Seattle Parks Opportunity Fund

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The second round of Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund allocations is gearing up this week with technical assistance meetings focusing on the first step: the project proposal letter. Some $8 million are available for community driven proposals. Have an idea for a new green space in the neighborhood (that doesn’t involve an Operations & Maintenance building)? Attending just one of these two meetings will get the ball rolling on your proposal letter due June 11th. More info here.

Tuesday, May 1st, Greenwood Library, 6pm

Thursday, May 3rd, Jefferson Community Center, 6pm

Windermere Cup Regatta Welcomes UW, OSU, UVA, Gonzaga and Argentina

Opening Day of Boating Season, 1965. Image: Seattle PI Collection, MOHAI

The annual Opening Day of boating season is next Saturday, May 5th, featuring the Windermere Cup crew races and the Seattle Yacht Club Boat Parade. The Montlake Bridge will close to car traffic from 9:40am until 3pm. These events are free and parking is available in nearby UW lots. Expect traffic to be rerouted through the neighborhood toward the University Bridge.

Races begin at 10:20 and continue until noon. The UW Women’s Varsity 8 will race Gonzaga and Argentina at 11:35. The UW Men’s Varsity 8 takes on Argentina, the University of Virginia and Oregon State at 11:45. In all, over 800 athletes will row through the Cut on Saturday and thousands are expected to cheer them on.

Jeffrey Ochsner Lectures on UW Furniture Studio

Image: Eliza Koshland via UW Department of Architecture

Much of the scholarship from UW Architecture Professor Jeffrey Ochsner focuses on the theme of craft. His latest book studies its pedagogical origins in the furniture studio of his own department from 1989 to the present. This period marks the transition from hand fabrication to computer fabrication and the struggle to keep the benefits of both in mind while exploring the nature of materials. Award winning student work is profiled as are the careers of former students that took a chance on playing with their hands and ideas in a shop.

Monday, April 30th, 6:30pm, Architecture Hall 147. Reception to follow.

Arboretum Hosts the FlorAbundance Spring Plant Sale this Weekend

Image: Arboretum Foundation

The largest plant sale in the Puget Sound region is coming to Montlake this weekend. Because of safety concerns with its previous home in Building 30 at Magnuson Park, the 2012 spring sale is moving to the Washington Park Arboretum. Expect lots of plants and people. From the Arboretum Foundation website:

This magnificent sale, the largest in the Puget Sound region, features dozens of top specialty nurseries and vendors selling a wide selection of choice, locally-grown plants. You’ll find trees, shrubs, beautiful conifers, native plants, vegetable starts, species and hybrid rhododendrons, favorite and rare perennials, unusual annuals, glorious groundcovers, grasses, vines, and more.

Arboretum Drive East will be open one way, going southbound. Shoppers will be able to park on the west side of the drive and in the Arboretum lots. Volunteers will be directing traffic along the drive. No parking will be available on Foster Island Drive, which is being reserved for plant vendors.

Shuttle vans will be running along Arboretum Drive and looping around Lake Washington Boulevard to bring folks to and from their cars. The vans will pick up passengers along the drive and from the Boyer Parking Lot. They will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. We anticipate that the wait time in between each shuttle will be 10 minutes.

The event is this Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 2pm.

520@50: Dumping the Spoils

Image: PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, MOHAI

In the early 1960s the Arboretum wetlands were dredged into lagoons to facilitate the construction of S.R. 520. Where did all those dredge spoils go? Much of it west of Foster Island was heaped into a pile that became (still-sinking) Marsh Island.

The east side of Foster Island was a different story. The image above shows a crane bucket dropping a load of lake bottom onto a barge just off the Madison shore. In those days workers were allowed to tow the barges to the middle of the lake and dump the spoils right into the water. This practice stopped later in the project when concerns were raised about a cloudy discoloration in the lake (already heavily polluted by sewer drains). Barges then had to be towed at greater expense through the ship canal and dumped into Puget Sound.

The barge in this image is dredging the floating bridge’s western approach in February, 1961. Since then, this area has grown into a whole new ecosystem. Commuters and kayakers that pass through here know well the herons, turtles, eagles and summer lily pads that surround the highway. The building in the middle background is the Broadmoor Golf Club with Capitol Hill in the distance. Indeed, there are quite a few species that live around 520.
Sources: Plummer via the Department of Highways, Klingle

Development Controversy Comes to Blaine

Image: Windermere via seattlepi.com

A developer’s attempt to subdivide a 6000 square foot property into separate lots in advance of building a new home in its (former) backyard has caused a stir on Blaine Street. Residents learned of the project’s permit application last week and promptly sent a letter signed by 26 neighbors to DPD and city officials asking for the project to be put on hold for further review. Specifically the letter asks DPD to clarify how a lot zoned as ‘Single-Family 5000′ can be subdivided into two “substandard” sized parcels without public notification or comment. On Monday a DPD Stop Work order was posted for the property’s existing home.

Residents are concerned that the plan to have two full-sized homes on two very small lots will negatively impact the street. Blaine is one of Montlake’s most characteristic streets, known for its well-crafted, architecturally eclectic homes. The neighborhood is also very close-knit, as evidenced in their rapid response to this anomalously scaled project.

The builder, Soleil Development, has an interesting resume of several dozen “Built Green” residential projects throughout the city. Their work ranges from progressive modern to neighborhood conformity, depending on the context. The drawings included for the permit application on Blaine show a three-story house with a gabled roof, projecting sheds and overhanging eaves. To be fair, its basic architectural form doesn’t exactly seem out-of-character for the street.

However, what does seem out-of-character are the small, subdivided lots, now with two homes covering a disproportionately large footprint on each property. While this kind of dense housing is, and will likely continue to be, the trend in Seattle, a lot of people feel that Blaine should be one of the last places where such a thing can be done.

This issue again raises the need for Montlake to have a neighborhood urban plan to help manage its inevitable densification. Density is as inevitable now as light rail is at Husky Stadium. A good neighborhood plan could identify architecturally significant areas like Blaine as historic (to start, see John Decker in the April Flyer) but also relieve pressure on such areas by identifying other places (arterials? the business district?) where density might be more agreeable. Either way, new ideas are needed now more than ever to anticipate and direct new development.

An email was sent to Soleil for comment. Will update upon response.

Call for Public Art at Montlake’s New Bus Stop

Image: seattlepi.com

Metro is consolidating bus stops along 24th Ave. E. and creating a new stop near the Montlake Branch Library. The stop will be located at the north end of the library, mid-block, to improve visibility for drivers. A new shelter with seating and internal lights is in the early planning stages at Metro.

This new bus stop is a great opportunity to grace Montlake’s bustling downtown with public art. Metro has a program for putting murals on shelters where they provide the panels and the paint – and you provide the Picasso. Murals give character to the shelter, discourage graffiti and generally make people happy. For more ambitious ideas, larger art installations are possible with funding through King County’s 4Culture arts program.

Any artists out there want to help create a neighborhood landmark?

For Cyclists, the Ramp-to-Nowhere Goes Somewhere

Image: Montlaker via Google Maps

Of 520′s many ramps-to-nowhere, there is one that does go somewhere: it connects the Arboretum and the Montlake flyer bus stop on 520 with 2000 feet of unused freeway ramp. The ramp was built 99% complete in 1963 and then waited for the R.H. Thomson freeway that never came – its ends left truncated by Seattle’s freeway revolt. WSDOT has since maintained its uselessness with signs that say, “No Trespassing.”

Imagine riding a bike out of the Arboretum and onto a bicycle ramp that soars over the far side of 520, landing exactly where busses arrive from the Eastside. No more battling through traffic on Montlake Boulevard. Sadly, the opportunity to create the best bicycle ramp in Seattle has suffered the same fate as the R.H. Thomson. It seems that entrenched interests at the Arboretum, the city and the state have always squashed the idea and prevented the ramp from becoming anything other than a symbol of political stalemate.

Image: Montlaker

Making the ramp usable for cyclists and pedestrians would not take much. A little carpentry and a few concrete highway barriers would safely complete its missing ends. The hardware for hand rails and lamp posts is all there, as it has been since the early 60s. There is plenty of space for riders and walkers and best of all – the view is fantastic.