Monday, January 30, 2012

Wells Fargo branch vandalized

Part of a pattern?

It was almost three months ago that the Madison Park Bank of America branch was struck by an arsonist.  In that incident, there was apparently no message left by the perpetrator, so it was unclear if the act was political, simple vandalism, or a botched attempt at extracting money from a cash machine.  In today's incident at the Madison Park Wells Fargo branch, the vandalism is perhaps a bit more straightforward.

According to KIRO-TV, which reported the story this morning, vandals smashed a window at the bank and left graffiti reading "No banks, No cops" and "Occupy! Oakland!".  Also spray painted on the building, KIRO reported, was an anarchy symbol.

The vandalism occurred on Sunday night or early Monday morning and, according to the Seattle Police blog, the damage was discovered by the Wells Fargo branch manager upon arrival this morning.  The graffiti was on the building's exterior doors, and the smashed window was near the doors.  The graffiti had been removed and the window repaired well before we arrived on the scene. The Stranger got there ahead of us (we hate it when that happens) and posted some shots of the actual damage, which can be found here. (We have a fairly strict policy of not stealing photos from other news sites.)

The police are requesting help from the public in tracking down the suspect(s).  Those with information are asked to call 911, the police blog noting that "anonymous tips are welcome."

[The Madison Park branch of Wells Fargo is located at 4009 E. Madison Street. Thanks to KIRO-TV photographer Jim Waltz for cluing us in to this story.]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Madison Valley designer gets reality show gig

Madison Valley's own Lisa Vian Hunter has been chosen to appear on a new reality show, Fashion Star, which will air Tuesday nights on NBC beginning in March. Hunter has been a clothing designer and retailer of vintage 1950's and 1960's clothes for several years. With her husband, Scott, she established her clothing line, Vian Hunter, in the Bay Area in 2006.  They opened their retail shop in Madison Valley three years later.

Fashion Star, hosted by former supermodel Elle Macpherson, is designed to be a kind of American Idol for fashionistas (defined as avid followers of the fashion scene).  According to the Hollywood Reporter, "each episode will feature a fashion show complete with musical performances, dancers and models shot in front of a live studio audience. The contestants will be faced with a weekly challenge. Immediately following the episode, the winning designs will be available on the Web and in U.S. stores."

Hunter, who is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco, was a finalist two years ago to be on the eighth season run of the popular Project Runway reality show, though she ultimately was not chosen.  This year when the reality-show producers came calling the outcome was different.

[Vian Hunter is located at 2814 E. Madison Street. Photo: John Russo/NBC]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fourth Quarter Real Estate Report 2011

Sales were level, but inventory is way down

Madison Park’s real estate market ended last year on a fairly positive note, with eleven houses and condos changing hands during the month of December.  That’s better than the overall 8.5 average sales per month during 2011, but it was not nearly the barn-burning performance that the market generated the previous December.  In that month, 16 sales occurred.  As it happened, however, that high yearend sales volume was not predictive of market performance in 2011.  In each of the first two months of this year there were only four sales.  As we begin a new year, the market will be hard pressed to do much better than it did last year, since the story right now is lack of inventory.

At this time 2011 there were 53 houses and 22 condos on the market in Madison Park, 75 total units.  Right now, the number of for-sale houses has fallen to only 30, and the number of available condos and townhouses is down to 17.  That means there are 47 residences currently available, a 37% decline year over year.  Based on the 2011 absorption rate (101 houses sold), the market now has only a five and a half month supply.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s currently available in Madison Park (Washington Park and Broadmoor included) as provided by Redfin, using information from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service:


Listings:  30
Median List Price:  $1,985,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,190
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $474
Average Days on Market:  91
Percentage with Price Reductions:  27%
New Listings:  10
Pending Sales:  5


Listings:  17
Median List Price:  $510,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,041
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $490
Average Days on Market:  179
Percentage with Price Reductions:  71%
New Listings:  1
Pending Sales:  0

The number of pending sales was down to only five as the year ended, compared to 15 at the beginning of the quarter.  The low number of pendings obviously does not bode well for an immediate uptick in home sales. The real test will come, however, as we move into the spring.  Some houses that were withdrawn from the market could return, and potential new sellers could decide to test the waters, increasing both inventory and market interest.

As has been true since the beginning of the downturn, there was a clear distinction between the median price of homes sold last quarter and the median price of those that remained on the market.  The houses that closed were, on the whole, much smaller and less expensive than those that did not.

This is what the fourth quarter looked like in terms of sales:


Sales:  22
Median Sale Price:  $1,264,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,215
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $429
Average Days on Market:  129
Average Discount from List Price:  13.0%


Sales:  5
Median Sale Price:  $319,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,321
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $455
Average Days on Market:  169
Average Discount from List Price: 9.7%

The median sales price of the single-family residences that changed hands, $1.2 million, was a full 36% lower than the almost-$2 million median list price of those that remained unsold.  The houses currently on the market are, in terms of the median, 30% larger than those that closed in the fourth quarter.  The largest residence on the market, a mansion in Broadmoor, has over 10,000 sq. ft. of living space, and 70% of the available houses have 3,000 or more sq. ft.

The most expensive house to be sold last quarter was a 3,150 sq. ft. waterfront teardown located in Washington Park (shown below).

Originally listed at $5,180,00, it sold after only 50 days on the market, but at a much-reduced $3,950,000.   The least expensive house was a 770-sq. ft. 1926 cottage located north of Madison Street, which had been on the market for 166 days.  It sold for $440,000, having originally been listed at $525,000.  Nine of the 22 house sales were under $1 million, and only three of the sales were for $3 million or more.

Condo sales, meanwhile, were at half the level of the same quarter the previous year, when ten units sold.  The most expensive condo sold in the fourth quarter was a $1.3 million unit in the Washington Park Tower.  The least expensive was an 825 sq. ft. unit next door in Lakeview Lanai, which sold at $232,500.

Finally, a note on discounts from original list price, which are currently averaging more than 10% for sold homes.  The vast majority of condos on the market have had price reductions since inception, with about a quarter of the houses falling into that group.  A “reduction from list” seems to be the norm, although one homeowner during the fourth quarter actually was able to score 104%-of-list at sale, and two others received 100%, one of whom realized his offer price after his house had been on the market for almost 200 days.  At the other end of the spectrum was the unhappy Broadmoor homeowner who took a 30.7% discount from the original list price, selling a Broadmoor house for $2,070,000 after 498 days on the market.

[Thanks to Wendy Skerritt of Windermere Real Estate for her help in compiling the sales data. Lower photo courtesy of Redfin.]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beautiful but treacherous

Bus route detoured

9:00 am: Freezing rain has complicated the already difficult transit of vehicles in and out of Madison Park this morning.  A driver on Metro Bus Route 11 just reported to us that E. Madison Street is in bad shape between 23rd Avenue E. and ML King Way.  As a result, the buses have been detoured to ML King Way, with a later turn up Union Street to Olive.  Unfortunately, there is now a bus reportedly blocking Olive, which may necessitate a detour of the detour he told us.

This is what Madison looks like at the top the hill at this point:

The condition of Madison Street through the neighborhood is not horrible, given that city crews have repeatedly used "plow trucks with salt spreaders" on the roadway, according to SDOT's roadmap.  But the street is far from being clear, with a good inch or two of unmelting slush in the best places, and ice, exacerbated by freezing rain, in the worst.

As we recommended yesterday, don't brave the streets right now unless you have a good reason to do so. It's still freezing out there, and you will have an unpleasant trek unless properly fitted out, both in terms of attire and vehicle.

Note also that snow followed by freezing rain creates dangerous conditions for those walking under tree limbs:

Just a few words to the wise.

Send us your snow photos

If you happen to have taken any interesting or beautiful photos during the past few days of snow and wish to share them, please send them along.  As always, we appreciate submissions but reserve the right to "publish" or not.

[Upper photo by Adele Clancy; lower photo by Margo Spellman.]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow day !!!

It began coming down sometime around 3:30 am, and since then the snow has not stopped falling on Madison Park.  At this point (8:45 am) SDOT reports it's just sent a plow truck down E. Madison Street, which is a second-priority route for snow-removal crews.  This is the scene (as captured on SDOT cameras) on E. Madison, looking west at 23rd Avenue E., the top of the hill:

Conditions look a bit treacherous, a fact confirmed by the Number 11 bus driver we spoke with, who described conditions on Madison coming down on her way to Madison Park as "not good."

People were definitely making it into the Park, but fewer cars were attempting an exit strategy when we checked the streets this morning.

As noted in our earlier snow posting, current information on cleared routes is available on the SDOT website, along with feeds from strategically placed cameras (though none near Madison Park), which can help you plan your route should you need to leave the neighborhood.  This is what the map (available on a real-time basis here) looks like at this point:

Routes shown in red represent streets where recent (in the last hour) plowing and salting have occurred.  A suggested route out of Madison Park might be down E. Madison to ML King Way (which was plowed earlier this morning) and then an intercept with another plowed street to get wherever you're headed.

Best advice on this end:  stay home and enjoy the snow.  Starbucks, Tully's, Bert's and the other neighborhood conveniences are open. And Mr. Washington was out diligently shoveling snow and putting down rock salt in front of the Scoop du Jour when we meandered by. He opens today at noon--and based on his experience in the last big snow, he's says he expecting to have a busy day.

Afternoon update (2:00 pm):  Madison Street is relatively clear and drivable all the way up to 23rd Avenue E., but from there on it is a bit more treacherous.  We drove straight up Madison to work this morning (in a four-wheel drive vehicle) and found it doable until we reached Sixth Avenue downtown, where all of the smart drivers turned onto alternative roads. On our journey we noticed a lot of pedestrians crossing against the lights in the face of oncoming traffic, as well as several drivers running red lights in order not to have to stop their cars on inclines.  If you go out, be watchful!

The U.S. Weather Bureau reports that Seattle received 2.5 inches of snow in the latest dump, and no more snow is expected from the recent storm.  However, overnight temperatures are expected to be in the 30's, so ice conditions on the roadways are likely for tomorrow's commute.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Let it snow !?

Of all the City's neighborhoods, Madison Park is probably the very best one in which to become snowbound.  The "winter wonderland" setting, plus the combination of a relatively flat topography and the immediately accessible (for most) amenities, can make a few days of waiting out the snow here a rather pleasant experience.  During the last couple of days, with snow in the forecast, we encountered plenty of people hoping for the seemingly-unlikely possibility of being snowed in.  With the snow falling fast and furiously this afternoon and a couple inches of it already on the ground, a snowbound scenario looks a bit more likely than it did just this morning.  It's white out there.

If you need for some reason to get in or out of the Park, however, the situation now is becoming a bit more problematic. As of early this afternoon, traffic was moving slowly and warily on E. Madison Street in both directions, though there didn't appear to be any blockages.

There was very light traffic on Madison Park's side streets, and some of the traffic on Madison seemed to be related to quick trips to Bert's, Starbucks, and other essential destinations in "The Village." Neighborhood eateries didn't appear to be packing 'em in when we made our site inspections around lunchtime.

With tomorrow's Marting Luther King, Jr. Day a holiday for many (including the students of McGilvra Elementary), the need to be on the road will be lessened.  For those who must travel, assuming that today's snow accumulations are still on the streets tomorrow as expected, they should check the Seattle Department of Transportation's weather response map for details of street conditions (the map, incidentally, was not working for us when we tried accessing it this afternoon using multiple browsers).

And as we reported last year, Madison Street, at least in our part of town, is not considered a top-priority street for snow clearing purposes. It is designated a "Level 2" street, which means that when SDOT gets around to clearing it the standard will be one lane in each direction "bare and wet," which is all we really need.  Level 1 streets are indicated in yellow on the snow-removal map, with Level 2 streets shown in blue (click to enlarge):

The complete City map is available here.  Bus weather-alert information, meanwhile, is available here.  Note that the snow removal for Madison Park includes all of route for Metro's Route 11 bus.  And if you need help in the snow or want to volunteer to help others, please contact the Madison Park Snow Brigade (information available here).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is Madison Park ready for “greenways”?

They have a well-developed network of them in Portland; and even in Seattle, there are neighborhoods that are already benefiting from them, or at minimum have planning underway to put them into place.  But in Madison Park they are, at best, an idea in the germination stage (perhaps with only fallow ground in which to grow).  After all, introducing them would mean change right here in the Park.

What we’re talking about is neighborhood greenways.  In case you don’t already know about them (we didn’t), here’s the definition lifted directly from the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways site:

“Neighborhood Greenways are dedicated residential streets, often paralleling an arterial, with low traffic volume and traffic speeds. Neighborhood Greenways are mapped to be an extended connection between parks, schools, libraries and neighborhood businesses, while providing a quieter, slower paced place where bicycles, pedestrians and neighbors’ safety are all given priority. Cars are still able to drive on Neighborhood Greenways though by implementing various traffic calming measures the streets become safer for non-vehicular users."

In Madison Park the movement for greenways is being led by Bob Edmiston, who is something of a one-man band at this point. Nevertheless, he has high hopes that he can enlist others in his crusade and ultimately see greenways become a reality here. “Perhaps this is really a ten-year vision,” he says, “but it will only happen if we begin now.”

Bob Edmiston and his commuting apparatus

Edmiston’s education effort began with an hour-and-a-half presentation at the Madison Park Community Council meeting earlier this week, in which he pointed out that greenways are not about establishing more routes for dedicated bike enthusiasts.  Rather, greenways are designed to create easier, safer biking connections and encourage people who might otherwise not venture out on a bike to consider the possibility and then go for it.   He calls these non-enthusiasts the “Willing But Wary” and notes that a recent study showed that they may comprise 60% of the able-bodied population (the other types being the “No Way/No Hows” comprising 33%, the “Strong and Fearless” comprising under 1%, and the “Enthused and Confident” comprising 7%).

Edmiston, who bikes to work, puts himself into that latter category but recognizes that many if not most of his neighbors are of the “Wary” type.  Making things safer for bikers will encourage at least some of these people to take up this better form of transportation and make parents feel more confident in letting their kids do so, he told the Council.  To prove his point he brought along several people to give personal testimonials at the meeting.  They validated his argument that at least in some cases perfectly usable bikes sit in dusty locations, un-ridden for fear of neighborhood streets (or, more correctly, the car drivers who make use of those thoroughfares)

So what makes a street into a greenway?  “Traffic calming” is one aspect:  slowing down car traffic by creating speed bumps, traffic islands, barriers, lower speed limits, and other controls such as stopping cars at non-arterial intersections along the bike route. Another approach is to create dedicated bikeways, an example of which is shown in this illustration from a bike route in California:

What we might decide to do in Madison Park could involve one more of these possibilities, Edmiston says, but would obviously only happen after a lot of discussion and ultimate agreement.  What’s required is an “engaged community” he notes, and that’s what he’s aiming for.

The Council was convinced to buy into the greenways concept---at least to the extent of passing a resolution, without dissent, to study the matter further. Several members, however, noted that change does not come easily in Madison Park, mentioning certain earlier battles they had witnessed.

Those interested in getting involved in the dialog can voice input to the Council, or join the greenways effort by contacting Edmiston (lenswork64 at  There is also a Facebook page in support of Madison Park greenways.

[Middle photo lifted without permission from a story on Edmiston at the UW Today site. Photo of California bikepath taken by Jonathan Maus lifted without permission from the BikePortland Flicker photostream.]

Yes, yes: another weekend closure for 520

Be prepared for a now-almost-routine bridge closure this weekend.  SR 520 will once again be out of service from 11:00 pm Friday night until 5:00 am on Monday.  This weekend construction crews will be installing more than two million pounds of concrete girders for two lidded overpasses above the roadway. The photo above shows work at the Evergreen Point Road during an earlier road closure in November. Work will continue at this location as well as at 92nd Avenue NE. Wide, landscaped lids will ultimately exist at both locations, as well as at 84th Avenue NE.

Note that additional 520 closures are planned for the weekends of February 10-13 and 24-27.  Additional information, including details of I-90 Express Lane schedule changes for this weekend, is available here.

[Graphics courtesy of WSDOT]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Redistricting Commission confirms legislative & congressional status quo for Madison Park

The Washington State Redistricting Commission formalized the State's legislative district boundaries in a report to the State Legislature yesterday, confirming that Madison Park will remain within the 43rd Legislative District.  The only significant changes to the 43rd occurred north of the ship canal, where there were minor modifications to the District's boundaries on both the east and west sides.  In addition to Madison Park, the 43rd encompasses Downtown, Capitol Hill, Montlake and Eastlake on the south side, as well as the University of Washington, Ravenna, Wallingford, Fremont and Greenlake on the north side.  The 43rd's legislators, Senator Ed Murray and Representatives Jamie Pedersen and Frank Chopp, comprise a pretty powerful Democratic delegation, given that Murray is Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and Chopp is the House Speaker.

As was widely covered in the local press, the Redistricting Commission last month approved the boundaries for the State's Congressional Districts, adding a 10th District to the mix.  That re-mapping resulted in creation of a "majority minority" district near the borders of Madison Park.  The 9th Congressional District was pushed north into Seattle's Central District as part of the effort to give it a majority of minority voters (50.3%).  The newly drawn 9th now extends all the way to the south side of E. Madison Street---though along with Madison Park, Madrona and Denny-Blaine remain in the 7th District.

The 7th District (shown in green on the map above), used to include all of Seattle, as well as Vashon Island, Renton, and Kenmore. Now the District extends from Vashon and Normandy Park in the south to Edmonds in the north.  Meanwhile, the 9th District, which used to extend from Olympia to Renton, now begins in Federal Way and extends to Bellevue, taking in much of southwestern Seattle as well.

This closeup of the 7th District map gives a better view of Madison Park's new proximity to the 9th District boundary (the area in white):

Madison Valley is now cut in half by new Congressional boundary, the northern portion remaining in the 7th District, while the southern portion joins the 9th.

The 9th District is represented by Democrat Adam Smith, who is in his eighth term and is expected to be easily re-elected in spite of his district's new boundaries and borderline "majority minority" status. Our 7th District, of course, is represented by Democrat Jim McDermott, now in his twelfth term.

The Commission, as part of its report, released demographic information on the various districts. The 43rd Legislative District, is comprised of 75% whites and 25% "people of color," while for the 7th Congressional District the numbers are 73% and 27% respectively. Those interested in knowing more about the Commission's workings and final report can find detailed maps and data at the Commission's website.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's McGilvra Auction time again

Big event February 4/ticket deadline January 10

One of the great things about our neighborhood's John J. McGilvra Elementary School is the active involvement of the parents and other friends of the school, including the high level of financial support they provide to enhance McGilvra's educational mission. The school's biggest fundraising activity by far is the every-other-year auction, which attracted 350 supporters and raised close to $140,000 when last held.  Planners of this year's auction, the school's eighth, hope to do even better financially than that record.

The 2012 auction, which includes a sit-down dinner, will be held at the Seattle Design Center on February 4.  Among the major donated items that will be auctioned are:

Great White Shark Adventure
Progressive Dinner along the Pike/Pine Corridor
Portland Weekend (at the Nines)
Key Peninsula Beach House
Mt. Rainier Cabin
Suncadia Ranch
Washington Coast Hosted Clamming Weekend
Nicaragua Guesthouse
Family Pizza Tugboat Cruise
Mariner's box seats, Sounders memorabilia
Recording Session at Crackle & Pop Studio
Stay at the Principal's Condo on Marco Island, Florida.

In addition, there will be a wine wall, a desert dash, dancing, and a lot of student art on display. This year's art theme is Architecture:

The event gets underway with the silent auction (and the opening of the hosted bar) at 5:30 pm, followed by the dinner and live auction at 7:30 and dancing at 9:00.  Ticket prices begin at $75.

More information about this fun event is available at the McGilvra Auction website. A link to an early version of the auction catalog is available on the site. Items are still being donated---so it's not too late to get in on that action if you'd like to participate.

Monday, January 2, 2012

'Peeping Tom' disturbs the Edgewater

This story was news to us when we received the following email yesterday afternoon:

"I was just wondering if you knew anything about the “peeping tom” reports at the Edgewater Apartments recently.  There were signs posted on the doors on or about Dec 18th alerting tenants and visitors. I didn’t see anything in your Blog and wanted to know if there was anything to this, as I drop my kids there for playdates and was concerned. You seem pretty tuned into the happenings in Madison Park. ;-)

Concerned Mom"

We happened to be out of town when we received this email, but within five minutes of our return to the Park we learned that the Peeping Tom story is, unfortunately, all too true.  It just so happened that a resident of The Edgewater was jogging by our house as we arrived back home, and she stopped to relate the following story:

It seems that notices about the threat were posted by Edgewater management sometime last month, so residents were alerted to be on their guard. She, however, did not personally know anyone who had seen the voyeur, so she wasn't sure how seriously to take the warnings.  But when she went to open her curtains one morning during the holidays she was shocked to discover a man standing outside her window evidently attempting to look into her apartment. She said she immediately called 911, and several police units quickly responded. Though a search was made of the grounds, the perpetrator was not apprehended.

Our informant told us that while she was giving her story to the police, other residents, seeing the police presence, began coming forward to report suspicious incidents that they had witnessed over the past few weeks. She said it quickly became evident that her Peeping Tom incident was part of a wider pattern of activity at the apartment complex.

The Edgewater Apartments, located at 2411 42nd Avenue E., is a 22-building, 316-unit complex which sits on 12 acres of prime waterfront real estate at the northern extremity of Madison Park. Completed in 1939, the Edgewater is home to an eclectic mix of university students, retirees, and urban professionals (young or otherwise).  It's known for its homey atmosphere, lack of modern amenities (such as dishwashers and air conditioning), and too few available parking spaces. If anything, the Edgewater's crime rate is even lower than for Madison Park as a whole, with a few car prowl incidents reported and occasional cases of theft.  Each of the buildings in the complex has a secure front door accessible by punching in the appropriate code.

We've been told that there were at least two previous incidents over the last few weeks involving a probable voyeur at the Edgewater.  In the first case, a resident walking outside noticed someone standing and peering into an apartment unit, but the man ran when spotted.  He was described as tall, youngish and wearing a hat with a "W" on it.  In the other incident, a resident saw a man dressed all in black lurking near one of the apartment buildings at 6:30 in the morning. He also ran when spotted.

Unfortunately, though we heard directly about the perpetrator from one of the victims yesterday, we did not have our journalistic hat on at the time and failed to ask for a description of the guy.  Our bad.  We invite any Edgewater resident who's aware of these Peeping Tom incidents to provide us with further details (you may click on Comments below to leave feedback).  Because of the holiday, we were unable to connect with the police to get the incident report on the most recent invasion of privacy at the Edgewater.

[Editorial Aside:  This first posting of the New Year is the 500th story we've "published" since Madison Park Blogger  was  inaugurated in April 2009.  Note: the noir-like graphics used in this posting are culled from the internet and are not actual depictions of voyeuristic activity in Madison Park.]