Beacon Bits: Planning, protesting, and playing

One potential future for North Beacon Hill (looking north on Beacon Avenue, near McClellan. El Centro is in the upper right of this image).
One potential future for North Beacon Hill (looking north on Beacon Avenue, near McClellan. El Centro is in the upper right of this image).
Recently there were two open houses to display the most recent planning goals and strategies for the North Beacon Hill, North Rainier, and Othello neighborhood plan updates. Over 160 people attended these open houses to view and comment on some of the potential strategies for our Southeast Seattle neighborhoods. If you could not attend, the city still needs to hear from you! You can view the materials that were presented at the open house here, then submit your comments online here. The deadline for this comment period is October 30, 2009.

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Neighbors living near South Stevens Street and 12th Avenue South have been asking why the large power lines on their street can’t be moved underground. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, an electrical system upgrade is about to do just that. — Capitol Hill Seattle

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Our neighbors in the Central District share our pain when it comes to airplane noise. One CD resident, Patty Fong, has started an Under the Flight Path! group on Facebook to “advocate for environmental justice in Seattle’s affected neighborhoods (Central District, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, White Center, Burien and others under the flight path disproportionately) and for speedy advancements in reduction of airplane noise.” — Central District News

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The Rainier Valley Cooperative Preschool is hosting a Fall Rummage Sale on Saturday, October 24 from 12 noon – 4:00 pm at Beacon Hill Lutheran Church, 1720 South Forest Street (between 17th and 18th). Along with the sale there will be a Fall Festival for all ages. The 1700 block of South Forest will be closed for the party, which will include games, crafts, a bake sale, Dante’s Inferno Dogs, and, at 1:00 pm, live music by Brian Vogan.

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Youth in Focus, a non-profit organization that empowers urban teens through photography, is holding their annual Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser on Saturday, October 24, from 12 noon – 5:00 pm at the AMF Imperial Lanes, 2101 22nd Avenue South. The goal of the bowl-a-thon is to raise $15,000 to help Youth in Focus provide free photography classes and mentoring to underserved teens in the Seattle community. Teams of five bowlers will bowl in two shifts, noon – 2:00 pm, or 2:30 – 4:30 pm. This year’s theme is “Come as your own Superhero!”, so dress accordingly! All are invited. To sign up or get more information, please email Jessica at

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El Quetzal on Beacon Avenue has applied for a beer/wine liquor license.

10 thoughts on “Beacon Bits: Planning, protesting, and playing”

  1. I *love* the plans for Beacon Hill. Any of the three would probably work for me — least of which the Tower option, though.

  2. Dan, I feel the same way. That said, I’m sure there’s some serious objections out there. Can anybody fill me in on what the big criticisms are?

  3. I’m sure everyone has something they don’t like about the plans, but here are my criticisms:

    First, I’m not a fan of the upzoning of the El Centro property from single family to neighborhood commercial. I feel the City dropped the ball by not fixing a covenent on the property disallowing future rezoning, ensuring that the old school property would always serve as a community center and publicly-accessible open space. I respect and appreciate the mission of El Centro, but feel the community is losing out on open space by allowing the southern half of the property to be developed for private residential/commercial use. The portion of the property that has been used for construction staging for Sound Transit over the last several years would make a great neighborhood park, particularly being adjacent to the Lander street features. If the City does allow the upzoning, they should split the property and preserve the zoning of the northern half with the school building and only upzone the southern half. Also, I find it odd that the existing conditions drawings don’t show that the El Centro lot is currently zoned single family, requiring a significant upzone to 50-foot or 65-foot NC.

    Another complaint I have is with the 65-foot option. During one of the meetings that I attended, the DPD rep stated that 65-foot zoning would not be placed adjacent to single-family. Maybe they don’t consider being directly across 17th avenue to be adjacent, but I would if I owned one of the houses on 17th. A 2-lane street should not substitute for the need for a buffer between 65-foot and SF zoning.

    I think the tower option if laughable and unnecessary. However, I worry that having that zoning designation will delay or prevent the construction of smaller buildings that are a scale that the neighborhood can actually support, yet again leaving space undeveloped and underutilized.

  4. Chris, Your point on El Centro and closing the door on a park is one I’ve hadn’t heard, and I think it’s a good one.

    I totally agree with you about the tower.

  5. My understanding is the El Centro has plans to preserve open space in a “plaza” style. I absolutely support El Centro in the desire to add affordable housing to the services they provide. It’s a great fit, and badly needed.

    I support 65ft in general. More than height, I’m concerned about design–the Council is voting on some proposed changes that would make it easier to build attractive buildings and harder to build the monstrosities that have eaten Ballard and Fremont’s souls.

    A brief “hurray!” that El Quetzal is applying for a liquor license. TWO places to enjoy margaritas on Beacon Hill? Yay!

  6. I’m very comfortable with the 65′ option, and the growth of neighborhood amenities that denser housing will bring. While I agree it would be nice to have a larger park in the business district core, I think that getting the huge new park space a short walk away over the reservoir makes up for it. I’m remembering when I lived near Group Health on Capitol Hill. There was no significant public space in the 15th Ave. business district, but we had all of Volunteer Park right up the street.

    I do agree with Melissa’s worries about design. There’s some fabulous modernist architecture going on these days that fits Seattle to a T, but there’s also a lot of soul-shrivelling dreck. It would be a nightmare if we ended up with the tower option and something on the hill like the new Escala building’s thirty stories of faux Miami hotel styling that is downtown’s latest eyesore.

    Being directly north of El Centro inside the Urban Village boundary, I wonder how long it’s going to be before upzoning starts happening in the adjacent SF zones. I recognize not everyone will be happy about it, but I think when the time is right it will have an overall positive impact on the hill and the city.

  7. Just thought I’d expand on my nightmare by saying that if we had a tower as beautifully designed as the Chase/WaMu/Seattle Art Museum building, it still would seem too much too soon. It’s like the three bears, and 65′ is juuuust right.

  8. Getting back to the question at the top of list, my criticism of the recommendations is the missing City investment in infrastructure. The State Growth Management laws require Seattle to do neighborhood planning. In that process the State also requires that the City plan for investments in public infrastructure: streets, parks, public safety, utilities, etc. This is called “concurrency”. This planning work is to be done at the same time as upzones to increase density.

    Many of us brought up this concern immediately, before meetings even started, because word on the street was that the City wanted to upzone without concurrent planning for City investments.

    This is essentially what we have in our update. Check out the level of specificity of recommendations in our “real” neighborhod plan from 2000 for street and park improvements. Where is the equivalent of our matrix in our 2009 update? Where are the specific street, park, and public safety recommendations?

    All other City plans have specific lists of projects with estimated budgets, timeframes, responsible department, etc.

    Our plan update has none of this. Because this isn’t a plan document, it is a propaganda piece with some good information and a plethora of omissions. What is the City going to do to improve Beacon Avenue, and public safety in the next ten years? What happened to all the very specific recommendations of the community that came out in the meetings?

    Ask these questions when you get to testify to Council on the merits of our “update”. Upzones without concurrent planning for City investment are a thinly veiled effort to increase property tax revenue without agreeing to spend that money in the neighborhoods where it is being raised. It contravenes the State Growth Management Act.

    Freddie Merrell

  9. Freddie, not to be contrarian, but doesn’t the “North Beacon Street Concepts Section” download specifically address improvements to Beacon Avenue? I don’t know about improving public safety, because I don’t have major public safety concerns about the neighborhood. We’ve certainly had our run-ins with petty crime in the neighborhood, but I hardly feel like I should oppose zoning changes I agree with because someone broke into our house. And as I said, the new park space seems like it will be a fantastic amenity very close to the newly dense commercial core.

    I haven’t gone to any of the meetings, so I don’t know what the tone of them is, but what I see reported back doesn’t really make me want to go. If relations with the city are as contentious and antagonistic as they are represented, then it’s hard to see how anything good can come from either side.

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