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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.

Should Lake Union be an International Seaplane Airport in the Heart of the City?

By Peter Erickson

In a letter on August 14 of this year, Kenmore Air quietly petitioned the Seattle Police Department and City of Seattle for measures that would effectively turn the center of Lake Union into a dedicated seaplane runway. By way of background, in the 1970’s there were 7 to 10 flights (5 take-offs /5 landings) a week on Lake Union. By 1989 there were 20 take-offs/20 landings a day. This year Kenmore Air alone (exclusive of Harbor and Chrysler Air) averaged 50 take-offs/50 landings a day over a 10-hour day that’s a flight event every 6 minutes. And if the dedicated runway requested in the last paragraph of their letter comes to pass, Lake Union will become a continuous hub of loud commuter flights with serious environmental and safety impacts for maritime, commercial and recreational users in the heart of our city.

Our organization, the Seaplanes Environmental Coalition (SEC) representing adjacent community councils, homeowner organizations, maritime businesses, floating homes and recreational enterprises, is reaching out to engage Kenmore Air in a public, comprehensive planning process based on the input of all Lake Union stakeholders.

site of seaplane runway on Lake Union

Today’s seaplane debate is driven by Kenmore’s letter to the city of August 14 which requested the following:

  • A 400-foot-wide by 3,000-foot-long zone with a single row of buoys down the center of the lake.
  • The buoys blink for 5 minutes when pilots are landing or taking-off. When blinking everyone is expected to move away.
  • Kenmore’s letter claims “an average of 80 flights a day” (which does not include the flights of its Canadian affiliate, Harbour Air), which over a 10-hour day during the summer means a flight every 6 minutes. In short, the buoys are always blinking and this 1.2 million square-foot runway is effectively an off-limits zone down the center of the lake.
  • Thousands of sailboats, kayakers, paddleboarders, rowers, recreational power boats and maritime businesses use the lake every week during the summer.
  • As a limited natural resource Lake Union is now very crowded. Simultaneously Kenmore Air, Seattle Seaplanes, and now Harbour Air out of Canada, have increased flights from 40 to over 80 flights a day. Because of these crowded conditions, Kenmore’s letter states that the single row of buoys is not safe and now requires police management. Yet Kenmore Air, a profitable, privately owned company, instead of monitoring the lane itself expects the police department to patrol the runway clearing it of boats and recreational users — at tax payer expense
  • The only readily found fee paid by Kenmore Air for the use of Lake Union as their runway is to the Department of Natural Resources for $8,000 a year.
  • In the last paragraph of their letter, Kenmore states that if the policing and single row of buoys doesn’t work, they request a second row of buoys as a “demarcated landing zone in Lake Union for the exclusive use of seaplanes”.

The Seaplanes Environmental Coalition’s main objective is a Lake Union for All. It has three goals:  livability, public safety and the equitable sharing of the lake.

Our short-term goals are as follows:

  • Kenmore should retract in writing its request for the second row of buoys to the City of Seattle and Department of Natural Resources.
  • Kenmore to cease further backdoor efforts (as with the August 14th letter which should have been cover-copied to SEC based on the 1989 Agreement) to impose a double-buoyed dedicated runway down the center of Lake Union.
  • Kenmore be allowed to continue to operate with the temporary and seasonal single row of buoys, subject to the review by the agencies involved, including public outreach and comment.
  • Kenmore agree to partner with SEC in community outreach for a public process with all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive land-use plan for Lake Union.
  • Kenmore be solely responsible for its own life-safety measures which should include the use of its staff and equipment to monitor the runway and educate users of the lake that interfere with its landing zone. As a private business that recently sold an interest in its company for many millions of dollars it should not be burdening the under-funded Harbor Patrol to clear its runway.

The Seaplanes Coalition’s long-range objective is to work with Kenmore and other seaplane operators:

  • to limit the use of the Lake Union to specific seaplane operators (as opposed to the general public);
  • to reduce the number of seaplane flights to and from Lake Union;
  • to transition over a 5 year period to less noise planes, with less impact;
  • to develop zoning controls for Lake Union based on stakeholder input;
  • and to find additional safe and sustainable, seaplane runways on nearby bodies of water and/or relocate flight operations to one of the several nearby land-based airports;

SEC is willing to work with Kenmore and other operators to make Lake Union a safer and better environment for all. To support this effort to require a comprehensive lake-use plan based on the input of all stakeholders, go to our website www.savelakeunion.com and sign the petition (ignore the confusing petition service’s request for a donation).

Peter Erickson is president of Seaplane Environmental Coalition.

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.

Red Robin site will hatch a pizzeria

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, two former Microsoft employees, John Genna and Moritz Loew, will open a pizzeria called “Johnny Mo’s,” at the old Red Robin Restaurant site now being redeveloped as Robin’s Nest. As the PSBJ writes:

Loew, who grew up in Chicago, and Genna, of New York, are bringing the “powerhouse” styles of pizza to Seattle, Genna said. The restaurant will pay homage to the heritage of those styles and nod to the Red Robin with its brick aesthetic and mural.

“We understand how iconic that place is for Seattle,” Genna said.

The two have ties to the neighborhood. They owned a boat moored near the Red Robin and frequented the restaurant in the late ’90s when they both worked at Microsoft.

The restaurant will employ about 25 to 35 people, and the owners hope to open it sometime in July.

The Robin’s Nest site is a complex of two buildings separated by an L-shape courtyard. The pizzeria will be in the left building street level. The rest of the complex will be 61-63 apartment units with approximately 20 parking spaces. Photo taken July 2, 2019.
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.”

Shaking things up: Eastlake Hub’s first all-city drill

Last Saturday’s Eastlake Hub drill simulated a “Seattle Fault” 6.7 magnitude earthquake and a four-foot seiche on Lake Union, which is not a tsunami but is a lot of violent sloshing back and forth in the lake’s basin.

“We’re assuming the worst,”’ said Jess Levine, Eastlake Hub’s Public Information Officer for the day. “People won’t be able to get over I-5 or the University Bridge. Eastlake would be cut off, and we don’t have a lot of resources,” he added, noting that the nearest fire station would be in Belltown because Station #22 across I-5 on Roanoke wouldn’t be able to reach Eastlake until all bridges are certified safe by SDOT.

I-5 could conceivably be an impassable canyon dividing the city.

“Some people could be coming here injured and hysterical,” Jess said referring to Rogers Playfield where the hub drill was being held and is Eastlake’s information clearing house should disaster strike.  The hub won’t have supplies though. Individuals and families need to prepare for themselves.  But it will be the communications center.  “The city is telling people to be prepared for at least two weeks of being off the grid,” said Levine.  That means no electricity, no gas, no water, no phone, and no internet.

Seattle hubs are all volunteer run, and Eastlake was one of 14 neighborhood hubs participating in the city-wide “Seattle Fault” earthquake drill June 1. Eastlake Hub currently has nine active members, and after Saturday’s drill will likely be adding new members. The public was invited to stop by, participate, and sign up for email notices. “We plan to have more local drills and share preparedness information,” said Margaret Sanders, Eastlake Hub Captain, to get Eastlake prepared.

Hub volunteer Anne Bonn and Eastlake Hub Captain Margaret Sanders discuss a message that has come in. In the foreground is the jar with the day’s possible scenarios.

The biggest need right now, she added, is for more radio operators, either GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) for communicating with family and friends when cell service is limited or out, as well as with other hubs, or ham for communicating with the city and for that matter anywhere in the world.

KC McNeil is Eastlake’s only ham radio operator affiliated with the hub. He became one after joining the hub last year when he realized there was no one to fill the role.

KC and Margaret both expressed the hope that other ham radio operators who live or work in Eastlake will sign on to help in emergencies.

When a scrap of paper with the day’s possible scenarios was pulled from a jar, this one – a sewer break on Fairview Avenue, with raw sewage pouring onto the street, KC radioed that information to the city on the ham radio.

“This is a drill,” he began, reading off the message prepared in careful legible block caps as recommended by the planners. It wasn’t clear if Columbia Tower, Seattle’s headquarters got the message. They never responded.

There are issues, KC said.  He had tested the ham radio at the top of the hill on Boylston Ave. earlier, where it seemed to work fine, but down the hill on Rogers Playfield where he was set up, it was apparently not working so well. They may need to find the money to purchase an antenna for the playfield or a stronger radio, he added.

At any rate that’s what the drill was for – to help sort out those types of issues.

KC McNeil listens to the radio. He has both a ham and GMRS radio at the table.

Besides trying to get messages out to the city and other hubs and hearing from them, the hub had a makeshift communications network for neighbors spread out along the fence around the tennis courts. The fence served as a message board for people to put up notices of what they needed and others to respond or add what they had to share, and for one hub volunteer to write the latest news on a large board.

It also provided laminated posters of what to do if the water was out; how to make potable water, how to set up makeshift toilets; how long food will last in the fridge or freezer with no power (advice: don’t open the doors). 

“We need a lot more volunteers,” said Jess, “to fulfill the various roles and be interchangeable – nobody knows where they’ll be when the big one strikes. They may not even be in the neighborhood at all. The hub is cross-training because of that uncertainty.

Hub volunteer BJ Bergevin writes down the latest news for the community to read at the emergency drill, “Full electricity outage.”

“The hub is being formed for all types of emergencies not just earthquakes,” he added. “Besides, it’s good for community building.”

If you’d like more information about programs, training or volunteer opportunities for the hub, check out the http://seattleemergencyhubs.org  or http://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/prepare. Eastlake Hub also has information for condo associations.

If you’re interested in becoming a radio operator, there are two options: GMRS will allow you to communicate locally, and there are no classes or tests to take, just a fee for a five-year license. Getting a ham license is more involved, on a par with getting a driver’s license, although some would say not even that hard. Classes are offered periodically in the area, and you no longer need Morse code to qualify. You just need to know the protocols, and you’ll be able to communicate with anyone, anywhere. Ham radio waves can go to the moon and back.

Featured photo at top — left to right hub volunteers: KC McNeil, Kathi Woods, and Anne Bonn

Electric seaplanes could fly over Lake Union in coming years

As a 20-year inhabitant of Eastlake, the roar of seaplanes flying overhead has become a familiar and even comforting sound.  But emerging technology could make those overflights much quieter, and a lot more sustainable.

Electric airplanes powered by batteries are beginning to appear.  Harbour Air, which partners with our own Kenmore Air on daily flights between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., announced plans to convert its fleet to all electric.  With 37 planes, Vancouver-based Harbour is the largest seaplane-alone airline in North America, and aims to become the first all-electric airline of any type in the world.

The company is starting test flights this year by converting a De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, familiar to Lake Union residents as the smaller, and to my experience noisier, planes flown by Kenmore.  The aim is to gain approval of aviation regulators in the U.S. and Canada, and begin passenger service by 2021. Batteries will provide 100 miles range, or about 60 minutes flight time, leaving a reserve for Harbour’s average 30-minute flight time. 

Electrified aviation in development comes in forms from personal to larger commuter aircraft by companies including Boeing and JetBlue, and promises to reduce air pollution and climate-twisting carbon pollution, not to mention sound pollution.  Vancouver and Seattle, mostly hydropowered, offer some of the lowest-carbon electricity on Earth.  Harbour already claims carbon neutrality, based on offset purchases since 2007.

Redmond-based electrified aviation company MagniX will supply the electrical system. “Batteries remain the limiting factor for electrical propulsion in aviation, said Roei Ganzarski, MagniX’s CEO and a former Boeing executive,” Bloomberg reports.  “‘By 2025, 1,000 miles is going to be easily done,’ Ganzarski said, based on the evolution of current battery technologies. ‘I’m not saying 5,000 miles, but 1,000 miles, easily. I don’t think that’s far-fetched or a pie-in-the-sky thing.”

Electrek, a site devoted to electrified transportation concludes, “Converting seaplanes seems like a good fit, and the two companies also seem to have found a good sweet spot in flight range. Converting all of Harbour Air’s ‘seaplanes into ePlanes’ isn’t going to happen overnight, but even so, this is a milestone.”

Eastlake seaplane historian Jules James has some skepticism.   “My feeling is it is technically feasible, but not financially.  They can get 30 minutes of paid flying time on one charge.  Each charge takes an hour.   Dock space is precious.  I can’t have a seaplane fueling up for an hour on a busy day.”

My hit, having worked professionally studying alternative vehicle fuels including electricity, hydrogen and biofuels, is that battery technology is rapidly improving and coming down in price. Fueling with voltage will be cheaper, and upfront costs can do nothing but come down.  Fast charging could solve the problem Jules cites. Electricity is not going to power jetliners to Europe anytime soon.  But for smaller planes up to intercity commuter aircraft on the Horizon Air level, electricity is the future. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Patrick Mazza

Seaplane sketch by Karen Berry