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Remembering the first Earth Day

Forty-five years ago today as a 17-year-old growing up in the Philly area I hitchhiked down to Fairmont Park to take part in the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  I had been reading The Environmental Handbook, created for the event. For all the problems it depicted it also portrayed remarkably hopeful possibilities for building a sustainable world.  In the midst of the fractures of the Vietnam War era, there was a ray of sunlight in all this.

Sitting on a grass hill on a sunny day with the Philadelphia skyline in the background, I heard an inspiring line-up.  Where else could you see Allen Ginsberg and Edmund Muskie on the same stage?  The range embodied the essential significance of Earth Day, the unification of what had been many disparate movements – wilderness and wildlife preservation, anti-pollution, opposition to freeways, worker safety, etc. – into a unified “big tent” environmental movement that led to an environmental revolution.

Earth Day 1970

More than two dozen environmental acts were passed in the wake of Earth Day, laws to strengthen protections for clean air and clean water, the Endangered Species Act, the law that mandates environmental impact statements for large projects.  It was the foundation for the environmental protections we have today. Earth Day planted the seeds of my own work as a sustainability writer and advocate from the 1980s to today.

A young man was there that day.  I’m sure he was on stage but I can’t say I recall him.  It was Denis Hayes, the first organizer of Earth Day.  He was travelling by train up the East Coast with Muskie, Ginsberg and the crew visiting different rallies. I later made my way to Seattle and came to know Denis as president of the Bullitt Foundation. Denis has wryly shared with me his ironic feelings about being primarily known for something he did in his 20s. But those in the know understand he’s done a lot more since.

As Jimmy Carter’s solar energy head, Denis shaped what is now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  When Ronald Reagan came in to rip the solar panels Carter had installed off the White House roof and tear down the renewable energy programs Carter had started, Denis successfully preserved the core of the most important research efforts. We owe a great deal of today’s clean energy revolution to the seeds he planted, and saved.

As president of Bullitt Foundation, Denis was a seminal funder of climate work in the Northwest, how I got to know him.  Safe to say without important start-up and continuing funding from Bullitt the regional climate movement would not be the powerful presence it is today.

Over recent years Denis led construction of the world’s greenest office building, the Bullitt Center, which generates its own energy from a solar roof and its own water from a rain-gathering system.  It is a true zero-energy building.  He also has a new book out, Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment.

Though most people might know Denis from Earth Day, clearly he’s never stopped being a sustainability pioneer.  So it was a pleasure to see him give a short talk at the Earth Day Climate Action Festival at Seattle Central College on this 45th Earth Day.  Under a sunny sky, and appropriately for the heavily youthful crowd, Denis called on a new generation to seize the day.

2015 Earth Day at Seattle Central College

2015 Earth Day at Seattle Central College

“Today we’re talking about passing the torch to a new generation,” he started.  “That has probably never happened in history.”

Instead, the new generation is going to have to wrestle the torch out of the grasping fingers of those who hold it now.  Much as his and my generation had to seize its own day, “The new generation is going to have to struggle.”

Denis overviewed the environmental crisis that was emerging in the years before the first Earth Day, pollution, pesticides, freeways ripping through cities, and compared it to China today.  These were national struggles that yielded national victories.

“What you have facing you today is very different that what was facing us,” he noted.  “You’re addressing global issues,” such as climate, ocean acidification, overfishing, migratory species. To address these, “We have to come together not as a nation, but as a people.”

Denis called to a moral obligation to stand up for the poorest. “Those who have done the least to change the planet will suffer the most.”

“The important stuff is always done by young people,” Denis said to the young crowd.  “This is not just a rally.  This is the beginning of a revolution.”

Truly we need as profound a global sustainability revolution as the environmental revolution spurred by the first Earth Day.  And many young people are coming to the fore to make it happen.  Denis is still in the fight, and so I am and many of our generation.  But it is the young who are our hope and inspiration.  You will seize the torch, and our aging bodies will keep up with you as long as we can.  Now as then – For the Earth.

–Patrick Mazza


Reprinted with permission from Cascadia Planet.

Next East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza meeting is March 19

Everyone is cordially invited to learn more about this new public space in Eastlake on Thursday, March 19, beginning at 6:30 p.m, at the TOPS-Seward School Library, 2500 Franklin Avenue East.  Please come and see the design for this new public space and meet your neighbors!

The public visioning portion of the East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Project kicked off on December 11, with a spirited, two-hour Open House meeting of 45 active and engaged members of the Eastlake community, followed by a second Open House on February 5, during which 55 community participants further refined ideas presented and discussed in December.

Facilitated by Debi Frausto and HBB Landscape Architecture, with assistance from members of the project’s Steering Committee, a broad cross-section of Eastlake residents spent time in small groups, brainstorming ideas for the new plaza and sharing their preferences, before coming together as a larger group to vigorously discuss possibilities for this iconic community space.

The finished project will complete the link between Capitol Hill and Lake Union’s Cheshiahud Loop Trail, via the popular East Howe Steps and a thorough revamping of the E. Howe Street Right-of-Way between Eastlake and Fairview Avenues, which passes between two forthcoming developments and will culminate in a new East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza.

Concepts discussed during the first Open House included the notions of a “front porch” for the Eastlake neighborhood—a flexible site that can readily support quiet relaxation, vigorous exercise, and public gathering—and of an “iconic space” that will be both memorable and engaging for the entire Eastlake Community and visitors to the neighborhood.

02 05 15The Front Porch Concept jpg

Steering Committee members and project lead, Brian Ramey, were “stunned by the immediate and overwhelmingly favorable consensus” of the first Open House. The entire committee was also very pleased by the large turnout.

The numerous ideas presented were carefully documented throughout the event and further discussed during subsequent Steering Committee meetings that led into the rousing second Open House on February 5, at which three design concepts were presented and discussed.

The 55 attendees were encouraged to frankly assess three distinct HBB conceptual designs, then freely “mix and match” from those alternatives by recombining the elements each most wanted to see in the new public space. The eventual results provided HBB with a vivid framework for a final design that will incorporate the most desirable elements of all three alternatives into a community preferred concept that best utilizes the available space, while still meshing well within the context of the adjacent developments and Fairview Avenue East.

The design concepts examined during the February 5 Open House included “The Porch,” a curvy design that flows from an elevated “porch” overlooking the water, through terraced steps and into a traditional plaza; “Playfully Active,” which places a “catwalk/perch” above a variety of witty and playful elements at various elevations, allowing lots of flexible and fun uses for all ages; and “Avenue of Lights,” which includes a dazzling use of lighting, color, and various reflective surfaces above, along, and directly underfoot within the pathway, to create a series of “rooms” and a strong connection through the space.

Each design also included varied seating options which could accommodate “exercise stations,” along with extensive landscaping that promises to minimize the amount of paved “hardscape” in an area that is currently little besides pavement and concrete.

Another goal is to create a safe, vibrant, and well-integrated crossing between the plaza and the well-known Cheshiahud Loop Trail, directly south across Fairview Avenue East.

Ultimately, “The Porch” proved a runaway favorite as the overall design concept, while both flexible, inventive lighting and the catwalk/perch idea found broad support and will be integrated into HBB’s final design in some form. The importance of the Fairview Avenue crossing was an additional component that emerged repeatedly during group discussion and will also be addressed in the final conceptual plan.

The upcoming third East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Open House is intended to present the final result of the community visioning: A conceptual design that fits the space and that will be acceptable to all of the stakeholders, including the East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Steering Committee, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, the Seattle Parks Foundation (the plaza project’s fiscal agent), and the adjacent private property owners, culminating in a new treasure for the greater Eastlake Community.

Please join us at TOPS-Seward School on Thursday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m., and bring your neighbors. The atmosphere will be friendly and fun. Don’t miss out!

You can reach the members of the East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Project Steering Committee via:

E-mail: easthowesteps@gmail.com

Mail: 117 East Louisa Street #187, Seattle WA 98102

Phone: 206-271-4744

There’s also a website: easthowestepsplaza.com

East Howe Steps, Seattle Parks Foundation donation page

East Howe Steps, Facebook Page


By Tom Kipp on behalf of the Project Steering Committee


Apartments and retail next to perch at old Red Robin site?

The Daily Journal of Commerce reported Thursday that developers Michael Heijer and Robert Hardy are eyeing the old Red Robin site at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. for a 63 unit apartment complex with 1,800 square feet of retail on the first floor and 15 underground parking spaces.

Original Red Robin restaurant at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. Photo by cdmilton

Original Red Robin restaurant at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. Photo by cdmilton

The Eastlake Community Council is holding a public meeting about this site as well as another at 2203/2209 Eastlake Ave. E. on Monday, Feb 2, at TOPS Seward School, 2500 Franklin Ave. E. from 7 to 9 p.m.

If you miss that meeting, according to DJC, another design review for the Red Robin site will be held at Seattle University in the Case Commons Building, room 500E, on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.

Red Robin flew the coop in 2010 when owners of the chain closed the original restaurant location despite its popularity and historical significance. The building remained empty with talk over the years of a new restaurant or even perhaps a market. Likely the building’s maintenance problems that the chain’s owners said were too costly to upgrade also hindered any new occupant. A 2007 sink hole in the parking lot probably didn’t help sell the site either.

Red Robin site after demolition this summer. Photo by Rick Miner

Red Robin site after demolition this summer. Photo by Rick Miner

The restaurant had an illustrious history becoming one of Seattle’s early business successes in the 1970’s and 80’s. And it had a sort of Seattle grittiness before morphing into something more family friendly and becoming a household name. The original Red Robin was a tavern and its mascot a joint-smoking cartoon red robin.

Smokin' Red Robin mural. Photo by cdmilton

Smokin’ Red Robin mural. Photo by cdmilton

The Eastlake Ave Blog reported on the Red Robin closure and wondered if the outdoor sign or any other piece of the building would go to MOHAI. Still waiting to hear.


East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Project: Connecting Capitol Hill, Eastlake and Lake Union

Everyone is cordially invited to learn more about this new public space in Eastlake that will unite the historic East Howe steps on Capitol Hill with a new path across Eastlake Avenue and down to Fairview Ave. and the Cheshiahud trail on Lake Union. Share visions of what might be, during a public open house on Thursday, December 11, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the TOPS Seward Alternative Public School library (located at 2500 Franklin Ave. E.). Two more open houses with different objectives are scheduled, so please put all three on your calendars. They are February 5 and March 19 also at TOPS, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Come ready to show your creative side, as we work together to create this vibrant new public plaza!

A group of dedicated Eastlake residents formed the Lake Union Neighborhood Council over 10 years ago for the sole purpose of working toward the creation of the East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza. Recently, with the support of the Eastlake Community Council, the Lake Union Neighborhood Council applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

The East Howe Steps selection committee, after a very crowded application process (9 applications), selected the Landscape Architect firm, HBB, who will eventually lead the neighborhood to the design of The East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza.

This innovative community project will—among many other things—complete the pedestrian connection between the Cheshiahud Loop Trail along Lake Union and 10th Avenue East on Capitol Hill, via the well-known East Howe Steps, which begin underneath Interstate 5, at the west edge of Colonnade Park. These well-used steps continue upward across Lakeview Boulevard and Broadway Avenue East to North Capitol Hill, near Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Volunteer Park, and the Seattle Preparatory Academy.

In this satellite view of E. Howe St. you can see where the public right of way would extend, between the dotted parallel lines, linking Fairview  Ave. and Eastlake Ave. A public plarea would be at the Fairview Ave. end.

In this satellite view of E. Howe St. you can see where the public right of way would extend, between the dotted parallel lines, linking Fairview Ave. and Eastlake Ave. A public plarea would be at the Fairview Ave. end.

The project will be built in the East Howe Street Right-of-Way, between Eastlake Avenue East and Fairview Avenue East, through what is currently the parking lot of the former Don Eduardo’s Mexican restaurant

HBB concepts

HBB concepts

The project will be built in the landing area where the East Howe Street Right-of-Way (ROW) meets the Fairview Avenue East ROW now public parking. The Lake Union Neighborhood Council has been working over the last 10 years with the City and the adjacent private property owners to develop the eastern 100 yards of the East Howe Steps as a pedestrian way between Fairview Avenue East and Eastlake Avenue East. Most of the costs of construction for this segment is being paid for by the adjacent private property owners. The East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza project will establish a broad public landing space south of 1910 Fairview Avenue East and will complete the link for Capitol Hill with the Cheshiahud loop trail.

Longtime Eastlake resident Brian Ramey has been working with his neighbors to complete the connection between Lake Union and Capitol Hill since the early-1980s, when he and other Eastlake residents convinced the City and the State Department of Transportation not to construct a proposed 1500-unit mini-warehouse building beneath the Interstate 5 freeway overpass, where Colonnade Park is now located.

Mr. Ramey subsequently conceived the idea of a public stairway and plaza that would reclaim and transform over 9000 square feet of city property in the specified section of the East Howe Street Right-of-Way (an area which is 30 feet wide and approximately 100 yards long, fanning out dramatically as it approaches Fairview Avenue East and the Cheshiahud Loop Trail), and has been working with private developers in pursuit of that goal.

More recently, he successfully sought the initial grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, and recruited a wide-ranging, volunteer Steering Committee of neighborhood residents to shepherd the project toward successful completion.

Seattle Parks Foundation is the fiscal agent for the East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza grant through the Lake Union Neighborhood Council, and has a web page devoted to helping the Lake Union Neighborhood Council raise the necessary funds to design and build the plaza.

The initial planning stage includes a six-month “visioning process,” coordinated and led by HBB Landscape Architecture, a Seattle firm selected from among nine applicants to design an approach to what will become a unique public space in the Eastlake neighborhood. HBB’s project manager is Juliet Vong, who will be assisted by HBB designer Arielle Farina Clark and Debi Frausto, a well-regarded public facilitator.

By next spring the visioning process based on input from residents of the Eastlake community, local businesses, and property owners will determine what design elements to include in the East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Project.

Input will be gathered during three public events beginning with the Thursday, December 11“kick-off” open house from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, in the library of TOPS at Seward School located at 2500 Franklin Avenue East.

The Steering Committee is determined that the final result will be a fusion of great design and everyday functionality—a comfortable place for private contemplation as well as spirited public events; a strikingly beautiful addition to the Eastlake neighborhood that fits seamlessly with its rich history; and a memorable public space that can be enjoyed by all the residents of Eastlake on a year-round basis, at all times of day or night!

The Steering Committee envisions numerous forms of ongoing public outreach—a series of public events to solicit ideas and opinions from a broad segment of local residents; printed informational posters and flyers; notices and information on local blogs and websites; and features in both neighborhood and citywide press.

In addition, members of the Steering Committee will be available to answer questions at all three planned public forums, as will members of the HBB team and other interested parties, including representatives of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Brian Ramey is the primary contact for The East Howe Steps Gateway Plaza Project. He can be reached at easthowesteps@gmail.com, via mail at 117 East Louisa Street #187, Seattle WA 98102 or phone: 206-271-4744

There’s also a website: easthowestepsplaza.com and Facebook page: East Howe Steps.

By Tom Kipp, on behalf of the Project Steering Committee

A version of this article was first published in the Eastlake News, the Eastlake Community Council’s newsletter.



Cheshiahud Loop named “Best Urban Running Loop” by Seattle Weekly

Despite criticism early on for making poor connections, the Cheshiahud Loop was named “Best Urban Running Loop” by Seattle Weekly in their August 6 issue. Take that Green Lake! Noting the close-in trail is:

 …an almost exact 10K (or 6.2 miles) that takes you across the University and Fremont Bridges, with water always on your left. (Remember you must run counter clockwise, as on a track.)… Along the way are Gas Works Park, the new Lake Union Park, and numerous street-end parks – so you can stop and rest on a bench if so inclined. (p. 22)


Other notable area “Best of’s” were:

Amazon – Best Building Plans  While “evil and really shitty to book publishers,” they gets points for “moving the ugly ‘giant shiny box’ aesthetic that’s plagued Seattle’s  new development toward the way cooler ‘Ecotopia’ aesthetic the city should capitalize on.” (p.27)

 Sushi Kappo Tamura – Best Japanese “Ippins” “…small plates both hot and cold” to eat before ordering sushi. (p. 33)

Shanik – Best Happy-Hour Menu “The restaurant offers 20% off the bar menu, with miniature versions of the restaurants best dishes…” (p. 35)

Westward – Best Place for a First Date “Toast oysters and watch the sunset behind the city skyline.” (p. 36)

 Little Water Cantina – Best Outdoor Drinking “In the heat of a Seattle summer, what you really want is a well-made margarita, some chips, and something to stare at. Little Water Cantina delivers on all three counts.” (p.46)

Congrats to all the winners!


Putting the “sea” in Seattle

Here’s a recent post on Patrick’s Cascadia Planet site — a future where all the earth’s ice has melted (Union Narrows, anyone?):

I’ve been peering out at Queen Anne Hill from my Eastlake Seattle window for some time wondering what the hill would look like on an ice-free planet, Lake Union long having become part of Puget Sound.  I’ve played with a map tool to envision the contours of Queen Anne Island and the Seattle Island chain.  Now Spatialities has done ice-free planet maps for Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles, and they are selling them at their site. Here are Cascadia’s future Seattle and Portland Islands if we are so foolish as to continue on our current trajectory. (Click on the maps for larger size.) These are beautiful depictions of a horrendous future.  May they help motivate us not to go there.  (p.s. I’m about 10 stories underwater by then.)



A few years back I even wrote some lyrics on the topic. Here they are:


Take the ferry boat
To Queen Anne Island
Puget Sound’s a moat
All around is a fried land

Aurora fell down
Dead of suicide
In the waves it drowned
When the ice caps fried

Used to be a lake
Down there somewhere
Until the ice break
In the hot summer air

The lake was my home
Beyond were the mountains
But the future was blown
Cause we were not accountin’

With our gaseous spew
We boiled the oceans
Cared for by too few
We set it in motion

City once here
Now flushed down the drain
Old hilltops appear
Island chain remains

Live on Capitol
Take the Beacon boat
We have paid the toll
We have cut our throat

This year’s South Lake Union Block Party benefits the Cornish College for the Arts, which is coming on its 100th year this November.

The block party features food-sampling tickets to some of SLU’s favorite eateries like Shanik, Kigo Kitchen and La Toscanella. There’ll also be food trucks, beer garden, burger grilling contest, lots of music, activities for kids, and an outdoor movie to top it all off, School of Rock, preceded by a performance by the Seattle Rock Orchestra.

All happening one day only, Friday, August 8, noon to 11 pm at Denny Way and Westlake Ave. N.


With apologies to Thomas Jefferson: A Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels

Lake Union writer Patrick Mazza pens a new call, a declaration this July 4th for 100% renewable energy.  Reprinted from his blog Cascadia Planet:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to dissolve the bands which have tied us to fossil fuel dependence and to power our world fully on nature’s renewable energy, a decent respect to the opinions of humanity requires that we should declare why.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people possess certain unalienable rights, that among these are the protection of our own survival, freedom to have a future, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and our children. That to secure these rights we create energy systems that derive their support from those who use them. That fossil fuel has become destructive of those ends.  Thus it is the right of the people to abolish fossil fuel as an energy source and to create the fully renewable energy system that is most likely to effect our survival, freedom and happiness.

Fireworks sketch by Karen Berry

Prudence dictates that energy sources long established should not be changed for light and transient causes. And experience shows that our economic system is more disposed to continue with dependence on coal, oil and natural gas while it seems that impacts can be managed, than to right itself by abandoning the fossil fuel dependence to which it is accustomed.  But when a long train of fossil industry abuses invariably pursues the same object, to hold us under economic dependence to polluting, climate-destroying fuels, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off fossil fuel dependence and create a 100% renewable energy economy that ensures our future security.

Apologies to Thomas Jefferson.  But I think the lead author of the original Declaration would appreciate the spirit of independence from fossil fuels.  Jefferson looked to a land of self-producers, and 100% renewable energy will distribute energy production throughout communities.  It will empower us.

The 100% call can now be made because solar, wind, electric vehicles, smart grids, energy storage and other clean technologies are becoming economically practical alternatives to fossil energy. Tipping points have been reached, costs are coming down, and utility executives are losing sleep.

Several groups have risen to carry the 100% Renewables message.

The Solutions Project is built on the work of Stanford scientist Mark Jacobsen, who has developed a 50-state all renewables scenario.

Renewables 100 Policy Institute has developed scenarios and roadmaps for the 100% strategy.  Go 100% Renewable Energy is the group’s public campaign.

Global 100%RE joins a number of international energy organizations in a global campaign.

100% Renewable Energy should be the clarion call and the battle cry of all who care for our nation, our world and our children’s future. The urgent necessity to rapidly reduce carbon emissions says we must set this goal, and gear all our work and strategies to achieve 100% as rapidly as possible.

100% Renewable Energy is not just about climate.  It’s about prosperity, building new industries and creating new jobs with clean, domestic energy sources.  This opens doors across the spectrum. Energy independence has broad appeal.

100% Renewable Energy is profoundly about saying, “Yes.”  About putting a positive vision in the foreground. Declaring the kind of world we want and how to make it.  Of course 100% must be in the context of building a more energy efficient economy overall.  This will allow us to reach the goal even faster.

So let us dissolve our dependence on fossil fuels and declare our right to 100% Renewable Energy.  To this end let us mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our honor as human beings who care about our future and our kids.

100% Renewable Energy Now!