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Gasworks Gets Ready for the Big Bang

Fourth of July activities start getting set up July 3 at Gas Works Park. King 5 has an article about the 15 best viewing spots around Lake Union. The fireworks are part of Seafair, noon to 11 p.m.

U.W. gets high marks for sustainability

The Blue Heron just happened to come across a group of people burrowing up from the new U.W. Link light rail station for a tour of the sustainability features of the U.W. campus a sunny day last month in April, for Earth Month.

trailclosed

Burke Gilman Trail closed but should open sometime in June 2016.

The group’s first stop was at the ravaged Burke Gilman trail which has been in detour mode for months, feels like years now, but for a good cause; the segment between 15th Avenue and Rainier Vista is being widened from the current 12-to-16 foot lane to 24 feet and being made into separate pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians. It will be completed in July.

Biologysite

A state-of-the-art Life Sciences Building is going in at this site across from the Medical Center where the U.W.’s first urban farm once was. The botany greenhouse will also be replaced.

Just beyond that overlooking NE Pacific St., the U.W.’s first urban farm is being demolished to make way for a state of the art, 169,000 square foot Life Sciences Building to be home to the Biology Department. Forget images of isolated, lonely lab work; the building will be conducive to “’unexpected synergies’” to promote “entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary” approaches “to teaching and conducting research,” says the website. Adjacent to the new building, a 20,000 square foot biology greenhouse will replace the 67-year-old botany greenhouse. (Recently Huskies helped move plants to new homes.)

The building’s south side will have fins to reduce glare and provide shading. Those will be embedded with solar panels, which turn out to no more costly than aluminum save for the electrical wiring. “Even though the solar panels will not be optimally placed to generate solar power,” wrote tour leader Chris Toman in an email follow-up, “the cost to install them is on par with installing more traditional materials and will offset some of the buildings energy needs.“

There are also plans to reuse lab water to irrigate the greenhouse although that is dependent on funding.

All the new U.W. buildings are LEED silver, some gold. Not just construction but also transportation is going green. The university has 260 flexible-fuel vehicles in it 712-vehicle fleet. It will have a total of 42 electric cars by June 2016. There are 41 EV charging stations around campus, with five of those available for public use.

Bike racks double as landscape fencing.

Bike racks double as landscaping fencing.

About 4,000 of the smart U.W. students bike to class rain or shine every day making use of 650 bike lockers and numerous bike racks around campus.

Communicating with high tech trash, recycling and compost cans.

Communicating with high tech trash, recycling and compost cans.

Even the trash cans are smart. Once the Big Belly Solar waste receptacles are full they text maintenance staff to come empty them.

Make way for ducklings!

Make way for ducklings!

Sustainability features extend to the U.W.’s wildlife too – no not parties – ducks, the feathered kind that swim in the spectacular Drumheller Fountain. The fountain has a duck ramp so that baby ducks can get out. This used to be a problem as the ducklings couldn’t fly or scale the fountain’s steep sides. Now they have safe passage.

Home of a blue heron.

Home of a blue heron.

Just southwest of the fountain, hidden in a patch of tall trees known as Island Grove, Blue Herons have been nesting since 2007. As the tour group stood around peering up at the nests high in the trees, one flew in, gliding through the tree tops, circling and disappearing among the branches. The photographer was so captivated, she failed to take a picture, knowing there wouldn’t be time, instead watching as the bird appeared and was gone. “Sweet!” someone said.  And another remarked to Chris, “You planned that well.”

 

Bonus photo: a Secret Garden at the U.W. Hint: it is near the fountain.

Bonus photo: a Secret Garden at the U.W. Hint: it is near the fountain.

For a fascinating historical perspective, the U.W. has an online Environmental  History Tour.

The climate hour is late – Time to rapidly Break Free from fossil fuels

This is a cross post from Cascadia Planet, a Lake Union blog:

The climate hour is late, too late for anything but the most sweeping and fundamental efforts to break free from fossil fuels. Lying oil companies have skewed our political system, blocking effective response for over 25 years.  Now the Earth’s climate is severely twisting under the effects of fossil fuel carbon pollution.  Never has the disruption been more visible than in recent months.

This is the first of a series of blog posts leading up the largest direct actions against the fossil fuel industry in history.  From May 4-16 Break Free, staged by the global 350.org network and other groups, will mount actions at six U.S. locations and in 10 other countries around the world. Civil disobedience will play a leading role.  That will definitely be the case for the Pacific Northwest action, taking place from May 13-15 at oil refineries in Anacortes, Washington and organized by a broad coalition of mainly grassroots groups and collectives from around the Northwest.

After many years of political system failure, we can rely only on a massive people power wave capable of making demands for fundamental and rapid system change.  A political system corrupted by the greatest series of corporate crimes in history leaves no other option.

Investigative journalists recently uncovered how oil companies systemically lied about climate disruption, knowing the monstrous implications of their deceits. Journalists documented that Exxon scientists researched fossil-fuel-driven climate disruption in the 1970s and 1980s, and accurately predicted the outcomes.  These revelations are now fueling fraud investigations by 20 state attorneys general across the country.

Exxon and its cohort of oil companies knew exactly what they were doing when in the late 1980s they began funding disinformation campaigns meant to cast doubt on climate science and stop regulations that would have reduced carbon pollution.  Their tragic success already spells the death of millions of people and extinction of uncounted species.  It is the absolutely pinnacle example of how powerful corporate institutions driven by the imperative to preserve profit and the value of capital assets will take our planet down if we let them.

Thus, to break free from fossil fuels, we need to break free from the institutional corruption that pervades our society, and prevents meaningful progress.  To paraphrase John Lennon, we need to free our minds from the institutions that have held back our imagination of what this society could be if we decided to make a world fit for our children.

Make no mistake.  Our generation is well on the way to leaving a legacy of utter desolation. Severe climate disruption is already upon us.  We need to understand what this means.  Climate is an abstract word, and that is part of the challenge in drawing people to respond to it. Climate is in essence the pattern of wind and ocean currents that drive weather patterns around the globe.  It hits home in the amount and intensity of rain and snow a region receives, or does not, as well as extremes of heat and cold, and the way they lock in for extended periods.   Wind and ocean currents are becoming seriously twisted.

This is evidenced by the Pacific Ocean’s third monster El Nino in 34 years, affecting weather patterns across the Earth, and by warm winds blowing over the Arctic leaving the March 2016 maximum Arctic Ocean icepack tied for 2015 as the lowest ever recorded.  Going into melt season, this could set up record low ice cover this summer, with expanded patches of blue water soaking solar heat that white ice would otherwise repel into space. Heating of the Arctic is likely slowing and stalling the jet stream, one of the world’s major weather generators, resulting in massive deluges and snowstorms in some places, scorching heat and drought in others.  And, as much feared, it is now documented that Greenland icecap meltwater is interfering with North Atlantic currents that transport warm water from the tropics.  While the world is seeing record warmth, the North Atlantic is witnessing record cold.  The cold-warm contrast is already fueling more intense storms.

Underscoring the emergence of a climate emergency, scientific agencies reported that this January and February were by far the hottest ever recorded.  It was the largest spike over average temperatures on record.  At 1.35° Celsius, reported by NASA, it came perilously close to the 1.5°C limit set as an aspirational goal by the recent Paris climate summit, and regarded by many scientists as an absolute limit to prevent runaway climate catastrophe.    In fact, with climate-twisting carbon emissions at a record, we are well on the way to a 4°C increase as early as this century. This represents a massive crime against climate justice.

“As the planet warms, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes which occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, and considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the ‘new climate normal’ as we approach 4°C – a frightening world of increased risks and global instability,” the World Bank recently reported. “The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. Ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing global inequality, already difficult, will be much harder with 2°C warming, but at 4°C there is serious doubt whether these goals can be achieved at all.”

The human face of this could be seen when the most powerful storm to make landfall in Southern Hemisphere history plowed into Fiji February 20, killing 42 and destroying the homes of 62,000.  At seven percent of the nation’s population, that would equate to 23 million Americans being suddenly driven from their homes. Category 5 Typhoon Winston, with winds up to 185 mph, was the second most powerful tropical cyclone to hit land in the planet’s history after Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines in 2013.  These storms underscore the tragic fact that the fossil fuel consumption, mostly by the richer countries, is taking from poor people of color what little they have.

In the face of all this, when the world should be taking desperate measures to reduce carbon emissions, 2015 saw record growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The Titanic is headed toward the iceberg and the captain is ordering the boilers stoked to speed the ship toward its destination.

The climate emergency is now staring us in the face, as is the bankruptcy of politics as usual.  We must break free from fossil fuels, and relentlessly drive for a rapid and just transition to 100% renewable energy.  The next post will detail how we must undertake this energy revolution, which is well within our grasp.

This is all that Typhoon Winston, the most powerful landfalling storm in Southern Hemisphere history, left Kalisi and her three-year-old son, Tuvosa, when it hit Fiji Feb. 20.  Climate disruption created by the richest nations is hitting the poorest nations hardest. This compels us in the global North to rise up for climate justice.  Photo Courtesy Reuters/Unicef-Sokhin

This is all that Typhoon Winston, the most powerful landfalling storm in Southern Hemisphere history, left Kalisi and her three-year-old son, Tuvosa, when it hit Fiji Feb. 20. Climate disruption created by the richest nations is hitting the poorest nations hardest. This compels us in the global North to rise up for climate justice. Photo Courtesy Reuters/Unicef-Sokhin

Wallyhood Resurrected?

A few weeks back the Wallyhood Blog seemed to give up the ghost.

The founder had taken a leave of absence. Contributor and co-editor, Eric, took over, publishing frequently. Then a post on Ride the Ducks unintentionally offended. It was immediately edited with a follow-up apology. But the response was unforgiving. The internet can be merciless when it takes offense.

And exhausting.

Eric bowed out, writing a Swan Song, and founder, Jordan Schwartz, followed up with a Goodnight Wallingford post.

“I was feeling burnt out by the unrelenting commitment of posting every day for 7 years,” wrote Jordan in an email, “and having to deal with that vitriol on top of it was the straw that broke the camel’s back…. [T]he incident caused me to reflect on ‘why am I pouring myself into this?’”

Both posts received many supportive comments, but the blog lay dormant for a time.

Then like the coming of spring seemed to show signs of life. Articles on a helicopter over Wallingford and an arsonist alert were just too important not to share.

Then Jordan wrote that he was reconsidering the decision to put the blog to bed. A lot of people had contacted him about keeping it going.

Now a Wallyhood 2.0 is in the works.

Will it be as wildly successful as the original Wallyhood? Only time will tell.

Wallyhood 1.0 began seven years ago. Jordan started it, he said, because he liked to write, and he didn’t really feel connected to the neighborhood. All that changed with the blog, which today has some 2,000 subscribers and 14,000 more unique visitors each month.

His personable style won over some readers and seemed to baffle others at times. His goal, he once wrote, was to make the feel of the blog more like neighbors chatting over a fence than objective news reporting.

He began by posting two to three articles a day for the first year and half, a grueling pace, then hit a rhythm with about one article a day. Other contributors stepped up. The blog gets plenty of news tips, too many to chase down. It also got sponsorships without too much effort although those have been returned with the shuttering of the blog.

At a recent meeting at Murphy’s Pub to talk about the blog’s future, (it was one of two meetings set up to accommodate people’s schedules) nine people showed up. Jordan said he wanted to have more of an advisor role in the blog and get away from the day to day work of keeping it going. He’s definitely burnt out he added. He described how the blog had evolved, and people kicked around ideas for what to do next.

One of the biggest challenges was keeping people involved, Jordan said. But the group seemed undaunted, and one man voiced what everyone likely felt, “What you’ve built by yourself, it’s incredible.”

By the end of the second meeting the following night, Wallyhood 2.0 was germinating.

 

Eastlake Community Council sends letter to the city to fix Fairview Ave. flooding

The ducks love it, but flooding on Fairview Avenue isn’t much fun for anyone else. The water is dirty and nearly two feet deep in some places, and it’s taking away scarce Eastlake parking, wearing away infrastructure, and forcing pedestrians off the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop pathway onto the roadway with cars, according to a February 2, Eastlake Community Council  letter sent to the mayor, city representatives, and city councilmember, Rob Johnson.

The four-page letter outlines the history of the three-year-old problem and requests something be done before it gets worse and costs the city more money to fix.

The ECC also notes that adjacent, local business, United States Seafoods, has used their own resources to pump the water from the street, but it’s not their responsibility, and the flooding may be damaging their property.

But challenges represent opportunities to paraphrase a Chinese proverb. Fixing Fairview is a good opportunity to enact some of those planned for Cheshiahud Loop improvements, the letter points out. The 2009 Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan has several “general recommendations” (see page 51) for the stretch from East Blaine Street to Terry Pettus Park (the flooding is happening between there, from E. Blaine to E. Newton streets). They are:

  • Create a wider pedestrian walkway with uniform grading and special paving on the west side of Fairview.
  • Enhance path/driveway crossings to enhance visibility and awareness.
  • Prune and/or enhance vegetation to provide visual interest along pathway and visibility of path from street.

Will the city respond to the ECC letter? Stay tuned.

 

2014 pumping out Fairview Ave.

2014 pumping out Fairview Ave.

2014 parking lot flooding view from on high.

2014 parking lot flooding view from on high.

2015 water over walkway forces pedestrians onto roadway.

2015 water over walkway forces pedestrians onto roadway.

Three pumps run for six hours to drain Fairview Ave. but flooding returns the next day.

Three pumps run for six hours to drain Fairview Ave. but flooding returns the next day.

Should bike lanes replace parking on Eastlake Ave.? Plus Fairview Bridge Replacement update

If you attended SDOTs open houses on Roosevelt to Downtown High Capacity Transit Study on December 9 or 10 and on Fairview Avenue North Bridge Replacement on November 10, then you didn’t miss much at the January 12 public meeting, as information from the open houses is largely unchanged. The city is still collecting comments on the Roosevelt to downtown design that can be submitted on line.

What you did miss was a lively conversation about neighborhood concerns chiefly involving the removal of parking along Eastlake to make way for dedicated bike lanes but also about several other issues connected with both projects.

The question is should bike facilities, i.e. lanes, replace most or all of the parking on Eastlake Avenue? A representative from the Cascade Bike Club said a November survey on a rainy evening commute counted 500 bicyclists using Eastlake Avenue and that the avenue, while definitely not safe for bicyclists, was the most convenient corridor. Eastlake is also the street called out in the Bike Master Plan. Many voiced concerns about losing parking on Eastlake predicting that it would kill local businesses. Others argued that making the neighborhood more bicycle and pedestrian friendly would help local businesses. Finally Alison Townsend, the SDOT staff member presenting, suggested a show of hands. Eight people were in favor of losing parking for bicycle lanes. Eleven were in favor of keeping parking. (Others choose not to vote.) The split seemed to come down to generational lines, with the younger generation in favor of the bike lanes and the older generation in favor of parking.

Dec. 9 last half hour at Open House at TOPS; not comment in colorful post-it notes on the board with question below.

Dec. 9, last half hour at Open House at TOPS; note comments in colorful post-it notes on the board with question below:

The topic of January 12 ECC Public Meeting at TOPS.

The topic of January 12 ECC Public Meeting at TOPS.

But in the end everyone agreed that they cared about local businesses and safe bicycling and wasn’t there some kind of solution? One audience member suggested using business parking lots when they’re not in use for weekend and evening public parking. Liability issues could be a challenge, said Ms. Townsend. Another person said that was the best suggestion all evening. A formal private parking inventory of Eastlake has not been done, said Ms. Townsend, suggesting that might be a start. There was also a suggestion to create more short-term parking zones in the neighborhoods, to ensure parking turnover for local businesses.

Full BRT shows parking disappearing on Eastlake Avenue.

Full BRT shows parking disappearing on Eastlake Avenue.

Targeted BRT investment shows parking available off peak and two views -- bike lanes on either side or two-way bike facility on one side.

Targeted BRT investment shows parking available off peak and two views — bike lanes on either side or two-way bike facility on one side.

No one seemed opposed to losing the local bus service for a more frequent bus rapid transit (BRT) along the lines of Metro’s new Rapid Ride. It will mean fewer stops on Eastlake but faster service. The goal is to have 72% of Eastlakers within a 10 minute walk of a bus stop and with the stop having ten minute or better bus service. Proposed bus stops are at Garfield, Lynn, Hamlin, and Furman. One audience member questioned the ability to meet the 10 minute walkshed as, for many people, the stops will be uphill.

Why the need for BRT?  As Ms. Townsend told the group, Link light rail will connect downtown to Capitol Hill, U District, (and eventually Northgate and beyond) but there is no good transit connection to South Lake Union from the north, and 36% of Seattle jobs are in the Roosevelt to downtown corridor.

Worst case scenario is that Eastlake Avenue will become even more of a transit freeway than it already is and nobody wants that.

A chief concern posed by the Eastlake Community Council is losing the center left turn lanes and center median strips. (A comprehensive look at the difficult trade offs for the corridor can be found on the ECC website.) The center lane has many benefits, said ECC President, Chris Leman, and was fought for years ago by the neighbor as a traffic improvement. The center lane keeps traffic flowing by allowing for safe left hand turns into neighborhood streets and businesses. It also services as a temporary quick loading zone for many businesses and as a refuge for pedestrians crossing Eastlake. SDOT noted that the last two purposes were not the intended use and suggested that better design could address those issues.

A couple of people mentioned that they don’t envy SDOT’s task of trying to sort out the various uses for Eastlake Avenue and keep everyone happy and they thanked the city representatives for their efforts.

The second half of the meeting was devoted to the Fairview Avenue North Bridge Replacement and what came out of that was something that will make many people happy. The SDOT presenter for that project was very optimistic about the floating sidewalk being rebuilt. There are permitting concerns with the Department of Ecology among others, but she said the city has definitely heard the neighborhood’s desire for bringing back the floating sidewalk.

Work on the Fairview Bridge will be at 90% design by spring 2016 with pre construction activity starting in the summer and full construction beginning in 2017. The bridge will be closed for 15 months with detours likely happening at Aloha. The bridge will be “widened” by absorbing the middle buffer lane, with sidewalks and bike lanes on either side and two 12-foot wide lanes to support BRT and one general purpose 11-foot lane going north.  The bridge will be seismically sound and able to support a street car should the street car be extended (rail could be added to the bridge along with new surfacing), but right now BRT is the plan.

 

 

 

An After Thanksgiving Walk Around Lake Union

UFO sightings, new geological formations, signs of the times, and holiday cheer; walking is when you really see things, despite the boring stretches (as one of our party complained).

Or maybe because of them.

Here are a few photos of things that caught our eye the day after Thanksgiving:

A UFO above the trees on the Burke Gilman Trail.

A UFO above the trees on the Burke Gilman Trail.

Many Blue Herons show up around Lake Union  though we did not see any of the actual feathered kind.

Many Blue Herons show up around Lake Union though we did not see any of the actual feathered kind.

The most enchanted place on the lake, the Spur Line trestle.

The most enchanted place on the lake, the Spur Line trestle.

Sign of the times: "Wake Up America Bernie Sanders for President." (This place always has intriguing signs.)

Sign of the times: “Wake Up America Bernie Sanders for President.” (This place always has intriguing signs.)

And artwork -- more signs of the times.

And artwork — more signs of the times.

Startling damage from the November 5 marina fire.

Startling damage from the November 5 marina fire.

South Lake Union holiday cheer.

South Lake Union holiday cheer.

Ducks enjoy a new Eastlake pond where sidewalk and parking once existed.

Ducks enjoy a new Eastlake pond where sidewalk and parking once existed.

And another temporary geological formation -- the Seattle canyon.

And another temporary geological formation — the Seattle canyon.

 

Modern bridge to replace Fairview Avenue trestle

Seattle Department of Transportation held an open house last night about plans to replace the 65-year-old  Fairview Trestle that runs beside the historic Lake Union Steam Plant building with a modern bridge. Construction of the new bridge is planned for spring 2017, and that’s when the detours would start.

SDOT had hoped to leave at least one lane open on the old bridge during construction, but that would have prolonged the project by at least six months, so they are opting for a quicker construction schedule of 15 to 18 months as opposed to 24. Quicker construction reduces costs and might be less inconvenient all around.

The most likely detour, said a SDOT representative, will be Aloha Street to Eastlake Avenune (but SDOT is also looking at Republican Street). If Aloha is chosen, the street will be resigned to allow for better traffic flow, signal priority and a left turn lane back onto Fairview south of construction site, where one is not currently allowed.

Fairview Detour edit

(Photos are of a few of the design boards from the Open House.)

There is a stairway just north of Silver Could Inn that could be improved for pedestrian access, the SDOT official added.

The new bridge will exactly replace the old bridge in size, 65 feet wide, but will have wider car lanes and a two-way bicycle track, along with sidewalks on either side. To allow for the seeming expansions, the seven foot buffer lane is disappearing.

The floating walkway beside the bridge will also be removed and may be replaced if permitting allows. There are design plans for it.

Rendering of new Fairview Avenue Bridge.

Rendering of new Fairview Avenue Bridge.

The new bridge will have three lookout points and lots of new native plant vegetation and hardscaping (stones and pathways) on either end leading up to it.

Fairview Plants

Improved landscaping will bookend the bridge.

It will be strong enough to hold a streetcar should the streetcar be extended to Eastlake and up Roosevelt, but that is not the reason for the trestle replacement. At 65 the trestle has outlived its useful life and is not earthquake sound.

For more information and to comment go to SDOT website.

Cautionary Land Use Tales: The Battle of Roanoke Reef

It’s Halloween and it seems like an appropriate time to put up our first article in an on-going series of “Cautionary Land Use Tales.” Because it’s a little scary to think of what might have been… 

It is the Seattle land use fight by which all others are judged. Thirteen years, from 1967 to 1980, dozens of public hearings, and file cabinets of lawsuits concluded in victory for the neighborhoods of Lake Union.

Since 1962, neighborhood activists had warned that zoning loopholes could allow massive office and residential buildings along the shorelines and above the waters of Lake Union – replacing houseboats and water-dependent businesses.  State and city governments lent a deaf ear to the threat.

In 1967, neighborhood fears were realized when a building permit application for a seven-story condominium was filed for the foot of East Roanoke Street. Existing were pleasure craft moorages– some covered, some not – spread out around the Riviera Marina that housed Bill Boeing’s weathered 1916 Seaplane Station. The proposed “Roanoke Reef Condominium” was to be built on a 480’ x 100’ concrete platform located just north of East Roanoke Street – just above the waters of Lake Union. The application read: one story of concrete parking garage, then six stories of wood frame with stucco face and tinted-bronze glass.  It boasted a heated pool, glass enclosed lanais, television security system, three elevators and 168 luxury units.

Houseboaters and upland neighbors rallied against the proposed project and won outright.  The 1967 building permit for the Roanoke Reef Condominium was denied. But the battle of Roanoke Reef wasn’t over; in fact it had only just begun.

*

In 1969, Fairview Boat Works just north of the foot of East Lynn Street was demolished and construction began on a five story, 98-unit over-the-water apartment house (now the 48-unit Union Harbor Condo). Union Harbor was permitted and built before neighbors could organize meaningful opposition.  Within months, five more proposals to build mega-unit over-the-water apartment houses along Fairview Avenue East were announced.  A speculative feeding frenzy had begun, and Roanoke Reef re-surfaced as a five story, 112-unit condo proposal.

The newly formed citywide citizens group CHECC (Choose an Effective City Council) prodded state and local government to address the problem of Lake Union’s inadequate zoning, and zoning loopholes were eventually closed in such a way as to discourage four of the five over-the-water development plans. One permit was issued, however, to Roanoke Reef. The permit application was submitted to the Seattle Building Department on May 7, 1969.  It was “conditionally issued” the next day.  Building permits were either approved or denied, so to neighbors the permit spread a strong stench of impropriety.

In the end the battle of Roanoke Reef centered on what would turn out to be an illegally issued building permit.

Proposed 112-unit over the water structure aka "Roanoke Reef"

Proposed 112-unit over the water structure aka “Roanoke Reef”

*

Since individual plaintiffs could be held personally liable for construction delays while officers of non-profit corporations were protected, a first legal strategy was the creation of a non-profit community organization for upland residents. The Eastlake Community Council (ECC) was formed in 1971. Among its official purposes was (and still is) “to maximize public use and enjoyment of the inland waters and shorelines adjoining the Eastlake community.”  ECC worked with the Floating Homes Association (FHA, founded in 1962) to fight the vested permit. But each time the building permit was set to expire, the City renewed it.

Enactment of the 1971 Shoreline Management Act should have ended the project outright.  But “construction” on Roanoke Reef began March 15, just weeks before the SMA’s June 1 effective date, with workers driving 10 concrete pilings into the lakebed.

Although community scuba divers proved the pilings were haphazardly placed and certainly only symbolic, the city again renewed the building permit.

In a June 23, 1971 letter to the Eastlake Community Council’s co-founder Phyllis Boyker, then-Mayor Wes Uhlman wrote, “I dislike the destruction of a valuable natural resource like this section of Lake Union for purely business interests. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be nothing which can done to halt the project. No building or zoning codes have been violated and no laws have been broken.”

In July, real construction began. Existing moorages were torn out along with the March 15 pilings. The old Riviera Marina that included the original Boeing Company hangar was torn down, and 250 concrete pilings were driven into the lakebed.

With the start of that construction, the community took legal action.  Harold H. “Hal” Green of the firm MacDonald, Hoague and Bayless offered his legal services “at cost.” By summer’s end $11,500 had been raised toward a legal fund. On September 15, 1971, a lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court on behalf of ECC, FHA, and Phyllis Boyker, who formed the lead as a directly affected upland resident.

Among the suit’s charges were 1) the city had issued an illegal building permit in 1969, 2) the City had repeatedly renewed the illegal permit, and 3) the developers were not in compliance with the Shoreline Management Act.

The developers, represented by Robert Ratcliffe of Diamond and Sylvester, (the law firm of Joe Diamond, parking lot magnet) quickly brought a counter-suit against Phyllis Boyker. Under the threat of financial ruin, Ms. Boyker was forced to withdraw. The developers then contended that FHA and ECC were not directly impacted by the proposal and thus had no right to sue.  The State Department of Ecology joined ECC and FHA as a co-plaintiff on February 10, 1972.  The trial began four days later.  After nine days of testimony, the introduction of 137 exhibits, and ten minutes of consideration following final arguments, Superior Court Judge W.R. Cole ruled against the community on every count – including the very right to bring the lawsuit.

The ECC and FHA were exhausted, debt-ridden, and facing an appeal deadline to the State Supreme Court. They needed an additional $8,000 for transcripts and court-ordered bonds. They raised money though dances, rummage sales, spaghetti dinners, boat outings, door-to-door solicitations, and mailings.  On April 19, 1972, in a meeting with representatives for the Attorney General’s office, (the AG at that time was Slade Gorton, a charter member of CHECC.)  the earlier promise of state help was negotiated into meaningful support.  That evening, the votes were won to commit ECC and FHA to appeal to the State Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, back at the Reef, construction continued.  A fully furnished model unit stocked with sales brochures opened at the adjacent construction staging area.  A Roanoke Reef advertising billboard appeared in South Lake Union at the corner of Fairview Avenue N. and Valley Street.

On September 6, 1972, the Attorney General filed papers with the State Supreme Court to halt construction of Roanoke Reef.   When work stopped, a significant portion of the cinder block parking structure had been completed.  Oral arguments were heard on November 13, 1972 before the State Supreme Court.  Joe Diamond, himself, argued for the developers; Harold Green and Francis Hoague (a local liberal legend) for the community.   On July 18, 1973, the State Supreme Court ruled for the community.  The City was stuck with a nearly $3 million bill for illegally issuing the permit.  What’s more, the Court ruled that ECC and FHA did have standing to sue—an important early precedent for public interest litigation that spread throughout the country.

 

Roanoke Reef July 20, 1973 two days after the State Supreme Court ruled permits were illegally issued. This Seattle Times photo portrays the moment of community victory. Note the upland construction shack and model unit where the gracious 49-65 East Roanoke townhomes now reside. (photo credit: Seattle Times)

Roanoke Reef July 20, 1973 two days after the State Supreme Court ruled permits were illegally issued. This Seattle Times photo portrays the moment of community victory. Note the upland construction shack and model unit where the gracious 49-65 East Roanoke townhomes now reside. (photo credit: Seattle Times)

*

But victory in a land use battle does not simply come with a “permit denied” ruling, and developers do not just go away.  In this case, the verdict did not include an order to remove the illegally permitted concrete platform.  Within four days, the developers submitted a new building permit application.  The proposal had been reduced to 81 units, but remained 57 feet high.  And in November 1973, the developers filed a $7,000,000 damage suit against the City of Seattle.

Although the developers eventually won a $2,896,534 judgment against the city (check written July 3, 1976), they made little headway in securing permits for their condominium. The tide of the Battle of Roanoke Reef clearly had turned to favor the community. Just before Christmas 1974, the city denied a final new building permit. The Roanoke Reef over-water condominium project was dead. During the next three years, occasional rumors circulated that a new condo building permit was soon to be submitted but the rumors always proved to be negotiation posturing or unfounded speculation.

Between 1975 and 1978, the Battle of Roanoke Reef was a miserable, tedious stalemate.  The community was unyielding in seeking removal of the illegal platform. Removal was completely unacceptable to the developers. Sketchbook entrepreneurs offered ideas for a public park, marina or restaurant to settle the celebrated dispute. Each scheme rested atop the illegal concrete slab. Most met with initial public approval. All required vigorous repudiation by the community.

In 1976, ’77 and ’78, the developers submitted land use applications to establish marinas beside the platform.  In each instance, the developers refused to state that further development would not occur. Two of the three proposals met with initial government approval. An attitude of “let’s approve it and move on to another issue” seemed to prevail.  But for the community, the platform continued to be illegal and developers refused to disclaim thoughts of future high-rise development.  Each marina proposal initiated another round of public hearings.  Each marina proposal was eventually defeated.

 

Construction of the Roanoke Reef platform. The illegal platform would remain for years.

Construction of the Roanoke Reef platform. The illegal platform would remain in place for years.

*

Like weeds through the sidewalk, life slowly began to infest the Reef’s concrete slab. An impromptu marine engine repair shop located there.  Fishing boats tied up for off-season moorage.  Some live-aboards took advantage of the $1 per foot moorage fees. Kids dove off the slab and canoes cruised under it.

In 1978, the Roanoke Reef stalemate was broken and a temporary truce was declared.  It was agreed that a City-hired consultant conduct a study of the legal, economic and environmental ramifications of the concrete slab. The community supported the study only after demolition was included as an option.

Soon after the consultant’s report, Lucile Flanagan (later the benevolent owner of the Crest Theater) quietly emerged with a viable Roanoke Reef plan. Ms. Flanagan would purchase the property for $500,000, demolish the concrete slab, construct and sell 20 condo houseboat moorages, plus nine townhouses at the site of the former construction staging area. The sale was finalized in the summer of 1979 and the Environmental Impact Statement completed during the first months of 1980.

No single individual led the community’s efforts. Only houseboater Terry Pettis (FHA Executive Director) and uplander Victor Steinbrueck (an ECC board member) were intimately involved from beginning to end, but they thought it proper that the Battle of Roanoke Reef be spearheaded by the ordinary folks of  the FHA and the ECC. Nine ECC presidents served during those years. The long casualty list of cancelled vacations, lost career opportunities and strained family relationships explains the rapid turnover.

1980 demolition party invite

1980 demolition party invite

*

On a sunny Saturday – July 26, 1980 – the Battle of Roanoke Reef officially ended with a neighborhood party on the concrete platform.  Food, music, beverages, skydivers, politicians and speeches accompanied this latest of innumerable fundraisers for the ECC Legal Defense Fund, with one and all invited to start the demolition of the slab at one-dollar-a-whack.

A submerged reef of concrete is located somewhere off Blake Island where the remains of the platform were finally hauled to rest, but not before a few souvenir chunks were given out.  For many years thereafter (it may be there still), on a shelf in the Director’s reception area for Seattle’s Department of Construction and Land Use there was a chunk with an engraved red aluminum label reading, “Roanoke Reef, 1971-1980.”

(Note this is a classic piece that was first published in 1987 and more recently ran in the Summer 2014 Eastlake News. It was written by Jules James.)

Sink or swim? Nov. 3 hearing for Ride the Ducks

The fate of Ride the Ducks is in the hands of Olympia right now and a hearing at the state capitol will provide more information on whether the ducks will be allowed to sink or paddle back to shore.

The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) is holding a status conference, open to the public, Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 9:30 a.m. on their investigation into the safety operations of Ride the Ducks. People can either attend in person at the UTC hearing room or request to be conferenced in prior to the meeting. For conference line availability call 360-664-1234.

“At the meeting, UTC motor carrier safety staff will provide the judge with preliminary findings from their ongoing investigation,” wrote a state representative after a request for information.

Much hangs in the balance. Will the Ducks be permanently sunk as many hope or will the state toss them a lifesaver and allow some form of operations to resume?

The state suspended the Ducks operations four days after the horrific and tragic accident that occurred on the Aurora Bridge September 24. Since that time the state has been looking into the safety practices and maintenance records of the two types of vehicles Ride the Ducks operates for its tourism business, “Truck Duck” and “Stretch Duck” vehicles. The “Stretch Duck” vehicle is under the most scrutiny as it was the type involved in the Sept 24 accident.

In a Joint Stipulation filed Oct. 1, 2015, both the state and Ride the Ducks have the objective of returning the “Truck Duck” vehicles to service within 30 days if they pass “regulatory inspections” and the “Stretch Duck” vehicles “within a reasonable period of time.”

But returning the Ducks to service is not what everyone wants.

Over the past three years Eastlakers have actively fought a proposed private Ride the Ducks boat ramp adjacent to Terry Pettus Park citing safety and noise concerns. The ramp would have as many as 18 amphibious Duck vehicles an hour during peak season crossing the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop trail and entering the lake in close proximity to the local houseboat community.

The Eastlake Community Council, the Log Foundation (a cooperative of three houseboat docks adjacent to Terry Pettus Park) and the Floating Homes Association in February 2015  filed a legal appeal with the Washington State Shoreline Board countering the city’s decision to permit the Ducks. Finally on the advice of their attorneys when it appeared the appeal would not be successful, the three groups reached a settlement agreement with Ride the Ducks in June 2015 for significant noise abatement through the proposed ramp area among other things.

Now, Ride the Duck opponents of the Eastlake ramp site, with enough public support, see the hearing in Olympia as an opportunity to sink the Ducks.

image from www.stoptheducks.com

image from www.stoptheducks.com