Sunday, April 28, 2013


Bioblitz at the Arboretum

Effectively taking a snapshot of biodiversity in a specific locale is what Bioblotz is all about, the goal being to measure the health of an ecosystem.  This UW Botanic Gardens program is focusing this year on the Washington Park Arboretum, Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11.  Volunteers are needed to help with Bioblitz, which will involve separate expert-led teams of “citizen scientists” and University of Washington Students searching the Arboretum for various flora and fauna (bats, fungi, and insects included).  As part of the program there will also be a lecture by nature photographer Paul Bannick, entitled “The Life of Owls,” which will cover 19 species of North American Owls.

Information on Bioblitz is available here, including information on how to sign up to volunteer or just to attend the lecture at the Graham Visitors Center on May 10 (7 pm).

Preschool programs

UW Botanic Gardens is also the sponsor of a new nature-based preschool, Fiddleheads Forest School, beginning this fall in the Arboretum.  It will be a ten-month program designed to help child development by getting kids excited about and involved in nature.  There are two class options, M/W/F or T/Th from 9 am until 12 pm.  Information is available here.

Bright!, a Madison Park preschool, meanwhile is again this year sponsoring summer camps for kids, 2 1/2 to 5 years old. There are eight camp options (including Cook, Grow, and Space), June through August. Information on the program is available here.

A new café for Madison Park?

It was reported in the Puget Sound Business Journal last week that Aegis Living, developer of “senior living communities,” will be opening a Queen Bee Café in Madison Park this summer.  Aegis is the company that is building a new Capitol Hill facility on E. Madison St. at 22nd Avenue E.  It opened a marketing office in Madison Park last October. The piece in the PSBJ was about Aegis founder Dwayne Clark’s desire to honor his mother’s memory by establishing several Queen Bee Cafes and a food truck which offer “simple comfort food” such as desserts on crumpets.  Funds earned from the cafés will be donated to a different charity each quarter, according to PSPB reporter Patti Payne, who also reported that the first such café will be opened in Madison Park in September.

We checked with Aegis on this and got the clarification that the new Queen Bee Café will be established at Aegis on Madison (Capitol Hill).  However, there is apparently a plan which has not been finalized to launch another such café in Madison Park proper at a later date, possibly in the Villa Marina building (in which the Aegis marketing office is located).  Aegis promises to keep us informed of its evolving plans.

Noteworthy:  And speaking of the Puget Sound Business Journal, it featured a story recently about a company co-founded by Madison Park resident and RN,Beth Droppert. Her company, Allied Health Advocates, helps patients navigate the health-care bureaucracy (a tough assignment any day of the week).  National Nurses Week, by the way, is upcoming beginning May 6.

[Photos courtesy of the Arboretum Foundation and UW Botanic Gardens, respectively.]

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Four years and counting

The limitations of part-time neighborhood blogging

By Bryan Tagas
Madison Park Blogger

This week marks the fourth anniversary of Madison Park Blogger, which provides me with a decent rationale for a short essay on the constraints faced by a hyper-local blogger who also has a day job. Though predisposed by background and temperament to spend a significant portion of my time writing about and sharing the news of Madison Park, I've learned over the years that my limitations include time, resources, and the fact that I live in the community I cover.

Let's start with that last constraint: living within "the beat."  While it's probably a pre-requisite for any worthwhile neighborhood blogger to actually inhabit the community about which he writes, doing so presents difficulties for someone who wants to follow his journalistic bent but still worries about the reaction of his neighbors to stories which may not present them in the most favorable light.  And then there's the issue of privacy. Even if the story is not negative and even if the names of parties involved are on the public record, is it always appropriate for the blogger to report those names?

A couple of years ago an Eastside author wrote a book entitled "Lake Washington 130 Homes: A Guided Tour of the Lake's Most Magnificent Homes."  However, when the book went on sale at a shop in Madison Park, some patrons of the store objected due to the fact that the book disclosed who the owners were of various shoreline properties here in Madison Park. That property information, of course, was a matter of public record through the Office of the King County Assessor and available to anyone online. Even so, many in the neighborhood clearly regard trumpeting such details as an invasion of privacy. The shop owner, according to the book's author, promptly returned the unsold books once the complaints began.

The evident sensitivity of more than a few Madison Parkers, coupled with my desire to live on good terms with everyone in the neighborhood, has caused me to pull my punches when covering certain stories. For example, the Madison Park Blogger often does not name names. One instance of withholding what was public information is the infamous case of the pit bull owner whose dog attacked three women in Washington Park on a summer afternoon three years ago. In that case, the various family members requested that I not give their names so that they would not be subjected to the condemnation of neighbors or have their professional reputations negatively impacted. Although pictures were available on the record of what the police found when they entered the dog owners' home, I chose not to post them online or to provide specific information of the family involved. A more recent example of my not disclosing everything is the case of the young-and-apparently-drunk Broadmoor driver who was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run earlier this year.

I used discretion for a different reason in the case of a jewel heist from the very high-end home of a well-known neighborhood resident. Although the blog provided what information was available in the police report, I did not disclose the identity of the victims, the extent of their loss (which was considerable), or the speculation that the burglary may well have been an inside job. Although that information was available to me, that happened only because I was a neighbor--and it would not have been shared with me if the family had thought it would be published.

That brings us to the issue of resources, or rather the lack thereof. Here's a potentially great story that I did not do because of lack of bandwidth:  "Serial Rent Scofflaw Victimizes Madison Park Landlords."  Last year I was contacted by a landlord who told an incredible story of a man and wife who had leased at least three houses in succession in Madison Park without paying anything more than the first and last months' rent, plus a damage deposit.  Under Washington's strict Landlord/Tenant Law, it is very difficult to remove a renter for failure to pay. This landlord, while going through the tortuous legal process of evicting his renters, had discovered that they had stiffed prior landlords in the same way and that there were previous court judgments against them. The total damages for the three cases was several hundred thousand dollars. Embarrassing as the situation was, my informant wanted me to do a story on what had happened to him so that other landlords would be put on notice not to rent to this couple, who he named.

To have covered this story objectively, I would have had to access, pay for, and evaluate lengthly court records (not available online) and track down the other landlords and their former tenants to get their sides of the story, which was rich in detail (the no-rent-paying couple apparently had kids in high-end private schools, drove expensive cars, and held regular jobs). That's the kind of legwork that would normally be handled by an editorial assistant. Unfortunately, I don't have one. Also, my personal liability insurance, I determined, was possibility not sufficient to cover the costs of any libel suit brought by the alleged deadbeats.

Here's my final point: there's only one of me and only so much time.  Several readers have recently commented on the fact that the number of postings here is rapidly diminishing. In the first couple of years of Madison Park Blogger I was averaging 3.5 postings per week or so, many of them major in-depth stories. By this point I feel lucky if I am able to manage two postings in any given week. The difference is that I have a much more involved and time-consuming set of responsibilities today than I did in 2009, when I began the blog. While my employer, Sterling Bank, has been generous in letting me perform this community service, my blogging activities have to be a secondary priority.

I apologize to those who look forward to getting multiple Madison Park Blogger postings every week. Perhaps I can return to a more robust blogging schedule in the not-too-distant future.  I appreciate the support of the blog's readers and I invite and will appreciate your feedback.

The blogger takes his shot

Madison Park Blogger Stats as of April 2013:

Subscribers: 583
Monthly Readers: 993
Friends on Facebook: 194

[Photo of Madison Park Blogger by Dick Lehman.]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When it comes to housing, Madison Park has it all

What the Census says about where we live

Madison Park has the reputation of being one of Seattle’s tonier neighborhoods, characterized by an eclectic mix of upscale houses owned and occupied by some pretty well-heeled people.  That stereotype is not entirely off base; but even to Madison Parkers it will probably come as a surprise to learn that single-family homes make up less than half of the neighborhood’s total housing units and fully 42% of Madison Park’s residences are actually rentals.

This news, shocking or otherwise, comes from the 2010 U.S. Census and the related American Community Survey for Madison Park (Broadmoor and Washington Park included).  While most residents here do live in houses that they own (or at least on which they pay the mortgage), there are plenty of people who live in multi-family structures (both condo and apartment buildings) and a significant number who rent either houses or multi-family units in the Park.

The Census Bureau reports that there are a total of 2,829 housing units within the .9 square miles of Madison Park, an increase of only seven units since the 2000 Census.  The number of renter-occupied units for some reason declined in the ten years between the two Census surveys, however, from 1,118 in 2000 to 1,052 in 2010.  Nevertheless, this still represents 41.6% of Madison Park’s total housing units.  Unfortunately, there is no breakout of what proportions of these rental units are comprised of houses, condos, or apartments.

Census numbers show that the other 1,474 neighborhood residences are owner occupied—and surprisingly (at least to us) 523 of these (35%) are owned “free and clear.”  Just to put that particular data point into perspective, we note that the comparable figure for Seattle as a whole is just 10%.   

Seattle, by the way, has a total of 308,516 total housing units, so Madison Park represents slightly less than 1% of the City’s total stock of housing. Our 4,962 residents comprised about .8% of Seattle’s population of 608,660 in 2010. In Madison Park, our housing density (the average number of residents per housing unit) is roughly 2, while Seattle’s is almost exactly the same. Even in terms of rental housing, Madison Park is not significantly different proportionally, 42% versus 46% for Seattle overall.

There are 2,526 households in Madison Park, according to Census numbers. Of these, 1,096 households (43%) are comprised of a single person and 1,224 households (48%) are comprised of families (the remainder apparently being households comprised of people who are not related to each other). The number of people occupying rental units was 1,595 (32% of Madison Parkers).

Some of the most interesting housing information for Madison Park is contained in the American Community Survey, which provides estimates for the five-year period, 2007-2011.  For example, a breakdown of the age of the housing units in the neighborhood shows that 42% of them were built prior to 1940, 39% were built between then and 1969, and 6% were built in this century. So while construction of new single-family units is picking up, this remains a community with a lot of relatively old housing. Part of the reason for this, no doubt, is that new multi-family units are unlikely here. A recent report in the Seattle Times showed this area of town (Madrona and Leschi included) as being the only one where its not expected that any new units will be constructed over the next several years.

In terms of housing types, the Survey estimates that almost half of the housing units in Madison Park are single-family residences.  Since houses are more likely to have families living in them than apartment or condo units, it is probable that the majority of Madison Parkers live in houses, owned or otherwise.  For some reason, the Census Bureau apparently does not ask that specific question.

As for multi-family housing, the Survey estimates that only 4% of these residences are in buildings with four or fewer units while 26% are in buildings of 20 or more  units (the rest of the multi-family residences fall somewhere in between).  

In Madison Park, of course, multi-family housing runs the gamut from tiny apartments with relatively modest rents to expansive waterfront condos costing multi-millions of dollars.  Information is readily available about condo pricing, which we cover some detail each quarter.  Rental information is much harder to obtain.  Fortunately, the City will soon be requiring that landlords register their properties. As a result we may discover something more that changes our view of housing in Madison Park. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

March Police Blotter

A dull month on the crime front

The level of criminal activity in the neighborhood, judging by the March police reports, remains relatively insignificant both in terms of the severity and the frequency of the incidents. Not that we can expect this respite to continue indefinitely, since we're obviously in the annual pre-summer criminal doldrums. When the warm weather returns we can expect the activity level to pick up. It's a cycle that we see repeated every year.

So while it makes for rather dull reading, let's enjoy the fact that there's no really interesting crime story to relate for this period. Here's what did transpire:

There were three actual burglaries and one attempted burglary during the month. The first incident occurred sometime between March 4 and 7 on the 600 block of 33rd Avenue E. On the 7th, a resident of a multi-unit building discovered that the padlocks had been removed from three separate storage lockers in the building's storage area. His locker was missing a set of golf clubs, but it was not known at the time of the police report what might have been missing from the two other lockers.

There was a burglary on March 20 on the 3200 block of E. Mercer St.  The homeowner reported that the wind had apparently blown a door open, allowing the perpetrator to enter the house without having to bother breaking in.  Several items were stolen from the premises. The police report cryptically notes that the door latch was likely insufficient to hold the door securely in heavy winds.

Another burglary occurred on the 2500 block of Canterbury Lane E. on March 23.  In that incident a resident of Canterbury Shores was awakened at 3:40 am by a loud noise in the office of the building manager.  Thinking that the manager may have needed some assistance, the resident went to the office where he found that the door was closed but there was definitely movement inside.  When he called out to ask if there was a problem the door was opened by a man wearing a scarf who then exited the office, followed by another individual (possibly female) wearing a hoodie.  Neither suspect spoke to the resident.  The building manager later confirmed that there were items missing from the office, but the police discovered no useable fingerprints.

On March 20 on the 2300 block of McGilvra Boulevard E. a resident discovered that while she was out walking her dog, someone had attempted to enter her house through a sliding window but had apparently been unable to get the window open wide enough to gain entry.  There was no property damage.

There were three car break-ins during the month, the first occurring on March 3 on the 500 block of 36th Avenue E., the second on March 28 on the 1000 block of 39th Avenue E., and the third on March 29 on the 2000 block of McGilvra Boulevard.

Finally, there were two cases of harassment reported.  In one of the incidents a Madison Park resident reported that she had received repeated unwanted phone calls from her former boss complaining about her having quit her job and demanding an explanation. The other incident involved an argument between a man, his "estranged girlfriend" and her mother.  Apparently during the long period before the breakup the man had been living in the apartment without the mother's knowledge, even though she was actually paying the monthly rent on the unit.  The ex-boyfriend, it seems, felt that he still had some rights associated with his tenancy, a position to which that the mother and daughter took exception. 9-1-1 was called at some point, though the situation was resolved without anyone being detained by police.

And that (other than one unsuccessful case of prescription forgery at the pharmacy) pretty well sums up the crime activity for March.  As we said, pretty dull reading (but certainly not dull enough for the victims).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Upcoming in April

FlorAbundance returns

The big spring plant sale to benefit the Washington Park Arboretum will take place this year on Saturday, April 27 (10 am until 5 pm) and Sunday, April 28 (10 am until 3 pm). This is always a well-attended event, and because the regular venue at Magnuson Park is still being rehabilitated, FlorAbundance will be held in the Arboretum at the Graham Visitors Center, as it was last year.  So, for those interested in plants take note that this is your opportunity:  more specialty nurseries are slated to participate and the sponsor, the Arboretum Foundation, is also promising a greater diversity of vegetative options, including a selection of edible plants.

Even those not interested in plants or plant sales will want to take note of the timing of this event since the Arboretum will likely be clogged with traffic, as it was last year. Information on FlorAbundance (including details of the shuttle service) is available here.

Restaurant Week is underway

Six Madison Park and Madison Valley restaurants are participating this spring in Restaurant Week, which starts today and extends through April 18.  The purpose of the discount-dinner program, which has grown to include 160 Seattle-area restaurants since its inception in 2010, is to entice diners to get out and explore restaurants they might otherwise overlook.  The inducement is three courses for 28 dollars. This special offer does not apply to dinners served in these establishments on Fridays or Saturdays during the Restaurant Week period, however (the official Restaurant Week covers ten days, April 7-11 and April 14-18).

Our local participants are Cafe Parco, Cafe Flora, CRUSH, The Harvest Vine, Luc, and Voila! Bistrot.  Information on Restaurant Week, including details of all participating eateries is available here.

520 to close again (or not)

It may be true that there will be a weekend closure of the SR 520 floating bridge from April 19 at 11 pm until April 22 at 5 am. In point of fact, the two most recent supposed closings of 520 did not occur due to inclement weather, so it is quite possible that this shut down won't happen either.

We note that WSDOT's website today states that the closing will happen between April 22 and 25th, but the link to the bridge-closure page lists the April 19-22 dates (as does the press release we received this week).  These bridge closures (as least so far) only happen on weekends.

To get presumably-up-to-the minute information on 520 weekend closures you can visit the official WSDOT page here.

Community Center holds open house

The MLK F.A.M.E. Community Center (at the site of what was once the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, 3201 East Republican Street) will be holding an open house on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m.  The purpose of the event is to "announce activities, share ideas for future programs, and to mingle with neighbors and friends."

Childcare will be provided. Call (206) 257-5572 or visit for more information.

[Photo credits:  FlorAbundance photo by Kit 'Aerie-el', blogger at Gardener's Roost; Restaurant Week photo of CRUSH entrée by TEO on Urban Spoon; 520 photo showing a February aerial view of the new Eastside lid in Medina courtesy of WSDOT.]

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Madison Park: not young, not gay

What the census tells us 

We already knew (since we've reported on the subject) that Madison Park is a virtually lily-white community (90% non-minority, in fact). Now we discover, with the official statistics from the 2010 U.S. Census to back it up, that we're also old (at least relatively so). And not only that, we're straight---not that there's anything wrong with it. If there's some shocking revelation about Madison Park that's hiding in the most-recent Census numbers, we certainly haven't found it.

We've been digging through the population statistics for an inordinate amount of time--18 months, in fact. To be fair (to ourselves, that is) between the actual 2010 Census numbers and a separately prepared 2007-2011 American Community Survey there are a lot of data points to choose from. But while there's no news in what we've discovered, we suspect that many readers will nevertheless find the specifics interesting. 

For example, Madison Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the region, at least in terms its population. The median age of Madison Parkers is a relatively high 47 years old, which at least is not higher than it was at the time of the 2000 Census. But our almost-half-century median age certainly brands us as comparatively ancient. For King County's residents as a whole, the median age (the point at which half the population is older and half is younger) is only 36 years, while the median age on Capitol Hill is just 31.6 years.  Even Laurelhurst, which shares many characteristics with Madison Park, has a youngish population whose median age, 36, mirrors that of King County.

Despite our oldster image, however, Madison Park actually has a slightly higher percentage of kids than does Seattle as a whole. Those under 18 years old comprise 15.4% of the City's population versus 18.1% for Madison Park.  Where Madison Park deviates from the Seattle norm is in its lack of adults in their 20s and 30s and in the preponderance of "seniors."  While the neighborhood has roughly half the young adults of the City as a whole, it has almost double the number of those 60 years of age and older. The proportion of residents in their 40s and 50s is essentially the same at the neighborhood and City level.

Here, graphically, is how the numbers break out, comparing Seattle to Madison Park (known officially as King County Census Tract 63):

So yes, we're old (or at least about a third of us are)--not that there's anything wrong with that either.  Let's just say that Madison Park is composed of a relatively more experienced population than Seattle as a whole.

Meanwhile, with regard to our lack of gay population, the evidence from the Census is rather more indirect. There was no sexual orientation question asked on the 2010 Census, so there is only information available on the number of couples who indicated they had a "partner" of the same sex sharing a household.  Madison Park did not have many such couples relative what was true for Seattle, so we're assuming that the same lack of critical mass holds true for single gays and lesbians in Madison Park as is apparently true for couples.

The Seattle Times' analysis of the Census data showed that one in 18 couples in Seattle was same sex, 6% of all couples. The neighborhoods most favored by these couples were Capitol Hill and West Seattle.  Although Madison Park is demonstrably gay friendly, we apparently don't have a high proportion of gays and lesbians as residents, though the number of same-sex couples was up significantly between the 2000 and 2010 Census reports. While there were only 30 such couples reporting at the millennium, there were 43 in 2010, a fairly significant increase (43%).  Madison Park reported 1,209 total couples, married or otherwise, so the percentage of same-sex couples was still only 3.5%, a bit better than half the percentage for Seattle as a whole.

Seattle TImes map showing the concentration of gay couples in Seattle

It's perhaps worth noting that though gays may be under-represented in our neighborhood, relatively speaking, there are more gay couples living in Madison Park than in Laurelhurst (which has a 40% larger population than ours).  Montlake, meanwhile, actually saw a decline in the number of gay couples living there between 2000 and 2010. Though the number of Montlake residents is 73% higher than Madison Park's, according to census figures our neighbor has only 49 same-sex couples.

There are a few other interesting things that were revealed in the Census data which we will ultimately be sharing.  Next up:  an overview of Madison Park housing.

[Thanks to Seattle's Demographer, Diana Canzoneri, King County's Demographer, Chandler Felt, and Justin Mayo of the Seattle Times for their help in pointing to the data sources utilized in this posting.]