Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weekly Crime Report 6/28/10

When I started this blog over a year ago I promised regular police reports. And for a few months, I was able to deliver on that promise. It was some job, too. In those days the way to get information on crime incidents was to trek over to the East Precinct station on Capitol Hill, ask for the discs containing copies of the police reports, download the reports into a laptop, and then go home and sift through all of the reports for the whole City—just to see if any reports concerned crimes occurring in Madison Park. This became such a tedious, grueling, and time-consuming process that I soon threw in the towel. Since then, I have only been reporting periodically about aggregate crime data for our little part of the big City.

Now, however, the Seattle Police have made it much easier for the press and public to access crime information. The department has begun posting police reports online, and all you have to do is register in order to have access. If you’re interested in seeing these reports in the raw, you can sign up for access here. However, you won’t need to go that far. Since I can now easily do so, I intend to summarize the police reports on this blog weekly. The map above depicts the locations of crimes that were reported in Madison Park during the week ending June 28. The Seattle police report map for the whole City is available here. If you look at all of the incidents of crime occurring across Seattle during the week, you will be aware of what a crime backwater Madison Park really is.

Here’s what happened in terms of criminal behavior in the neighborhood during the past seven days:

Car prowls: There were three incidents on the 1300 block of Lake Washington Boulevard E. on June 22, as well as an incident on the 3300 block of E. Mercer on June 27.

Auto theft: One incident was reported on the 800 block of 33rd Avenue E. on June 26.

Aggravated assault: There was one incident (unusual for the Park) on the 4100 block of E. Madison Street on June 25. The arresting officer reported that he was called to the area to investigate a report that a man was beating another man with his fists. Witnesses said that the perpetrator had walked up to the victim, who had been standing on the sidewalk with a sign begging for money, and began yelling at him to stop intimidating people and asking for money. The victim, according to witnesses, had done nothing to provoke the attack. The perpetrator knocked the victim to the ground and began kicking him, all the while yelling at him to leave. Although the attacker had moved out of the area by the time the police arrived, he was later located in the 4200 block of E. Blaine and detained. Witnesses walked to this location and positively identified the perpetrator, who was then arrested for assault and transported to the East Precinct station. The attacker denied having hit the victim but said he only yelled at him. Another witness came forward later and identified the attacker as someone she had once hired to do landscape work.

[Thanks to a regular reader of Madison Park Blogger, Reg Newbeck, for making me aware of the Seattle Police’s new neighborhood crime map.]

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stormwater project and streetlight replacements may cause traffic back-ups

Madison Parkers may experience a traffic set back or two this summer while traveling to and from the Park. Two unrelated City utility projects have the potential to slow progress on both Madison Street and Lake Washington Boulevard, though neither is expected to result in major congestion.

The biggest operation by far is Phase II of the Madison Valley Stormwater Project, which will be getting underway in July. As previously reported here, a pipeline will be constructed to collect stormwater from the northwest section of Madison Valley and channel it to a newly built mostly-below-ground tank located near the ball field in Washington Park. Bryan Nicholson, the project engineer for Phase II at Seattle Public Utilities, tells me that the project will begin next month with some excavation work related to the replacement of a major water main along Madison Street. No water outages are anticipated for Madison Park residents.

By late July we may see some traffic impact resulting from site work on the Washington Park end of the project. An access road will be created off of the north side of Madison Street, with the road’s entrance situated about halfway between the Madison Lofts Condos (2914 E. Madison) and Lake Washington Boulevard. On the site map above, which shows the landscape plan for the completed project, the “pedestrian entry” is also the location of the construction access road.

The pipeline itself will be an underground affair, with the impact of above-ground construction expected to be fairly limited—unless you happen to live in Madison Valley near the site of the staging area (shown in blue on the map below) or near one of the eight pipeline shafts. Construction of the pipeline will begin at the Washington Park end (shaft 8) in August.

There will be a lot of “spoil” removed from the pipeline route, which will have to be trucked out of the area. Originally, Lake Washington Boulevard through the Arboretum was designated as a possible truck route. According to Nicholson, it is much more likely that the trucks will exit the Valley by heading up Madison (travelling west) and approach the freeways by going north on 23rd Avenue. For one thing, it would be difficult for the double-long dump trucks to navigate the Arboretum, which is already over-burdened with traffic. A final route has yet to be approved by the City.

Phase II has an 18-month construction schedule, culminating in the fall of 2011. Nicholson reports that traffic along Madison Street should seldom need to be stopped during construction as there is enough width to allow two-way flow, even when construction is occurring along the side. For more information on the Madison Valley Stormwater Project, visit the City’s official site. Questions can be directed to a 24-hour hotline: (206) 455-5345.

The second City utility project with potential traffic impact is also long-term, but far more limited in scope. Over the course of the next year and a half crews will be replacing more than seventy Arboretum streetlights with new light-emitting diode (LED) lights. This project, which began last week, is focused on all of the streetlights along Lake Washington Boulevard, from the entrance at Madison Street on the south end to the entrance at Broadmoor at the north end. Unfortunately, the electrical cable for these lights is located underground and is deteriorating. For this reason, the cable will have to be replaced--in addition to the lights and the light poles--which means there will be boring and trenching operations. Because there is only a two lane road through the Arboretum, on occasion traffic will have to be stopped in one direction while work is underway. Flaggers will be in evidence during the project.

According to Seattle City Light spokesperson Mark VanOss, work will be scheduled to minimize disruption to rush-hour traffic on the Boulevard. This summer’s phase of the project will concentrate on 29 lights from the Broadmoor entrance at E. Foster Island Road to a point 500 feet south of the pedestrian bridge over Lake Washington Boulevard. These replacements should be completed by the end of October, with the work on the remaining 42 lights to begin sometime next year.

[Stormwater graphics courtesy of Seattle Public Utilities.]

Friday, June 25, 2010

It must be summer...

...because the lifeguards returned to Madison Park Beach this afternoon to rope the swimming lanes, test the lakeworthiness of the rowboats, wipe down the catbird seat, and put up the off-duty sign.
They begin their official function at the beach as on-duty lifeguards tomorrow, Saturday, June 26. The schedule for this summer is 11 to 7 on weekends and noon to 7 on weekdays.
Although the Parks Department recently undertook numerous cost-cutting measures--including closing wading pools--eliminating the lifeguards at one of Seattle's most popular beaches was simply not one of the options. They will be at Madison Park as usual this summer, doing their jobs through September 6.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Decline in our house values: worst in the City?

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A few years ago I signed up on Zillow.com (the house values site) as the owner of my Madison Park abode. One of the side benefits of claiming home ownership on the site is that Zillow sends you periodic updates on the supposed value of your property (Zillow calls these Zestimates). So, for many a month after signing up I received email notices stating how much my house had risen in value since the last report.

This was all well and good—actually rather encouraging—until the inevitable happened. The local real estate market started its inexorable downward turn somewhere in mid-2007, and the valuation news started to get grim. The emails, unfortunately, have the Zestimates in the subject line, so there is no opportunity to treat them the same way you might have dealt with that 401(k) statement you got in the mail when the stock market was tanking (throwing the envelope unopened into a drawer or straight into the garbage, I mean). No, you don’t even have to open these Zillow missives in order to find yourself on the receiving end of the bad news.

So it was all right there in all its gut-wrenching immediacy when I noticed a Zillowgram in by inbox last week: “Zestimate for [my address] decreased 1.1%.” Since I’d received an email less than a month earlier along similar lines (down .7%), it was beginning to look like a trend. I had been hoping that the market had bottomed out—and several times earlier this year I actually received new Zestimates stating that my house had increased in value. So what happened? Is Seattle’s market still declining while many other cities have begun moving up? Is Madison Park out of line with the rest of the City? Or is it just me?

I decided to do some research, but the news was not good. In Zillow’s estimation, Madison Park’s houses have on average declined in value more during the past year than any of the 85 or so other Seattle neighborhoods the site tracks: down 19.9% year over year as of April 2010. Our neighborhood was followed by Hawthorne Hills (down 13.6%), View Ridge (down 11.6%), and Madrona (down 10.6%). This is in comparison to the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) for Seattle as a whole, which was down only 3.3% year over year.

Stan Humphries, Zillow’s Chief Economist, notes that Seattle’s upper-tier market has not been behaving like the lower two tiers, with house values declining more in neighborhoods such as Madison Park than in lower-priced neighborhoods such as Greenwood (which is actually up .6% year over year, according to Zillow). Seattle’s market, he says, is also not acting like the markets in many other US cities, where the upper tier has been outperforming the lower market in recent quarters. Indeed, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Luxury Sales Bounce Back” 5/28) reports that “in some markets, sales of high-end homes [have returned] to levels not seen since the boom.” San Francisco is cited as having a robust upper-tier market, for example.

With regard to Seattle’s high-end market, it’s hard to say what’s going on. But with regard to Madison Park in particular, Humphries offers some solace, suggesting that we take a longer-term view: “In terms of year-over-year decline, Madison Park has the highest among Seattle neighborhoods, but this is because it had less depreciation for the first year or two after the peak than many other areas (i.e., it was initially better, now worse—but the cumulative fall from peak is similar).”

He notes that from the market peak in September 2007, Madison Park’s houses have declined 28.6%--the worst performance of any Seattle neighborhood alright, but well in line with many other Seattle neighborhoods, including Windermere, Magnolia, Laurelhurst and Leschi. And several eastside neighborhoods performed significantly worse than Madison Park in Zillow’s analysis: Hidden Valley (Bellevue) was down 37%, North Bellevue was down 36.3% and Downtown Bellevue was down 33.5%, perhaps due in part to a very soft condo market. Medina, Bridal Trails, Meydenabuer, and Overlake each declined at levels in line with Madison Park’s. So, apparently we can take consolation from the fact that we are just part of a general upper-market downturn for the Seattle area.

Nevertheless, Madison Park's position looks a little bit frightening on the chart Zillow provided, which shows the fall of various neighborhoods since the peak (click to enlarge). For those who aren't into reading graphs, we can simply note that Madison Park is towards the bottom--and the bottom is not a good place to be.

If you don't like the implications of this analysis, you may want to take a pot shot at Zillow and its ZHVI process. Many realtors certainly do (one recently exclaimed “Who cares about Zillow?” when I mentioned the big downturn for the neighborhood that Zillow had reported). Realtors, in fact, often find themselves having to react to Zillow’s home value information since both buyers and sellers are increasingly using the site as a valuation tool. Although Zillow itself cautions about reading too much into any single-home Zestimate, that doesn’t stop buyers from discounting a selling broker’s higher opinion of a house’s value if Zillow is lower. Nor does it cause sellers to necessarily lower their prices to what a broker may argue is a number more in line with the market than Zillow’s.

I asked Humphries about this often-negative realtor attitude. He responded that “the accuracy of Zestimates in Madison Park is pretty good. About 50% of sales are within 10% of the Zestimate and about 80% are within 20% of Zestimate.” To back this up, Humphries provided me with a chart showing that for 68 recent Madison Park sales there was a “very high” correlation between the Zestimate and the actual sales price. The correlation was much higher for houses sold at under $2 million that at the higher level.

At least one Seattle realtor is dismissive of Zillow’s accuracy claim: “Saying that you’re within 20% of being right 80% of the time. How is that okay?” he asks. In a market like Madison Park’s, being 20% under or over the actual value might mean the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars, he notes. And 20% of the time, by Zillow’s own admission, the Zestimate is off by more than 20%. Doesn’t this lack of precision throw into question Zillow’s data for changes in the neighborhood values?

Not according to Humphries. “The Zillow Home Value Index,” he notes “is an aggregate based on the individual Zestimates. In the aggregation process, the individual errors of Zestimates tend to cancel each other out since, statistically, we ensure that there are likely to be just as many valuations that are above the actual sale price as there are valuations that are below the actual sale price. This makes the ZHVI a very robust indicator of local home values.”

Robust, maybe--but definitely gloomy. And the bottom may not yet be in sight if you believe a report last month from Goldman Sachs stating that Seattle housing prices will fall another 22% on average by the end of 2012. Humphries discounts the Goldman prediction, believing that the methodology they employed is flawed. We can only hope he’s right.

Fortunately, there is also a slight bit of good news to report. Redfin recently concluded that Madison Park during May had the highest median selling price of any neighborhood in Seattle and the second highest for King County as a whole. Feeling better?

[Note Zillow’s Home Value Index for Madison Park does not include Broadmoor, which was also not tracked as a separate neighborhood by Zillow. Broadmoor is included in Redfin’s analysis of Madison Park.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Signs of summer (finally)

We were wondering if it was ever going to happen, but we seem to have been given a bit of a reprieve--a half day of sunshine. Just long enough for us to begin believing that we may actually get to have a summer this year. It hovered briefly near 80 degrees, and it sure looked like we'd passed the solstice.

The Molly Moon Ice Cream truck arrived this afternoon in front of McGilvra School, and ice cream lovers quickly began converging from blocks around. How did they all know? Molly Moon Tweeted at 10:51: "Headed to McGilvra Elementary for the last day of school! Be there at 2:15! " The kids, at least, seemed patient and well behaved.

It was also a great day to be on the water...

...or idling lazily on the dock (that barge crane in the background, however, was working on replacing pontoon cables for the floating bridge).

I suppose it would be too much to realistically expect that we can string two decent days together in a row. But one can always dream.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

No vendor in the park this summer

Madison Park’s establishment has apparently been successful in its efforts to prevent the ice cream vendor who set up shop next to the Bath House last year from returning to the park this summer. As you may recall, there was quite a bit of controversy (see “Gone (sort of) but not forgotten”), when Mr. W. Al-Abtan suddenly arrived on the scene last June with his tent, ice cream, and that very long extension cord which he used to connect his freezer to an electrical outlet in the women’s rest room. According to Madison Park Community Council President Ken Myrabo, the City has decided not to issue a vendor permit allowing Al-Abtan to operate in the Park again this summer.

Last year the Council was ultimately successful in getting the City to remove the vendor before the end of the permit period. The issue then was both safety (the Council argued that the extension cord snaking across pathways was a hazard) and the negative economic impact on neighborhood businesses. The Council complained that it had not been notified of the City’s plans to approve a park vendor, so its concerns had therefore not been taken into consideration. This year, upon hearing that the vendor had applied for a new permit, the Council acted quickly, requesting a meeting with Parks Department representatives.

In April, Charles Ng, Business Resources Manager, and Rita Hollomon, Concessions Coordinator for the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation, attended a Council meeting to hear the concerns of the local community. Scoop du Jour owner Ed Washington told them that he believed the concessionaire had hurt his shop’s business last summer. Council member Linda Cody, in fact, had earlier reported to the Council that after an investigation of the matter she estimated that the cost to Scoop du Jour and other area businesses may have been as much as $7,000 per month in lost revenues during the time the vendor operated at the beach.

In responding to complaints last summer about the vendor, Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter had defended the department’s actions in granting a vendor permit, noting the City “encourages the development and patronage of small businesses, including those run by women and people of color.” When meeting with the Community Council, Ng, according to the minutes, reiterated the point about small businesses, but apparently didn’t emphasize the second point when responding to Washington (who, for those few who may not know him, is African-American). With regard to the “small business” issue, Terry Short, President of the Madison Park Business Association, noted that local businesses, such as Scoop du Jour, are also small companies that need customers.

Among the complaints about the vendor cited by others in attendance at the Council meeting were these: he often parked his ice cream van illegally, there was an increase in litter in the area while he was operating, and his tent blocked views of the water. It was also noted that he apparently did not use a cash register to record sales. Since the Parks Department is entitled to ten percent of the gross revenues of its concessionaires, this might have been thought to be an issue. But according to Concessions Coordinator Hollomon, the Parks Department uses an honor system with its vendors and doesn’t expect them to provide cash-register receipts.

Not surprisingly, no one at the Council meeting spoke up for the vendor. Had they been present, however, those who patronized his business last summer probably would have spoken up on the subject of convenience. Those beach goers, who presumably are mostly not residents of Madison Park, will be walking a bit farther for their ice cream, pop, and snacks this summer.

[Photo courtesy of Seattlest]

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The road end: is it a done deal?

Several readers took exception to my posting earlier this month (“A parking lot no more”) in which I claimed that the question of park versus parking lot at the Madison Street road end had been resolved. Some observers who attended the community meetings on the subject believed the story was exaggerated or just plain wrong. Based on what they had heard, they felt it was not at all evident that parking will be eliminated in the area beyond the intersection of Madison and 43rd.

So I decided to investigate the situation further. I put a call in to Donald Harris, Seattle Parks Department’s Property and Acquisition Services Manager. I had quoted him as telling the Madison Park Community Council and the attendees at the community forum that the City intended to remove parking from the area that’s being considered for the new LOLA (Love Our Lake Access) park. Did I quote him correctly? “Yes,” he told me. But does the City’s Department of Parks & Recreation have the legal authority to take this action? “Yes,” again.

At least one park opponent doesn’t buy that. Mark Long, owner of The Attic, says that “Donald Harris does not have the final say.” He argues that the Seattle Municipal Code would prevent the Parks Department from taking action without jumping through legal hoops. And Long claims that he has an attorney’s opinion to back him up. So I asked Harris about this. “Despite what his attorney may think,” said Harris, “I don’t think that there is anything in the Code that requires us to retain this piece of Park property as parking.”

So is that the end of the story? Not quite. While it is clearly the City’s official goal to eliminate parking at the road end, it certainly won’t be happening any time soon. As Harris admits, there no money currently allocated to develop the road end into a park. “It would be stupid if we didn’t replace what’s there now with something else,” he told me. Just chaining off the road end will not accomplish anything worthwhile, he added.

And then there’s the additional complication posed by the controversy between park proponents and those who favor the status quo. “I think the City has to be responsive to a variety of needs,” he said. It is clear, he told me, that a lot more work needs to be done on the parking issue in Madison Park, and he is glad to see the business owners now engaged in the process. “We’ll need to work together to get this right,” he said.

As noted in my last posting on the subject, the LOLA committee has been looking at ways to mitigate the loss of parking spaces at the road end if LOLA is approved (that’s 17-30 spaces, depending on which side you’re talking to). And according to Community Council President Ken Myrabo, a special committee will be established to make recommendations on ways to improve the parking situation throughout the business district. The Madison Park Business Association is expected to be involved. Getting some kind of plan in place on the parking issue may now be a precursor to having the City approve funds to build the park, but that's not clear.

Meanwhile, planning for LOLA is moving forward, according to Myrabo, with the understanding that parking at the road end will not be part of the design. And Harris confirmed to me his earlier statement to the Council on the subject: “There will be absolutely no parking on this site. That was the starting point for the development of the park project.”

Sounds pretty conclusive, but stay tuned.

[Satellite photo of Madison Park business district and Madison Park from Google Earth]

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Perfect morning for a run

For several hours this morning, the Shore Run captured control of the neighborhood, as more than 2,000 runners and walkers participated in the annual event which benefits immunotherapy research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This was the 33rd running, and it happened on what was certainly one of the nicest mornings possible for a run up Lake Washington Boulevard and into the Park.

There were at lot of very serious runners…

…and serious walkers.

And there were plenty of people clearly having a good time. These guys were part of a large contingent from “Team Bush (no relation)”:

But the most fun was probably had by the children who participated in the half-mile Kids’ Shore Run (and their parents). Some runners were more intent on the start of the race than others:

But once the horn sounded…

…everyone was pretty much was into it,

even though a few did have to slow down near the finish line to be sure they made it into the picture:

Afterwards there was music, and there were refreshments, awards, prizes (many donated by Madison Park merchants) and plenty of time to enjoy a pleasant spring morning in the Park.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ernest goes to his great reward

Ernest the Cat, the white feline who for many years famously ruled the roost at the corner of 42nd and Blaine, died near the end of May of natural causes. His age was undetermined, as he had arrived in the neighborhood as a stray; but he had been in charge of that particular corner for as long as many of us can remember.

Ernest was known for his imperturbable manner and inherent good sense. He never allowed himself to appear discombobulated by the sudden arrival within his domain of big dogs or other potential threats, though occasionally he might have been seen to back away very slowly or arch his back if things were about to get out of hand. He knew when to pick his fights, standing his ground in the apparent knowledge that he had pretty big claws. But he wasn’t imprudent. He was known to use the crosswalk, for example, when getting across Madison Street.

Ernest, who was the subject of an admiring profile in the Madison Park Times last year, was gracious to those who frequented the shops and businesses over which he ruled. These included the Madison Park Café, in whose courtyard he often sunbathed on a pleasant afternoon, and Best Buds, where he was often seen admiring the flowers or pretending to be a garden ornament. Ernest developed a reputation as an enthusiastic greeter of delivery trucks to these and other neighborhood establishments, particularly appreciating the driver who was smart enough to arrive with cat nip on board.

Ernest’s primary place of abode was at Joan Kruse Rogers Design (1803b 42nd Avenue E.), where he generally began and ended his busy days. He took daily walks about the neighborhood with Rogers, greeting his many friends and admirers along the way. But if Rogers wasn’t available and Ernest was in the mood for a jaunt, he didn’t mind roaming the surrounding blocks on his own. Occasionally, when feline friends were not able to come out and visit him as he meandered by, he would find a way to come in and visit them—even if it meant entering their house through the dryer vent.

Ernest could often be spotted surveying his domain from the raised ivy bed in front of his residence, which proved to be an excellent central location from which to get noticed and appreciated by the many passers-by, especially on warm summer days. While some may have found Ernest to be a bit aloof at times, those who knew him best remember him as a cat who was simply comfortable with himself. He was his own cat. And the place will just not seem the same without him.

[Photos courtesy of Joan Rogers]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Art walk is coming

Calling all Madison Park artists. There will be an Art Walk in the Park in September, and interested artists are invited to participate in what will be a scaled-back follow up to last year’s very successful MadArt exhibition. Last year the focus was on emerging artists from outside the neighborhood, with Madison Park display windows serving as the venue for some really great art. This year the emphasis will be on showcasing the fabulous works of artists who have a direct connection to the Park.

“Over a dozen Madison Park stores are participating,” said Terry Short, president of the Madison Park Business Association, which is sponsoring the event. “We are seeking artists who live or work in the greater Madison Park area that includes Madison Park, Washington Park, Denny-Blaine, Broadmoor, Leschi, Montlake, Madrona and Madison Valley.” Featured art will be displayed both inside the businesses and, at least at some locations, in the shop windows. As with MadArt, selected artists will work with individual shop owners in arranging the display of their art. Unlike last year, however, original works will not be newly created for the spaces in which it will be displayed.

Also, unlike last year, there will be no commissions charged for any sales that occur as a result of the show. An exhibit of artwork by children from local schools will also be a part of the month-long event, which will open with a wine-and-hors d’oeuvres reception on September 7th and will close at the end of the month.
Artists interested in participating may obtain a prospectus by contacting Art Messer, Art Committee Chairman, either by e-mail to artmesser@gmail.com or by phone at 459-6966. There are no entry fees.

On a related note, a group of artists from the Central District have collaborated on what may be that community’s first-ever art walk, called Second Saturday. That’s right, it will be held the second Saturday of each month, beginning June 12th, 12 to 5 pm. Details about participating artists and venues are available here.

[Upper art: Gates of Heaven by Madison Park artist Isa D'Arleans, an upcoming Art Walk participant who was recently profiled in this KING-TV story. Lower art: Struth by Madison Park artist Margo Spellman, another Art Walk participant, who also just happens to by my wife. This is her website.]

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pioneer Hall turns 100

Madison Park’s oldest waterfront structure, Washington Pioneer Hall (1642 43rd Avenue E.), will be celebrating its Centennial tomorrow. Home of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington, the building was opened in 1910 and may be the longest surviving commercial structure located in the neighborhood. It was built on land donated in 1902 by Madison Park founder, Judge John J. McGilvra, whose family home, Laurel Shade, was located to the south of the site (in what is now known as the Reed Estate). Loretta Denny of the famous Seattle pioneer family (Denny-Blaine, Denny Regrade, Denny Way, Denny Hall) bequeathed $20,000 for the construction of the building, which was dedicated on June 7, 1910.

The Hall is reputedly the only remaining structure in Madison Park that sat directly next to Lake Washington before the Lake was lowered in 1916 as the result of the building of the Ship Canal. When the Lake decreased in elevation by 8.8 feet that year, the building suddenly found itself sitting on a beach lot rather than waterside. This is the scene in the early 1900s (apparently post Lake lowering):

And this is what the back of the site looks like today:

Local historian Junius Rochester, who lives in Madrona, has a nice overview of the Pioneer Association on HistoryLink.org. The bylaws of the Association make membership available to “lineal descendants of Pioneers who were residents of Washington Territory prior to statehood.” I’m sure we all remember that statehood occurred in 1889 (November 11, to be exact). I am told that there are approximately 900 members of the Association at the present time.

Pioneer Hall primarily serves as a museum of the history of Washington Territory and early Washington State, with exhibits of paintings, photos, clothing, furniture, and other memorabilia of pioneer families on display. There are also books, recordings and biographical material housed there; and since 1992, the Fiske Genealogical Library has been located in the basement of the Hall. In 1970, Pioneer Hall was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, a fact memorialized by the bronze plaque on the front of the building.

The Hall is open to the public on the second Sunday of each month, from 1 until 4 p.m. The Pioneer Association will be celebrating the building’s Centennial on Saturday, June 19 with a Salmon Bake at Madison Park. Information is available from PioneerPicnic@aol.com or from Jeff Christensen (206-390-6810). Technically, the deadline for reservations (at $24 per person) was on Friday; but perhaps if you want to attend they will still let you in if you blame your recalcitrance on the Madison Park Blogger for failing to notify you in time.

[Historic photo courtesy of the University of Washington Libraries.]

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In memory of Sarah

Madison Park third grader Sarah Mary Hughes, daughter of Jim and Heather Hughes, lost her two-year battle with a rare and aggressive brain tumor on Monday. Her favorite color was pink, and her many friends throughout the neighborhood are honoring her memory by displaying pink ribbons in their trees and gardens, and on lamp posts.

Sarah was a student at Bertschi School on Capitol Hill. She and her family first learned of her brain tumor when she was in first grade. Although the tumor was removed during a successful surgery in 2008, an MRI late last summer revealed that it had returned.

Sarah’s fight against the disease inspired many to support pediatric brain tumor research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Last fall nearly $150,000 was raised by multiple teams running in Sarah’s name during the Run of Hope and by hundreds of others who joined Team Sarah Mary by contributing online in support of the cause. When the Run ended, there were 423 teammates on Sarah’s team.
A celebration of Sarah's life will be held at St. Joseph Church (732 18th Avenue E.) at 4pm on Friday. Her obituary is available here. Those wishing to support the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund will find information about how to contribute here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A parking lot no more

It’s all but official. The Madison Street road end is going to end its long life as a picturesque spot for parked cars and garbage receptacles. At most, it will become a park. And at least, it will not be parked on any more.

That’s the word from the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, as conveyed by Donald Harris, the Department’s Property and Acquisition Services Manager. He delivered the news at the Madison Park Community Council meeting earlier this month, and I understand that he repeated the news last week at the community forum at which the “final schematic design” for the LOLA project was unveiled.

Harris’s message was this: “We don’t think that Park property being parked on is good public usage. Regardless of the outcome of the [LOLA design process], we are going to reclaim the parkland.” He said that the State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns the area of the road closest to the water, is in total agreement with the City and will also reclaim its property for use as parkland. That means that the cars and waste receptacles will have to go. The only question is when.

Technically the area in question is not a road end, though it sure looks like one. Although E. Madison Street appears to end at the barrier in front of the pier, the street actually ends at 43rd Avenue E. The area beyond 43rd is not a City street. The Parks Department therefore has the authority to cordon off the area, making it car free.

As previously reported, area merchants are none too happy about the situation, and several of them made their opposition known at the community forum last week. The purpose of the meeting was to get public input on the design for the planned park on the site, but the focus of the meeting turned instead into a discussion of parking. In the end, however, it was made clear that if there is to be any additional parking created in the neighborhood, it will not be on the site of the new LOLA park.

About fifty people showed up at the community forum for an opportunity to see and comment on the new park plan, designed by Murase Associates. The meeting was the last step in the schematic design phase for the park. The next phase is design development, according to Murase’s Liz Wreford Taylor.

The design, shown above, has been significantly scaled back from the original three design options presented by Murase at an earlier community meeting. Taylor says that final design incorporates the best elements of the initial designs and reflects the input given at the previous community meetings. The site plan features a sloping “hardscape” surface, a flat terrace area, a ramp to the pier, and no decking.

The water feature, which was a prominent element in the previous designs, is also out. Additionally, the current plan eliminates the cherry trees. They, like the wooden decking and water feature, presented a potential maintenance problem for the City, according to Taylor. It’s possible, however, that one or more of these elements might be reintroduced as the design development phase of the park moves forward. “I think the community wants cherry trees,” Taylor notes, for example. “We just need to find a way to fit them in.”

This design is by no means final, in other words. Changes in the configuration of the spaces and the materials may still occur. Taylor notes that the design team is still open to suggestions from the community. Those interested in giving their input may do so by emailing Taylor (ltaylor@murase.com), or by contacting the Madison Park Community Council (council@madisonparkcouncil.org).

[Graphics courtesy of Murase Associates. Click on images to enlarge.]