Sunday, January 6, 2013

The year in review: 2012

Madison Park as oasis within the urban jungle

Commentary by Bryan Tagas

You know you must be living in a pretty tame neighborhood when the biggest controversies affecting your community over the course of a year are whether an unsightly park fence should be removed and whether an out-of-scale business sign should be downsized.  Yet those were the things that got us (or rather some tiny fraction of us) agitated in 2012. Proving once again---if further proof were needed---that our little end-of-the-road enclave down here is, well, comfortably isolated.  We like it like that.

No Blood in the Water:  To the consternation of the local establishment (if our community council can legitimately be so called) and of some local condo owners, Swingset Park during the summer lost its view-blocking, blackberry-bush entwined, chain-link fence. This momentous teardown occurred only after much teeth-nashing on both sides, with the "Save Our Grandchildren" old folks ultimately losing out to the "Give Us Our Water Access" inlanders. Everyone seems to be okay with the situation now---and no kids, as far as we know, have yet been maimed on the jagged rocks the fence was supposedly protecting them from. Nevertheless, the neighborhood's reputation for civility surely took a hit (at least with certain City employees who were on the receiving end of a few inappropriately chosen brickbats). The the whole imbroglio, however, did serve a useful purpose in proving that, yes, we Madison Parkers are able to generate genuine indignation about something that is truly important to us: property values.

Sign of the Times:  Though the community council was unable to have its way on the fence issue, it did manage to score when it asked Wells Fargo to do something about the supposedly loud and obnoxious sign it had installed this summer at its branch. Our civic leaders (as well as some of the in-line-of-sight neighbors of the branch) were torqued by the bank's non-conformance with community sign standards. The large, lighted, red, orange and black sign was just not in keeping with the character of the "village" we're promoting down here.  After weeks of hesitation Wells caved and replaced the offensive sign with a much more subdued and tasteful version. Now if only the council could work its will as easily on getting Constance Gillespie's "Black Hole of Madison Park" fixed up. Talk about not conforming to community standards!

Gone But Not Forgotten:  The biggest story of the year was undoubtedly the demise of the neighborhood Tully's, which was shuttered (well, temporarily papered over) after the company declared bankruptcy in November.  It seems that the Madison Park location was just not economically viable.  The reasons for this aren't entirely clear, though high rent has been raised as a possibility.  We wonder if perhaps many of Tully's regulars might have spent a lot more time on the premises than they did money (but that's just idle speculation).  And no, we don't know what's next for the currently vacant Tully's space, though we're asked about it almost daily.

Also calling it quits last year were women's clothing store Ropa Bella, Park Place Deli, and Spa del Lago.  New to the neighborhood in 2012, however, were NW Sports Rehab, Aegis Living, and Guesthouse.

Madison Park as Crime Scene:  Every month, in order to write the blog's Police Blotter, I call up the public information officers at the Seattle police department and quiz them about various criminal incidents that took place in the neighborhood over the past month. The officers and I are often amused about what generally passes for crime in this little cul-de-sac of ours.  Yes, compared to say, Laurelhurst, our incident level is modestly high, with a fair number of car and house break-ins each month, plus a a car theft or two. But compared to the surrounding neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and the Central District, we can consider ourselves relatively crime free in Madison Park.  We experience very few of what the SPD terms "crimes against persons."  These include homicides, robberies, and assaults.

Which is not to say that we didn't have our criminal moments in the past year, usually weird ones.  Take, for example, the case of the guy who caused an altercation in the neighborhood bar, asked to have the police called, and then was promptly arrested for possession of a gun. Then there was that other strange gun incident where the students of Bush School spied a jogger running with a gun, supposedly for protection. That was the same month when someone used a beer bottle as a weapon in street brawl along E. Madison. A couple months later a suspicious man was caught carrying an illegal knife, though he had apparently didn't have time to make any use of it in our neighborhood. Not caught by police, however, was the Peeping Tom who, at least briefly this summer, made life uncomfortable for some at The Edgewater.

Also on the creepy side was the strange case of the man with a log (though that incident actually look place in the Arboretum, which was also the scene this summer of the vandalism of the Gateway to Chile plantings). And speaking of wanton distruction, a couple of  neighborhood buildings experienced serial vandalism during the year, with the Wells Fargo branch being hit numerous times by rock throwers and graffiti artists, and Constance Gillespie's building experiencing a similar fate (minus the graffiti).

Also this summer, some of us got to share in the excitement of an actual police chase, as multiple squad cars descended on the neighborhood to catch some adolescent car thieves (who when caught were promptly released to their mommies). There was also an attempted car jacking reported during the year. And then, of course, there was that other shocking crime: the theft of the parade clown's unicycle (never recovered, as far as we know).

This crime summary is not for the purpose of minimizing the impact of crime on those victims in Madison Park who experienced the theft or damage of their property (or even the terror of confrontation) during the past year. During 2012 we often reminded readers to be vigilant and take anti-crime precautions. Judging by the circumstances of some of the break-ins that occurred, however, it is clear that not everyone listened.

And the other news:  The biggest Madison Park story for nature lovers last year was the return of Eddie the Bald Eagle's mate to the nest high above Broadmoor Golf Course. It's a story first reported on this blog (thanks to that prefers-to-remain-anonymous neighbor and loyal reader who provided the first pictorial evidence).  The news was later picked up by the major media when Montlake's Larry Hubbell got some great shots  (that's his photo above) of the new couple and, later, the fledglings (who ultimately flew away--as they were fated to do).

Another big story in 2012 was the giant tree in the Washington Park enclave which bit the dust (well, the concrete) during a non-stormy evening this summer. For days, the downed tree provided quite a show for the looky-loos.

On the tragic side last year was the death, due to cancer, of longtime Madison Park businesswoman and civic booster, Martha E. Harris.

I end this review with what was probably the most impactful set of events for Madison Park that took place in 2012: the defeat of the anti-520 forces and the beginning of construction of the new floating bridge.  As Madison Park Blogger readers know (because they are well and truly informed), the new bridge will be much wider, a lot taller, and signficantly more romantic than the old one:

And that's the way it was.

1 comment:

  1. And thanks so much, Bryan, for always keeping us well and truly informed.


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