Opinion: Beacon Hill’s Post Alley

The view of El Centro down the alley from McClellan. Photo by Joel Lee.
by Joel Lee

I was walking to light rail yesterday when I noticed that the alley behind the station is a perfect straight shot to El Centro—it almost frames the building like a painting. I had not thought about this alley much in the past. I imagined it someday being a little-used space filled with dumpsters and graffiti, tucked between two large condo buildings where the only use it might get would be the occasional employee taking a smoke break.

But seeing it yesterday helped me re-imagine the space. What if instead of it being a forgotten space behind some buildings, it became Beacon Hill’s Post Alley filled with micro businesses? It could be an extension of the planned courtyard at El Centro and a useful arm of Festival Street. For those of you that don’t get downtown much, Post Alley is an offshoot of the Pike Place Market. It is a pedestrian-friendly sort of mini-market where many smaller businesses have been able to take root in its less-than-prime real estate. It includes Seattle’s famous gum wall.

Photo of Post Alley at sunset by zenobia_joy.
Rarely do neighborhoods get a chance to redefine their “downtown” the way that Beacon Hill will with light-rail and El Centro’s future development, and I’m hoping that with imagination and thoughtful planning, we will be able to maximize our potential.

Joel Lee maintains the Beacon Hill Public Art website.

Do you have an opinion? We welcome opinion articles on topics related to Beacon Hill. Please email us your ideas.

February NBHC meeting agenda

Next Thursday the 4th at 7pm is the February North Beacon Hill Council Meeting at the Beacon Hill Library.

Judith Edwards sent along the agenda:

All are welcome! Come hear what’s going on on the Hill (a lot!).

7:00 — Welcomes and Introductions
7:10 — Councilmember Sally Clark

  • her new assignment on the Council
  • how we can be of help to her; how she can be of help to us
  • conversation with attendees

7:50 — SE Precinct report on crime on Beacon Hill – Shelly Bates and/or a rep. from the SE Precinct
8:00 — Committee/sub-committee Reports (three minutes each)

  • Greater Duwamish District Council (Matthew Stubbs)
  • Business Association (Robert Hinrix)
  • Arts Association and Festival Street (Robert Hinrix)
  • Neighborhood Planning/Bike and Pedstrian proposal (Freddie Merrell)

8:10 — Council vote: approving Robert Hinrix as a new Board Member, establishing time for Board Meeting
8:15 — Community Concerns
8:30 — Closure

See you there.

“Beacon Hill Music” series dates selected

Paul Ray reports on last Monday’s organizing meeting for a music series at the new Lander Festival Street

We have decided to apply for permits for afternoon concerts on four Sundays, June 13, July 11, August 8, and August 29, for afternoon concerts. The Special Events Permit Committee meets early in February so we should find out soon if those dates are approved.
Partly due to comments made (and the points in those comments) on the Beacon Hill Blog about our meeting announcement, we decided to name the group “Beacon Hill Music” because for some people the term “BeHi” just rubs them the wrong way and others may not automatically realize it stands for Beacon Hill. But we reserve the right to still use “BeHi Music” for some purposes, such as cool t-shirts.
The music series itself will be called “Beacon Rocks” but with a tagline something like “and swings, raps, jams, sings, strums, etc.” to be clear about the diversity of musical styles we intend to include.
Thanks for everyone’s interest and as we reach any milestones (such as getting permits approved, starting to seek out musicians, etc.) we will definitely keep the community informed.

Beacon Bits: a strange hum, community gardening, and charity poker

Photo by Dapper Lad Cycles in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
Neighbor Laura from the Beacon Hill Bungalow blog has been appointed to the City of Seattle citizen advisory board on Garbage, Yardwaste & Recycling. She says, “if you’re a resident of Seattle and have thoughts about our solid waste service, leave me a comment. Part of my role is to reach out to folks in my community, specifically those folks in SE Seattle.”

* * *

Beacon Hill Elementary School once again had no violations when visited by Health Department inspectors. Congratulations!

* * *

Kevin on the mailing list wants to know about a hum:

“Has anyone else noticed a humming noise that occurs at night? It doesn’t
occur all the time, but when it does it sounds like a large vacuum or leaf
blower. If I stick my head out the window it’s impossible to pinpoint — it
sounds like it’s coming from all directions. I live near McClellan and

Kevin says that there was an article last year in the West Seattle Blog about a hum, but it doesn’t look like they found an answer there. Have you heard the hum on Beacon Hill?

* * *

Glenn Herlihy writes with news of the first Jefferson Park Community Garden meeting, on Tuesday February 2 (Groundhog Day), from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Lawn Bowling Club House, 4103 Beacon Ave South.

Herlihy says,

“A Community Garden in Jefferson Park would be a meeting place where people can grow nutritious food to reduce their food budget or share what they grow. It would provide a place for the unemployed or underemployed, to grow food and help provide for their family. A community garden would stimulate social interaction between neighbors and provide opportunities for intergenerational and cross cultural connections. It would increase security by having more activity in the area.”

The proposed site for the garden is on the western slope of Jefferson Park, south of South Columbian Way, east of 15th Avenue South. All who are interested in community gardens are invited to the meeting.

* * *

El Centro De La Raza is holding a poker tournament and fundraiser on Saturday, February 20. The tournament is a Texas Hold ’em tournament with professional dealers, and the first prize is a $1,000 prepaid entry in the World Poker Tournament, (or an optional Visa Gift Card). There will be prizes for the top five finalists as well. The cost is $35 in advance, or $45 at the door. See http://www.elcentrofundraiser.com/ for more information and registration. 

Wongs still recovering from crash injuries

West Seattle Blog has another report on the recovery status of Beacon Hill neighbor Wah Wong and his son Jason. Wah, who operates the Jade West Café in West Seattle, was seriously injured along with Jason on December 12 when the two were struck in their own front yard by a Corvette that left the road and pinned the Wongs between the front of the Corvette and their own car. Jason Wong is leaving the hospital after the amputation of his left leg, and Wah Wong has had surgery for his leg as well and is currently recovering at a skilled nursing facility. Neither will be able to return to work for some time.

The driver of the Corvette, Rodney Dean James, is in custody, charged with vehicular assault.

If you would like to help the Wong family, you may donate to “Save Jade West Café” at any Wells Fargo Bank. Donations will help with the family’s medical bills.

Beacon Bits: Getting Around edition

With luck, this weekend's closures won't cause traffic like this. Photo by Oran Viriyincy.
More closures are scheduled this weekend for Spokane Street Viaduct work. Two ramps leading to West Seattle will be closed: the northbound I-5 off-ramp leading to the West Seattle Bridge, and the ramp from Columbian Way on Beacon Hill, leading to the West Seattle Bridge.

The ramps will be closed from 10:00 pm, Friday, January 29, until 5:00 am, Monday, February 1. In case of rain, crews may reschedule some of the work for the following weekend. Additionally, remember that the existing westbound Spokane Street Viaduct off-ramp to Fourth Avenue South is now closed permanently.

Further info from SDOT here.

* * *

The Cascade Bicycle Club is conducting a survey on bicycling in Southeast Seattle, including your thoughts on cycling safety, bike trails and routes, and riding your bike to Link Light Rail.

(Thanks to Jodie Vice on the Beacon Hill Mailing List.)

* * *

Speaking of bike trails, the Chief Sealth Trail will be extended west of Beacon Avenue South this year. An artist is being sought by the city’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs along with SDOT to create a three-dimensional, permanent outdoor artwork “to mark the trail extension and enliven the streetscape” where the trail crosses Beacon Avenue South at South Dawson Street.

The total project budget is $50,000 and includes design, fabrication and installation costs. The application deadline is Tuesday, March 16. More information is available here.

(Thanks to Heather Dwyer.)

* * *

The SDOT blog recently posted some photos of new sidewalk projects that were completed in 2009, including sidewalks on 37th Avenue South between South Thistle Street and South Rose Street, near Wing Luke Elementary School on South Beacon Hill.

Bike/pedestrian circulation planning meeting tomorrow

A cyclist rides on 14th Avenue South. Photo by Seattle Daily Photo, in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
“Beacon Hill kids, families and adults, riding bikes to schools, parks, the library and the urban village using a complete circulation system of designated, safe, bicycle routes, including bike boulevards” is the vision of a new group forming on Beacon Hill. The Beacon Family Bike and Pedestrian Circulation Plan Committee invites all interested neighbors to an organizing meeting tomorrow, January 27, from 5:00 – 5:45 pm at the Beacon Hill Library. Organizer Frederica Merrell writes,

“Join neighbors at a meeting to create a safe bike circulation plan that will also benefit walking in our community.  We are borrowing great ideas from our neighbors to the south in Portland who have been doing family bike planning since 1990 through the Bike Transportation Alliance.

“We want to get kids and adults on their bikes for those short trips on the hill from home to school, the store, McPherson’s, Jefferson Park and the library.  We don’t want to battle with dangerous arterial traffic.  We want to create bike boulevards on less busy streets, improve arterial crossings, add signage, and have fun doing it!”

The group’s draft mission is currently “To design, plan and steward the creation of a family bike and pedestrian circulation system for Beacon Hill based on the work of innovative Portland neighbors, PDOT planners, and the Bike Transportation Alliance in coordination with SDOT and components of the SE Transportation Plan, the Bicycle Master Plan and the Pedestrian Master Plan.”

The Beacon Hill Library is located at 2821 Beacon Avenue South. If you have questions or ideas, contact Frederica at frmerrel@seattleschools.org.

Cleveland changes apparent at STEM open house

Charlie Mas (a Beacon Hill neighbor) attended the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) option program open house at Cleveland High School on Saturday, and has posted his experience there at the Seattle Public Schools community blog.

He discusses the potential changes in the student demographics and some of the challenges the STEM students may face, including budget cuts, transportation issues, and a staff that will probably need to adjust to the school’s changes themselves. According to Mas, staff members at the open house at times seemed unprepared for the possibility that many of the STEM students will be working at or beyond grade level and will want to take advanced courses in subjects such as world languages.

However, Mas also describes what he sees as positive aspects of this new program on Beacon Hill:

“My daughter is looking for a small school, and I am convinced that STEM will be small. She is looking for project-based learning and they are definitely going to have that. She wants to escape the ‘Discovery’ math, and it looks like STEM will offer an escape from it. She is looking for a lot of science, and oh boy will she have that.”

The Seattle Times (BHB partners) also reported about STEM yesterday, focusing on concerns about budget issues and whether the District will be able to support the program.

To set up the STEM program, the District may spend $800,000 for curriculum and training from the New Technology Network, a network of schools with a STEM focus. Some, including School Board President Michael DeBell, are not certain this expenditure is necessary in a time of tight budgets.

The Times quotes Cleveland principal Princess Shareef, who feels the New Technology Network support is vital: “If we want to do this correctly, we’re going to need the professional development that the New Technology Network affords. I hope, hope, hope that the board approves it.”

Starting in Fall 2010, Cleveland will not be a neighborhood “comprehensive” high school, but instead an “option” school, open to everyone in the District. The STEM program will be phased in for freshmen and sophomores in the classes of 2013 and 2014, while juniors and seniors will be enrolled in a College Readiness Academy.

Beacon Bits: cerveza, soccer, and STEM

Now customers at El Quetzal can have beer with dinner. Photo by Jason.
El Quetzal, 3209 Beacon Avenue South, has been approved for a liquor license in the category “Restaurant – beer.” Now you can have a cerveza with your torta.

* * *

Seattle Soccer Club members are looking for players to join them for a pick-up soccer game at the old Van Asselt Elementary School tomorrow, Saturday, January 23, at noon. (If the field is occupied, they’ll move across the street to the Van Asselt Community Center.) Players of all levels are welcome. Details are on their Meetup page.

* * *

The South Seattle Beacon discusses Cleveland High School’s new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) option program that will open this fall. In the article, principal Princess Shareef expresses some worry that Beacon Hill families near Cleveland might not take advantage of the STEM program’s availability: “The teachers and families want it to remain diverse, but when we have community meetings, families from our community haven’t been showing up… I want the Beacon Hill community to understand what is going to be happening here and for them to consider having their kids be students here.” Cleveland is hosting an open house for the STEM program tomorrow, January 23, from 10:00 am – noon, at 5511 15th Avenue South. (via Seattle Public Schools community blog)

* * *

Urban farmer (and MacArthur Genius Fellow) Will Allen is visiting Seattle on February 3 for a series of events promoting urban farming to help Seattle residents gain access to healthy food.

At 7:00 pm he’ll be at Mercer Middle School for “Inside the Urban Farmer’s Studio,” a free, community-wide discussion about food, urban farming, and food policy.

You can find out more about Allen and the February 3 events at the Delridge Grassroots Leadership website.

Closures complicate trips to West Seattle, Sodo

Getting to West Seattle and Sodo from Beacon Hill is going to get more complicated, starting tonight. As we’ve reported previously, the Fourth Avenue South off-ramp from the West Seattle viaduct will be closing permanently starting at 10:00 pm tonight, eventually to be replaced by a new off-ramp at First Avenue South.

Spokane Street (at surface level) will be closed from First to Sixth avenues, though business access will be preserved. The eastbound lanes will reopen sometime in 2010, and the westbound lanes will be closed for the duration of the project.

In more short-term closures, the northbound I-5 ramp to the West Seattle Bridge will close at 10:00 pm tonight and reopen at 5:00 am on Monday. The ramp from westbound Columbian Way to the West Seattle Bridge will also be closed for the entire weekend.

Fourth Avenue South will be closed entirely between South Horton Street and Industrial Way South from 10:00 tonight until 5:00 am tomorrow morning, with possible further restrictions as needed, and the same stretch of road will be reduced to one lane in each direction for at least a month after that. This may include full closure of northbound lanes at night.

Expect detours and congestion both on I-5 and in the Sodo area over the weekend. See maps and further info here, and more about the project here.