All posts by Melissa Jonas


Neighborhood Plan Update moves forward

Part of the Beacon Town Center concept plan as seen in the proposed Urban Design Framework.
On Monday, April 11 the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 117114. This bill moves the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan Update “action plan and goals” into the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. (There’s other stuff in there, but this is only a summary of changes relating to Beacon Hill. Read it; it’s interesting. Really.)

Here’s the proposed Urban Design Framework for North Beacon Hill Town Center, created with input from you and your neighbors. Here’s the Neighborhood Action Plan.

Some of the “Key Action Items” include:

  • Maintain the remainder of parcels and storefronts north and south of the immediate station area along Beacon Ave. S. for new and small businesses.
  • Rezone key opportunity sites to encourage redevelopment of parcels around the light rail station in a manner that incorporates housing, commercial services (such as a grocery store and small businesses) and amenities.
  • Evaluate a height increase within the Town Center for some but not all properties that have a current height limit of 40 feet, allowing up to 65 feet with required street and upper level setbacks.
  • Where land use changes are considered, give particular attention to zone transitions.
  • Change the land use and zoning to support the envisioned mixed use development on the El Centro site.
  • Develop neighborhood design guidelines and an urban design framework plan for the North Beacon Hill station area. Framework elements could include building height options, incentive features such as affordable housing, open space, and pedestrian connections.

Opinion: Viva Community!

Neighbors enjoyed a Beacon Rocks performance on Festival Street last summer. The El Centro building and the proposed parking lot site are in the background. Photo by Wendi.
Beacon Hill is (and historically always has been) a community of mixed incomes, cultures, ages and lifestyles. I am sometimes teased by friends from other ’hoods for what seems like excessive neighborhood pride, but there’s a lot to be proud of! Our Neighborhood Council is an active and effective voice for the community, and meetings are almost always respectful and productive. Even comments on our neighborhood blog manage to stay civil most of the time.

I hope we can maintain the positive and productive tone as the process moves forward to plan the next stages of development activity at El Centro de la Raza. El Centro staff, volunteers, patrons and tenants are part of our Beacon Hill community. I don’t understand the “us versus them” tone that creeps into conversations and comment threads about El Centro—especially when we’re all in the same room. We share the same goals and priorities: making Beacon Hill safe, vibrant and successful for everyone who lives, works, plays, studies and shops here.

El Centro de la Raza is working towards a goal to develop affordable housing, commercial space, and a public plaza. They are trying to build the “beloved community.” The need is real and the goals are attainable. While the process of changing zoning around the light rail station moves forward, El Centro is trying to activate their now-vacant south lot. They want to encourage vendors and food trucks, and to improve security and pedestrian access.  They also need revenue and are proposing a gravel parking lot with 80 spaces for commuters and sports fans.

In 1972, the “Four Amigos” inspired countless volunteers to pressure elected officials for access to a space that would become a community meeting place. The original Beacon Hill Elementary building was vacant and seemed an ideal location. Their passion and dedication still inspire 38 years later.

El Centro de la Raza is the Center for all Peoples. The name is Spanish; the roots and mission multicultural. Roberto Maestas is the man best known for the occupation that led to El Centro’s foundation, but a photo of those involved in the occupation would make a classic Benetton t-shirt.

Today, the people who seek services (and those who provide them) are astonishingly diverse. Blonde acupuncture clients share the halls with East African mothers picking up children who learned Spanish with their Filipino classmates. Ukrainian seniors wait in line at the food bank staffed by Latino volunteers coordinated by an Asian AmeriCorps leader.

El Centro’s clients and staff are more than culturally diverse. They also represent the economic diversity of Beacon Hill. The food bank and meal programs help our hungry neighbors.  All services are supported by donors and volunteers who have extra time, money, or other resources to share. Several small businesses and independent nonprofit organizations thrive as tenants in the building.. Public art and cultural events are offered throughout the year. El Centro is also the new home for Tots Jam, the toddler music class that started at ROCKiT space.

In addition to the work that goes on inside the building, El Centro advocates for and represents those in our community who might not otherwise participate in the political process. Through translation services, advocacy training, public meetings hosted at accessible times, and other means, El Centro staff and volunteers engage and inspire the community.

I’m not thrilled about parking lots on Beacon Hill. I don’t like any part of the idea. However, I’m willing to support El Centro’s efforts to build a temporary lot while the slow zoning process moves forward. A safe, accessible area with vibrant small businesses is a better short term use of this area than an empty lot. Some small income to help support programs is better than nothing.

El Centro is a vital part of the incredible community I’m proud to call home. They need our help so they can help us.

Oh, by the way… a group of diverse community activists are working to secure public meeting space on Beacon Hill. The North Beacon Hill Council is working with the Beacon Hill Merchants’ Association and other groups to request free access to office space in the library. We need a place to share community information and provide storage and meeting space. Please contact the Mayor’s Office and City Council members to support our efforts. We’re not asking people to occupy the space—an email or tweet should suffice.

Viva Beacon Hill!

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

Opinion: Service Center should become community information space

The Neighborhood Service Center in the Library is closing -- but could it continue to be a neighborhood resource? Photo by go-team in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”

As part of budget cuts within the Department of Neighborhoods, North Beacon Hill is losing our Community Service Center in the Beacon Hill Library. Steve Louie is moving to the Delridge Neighborhood Service Center. He will work in coordination with three other District Coordinators to serve the Southeast, Greater Duwamish, Delridge, and Southwest Districts as a team.

The North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to request that the recently vacated office become a volunteer-run information sharing space. The location is accessible, highly visible, and already identified as a gathering/information space in the community. A community audit showed strong interest in maintaining a space for information sharing, meetings, assistance with grant applications, and general liaisons between neighbors and city programs.

The space would be shared with staff from City agencies such as the Department of Neighborhoods, Department of Planning and Development, etc. Volunteers from a variety of community organizations (including the NBHC, Beacon Arts, Beacon Merchants Association, and others) would staff the space.

Please contact the Mayor’s office and city council members to support the idea of maintaining a publicly accessible space to share information and stay connected with what’s happening in Beacon Hill and the rest of the city.

You can write, call, email, tweet, or post on facebook. Our elected officials are accessible—access them and let them know that Beacon Hill wants to use this space!

Seattle Free School coming to Beacon Hill

Seattle Free School is hosting a class for prospective facilitators on Thursday, January 20 at the Beacon Hill Library. The class runs from 6:30 – 7:30 pm, and is—of course—free.

Seattle Free School runs completely free workshops and classes on a wide variety of topics. Like to make cheese? Need to learn how to tune your motorcycle? Want to learn about world travel? Seattle Free School can help! They rely on volunteer facilitators to keep their programs free, interesting, and exciting.

Here’s how they describe the upcoming facilitator class on their website:

“Is there a skill, hobby, or chunk of knowledge you are passionate about? Want to share that passion with other interested people? Curious about how many people with an aversion to public speaking have come to love being facilitators?

“Come to this class to learn how to be a facilitator with Seattle Free School, and to meet and network with other facilitators. This informal meeting covers what Seattle Free School is, tips on teaching, and how to schedule and promote your course.

“Whether you wish to facilitate a class, or just want to learn more about Seattle Free School, you are welcome to attend this meetup. We recognize that teaching others can be an intimidating task, and we are here to support you and provide assistance in making Seattle Free School a fun adventure for you.”

Please go here to register online for the facilitator class. The Beacon Hill Library is located at 2821 Beacon Avenue South.

Two Beacon Hill parks finalists for Opportunity Fund grants

On December 6, the Levy Citizens Oversight Committee gave their final recommendations for Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund grant projects. Two North Beacon Hill projects made the final list, which will go to the City Council for approval in March.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dee Dunbar, Vinh Nguyen, and the other Friends of Lewis Park, Lewis Park has been recommended for an Opportunity Fund grant for $260,000. These funds will be used to pay professional crews to take care of the steep slopes which are inaccessible to volunteers, as well as restoration of native plants and trees.

Santos Rodriguez Park at El Centro de la Raza, in the snow. Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons.
El Centro de la Raza was also recommended for a $350,000 grant for Santos Rodriguez Memorial Park on the west side of the El Centro building, to revitalize the park and increase public awareness and access to the park space. This grant would be conditional, requiring improvements in public access; the recommendation reads: “Must provide public access during non-childcare program hours. Entrances/access should be provided to make the site clearly open to the public and gates must be unlocked during non- school/program hours.”

Here’s the list of finalists throughout the city. Our Beacon Hill parks are in good company—there are some amazing projects coming up for Seattle in the next few years.

Previous BHB posts about this round of Opportunity Fund applications are here.

(Wendi Dunlap also contributed to this article.)

Share locally: food banks, farmers, and families need your help

Caspar Babypants (Chris Ballew) will perform at the Wellspring Family Services open house on Saturday.
‘Tis the season for sharing good cheer! Here are some ideas to get into the spirit of giving.

Get a great deal on a Christmas tree at El Centro de la Raza and support the many programs they offer our community.

Don’t miss the Wellspring Family Services open house on Saturday, December 4, at 1900 Rainier Avenue South. The event features a free performance by Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew of the Presidents of The United States of America) and other musicians. The open house is free and for all ages, but please bring a new unwrapped toy to support the holiday drive.  You can donate your child’s outgrown clothes and gear (car seats, high chairs, etc.) now and all year-round. Why not start a new tradition and ask your child to make room in the toy box for new things?

Clean your pantry and/or pick up extra items for a Beacon Hill food bank. South Beacon Hill neighbors can donate to Beacon Avenue Food Bank, located at 6230 Beacon Avenue South.  North Beacon folks can donate to El Centro’s food bank. Mid-Beacon neighbors can flip a coin—or donate to both!

The Alleycat Acres urban farming collective relies on donations and volunteers to keep their community-run farming efforts going.

The silent auction is sold out, but you should still make a donation to Open Arms Perinatal Services, a nonprofit agency helping pregnant women.

Do you know a nonprofit we missed?

Free breakfast and other Halloween happenings on the Hill

Photo by TheCulinaryGeek via Creative Commons.
Tasha’s is offering free breakfast to kids in costume today (Halloween).  The kids’ menu has tasty treats for every little monster’s palate, and the family-owned business welcomes children of all ages. Mom and Dad might want to prepare for a long day by enjoying one of Tasha’s mimosas with breakfast.

Head to El Centro on Monday for the opening ceremony for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The Ofrendas (altars) are always amazing, and this event is a wonderful combination of solemn and festive celebration of those who have passed on.

Here are a few tips to keep your monsters safe while they’re being spooky (from the Centers for Disease Control—experts on scary!)

  • Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
  • Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
  • Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
  • Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
  • Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook well.
  • Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Otherwise, stay outside.

Neighborhood plan update moving forward tomorrow

The Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUNC) is meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, September 28, at 2:00 pm. One of the items on the agenda (item #5) is “recognition of the North Beacon Hill, Othello, and North Rainier Neighborhood Plan Updates,” including briefing, discussion, and a possible vote.

Key items in the proposed update include changing the zoning around Beacon Hill Station to 65 feet, and encouraging more residential development in our Urban Village.

The committee will consider and discuss Resolution 31245:

A Resolution recognizing the extensive efforts of the North Beacon Hill neighborhood to update their vision and plan for the future; approving an action plan for the neighborhood and City to undertake actions to advance neighborhood priorities and authorizing the submittal of proposed amendments to the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan for consideration as part of the Comprehension Plan amendment process.

You can read the  entire resolution online.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien chairs SPUNC, the committee responsible for neighborhood planning (among other things).  To share your thoughts on whether the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan is ready to move forward, please attend the meeting tomorrow or contact Councilmember O’Brien via email at or by phone at 206-684-8800. SPUNC meetings are held in Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue.

The proposed Neighborhood Plan Update was drafted during one of the worst budget crises the city has ever seen. North Beacon Hill residents will benefit from projects and goals in the plan, and will also be able to pursue funding for other projects in the future.  Action teams will be forming soon to work on specific items in the plan—stay tuned to the Beacon Hill Blog to learn how to get involved!

Our community is strong and vibrant because neighbors like you get involved in the planning process and—most importantly—in the many ongoing projects happening on Beacon Hill. Whether you have five minutes to send an email or hours to devote to meetings, thank you for helping make North Beacon Hill an amazing place to live, work, play and learn!

Beacon BIKES! update

Photo by Two Ladies & Two Cats.
Ryan Harrison sent this announcement with information and an invitation from Beacon BIKES!:

As many of you know, there is a growing movement among Beacon Hill residents interested in safely getting people of all ages and abilities around and to destinations within our neighborhood on foot and bicycle.  This propelled Beacon BIKES!, a growing group of community members, to obtain the knowledge and expertise of a consultant to bring our collective vision to fruition.  (Links available describing some of our ideas can be found on the September 3rd posting on this blog.)

Friday, we chose Alta Planning + Design as our consultant from among three enthusiastic applicants.  Beacon BIKES! believes that pedestrians and cyclists encounter similar obstacles in getting around our neighborhood and that facilities that address both modes make the most sense.  This philosophy is in line with Alta’s belief in “integrating all modes of travel (including walking and bicycling) into the daily lives of residents and creating healthy, safe, and sustainable communities.”  Most importantly, they offer an interactive approach geared to keeping the neighborhood informed and involved throughout the process.

All this is great news, but in order for this to work, we’ll need anyone and everyone to chime in at our monthly Beacon BIKES! meetings to make this a uniquely Beacon Hill plan. The next meeting will be held at the community room of the Library at 6:30 PM on Monday, September 13th.  SDOT representatives will be in attendance, so the more Beaconites there, the more seriously our work will be taken.  If you’re not involved already, you will want to be after this meeting!

In addition, there will be opportunities to participate through community forums, walks and other interactive outings to make this circulation plan for us and by us.

As always, you can prepare for the next Beacon BIKES! Family Bike and Pedestrian Circulation Plan meeting by visiting our Facebook page: Beacon BIKES!

You may also contact Sandra Woods or Brian Dougherty of SDOT and our City Council members to let them know you are a participant in and support our Family Bike and Pedestrian Circulation Plan.

Be sure to check back to the blog for updates.  We hope to see many of you at the meeting.

Thanks Beacon Hill!

Reminder: North Beacon Hill Council meeting is next week

The North Beacon Hill Council meeting, usually the first Thursday each month, has been rescheduled this month to next Thursday, September 9 at 7:00 pm. NBHC meetings are usually held at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South. Stay tuned—we usually post the agenda here a few days before the meeting. All are welcome to participate in the neighborhood council.

The meeting cannot be held at the library tonight, as all branches of the Seattle Public Library are closed this week due to budget cuts.