Monthly Archives: May 2015

It will be a surprise at least for the moment

Artist Jennifer Dixon who’s been hired to create the public art for the Westlake Cycle Track doesn’t know yet what it will be, but if it’s like any of her other art work, it’s sure to be delightful.

The cycle track, which is in no way controversial, ahem, will be a two-way, 1.2 mile path that runs along the walkway near the lake. It will start just after the Fremont Bridge and end at Lake Union Park. It will displace about 10 to 20 percent of the parking along Westlake and will be started this November with completion scheduled for early next year. The artist’s job is to fit the public artwork in along with the construction.

Jen Dixon at MOHAI Meet the Artist Open House

Jen Dixon at MOHAI Meet the Artist Open House

There is public artwork all along Westlake now, Spur Line, by Maggie Smith. Parts of Spur Line will be relocated to make way for the bike path, said Dixon, at an artist reception and open house Tuesday night at MOHAI. That artwork reflects the history of the area and lake she noted, adding, there isn’t a whole of room for her to work with, so she may do something at either end of the path.

Dixon’s past work is whimsical and fun playing off flip books and amusement parks. Will she create something equally quirky to entertain on Westlake? Something that might be an engaging compliment to Spur Line?

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Reflecting on everything the lake represents from native people to the modern day, “The lake is a jewel,” she said, “in the middle of Seattle.”

 

Ideas for High Capacity Transit between Roosevelt and South Lake Union

In case you missed it, the city of Seattle held two open houses this week to get public input on the concept of high capacity transit, either rapid street car or rapid-ride bus service, from Roosevelt to South Lake Union. It would run down Eastlake Ave. The city is also looking at where bicycle routes should go on the segment, as Eastlake may be getting pretty crowded.

The point is to get the HCT in place when Link light rail opens at Roosevelt Station in 2021. That may seem like a ways away, but in transit development time that’s like the blink of an eye.

People

There were no firm plans; the city was just gathering input and with that would develop several concepts and then narrow those down for further public input, likely in November.

Plenty of people were at the open house Tuesday in the U. District. I can only assume that a like number were at the open house in South Lake Union the night before.

The city staff members were taking suggestions, talking to people and encouraging them to write ideas down on post-it notes and place them on a map of the segment.

If you have an idea – bike route, station stops, etc., it’s not too late to let the city know. “There is no firm deadline for public comment at this point,” wrote Alison Townsend, Transit Strategic Advisor, in an email. “But, if you want your ideas considered as we begin developing alternatives, sooner rather than later would be better. We will probably dive into alternatives in about 2 weeks. So, if you could get your ideas in the next few weeks, that would be great.”

Send ideas to:

roosevelttodowntown@seattle.gov

More information:

www.seattle.gov/transportation/roosevelthct.htm

Some open house signage:

Narative

 

Flowchart

 

 

Can this house (and garden) be saved?

Some things keep Cass Turnbull up at night. The fate of the historic Bittman House at 4625 Eastman Ave. in Wallingford is one. She wrote a blog post about it for Wallyhood:

It’s keeping me up at night thinking that a developer is going to raze the garden, chop down her Heritage Trees and bulldoze that wonderful house–the likes of which will never be made again in Seattle…

A lot of other people are losing sleep over it as well. The post has gotten 249 recommends and 68 comments so far.

At the time the post was published, April 23, the home was in limbo, the owner, Marilyn Bechlem, had recently died and Cass who had been Ms. Bechlem’s gardener grew worried that this house would slip through everyone’s radar and be demolished for Seattle’s latest construction boom.

Marilyn’s Wallingford house is a sort of legend among neighbors. People have wondered for many decades who owns that house, and what is hidden by the overgrown trees and shrubs. It has the air of a mansion in a romantic novel and it has cast a spell over many people.

The house is now for sale with a gentle "No Trespassing" sign on the gate.

The house is now for sale with a gentle “No Trespassing” sign on the gate.

Neighbors have rallied under the spell of this house with an outpouring of love and nostalgia for it, its owners, and the garden. A landmark nomination form was quickly written up and submitted. Talk of crowd sourcing to pay for the over 50 years of deferred maintenance was bantered about. People pledged their time in the form of free labor for work around the place. People who had walked by and never noticed the home before were in awe. A Wallingford gem had been discovered.

The house was designed and built by Henry W. Bittman, a famous Seattle architect, whose work, writes Caterina Provost-Smith in Shaping Seattle Architecture, “adorned the north end of Seattle’s downtown with a string of terra-cotta jewels and contributed more than 250 new and remodeled buildings to business and civic districts throughout Washington and Alaska.”

He is best known for the United Shopping Tower, now the Olympic Tower, an historic landmark, and the Terminal Sales Building. He is also responsible for the King County Court House and Eagles Temple.

The Tudor house at 4625 Eastman Ave. is believed to be his “first foray into residential architecture.” He built if for himself and his wife, Jessie, “an active, college-educated woman and an award-winning horticulturist,” writes Provost-Smith. The gardens she planted on the property’s .33 acres were the ones Cass would eventually tend.

For the Bittmans, who never had children, the house was a social gathering place, where they entertained lavishly. Notes Provost-Smith, “They crowned each year with an elaborate New Year’s Eve party, where, at the stroke of midnight, a specially designed dining table would split open and a sculpture commemorating the year would arise and revolve.”

Today hidden within the overgrown garden the house is like a battered time capsule. It’s little changed from the time when the Bittman’s lived in it over a half a century ago.  True,

The copper downspouts have been stolen, the irrigation doesn’t work, there is a tarp over the greenhouse, the walkway is buckled, a concrete retaining wall leans outward toward the ally.  But that neglect also means that everything is still original. The gutters are made of wood. The shingles are wood. There are original appliances in the kitchen. The outside is nice but the impressive part is inside–there is a painted mural and leaded windows, incredible wood work, vaulted ceilings, and bay windows in the study that open outward….

Beneath the wood-beamed Cathedral ceiling, amongst the stain glass windows and doors, between the original light fixtures and sconces, are murals of Lake Union, how it looked before all the development, how it must have looked just as Seattle was rising.

I only got brief looks inside the house because Marilyn (only the second owner of the house) was an extremely private woman. Even those neighbors with whom she spoke regularly were never allowed inside. As I entered the living room for the first time, I stopped, looked around and said, “Wow.” Marilyn said, “People always say that.” I took in what I could while following Marilyn to the underground garages to get to the water shut off (I was going through a secret passage!). She took me upstairs to the bedroom so I could see if we could improve the view from her tiny balcony (a real balcony!).

The heirs to the house also spoke up in the comments section of the blog both surprised by the neighborhood outpouring and a little taken aback. They explained it was complicated estate, but they were on it and considering the house in light of what their sister and aunt would have wanted.

Long before seeing the inside of the house  I had fallen  in love with the garden, which was why I had been hired. It had been totally overtaken by invading holly, laurel, Oregon grape, blackberries, and vines. Beneath it all hid a collection of perfect, 60-year-old ornamental shrubs and trees. My crew and I worked there one day a month for over a year to dig it out. It was the secret garden, and it was my job to restore it to Marilyn’s satisfaction—not an easy task. It was both hard and delicate work. Marilyn liked the overgrown look and was quite protective of every plant that the original owner, Mrs. Bittman, had planted there. Marilyn, a spry 82 year old,  knew where each plant was and would walk fearlessly through the tangle on uneven ground to show us things and to check on our work. She could hear a comment made 15-feet away. So it was quite a challenge.

The house is up for sale now, and the chief selling point is, fortunately, not the development rights, but the history.

(Click the following link to view the listing and lots of great photos of the property:
http://www.matrix.nwmls.com/DE.asp?ID=14286202580 After you open it up click on the small camera.)

As pricy as the house is, a cool $1,800,000, plus the cost of all the needed improvements to bring it into the 21st century, new wiring, plumbing, some new configuration inside too, it has one modern selling point–in the form of three classic garages. For a house that has a walkability rating of 90 that’s a lot of parking.

But Cass is still nervous, she worries that potential buyers will split up the property, keep the house but sell off the two plots beside it to pay for the renovation. “That would be a terrible shame,” she writes.  “The two really need to be kept together, like an old married couple.”

If that happen, says Cass, if they stay together and both house and garden get landmark status, “Then I’ll sleep like a baby forever.” A lot of other people will rest easy too.

 

A double garage (pictured) and a single garage are part of the property.

A double garage (pictured) and a single garage are part of the property.

This shook us up

Eric, a writer for the Wallyhood blog gives a good explanation of the three types of earthquakes that could rock Seattle:

Like Nepal, and unlike California, we live in a tectonic plate crumple zone. At a broad level, California and Oregon are shoving us into Canada.

That crumple action means you can expect one of 3 types of earthquakes here. The most frequent and least serious type is like the 2001 Nisqually quake — deep underground, with movement that will knock over brick chimneys, topple TV’s, and maybe collapse aging viaducts or a building in Pioneer Square.

The second type is a magnitude 9 mega quake that will happen when the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast moves, similar to what happened in Japan. If that goes you will feel very long lasting and powerful waves from side to side, with most of the danger being to older, taller structures, plus tsunami flood zones along the coast.

Finally, the most dangerous type of quake here in Seattle is a shallow quake nearby, most obviously along the Seattle Fault, with violent shaking leveling older buildings in large numbers.

The Seattle Fault most catastrophically ruptured in AD 900, causing West Seattle to rise up by 20 feet relative to Wallingford and triggering tsunamis in Puget Sound. Regardless of the type of quake, Wallingford is fairly lucky compared to other parts of Seattle. We are not in a slide zone and are not on top of an old lake bed that is likely to liquefy during the quake, so we won’t suffer from the worst amplified shaking.

See the whole post with images on Wallyhood. One person commenting says they’ll be using Green Lake in emergencies as a potable water source (using camping filters). Would Lake Union also work? Not likely according to another commenter, Anna, who experienced the Christchurch Earthquake and has this advice about being prepared:

1. All natural water bodies will be contaminated with raw sewage. If a big quake damages the sewer network, the least worst solution is to pump the overflows into the nearest natural water body (so it doesn’t back up through people’s toilets). IF water has to be trucked in, it will need to be boiled or treated before drinking, so you will be able to use your camping gear then. Just remember – you can’t filter whats not coming out of the tap. Have some bottled water in the house.

2. How will you get home? Multi-story parking garages will be off limits pending structural assements, so your car will be stuck for 2-3 months. Unless the city is training transit workers to be emergency responders, buses will probably stop (as it did in CHCH), trains will have to stop, pending line inspections. Christchurch (pop 400,000) is flat, with a regular grid of streets. Complete gridlock set in within 15 minutes. a half hour drive through the least affected parts of the city took 2-3 hours. Travel times into the worst areas were up to 12 times longer than usual.

3. Who will get the kids (or grandma)? All three million people in the area are going to be trying to check on thier families and friends. Don’t expect to get a dial tones. Texts will probably go through, but with long delays, and may arrive out of order. Have a plan you can implement without talking to your partner.

4. Keep some cash in the house. Even in a really big quake the city will not be uniformly flattened. some buildings will be fine and some will be destroyed. Those shopkeepers who can open, will, but they won’t be able to process plastic.

Finally, a ‘zombie apocalypse’ is funny joke, but it’s a poor model for disaster response. Humans are social animals. connecting with others is how we make sense of what we have experienced. Those who have come through in good shape will want to acknowledge their good fortune by lending a hand, but top-down emergency management organizations are ill-prepared to handle these impulses.

In case you missed it, Mossback’s piece on Crosscut provides a personal and historical look at Seattle’s past earthquakes. And for more unsettling insights, both Mossback and Eric recommend the book Full-Rip 9.0 .