Eastlake

Councilmember Pedersen draws a crowd for January 30 Eastlake Town Hall

Nearly 200 people turned out on a damp January night for a town hall meeting with District 4 Councilmember Alex Petersen. Transportation issues were the big draw at the Eastlake Community Council-sponsored meeting, but other topics ranging from homelessness to a progressive tax system also came up during the 90-minute meeting in the TOPS Seward school cafeteria.

The meeting format, set by Pedersen’s staff, had participants fill out index cards with a question. Detra Segar, ECC president, read questions and Pedersen answered.

One of the first questions was from Paul Proios, owner of the 14 Carrot Café on Eastlake Avenue East. And it perhaps set the tone for the meeting. Proios, a business owner who fears the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Rapid Ride project that eliminates parking on Eastlake Avenue East will put him out of business, asked if it was possible to find a compromise between bicycle lanes and parking.

Pedersen said the Rapid Ride Roosevelt J Line has been in the works for some time. He urged all attending the meeting to comment on the project to the Federal Transit Authority by the Feb. 14 deadline. “I am a proponent of more bus service,” Pedersen said, but added that he wanted to hear all viewpoints. He emphasized that he did not see Eastlake as a “corridor.”

There was a sizeable group from Seattle’s bicycle community also at the meeting. Several of the questions reflected their concerns about safety, connected bicycle routes and climate change. One flyer passed out said “We bike, walk, bus and wheel to Eastlake businesses.” 

Pedersen again said that whether attendees supported bike lanes or are a concerned business, comments should be sent to the FTA. In response to a later question, he said evaluation of bike lanes was crucial, adding that he would look at perhaps protected lanes in one area and “greenways” in another.

Another transportation question regarded parking on side streets, also a challenge in Eastlake because most side streets are hilly.

Pedersen said Eastlake is zoned 100 percent multifamily and, with previous new building changes that no longer required parking, parking is an issue. He said parking is heavily saturated and acknowledged that businesses also have concerns on loading zones. Segar, the ECC president, said that Restricted Parking Zone 8 in Eastlake is under review and may be expanded.

Lorelei Williams, SDOT Deputy Director Capital Project Delivery, said that the department has more to do. “We want to address the impacts,” she said. “We have heard the comments and are paying attention.”

Here is what Pedersen had to say on other issues:

Development:  Eastlake has grown rapidly in recent years but “we need to make sure we don’t knock down affordable housing.”  The city may not have been listening to Eastlake in the past but “we are listening.”  He said he was critical of the Mandatory Housing Affordability ordinance, since “it seemed to be a good deal for some developers but we are not getting the public benefit.”

Head tax:  He is “not a fan” because in part there was not a good plan for how money would be spent. The new regional authority on homelessness will have better credibility to ask for more funds.

Taxes:  Pedersen said he favored a “progressive’ tax system that was based on income. He said he would look at utility rates, which can be like regressive taxes, affecting lower income people more. He was also concerned about rising property taxes, especially their impact on older homeowners on a fixed income.

Metro Route 70:  Pedersen said “the 70 needs to be part of the conversation,” adding that “personally” he would keep both the 70 and the Rapid Ride buses. That brought a round of applause.

Crime:  Pedersen said the police force has not kept pace with the growth of the city. “There is no one solution,” he added.

RapidRide will transform Eastlake – for better or worse that is the question

Seattle’s proposed RapidRide bus line and bike lanes will transform Eastlake Ave., the main street though Eastlake, by removing all parking and reducing the flexible four lane street to two lanes only. Pushing out cars, the proposed plan creates more capacity for moving people into and out of Eastlake and connecting them to major transit routes.

About two weeks ago, we submitted a series of questions that just didn’t seem to be getting addressed in public meetings to the city’s RapidRide project manager; he in turn had them fielded by subject matter experts.

At the same time the Seattle Bike Blog has been running a series of posts shedding more light on the importance of the Eastlake bike route to bicycling throughout the region.

The Seattle Bike Blog posts and the city’s response to our questions, highlight the positive impact RapidRide and bike lanes could have on the Eastlake community (not to mention global warming). The city can’t promise that the changes will bring more prosperity to Eastlake businesses, but if more people filling the streets helps local businesses, then that is a likely outcome.

Before answering our questions the RRJ Team provided a summary of the project for those unfamiliar with it:

The RapidRide Roosevelt (J Line) Project will upgrade Route 70 to provide high-quality service connecting Downtown Seattle with the neighborhoods of Belltown, South Lake Union, Eastlake, University District, and Roosevelt. Proposed project improvements including transit priority lanes and signals, new RapidRide bus stations, new protected bicycle lanes, upgraded ADA curb ramps, and new pavement on Eastlake Ave E that will enhance speed, reliability, and safety for all. 

The city’s proposed plan is not a done deal by any means. It is currently in the federal Environmental Assessment process, which means the public can continue to weigh in on it pro or con. See the end of the question and answer section for more details.

And here are our questions and the city’s responses:

LUW: A lot of people think this plan—RapidRide and bike lanes that take away parking on Eastlake Ave. – will destroy Eastlake businesses. How do you respond to that? Are there other communities in Seattle or other cities with this type of infrastructure, bike lanes with RapidRide? How are their business districts faring?

RRJT: We’ve heard these questions frequently from Eastlake community members, and we certainly understand where that feeling is coming from. As the city grows, there are more demands on our transportation system, which means that moving throughout the city isn’t nearly as convenient or as easy as it was just ten years ago. While our overall priority is to ensure people have safe access to homes, goods and services, we also want to provide transportation options to the widest variety of people.

RapidRide J Line is being designed to prioritize safe, frequent and reliable transit travel. Separating bicycles from vehicle traffic addresses safety concerns and minimizes friction between modes. In addition, prioritizing transit and bicycle access over single-occupant vehicle traffic helps the city address our climate change goals.

That said, these new options may benefit Eastlake businesses. RapidRide is King County Metro’s highest level of investment in service, amenities, speed and reliability, and innovation. Like Link light rail or the Seattle Streetcar, RapidRide is planned as permanent, high-quality transit infrastructure in local communities that transit riders can rely on. And due to transit investments planned throughout the corridor, our modeling shows that transit ridership is expected to double in 2024, providing more opportunities for riders to easily and efficiently access Eastlake businesses.

We’ve reviewed studies in neighborhood commercial areas that are similar to Eastlake assessing business impacts from the removal of on-street parking and the addition of bicycle facilities. These studies have found that there can be benefits for businesses as a result of new bicycle lanes even with the removal of on-street parking, and the change may not negatively affect businesses.

One example is the Toronto Center for Active Transportation’s report Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business: A Study of Queen Street West in Toronto’s Parkdale Neighborhood that reviewed case studies across Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand and found that “those arriving by bicycle or walking visit more often and spend more money overall” than people who drive. For more information about these studies see the Environmental Assessment.

Within the past several years, protected bicycle lanes have been installed along Westlake Ave N and 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle, NE 65th St in Roosevelt, and on Roosevelt Way NE in Roosevelt and the U-District. While there are variety of changes along all those corridors that can be partially explained by the changing dynamics of a rapidly growing city, there remain a wide variety of successful businesses and restaurants along each of those corridors.

LUW:  There is huge concern that RR will make Eastlake even more of a thoroughfare to downtown – a transit corridor – rather than a neighborhood with a thriving business district?  Businesses don’t really see most of their customers coming by bus – typically they’re driving or walking. Can you comment on what the vision is for connecting neighborhoods?

RRJT: RapidRide J Line is designed to connect neighborhoods to Eastlake and counteract the “corridor effect.” In many cases, people who just want to pass through Eastlake will choose to ride Link light rail. While a primary design consideration of RapidRide J Line system is to connect to other major transit modes like Link light rail and the Seattle Streetcar, RapidRide J Line is also designed to help complete the city’s transportation network for transit, bicycle and pedestrian modes.

The combination of the changes to lane configurations, addition of protected bicycle lane, and the transit system improvements of RapidRide will help calm traffic through the Eastlake community and enhance the community feel. For example, buses on Eastlake Ave E will no longer pull over to let passengers board or exit; they’ll instead remain in-lane so all vehicle traffic will be behind the bus as passengers get on and off. This creates a natural ‘platoon’ of vehicles behind the bus travelling no faster than the bus. As the bus stops at a station, a gap ahead of the bus will allow vehicles turning to clear out ahead of the bus so the bus will be less impacted by traffic at intersections ahead of it. Access improvements like all-door boarding will also help speed up the boarding process to offset delays to other drivers.

While some may use RapidRide J Line to connect to light rail at the U-District or Westlake stations, others may travel to those stations to access Eastlake itself. Providing connections to other modes allows more people to safely and easily travel to the Eastlake community than before with seamless transit connections even to the airport. The project will also bring pedestrian improvements to connect to the new bus stations which will improve the overall pedestrian environment including upgrading ramps to meet ADA requirements and providing pedestrian-level lighting at the stations.

LUW: Talk about the parking mitigation that is being considered for Eastlake – how that would work? And loading zone mitigation?

RRJT: We’re reviewing a variety of options for parking mitigation for the Eastlake community. These mitigation strategies are included in the project’s Environmental Assessment, and should the project receive a Finding of No Significant Impact from the Federal Transit Administration, they will be an official commitment made by the project and will be tracked going forward.

  • Following direct briefings with Eastlake businesses conducted in July 2019, we are currently reviewing load zone opportunities throughout the Eastlake corridor. While other neighborhoods have similar constraints to Eastlake that they can work around, we recognize no two neighborhoods are the same and want to be sensitive to and reflective of Eastlake’s individual business needs.
  • Facilitating discussions to work with private businesses that may be interested, or able to, allow parking lots to be shared parking for other uses. Apps like Spot Hero, Curb Flip, BestParking, and ParkMe are increasingly making shared parking convenient and safe.
  • Considering adjustments to the Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) 8 to better ease parking congestion in the residential area and to address the needs of all curb space users in the area. This could include updating the time limit regulations and blocks that are covered by the RPZ. SDOT’s RPZ program includes extensive data collection and community engagement when making adjustments to RPZs. 

In addition, we will continue to work with businesses and residents to communicate on-street parking regulations and available commute options. There are a wide variety of commuting programs that SDOT and other area partners have developed that we can work with Eastside businesses and residents to adapt for the Eastlake community.

LUW:  RapidRide won’t go as directly into the U. District as the 70 now does – it will be a longer walk.  Why was that decision made?

RRJT: The project is planned to serve the U District Link light rail station, which will be a regional connection to the University District and the University of Washington. The line does not deviate to the east to serve the core of the UW campus because it is designed to travel in a more linear north-south pattern to provide fast connections to the U District Link station from the north and south. The University of Washington was involved in selecting the Link light rail station locations, so SDOT and King County Metro are mirroring those priorities. In addition, our initial ridership forecasting showed transit ridership would be higher with the planned route and stop locations compared to a route that deviates to the east as Route 70 currently does today. The J Line will also serve the western portion of the UW campus that extends to the west along NE Campus Parkway and NE 41st St.

King County Metro is currently leading the North Link Connections Mobility Project, which is an effort to identify future bus route changes after North Link light rail is open. This effort includes a review of east/west transit connections from the U District Link light rail station through the University of Washington. Depending on transit riders’ destinations on the campus, they may transfer to another route, walk or bike to their destination.

Finally, the University of Washington Master Plan shows planned campus expansion, which includes significant development on the west side of campus near RapidRide stations.

LUW:  The bike lanes will take away 350 parking spaces along Eastlake Avenue. Currently about 1,700 bicyclists cross the University Bridge daily – that’s expected to increase by how much when the protected bike lane is in place? Will electric scooters also be able to use the bike lane?

RRJT: The protected bicycle lane for Eastlake Ave E is designed to improve reliability and safety for people currently accessing Eastlake Ave E whether they’re in a car, on a bike, walking, or riding the bus. We certainly expect an increase in bicyclists as the all ages and abilities network continues to expand with key projects identified in the Bicycle Master Plan being completed. However, as the purpose and need of this project do not directly include increasing bicycle ridership, we have not performed a study of anticipated ridership increase. Our focus for this project has been on addressing safety of all transportation users including bicyclists.

SDOT is separately working on a scooter share pilot. This link has information about this new effort. One question we’re still examining internally is scooter access to protected bicycle lanes.

LUW:  For anyone concerned about climate change, this project seems to be a pivotal one that will have a positive impact on the environment. Can you elaborate more on that?

RRJT: Transportation is the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle, and reducing those emissions is a key goal as we work to address global climate change. Passenger vehicles and commercial trucks account for 62% of Seattle’s emissions. Growing transit ridership and reducing driving alone are critical to meeting Seattle’s climate change goals. Implementing all ages and abilities bicycle facilities also provides an alternative to driving alone and this project will provide a key segment of the bicycle network. Between 2010 and 2018, the city’s drive-alone rate in the center city dropped from 35% to 25%, while bicycle and pedestrian volumes have grown approximately 60% during the same period.

There is no room in Seattle for new infrastructure for single occupant vehicles, so our transportation investments must provide benefit for options that move the most people with the least environmental impacts.

RapidRide J Line would improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing the number of vehicle trips in the corridor compared to not building the project and using primarily electric trolley buses that do not produce tailpipe emissions.

Comment Period for the Environmental Assessment

The project is currently in a comment period for the Environmental Assessment and Section 4(f) Analysis. Comments can be left via the online comment form or mailed to Seattle Department of Transportation, 700 Fifth Ave, Suite 3800 (SMT-38-00), PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA 98124 attn: Darrell Bulmer. Comments must be postmarked or submitted by 5 PM on Friday, February 14, 2020.

New Large Development at 3101 Eastlake Ave. E.

Did the psychic reader see this coming?  Her house, the place next to her, and places south and in back (basically all small structures on the block south of Lake Union Café) will be demolished to make way for a seven story building with over 120 units (98 efficiency units and 28 small apartments, mostly studios, including two one-bedrooms). The preliminary design includes a retail street-level front of black glass along Eastlake Avenue.

The complex will have 21 underground parking spaces including some resident bike parking.

Deadline for public comment is January 2, 2019.

Project number is 3034445-LU  

The developer’s plan for the site is in this link under Attachments. It takes a moment for the attachments to load when you click on them. Then look for “Plan Set – Land Use.pdf.” (The pdf is 51 MB and too large to post here.)

These are the buildings along Eastlake Ave. E. that will be demolished along with a few houses behind them:

The Lake Union Cafe is not part of the project:

Lake Union Cafe stays.

There is a comment form for this project under Notice of Application.pdf.

Applicant contact: Lauren Garkel    206-782-8208

SDCI Planner  Wayne Farrens   206-727-8602

Written comments are encouraged and should be submitted to 

PRC@seattle.gov

Department of Construction & Inspections

ATTN Public Resource Center

P.O. Box 34019

Seattle WA 98124-4019

People who comment and provide an email address or return US mail address will be sent notice of any public meetings or hearings and notice of the SDCI decision with information on the right to appeal. All correspondence will be posted to the city’s electronic library.

Ride the Ducks are out – an expanded park is in

It happened ever so quietly after years of acrimonious debate and neighborhood lawsuits. Rather than build a private boat ramp next to Terry Pettus street-end park in Eastlake, Ride the Ducks sold its property to neighboring U.S. Seafood this year, who in turn is selling a portion, as planned, to the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. The sale to the city will nearly double the Terry Pettus street-end park’s size and will double the shoreline access. Expanding the park has been a neighborhood and Parks Department goal for over a decade.

According to Chip Nevins of the Department of Parks and Recreation, who presented the acquisition legislation to the Civic Development, Public Assets, Native Communities Committee meeting Wednesday, Dec. 4, the Parks Department tried to buy the adjacent property in 2006 and 2008. NOAH, a tenant, vacated the space in 2010, and Ride the Ducks bought the property in 2012. But there was little support for a Ride the Ducks operation in Eastlake.

The neighboring Floating Homes Association, Eastlake Community Council and the Log Foundation took Ride the Ducks to court in 2015, gaining only minor concessions on reduced noise through the area.

But other forces were also at work, as the legislative action noted, “Due to recent liabilities related to the crash on the Aurora Bridge, Ride the Ducks decided to sell the property.”

U.S. Seafood and the city worked together to acquire the property.

“It’s really a great win-win for both the business community and the neighborhood,” said Nevins, who has also been working on preliminary design concepts with neighborhood groups for redeveloping the current park and now adding to it.  With more public meetings to come, the design will be finalized so that cost estimates can be included in the city’s next six-year budget cycle.  Construction of the park is expected to begin in 2021.

“Increased park space in urban village areas and public access to bodies of water are a priority in our public space acquisition strategy,” said Christopher William, Deputy Superintendent.  Alex Pedersen, District 4, City Council Representative joined the committee for this action and noted, “The unity around this project is amazing. I heard a lot about it over the last year or two. People are very excited.”

The Civic Development, Public Assets, Native Communities Committee will be recommending approval of this acquisition legislation to the full City Council on Monday; it’s expected to sail through.

The Committee meeting can be viewed on the Seattle Channel with the Terry Pettus action at about the 50-minute mark.

Featured sketch of Terry Pettus street-end park by Karen Berry.

The Borders of Eastlake Photography Project

As a project for the Eastlake News, local photographer, Matt Maberry, is doing a series on the borders of Eastlake. The Eastlake News is the newsletter for the Eastlake Community Council; both came into being at the same time and will turn 50 in less than two years (2021). Because one of the first things discussed in the first newsletter were Eastlake’s borders, that seemed like a good photography subject as the ECC approaches its golden anniversary. The feature photo for this blog post is also the cover of the Eastlake News (Winter 2019-20) and is of the old City Light building, the southern border of Eastlake. (The southern border was chosen because of all the construction happening there, which is also emblematic of what is currently happening in Eastlake.) Photos of other angles of the southern border are below:

The front of the former City Light building viewed from Eastlake Avenue.
The little Hydro House adjacent to it is now a popular lunch spot.
Northern view.
Southern view.

Matt shot the photos on Cinestill 50D film using a Mamiya RB67 camera.

His article about the site is also published in the newsletter and below. (The next border subject is still to be determined.)

The neighborhood of Eastlake, nestled between the eastern shore of Lake Union and the I-5 corridor, also has distinctive northern and southern borders. These demarcations are adorned by the landmarks of the University Bridge, and the Lake Union Steam Plant, respectively. The latter is situated in the crook of Fairview Avenue East and Eastlake Avenue East, both of which are current sites of construction.

The story of the site on the southern end of Eastlake actually begins with the Cedar River Falls hydroelectric facility, which provided electrical power to Seattle’s homes starting in 1905. As power demand increased, additions to the Cedar River facility were planned, eventually culminating in a design to dam the river. The steam plant on Lake Union was first proposed as an ancillary source, creating electricity by means of coal-fed steam-driven generators. Due to construction lag time however, the adjacent hydro facility, which fed off the Volunteer Park reservoir, was constructed and began operation in 1912. The steam plant itself was finished in 1917. Additions were made in subsequent years until the current arrangement was realized in 1921. The iconic smokestacks carried away the byproduct of the coal firing.

The plant was decommissioned as a power supplier in 1984. Since 1990 it was home to ZymoGenetics until Fred Hutchinson leased the space in June 2018.

The building complex is currently flanked by roadwork on either side. Neither project is associated with preparations for the new lessor, however. When the steam plant was finished, Fairview Avenue did not yet exist. It was constructed later atop pilings. These pilings are now being removed and replaced, among other efforts to upgrade the roadway and meet current safety regulations. The road was closed on September 23, 2019. The project is slated to last for 18 months. A detour currently reroutes traffic along Eastlake Avenue East; however, the detour itself is stymied by various projects in that stretch, principally development of a building at 1165 Eastlake Ave. E.

The hydro plant and the steam plant received landmark status in 1987. The presence of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will usher in a new chapter of rich history for the site, as will the upgrades to Fairview Ave. and removal of the last major timber-supported bridge-roadway in the city.

Green Building meets Boys in the Boat

The first senior living center in Eastlake will also be the world’s greenest, according to its developer, giving Lake Union another notch on sustainable innovation around its shores. As the building looks toward the future, it also commemorates the past. Taking a page from the best seller Boys in the Boat, the building will pay tribute to the UW’s 1936 Olympic rowing team with a modern shell house design.  (The address was also changed to reflect that — 1936 Eastlake Ave.) The building, part of the Aegis Living portfolio of senior assisted living centers, broke ground this week at the corner of Eastlake Avenue and Newton Street.

Green building is a challenge for senior living centers, says Aegis representatives, because of the facilities’ continuous energy use due to being occupied 95 percent of the time. However, the company has found ways to meet that challenge.

According to Aegis’ press release:

The building is on track to be the first assisted living community to meet the most rigorous global green/sustainability building standards with a Living Building Challenge certification and is participating in the City of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program. In addition to a novel emission-free design approach, the organization developed new energy and water consumption benchmarks for the senior living category….

Built to be emission-free, Aegis Living Lake Union will use standard electricity to support the entire 70,000 square-foot building, including large appliances and kitchen equipment, significantly reducing overall environmental impact. The community will offset more than the building’s total energy demand through various energy reduction measures, an onsite solar array and an offsite solar energy farm. Key features include improved insulation such as triple pane windows and thermal insulation for exterior walls, heat recovery through forced-air ventilation, a recirculating heat pump system, LED lighting and sensors to monitor use, installation of all high efficiency appliances and more. The community will save approximately 320,000 kilowatt-hours annually – equivalent to planting more than 12,000 trees each year. Another 1.7 million kilowatt hours will be generated between the solar array and offsite energy farm.

All non-drinking water will be supplied through captured rainwater and treated greywater; the community will reserve potable water for consumption only. These measures will save more than 140,000 gallons of water annually for the life of the building.

Like most of the new construction on Eastlake Ave., the building will take advantage of the new height limits, standing six stories above ground and one story below.  The structure will have 79 units consisting of studios and one bedrooms; some will be memory care units. “Amenities include a spa/wellness center with a salon, massage parlor and fitness center,” according to the press release. “Signature for Aegis Living communities, residents will enjoy a variety of gathering spaces to spend time with family, friends and neighbors, including an onsite cinema and sky lounge and a terrace with views of Lake Union.”

Below ground will feature 18 parking spaces, 16 bicycle parking spaces, two loading docks and additional storage areas.

The street level will have an Aegis restaurant known as Queen Bee Café and open to the public. Aegis donates 100 percent of the profits from the café to local charities.

Although it won’t open until spring 2021, Aegis Living Lake Union is a taking resident applications now.

Trash Talkin’: a tour of Recology, is eye boggling and mind opening

“I love talking about trash,” says Jennifer Power. And she’s got the perfect job for that. She’s our tour guide for Seattle’s Recology, a recycling facility or MRF (Materials Recovery Facility).

We were meeting in a large conference room at Recology before the tour to talk about safety and what we would be seeing because once inside the facility it would be too loud for Jennifer to be heard.

 “Has everyone heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?” she asked passing around a jar of colorful plastic pieces floating in water. It’s the largest accumulation of plastics in the ocean (there are about five of them) and is about the size of the United States, she said. Plastic just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, but it never breaks down completely. Sea turtles eat the plastic pieces thinking they’re jelly fish. Microplastics are now everywhere, even in the air we breathe.

“They’re accumulating in our bodies and we don’t know what is happening with that,” she added.

So, what could we do? Avoid single use plastic for one and recycle the plastic we do use for another although that’s getting harder, we learned, as more and more plastic is mixed with other materials making it nearly impossible to separate out and recycle.

And did people hear about China not taking our recycling anymore, she asked. While that’s true Recology has found other markets for its recycling in India, Thailand, and the Philippines. And Recology, an employee-owned business, vets these markets carefully to ensure they are recycling, creating materials for new products, and not just dumping our recycling in a foreign landfill.

Cascading and flowing recycling

We put on our yellow vests and hard hats and entered the warehouse. It was loud as Jennifer warned and a surreal landscape of mountains of trash recycling that were being moved around and tumbling down like waterfalls onto conveyer belts that moved all around like rivers. Along the banks, workers stood in protective clothing continuously fishing out anything that didn’t belong. They rotated through jobs at the facility, said Jennifer, never spending more than a couple of hours at one task.

Sorting technology is ever changing with machines that can register what is recyclable and whisk it away. One plastics sorting machine uses lasers to identify the plastic it wants and shoots a gust of air at it to direct it to the proper conveyer belt. Other machines use magnets to pick out the metals.

After the tour, when we got back to the meeting room, there were more questions. One woman from a Capitol Hill artists’ co-op had brought a lunch sack full of items wanting to know what could be recycled. “Careful,” she warned as Jennifer opened the sack.

“I handle trash all day,” scoffed Jennifer, making everyone laugh.

The sack included the plastic pump from a bottle, non-recyclable, and a variety of wrappers made of different sorts of composite material, like mylar, that’s nearly impossible to recycle. The same was true of cosmetic tubes and cases — non-recyclable. A plastic prescription bottle could maybe be recycled at a pharmacy, but no one knew of any that did that. Disappointingly nothing the woman brought was recyclable. “Except,” said Jennifer, “this!” holding up the brown paper bag carrying the trash.

Someone asked how she stayed so upbeat in the face of a topic that seemed as overwhelming and intractable as, well, a landfill.

“If enough people care we can get to a better place to make decisions,” she said. And she sees a lot of hope with the younger generation. Studies have shown that when kids learn something, they can change their parent’s behavior, she noted, better than any campaign. Kids have a shaming effect on their parents – why aren’t we doing this Mom and Dad?

The kids say to her, “We don’t want the turtles eating plastic…”

Our tour was organized by Eastlake resident Olga Lazareva who wrote an article about recycling for the summer edition of the Eastlake News, a community newsletter. More than 12 people signed up for the July 18 tour; the goal was ten. “It was exciting to see that we were not alone in our quest for knowledge, but part of a full room of people who care about our environment and the planet,” said Olga later in an email.

Public tours are offered quarterly at Recology, check out their website.

What you can do:

Compost – this one is huge because food waste in a landfill doesn’t get the air and light necessary to biodegrade. In fact, about the opposite happens. Trashed food adds to climate change by creating methane gas. According to the EPA, “When food goes to the landfill, it’s similar to tying food in a plastic bag. The nutrients in the food never return to the soil. The wasted food rots and produces methane gas.”

And methane gas fuels global warming.

It’s counterproductive to put food waste in the garbage, put it in the compost where it can help rebuild the earth’s soil.

Keep your recycling clean and dry – Paper needs to be clean and dry, as do bottles, cans, and plastics. Please make sure not to leave your paper boxes out in the elements, otherwise, it can’t be recycled. This will make life easier for your recyclers and have the added benefit of keeping your recycling bins clean too!

Know that plastic recycling is complicated (but not impossible!) — not all plastics can be recycled even though they suggest that. But things like vitamin, ketchup, soda, water, milk, and detergent bottles can be recycled (hard plastics) as can plastic flower/plant pots. 

That ubiquitous soft plastic used to wrap water/soda bottles, bathroom tissue, produce, etc. can now be recycled at some supermarket drop off locations. To learn more, check out Plastic Film Recycling at plasticfilmrecycling.org

Buy bath items in bulk – items such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, bath salts, and lotion can be purchased in bulk at Central Market in Ballard or Aurora and at all PCC markets. Just bring your own container and fill up. Not only are you reducing plastic waste, these brands are also natural and eco-friendly.

Check out Ridwell, at ridwell.com, a new company that provides a recycling service similar to an old fashion milkman. They provide a box and bags for doorstep recycling. And every week pick up used batteries, lightbulbs, threads (old clothing, linen, shoes), and plastic film. They let you know of a rotating fifth category so you can plan ahead such as eyeglasses or wine bottle corks.

Review the guidelines from the city of Seattle “Where does it go?”  The city website has a lot of good information for diverting waste and saving money on your garbage bill. You can find out just about where every item needs to go to be disposed of on this site: seattle.gov/utilities/wheredoesitgo.  

Request a special item pick up Styrofoam blocks and used cooking and motor oil can be picked up for free by the same garbage truck that takes your garbage. Request a special item collection online on http://www.seattle.gov/utilities/services/garbage/garbage-at-home/special-collection, or call 206 684 3000. You’ll put those items on a curbside on the same day your garbage gets collected. 

Donate your clothes – Goodwill, Salvation Army and other places access old clothing and fabric. Let your clothes have a second chance!

Consume less

Aim for zero waste!

Photos by Olga Lazareva and Judy Smith. Sketches by Karen Berry. A longer version of this article first appeared in the Eastlake News fall 2019 edition. Olga Lazareva also contributed to this report.

The Flower Lady’s largest bouquet – the business is for sale

“What colors? What fragrance?” asked Vivian Darst when a customer walked into her shop The Flower Lady on Eastlake Ave. saying he wanted to spend $45 on a bouquet. There was a brief discussion of roses before she headed into the cooler full of flowers.

“She’s the best,” the man told me. He’d been coming for years. Did he know the shop was closing? No, he didn’t. It will be a huge loss, he added. “Where will I buy my flowers?”

Vivian came back, her hands full of pink and purple flowers; yes, the lease is up August 31 she told him. (It had been extended from April.) She was still trying to figure out what to do. A broker had brought her a potential buyer, but she didn’t know who it was or if it was going to go anywhere.

After about 10 minutes of arranging flowers and conversation, the man left with a spectacular bouquet and a hug.

This was going to be the hardest part, she said; she would miss her customers.

Vivian Darst at her shop arranging flowers.

The arrangement The Flower Lady would like best is to find a buyer who might also hire her as an occasional employee or consultant. She could help — giving the owner the luxury of vacations she never really got. She’d love to keep her hand in the business doing the floral designing and working with customers, but after 20 years of running the shop and recent rent increases, she’s ready to let someone else worry about making payroll and paying the bills.

Many people remember The Flower Lady’s first stand sprouting up in the mid-1970s at the vacant lot at the corner of Roanoke and Harvard. At that time, it was a scrappy business called Vivian’s Flowers run out of a van with buckets of flowers and a couple of sun umbrellas. (My younger sister got her first job there.)

Eventually she bought part of the property but then got caught in a high-profile zoning battle. News reporters kept referring to her as The Flower Lady.

The legal battle uprooted her to the other side of the freeway.

“Those sun umbrellas outside the store today are pretty much where they were when this place was a vacant lot,” said Vivian.

When the property owner wanted to develop the lot, the flower stand uprooted again this time just several feet over to a vacant lot next to the Larson building. By that time she had the luxury of a shed, and they moved it with a forklift.

The building went up with a space designed specifically for The Flower Lady, and she moved in. It was 700 square feet, palatial to Vivian. Along with flowers, she filled it with gifts and cards, and the store flourished for many years.

This is a good business for someone with a well-off spouse, or if someone can figure out how to sell something else along with the flowers, said Vivian. The eclectic selection of gifts has not done well in recent years. Wine maybe, maybe cannabis, Vivian suggests with a smile as if the thought just occurred to her.

Except for the stuffed animals used in bouquets, the gifts, including a couple of Tibetan rugs hanging from the ceiling, are all 25% off. She’s willing to bargain lower on some things as well.

Whatever happens she’ll keep a hand in the flower business.  It’s in her blood. She’s a third-generation flower dealer. Her grandfather was a farmer who started with a few bulbs when her dad was a boy. Her dad grew flowers his whole life, mostly irises, daffodils, and sunflowers. It kept him going, she said. He was driving and delivering wholesale flowers around the region until he was 95, a year before he died.

But he was always borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, Vivian added, and she’s had to do some of that as well to keep the shop going – subsidizing it with income from her rentals.

Still it’s been a joy working here, said Vivian, surrounded by all these beautiful flowers that change with the seasons, and meeting people.

That she doesn’t want to lose it’s clear.

If there’s no buyer for the shop, people will be able to find out what’s next on her website: www.seattleflowerlady.com.

She can see continuing deliveries and taking special orders. She may go back to her roots with what would now be known as a pop-up stand.

Whatever she does she’ll always be The Flower Lady.

Vivian in front of the shop she’s run for over 20 years.

Featured image is a detail from an original painting of The Flower Lady storefront by Jerry Becker Steffen, Jr.

Say “goodbye” (for now) to the floating sidewalk on Lake Union

There are many gems on Lake Union, but one that mostly locals know about (and fiercely protect) is about to disappear. It’s the floating sidewalk adjacent to the Fairview bridge that is itself adjacent to the historic City Light Steam Plant building.  The old wooden trestle bridge has done its time and must go and along with it the hidden floating sidewalk – you can’t see it from the roadway.

But it’s there all the same, down a stairway, offering a brief, delightful refuge from the street. It’s also one of the few places where you can get close to the lake and view a wide vista, as a friend of mine noted. Close, for sure, you’re walking right on it; it’s open space, a de facto park.

Pedestrians love the floating sidewalk beside the Fairview trestle.

The bridge will be replaced with something earthquake proof, streetcar ready, sturdy and modern with bike lanes and look out points. At first there were only vague promises of bringing back the floating sidewalk.  It was dependent on budget and permitting, said the city, and that didn’t sound promising. But MariLyn Yim, SDOT project manager, confirms the floating sidewalk will be rebuilt.

Rendering of new Fairview Avenue Bridge.

She had to do “some trading and swapping and talking [to get] the floating walkway OK’d,” wrote Jules James, one of its fierce defenders, in an email.

Closure and demolition of the bridge is expected to happen this fall, once improvements to Aloha Street are complete as that will be the detour route.

The roadway next to the historic Steam Plant building is actually an old wooden trestle, reinforced over the years.

Some are predicting major traffic jams with the closure of this 500 foot segment, but that’s what they said about the viaduct too and that just wasn’t the case

Catch the old floating sidewalk now while you still can. It’s just a stone’s throw from MOHAI and the Center for Wooden Boats. Walk up Eastlake Ave. for a close-up view of the historic Steam Plant and its remarkable tilework. (Eastlake Ave. is its front.) Next door is the even older Hydro House, open for breakfast and lunch weekdays with an outdoor patio that faces the lake and overlooks the old bridge.

Featured floating sidewalk sketch by Karen Berry.

Denser development coming

Owners of the Cortina, located at the opposite southern corner from Serafina, at 2001 Eastlake Ave., have submitted plans to the city to tear down the two buildings that make up the 1957 22-unit apartment complex, according to a May 21 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce article. The proposal for the site takes advantage of the new 65-foot up zoning, notes the Journal. The owners, Graham Capital Group, plan a six-story, 90-unit apartment building with retail and commercial space and 35 underground parking space, as well as room for 95 bike stalls.

This old house on Eastlake may be replaced with a six-story 30-unit building, no parking.

Another parcel taking advantage of the new up zone, is between the Cortina and Serafina, an old house, at 2031 Eastlake Ave. Plans were submitted for it to be replaced, according to a May 20 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce article, with “a six-story building with 30 units, no parking and possibly 600 square feet of commercial space.”