed the “Hot/Cold” thermometer from the Madison Park home-value page.  Perhaps the company’s methodology was just not in keeping with the generally accepted definition.

We noticed some other changes as well.  When we first reported on Zillow’s analysis of our market we were looking at the website’s Madison Park page in mid-March.  At that time, Zillow showed a 7.1% year-over-year increase in Madison Park home values and was projecting a 4.8% increase for the upcoming year.  The Zillow Home Value Index for Madison Park (Broadmoor excluded) then stood at $925,200 (the estimated median value of homes in the neighborhood).  Now, just two months later, Zillow shows a Madison Park Home Value Index of $964,300, an 11% increase in neighborhood values over the past year, and a one-year forecast of a 7.9% rise.

Things are looking up, at least in Zillow’s significantly revised opinion.

[Thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate for her help in compiling the sales data.  Listing data courtesy of Redfin, using information from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Lower photo courtesy of Ewing & Clark, via Redfin.]

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Molester in Tennis Club case reappears

2010 assault was not his last

Almost four years ago, in July 2010, we did a controversial blog posting on a sexual assault that took place at the Seattle Tennis Club. The fact of the assault was a matter of public record; but because the perpetrator and the victim were both minors, no names were reported. Our story was controversial because some STC members did not want the matter discussed publicly.  Others, however, felt that the story warranted reporting so that parents who were aware of an assault having taken place in the neighborhood would be informed that the danger was not ongoing.

The perpetrator, Lucas D. Trethewey, then 17 years old, was convicted of child molestation in the first degree and sentenced to several months of juvenile detention. He was also stripped of his membership in the Seattle Tennis Club.  However, after serving his time, Trethewey soon perpetrated another criminal act, this time at the Northgate Toys 'R' Us store.  In November 2011 he was convicted of voyeurism in that case, which involved the use of his cellular phone camera in a men's room. The incident was reported by the SeattlePI.com.  Trethewey, as a registered sex offender, must report his address to the authorities, and according to the King County Sheriff's website, Trethewey now lives on Capitol Hill.

Trethewey is back in the news with a recent report by the Seattle P-I that he has been charged with second-degree child molestation resulting from an incident at GameWorks in November 2013.  Trethewey, who is now 21, has not yet entered a plea.

In the Tennis Club incident, as reported by the PI, Tretheway, groped a nine-year-ol boy, who reported the contact to a passing adult, who both confronted Tretheway and called in an STC manager.  Quoting from the the PI story:

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Trethewey said, according to court documents. “Sorry that this is happening, and I’m sorry that you had to get the manager.”  Trethewey later told the manager he “had this problem in the past,” the Seattle detective told the court. When asked what he meant, Trethewey replied “with children” and added that he’d been through therapy. Interviewed by police alongside his parents, Trethewey changed his story and claimed he may have accidentally brushed by the boy on the way past him. 

Trethewey plea-bargained after that initial incident.  That option may not be available to him now, given this third alleged attack.

[Photo: King County Sheriff's Office.]

Friday, May 23, 2014

Madison Park assessments up 12.1%

The new assessments are in the mail

Madison Park homeowners, along with their counterparts in Madrona and Leschi, should be receiving a notice from the King County Assessor's office in the next day or so. It's one of those good news/bad news situations, however. Some property owners may be gratified to see that the upward trend in house values is validated by a higher tax assessment on their home.  The 12.1% increase for this part of town ("Area 14" on the Assessor's map) is not the biggest increase in the City, but it's big enough.  And as assessments increase, there's always that nagging feeling that an increase in the tax bill must be on the horizon.

That's not necessarily the case, however.  Or perhaps a better way of describing the situation is to say that there's not a 1:1 correlation between the assessment increase on a home and the resulting property tax increase on that property.  The tax rate, as we've discussed here many times, is a product of other factors (principally tax levies and the independent budget actions of city, county and local service districts, such as library districts).  Nevertheless, having an increase in a tax assessment probably is a mixed blessing at best.

In 2013 the average home in our area was assessed at $986,200.  With the 2014 increase, that average tax value is now $1,105,600. This does not include the 574 properties that were significantly "improved" during the last year. The increase for those properties is necessarily higher than the standard 12.1% applied to non-improved homes.

Anyway, here's what you should be looking for in your mail in the next few days:

And if you'd like to appeal, here's where to start: King County eAppeals.  You've got 60 days to appeal from the date you receive the notice.

[Photo, lifted from Curbed Seattle, of a home in Madrona.]

Monday, May 19, 2014

April Police Blotter

Burglaries increase as weather improves

It's much the same story every year: as we head into the summer months, burglaries accelerate in the neighborhood and eventually, after several months of this increased criminal activity, we remind readers to be vigilant.  This year we're reminding everyone early on: watch those open doors and windows on warm days and don't leave ladders propped up against your house or lying handy in the yard. These thoughtless acts can become invitations to the wrong kind of guest.

Not that criminals really need an invitation. There are always a number of forced-entry burglaries that occur here in any given month, good weather or bad.  We had a few of these in April. The first took place on the 2200 block of 39th Avenue E. at about 1pm on April 3. A woman reported to police that an unknown male had come into her house through a window and might still be in the house.  Police checked the house but did not find the intruder.  She told police that the perpetrator, described as a Latino male in his early 20s, had suddenly entered her second-story bedroom.  The woman screamed and the man ran back downstairs, apparently exiting through an open window.   Police found latent prints around the window sill.  A police search of the neighborhood was inconclusive.

There was a burglary reported on the 3800 block of E. Highland Drive on April 11.  The homeowner reported that when he returned home that afternoon he noticed that the drawers to his desk were open and that some "Sacagawea coins" were missing.  As he walked towards his bedroom, he discovered a crowbar on the floor near the bedroom door and noticed that the back door to the house was wide open.  It appeared that the intruders had tried to use the crowbar to gain entrance to the door leading to the main house, where the victim's landlords lived.  Police determined that the suspect had probably entered the premises through an open window.

Another incident occurred on the 1200 block of 38th Avenue E. and was reported on April 17, when a homeowner discovered that about $60,000 worth of heirloom jewelry had been stolen from a safe in her home.  She reported to police that the home is completely armed, and the only people who knew the code were family members and the cleaning crew, who had worked for her for more than ten years. The thief, after stealing the jewelry, had replaced the empty boxes back in the safe so that the theft would go unnoticed for some time.  The victim told police that she had last seen the jewelry on February 14.

A burglary also occurred on April 21 in The Edgewater Apartments.  The apartment dwellers reported that when they left their residence in the morning they had locked the door.  When they returned, however, the door was not dead-bolted.  They immediately noticed that an iPad was missing from the apartment, later noticing that a keyboard for the iPad, plus two chargers and two headphones were also not to be found.  Some jewelry had also been taken.  The police report notes that there was no sign of forced entry, but the apartment had a kitchen window that didn't lock and that leads to a fire escape which is shared with a neighbor.  The apartment building, which contains six apartments, is accessible through a secured main-floor lobby, to which tenants gain access by punching a code into an exterior keypad.

There were also two burglaries of neighborhood businesses during the month. On April 2, Nishino experienced a break-in.  A 3 ft. by 2 ft. double-paned window was shattered on the front of the restaurant and the suspect climbed inside. It  appeared that he had cut himself in the process, since there were blood smears on the floor, leading through the restaurant toward the rear exit. Nothing appeared to have been stolen. In the second incident, occurring on April 27, a business on the 4100 block of E. Madison Street.  The owner reported that about $2,000 worth of product had been stolen from the premises.

During the month there were also three cases of fraud/identity theft in the neighborhood (one from the Madison Park Blogger's household), one stolen vehicle (from the 2000 block of 43rd Avenue E. on April 16) and one car prowl (on the 1800 block of 43rd Avenue E. on April 24). There were also three reports of graffiti and two reports of thefts during April.

Looking Back at the First Quarter:  We were remiss in the first three months of the year in not reporting monthly on criminal activity (for which we apologize).  Here, however, are the statistics for reported crimes during the period:

Burglaries:  10
Car Thefts:  0
Car Break-ins:  13
Identify Thefts:  8

[Guide to map icons:  solid cars are car thefts, not-solid cars are car prowls, dollar signs are identity theft, dollar bills are thefts, spray-paint cans are property damage (usually graffiti) and starbursts are burglaries.]