Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our neighborhood Starbucks gets a nod from the New York Times (no less)

Starbucks achieved some great free "product placement" yesterday when the New York Times published a profile of the company's Madison Park store in a article headlined, "There's One on Every Corner, But None Like This."  The editorial motivation for the piece is the fact that our locally-based, global Mega Coffee Purveyor is experimenting in Madison Park with something new: wine and beer.

What we already knew, the world now knows.

Describing our neighborhood as "lovely," writer William Yardley notes that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz lives in Madison Park and often "pops in" to the store on his way to "brand building."  Yardley speculates on whether this fact was having any impact on the employees' behavior while the reporter was on the premises:

"Were the baristas looking for their boss, who lives in a ton of house nearby? Were they anxious? Were they freaking out? Is it true that they undergo special scrutiny before they can work there? Do they sometimes wish they worked in one of those apathy-oozing independent coffee shops in an edgier part of town? Surely they have a tattoo or two beneath those buttoned black sleeves, right?"

It may be shocking to some to discover that Madison Park is apparently not considered "edgy."  This Yardley is not some fly-in from New York who might not know better, either.  He is, we believe, the paper's local stringer, or at minimum a regular reporter for the NYT who is based here. So when it comes to Seattle, he probably knows "edgy" from "not edgy."  We'll just have to live with our perceived lack of edginess.

By the way, if you're thinking that the New York Times' piece was prompted by Starbucks' desire to have national media attention for its local experiment, you're almost certainly wrong.  Yardley has a tough time getting answers to questions like the ones he poses in the excerpt above.  Some answers were eventually forthcoming from Starbucks' media relations team (aka Corporate), and you can read all about it by clicking on the link above.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Belle Epicurean gets the doors open

They're having a "soft opening" at Belle Epicurean starting today, one which will extent through Labor Day.  After that, according to co-owner/chef/creator Carolyn Ferguson, it's full speed ahead.   The neighborhood's latest food purveyor took on the space vacated by Island Video in March, but getting the new location up and running has taken a bit longer than planned.  Today was the day, however, and they're ready for business.  A few people had already found their way into the nicely refurbished space by the time we arrived a bit after noon--and everyone seemed happy with their new discovery.

Ferguson tells us that the cafe space is essentially completed, although there will be another month of work to do before patrons will see the fully finished interior.  The east side of the building, which is entirely separate right now from the completed space on the cafe side, will ultimately house a new concept for Belle Epicurean which they have branded Provisions.   There are some opportunities to extend the cafe's reach that simply could not be accommodated in the limited space of their downtown location, according to Ferguson.  The second side of their location here will allow for something new and fun, she promises.  The space will accomodate private parties and will, during regular hours, sell (what else?) provisions:  for example, frozen doughs of the various BE pastries, jars of the various BE condiments, and cake mixes (BE opera cake included).   At the top of the Provisons list: wines.

During the "soft opening" Belle Epicurean's hours will be: 8 am until 2 pm, today through Monday, and 8 am until 6 pm through Labor Day. After that, store hours will be 6 am until 8 pm Sunday through Wednesday and 6 am until 10 pm Thursday through Saturday.  The new location duplicates the pastries, sandwiches, rich desserts, and other items available in the original downtown location.  All of those foodie details are available right here.

[Belle Epicurean is located at 3109 E. Madison St.]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This and that

Floating bridge to close again

This weekend the SR 520 bridge will be closed for the third time this summer as work crews finish up construction of a fish culvert near Yarrow Point and shift traffic lanes near Evergreen Point Road to create a median work zone.  So no work on the bridge itself, but plenty of activity (including night work)  to disrupt those living near 520 on the Eastside.  The bridge will be closed from 11 pm on Friday until 5 am on Monday, with the Montlake exit from 520 open during the period.   By the way, there is no mention in the press release from WSDOT concerning any further closures of the the bridge this summer.  Up-to-date information will be available here throughout.

A 520 lawsuit on the horizon?

And while we're on the subject of 520 reconfiguration, we can report that the Coalition for a Sustainable 520, which for some time has been making noises about a possible lawsuit against the "Preferred Alternative Plan" for the highway, is now looking seriously at court as the logical next step.  In an email to supporters this week, Fran Conley, the group's Coordinator, writes,"This month, the Federal Highway people did issue a go-ahead for construction of SR 520.  It's called a Record of Decision.  There are significant flaws in it, and we are actively preparing for a lawsuit."  She goes on to state that there is money available for the group to move forward with the legal challenge, and the Coalition's lawyer believes there are solid legal grounds to take that action.

'Watson' is missing

This seven-year-old, yellow-eyed black male cat went missing on Monday, August 22.  Described as very shy and sweet by his owner, 'Watson' has a white tuft of hair under his chin and a skull-and-crossbones collar, with ID tags.  If you've seen 'Watson' (or better yet, if he's in your care), please call (206) 617-2407.

Yard sale and giveaway at Madison Park Cafe

On Sunday, between 9 am and 2 pm, Karen Binder, 32-year owner of of the Cafe, will be selling off (and, in some cases, giving away) many items from the restaurant that she just will not need in her catering and wine businesses going forward.  Here's what she says is included: "All my extra mismatched plates, glasses, catering trays, baskets and all sorts of little cafe stuff....some art work and WINE!  Whatever wine I have left when I close Saturday night will be on sale for retail prices--not wine list prices!"  There's also a white desk, a sideboard, and some chairs.

And, in a follow-up email to us she adds, "There's also a washer and dryer in great shape. $150 the pair. We deliver!"

As we've reported, after Madison Park Cafe's last meal is served on Saturday the building (originally a house built in 1924) will be somewhat remodeled, with a new restaurant making its debut there in October as Cafe Parco.

A brief glimpse at plans for Cafe Parco

And while we're on that subject, chef and owner Celinda Norton has disclosed some details concerning her new restaurant here.  In an email to her fans, she reports that Cafe Parco will definitely be Italian, but...

"I'm NOT talking Spaghetti Italian!

Cafe Parco will be showcasing Chef Celinda's passion for dishes that seamlessly meld the freshest and the best ingredients available, while maintaining the integrity of each element.  A philosophy inspired by Italy.

The name lends a nod of respect to Karen and The Madison Park Cafe.  For 32 years, the Cafe has been the beautiful, much loved girl next door. Cafe Parco is that same girl, all grown up and gorgeous. Names may change, but integrity lives on.

We will be offering Dinner seven days a week, Lunch Monday through Friday and Brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  My new menus (oh... have I been writing menus!) will reflect neighborhood value; encouraging the opportunity for all to join our offerings any day of the week.

I will be introducing a unique wine program with Cafe Parco.  I'm not going to tell you everything YET, but your wallet is going to love this idea!"

Celinda will be joined by both her son Nic and daughter Lindsey when the restaurant opens in a month or so.  We'll get the full scoop as we get closer to opening day.

Constance Gillespie acts!

We were happy to walk by the notorious "black hole" building on Madison this week and discover that the landlord, Constance Gillespie, had indeed had the building's broken plate-glass window replaced on the center retail unit.  She met the City's deadline, with several days to spare.  Alas, there have been no repairs to the crumbing facade of the building.  Well, you can't expect miracles.

Readers respond on crime-vigilance issue

After we re-ran our cautionary posting on neighborhood break-ins this week, several people pointed to additional measurers Madison Parkers can take to prevent break-ins at their residences.  One noted that the police told her that houses with dogs are less likely to be broken into than those without, though as we've noted in past Police Blotter reports you definitely need dogs that will not sleep through the break-ins and you need to pay attention to your dogs' warnings if they are to have the maximum benefit in this regard.

Another reader noted that some people broadcast that they are on vacation by Facebooking or tweeting about it on Twitter.  Not a good idea, since not everyone who may read about the lovely time you're having in Cinque Terre is necessarily interested in those particular details, she warns.

Finally, there is this additional point:  houses with hidden entries in the back are more vulnerable to break-ins since the crime is less likely to be noticed by neighbors or passersby. So trimming hedges or removing unnecessary obstructions to give more visibility to your residence, may help lessen the break-in risk.

Consider these suggestions words to the wise.

[Floating bridge photo by Tony Cyphert on Flickr.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When it comes to crime, vigilance is better than the other thing (getting ripped off)

[We have never recycled a posting on this blog--until now.  The recent spate of criminal incidents in the neighborhood, break-ins in particular, makes this particular posting from December 2009 (when we had about a tenth of our current readership) a particularly timely reminder to Madison Parkers.  As an aside, my wife and I installed two strategically placed video cameras on our property before heading off on vacation this summer.  Also added to our local landscape were two very prominent "Video Surveillance" warning signs, hard to miss.  The police told us that anything we can do to make someone choose another house rather than ours increases our chances of avoiding a break-in.  This particular video solution is no longer expensive.  We did the whole thing ourselves, the cost being under $250 for a wireless color-monitor system with remote recording.   Madison Park Blogger ]  

It's clear that we have a crime problem in our community that needs to be addressed. I asked two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers to give me some tips to help readers of this blog effectively deal with the new higher-crime reality. Here’s the upshot:
Secure your property

In the first nine months of this year there have been 124 burglaries and attempted burglaries on our police beat. Of these, 69 were classified as “unlawful entry” as opposed to “forced entry.” In other words, 56% of all burglaries occurred where people failed to properly secure their property and the perpetrator(s) walked in through an open or unlocked door or entered via an open or unsecured window.

Locking and properly securing entry points is the first step in stopping burglaries, says SPD crime prevention officer Benjamin Kinlow. He points to a recent burglary example from another neighborhood where all the doors and windows of a house were secured on the first floor but there was an open window on the second floor and a ladder lying in the yard. There’s no reason to give burglars an open invitation, Kinlow notes, because they’re likely to take you up on it.


If you can afford to have an electronic security system in your house it can be a crime preventer if set up properly. “Having an alarm system with the alarm sounding inside the house is only a benefit for the alarm company,” according to Kinlow. It has minimal utility as a crime preventer, as we previously reported on this blog. “What I personally recommend to citizens is that they put their alarm high on the outside of the house,” says Kinlow, who believes that “99.99%” of criminals will stop and make a quick exit if they believe neighbors are being notified that a crime may be taking place. Most burglaries occur during daytime, he says, so when an alarm sounds, neighbors can look out and possibly see what’s happening.

Kinlow recommends alarm systems that can be deactivated from outside the house or that shut off automatically after several minutes. He also advises that all doors and windows be wired so that a burglar will have to make a noise when entering, either by triggering the alarm or breaking glass. Burglars prefer to make their moves silently, says Kinlow, so forcing them to make a noise not only provides an alert but also can be an actual deterrence. The goal is not to be an easy mark.
Surveillance cameras

Officer Tim Greeley, who works the police beat that includes Madison Park, says it’s very useful for homeowners to have some kind of crime deterrent on their property. He’s big on security systems, even with an in-the-house alarm. “Do you want the perpetrator to leave the house?” he asks, rhetorically. “Have something that will encourage that.”

Greeley believes that surveillance equipment can also be particularly useful in stopping crime. He notes that some systems are now very affordable and can be installed fairly easily. He commented that he bought one for his own home and has experienced no break-ins. Potential burglars, who are often juveniles, are likely to steer clear of a residence that is posted. So if you do install any kind of security system, Greeley says, make sure the fact is known: “This property is under video surveillance.”

Trompe d l'oeil

That’s French for “fool the eye.” When it comes to protecting your property while you’re away from the premises, you not only want to fool the eyes of potential burglars, but perhaps their ears as well. This means making it appear that the house is occupied even if it’s not. Use timers to turn on and off lights, both inside and outside your house, and do the same with a TV or radio so that the house is not quiet. Make sure that newspapers and mail do not accumulate, and keep the grass mowed.

Get the neighbors involved

Both Greeley and Kinlow stress that having neighbors participate in helping secure your property is important. Keep them informed of when you will be gone and ask for their assistance in watching the premises and reporting suspicious activities. Greely suggests that if you don’t have an extra car of your own to leave behind while you’re away, request that a neighbor parks their car in your driveway or in front of your house so it looks like someone is home.

Kinlow adds that if you’re going to be away from the house for an extended period you can make a “Request to Watch” to the Seattle Police, which will result in additional police patrols by your house while you are gone. The non-emergency number to be used for such requests is 206-625-5011.

Be vigilant

The bottom line, both officers agree, is for property owners not to be complacent about the possibility of becoming crime victims. “It can happen to anyone,” says Greeley. “The important thing” adds Kinlow, “is to make it difficult.” The more you do to protect your property, the harder you make it for the potential burglar, the less likely you are to be victimized. “Recognize that we live in a society and in a city where crime can occur,” says Greeley. “That fact has to be on our radar—or we’re vulnerable.”
[The current SPD Crime Prevention Coordinator for the East Precinct, Fran Tello, may be contacted at (206) 684-4730 or by email:  He is responsible, among other things, for helping setting up block watches in this area.]
Photo of break-in courtesy of Tim Samoff, on Flickr.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

glassybaby founder up for award

Lee Rhodes, who ten years ago founded her highly successful glass candleholder business in the garage of her Madison Park residence, has been nominated for Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of 2011 Award.  She’s the only woman nominee in the Established Entrepreneurs category this year.

Rhodes is a three-time cancer survivor, whose battle with the disease provided the inspiration for her product.  From the beginning, glassybaby has donated a portion of its sales to charities that support individuals and families who are dealing with illness.  To date, glassybaby has donated more than $600,000 to this worthy endeavor.

But the distinctive glassybaby creation itself has also proven to be a healing agent and source of hope for many people, who see something much more in the glass votive than simply a consumer product. Rhodes’ own story of challenge and survival has been an inspiration to many, becoming very much a part of the aura that surrounds glassybaby.  And, as has been conclusively proven whenever glassybaby has a middle-of-the-night lineup for sales at its Madrona store, there are plenty of fans who just love the product. 

In addition to the original Madrona location, the company now has stores in University Village, Bellevue and New York.  At the studio in Madrona, more than 70 glass artists work at creating the hand-blown product, which is now available in over 400 colors.

You can can see a video about Lee and vote for her as Entrepreneur of 2011 here.

[Photo of Lee Rhodes courtesy of glassybaby.]

A sad passing

Barbara Washington, who with her husband Ed owned and operated Madison Park’s Scoop du Jour for almost three decades, passed away earlier this month after a battle with pancreatic cancer.   Barbara was known to several generations of neighborhood kids for her pleasant good humor while scooping out the ice cream and for her cooking skills in dishing up the fabulous burgers she created in the back of the shop.  Ed and Barbara started the iconic ice cream parlor 27 years ago, making it one of the most successful and long-lived businesses in the Park.

Barbara Washington was a private person who, according to her son Ed, did not want any services or public notices of her death, which explains why there has been no published obituary.  Several readers thought it was important for us to note her passing, however, and we agreed.

More August events

Two Dog Island, founded 15 years ago by former Nordstrom executive (and Madison Park resident) Galen Jefferson, will be previewing its new fall line with a trunk show at Ropa Bella this week.  Two Dog Island’s focus is on “high quality casual separates for women,” beginning—but not ending—with comfy sweatshirts.  The show will be underway from 2 until 7 pm on Thursday, August 25 at the store (1928 43rd Avenue E.)

The Arboretum is requesting public input concerning a “preferred alternative” to the “preliminary conceptual design” for the park’s new North Entry and Multi-Use Trail.  The revision to the original plan is being made as the result of earlier public input after the initial plan was presented in June.  Those interested will get their opportunity to see the changes and provide their reactions at a public meeting on Wednesday, August 31 (6:30 to 8 pm) to be held at the Graham Visitors Center (2300 Arboretum Drive E.).  The new design for the North Entry presupposes the demolition of the SR 520 ramps, which seems to be a foregone conclusion at this point.

[Note to event holders:  Please submit your notices to us by the 25th of the month for inclusion in the following month’s Happenings postings. Thanks.]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Police Blotter 8/18/11

Robbery attempt foiled

Last week an employee of Red Wagon Toys, acting with an astonishing degree of intuition and hutzpah (or perhaps just simple foolhardiness) caused a potential robber to think better of the idea and exit the premises.  The episode began when a 6’ 2” black male wearing a red and white hoodie entered the store early in the afternoon of Monday, August 8.  His demeanor did not appear to be that of a shopper looking for toys, according to the employee, but she nevertheless asked if she could help him.  He declined assistance.  A few minutes later, however, he approached the counter and stated that he was there to rob the store, at the same time reaching into his pocket and implying he had a gun.  The employee, for whatever reason, wasn’t ready to hand over any cash to the guy.  Instead, she turned, grabbed the phone and told the suspect she was calling the police.  Witnessing this unanticipated resolve, the rattled wannabe-robber ran from the store.

Though the police report doesn’t state this detail, we understand that the man had earlier entered the Original Children’s Shop, where, in the words of a employee, "we actually killed him with kindness when he walked in and I don’t think he knew what to make of us."  He then left and apparently decided to try next door instead.  Multiple police units converged on the scene in an unavailing effort to track the suspect, who was described as being in his 30s and having prominent gold dental work.

Broadmoor “narcotics bust”

A little after midnight on July 17 a caller to 911 stated that a man was chasing another man around a Broadmoor residence while wielding a knife. When the police arrived at the address given by the caller, they observed a white male walking near the house, a person who seemed suspicious enough for them to stop and detain.  He was identified as John Christ.  When the police checked the residence in question they learned from the homeowner that he had met Christ on the Internet and had arranged to meet Christ at his house that evening.  However, when Christ had arrived the homeowner had become suspicious and had not let Christ into the house.  Christ had thereupon called 911, making the false report about the potential-knifing incident supposedly underway at the house.  Hearing this, the police then took Christ into custody, reading him his Miranda rights.

Back at the station, Christ’s backpack was searched and the following items discovered: “Three syringes, an elastic band, tin lid cap, multiple syringe caps, and a blue latex glove.”  Also located was a clear plastic baggie containing a “clear flaky substance which, through my training and experience [says the police officer], appeared to be Methamphetamine.”  The substance, amounting to .3 grams, was field tested and shown to be Meth when it turned dark purple.  Christ was booked for false reporting and narcotics possession.

Brazen daylight burglaries

The Madison Park Times beat us to the punch this month (a rare event) in reporting on the July 14 robbery of a residence on the 2000 block of E. McGilvra Boulevard.  In that incident the suspects kicked in the backdoor of the house and then removed numerous items from it, including $30,000 worth of jewelry and a large Plasma TV.  A witness later reported having seen three Hispanic-looking males loading a flat screen TV into a “red caravan” near the location of the burglary.

Just yesterday there was a similar daylight break-in on the 1400 block of 42nd Avenue E.  In that case the residents returned late in the afternoon to discover that thieves had entered their house through a window, stealing cash, passports, a laptop, an Ipad, an SLR camera, and a desk-top computer.  The burglars had moved beds to check for hidden valuables, and they had tried to take a jewelry box but apparently could not move it.  They apparently walked straight out the front door with their stash and loaded it into their car.  The owners recall having seen a grey Jeep often parked across from their house over the previous couple of days, with two people sitting in it.

Other neighborhood crime

Vehicles were stolen from the 1600 block of 42nd Avenue E. on August 12, from the 4200 block of E. Madison on August 16, and from 42nd Avenue E. at E. Highland Drive on July 27.  Car break-ins occurred on the 3100 block of E. Madison on August 12, from the 1000 block of Lake Washington Boulevard E. on August 8, from the 1000 block of 34th Avenue E. on July 20, from the 1100 block of 37th Avenue E. on July 19, from the 400 block of 39th Avenue E. on August 8 (involving two cars), from the 700 block of McGilvra Boulevard E. on August 8, from the 800 block of McGilvra Boulevard E. on August 2, from the 1800 block of 41st Avenue E. on August 8 and from the 2000 block of 43rd Avenue E. on the same night.  That last incident resulted in a rare felony arrest.

Also reported this month was one “threat to kill” incident (apparently a result of a dispute over a parking space), an harassment situation involving violation of a court order, and an incident of graffiti or other property damage.

Eyewitness crime reports

This from a reader, reporting on what she was told by her landscapers about an incident in early August:  “While doing some work on 37th Ave E. (across from Broadmoor), they noticed a van with two men inside who were parked close by and just sort of hanging out. They had an odd feeling, which was confirmed when all of a sudden the passenger in the van jumped out, ran over to the open back-end of the landscaping truck, snatched a $1200 generator, ran back to the now- moving van, jumped in the back and took off. The landscaping staff were close enough to watch this happen and even ran after the man but were not able to catch up with him. Unfortunately, they were unable to recall the license plate number of the van. A police report was filed.”

Another reader reports this “stop thief” incident which occurred earlier this month:  Her neighbor whose car was parked on the street observed a man on a bicycle stop and open the passenger-side door, swipe a package from the seat, and peddle off with it at top speed. Apparently nothing of significant value was taken.

[Crime map covers the period from July 14 through August 15.]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A new addition to the retail core

Park Bench Gifts set to open in October

Though some have argued otherwise, it's not true there are basically only three kinds of businesses left in Madison Park:  eateries, spas and banks.  While the business district (known to many as The Village) has lost some major establishments over the years (The Yankee Peddler, Madison Park Books, and Nubia's immediately come to mind), it's also true that retail remains a vital part of what makes Madison Park both a pleasant and convenient place to live and an attractive destination for people from outside the neighborhood.

It's been rumored for several weeks that The Village was about to get a boost to its "critical mass" with the arrival of a second retail shop in the Villa Marina building.  John Sheard, the owner and operator of two successful Madison Park businesses (Cookin' and Red Wagon Toys) today acknowledged that he will soon be opening a third retail store here, thus reaffirming his faith in the neighborhood as a solid retail venue.  The new shop, Park Bench Gifts, is expected to be in operation well before the holiday season gets underway.  It will be located at 1928 43rd Avenue E. (Suite 9), further helping pull the retail core of the neighborhood up 43rd Street.

"We are delighted to have such a strong and successful business owner as John joining our other established businesses, Ropa Bella and Terzo Salon," says Dennis Daugs, principal of Lakeside Capital Management, which owns Villa Marina. It has been Daugs' goal to coax more retail into that corridor. Besides the Villa Marina shops, the only other non-restaurant retail establishment on 43rd is the newly reopened Spa del Lago, across the street.

Park Bench Gifts' new manager, Jan Yoder, told us she thinks it's in the best interests of all Madison Park businesses to have more, rather than fewer, retails shops in the neighborhood since it helps the area retain its reputation as a destination shopping district.  She reports that while some of the details are still to be worked out, "we are definitely going to have a different feel from anything else in the neighborhood."

Construction on leasehold improvements should begin shortly, with October 1 as the hoped for grand-opening date.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cafe Parco to debut in the fall

Italian cuisine returns to the local restaurant scene

As early as October, after some remodeling to the Madison Park Cafe space is completed, Seattle Chef Celinda Norton and family, who until last month operated 94 Stewart in the Pike Place Market, will be bringing their talents to Madison Park with a new incarnation:  Cafe Parco.

As we reported yesterday, Madison Park Cafe has been sold.  Today we can give you some of the details, thanks to MPC owner Karen Binder, who shared with us her email to her patrons about both the sale and the new owners' plans for the space.  She describes the transition to new ownership as "good fortune," noting that Norton "has all the qualities of the person I was hoping to leave my legacy to:  a smart, quirky, strong, talented, capable woman chef."

Just last month, the Nortons sold 94 Stewart, confiding on the restaurant's website that "we are already working on our new adventure."  Now we know, at least in general terms, just what (and where) that adventure will be.  According to Binder, Cafe Parco will be serving Italian cuisine seven days a week, both lunch and dinner, with brunches on the weekends.  94 Stewart was known for its Fried Avocado, once chosen as a "Best Bite" by The Seattle Times. We understand it won't be one of the selections at the new place, however.  The Nortons (including Celinda's son Nic and daughter Lindsey) are planning "something new and different" in this new venue. Just what the menu will be is something we intend to ferret out in coming weeks.

Binder, meanwhile, will not be exiting from the Seattle culinary scene. She says she intends to continue both her catering and wine-selling businesses (  She'll be back in action after a several-week sojourn in Hawaii for the birth of a grandchild.  In the meantime, however, she is not taking a page out of the Sostanza exit strategy (sell the place and get out of town by morning).  She will be on board with the Madison Park Cafe through brunch on August 29, she says, "So, come on in for a swan song meal and say goodbye to the old joint!"

[Photo of Celinda Norton by Cris Bisch on SustainLane.]

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Madison Park Cafe sold

It's been a more or less open secret for some time that Madison Park Cafe owner, Karen Binder, with more than 30 years of successful MPC operation behind her, was seeking a buyer for her iconic space across from the Madison Park tennis courts (1807 42nd Avenue E.).  She confirmed to us today that she has sold her restaurant, the details being announced to her longtime patrons by email.  This is the fifth turnover of major restaurant space in Madison Park in just the last two and a half years, beginning with Sorella's in 2009, Impromptu and Sostanza in 2010, and Bing's earlier this summer.

We will, of course, cover the full story of the plans for a new restaurant at the MPC site when they become available.

City takes action with notice of violation

The Seattle Department of Planning & Development confirmed this week that it had notified the landlord that the unsafe conditions at her building at 4118 E. Madison St. must be corrected.  Bryan Stevens, the Department's Public Service Manager, sent us this statement in response to the complaint we lodged with SDPD about the situation:

"We inspected the site on August 10th and observed the hazard along the sidewalk.  Per the Housing and Building Maintenance Code, the owner is responsible for removing an imminent hazard from the building and that components be reason­ably weathertight and kept in a safe, sound and sanitary condition.  We have issued a Notice of Violation to the owner, which requires the owner to make the necessary repairs by August 23rd.  If repairs are not made, then the owner could be subject to fines through the litigation process."

Rumor has it that the landlord, Constance Gillespie, has contracted for work to begin on the building on Monday. She is reported to have indicated that repairs will also be made to the rotting facade.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our beach makes 'best brown bagging' list

The Seattle Weekly, which specializes in coming up with "Best Places" lists each year, recently (like last week) chose Madison Park Beach as one of the Five Best Beaches in Seattle for Brown Baggin' It.  Last year this same publication picked our beach as the Best Beach for Babe Viewing, so we'll leave it to our readers to judge whether we're moving upward or downward with this year's honor.

To be clear, Madison Park Beach is Number 3 on the brown-bag list, with Alki and Golden Gardens ahead of us and Matthews Beach and Carkeek Park behind (do they have a beach there?).  Here's what the paper has to suggest as post-beach-going activities when in Madison Park: "With all the great joints up and down Madison, might we suggest stopping off at Cactus or The Attic after your BA shenanigans?"  BA in this is context probably refers to bare assed (or even bad ass) and not bachelor of arts.  Just guessing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Death due to natural causes

The King County Medical Examiner yesterday reported that Michael Westlake Michel, whose decomposed body was discovered in the backseat of his truck in Madison Park last month, died of natural causes. The initial autopsy was inconclusive, but later tests determined that Michel's death was the result of heart disease.  He was 42 years old.

Michel's mother, Sharon Sievers, who notified us of these findings, said she was relieved and "at peace" knowing the truth.  "Please tell all concerned how very grateful I am that they cared and cared for someone they did not know; and thank them as well," she told us. "You certainly have a wonderful community when people can be so concerned in that way.  Michael was a wonderful person. May he rest in peace."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Can't something be done about this?

Anyone thinking that the already decrepit commercial building at 4118 E. Madison St. couldn’t become more of a blight on the heart of Madison Park’s business district was proven wrong last week when vandals smashed the plate glass window of one of the building’s two vacant shops. Building owner Constance Gillespie, notorious for her unwillingness to spend any funds to maintain the structure, is almost certainly unaware of the damage. We understand from reliable sources that she is unreachable by phone or email, and there is some question as to whether she even accepts mail delivery.

The building has been in a state of disrepair (shall we say visibly rotting?) for many years, much to the consternation of other neighborhood merchants, one of whom refers to the structure as “The Black Hole of Madison Park.” (We’ve covered this story in some detail: click here to read our previous postings.)

The question now is whether the situation is to the point where the City can step in and require some remedial action on the part of the landlord, since the recent damage clearly presents a potential hazard to passersby.  Madison Park Business Association President Terry Short has done his best to tape over the glass that remains in the window frame, but the shop is now open to both the weather and to anyone who wants to enter the premises. Glass shards could easily dislodge onto what is the neighborhood’s most trafficked sidewalk.

As of this afternoon, no one had apparently called the City to ask for an intervention; so stepping out of our journalist role, we did so.  We contacted that Department of Planning and Development and made a formal request for an inspection, citing a clear danger to the public. We were told that based on our description of the situation there would be an investigation.

We shall see.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The rest of the story...

...of a 'dangerous dog' and its victims

It was almost a year ago that a Washington Park pit bull (or pit bull mix) named 'Honey' attacked three women in the course of an afternoon, sending two of the victims to the emergency room.  'Honey' had escaped from her yard, attacked without provocation, and was eventually picked up by animal control officers. In due course she was declared a "dangerous animal" by the Director of the Seattle Animal Shelter, and it was ordered that she either be removed from Seattle or euthanized.

That appeared to be the end of the story until this spring, when we started seeing 'Honey' (or a dog that looked very much like her) being walked around the neighborhood (on leash) and playing at one of the waterfront road ends (off leash).  That's when we discovered that as a result of an appeals hearing in February, 'Honey' had been ruled not dangerous by the examiner.  According to press reports, the law on dangerous animals set a very high of a standard for what constituted dangerous behavior. In the opinion of the examiner, the injuries suffered by 'Honey's' victims was insufficient to warrant the "dangerous dog" designation.  

What was not reported, however, was the fact that none of Honey's victims was notified of the hearing or asked to testify about her injuries.  'Honey's' owner, meanwhile, hired an expert lawyer to represent him and to plead for the "dangerous animal" designation to be overturned.  An administrative hearing is not the same as a legal trial; and with regard to Seattle's dangerous animal ordinance, the victims are not a party to the case.  At the hearing, it is the City versus the dog owner, with the City Attorney's office arguing that a "dangerous animal" designation of the Seattle Animal Shelter Director should be sustained.  The City lost the case, and the victims are naturally upset that their testimony was not solicited by the City as a part of the hearing.

According to one of the victims, who is herself an attorney, the fact that she was not notified of the hearing is not surprising, but the outcome of the hearing is appalling: "Was the decision reasonable? Hell no!"  Furthermore, she says that although the City gave 'Honey's' owner the names and addresses of the victims as part of the pre-hearing process (and the victims were so notified), the owner has made no attempt to contact her regarding restitution or even to make an apology.  "This is extremely bad form," she told us. "This is a community and I am a neighbor."  She says she expected more.

Another of 'Honey's' victims says she is appalled at the process, the outcome, and the lack of justice for the victims.  She says that she continues to have unhealed nerve damage as a result of the dog attack.  She questions the examiner's decision since it appears that the extent of her injuries was not taken into consideration.  The City ordinance states that "'severe injury' means "any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery."  'Honey's' victim, who is a nurse, states that her wound required multiple sutures and took months to heal. That seems to fit the definition, and "severe injury" under the ordinance is sufficient to uphold a "dangerous animal" designation.

According to Colleen Lynn, who founded the non-profit organization, the victims are often left out of the proceedings when it comes to deciding dog-bite cases.  She notes also that the City's hearing examiner in the 'Honey' case has a background primarily in land-use issues.  The examiner, Sue Tanner, apparently determined that the term "lacerations" in the existing City ordinance means "multiple" injuries.  One injury, no matter how many sutures it required, apparently was not sufficient.  One of the victims, at least, also had multiple puncture wounds from 'Honey's' teeth, though in the examiner's opinion this did not add up to "lacerations," as defined by the law.  It's not clear whether any previous examiner had ever made such a narrow interpretation of the long-existing ordinance; but probably not, since the official reaction to Tanner's decision was direct and decisive.

The outcome of the 'Honey' case and another serious pit bull injury case that Tanner recently decided in a similar manner prompted the City Council to take action to change the dangerous animal ordinance to make the law more inclusive concerning what is a "severe injury." As a result of a change to the ordinance enacted in June, the law now states that "severe injury" includes one or more broken bones; or one or more disfiguring lacerations, avulsions, cuts or puncture wounds, requiring medical attention including but not limited to one or more sutures, steri strips or staples; or permanent nerve damage.

It's a victory, perhaps, for those who will be severely bitten by dogs in the future, but it comes too late for 'Honey's' victims, since the law could not be made retroactive.  One of the victims told us, however, that civil action is still a possibility and that she has retained an attorney to represent her.  This is a story we will continue to follow.

...of a door-to-door scammer and the gullible

When we reported last month that a Madison Park resident had been duped out of some money by a personable black man with an at-first-blush-plausible story about being locked out of Scoop du Jour (where he supposedly worked), the modus operandi and the description of the perpetrator rang bells with several of our readers.  We got this from a Washington Park resident the following day:

"I live on 38th Ave. East and one day around 5 p.m. I was in a hurry and rushing out with my teenager and this man encountered my son first and asked if were Seattle Tennis Club members?  I was then coming out the door and looked at him wondering why he was asking this.  He looked up at me and said not to worry "that he was just a gay black guy" that got locked out of his car at lunch and didn't have enough money to pay for the locksmith.  He said he worked at the Seattle Tennis club as a janitor.  Since I was in a hurry I told my son to give him $5 and then he said he needed another $20. I looked at him and asked him who his boss was at the club and he proceeded to give me a name of someone I knew.  I had doubts, but I was in a hurry and he sounded very convincing.  O.K., so now I feel very silly for giving him money.  I called the club that night and they said they had no one with that description that worked there.  So I am surprised he's still up to his ploy!!"

It turns out that this "I need a locksmith" story is apparently part of a long-practiced and often-successful routine by this particular con artist, who is notorious for using the ruse to get money out of people all over town.  We immediately heard from a reader in Leschi who let us know that the perpetrator has become all too familiar in the Central Area and has been extensively covered by neighboring blog Central District News.  Indeed, we found multiple stories there of people being taken by "Patrick" and later admitting to a certain sheepish feeling about their gullibility (not to mention anger about being conned).

This soft-spoken scammer often says that he's a new neighbor and that he's locked out of his house.  Sometimes he even forgets that he's already targeted a certain residence and comes back with the same story (which doesn't work quite as well the second time around, apparently).  The guy (or a copycat scammer) has also been written about on both the Roosevelt Neighborhood blog and the Green Lake blog.

Now that we think of it, we must have been victims of this very scammer a couple of years ago in the  parking lot of the Safeway on Madison Street.  In that case, however, he had a very convincing story. It seems that he had borrowed his cousin's car but had locked himself out of it and needed to get a locksmith....

...of a spec house and a sad ending

When we reported last month that the neighborhood's most expensive speculative house had gone pending, we knew a bit more about the situation than we disclosed.  Because KING-TV made the story public last month, we feel comfortable in reporting a tragic side note to this potential house sale.  One of the three developers of this property, located in Washington Park on 34th Avenue E., was Wayne Boswell, founder and president of The Stratford Group, a real estate investment company.  With his real estate empire collapsing and bankruptcy looming, Boswell shot and killed himself in the garage of his Seattle condo on April 1.  The failure to sell his Washington Park spec house (which has been on the market for well over two years) was certainly not high among the reasons Boswell decided to end it all.  It now seems evident that Boswell had been mismanaging the funds entrusted to his company on behalf of investors in a vain attempt to remain solvent.  For those interested in the details, the KING-TV story is available here.

...of a lost bird and his new cat 'friend'

We queried our readers last month on this subject: "Anyone missing a parakeet?" No one responded, so finders keepers.  Madison Park residents Karen and Dick Lehman, who also put up "Lost Bird" posters at the hardware store and the vet's, have created a new home for the little green and yellow bird which suddenly appeared in their garden. And they've named him 'Hobo'.

They may need to get a bigger cage, according to Karen, since the family cat, 'Louis Prima', keeps moving the cage around with his paw. 'Hobo' may soon be getting a new cage-mate to keep him company (of the bird variety, that is).

[Photo of dangerous pit bull, at top, is not a picture of 'Honey', who has been declared not dangerous.  Photo of 'Hobo' courtesy of Karen and Dick Lehman.]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bomb on the bus? Never mind

We weren't there to witness the excitement, but we understand that E. Madison Street between Broadmoor and the business district was closed for a brief time around 5 pm yesterday while police investigated a "suspicious package" discovered on a Metro bus. Because the evacuated bus was parked on Madison near the residence of the Russian Consul (at 38th Avenue E.), several of our readers wondered if the multiple Seattle Police units (plus at least one King County Sheriff vehicle) were on the scene because of some incident occurring on Russian territory.

Not so, according to the Seattle Police.  After a brief investigation, the officers determined that the package found on the bus was not suspicious and the bomb squad did not need to be mobilized.  Traffic was restored to Madison Street and the bus continued on its way.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Broadmoor eagle probable collision victim, but this may not be the end of eagles here

A small bald eagle was killed by a vehicle on the 520 floating bridge this morning, and it is highly likely that it was "Eddie," one of the Broadmoor pair, who was often seen perched on a lightpole on the bridge.  According to Bill Hebner, an Enforcement Captain for the State Department of Fish & Wildlife, "Everything is speculation, but the eagle had probably landed on the roadway because there was some attractant." Hebner notes that while "eagles are very adept at catching their own prey, they are also scavengers who take advantage of road kill."  In this case, Hebner says, it is possible that a duck or other bird was on the road, or perhaps a fish dropped by an Osprey, of which there are many in the area.  Once it has landed, an eagle cannot get airborne quickly, Hebner notes, so it would not have had a chance against a quickly moving vehicle.  The Seattle Times today reported that the eagle flew into the windshield of an oncoming Metro bus, the driver later reporting the incident.

If the dead eagle is "Eddie," it means that the female may leave their Broadmoor nest in order to search for a new mate. This does not necessarily mean the end of bald eagles nesting above the Broadmoor Golf Course, however. While it's true that bald eagles mate for life, if one of a pair dies the other will sometimes return to the same nest with a new mate, according to Hebner.  "We hope that will occur in this case," he told us. This pair's "young of the year" are already old enough, he said, to be out of the nest by now and on their own.  So though this event is tragic, it doesn't have the same implications that it would have had if the young were still being reared.

The eagle was picked up by the State Department of Transportation and is being delivered to the National Eagle Repository in Denver, Colorado.  The bird's claws, beak, and feathers will be preserved and given to a Native American tribe for ceremonial uses, according to Hebner, who notes that while this eagle's death is a sad loss it is a small part of a larger and more hopeful story.  The bald eagle population has been recovering nicely in Washington over the past 30 years or so, and the bird was removed from the federal Endangered Species list in 2007.

[Thanks to Jim Waltz for alerting us to this story.  Upper photo of "Eddie" above the 520 bridge by Todd Bates; lower photo from KING-TV video of "Eddie" taken from a helicopter, available here.]