Results of recent neighborhood plan update surveys posted

City Councilperson Mike O'Brien speaks with Beacon Hill residents at May's town hall meeting at Mercer Middle School.
The Department of Planning and Development has posted the results of the recent town hall and Web surveys about the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan Update. They sent out the following announcement:

Thank you for your participation and contribution to your Neighborhood Plan Update from the March 2009 meeting through the May 2010 Town Hall meetings and the online survey. Your input in creating the updates and your help prioritizing the Action Steps will guide the Implementation Phase, which we are just about to start. Implementation will involve a partnership of community members, community organizations, the City and funders. We look forward to working with you on the Strategies and Action Steps to bring about your community’s Vision and Goals.

The May 2010 Town Hall and web surveys results are now posted to our website. Click on the following link if you wish to see what your fellow community members think: (Editor’s note: You can go directly to the survey result PDF here if you prefer.)

Your commitment to your community is further demonstrated by the hundreds of Action Team members signed up to implement the Action Steps. City Departments will be activating the relevant Action Teams as we start our work in your neighborhood. If you did not sign up, but are interested, please contact your Neighborhood District Coordinator: Yun Pitre ( if you are in Othello or North Rainier; or Steve Louie ( if you are in North Beacon Hill. In the meantime, you can keep up to date on our progress via our website and Facebook page.

Again, thank you for your commitment to your neighborhood. We are excited to begin our shared work plan in your neighborhood.

Block party tonight on South Hanford

Summer’s not quite over yet—it’s still August and it’s still block party season, despite this year’s weird weather! New neighbor Steve Pratt sent us this announcement for a block party happening tonight:

My wife and I just moved to this part of Beacon Hill. We are both teachers at Cleveland High School and love the opportunity to live and teach in the same neighborhood. To get to know our neighbors as well as to celebrate summer, we wanted to get the word out about a block party happening on Tuesday, August 31st from 6 – 8 PM. It will happen on Hanford St between 13th and 14th. Anyone in the nearby vicinity is invited. I’ve knocked on quite a few doors to invite folks, but some people weren’t home and others probably thought I was trying to sell them a vacuum cleaner. Anyway, bring a side or drink, and we’ll see everybody then.
Questions or RSVP: Steve Pratt, 206.293.0345

Opinion: Save the Jefferson Park Gatehouse

Jefferson Park Gatehouse a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Mark Holland and Mira Latoszek.
By Mark Holland and Mira Latoszek

The gatehouse at Jefferson Park is in imminent danger of destruction. After twelve years of neighborhood planning with the gatehouse in multiple versions of the Jefferson Park plan, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and the Seattle Parks Department (DPR), suddenly announced they decided to “demolish the gatehouse,” just months before the grand opening. What happened?

This story is a textbook example of the worst result that can occur when SPU and Parks fail to work together.

Falling through the cracks of bureaucracy

In 2002, just after the first year-long Project Advisory Team (PAT) meetings ended, SPU began a demolition permit for the old reservoirs. Unknown to the PAT or the community, the gatehouse was part of that permit because SPU thought there might be a possibility it would need to be removed along with the reservoirs. At the same time, SPU submitted a draft landmark nomination for the gatehouse to the landmarks board in preparation for the possible demolition.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood and city continued planning Jefferson Park. In 2005-2006, there was another year long PAT. The 2006 plan shows the gatehouse restored as restrooms with a “gatehouse plaza” in front. The plan also called for the removal of the obscuring trees on the west side. Parks still has not removed those trees, making it nearly impossible to see the building. The community, the ProParks levy oversight committee, the board of Park commissioners, the mayor and the city council all reviewed and approved the 2006 plan. This is the plan Seattle voters gave fifteen million dollars to plan and build through two parks levies.

As construction began, Parks determined it would be impractical to convert the gatehouse into restrooms. As a result, the budget for the gatehouse went elsewhere. SPU avoided demolition. When SPU asked Parks if they wanted the gatehouse, Parks responded, “As stated at the meeting, Parks is not interested in taking over the building and utilizing it for any purpose.” (6/15/2009)

This left SPU with a dilemma. The gatehouse served Seattle’s water system from 1910 up until 2007 when it was decommissioned. SPU says that it cannot spend public money on the gatehouse because it is no longer a functioning part of Seattle’s’ water system. SPU insists Parks’ decision to abandon the gatehouse leaves SPU with no alternative but demolition. Parks, on the other hand, claims to have no money left out of the fifteen million they were given to save and maintain this tiny building with a century of Beacon Hill and Jefferson Park history in its walls.

Gatehouse history

The year is 1910. Seattle is reveling in an amazing feat of engineering known as the Cedar River Watershed and Pipeline, ending at the reservoirs in Jefferson Park. The gatehouse controlled the flow of the reservoirs to the city. The man behind the drive that got the job done was Reginald Heber Thomson, chief engineer for the city of Seattle. He overcame tremendous physical and political barriers to accomplish what many before him tried and failed: to build Seattle a safe, clean, and secure drinking water supply. Finally, Seattle would be a modern city and would no longer have to drink the “turbid waters of Lake Washington” (“Shaper of Seattle: Reginald Heber Thompson’s Pacific Northwest,” William H. Wilson 2009).

Historical research shows the name of Mr. Thomson appears on the final drawing for the gatehouse (Landscape Inventory of Jefferson Park, Historical Research Associates [HRA] 2001). The draft landmark nomination submitted by SPU (SPU/Sheridan Associates) in 2002 also notes that the name of R.H. Thomson is on the final drawings for the gatehouse. The recent landmark nomination from SPU makes no mention of Mr. Thomson’s name. They simply state it was designed by “Seattle Water Department staff”. The construction drawing in the SPU nomination does not show his name.

At the same time, a revolution in landscape design and urban planning known as the “Beautiful Cities Movement” had reached its peak with Daniel Burnham’s epic “Plan of Chicago,” released in 1909. Cities all over the world were clamoring to plan their own beautiful cities, inspired by the vision put forth in Chicago. Seattle hired the Olmsted brothers design firm to plan Seattle’s park system. The preliminary plan for Jefferson Park was done in 1912. John C. Olmsted surveyed the site in 1903 in preparation for the 1912 planning. He remarked on the extraordinary views and prepared for a design that would incorporate the reservoirs into the overall park plan. Most of the plan was never realized; only the 18-hole golf course and the gatehouse remain from this earliest period in the development of Jefferson Park. The views remain as spectacular as ever.

Gatehouse future

The elimination of the restroom conversion idea left the gatehouse without a function. Parks toyed with the idea of turning it into a maintenance shed, but that would require cutting a giant hole in the side for the installation of a roll up door. They simply had no better ideas and decided to abandon it instead.

“The Jefferson Park Gatehouse and History Plaza” is a project under review by the ProParks levy oversight committee’s “Opportunity Fund” program. This project idea proposes to use the gatehouse as a history display plaza and water resource education facility. This will be a complement to the water resource education theme of the soon to be built beacon mountain playground. the project is up against many other creative ideas competing for limited funds. there is no guarantee the history plaza idea will make it now, but that does not mean it could not be funded by other means at a later date.

The money

SPU released three different options with cost estimates for the gatehouse.

  1. Repair, Secure, and Maintain: $232,000. This will restore the building to a condition safe for use by the public.
  2. Mothball: $124,300. This will make the building safe, though not suitable for active use-just basic repairs.
  3. Deconstruction: $177,665. This is SPU and Parks’ preferred option. It will wipe out all traces of the gatehouse and the history it represents, except for a couple of the antique valves Parks says they will display on a concrete pad where the gatehouse once stood, as an “artifact” of the reservoirs.

As the estimates show, the cost to save this building in the short term by mothballing it is the cheapest route. It costs less to save the gatehouse than it does to destroy it.

How to save the gatehouse

This building does not deserve to die because of a lack of interest or concern on the part of the city employees we depend upon to implement Seattle’s neighborhood plans. The Jefferson Park gatehouse and the history it continues to represent belongs to the people of Seattle and Beacon Hill. It represents a direct connection to the past that shows Seattle once planned a great Olmsted Park for Beacon Hill. It took one hundred years to get us there, but now that vision has finally arrived, and Beacon Hill is going to get that “beautiful cities” park planned so long ago. Let’s not begin the next 100 years of history at Jefferson Park by erasing the only element left that links us to the last 100 years.

It is not necessary to landmark the gatehouse in order to save it. SPU and DPR need the landmarks board to declare the gatehouse ineligible for landmark status to begin deconstruction. It is absolutely necessary that Beacon Hill speak out now in support of the gatehouse in order to save it.

Here’s what everyone can do:

  1. Contact SPU ( and ask them to stop the demolition plans and withdraw the permit, regardless of the decision made by the landmarks board.
  2. Contact the Seattle Parks Department ( and ask them to stick to the plan, accept responsibility for the gatehouse, and cut down the trees as planned so everyone can see the building.
  3. Contact the Chair of the City Council Parks committee, Sally Bagshaw (, and the other city council members (,,,,,,, and tell them Beacon Hill wants to see the gatehouse saved in the short term, and restored in the long term.
  4. Contact Mayor McGinn ( and ask him to save the gatehouse and tell SPU and Parks to stick to the neighborhood plan.
  5. Contact the Landmarks Preservation Board ( and tell them you want to see the gatehouse landmarked and preserved.
  6. Attend and testify at the Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on Wednesday, September 1, at 3:30 pm in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue, 40th floor, room 4060.
  7. Contact the Levy Oversight committee ( and ask them to fund the restoration of the gatehouse via the Opportunity fund .

The vision we see emerging at Jefferson Park is the direct result of Beacon Hill residents’ unwavering support for their neighborhood plan. The gatehouse is key to that vision. For the first time in 100 years, Beacon Hill can see a future with an Olmsted Park, the way it was meant to be. If you ever wrote or called in support of Jefferson Park in the past, now is the time to do so again. If you never got involved before, now is your chance to make a difference.

There is only one Jefferson Park Gatehouse. Now is the time to save it and the history it represents – for the next 100 years.

Thank you,
Mark Holland and Mira Latoszek

Wellspring helps homeless children and families find stability

(This is the second of two articles today about family homelessness and two Beacon Hill-area non-profit organizations that provide services for homeless families and families in danger of losing their homes. The articles are part of a wider project in conjunction with The Seattle Times and other neighborhood news blogs to address the topic of family homelessness. See the project’s home page at the Times and the previous article here at the BHB.)

by Melissa Jonas

Wellspring Family Services is one of the oldest nonprofits in Seattle. They have been continuously operating since 1892, beginning as the Seattle Charitable Society in Pioneer Square. The organization has grown and changed, responding to community needs. For the first time in their 108 year history, all the programs came together in one building when they moved into their Rainier Avenue location. This location was chosen because it’s accessible to public transportation and is close to where clients/client families live. Wellspring also partners with 200 other agencies in Seattle and greater King County, coordinating referrals to identify the greatest variety of resources available. In 2009, Wellspring served over 7257 children and adults.

Invisible Families: The homeless you don’t see

Invisible Families: The homeless you don't see

They squeeze in with relatives, couch surf with friends or camp out in cars. More families are quietly becoming homeless, driven to the edge by a lack of jobs and affordable housing. The Seattle Times and its local news partners tackle the topic together. Project home

One important sign of a successful program is how clients feel about the services they received. Family Services clients are motivated to help the agency in a variety of ways. When she was 5 years old, Rena Mateja raised $506 in coins to benefit Morningsong, the child care program at Family Services. Now she has help! Seattle musician Caspar Babypants (otherwise known as Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the United States of America) has teamed with Rena Mateja and Wellspring to launch the “Kids Helping Kids” fund drive. Caspar was so inspired by Rena Mateja’s success story that he wrote a special song, “Happy Heart”, about her. Each donation, regardless of amount, submitted by September 1, 2010 to Wellspring’s “Kids Helping Kids” contest will be entered into the drawing for a chance to win a song written by Caspar. To participate, kids must register at The winner will be announced on September 23.

A teacher at Wellspring Family Services reads a morning story after picking preschoolers up from shelters. Photo by Melissa Jonas.

Rena Mateja’s mother Sebrena believes in the importance of early learning programs for children and in empowering parents to make good choices for their children. She is a vocal supporter of Wellspring Family Services and a tireless advocate for children and families. Her daughter is following in her footsteps, and they continue to inspire each other towards new achievements. Rena Mateja explained to her mother that she likes helping people because “those people we help, help other people and pretty soon, Mommy, Dr. King’s dream will come alive.”

At Wellspring, homeless families receive assistance with their urgent needs (eviction prevention, emergency housing, rental assistance) and help to address the root causes of homelessness. When a family is homeless they are in survival mode, only able to focus on the immediate issues at hand. Once a family is back in housing the issues that caused them to become homeless start coming to the surface. Wellspring is there to help stabilize them for the long term.

Therapists work with families to cope with and grow beyond the trauma of homelessness, developing strengths so they can face future challenges. Childcare programs provide a safe, stable place for toddlers and preschoolers to spend their days, giving parents the opportunity to take care of their responsibilities. Therapists and experienced teachers create a warm, inviting environment that encourages early learning. Classes and workshops help parents learn positive conflict resolution and develop positive relationships with each other and their children. Wellspring also operates a well-respected domestic violence counseling program.

Case managers help parents navigate services, offering referrals and coordinating the often confusing application processes for housing, health care, food, child care, and utility assistance programs. The goal is to help parents build a stable foundation for their families. On a practical level, the Baby Boutique offers new and gently-used clothing and supplies for children from birth through the teen years. Parents are referred by care providers to stock up on needed items at no charge.

How you can help: Wellspring Family Services is located at 1900 Rainier Avenue South, near the intersection of Rainier and 23rd Avenue South. Donations are always welcome—you don’t have to be a kid to help! Currently, the greatest need at the Baby Boutique is for strollers, car seats, toys and games for older children, and clothing for teenagers. To learn more about Wellspring Family Services’ programs, visit their website. You can also find Wellspring Family Services on Facebook.

El Centro de la Raza offers programs to prevent family homelessness

(This is the first of two articles today about family homelessness and two Beacon Hill-area non-profit organizations that provide services for homeless families and families in danger of losing their homes. The articles are part of a wider project in conjunction with The Seattle Times and other neighborhood news blogs to address the topic of family homelessness. See the project’s home page at the Times and the second article here at the BHB.)

by Melissa Jonas

The first five years of a child’s life are the most likely time for a family to become homeless. According to the United Way of King County, 3388 children and their family members were homeless in King County for the 2010 One Night Count. Many parents reading this will be shocked, but not completely surprised. It’s shocking to think that young children are at such great risk of becoming homeless and unsurprising because raising kids is so challenging—not to mention expensive. Single parent households, low income families, and families who have experienced homelessness in the past are especially vulnerable to losing their housing.

Invisible Families: The homeless you don’t see

Invisible Families: The homeless you don't see

They squeeze in with relatives, couch surf with friends or camp out in cars. More families are quietly becoming homeless, driven to the edge by a lack of jobs and affordable housing. The Seattle Times and its local news partners tackle the topic together. Project home

Families become homeless for many reasons, ranging from purely financial to a combination of social and economic problems. Parents miss work for medical appointments or to care for a child when school/daycare is closed. Extra expenses associated with a new addition can tip a family over the edge from “barely making it” to homeless. Sleep deprivation, clashes over parenting styles, and lack of social support can all push relationships to their breaking point. How would you handle these impossible choices: pay rent or pay for child care that allows you to work? Stay in a violent relationship, or take your kids to sleep in the car? Sleep together in a park or leave dad behind and go to a shelter?

Being homeless is traumatic for kids and parents alike. Parents question their ability to care for their families, sometimes not asking for help because they are afraid of losing their children. School-age children who are homeless struggle in class, and have difficulty making friends. Even very young children are affected by homelessness; homeless children are at greater risk of developmental delays and behavioral problems later in life. Children who experience homelessness are at greater risk of becoming homeless as adults, continuing the cycle of generational homelessness. Helping parents create and maintain a stable home for their children is the one of the best investments a community can make.

A child in Columbia City Park reads cardboard signs intended to raise awareness about family homelessness. The sign in front reads: "We live in a car. Don't just look away." Photo by Melissa Jonas.
Where can families turn when they are about to lose or have lost their housing? The King County 2-1-1 Community Resource Line provides referrals and conducts intake for rental assistance. Those in need can call 2-1-1 or visit to learn about local resources.

Two agencies in the Beacon Hill area provide emergency assistance and long-term support to prevent homelessness and to stabilize families who have lost their homes. These programs work with each other and other agencies across the city to provide the most comprehensive services possible.

For 38 years, El Centro de la Raza has been working on behalf of the “Beloved Community.” Executive Director Estela Ortega told us about some of the organization’s dreams to provide housing on their Beacon Hill property for people of all races, income levels, and ages. Ortega hopes to begin meeting with Beacon Hill neighbors soon to collect design ideas, explain how the project goals fit the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan, and encourage support for the zoning changes needed for this project. (See previous articles about proposed zoning changes here and here.)

El Centro’s goal is to create a mixed-income building, offering rental rates affordable to very low income individuals as well as workforce housing targeted at those earning 80% of Area Median Income (approximately $60,000 for a family of four). El Centro’s location adjacent to the Beacon Hill light rail station makes it ideal for those who work or attend school anywhere in Seattle. Residents would also benefit from living near the programs already offered by El Centro.
Continue reading El Centro de la Raza offers programs to prevent family homelessness

2010 Beacon Rocks! series to rock out one last time Sunday

Photo by Oran Viriyincy in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool.
The final Beacon Rocks! music event of this year is Sunday, August 29, from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm (rain or shine!) at the Lander Festival Street next to Beacon Hill Station.

As always, the event is free to all (we suggest bringing chairs or blankets to sit on, maybe umbrellas, sunscreen, etc.).

The performers at this weekend’s show include:

YAAMBA Marimba: YAAMBA Marimba are a group of musicians who enjoy playing Zimbabwean music and other music driven by a rhythmic beat on marimba and mbira. They’ve been playing together since the 1980s.

Glenn Bell Band: Glenn Bell is a Seattle musician who hails from Philly. His self-released debut LP, Slide, is a dose of all-American story telling in the context of rock/pop melodies, in the mold of Springsteen and James McMurtry.

Splinter Dance Company: Splinter Dance Company’s repertoire ranges in styles from hip-hop and breakdance, to lyrical, salsa, and jazz.

The Colour Project: The Colour Project is a Seattle-based electronic rock duo, formed in 2010 by Jessie McKenna and Mark Chrisman. They combine drum beats, guitar, synthesizer, textured loops and melody.

Jessie McKenna: Original melodic pop/rock.

Red Heart Alarm: Red Heart Alarm is a “Gruntry” band hailing from Seattle, WA. They’ve coined the term for their sound, which marries their native city’s Grunge legacy with the melodic twang of classic Americana/Roots music. The result of this experimentation is their recently released debut album White Elephants.

Clearwire volunteers brighten up Mercer Middle School

Volunteers busy painting a mural. Photo courtesy of Clearwire.
Last week over 100 Clearwire employees participated in a volunteer project at Asa Mercer Middle School. They painted a mural and some walls of the portable classrooms, built benches and planters, planted flowers, and put together new backpacks with donated school supplies—one for each of Mercer’s 850 students. Clearwire also donated 34 Lenovo laptop computers for Mercer’s new mobile computer lab.

The project was part of Clearwire’s service program, “Connecting with Communities.” Thanks to Clearwire for volunteering on Beacon Hill and helping the kids in our community!

August on Beacon Hill

These are some of the wonderful photos people have posted lately in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr. Have any photos of the Hill? You are invited to add them to the pool for possible publication.

Swimming at the Harwood Condos. Photo by Bridget Christian.

In Daejeon Park on North Beacon Hill. Photo by Silare.

A dog hitched to the hitching post at The Station coffee shop. Photo by Joel Lee.

Balloons at sunset. Photo by sodoheights.

Beacon Bits: Internet outages, slow traffic, and health inspections

(We apologize for some delay in getting this posted. Our internet was down for a bit. Oddly, it went down just as I was preparing the story below.)

Neighbor Sebastian in North Beacon writes that he’s been having some Broadstripe trouble lately:

I’ve been having intermittent to complete Internet outages for 24 days, starting on 7/30. Cable TV has been out since 8/19. I’ve called Broadstripe 20+ times to ask for updates and for someone to investigate their Network issues with less than satisfactory responses. During a third service call on 8/19/2010, a Broadstripe technician finally discovered that the source of the problem is with Broadstripe’s network and not with the equipment inside my house. Unfortunately the issue still hasn’t been resolved and my Internet and Cable TV still aren’t working.

…I’m curious if anyone else has been having issues with their Broadstripe Internet and Cable TV service? I’m getting tired of dealing with an incompotent service provider and I’m wondering if anyone has had any luck dealing with them?

Anyone else having these problems with their cable lately? And does anyone have any suggestions for Sebastian?

(Editor’s note, 5:28 pm: Sebastian tells us his service is up and working again. How about the rest of you?)

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Like Beacon Hill internet service, traffic on Rainier Avenue South will also be moving slowly for a while. Southbound traffic on Rainier will be reduced to one lane between South Forest Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way South around the clock until early September. Construction crews are upgrading drainage and electrical utilities in the roadway as part of the Rainier Transit Priority Corridor Improvements Project to create a better waiting environment for bus passengers, improve travel time for buses, and improve parking conditions for automobiles. You can read more about it here.

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“Home to some of the very best views of downtown Seatown, it’s shocking that sleepy Beacon Hill is often overlooked, said Yelp’s “Neighborhood Spotlight” feature last week. The article touts our library as “stunning,” our cuisine as “out of this world,” and concludes that there are “so many reasons to buzz about this ’hood!” Read it here.

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Speaking of our cuisine, certain local establishments received their periodic visits from the Health Department. El Centro de la Raza, Dim Sum House, Elegant Gourmet Catering, Em Engo Beacon Grocery/BBQ Deli, Golden Daisy Restaurant, Holly Park Head Start Center, Jefferson Community Center, Sharon’s Lutong Bahay, and La Bendicion all saw the inspector in the last few weeks.

Congratulations to Holly Park Head Start Center, Jefferson Community Center, and Sharon’s Lutong Bahay who all had perfect scores of zero!

Click on the establishments’ names above to see the reports of each place’s inspection. Please note that having some violation points does not necessarily mean an establishment has a serious problem. It is common for even good establishments to get some violation points now and then. The type and number of the points are what matters. Here is some more information about the Food Protection Program.

Pet pair looking for a way home?

Neighbor Miranda writes,

“On my way to the train this morning around 7:45 on 22nd & Lander I spotted a large, black, senior Labrador mix anxiously walking around with a brown/orange/black tabby cat following close by. The two were obviously together. I followed them to College but the dog was scared. I couldn’t get close and I didn’t want to chase them down to Rainier. I managed to get a photo of the dog, the cat was behind the car. It’s attached. Hopefully one of the BHB readers will recognize them so they can go home.”

I hope this animal pair finds its way home. Perhaps they are on an incredible journey.