Interfaith vigil and march to end gun violence, Saturday February 9th

You are invited to join in an Interfaith Candlelight Vigil and March to End Gun Violence on Saturday, Feb. 9, gathering at 5:30 pm at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, 1245 Tenth Ave. East. The event begins with a prayer vigil of remembrance and lamentation and continues with a 1.8 mile candlelight march to St. James Cathedral where it concludes with a 7:00 pm vigil for hope and action. The vigil and march call on our community to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings and the over 1,100 others who have died from gun violence since then. For more information go to

520 news: Weekend closure, ‘Lake to Land’ open house, I-90 tolls, new pontoons


Image: via WSDOT Flickr stream

A rundown of what’s happening in the world of 520:

  • Weekend closure: 520 will close this Friday, February 1st at 11pm until 5am Sunday morning, allowing crews to reconfigure electronic monitoring and signage systems. As usual, the highway will close from Montlake Blvd to I-405, so plan extra time to cross the lake via your alternate route of choice.
  • ‘Lake to Land’ open house: What’s the so-called ‘Lake to Land’ plan? It’s the northern half of the West Approach Bridge that will connect the new floating bridge to Montlake Blvd by the end of 2016. WSDOT will present drawings of the bridge’s superstructure, regional trail and belvedere viewing platforms. This 3-lane (half) bridge is currently the only funded part of the 520 replacement in Seattle and will be used along with the existing west approach — restriped for 3-lanes — until more funding is secured. How the new floating bridge will connect to both the new and old approaches remains to be seen. WSDOT Open house — Wednesday, February 6 — 4:30-7:30pm — St Demetrios Church.
  • Tolling I-90 open house: Speaking of funding, the state is exploring tolls on the I-90 floating bridge, which would go a long way toward closing 520′s $1.4 billion gap. WSDOT has a public open house for “scoping” I-90 tolls this Thursday, January 31st, 4-7pm, at the Yesler Community Center. Formal public comments can be submitted here until February 22nd (to be followed by another comment period this fall).
  • More pontoons on the way: The Tacoma News Tribune reports on the second round float-out of six more supplemental pontoons for the new floating bridge. These are the little ones, 100 feet long x 60 feet wide x 28 feet tall. Two of these new pontoons will be towed to Lake Washington this week, while the other four wait in Commencement Bay for more longitudinal pontoons to arrive from Aberdeen.

Arboretum North Entry project to reclaim wetlands, create overlook hill


All images: Seattle Parks/Berger Partnership

The end game for the new Arboretum multi-use trail announced last week is the second phase North Entry project planned for the post-520-replacement-era. The project would return the WSDOT Peninsula / Miller Street Dump to the Arboretum after it was taken for highway use half a century ago.

Things are different this time around and WSDOT will replace wetlands lost to 520′s expanding footprint with new wetlands at several sites around Lake Washington. One of those sites includes five acres on the garbage-dump-peninsula’s western shore which will be restored and planted with native species to increase biodiversity. Separate from this mitigation work but in partner with it, the proposed North Entry project would incorporate the new wetland, daylight Arboretum Creek (currently piped underground) and extend the park to the future Montlake Lid.

Some 28,000 cubic yards of earth will be regraded to create the new wetland. Rather than hauling the material offsite, the North Entry plan calls for it to be piled into a 40-foot hill at the peninsula’s south end, creating a new overlook with views of the wetland and surrounding tree canopy. 20130129-082224.jpg While the plan is still in early stages, Seattle Parks expects to reclaim ownership of the peninsula once highway construction is complete. Details of the land transfer are not settled, but it is assumed WSDOT will not keep a property for which it has no use. The Ramp-to-Nowhere made the peninsula “useless” when the R.H. Thomson was defeated in 1971 — those ramps are to be demolished by 2016.


North Entry plan. Click for larger view.

Annual One Night Count finds Montlake neighbors living without shelter

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness conducted its annual One Night Count in the early morning hours last Friday, with volunteers reporting a total of 2,736 people sleeping outdoors — including 1,989 within the city limits of Seattle — a slight uptick over last year’s count.

Of the 800+ volunteers that spread across the region, a team of seven came to Montlake in search of people sleeping outdoors. The difficult task of finding people who may not want to be found is reflected in One Night Count’s method. The team’s goal wasn’t to scour every inch of the neighborhood or conduct a scientific poll, but rather to just get a rough estimate.

The team leader recently surveyed the neighborhood during the day to find likely areas to search, then returned with volunteers between 2-5am on Friday to confirm the count. A spotted tent was assumed to house two people, same with a vehicle showing signs of inhabitants inside. While several uncovered sleeping bags were found, they were only counted if they clearly had someone in them — a few did not.

During the count, volunteers remarked on the weather — about 40° with light drizzle — and how recent freezing temps must have been hard to survive. While wandering around familiar places made unfamiliar by the quiet dark, the team did its best to observe but not disturb people trying to sleep. One found camp had the last embers of a fire going. Another had a pit bull watching over things — thankfully tied to a post.

“The One Night Count is a humbling experience,” said Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger. “We are especially reminded that everyone should have a place to call home. The Count is a call to action each January — the beginning of a full year of education and action for all of us who care about this crisis.”

Spreading awareness about homelessness beyond just the numbers is a big part of the One Night Count. “So that people who don’t necessarily think about this issue on a daily or nightly basis have the opportunity to experience this,” Eisinger said. “And so that our elected officials and decision makers who come as guests on the One Night Count hold these images and the people who are experiencing homelessness squarely in their minds.” Of the hundreds of volunteers that participated were Seattle City Council President Sally Clark and other city staffers.

Seattle still has much work to do to complete its 2005 pledge to end homelessness in 10 years. Later Friday morning in front of City Hall, homeless advocates took turns ringing a gong 2,736 times, once for each person found overnight. Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is collecting donations to fund their efforts, with matching funds doubling individual gifts through the end of February. Other ways to get involved, here.

For a deeper look at the 2013 One Night Count numbers, click here.

Another advocacy project continues over at Homeless in Seattle, which documents people living without shelter through their own personal stories and portraits — and providing human context to the issue of homelessness.

New multi-use trail coming to the Arboretum, Ramp-to-Nowhere to be demolished

Image: Seattle Parks/Berger Partnership

Image: Seattle Parks/Berger Partnership

Walking and biking in the Washington Park Arboretum will be easier in coming years, with today’s announcement of a new multi-use trail to be funded through SR 520 mitigation efforts. The trail will connect Madison Street to the south with Foster Island Road to the north in this first project phase, and eventually extend to the Arboretum’s North Entry expansion near the Montlake Lid in a second phase after 520 replacement work is complete.

The 12-foot wide trail will meander east of Lake Washington Blvd, passing the Arboretum’s new Pacific Connections garden, Azalea Way and the Wilcox Bridge. The trail will be paved with semi-rough material to create a bit of noise alerting pedestrians of on-coming cyclists. With this facility, the park will have a new 2-mile loop including the pedestrian-only Arboretum Drive.

This $7.8 million project will be the largest single donation to the Arboretum in its history, said Jack Collins, Arboretum Botanical Garden Committee (ABGC) Chair. Funding will come from WSDOT’s $300 million federal TIFIA loan secured last fall.

“This is an historic day for the Arboretum,” said ABGC member Paige Miller, in thanking state legislators for their help with this project. “The Ramps-to-Nowhere will be no more.” Demolition of the unused ramps will be part of 520′s West Approach Bridge construction beginning in 2014.

“This is a win for all parties involved,” said Julie Meredith, WSDOT’s SR 520 Program Director. “We are pleased to move forward with our mitigation efforts.” Arboretum trail funding will be paid next month with design work continuing through this year. Trail construction would start along with the West Approach Bridge in summer of 2014.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

In other Arboretum news, the Graham Visitor’s Center now has a coffee bar.

Happening at UW: Odegaard construction, Dow Constantine lecture + Plastics Unwrapped

Odegaard Library renovation. Image: UW Libraries / Miller Hull

  • The Burke Museum exhibit Plastics Unwrapped (until May 27th) asks: how did we get here?

Only 50 years ago, we hardly used plastics. How did they go from being rare to being everywhere? Plastics Unwrapped, a new exhibit from the Burke Museum, explores how material culture was changed—rapidly and perhaps permanently—by plastics. Learn what life was like before plastics, how they are made, why they’re so convenient to use, and what happens after we throw them away.

  • Dow Constantine, UW graduate in Urban Planning, will lecture on the guidance his degree gives to his work as King County Executive. – Thursday, January 24th — Architecture Hall 147 — 6:30pm
  • Odegaard Library renovation work is underway while the library remains open with limited services. This first phase will transform the atrium with new natural lighting from the ceiling and a new central stair, toward an overall goal of creating more active learning spaces in UW’s most heavily trafficked study center. Completion is scheduled for September. Check out construction progress photos here


City Council preps 520 design response


Image: City of Seattle

The Seattle City Council is set to formally respond to WSDOT’s Seattle Community Design Process for the 520 Replacement project at a committee meeting next Tuesday, January 22nd. This is Seattle’s big chance to tell the State what works well and what doesn’t work so well with the design so far. The Council is expected to discuss a resolution to be sent to the State, which WSDOT pledged to honor in its MOU with the city.

In advance of Tuesday’s meeting, the Council has posted a draft resolution on its 520 Special Committee website. Wonks can look at it over here — a quick summary of its recommendations for everyone else:

  • Build the Portage Bay Bridge Trail while minimizing width and visual impact.
  • Redesign the Montlake Lid with a “wider range of options” to improve pedestrian and bicycle connections.
  • Improve safety in the underbridge areas.
  • Create an interim “Lake to Land” Plan that doesn’t preclude good options for the Montlake Lid and with adequate mitigation for the neighborhood.

The resolution also states the City’s intention to appoint a “champion,” someone to coordinate the project across all city departments and to further involve the Seattle Design Commission. All positive steps forward.

This will be a big year for the 520 design. If WSDOT responds to the city in kind, the project could become a watershed of people-friendly infrastructure — supporting transit, walking and biking with the same fervor it supports driving a car. Or WSDOT could retreat into its long history of building highways and little else, just to get it done. If it does the later, it will be in the face of “overwhelming public support” for travel under the power of your own two feet — arguably the big culture change in Seattle urbanism since the turn of the century.

We shall see.

Seattle City Council Special Committee on SR 520 Project meeting — Tuesday, January 22, 2:30pm — City Hall — Agenda here.

City to make 23rd Ave a ‘complete street’


Image: Google Street View

Central District News yesterday covered city plans to remake 23rd Ave into a “complete street” — a roadway with facilities for all users: cars, transit, bikes and pedestrians alike. While the $14 million project extends from Rainier Ave to John St, some ideas being discussed could affect Montlake and signal change to come once 520 is replaced.

Details are scant, but most likely this would involve putting 23rd on a road diet, where its four lanes would be converted to three — two in each direction with a center left turn lane and improved sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Road diets have reduced traffic accident rates all across the country and despite loud protests a few years ago against diets for Nickerson below Queen Anne and 125th in Lake City (“Mayor McSchwinn!), real world data so far has shown the concept to work no differently in Seattle.

Other ideas for 23rd include adding trolley wires through the corridor to electrify the 48 bus route. This would likely split the forty-late in two: Mount Baker Transit Center to UW on wires and UW to Loyal Heights as it is now. Electrified 48s would reduce street noise through Montlake.

So how might 23rd actually work? CD News speculates:

Imagine being able to cross 23rd on foot at every intersection without sprinting for your life or going four blocks out of the way to the nearest stoplight. Imagine more welcoming bus stops and more comfortable sidewalks. Imagine quiet electric buses instead of diesel-belching ones. Imagine if very few people drove over the speed limit, and fewer people got injured or killed simply trying to get wherever they’re going. And yes, imagine being able to safely bike to 23rd Ave destinations.

Could this happen along 24th Ave as well? Perhaps, but given that it feeds 520, SDOT will likely see how the highway replacement design shakes out before proceeding with changes to 24th. Still, many of the same ideas could come our way.

New HistoryLink: Washington Park Arboretum

Image: Seattle PI Collection, MOHAI

Image: Seattle PI Collection, MOHAI

HistoryLink has published another new neighborhood article, this time on the Washington Park Arboretum. A few highlights…

The park was planned as part of the city’s first Bicycle Master Plan, at a time when 1 of 5 Seattleites traveled by bike:

George F. Cotterill (1865-1958), then an assistant city engineer, laid out a system of bicycle trails in the city to serve the riders of the estimated 10,000 bicycles in Seattle (with a population of slightly more than 55,000 in 1898). One of the bike paths started at the top of Capitol Hill near Volunteer Park and traveled down the hill through the Interlaken area and into Washington Park.

Azalea Way was once full of horses:

The Speedway, a 40-foot-wide, dirt-covered roadway in the middle of the park, was built in 1907 for horse racing. Before cars became ubiquitous in the 1910s, the Speedway and stables that a racing club built were regularly filled with horses, drivers, and spectators for harness races.

The 520 on and off ramps were supposed to be temporary:

The ramps onto and exiting the highway were connected to Lake Washington Boulevard as a temporary measure until the expressway, named the R. H. Thomson Expressway in honor of a longtime, influential city engineer, could be constructed. The Seattle Times reported in 1963, as the new highway and bridge across the lake opened, that “the portion of Lake Washington Boulevard East through the Arboretum will be used as a temporary access route.”

Read the whole article here.