Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jan Sewell, beloved local realtor, dies at 65

The one word that everyone seems to use when describing Jan Sewell is generous. Yes, she certainly had that less-than-common attribute, but her positive qualities hardly stopped there. In fact, when asked today to give their impressions of Jan, her many friends, neighbors and colleagues seemed not to know where to begin. Funny, outspoken, irreverent, caring, ethical. Those were the other terms that most often came to mind—along with icon, free spirit, pioneer, and mentor. In short, Jan Sewell, one of the most appreciated and popular real estate agents in this town, is pretty universally acknowledged to have been a class act.

But now she’s gone. Sometime between Sunday evening and Tuesday morning this week, Jan Sewell died in her Madison Park home. The Medical Examiner has reported that the cause of death was heart failure due to undiagnosed heart disease.
Almost from the very moment that her body was discovered on Tuesday, the news of her death began to reverberate in her neighborhood and in the real estate community, causing shock and disbelief. Many of her colleagues were attending the annual Windermere Symposium, an in-house real estate forum, when the word began to spread through email and text messages to the attendees. Some of them were reportedly too emotional to be able to remain focused and had to leave for the day.

According to Pat Grimm, owner and manager of Windermere’s Capitol Hill office, where Jan had worked for most of her real estate career, between 50 and 60 of her colleagues gathered spontaneously at the office last night for an informal and emotional vigil. Memories were shared, stories told, tears shed. “So many people knew her,” says Grimm, “and so many people really loved her.” Grimm praised Jan’s particular ability to build relationships, both in the community and within the industry. “It’s a big hole to fill, and the suddenness of her death is a huge shock. She was such an iconic figure.”

She is described by one colleague as having had five lives before becoming a real estate agent. The details of all of these lives have yet to be divulged to us, but we do know that immediately before obtaining her real estate license in 1993, Jan had worked for several years at the Pike Place Market. Her earlier jobs apparently included a stint as a bartender in Bellingham. She began life as a preacher's daughter.

As a real estate agent, Jan was indeed a pioneer. By combining her parallel interests in real estate, art, and design, she created a thriving side business for herself, while at the same time giving new meaning to the term staging, at least in the Seattle market. Staging is essentially the use of furnishings to help improve the ambiance of a residence, thus enhancing its sale potential. This can be as simple as re-arranging (and in some cases, removing) furniture. But Jan’s concept of staging was much more about using creative design elements and well-chosen art to help affect the sale. She was so successful in this that she became an expert in the field, being regularly quoted on the subject by both local and national media.

“She took staging to another level,” says Jeff Stanley, a Windermere colleague of Jan’s and a friend of many years. “It felt like you’d walked into a page from a top design magazine when you entered a home she had staged. What I would say about her was that she was a star.” Jon Rosichelli, who worked for Jan for almost ten years before forming his own staging business, agrees. “I was kind of in awe of her.” he says, “She was a force of nature.”

Rosichelli, like many others, spoke with emotion about Jan’s generosity to him personally and the mentoring role she played. “This is hard for me, her death. I never would have had what I have now but for her. She was a very important force in my life.”

Lilly Milic, another member of Jan’s Windermere family, also points to her generosity, saying that she was a mother or sister figure to so many people she knows. “She was my main person,” says Milic. “I really respected her.”

Jan was very active in the Seattle arts community, supporting local artists by purchasing their art for her own collection and by placing their art on the walls of her staged houses. She served on the board of the Pratt Fine Arts Center, where one board member describes her contributions as "profound" (see Comments section below). She was also a former board member of AIDS Housing of Washington.

We leave the final word on Jan to Erick Hazelton, Jan’s business partner at Windermere, who was almost too emotional to speak to us today. “She was bigger than life, a creative force and an icon who was loved by everyone who knew her," he told us. "Jan never met a stranger.”

You are invited to share your memories of Jan by clicking on "Comments" below. Memories are also being collected at Friends of Jan Sewell on Facebook.
[Upper photo from the cover of RE magazine, January 2010. To read the cover story on Jan, click here. Lower photo courtest of Lilly Milic. Special thanks to Debra Thompson Harvey of Windermere Real Estate/Madison Park for her assistance with this posting.]

Tile artists return for show Saturday

For the third year in a row, the artists of Artisan Tile Northwest have chosen Madison Park as the venue for their Northwest Handmade Tile Festival. The two-day affair gets underway at Pioneer Hall (1642 43rd Avenue E.) this Friday, October 1, with an artists’ reception from 5 pm until 8 pm. On Saturday, there will be a curated show on the theme “Mythical Creature.” The participating artists have created special tiles related to this theme; and those tiles, as well as other works by these talented artisans, will be available for sale.

As was true last year, two Madison Park tile makers are featured in the Festival. Barbara Clark (Agapanther Tiles) will be displaying her nature-inspired works (that’s her installation shown above, in the shop window of Cookin’ during the recent Madison Park Art Walk); and Maria Root (Primitiva Pottery and Tile), who also was on display during Art Walk, will be back at the Festival with her own take on flora and fauna (examples of her art are shown below).

The artists’ reception on Friday is open to the public, and admission to the show on Saturday, which runs from 10 am until 5 pm, is free. This is the fifth annual show for Artisan Tile Northwest, a non-profit formed to promote the art and craft of these local artists. For more information on the group, check out their website. Additional information on the artists and examples of their work is available here.

[Middle photo: The art of Leschi tile artist Debra Bacianga.]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jodie Benson, a remembrance

[Jodie Benson, onetime executive chef at Peter’s in the Park and a resident of the neighborhood for more than 20 years, was known to many Madison Parkers for her humor and kindness. She died earlier this month. Her life was celebrated at a well-attended wake held two weeks ago at Bing’s. Her obituary is available here. This is a tribute to her memory.]

Guest Posting
By Stan Moshier

Just so you know, Jodie Benson’s favorite night of the week was Friday, the night for her to kick up her heels and howl. She always said “the eagle flies on Friday.” Only a few Fridays ago Jodie hitched a ride, and she slipped away from us just one night after her 50th birthday. Our little friend had a golden soul, a heart that melted on a sad story, beautiful blue eyes, and a fried chicken full figure that she dreamed one day would be a perfect size 7. Bing’s never had a better, more loyal and trustworthy patron than Jodie, expertly mixing one person with another. Whether you needed a friend, a new hire, or a business contact, she was always there to assist.

On a lucky night you would see Jodie holding court while perched on bar stool #1, rattling off advice to the bartender on shift--usually about the ingredient just missed or forgotten. She was smooth as butter, enjoyed an occasional cocktail, gut-busting funny, a true friend to a true friend and a big time jokester. She was always on the go, always in the know, street wise; and when the time was right on those Friday nights and the music kicked in she put on her dancing shoes and turned into a butterfly with moon dust on her feet. That’s right, the girl could dance!

And now the bar stool in the #1 position is empty, no Jodie rambling through the door, where all her friends and Bing’s fabulous crew would smile and greet her while her piercing blue eyes checked out “her” bar stool. And if anyone was on that bar stool, her look was usually enough to get them to move. But if they were comatose and didn’t catch the look, she got assistance from Bing’s bartenders suggesting they move over one spot, which would usually suffice.

Yeah, you went too soon Jodie girl. Life leaned up against you and pushed you too hard. The jiggles, the chuckles, the words of wisdom, the jokes are now gone, gone too damn soon. The subtle comments from the Master Chef and foodie whiz kid will be missed, such as “the only way this amazing sauce on the fresh salmon could be any better would be to add a pinch, and I mean just a pinch, of saffron; but really it’s perfect as it is.” Yeah right, subtle as a 20 lb. sledgehammer. So, of course, a pinch of saffron was added to that sauce on the next go around and Jodie would have a taste…..and just smile.

So now all the Bing’s family that really knew Jodie are left with a huge aching emptiness, sadness, heavy hearts and eyes brimmed with tears that without warning will roll down our cheeks at any time whether day or night. Our pal Jodie, the little girl at heart with the champagne bubble laugh, is now gone--but as we all know, never ever forgotten. Thank you, Jodie, for all your sweetness, your loyalty, your goodness; and please have a five-course dinner ready when the next one of us comes to visit.

Bon Journo, Girlfriend.

From Stan, Lori, and the Fabulous Bing’s Family, both past and present.

[The above photo, showing Jodie during her time at Peter’s in the Park (circa. 1986), courtesy of Stan Moshier.]

Friday, September 24, 2010

A survey of Madison Park road ends: Part One

The 37th Avenue East “Beaver Lodge Sanctuary”

There are 149 streets in the City of Seattle that end at the water’s edge. These road ends are usually the unintended consequence of early City mapping, but they often provide a public right-of-way to shorelines where only private access would otherwise exist. This is not the case in Madison Park, of course, where our long and popular Madison Park Beach gives us immediate, large-scale access to Lake Washington. Nevertheless, Madison Park also has six of the City’s shoreline street ends, a few of which have been turned into lovely community jewels. While some of the road ends are fairly well known—at least to Madison Parkers who live in the immediate vicinity—others are more obscure.

This is the first of a series which will explore each of these waterside amenities, starting today with our northernmost waterfront road end, the one at 37th Avenue E. This particular public access point, which is certainly the most wild and secluded in Madison Park, is also the most ironically placed. It’s ironic in that the street for which it is supposed to be the road end actually peters out many blocks to the south (at E. Garfield Street) and doesn’t even extend into the Canterbury neighborhood. But 37th Avenue E. suddenly and mysteriously reappears on Broadmoor’s border with Canterbury and runs for one block from E. McGilvra Street to the waters of Union Bay. Cars can and do enter this road end, since several houses along the right of way have driveways that exit onto it. But about halfway down, the road end is closed to car traffic and a gravel pedestrian path winds down to the waterside, ending at a pier on the Lake.

This road end became famous recently for the controversy over Broadmoor’s dredging operation in the area, the purpose of which was to improve the golf course’s ability to pump water from the Lake. Nature lovers were concerned about the possible negative impact of the dredging on area beavers, which fortunately returned once the dredging was finished. There is a beaver lodge directly across from the road end pier. Hense the "Beaver Lodge Sanctuary" moniker.

This road end has been the beneficiary over the last couple of years of the concerted efforts of many volunteers, who have removed the brambles and refuse and replaced them with trees and shrubs. A lovely community park has now been created where an overgrown mass of vegetation and garbage once blocked full access and obscured the view. The beautification effort has been headed up by Canterbury residents Gene and Liz Brandzel, who along with neighbors Lisa and Michael Anderson, carted eight truckloads of cuttings away from the site in their first season of cleanup. According to Gene Brandzel, the road end had previously been a general dumping ground, as well as a conveniently hidden party location for area teens. He says that he and his wife found at least 200 beer, liquor and water bottles on site when they first began their cleanup efforts. This was in addition to "innumerable used condoms, some a very patriotic red, white and blue."

Volunteers, including Ken Myrabo, Elinor Kriegsman, Trent Jackson, Paul Fredrickson, and Issac Molitch, joined forces with the Brandzels and Andersons to remove weeds and blackberry bushes and add native plantings to the road end, many of which were donated to the cause by Molitch and his wife, Lisa Taylor. Sixteen families each sponsored a tree to be planted along the pathway.

Brandzel also acknowledges the help the volunteers received from arborist Joshua Erickson of the City’s Department of Transportation, “who has been fabulous in guiding us as to what to plant and in arranging to remove dead trees and opening the site to light.” Additionally, the City provided funds for benches to be installed at two locations on the site.

Periodic work parties are necessary to maintain and nurture the road end, which has become something of a wildlife observation point and conservancy within the precincts of our urban setting. There are few places in the City where you can get in touch with nature by enjoying the sight of beavers frolicking and herrons wading, but this is one of them.

You have an opportunity to support the worthy effort of maintaining and improving this particular Madison Park amenity. A work crew of dedicated volunteers will be formed on Saturday morning to remove blackberry and knotwood shoots from the site. A second crew will be organized to spread gravel on the 350-foot path to the water. Those interested in helping out should contact Gene Brandzel at or (206) 940-4489.

[Aside: Some may think that we actually have seven waterfront street ends in Madison Park. However, it only appears that way. As those who have been following the LOLA Project controversy know, E. Madison St. does not end at the water. It actually ends at its intersection with 43rd Avenue E. The fact that it looks like it extends to the water is an illusion, since the concrete roadway is actually the property of the City parks department and not the Seattle Department of Transportation.]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

McGilvra still scores high

The beginning of the new school year provides a good excuse for an update on the academic ranking of our own McGilvra Elementary School. Last year, as you may recall, the State ditched the controversial WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) test. The newly elected schools superintendent, Randy Dorn (who was promptly arrested for drunken driving soon after assuming his new leadership/role model position) had campaigned against the WASL. So at the end of the last school year third through eighth graders took a different set of tests, the MSP (Measurements of Student Progress), which covers four academic disciplines: reading and math for all grades; writing for fourth and seventh grades, and science for fifth and eighth grades. With the exception of the writing test, MSP will ultimately be an online test for each of the six grades tested, though last year none of McGilvra’s students took the tests online.

The results are now in for all of the State’s schools for the 2009-10 academic year—and it’s no surprise, given the school’s consistently high scores on the WASL tests, that McGilvra again proved to be a high-achievement school under the new testing regime. Last year, as we reported, between 83 and 95 percent of McGilvra students passed the various WASL tests. This year, McGilvra’s passing scores ranged from 79 to 93 percent on the MSP.

On average, McGilvra outperformed the Seattle Public Schools by a 23 point margin on the eight tests, while the School beat the State’s overall passing scores by an average of 28 points. Looking at these numbers another way, the average passing score for all of Seattle’s 3rd, 4th and 5th graders was 64%, versus 87% for McGilvra’s. That equates to 36% more of McGilvra’s students having passed the MSP than passed in the Seattle Public Schools overall.

The biggest achievement gaps were seen for the fifth graders, who at McGilvra passed their three tests with an average rate of 87%, versus an average passing rate of 57% for the Seattle Public Schools. Notably, McGilvra fifth graders scored very high on the science and math tests (84 percent passing on both tests). There was a huge 50-point gap between the passing scores of McGilvra students and those of Washington students on the MSP fifth-grade science test.

Reading proved to be one of the strongest subjects for McGilvra students, with 91% of the third and fourth graders and 93% of the fifth graders passing the MSP. The average number of McGilvra students passing the math tests was 85%. Writing, however, proved a tougher subject, with only 79% of McGilvra fourth graders passing this test, just 14 points higher than for the City as a whole. This is an area that the McGilvra staff has been working on for several years, but 91% of its fourth graders passed the WASL writing test the previous year. It is likely, given the new MSP data, that special emphasis will continue to be placed this year on this crucial subject.

Interestingly, McGilvra’s teachers were slightly less experienced than for the Seattle Public Schools as a whole (11 years on the job versus 12 years), but they are more educated (72% have master’s degrees or higher, versus 53% for the Seattle Public Schools overall). The student/teacher ratio is also better at McGilvra than for the City as a whole (14 students per teacher at McGilvra versus 18 for all Seattle schools on average).

Finally, it is worth noting that the composition of McGilvra students is different in several ways from that of Seattle’s schools as a whole. Only 23% of McGilvra’s 257 students were classified as minorities in the last school year, versus 56% for the Seattle Public Schools. And only 8% of McGilvra’s students were receiving free or reduced-price meals, a low-income-family measurement. For the Seattle Public Schools that figure is 43%.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Police Blotter 9/19/10

Burglary captured on video

There have been two residential burglaries in the neighborhood over the past three weeks, one of which was captured on a home video surveillance system. That burglary occurred at 4:51 am on September 13 at a Washington Park home located in the 1000 block of 32nd Avenue E. The crime became apparent to the homeowners later that morning when the wife discovered her purse missing from her car, which had been parked in the garage. After her husband reviewed footage of the surveillance video, he called the police.

To quote from the police report on what the video revealed: “A light skin[ed] male (possibly black) around 20-27 years old approach[ed] the garage on foot while being followed by a car. The male walked in the garage (quickly indicating it was open) at 0448 hours and out of the camera’s view. The subject then emerged carrying a plastic bin with unknown miscellaneous objects [and] then approach[ed] the passenger side of the awaiting car. The suspect then put the bin into the trunk of the car and went back in the garage. The suspect emerged again at 0451 with the purse taken out of the passenger front seat of the car in the garage, went back to the awaiting car, got in and fled Southbound on 32nd Ave. E.”

The police investigator reports, “I viewed the video footage and it is great quality. It clearly shows the face of the perpetrator of the burglary. It clearly shows the car the burglar uses to put the stolen items into, but the make and model are unknown. It appears to be an older, possibly 1980’s model four-door dark sedan with a boxy body style.”

A little more than an hour after the purse was stolen, the perpetrator may have tried to use a Visa card that was in it to buy gas at the Shell station at 1700 E. Madison St. However, the credit card (although valid) was declined at the gas pump three different times. It was then used to make a small purchase in the convenience store. As anyone who frequents that gas station knows, before card authorization occurs at the pump the purchaser is required to enter the zip code of the card’s billing address. This is not a requirement for purchasing sundries in the store, however.

There was another Washington Park burglary the previous evening, September 12. This occurred on the 1500 block of 39th Avenue E. In that incident, a woman returned home to find damage to her rear entry door, later discovering that her 32” flat-screen TV was missing and that her garage door had been left partially open. A neighbor subsequently reported having seen a "suspicious person" in the neighborhood earlier in the evening, described as a black male, 25-35 years of age, six feet tall, wearing a dark shirt, dark pants and a flagger’s vest.

There also was a third, non-residential, burglary, which occurred late last month at the Bathhouse (1900 43rd Ave. E.), which is home to the Madison Park Cooperative Pre-School and the Madison Park Beach lifeguards' office. On August 27, possibly during the night (though there was no evidence of forced entry), someone entered the building and removed a video camera and other items, most of which were kept in desk drawers.

Although there has only been one car theft over the past three weeks (on the 4100 block of E. Lynn St., 9/11), there have been plenty of car-prowl incidents: on the 1700 block of Lake Washington Boulevard E. on 8/31, on the 1800 block of 43rd Ave. E. on 9/1, on the 800 block of 34th Avenue E. on 9/10, on the 2700 block of E. Foster Island Road on 9/11, on the 3100 block of E. Madison St. on 9/13, and on the 1800 block of 40th Avenue E. on 9/16.

We generally see a big slow down in these kinds of crimes once summer ends. So perhaps that’s a small metaphorical silver lining to these literal dark clouds.

[Key to crime-map symbols: starbursts represent burglaries, solid cars represent car thefts, un-solid cars represent car prowls, spray-paint cans represent property damage, upraised hands represent shoplifting, dollar bills represent thefts, and handcuffs represent arrests under warrants. This map covers the period from August 27 through September 18.]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What’s the story on the new tax assessments?

Values down 1.3% on average for our area

Late last week, the King County Assessor began sending out 2011 property-tax assessment notices to property owners in the Madison Park/Madrona/Leschi neighborhoods, collectively known (to those who follow these things) as Area 14. So by now most of us have received the news that our houses are not worth what they once were, at least in the opinion of the government.

Unlike last year, however, when 94% of local property owners saw their properties decline in value by a uniform 12.3% year over year, the 2011 valuation notices show changes for individual properties that are all over the map. Though the average property in Madison Park and contiguous waterfront neighborhoods declined by 1.3% this year, many property owners have been shocked to find that the government thinks their property is worth more than it was worth at the last assessment, even though no property improvements may have occurred.

The reason for this is that the Department of Assessments this year made a physical inspection of the area neighborhoods rather than relying solely on property-sales information and other statistics in order to make the assessments. The County is required to do physical inspections of individual neighborhoods at least once every six years, according to Stan Roe, Assessment Units Supervisor. And this year it was our turn. As result, assessors fanned out through the area and did drive-by inspections of the various residential properties. “Usually we do see a lot of changes when a physical inspection is done,” says Roe. It is considered a more accurate way of analyzing properties than relying on statistics alone, he noted. The stated goal is to create uniformity and equity in the assessment process.

Some homeowners, however, are certainly questioning whether their individual assessments are fair. For the County as a whole, the Assessor’s office is currently receiving between 200 and 300 calls per day from people objecting to or raising issues about their new assessments. Undoubtedly, based on some emails I’ve received, some Madison Parkers are among that group.

Several residents have reported large increases in their land values, from 20% to 37.5%. I was dumbfounded when reviewing my own assessment notice. The Assessor had decided that our land value had declined by 98.5% while the building value had increased by 67%, for an overall property-value increase of 2%. What was that all about? “A mistake,” says Roe. One of the physical inspectors apparently hit the wrong button when inputting the information about my property into his laptop. Mistakes happen.

But what about the changes that are not the result of an error? The valuation adjustments are simply an attempt to get at a “true and fair value of the property as of January 1, 2010, based on comparable sales” says the Residential Revalue Report recently issued by the Assessor for our part of town. Noting that the area is “extremely diverse,” the report cites the fact that recent sales prices for non-waterfront homes here ranged from $350,000 to $5,925,000. What the property assessors try to do, says Roe, is make sure that for valuation purposes properties that are similar are compared to each other rather than to dissimilar properties.

One way to create uniformity is to evaluate land values by neighborhood rather than for the area as a whole. The Assessor recognizes eight such units in our area, including Broadmoor, Madison Park (primarily north of E. Madison Street) and Washington Park/Denny Blaine. See map above for details of these neighborhoods (click on map to enlarge). Fair comparisons supposedly result from treating all of the non-waterfront land within these neighborhoods as of equal value based on equal size. For example, if you live in Madison Park (neighborhood 80 on the map), your land value will be $463,000 if you have a 4,000 sq. ft. lot, and it will be $303,000 if you have a 2,000 sq. ft. lot. For comparison purposes a 4,000 sq. ft. lot in Washington Park/Denny Blaine (neighborhood 70) would be valued at $551,000 and a 2,000 sq. ft. lot would be valued at $361,000. Broadmoor (neighborhood 90) actually has lower land values than Washington Park.

These land values will hold for everyone in that neighborhood with an equal-size lot who does not have a territorial, water or mountain view. Upward adjustments are made for lots with these characteristics, and a different valuation method is used for waterfront lots. An “excellent” view of Lake Washington, for example, could add up 80% to the value of a particular lot. A waterfront lot in Washington Park, on the other hand, would have an increase in value of $30,000 per waterfront foot. More than 37% of the lots in our area have some degree of view, usually of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier.

Downward adjustments, meanwhile, are made for lots impacted by arterials. A lot on a street with “extreme traffic noise” would decrease the value by 30% under the Assessor’s valuation model.

Once the land value has been decided, the total property value is determined. As part of the assessment process, each residence is effectively compared to the properties that sold during the three-year period from January 2007 through December 2009 (these sales are then “time adjusted” to create an apples-to-apples comparison of the data effective for January 1, 2010). Incidentally, the average sales prices of non-waterfront properties in our three neighborhoods were $1,318,857 for Madison Park (exclusive of Washington Park and Broadmoor), $2,025,929 for Broadmoor, and $2,438,794 for Washington Park/Denny Blaine.

The basis for comparison of sold properties to the rest of the properties in the area includes such elements as a home’s grade, condition and age. Grade refers to the quality of the construction, and there are thirteen categories. Our area primarily has residences in Grades 8 (just above average construction and design, using better materials) and 9 (better architectural design of high quality). The highest-quality homes, Grades 10 and up, are scattered throughout the area but predominate in Washington Park/Denny Blaine.

Condition as a valuation factor is relative to both age and grade, and it falls into five categories from Poor to Very Good (“excellent maintenance and updating on home”). Finally, the house’s age is taken into consideration. Interestingly, while over half the houses in our area were built before 1940, almost 20% were built within the last 20 years. Of the 3214 houses included in our assessment area, 328 (more than 10%) were built within the last decade.

These, then, are the elements which make up the assessor’s opinion of the value of your property. Obviously an individual property assessment can be incorrect with regard to any of these elements. That’s why there’s an appeals process, one which is spelled out on the back of each assessment notice.
Note that the valuation process works this way: the Assessor makes a determination of the land value and then the overall property value. According to Roe, this is a requirement of State law. Once the overall property value is decided based on comparable recent sales activity, the difference between the total property value and the previously determined land value then becomes the value of the "improvements" (i.e. the house). Or, as Roe explains, "this residual value is what the house is contributing to the total value of the property." Because this is essentially a plug number, it can change dramatically from one physcial assessment to another. Keep in mind that the only number that makes any difference to your ultimate tax obligation is the total value of the property. This is because land and improvements are taxed at the same rate.
To put your property in perspective, note these statistics for Area 14 as a whole:

Average Land Value in 2009: $606,900
Average Land Value in 2010: $623,900 (up 2.8%)

Average Value of Improvements in 2009: $556,100
Average Value of Improvements in 2010: $524,400 (down 5.7%)

Average Total Value in 2009: $1,163,000
Average Total Value in 2010: $1,148,300 (down 1.3%)

If the change in your valuation assessment is radically different from last year’s and you think there has been a mistake, there are three Assessor office staffers waiting to receive your call: (206) 296-7300. As noted, Area 14 is an “extremely diverse area” in the opinion of the Assessor, so determining values for Madison Park/Madrona/Leschi is a bigger problem than it would be in a relatively uniform neighborhood.
That’s the story anyway.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Art Walk makes its debut

Local artists take command

“Who knew that there was so much talent in our own neighborhood?” That was the reaction of one impressed attendee who made the rounds last night. With the weather cooperating and art lovers converging on the neighborhood from near and far (mostly near), Madison Park Art Walk 2010 got underway Saturday evening with a bang.

The event began with a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception at Starbucks, which store manager Iaan Hughes estimates was attended by as many as 250 people (including, incidentally, Starbucks Chairman and Madison Park resident Howard Schultz). That attendance level, Hughes told me, is almost in line with the turnout for the MadArt kickoff event held at this time last year. What followed the reception was three hours of meandering around the neighborhood by art lovers (with wine glasses sometimes still in hand), checking out the 23 Art Walk venues up, down, and around E. Madison Street.

And there was some pretty impressive art on display too, including that of emerging artist Brooke Westlund (that’s her with her art at Park Deli below).

This is my very own resident artist, Margo Spellman, with her art (and my niece Rebecca on the left) at Starbucks:

The most controversial installation was certainly that of “graffiti artist” Robert Selke, whose work was on display at Madison House:

The artists presented by Art Walk were a mixed lot, full-time professionals sharing the spotlight with part-timers (“artists with day jobs”), amateurs, and more than a smattering of “hobbyists”. High-quality art was created by young and old artists alike, including many of the pieces presented by residents of Park Shore retirement community and much of the art displayed by students at the Bertschi, Bush, Epiphany and McGilvra Schools (that’s the truly excellent installation at The Children’s Shop by McGilvra Elementary’s students below).

And it was not all paintings. Ceramics, jewelry, photos, glasswork, and tiles were all part of the show (that’s glass artist Patricia Weyer’s work to the right below, which is on display in the windows of Pharmaca).

All in all it was a wonderful, balmy evening in the neighborhood as musicians played, artists explained, and art lovers enjoyed what was entirely a volunteer-produced event. If you missed the opening, you can still see the art, which is on display (and for sale) through September 30.

Art Walk is sponsored by The Madison Park Business Association. This, by the way, is proudly an "Art Not Ads" website.

[Top photo: the installation at Starbucks by Madison Park artist Isa D’Arleans. Bottom photo: the installation at Martha Harris Flowers & Gifts by Maria Root.]

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Madison Park Art Walk kicks off Saturday

Local artists to take center stage

It begins with a reception on Saturday and continues throughout the month of September at 23 different Madison Park businesses. It’s Madison Park Art Walk 2010, and the focus is principally on the art of talented Madison Parkers, though there will also be a few artists on show from a bit further afield—like Montlake, for example.

In all, more than 50 painters, jewelers, sculptors, ceramic artists and photographers will have their works on display as part of this first-of-its-kind neighborhood event. At venues from Anne Marie Lingerie to Maison Michel on the north side of Madison and from Tim Walsh Salon to Park Shore on the south side, the public will get to see a wide range of artistic expression. And, at least on opening night, there will be the opportunity to interact with the artists in person.

Among Art Walk’s participating artists is Brooke Westlund, whose abstract paintings will be on display at Park Deli (that’s one of her pieces shown above). Sculptor Else Cobb (that’s her work to the right) will be featured at Pharmaca, while artist Debra Thompson Harvey will have her art on display at Museum Quality Framing (that’s one of her oil pastels below).

In addition to the 18 artists who will have their works displayed individually, there are several venues at which the works of multiple artists will be on view. Madison Park Veterinary, for example, will display the work of several UW Natural Science Illustration Students, while Red Wagon Toys will showcase the art of students from the Bertschi and Epiphany Schools. McGilvra School artists, meanwhile, will be featured at The Children’s Shop and Bush Upper School artists will have their work in the windows of Madison Park Hardware. Also participating in Art Walk are the resident artists of Park Shore.

Some additional examples of the art that will be displayed during Art Walk are available on the lovely blog of my neighbor, Emily Heston. You can get her preview of the event at Splendid Market. Additional details about the participating artists and venues are available at Madison Park Art Walk’s official site.

All of the art in Art Walk will be for sale, with prices ranging from $30 to $6,800. A distinction between this year’s Art Walk and last year’s MadArt event is that 100% of the proceeds this year will go directly to the artists.

The kickoff reception is from 6 to 9 pm at Starbucks (4000 E. Madison St.), Saturday, September 11. [Full disclosure: my wife, Margo Spellman, is one of the artists participating in Art Walk, with her art on display at Starbucks.]

Madison Park Art Walk is presented by the Madison Park Business Association with the support of Key Bank, Starbucks, Madison Park Café, and This is the art of watercolorist James Anderson, whose work will be on display at Tully’s:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

From China to McGilvra

Mary Lane takes control

It was with a certain sense of déjà vu that I sat in the McGilvra principal’s office today for a chat with the School’s incoming head, Mary Lane. The new school year is about to begin and McGilvra is under new leadership. That, of course, was also the situation last year when I sat in the same office talking to the then-new principal, DeWanda Cook-Weaver, about her plans for the upcoming school year. Those plans, as we now know, didn’t quite pan out.

When listening to Lane, however, I had the strong sense that this time the School has someone in the top job who’s likely to be around for the long haul. I fully expect to be interviewing her at the end of this school year about all that she and her team accomplished in her first term.

But before we get to her plans and objectives, let’s do the bio. Lane is a Virginia native who began her career in education as a 3rd and 4th grade classroom teacher. She’s a bit coy about how long she’s been an administrator but admits to having been a principal “for many years.” This experience included stints at schools in the Olympia area, as well as Hawkins Middle School in Kitsap County. Then, after eleven years in Washington, she packed up and moved to the Dominican Republic, where she served as an assistant superintendent of a school district catering to the children of expats. She followed this up with a move to China, were she served as principal of a large private school, Shanghai American.

Why go overseas? “I was at a point where I was able to do it,” she says, “and I wanted to experience education in a different way. Change is good—every five to seven years or so.” She learned a lot during her seven years abroad, she notes, but her goal was always to return to Washington. And when the McGilvra position came open this year it was one of several job prospects she considered. Lane decided that after having lived in Shanghai, she might have found Olympia to be too small. But Seattle was the right size—and McGilvra was the “perfect match.” Her goal had been to live downtown and be close to her work, preferably located in an old red-brick schoolhouse. Well, she achieved all of that. She now makes the short commute to Madison Park’s 1913 brick elementary from her new abode in Belltown.

So how does she like it so far? Well, first a nod to what she terms the ”highly involved” parents (some might say notoriously involved parents) of McGilvra. “They’re delightful, dedicated, and interesting,” she tells me, “but I don’t see this parent group as at all different from what I’ve dealt with in the past.” She notes the similarity of McGilvra’s parents with the parents of kids in the private schools she’s administered. “These are parents who are very interested in their children’s education, people with high expectations.” And it’s certainly better to have “highly involved” parents, she adds, than the other thing.

Next, a nod to the “wonderful, talented and dedicated” teachers and staff of the school, who she has discovered are “nice people too!” She says she’s making it a point to try to sit down with each one individually, asking three basic questions: what are your concerns, what are your hopes, and if you could change one thing, what would it be? She’s not telling me specifically what she learned, but she notes that she was surprised by the consistency of the responses. And she professes enthusiasm about the level of interest everyone on the staff has in their own professional development. She says she believes that this bodes well for new methods of delivering education at McGilvra.

She points, in particular, to the rollout this year of a different kind of literacy program in the school that encourages students to take more ownership in the learning process and, hopefully, view themselves as authors. For innovative programs such as this, she notes, “we have the luxury of being able to look at growth, since the students in the school are already doing well.”

What she hopes to foster at McGilvra, she says, is “a professional learning community, one that focuses on what we want to accomplish so we know when we do accomplish it.” This means working together, understanding student data, utilizing new tools, and setting goals. “We need to create cultures in our schools where teachers have as many ‘light bulb’ moments as the children have.”

It’s a tall order, but she’s ready to get started. And next Wednesday, the first day of the new school year, a full school assembly will get to see the new principal in action for the first time.

“It feels good be home and in a community,” she says in closing. “I think this is the right fit.”