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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.

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.

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

The Tale of the Swale on Yale

South Lake Union is home to forward-thinking environmental design. One of the most innovative design features, a form of green infrastructure, is what’s known as the Swale on Yale. It’s two swales actually (one in the 400 block of Yale St. and the other parallel to it on Pontius St.), and it’s about to swell to two more (just south of both locations in the 300 block of both streets).

The swales give South Lake Union a bit of moorland feel, but beyond the aesthetics these stretches of grassland are working to treat Capitol Hill storm water roadway runoff before it reaches Lake Union.

Technically the swales are known as the Capitol Hill Water Quality Project, a public private collaboration between the city of Seattle and Vulcan Real Estate; KPFF Consulting Engineers also played a key role.

“When the swales were planned (in the early 2000s),” wrote Jason Sharpley of Seattle Public Utilities, in an email exchange, “there were no regional scale biofiltration swales treating stormwater from ultra-urban roadways that we were able to find.”

“Typically, swales were used on a more limited, roadway scale to treat and convey stormwater runoff from the adjacent roadway.”

The project was so unique that the Seattle Design Commission created a special award, an “In the Works “ Excellence Award, that they won in 2011. The swales came online in 2015.

Working swale on the 400 block of Pontius St.

“Since completing the first pair of swales there has been a lot of interest and there may be new systems in other cities.”

Seattle’s steep slopes helped propel the innovation. “We have the right topography for this,” says Dave Schwartz of KPFF Consulting Engineers. The slopes make it easier to divert water to where you want it, which makes cleaning it easier too. And that’s what the swales do, filter and clean. They’re made up of densely planted grasses, “a mixture of sedges, which have edges, and rushes, which are round,” says Schwartz describing his mnemonic means of distinguishing them. 

They clean roadway runoff that “includes everything that you see, and don’t see, that is on the roadway,” says Sharpley.  “This includes brake dust from cars that carries copper, dissolved metals from galvanized fences, and bacteria from wildlife and pet waste. The swales and pretreatment that make up the Swale on Yale system do a good job of removing a significant portion of the pollutants.”

The Swale on Yale couldn’t have been done without developer help, says Schwartz, stressing the huge role that Vulcan Real Estate played in making the public private partnership happen. Vulcan provided technical and profession assistance along with contributing about $1.3 million toward design and construction. Most critically they provided the easement to the city. Developers are playing key roles in creating environmental projects that provide a greater good, says Schwartz, noting another public private project under the Aurora Bridge, rain gardens catching bridge water runoff. “Not all try to just make money and destroy the world,” he added.

Planted in rain garden soil which is a bonus for filter, the grasses catch toxic sediment from the water as it takes its time to mosey through the swale, at least nine minutes.

But even before the water reaches the swales it’s run through a diversion tank that uses centrifugal force to flush out “floatables,” a nice name for trash such as cups, straws, and cigarette butts.

From the diversion tank, controlled amounts of water are released into the swales evenly so as not to overflow them and to keep their integrity intact.

The swales then drain into a discharge pipe and the water is released to the lake.  “The water is not drinkable,” says Sharpley, “but significantly cleaner than when it entered the swale.” 

New swale plantings on the 300 block of Pontius St.

The two new swales will come online once the plants mature. For now they look like woven works of art running between the sidewalk and roadway. Once they are put to work, the system will be able to treat the full design flow of 7.2 cubic feet of water per second, which is more than 3,000 gallons a minute. The older swales treat half that capacity today. The full swale build-out will treat 435 acres of storm water runoff from Capitol Hill’s 630-acre basin.

The Swale on Yale captures the dirtiest water from both small storms and the early runoff from larger storms. Thanks to this pioneering green infrastructure, Lake Union is much cleaner than it otherwise would be and could become cleaner still with even more projects like the Swale on Yale.

The Swale on Yale — 400 block, with city workers maintaining it.
The Castle in Eastlake

It’s one of the most significant buildings in Eastlake, yet it is easily overlooked, lost amidst the newer, larger buildings surrounding it.

But I remember riding in the car as a kid with my parents and wondering if one of the many bridges we always seemed to be crossing over would be the one with the castle at the end of it, hoping it was. And sometimes the building would appear like something out of a fairy tale. I strained to get a good look at it as we sped by. I always wondered about the stories behind it.

Turns out there are a lot of them. The building at the south end of the University Bridge, at the corner of Eastlake Ave. and Furhman St., has stories to tell of bankruptcy, illegal activity, a mysterious death, rock ‘n roll legends and those are just the things that made it into the local newspapers.

It’s been known by the businesses that occupy the ground floor: Rapunzel’s Tavern, Scoundrel’s Lair, Romio’s, Borsalino’s and now Sebi’s. It’s never had a common name. The condos above it are known as the Martello.

But the real story behind this building is the man who built it or rather remodeled what was, in 1928, a single-family house. Frederick Anhalt was a self-educated developer and architect. He died in 1996 at the age of 101, but the legacy of his buildings known as Seattle castles endures.

Anhalt had several careers over the course of his life from butcher to landscape nursery owner. His development career grew out of a stint in commercial real estate and started with a crew building bungalow court apartments on Beacon Hill and Queen Anne. A pivotal point was a two-story apartment at 17th and Denny built in the Spanish style that was popular at the time. With each building he kept learning new things, but he wanted to make his mark and design something suitable for the Pacific Northwest climate; he settled on bricks and natural cedar roof shingles for materials. The castle-like design he came upon serendipitously.

“I started looking around for ideas as to the style I would use,” Anhalt said in an interview about his life, for the book, Built by Anhalt. “While I was doing this, I met a young girl who was selling books and I asked her to find any books she could on beautiful apartments.  She came back several days later and told me that she couldn’t find anything like that, all she had was a book about English castles.  Well, I took one look at that book and I knew I’d found my style of building.  I went through that book and picked a window I liked here, a door there, and something else over there.”

His goal was to build apartment buildings that were different from what was on the market at the time. “I wanted to get away from the long halls that reminded me of tenement buildings,” he said, where everything looked the same, “and the only way you knew what apartment was yours was by the furniture.”

He thought people should have a nice view to look onto too but knew he couldn’t guarantee it. “Somebody else could always put another building between you and your view.” So, he built his apartments around a view that he created with landscaping. “I could make things look the way I wanted them to that way, which is hard to do when you’re dealing with a view of Mount Rainier or Puget Sound.”

The building in Eastlake (the only Anhalt around Lake Union) is a bit of an anomaly, not brick but stucco-clad and with no courtyard. It was the result of another building’s mishap on Capitol Hill, but it marks one of the many turning points in Anhalt’s career.

Anhalt was ready for a new phase and wanted to build even more beautiful buildings. He took a break from developing to get his thoughts in order and sent his crew out to put up the Del-Teet Furniture store on Broadway. It didn’t require any effort on his part because the plans were already drawn. (The building’s facade is still there today by the way – next to Dick’s; it’s now known as Hollywood Lofts.)

There was such a hurry to open the Del-Teet store that the store manager, a fellow by the name of Skewes, moved the furniture in as soon as the plasterers left. “And that got me another job,” Anhalt said.

“In all the humidity of that wet plaster, everything mildewed. Skewes was fired and decided to open his own store in an old house he’d found down by the University Bridge. I must have felt a little responsible for his problem, because I agreed to remodel it for him, which wasn’t something I would usually do.  It’s a lot easier to build a new building than to remodel an old one. Especially one that’s fifty years old like that one was. I must have done a good job on it though, because it’s still there today.”

 

The building is still there, fortunately for Eastlake, but the furniture store, Skewes-Rudolph Furniture Cor., Inc, went through a long bankruptcy in the early 1930’s if the liquidations ads of the time are any indication.

Anhalt went on to build his most famous apartment buildings after that. First the 750 and 730 Belmont structures that Lawrence Kreisman highlighted in a March 2000 article for the Seattle Times. “These ‘apartment-homes’ were charming and romantic, with individualized floor plans, up-to-date amenities such as parking garages and gracious, home-like touches – separate entrances off semi-private landscaped courtyards – that brought in the renters.”

730 Belmont

 

750 Belmont

Anhalt liked the 730 Belmont so well he built out one unit for himself. But his favorite building, the one that marks the pinnacle of his castles is the one built after, at 1005 Roy St.

That building and the one across the street that went right up with it, the 1014 Roy, were built with largely free and discarded brick seconds.

Anhalt likely would be considered a green developer today for creatively reusing and making do. “I always had my eyes open for things that nobody else had a use for, figuring that if something was cheap enough I’d find a use for it.”

One of the places where he bought bricks occasionally overcooked a batch and dumped it on a vacant lot. By the time Anhalt took note, the pile covered about four acres. The company offered them to him for the price of delivery, thinking Anhalt could use them in his landscaping.

“The only thing wrong with those bricks was they didn’t look like regular bricks. They were different colors and a little melted in spots, but most of them had enough flat that they could be used. I even had the bricklayers put them in a little cockeyed, to add to the effect,” said Anhalt.

“Ten-O-Five East Roy was built that way, and in my opinion it’s the finest apartment building ever built in the city of Seattle,” he added.

1005 Roy St.

1005 Roy St. seen from the west

The Anhalt on the corner of Eastlake Ave. and Furhman St. has a lively history.

According to news reports in the Seattle Times about the building, a man was arrested for having a slot machine there in 1935, “charged with having gambling paraphernalia and released on $40 bail.” In 1936 “a well-known restaurant” called The Town House made the news due to a change in lease. In the 1940’s floor lamps were offered for sale in the display room. In 1966, almost as a testament to the times, a tenant, Raymond Paul McCarthy, 26, was charged with 2nd degree burglary for robbing a pharmacy and taking “a variety of drugs.” He had the misfortune of being seen by police as he was running away.

Beginning in July 1967, it was occupied by Llahnguelhyn, a coffee and live jazz joint.

The Short Galleries opened there in October 1969 (when phone numbers were still letters as in EA3-9830, the gallery’s number) with an exhibition of seven Northwest artists. John Voorhees the art critic for The Seattle Times gave the gallery many glowing reviews over the following years.

Then in 1975 it became Rapunzel’s Tavern. A year later a fire broke out in its upper floors; the tavern was untouched, but news of the fire made the front page of The Seattle Times when an unidentified woman’s body was found in the gables.

In 1986 it became Scoundrel’s Lair and thanks to its proximity to the U.W. was one of the focal points of Seattle’s emerging “grunge” scene. Shedding some light on the time, in a series of columns called Schoolhouse Rock for the U.W. alumni magazine in 1996, Charles R. Cross former editor of The Rocket, noted how much things had changed in ten years, “With so many successful bands in the Northwest in the past decade, more aspiring rockers think of music as an actual career. A decade ago, most of the Seattle scene bands all started off thinking they were going to have day jobs instead of music careers–and education at universities played a role in that. Today, when superstardom seems ordinary, fewer bands in the area seem to have ties to the University because many young musicians expect (sometimes wrongly) that they will be able to make a living from playing music….”

“But as time marches on, the history books remind us of a time when you could see Nirvana at the HUB for a buck, when Soundgarden was playing just up the street at the Rainbow Tavern, and when KCMU was the only station worth punching in on your car radio. It was an era of innocence when the measure of success was determined by playing a show at the Scoundrel’s Lair (now a pizza place, across from the Red Robin on Eastlake, and a longtime UW hangout) to 20 of your friends and fellow students.”

Time marches on, and our old structures provide a window to the past.

Perhaps the residents living in the Martello, who are lucky enough to own a piece of this Seattle history, will consider nominating it for historic preservation, to ensure that future generations can enjoy spotting it as they go by wondering about its story.

 

 

 

If you have further information about the Anhalt in Eastlake or elsewhere, we’d love to hear from you. Write to us at editors@lakeunionwatershed.com.

 

Sketch by Karen Berry.

 

This story was revised from one that first appeared in the Eastlake News fall 2012 issue.

 

The beautiful and tragic Aurora Bridge gets a new paint job

Although I have a had a view of it for the past 20 years, I have never thought much of the Aurora Bridge. Its grey lines fade into the surrounding hills. Growing up in Seattle, the only thing I knew about the bridge was that it was notorious for suicides. A friend walked onto the bridge late one night contemplating jumping. Fortunately, she did not, but many others had. For that reason, I think, subconsciously, I tried not to look at that bridge or think about it very much.

But all that changed when I woke up one morning, a few weeks back, to find the south end of the bridge wrapped, in what looked like the start of a Christo art installation.

It wasn’t. It was a Washington State Department of Transportation wrapping; WSDOT is painting the bridge for the first time in 30 years. And the wrapping is an elaborate catchment system for the toxic lead paint that is being sandblasted off before a more environmentally friendly paint can be applied.

But it got me curious about Christo (why did he wrap things?) and that got me curious about the bridge.

Christo’s most famous for wrapping the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris. He wraps things paradoxically to reveal them.

For fun, I try to imagine the Aurora Bridge wrapped à la Christo, in fabric and drawn back like curtains across the lake. In my imagined view, I suddenly see it for the first time. I catch my breath. The bridge’s form – its monumental expanse – it’s startlingly beautiful.

 

Its official name is the George Washington Memorial Bridge, and when it opened on Feb. 22, 1932, to great fanfare, marking the culmination of a year-long, nationwide celebration of events for George Washington’s 200th birthday, it wasn’t just a bridge uniting Seattle – it was a bridge connecting Mexico to Canada. The George Washington Memorial Bridge was the last link in the new US Highway 99, aka the Pacific International Highway, that paralleled the West Coast from Tijuana, Mexico to Vancouver, B.C.

Historians note its opening marked the ascendancy of the automobile in American life because it was the first Seattle bridge without streetcar tracks.

A picture postcard from the time shows the bridge, with a few 1930s cars on it, branching off Queen Anne Hill with grassy knolls on either side, its roadway seemingly stretching into a gentle, enlightened horizon.

But that vision of freedom and calm was short-lived. Just three decades later, US Highway 99 and the George Washington Memorial Bridge would be eclipsed by the I-5 Freeway and the Ship Canal Bridge. In 1967 the highway was decertified, chopped up, and made into State Route 99.

Even before the bridge’s hugely celebrated opening, there was a bad omen, the first suicide, a shoe salesman. It would go on to be known as Seattle’s suicide bridge, the haunted bridge, the bridge with the second most suicides in the country after the Golden Gate in San Francisco (which would also make it third in the world).

Over the years there was a lot of talk over of doing something to prevent the suicides, but no one could agree on exactly what.

At some point, after some 230 jumps, the press stopped reporting on them. There were “wet” jumps and “dry” jumps, the latter ending in Fremont streets and parking lots. Office workers drew their blinds.

By the end of 2006 after a record number of suicides from the bridge (nine when the average had been four a year), the city installed six emergency phones and signs with a suicide hotline number on them. At about the same time FRIENDS (Fremont, Individuals and Employees Nonprofit to Decrease Suicides), a neighborhood group determined to a get a barrier installed also began their efforts. It was a controversial, uphill battle, finally successful in 2011.

With the fence now in place for several years, that sad era of the bridge’s past seems to be receding.

 

But the bridge’s woes aren’t completely over. Today what stands out about the Aurora Bridge is its white-knuckle drive. When it first opened, it was said to be four lanes, but old photos show six lanes, possibly four lanes and two shoulders. At any rate it’s now six narrow lanes. The original speed limit was 35 miles per hour; today it’s 40, and acknowledged to be regularly acceded.

People drive across it on high alert, gripping the steering wheel, as they approach its narrowing lanes and breathe a sigh of relief when they’re past them.

A 2015 fatal accident involving a Ride the Ducks vehicle and a charter bus highlighted how dangerous the bridges narrow lanes are to drive.

 

I wasn’t thinking about the traffic, which from a distance looks like it’s scampering, and not going that fast. I’d never actually walked on the bridge before, and I wondered if it was possible to rediscover any of the bridge’s original glory.

So one sunny day shortly after the catchment wrapping went up, I talked my husband into making a loop hike with me, walking one side of the bridge and then the other, getting the full benefit of the view some 170 feet over Lake Union. It seemed like a good idea at the time, like the kind of walk that should be recommended in a Seattle tour guide.

We parked near the Fremont Troll, making our way past the tourists and found the encouraging but graffiti-tagged sign directing pedestrians up the access stairs to the bridge deck.

Once we reached the top, however, I knew why I’d never heard the walk recommended. The roar of the traffic and the wind as it whizzes by immediately hits you. I was ready to abandon all hope and turn back.

After realizing, OK, we’re fairly safe on the protected sidewalk, where a barrier separated us from the road, the next thing I noticed was the 8-foot 9-inch suicide fence made up of thin bars that surrounds the original 1930s railing.

It was as if we had walked into a time warp and the fence was a force field around the bridge, which was kind of cool. (The juxtaposition is by design; preservationists didn’t want a faux historical look.)

We pushed on, walking single file hugging the railing instinctively.

I was surprised by how low the vintage railing was, too invitingly effortless to swing yourself over, although that is no longer possible due to the barrier. The view through the thin bars was spectacular though.

The emergency phones that were installed in 2006 along with the eye-catching, battered now, suicide hotline signs still dot the way, a reminder of a not too distant past.

There had been talk of closing sidewalk entirely before the fence went up, but due to the treacherous roadway, it is the only safe pathway for bicyclists.

By the time we came to the other pedestrian underpass on the Queen Anne side, we’d abandoned our plan of crossing over. It was just too miserable of a walk. Instead we made our way through Canlis’ parking lot where we ran across a Farmers Market meat vendor, Brent, from Olsen Farms, making a delivery to the restaurant.

After chatting with Brent, we made our way down through the Queen Anne neighborhood to the Fremont Bridge, which was a nice enough walk and much calmer, and we got a close-up view of the WSDOT wrapping, but I found myself missing the bridge’s view.

 

The view from the bridge is grand, and the view of the bridge is also grand once you can get beyond its tragic past.

The Aurora Bridge is a truss-deck bridge (meaning the support is all underneath) and in 1982 was accepted for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because of its innovative engineering design.

Architecturally, the bridge is part of the Gothic Revival period, says Susan Boyle, local architect and preservationist. The style was popular at the time the bridge was built and can be seen as well in many of the historic buildings on the University of Washington campus and in the towers of the Montlake Bridge.

The St. John’s Bridge in Portland, Oregon, just a year older than the Aurora, is much more decorative and famously resembles Gothic cathedral arches in its structural supports above and below the bridge deck.

The Aurora Bridge is less overtly decorative and seems to transcend its time, bridging past and future. Seen from a distance, the bridge expresses the verticality seen in Art Deco designs, says Boyle.

The lines and the arches are a nod back to the decade before. The Art Deco appearance stands out even more in fog or, as we had this summer, smoke, when the haze softens and somehow doubles the vertical lines. In the bright daylight, the 1930s bridge is forward-looking, functional, less nostalgic and more modern.

But it too has a Gothic sensibility in its cantilevers spanning the lake, resembling flying buttresses, and in its supports below that soar, like those of the St. John’s Bridge, over Fremont but without the theatrical detailing, more like unfinished cathedral arches.

What’s most interesting about these sorts of bridges, after you view them from afar, says Boyle, is the space they create below them. In Fremont, she adds, you see the bridge as space and that part of it is magical and has an inspirational quality to it.

The Art Deco expression of the bridge stands out in a haze.

 

Aurora suggests something celestial. A friend of mine says she’s heard it was named for the Aurora Borealis, for the way it spans the lake, but from where she doesn’t recall. A WSDOT historian says the bridge is named for Aurora Avenue, and it’s typical that bridges get renamed for the area that’s around them. (As the bridge was originally being designed it was referred to as the Lake Union Bridge.)

Aurora is also the name of the Roman goddess of dawn, and the bridge marked the dawn of the Automobile Age, so maybe it’s a fitting name all around.

There’s glamour and whimsy with the Aurora Bridge, anchored by two Seattle icons like pots of gold on either end of a rainbow — one with a view above, Canlis, and the other with a view below, the Fremont Troll.  The bridge welcomes pedestrians near it if not exactly on it.

WSDOT is painting the bridge now over the next year, and while it will be nice for aesthetics, a spokesperson noted, it’s needed to preserve the bridge. The work will involve wrapping and unwrapping it, revealing the new paint job section by section. The color will be the standard WSDOT gray, the color they use on all their bridges, but maybe it will be enough to make the bridge be seen anew.

Maybe someday the Aurora Bridge will be calmer, fewer lanes (one can dream!). We may never be able to lose the suicide barrier, to protect ourselves from ourselves, but we might gain again a beautiful city walk and view.