Monday, June 29, 2009

Tagging is not ‘Art in the Park’

The death yesterday of famed NY graffiti artist Michael Martin, aka “Iz the Wiz”, provides us with a good segue for a little story on graffiti in Madison Park, of which the less said the better. The kind of graffiti sometimes found in Madison Park hardly rivals what you’d see any day in New York, LA or many European cities, but it is causing concern for both the Madison Park Community Council and Business Association.

I took a tour of neighborhood graffiti last week with MPCC president Ken Myrabo, who pointed out a lot of graffiti that I had missed on my many circuits through the park while walking my dogs. I guess it proves that some of us simply screen out graffiti when we see it. Tagging is certainly the lowest form of graffiti, being nothing more the than the unauthorized writing of the perpetrator’s moniker (in words or symbols) on buildings, streets and sidewalks, or objects. We seem to have a lot of that going in certain alleys, especially those in the merchant district near the end of E. Madison Street. Here's an example from the backside of the building housing Starbuck's:

It’s pretty unimpressive stuff. Clearly, the perpetrators are kids with no artistic talent and not much imagination either. In addition to tagging, there are occasional phrases (for example, on a residential garbage can in an alley: “for a rich neighborhood, this alley sure has a lot of graff…”). It’s all pretty pathetic stuff; and though a definite eyesore, it does not appear to me to be gang related. This is not the kind of graffiti that can be studied by sociologists for clues about 21st century urban youth’s feelings of alienation and angst. It seems more about bored kids with time on their hands and a can of spray paint.
Fortunately, most business owners in Madison Park act promptly to remove tagging when it occurs. The biggest problem appears to be on dumpsters (which are owned by the disposal companies, not the business owners) and the backs of buildings in alleyways. Myrabo points out that that the City has a Graffiti Nuisance Ordinance that requires property owners to remove graffiti when properly notified of its existence. He encourages those who discover graffiti to report it to the building owner as a first step.

Tagging is vandalism, and the city has a program to help prevent it and remove it. It is not recommended that property owners take the law into their own hands, as did one incensed New Zealand property owner a couple years ago who confronted two teenage taggers, eventually stabbing one of them to death (so reports Wikipedia).

Graffiti should be reported to the City’s Public Utilities Department (684-7587). You can access an on-line graffiti reporting form, as well as get tips on graffiti prevention and information on volunteering for graffiti cleanup, at Keep Seattle Clean.

By way of comparison of graffiti problems in the Park with those in other Seattle neighborhoods, take a look at what graffiti “artists” have done to destroy a mural on a bridge underpass in the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood area:

For a “before” picture of the mural, check out the blog. For more about American graffiti you can access a great NYC site:, which also provides links to graffiti sites in other cities.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It didn’t happen here: a perspective on Madison Park crime

Yes, it’s true that Madison Park has its occasional alleged bear poacher. And once in a while some out-of-area crazy comes into the neighborhood and rams into cars or stabs himself in the chest for no good reason. And we certainly have our share of car prowling and break-ins. But I’m here to tell you—and I’m in a good position to know—that when it comes to real crime, we’ve got it good here in Madison Park.

Take a look at the map above. My friends at the Central District News compile a daily map showing police-scanner dispatches within the East Precinct’s coverage area. That’s right, cdguy over there monitors the scanner most days and posts what he hears on the CDN website. This map is from Wednesday, and it’s typical. It shows no police calls anywhere within Madison Park.

Twice a week I trek over to the East Precinct on Capitol Hill (1519 12th Avenue) and download media copies of all of the police reports for the previous three or four days. I do this in order to compile my periodic Police Blotter for this blog. For the last several weeks I have been reading these reports and finding nothing worth blogging about. At first I was disappointed that all of the really interesting crime was happening elsewhere, but then I realized that having nothing to report is a good thing.

Even leaving out violent crimes, which seldom occur in Madison Park, there is still a lot of interesting and even imaginative crime that happens elsewhere in the East Precinct. Take, for example, the story of the Central District couple who disagreed on which TV show they were going to watch. In a fit of rage, the male grabbed the TV remote and clobbered his companion on the head with it, breaking some statuary in the process. Though battered, she won the argument and was able to watch her preferred show after her assailant fled the apartment in advance of the police. In Madison Park I think we’re just too refined for this kind of thing (or perhaps just to refined to report it). Or maybe it’s just that we’re more likely to have a second television.

And then there’s the case of a woman on Capitol Hill who reported that her upstairs neighbor was urinating from his balcony onto hers on a daily basis. This, apparently, in retaliation for her having complained to him about the excessive noise coming from his apartment. This, too, seems an unlikely scenario here in the Park. But it is the kind of story that readers of this blog are apparently interested in seeing. Several of you have told me that your favorite thing is the Police Blotter, so since I have to wade through all of the reports anyway, I will be presenting a potpourri of East Precinct crime on my future blotters. Always beginning with what’s been happening here in the Park.

Here’s a recent incident: On Friday, June 26, police were called when a man, apparently high, began stepping into the street at 43rd E. and East Blaine, waving his arms around. CDN reports that though the man was wearing one of those electronic ankle bracelets used for tracking offenders, the police database showed the one the man was wearing was “inactive.” Perhaps he just liked the look. He was, however, removed from the scene for evaluation.

More to follow…

Friday, June 26, 2009

Madison Park bear poacher?

The alternative newspaper The Stranger reports that a Madison Park condo was raided earlier this month by officers looking for evidence that a Japanese man has been illegally hunting bears in Washington in order to obtain their gallbladders for sale in Asia. Bear gallbladder bile is used in traditional Asian medicine as a treatment for intestinal, liver and cardiac illnesses and for many other diseases. The Stranger states that it is prized as a “restorative” (meaning aphrodisiac), but this is disputed by many other sources. What is not in dispute is that bear gallbladders, which are approximately the size of a human thumb, are worth their weight in gold in Asia. This, in spite of the fact that bear bile has now been synthesized by Japanese scientists.

The Stranger, quoting a search-warrant affidavit, says that when the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officers raided the condo on June 8 they “confiscated a dozen firearms, four bleached bear skulls, four boxes of processed game meat, several packages of bear paws, assorted frozen bear parts, and four dried bear gallbladders.”

Although the man has not been charged in this case, the affidavit reports that he had been charged with “wildlife crimes” in the past, according to The Stranger. He is reportedly a psychiatrist in his native Japan. For more on this story you may read the paper’s full report here: The Gall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Short takes

Missed connection: As we were wandering around the neighborhood this morning looking at graffiti, Ken Myrabo (president of the Madison Park Community Council) pointed out this heartfelt, rain-protected posting on a telephone pole near the parking lot at Starbuck’s. Believe it or not, there’s actually a website for this kind of thing: No word in this case on whether our CBB realtor has since made her connection.

More on the list of specials than just the Pod Thai? It’s not really a Madison Park story, but it became one when the newspaper and television crews descended on our neighborhood’s Thai Ginger restaurant yesterday to get shots and provide live coverage for the story on the restaurant owner’s day in court. For those who missed the story, owner Varee Bradford has been indicted on charges alleging that she paid various workers tens of thousands of dollars to marry her relatives so they could remain in the United States. My neighbor, Jim Waltz, was the cameraman for KIRO’s live coverage last night, and I’m indebted to him for suggesting the tag line above. For KIRO’s complete coverage, click here.

Watcher in the park is still around: There have been additional sightings of a tall black man supposedly standing around watching children in the playground area of the park. The police advise residents who see any such suspicious behavior to call 911 rather than confronting the man.

Fecal coliform levels remain elevated at Madison Park: King County's regular testing of Lake Washington water at our beach this week again showed higher-than-normal levels of these bacteria. However, the count has declined significantly, from 470 on June 15 to 220 on June 22. This is still considered of "Moderate Concern" under the County's measurement system, but as an individual reading it is not particularly bad news since the trend is in the right direction. According to Dean Wilson, the County's program manager for beach monitoring, higher amounts of fecal coliforms will be present after peroids of rain. The beach is definitely not considered dangerous to swimmers at this level.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The state of real estate: a 17-month supply of very expensive inventory

It probably comes as a shock to no one who’s been paying attention, but the 2009 statistics released by the King County Assessor for the year through the end of May show that Madison Park experienced a 44% drop in home sales over the same period in 2008. This continues a downward trend which began sometime in 2007.

For the first five months of the year a total of 36 homes were sold in Madison Park (including Broadmoor and Washington Park), compared to 64 home sales during the same period in 2008 and 80 in 2007. For the single month of May 2009 only six homes were sold in Madison Park, a 60% month-over-month decline from the 15 that were sold in May 2008.

The 116 properties currently on the market represent a 17-month level of inventory, based on the average seven-sales-per-month pace achieved so far in 2009. It is possible that some additional May sales still need to be reported to the County, and it is apparently the case that based on closings through this week, June will certainly show greater sales activity than May. Nevertheless, it’s clearly been a dismal first half of the year for home sellers and real estate agents in the Park.

One of the most interesting aspects of the local real estate market is the fact that, on the whole, the houses for sale are significantly more expensive--and therefore harder to unload—than most of the homes in the Park would be if placed on the market. The median value of a Madison Park home is $994,870 based on current estimates. Yet the median price of the 116 homes Redfin lists for sale in the Park is 68% higher: $1,675,000.

Madison Park is not alone in having such a disparity between the median value of its not-for-sale and its on-the-market properties. The 42 homes for sale on Capitol Hill, for example, have a median listing price of $925,000, 66% more than the $556,764 median value estimated by Zillow for the other 2,921 homes that are not for sale. The difference in Montlake, meanwhile, is much less: an $800,000 median for-sale price versus a $636,706 not-for-sale median value, according to Zillow. This is only a 26% differential.

[The above photo, courtesy of Windermere Realty, is of 2334 41st Avenue E., a listing of Lincoln Thompson priced at $1,895,000, which is the median house price for the 83 houses currently on the market in Madison Park.]

So what’s selling? The completed sale transactions for the market in 2009 have ranged from a $5.3 million Broadmoor house (1105 Parkside Drive E.) to a $613,000 abode in Washington Park (617 33rd Avenue E.). The median price is $1,200,000 for those sold homes for which prices have been reported to the County. Redfin reports that the sales price of homes over the last six months in Madison Park (exclusive of Washington Park) averaged $590 per square foot. This compares to an estimated median value of $459 per square foot for the overall market, according to Zillow.

In general, it is the larger homes in our market that are being sold, and it is the even-larger homes that are currently listed for sale. While Zillow estimates the median Madison Park home size at 2,049 sq. ft., the median size for homes that have sold in the last six months is 2,359 sq. ft., according to Redfin. And the median size for homes currently listed for sale, says Redfin, is 2,871 sq. ft. (Redfin excludes Washington Park from its analysis).

These figures include houses, townhouses and condos. Here’s a snapshot of the current listings in Madison Park for each category:


Listings: 83
Median Asking Price: $1,895,000
Median Square Footage: 3,680
Median Price per Square Foot: $515
Average Days on Market: 99
Percentage with Price Reductions: 37%


Listings: 28
Median Asking Price: $650,000
Median Square Footage: 1,246
Median Price per Square Foot: $522
Average Days on Market: 66
Percentage with Price Reductions: 50%


Listings: 5
Median Asking Price: $450,000
Median Square Footage: 1,200
Median Price per Square Foot: $375
Average Days on Market: 39
Percentage with Price Reductions: 20%

The figures on price reductions, in particular, are misleading due to the fact that many of the units have been on the market in the past, were unsold, and have been put back on the market at a reduced price after a brief withdrawal. Price reduction percentages refer to any price cutting that has occurred since the newest listing.

The real estate agents I’ve talked to see several factors influencing the market. Foremost is the fact that there are so few qualified buyers in such a rarefied market. Those who can afford to buy are taking their time, according to Windermere agent Jan Sewell, who notes that these buyers can also afford to wait for the right opportunity. One of the things they appear to be anticipating is better terms from the lending institutions for jumbo mortgages. Wendy Skerritt, also of Windermere, reports that she is hearing anecdotal evidence that some banks are getting back into the game of financing upper-end houses. If this is true, it will certainly help move the market at the upper end.

Right now, with a buyers’ market fully in play, a Madison Park house owner who wants to sell needs to do everything right, says Lincoln Thompson, associate broker at Windermere-Madison Park. “Houses that are average or not well priced are just going to sit.”

[The real estate market analyzed in this report comprises Sub Areas 6 (Broadmoor) and 7 (Madison Park and Washington Park) of Area 14, as designated by the Office of the King County Assessor. Differences between the median figures used above and those of Zillow result from the combining of the two Sub Areas, which are analyzed separately by Zillow but are not broken out for purposes of this report.]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Relatively wealthy (but perhaps not feeling so)

In case you missed the recent report in the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ), you may be interested in learning that 98112 is the wealthiest zip code in Seattle.

In 10th position, ours is the only Seattle zip code making it to the top-ten list for the Puget Sound region, and it is one of only two Seattle zips in the top twenty (the other being 98177, which includes The Highlands and Blue Ridge). The Eastside rules the list, with Medina the perennial Number One, well ahead of the rest of the pack. A Redmond zip is Number Two, and rounding out the top ten there are two entries each for Sammamish and Woodinville, as well as one zip each for Mercer Island, Bellevue and Issaquah. There are 223 zip codes in the geographic region covered by the paper’s report.

The 98112 zip code comprises all of Madison Park (including Broadmoor and Washington Park), Montlake, Denny-Blaine and most of Capitol Hill. The PSBJ estimates that the average household net worth for our zip is $1,127,992. This compares to $2,272,662 for Medina and $860,838 for Auburn, which is 25th on the list. Average 2008 household income for 98112 was estimated at $138,623.

Madison Park comprises something more than a quarter of the 98112 zip code’s population of 20,043.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sticklebacks inundate Madison Park beaches

There have been reports for several days of large numbers of dead fish washing onto some of our road-end beaches, particularly those on E. Lee, E. Highland and E. Prospect Streets. The cause is not the mystery it first seemed. The fish have been identified as three-spine sticklebacks, and they have died of what—for them at least—is a natural cause: rough sex.

According to King County’s Water & Land Resources Division, the lot of the male stickleback during breeding season is an unpleasant one. First there’s the swimming around furiously to attract a mate, then there’s the mating itself, and finally there’s the nest building and caring for the young. What the female is doing all this time is not specified. But the males are pretty worn out from their exertions at the end, and many of them go on to their reward. In this case, the reward is more on the side of the eagles, crows and rats who are making tasty meals of the stickleback carcasses. The beaches are picked fairly clean, but some of the remains are now littering the gardens and pathways around the beaches.

Sidebar: As I was researching this story today I discovered coincidentally that the beach at Madison Park is experiencing a big spike in fecal coliform levels, rising from a level of 16 on June 9 to 470 on June 15, by far the highest level of any beach on Lake Washington as measured by the County. Fecal coliforms are a group of intestinal bacteria that are routinely used as an indicator of sewage pollution in water.

Madison Park’s recent reading of 470 is still within the acceptable level, though levels above 200 are considered of Moderate Concern, according to the County. To reach High Concern, the level would need to reach 1000, at which point the beach would probably be closed to swimming.

I talked to Dean Wilson, who is a senior water quality project manager with King County, and he reports that an individual reading at a particular beach “could represent a sampling artifact such as geese being in the area around the time the sample was taken.” He said that overall, Madison Park currently has a geometric mean for the last five samplings of 50, which shows high-quality water. If next week’s sampling shows an elevated level of fecal coliforms there would be a need to monitor the situation more closely, he said. If the reading is high next week, I will report it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Too garish for the Park?

The refined sensibilities of some Madison Park residents have been sorely tested by the oversize neon sign installed earlier this month by “Washington’s Newest Bank” (aka Chase Manhattan). Believing that the New York-based bank has violated our community’s tasteful-sign standards, they reportedly took their complaints directly to Chase last week, requesting that the sign be downsized and possibly de-neoned. The issue was important enough to be discussed at the Madison Park Community Council meeting this week, with the decision taken to formalize a request that Chase cease and desist.

Chase’s offense was also discussed at the Madison Park Business Association meeting today. It is the MPBA which has the sign standard of which I am told Chase is clearly in violation. However, the standard is a voluntary one; in other words, enforceable only through community pressure.

For awhile this afternoon it looked as though the complaints were being heeded. A sign-company truck rolled up to the branch, the offending sign was removed, and for a brief moment some had hope that a New York bank could actually react to our community’s input.

However, it was not to be. A new metal facing was installed above the branch to cover the bricks (which had been scarred previously by WaMu’s awning), and the offending sign was promptly reinstalled. In fact, the sign now stands out even more than it did before.

It remains to be seen whether Chase will eventually back down, but there is at least one precedent for a big bank responding to the community’s complaints. According to MPBA member Lola McKee (Madison Park Hardware), many years ago Bank of America put up an offending sign but reversed course after the violation was pointed out.

Chase’s sign is not the only one in the neighborhood that is legal under City code but still in violation of the MPBA standard. Also on the blacklist is the new Fitness Together sign, next to Bing’s.

For some, the sign issue may seem like a pretty unimportant battle to occupy people’s time. But for others, such as Council President Ken Myrabo, taking a stand has to do with preserving the character of the neighborhood and keeping our little piece of Madison Street from becoming another Lake City Way. Now that’s a cause a lot of us can get behind.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Watchers in the park and other weird crimes

It’s been a strange last few days on the neighborhood crime scene, including a stalker in the Park, bong hits on the beach, hit-and-run craziness, senseless vandalism, and even a self-inflicted stabbing.

To begin with the most serious, there have been several incidents reported to police of someone watching children in the Park. In two cases within the last week, police were called to investigate, but in each case the suspect had disappeared and could not be traced. The Central District News website picked up a report on the police scanner that on Thursday a suspicious male was reported hanging around the Madison Park playground watching children play. The caller reported having seen the man at the park on many occasions, describing him as a black male in a pink shirt who "doesn't look right.” On Saturday morning I witnessed a police search after a similar incident occurred. The parent who made the police call said this suspect was someone he had seen at the park in the past, but I was unable to get a description.

Meanwhile, the early evening calm of Thursday was shattered when a blue Ford Escort careened down 43rd Avenue E., crashing into a Volvo parked on the street in front of the Lakehouse condominiums. As the many onlookers watched, the driver reportedly got out the vehicle, staggered around, laughed hysterically, got back into his car and took off. Someone gave chase and got the license number, but he broke off pursuit when it became apparent that a serious accident could result.

On another evening last week, according to a neighbor, several people walking on E. Madison saw a man, possibly on drugs, pick up a big ceramic pot from in front of McGilvra’s and smash it onto the roof of a nearby parked car. And if that wasn’t enough craziness for one week, another neighbor reports that over the weekend there was an apparently drugged-out man walking around talking strangely who eventually ended up stabbing himself with a knife on McGilvra Boulevard E. as witnesses watched. Police were called.

Concerned neighbors who wish to discuss this mini-crime wave (if that’s what it is) will have an opportunity to do so at the upcoming Madison Park Community Council meeting on Monday (7:00pm at the Bathhouse). Madison Park resident Don Petit, who is trying to organize the neighborhood to deal with this spurt of criminal activity, reports that the Council has agreed to put crime on the agenda.

The bong hit incident, mentioned above, is admittedly unsubstantiated, but two weekends ago a bong was seen being carried down to one of the roadend beaches here in the Park, and the next morning evidence of a fire and a lot of debris was discovered. Whether the bong was actually used or not, only the alleged perpetrators know for sure.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Assessed values of Madison Park houses down 12.3%

If you’ve checked your mailbox today you may have found your new property assessment in the mail. And if your property is typical, your assessment should have gone down approximately 12.3% from last year’s level.

King County Assessor Scott Noble, in what is probably one of his last acts before heading off to jail, signed off last month on the 2009 Area Property Assessment Reports, including that for Madison Park/Leschi . These area reports are used to define the percentage by which property values in each area of the County will be adjusted for 2010 property-tax purposes. The map at left (click to enlarge) shows the area covered by the Madison Park/Leschi report. There are three geographic groupings represented: green is Madison Park proper (including Washington Park and Denny-Blaine), blue is Broadmoor, and red is Leschi and Madrona. The housing markets in all three sub units were analyzed together to produce one adjustment percentage for the entire area.

Here for comparative purposes is how our assessment adjustment of -12.3% compares to other Seattle neighborhoods:

Capitol Hill - down 13.9%
Fremont - down 17.1%
Magnolia - down 17.4%
Central Area - down 18.1%
Georgetown - down 19.3%

And here’s what some neighborhoods on the Eastside experienced:

Novelty Hill - down 14.1%
Woodinville - down 14.3%
Bellevue - down 15.3%
Sammamish - down 15.9%
Duvall - down 18.4%

So, if it’s any consolation to property owners in Madison Park, it appears that in the opinion of the Assessor, our community has held up better than any other area of the County (several area reports have still to be issued publicly, however).

After noting that they have historically taken a conservative approach to computing changes in market values, the County’s Department of Assessments this year says that “in the recent declining market, this approach was not an option. Instead, sales occurring prior to January 2009 were adjusted downward for use in the analysis process. An additional downward adjustment was warranted to account for lack of sales and the influence of distressed sales on the housing market. Most homeowners will see a significant reduction in the assessed value of their home.” For Madison Park/Leschi, 94.3% of homeowners will have their property value adjusted by the “standard area adjustment” of 12.31%. Some properties, including new houses and those that have been remodeled, will be adjusted on a different basis.

A caution is in order, however, lest anyone think that a 12.3% decline in property values means a 12.3% decrease in their 2010 property tax assessments. Far from it. The amount of tax each of us will owe next year will be determined in January 2010, and we will be notified of our 2010 tax bill in mid-February next year. The new tax rate (aka millage) that will be imposed next year will be determined by the funding needs of governments within the County, some of which were imposed by the voters through tax levies. As the Assessor’s Office puts it, “Property valuations do not determine the amount of overall property tax obligations. Property tax obligations are determined by 160 taxing districts in King County as they create their respective budgets for 2010 and are not determined nor set by the Assessor. Simply put, the amount of tax obligation is determined by the taxing districts and the distribution of the obligation is determined by property values.”

So the bottom line is that since Madison Park/Leschi held up better in the market downturn, the effect of this is to shift a greater burden to our community in meeting the overall tax obligations of the County. Hurray for us!

If you have not yet received your new property assessment and want to know what it is, you may access this information at the Department of Assessments website.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A glimpse beyond the gates

We’re still a few days away from our May report on the Madison Park real estate market, but I thought it might be fun in the meantime to take a look at what is currently the most expensive listing in the neighborhood, according to Redfin. This 7,470 sq. ft. mansion, listed at $12,850,000, is the northernmost of the waterfront houses in the Reed Estate, that super-exclusive, walled-and-gated Washington Park enclave in which also sits the mega-home of Howard and Sheri Schultz.

This 1978 house, which was last on the market for $15.5 million in late 2006, boasts 135 feet of no-bank waterfront and is ensconced on almost three-fourths of an acre. With six bedrooms and 4.75 baths, the high-ceilinged French-style abode has a basement movie theatre and guest quarters, a three-car garage, two kitchens, and an in-door hot tub and spa.

And as you can see, the grounds are pretty spectacular as well.

And of course there's a dock.

Although much of the interior has justly been described as “Frenchified,” the term clearly does not apply to all parts of the house, including the library.

You can probably have this property for a discount from the listing price, since the house has been on the market on this latest go-round for 267 days, according to Redfin. Be prepared, however, for a steep tax bill ($97,000 for 2009, with a $10,662,000 assessed value for the 2010 tax year). And at today’s jumbo-mortgage interest rate (assuming you could even get a loan), monthly payments would be $61,000, with 20% down.

The property, located at 1500 42nd Avenue E., is listed by Kitty Hughes of Madison House Ltd., one of the Park’s top realtors.

If this villa is a bit out of your price range and you still would like to live in the Reed Estate, you are in luck. A “gracious and exceedingly elegant home” on the grounds is also on the market at only $2,975,000. Unfortunately, not on the water, no water view, and no indoor spa.
[Photos courtesy of]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dognapping: yes, it can happen here

It was a balmy spring evening in early June, and Carolyn Howard didn’t think twice about the fact that her front door was open and her dog, Piper, was sitting on the porch. In her 35 years in Madison Park it had never crossed her mind that anyone might walk off with someone’s dog—and her Wheaten Scottish Terrier was certainly not known for straying from the property. So she didn’t give the situation a second thought. But when she returned to the porch after just a few minutes, the 9-year-old Piper (aka “Pipes”) was nowhere to be found.

“I knew that she had been taken,” says Howard, “because everyone in the neighborhood could have said where Piper lived if she had been found by someone. After I looked for her and couldn’t find her my first instinct was that things were bad.” Howard immediately went into action, calling up pounds and veterinarian offices in the area and posting fliers around the neighborhood.

We’re happy to report that this story has a happy ending, with Piper being discovered by Howard at the Bellevue dog pound five days later. A wheaten-colored Scottie had been turned in, and Howard learned this fact after calling to listen to the pound’s daily recorded message listing new arrivals. She had hope that the dog was Piper but had to wait until the animal shelter opened the following day to find out for sure. At the reunion, according to Howard, Pipes was glad to be reunited but had no explanation to give for her disappearance.

Howard, who lives on the 1600 block of 42nd Avenue E., says “people need to know that this can happen. In the good weather, there are lots of people walking around the neighborhood who don’t live here. I’ve never been concerned before, but I sure am now. Piper is not getting out of my sight!”

A neighbor who had a similar thing happen to her dog several years ago speculates that someone took Piper with the intention of breeding the dog, later discovering upon closer examination that Piper had been neutered. A wheaten-colored Scottie is very unusual, according to Howard, and this may have been the attraction. As a precaution against further temptation, Howard jokes, “I think I am going to dye her black.”

Piper’s story provides an object lesson for those of us who are dog owners, especially those who have small pure-bred dogs that can be easily lifted. Being trusting may be a Madison Park thing, but it’s not necessary a wise thing.

Entrepreneurship in the Park

In an effort to snag beach goers who are too impatient to await the ice cream truck’s arrival or too lazy to walk up to Bert’s or the Scoop du Jour, Manal Sahmarani and her husband last week set up a tented refreshment stand in the Park near the Bathhouse. Their plan is to dispense pop, ice cream and popcorn to Park denizens and the occasional boulevardier who might wander by during the afternoons (this is my overblown explanation of their business plan, not her description of it).

She tells me she will be at her station in the Park (E. Madison St. and E. Howe St.) through the end of the summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Madison Park: a port no more

When my wife and I first moved to Madison Park early in this century, one of our neighbors welcomed us to “this destination community.” I asked what exactly he meant by the term, and he explained that Madison Park is a place people come to for a reason. No one drives through here just to get to somewhere else.

In this sense, the Park is different from most Seattle neighborhoods, and I’m certain that fact has shaped the character of our community. But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, for the first 70 or more years of Madison Park’s existence, it was actually a thoroughfare and access point for communities on the east side of the Lake. Kirkland, for example, was boosted in its early rise by the lifeline to Seattle provided by both passenger and vehicle ferries landing at Madison Park.

The above photo (click to enlarge) shows the dock as it looked in the first decade of the 1900s, one hundred years ago. At the dock is the ferry Lincoln, which was operated by the King County Ferry System. Madison Park itself initially developed as a link to the Eastside. The trail originally blazed by John McGilvra in the 1860s from downtown to his homestead here on the Lake (later Madison Street) became the primary route for settlers from communities across the water to get to Seattle to shop or to sell their produce and wares. As noted by local historian Alan J. Stein, many of the people who originally pioneered towns like Kirkland got their first glimpse of the Lake—and the possibilities beyond—from our beach. Madison Park thus became a vital commercial link, as well as a lakeside resort community.

Initially, the Madison Park dock was a steamer landing where several independent steamboat companies plied their trade. Our community grew up around the landing (which was next to McGilvra’s property) and eventually a trolley-car line was built on Madison to speed travelers on their trip to downtown. By the early 1900s, with the development of the eastside and the consequent increase in cross-lake traffic, King County decided to develop a vehicle-ferry system for Lake Washington. The ferry King County of Kent was the first of several King County ferries that operated until 1950 from the Madison Park dock at the foot of Madison. Another early ferry was the Washington (shown below), which handled the Kirkland-Madison Park run from 1908 through 1915.

This is the Madison Park ferry dock as it looked in the 1930s:

In coming months, I will be doing blog posts further exploring the history of the steamers and ferry boats operating from Madison Park, as well as an entry on the cable-car trolley line from the Park into downtown. History buffs stay tuned.

[Upper dock photo and photo of the Washington are courtesy of the Kirkland Heritage Society. Photo of the ferry dock in the 1930s is courtesy of the Museum of History & Industry, via the University of Washington on-line digital photo collection.]

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Artist’s reception at Madison Park Café

Longtime Madison Park artist Art Messer will be presenting some of his current paintings at Madison Park Café this month and will be opening the show with a reception at the restaurant on June 15th at 6pm. The work was inspired by Messer’s trip to Europe this year, where he experienced an April in Paris. Messer, who for several years in the 1980s ran a Madison Park art gallery, has been painting in the Park for 30 years or so.

Entitling his show A Fauvist in Paris, Messer explains his inspiration with this artist’s statement: “Fauvist or wild beast was the establishment’s label for artists like Matisse, Dufy and Cezanne and their bold use of color as expression. This movement is alive and well in the museums and contemporary art galleries in Paris. My current works are influenced by all of these factors. I enjoy painting in this form because it is just fun. Enjoy.”

The show will be on the walls of Madison Park Café (1807 42nd Avenue E.) through the end of June.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Free frozen custard on Saturday!

It’s not exactly a Madison Park story, but close enough. Besides, the punch line is just too good to pass up: Old School Frozen Custard (1316 E. Pike Street) will be giving it away for free at its grand opening on Saturday, June 6. From 3pm ‘til 10pm there will be a free single scoop cone of frozen custard for every comer. For those not in the know: frozen custard may look like soft ice cream but is quite a bit richer, containing at least 10% butterfat and 1.4% egg yoke by weight. The production method is also much different from that of ice cream, and you can read all about it on Old School's website:

The new store has had a soft opening all this week, and based on the lines it appears they have a winning product (it’s not free until the official opening). This is the second location for Old School, which has operated in its original store in Bonney Lake for almost two years.

As for the opening of the new Pike-at-Madison location, give the owners credit for good timing on the weather!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Car prowl incidents up big time

Our friends at the Central District News have proven much more resourceful that I in getting neighborhood major-crime data for the East Precinct from the Seattle Police. CDN’s analysis, Crime Stats Released, shows that our beat (C3 on the map in the post below) experienced not a single homicide in 2008, which was also true for the first four months of this year. Vehicle thefts are down for the 16-month period. The CDN reports, however, that the police have confirmed to them that car prowl incidents and the theft of auto accessories (which are not “major” crimes) are up 100% in the East Precinct over the past year.

For our reporting area (which includes Madison Valley and part of Madrona) crimes in the other categories seem to be at a pretty stable level, though non-auto thefts have been trending up—going from under 20 per month in January 2008 to well over 20 per month in April 2009. The run rate for assaults in our community is about 5 per month, and the rate for burglaries is about 10.

While the April numbers for the East Precinct show an increase in overall crime from the trend of the previous 15 months, it will not be clear for several months if this is an aberrant peak in a downward trend or something else.

This is perhaps a good point to reiterate that the Seattle Police make officer assignments each year based on the number of reported crimes. The East Precinct accounted for 18% of reported crimes in 2008 and has been allocated 18% of the total police force, according to the City. That gives us 88 officers out of the 496 total.

[Above graphic courtesy of the Seattle Police.]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Crime up in the East Precinct

[On the night of June 2, the owner of this truck parked at E. Galer and 42nd Avenue E. was the victim of a smash-and-dash that apparently was interrupted in progress, since the perpetrators left items in the truck and a tool of their trade on the street next to the truck.]

As you may have read in The Seattle Times yesterday, the Seattle crime rate was slightly down in 2008 over the level of the previous year, although serious crimes such as murder and rape were on the increase. Just why it took the City five months to report last year’s numbers was not explained. The City also issued crime statistics for the first four months of 2009, however, showing that overall crime is up 9% this year over the same period last year. The East Precinct, of which Madison Park is a subunit, showed an increase of 6% in major crimes. There were 180 violent crimes in the precinct through the end of April, compared with 165 last year, a 9% increase. Property crimes (burglary and theft) increased from 1,404 to 1,477 for the period, up 5%.

Unfortunately, the Seattle Police have yet to break out crime information by neighborhood, so we have to wait until the city is in the mood to report specifically on Madison Park crime. As I noted in a previous blog entry, the last crime information for our part of the world was published in early 2008 covering 2007 crimes. The East Precinct, by the way, encompasses pretty much the whole area between I-5 and Lake Washington and between I-405 and SR520, plus Montlake, and excluding parts of downtown:

When Madison Park crime data is reported, you can read about it here.