All posts by Melissa Jonas


Neighbor-to-neighbor: Parking woes in the RPZ

Photo by Wendi.
Photo by Wendi.
What are your experiences with the new RPZ (Restricted Parking Zone) in Beacon Hill?

Since 2003, I’ve parked my car in front of the house on the concrete area between the sidewalk and the street. There are two spaces and the curb is cut to allow car access to the area. The car doesn’t block the sidewalk. We considered this area a parking strip. According to the brochure left on my windshield, the City considers it a planting strip and it is illegal to park there.

I’m not the only person on our block to use this area for long-term parking. If I park on the street, I have to move my car every 72 hours–even if I have nowhere to go. I thought parking on the parking strip was responsible; I’m frustrated that it’s not allowed.

We chose this neighborhood in part because the location encourages and supports leaving the car at home. I walk to Red Apple and restaurants and we both take mass transit to work. We have cars because occasionally we need them–but rarely every 72 hours.

How does a law that requires every car in the city move every 72 hours encourage people to get out of our cars? How is parking in a paved area with curb cutouts worse than parking on the street?

Does anyone know the process for initiating changes in parking policy?

Time to vote: mail or drop your ballots by 8:00 pm 8/18

Photo by Katharine J. Moriarty.
Photo by Katharine J. Moriarty.

Tomorrow is election day! The only way to vote in the primary election is by completing the ballot you received in the mail. There will be no in-person voting for this election.

Every vote counts, so be sure to complete your ballot and turn it in before Tuesday, 8/18. This election decides who will move forward to compete in the November election for King County Executive, Seattle Mayor, and many other important positions.

No stamp? No problem! There are ballot drop boxes set up throughout the county for your convenience. Nearest to us are the boxes at the King County Administration Building, 500 Fourth Avenue, and the Southeast Neighborhood Service Center, 3815 South Othello Street.

Walking with Tica: Exploring the neighborhood

A white kitty watches as Tica and Melissa walk by. Photo by melissajonas.
A white kitty watches as Tica and Melissa walk by. Photo by melissajonas.
Like several thousand of our neighbors, we rode the new Sound Transit trains on July 18. There were so many people in Beacon Hill (literally inside the hill) that first weekend–and it went so smoothly. I am proud of our neighborhood and proud of our city. Congratulations us!

What does Link light rail have to do with walking my dog? The streets around the station have been opened up. We adapted to the construction–traffic, streets and sidewalks blocked, noise, and the visual obstruction of the big blue wall. It’s been six years that we haven’t been able to walk along Lander. Six years that we’ve had to crisscross McClellan to get to Red Apple from the west side of Beacon.

Those of you with dogs probably understand how easy it is to get into a routine (some might say rut) and walk the same route every day. We walk by the same houses, sniff the same bushes, greet the same dogs… it can get dull. As of now, we have new choices! Getting across Beacon doesn’t involve dodging big trucks.

I posted several new pictures to the Beacon Hill Blog Flickr pool from our July 18 walk. We met new neighbors and noticed new kitties and discovered some really fun lawn art.

Take advantage of the weather and the newly-restored intersections to explore a new section of Beacon Hill this week–and bring your camera. Let’s see what we can find!

Light Rail restaurant review: Baja Bistro

Happiness is this tasty margarita, just consumed at Baja Bistro. Photo by melissajonas.
Happiness is this tasty margarita, just consumed at Baja Bistro. Photo by melissajonas.
Baja Bistro and Java Love are actually conjoined twins: a bar on one side and a coffee shop on the other, sharing a kitchen. There are a few tables and chairs outside and small seating areas in both restaurants.

Baja Bistro has a full liquor license. They sell a limited number of bottled beers and probably have some wine–but the reason we go here is for the margaritas. Whether you go for traditional lime or upgrade to a house pomegranate-lime blend, you will not be disappointed. Drinks are served in pint glasses and balance great taste with moderate alcohol–and they’re within walking distance of my house!

I also rave about the tacos patatas–potato tacos. Trust me, they are incredible! Crispy, filling, but not greasy or heavy. Perfect with a margarita or other summer beverage. Also be sure to try the fish tacos, the mole enchiladas, and the incredible tortas (bolo sandwich with rich avocado and mayo spread). The homemade chips and salsa are also a treat, or you can upgrade to nachos.

Service at Baja Bistro is sincerely friendly. Everyone is made to feel welcome. Everyone on staff seems to enjoy being there and it’s clear they expect you to linger for a while. Service is quick, but the atmosphere encourages hanging out and enjoying a conversation (or a book). Baja Bistro is also kid friendly, at least on the Java Love side. The owner lives on Beacon Hill and received an award from The Stranger for being one of “Seattle’s Sexiest Baristas”. Someone should really nominate his younger brother for the award next year…

Regular prices are reasonable (meals for two are generally around $20-$25, more if you order drinks) and Happy Hour prices are very happy: $3 tacos and $5 margaritas.

Thanks to Link Light Rail, people who aren’t fortunate enough to walk to Baja Bistro will be able to take the train. Baja Bistro is two blocks north of the Beacon Hill light rail station. Come on up and enjoy some good food, great drinks, and outstanding company!

They close at 5:00 pm on Mondays, and stay open until 9:00 pm Tuesday-Friday. Enjoy breakfast and other items from 9:00 am-3:00 pm on weekends.

Neighborhood: Beacon Hill
2414 Beacon Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 323-0953

Light Rail restaurant reviews: La Cabaña

La Cabaña recently repainted their cheery sign. Photo by Wendi
La Cabaña recently repainted their cheery sign. Photo by Wendi
La Cabaña is Tex-Mex style cooking: lots of gooey cheddar cheese & smothered stuff. It’s not health food, but it is delicious!

Family-run and super friendly, this is where we take visitors when we want to spread out and enjoy a lot of good food without spending very much money. Portions are LARGE–you’ll have enough for lunch the next day. Dinner for 3 usually totals about $35, including drinks.

Try the mole enchiladas, the tostados, and the tamales. Rice and beans are basic and good. Two kinds of salsa and all you can eat chips (with ongoing refills) come with every meal. My niece loves the horchata (sweet rice drink) and my sweetie loves the Negro Modelo beer. I stick with water or occasionally a wine sangria. No hard alcohol here.

It’s almost always empty, but they’ve been around forever. The booths are roomy and the staff are always happy to see groups with kids. Decor is kitschy, in an adorable way.

I love La Cabaña. If you live on the Hill, walk on down. If you’re visiting on the train, it’s just a couple of blocks from the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station.

La Cabaña
2532 Beacon Ave S
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 322-9643

Light Rail restaurant review: Thai Palms

Every so often, we drive along MLK to observe light rail construction progress. It’s been really fun lately to see trains running. We went out to Kubota Gardens a few weeks ago and stopped off at Thai Palms on the way home.

Thai Palms is located on a busy stretch of MLK, near the Othello light rail station and not far from Holly Park Greenhouse & Nursery.

The restaurant is clean and comfortable, decorated with wicker and bright flowers. Our server met us immediately at the door and was attentive and polite. He brought two delicious iced coffees immediately. My dining companion was disappointed to hear there was no beer–Thai Palms doesn’t have a liquor license yet.

We were impressed by the extensive menu–at least four pages listing everything from Thai standards (phad Thai, Lard Na, Tom Yum) to items I didn’t recognize and can’t remember how to spell. If you have a favorite Thai dish, they probably make it here.

We started with fried egg rolls. They were fine–nothing special, but hot and brought out quickly. Next time, I’ll definitely go for the fresh rolls and/or the salt & pepper tofu as a starter.

I ordered a Massaman curry and jasmine rice. The curry was rich with coconut milk and spiced just right. 3/5 stars was perfect here–warm enough to make my nose tingle, but not so hot I cried. Shane enjoyed his Phad Thai, which contained traces of tamarind and shrimp paste and lacked the ketchup-induced sweetness and pink hue so often found in that dish.

Service lagged between our egg rolls & the main dishes. I couldn’t tell if it was simply because the main dishes were being fresh made, or because there was a shift change. We would have appreciated drink refills and some idea of when our food was coming out.

Overall, I recommend Thai Palms. It was tasty, inexpensive (less than $30 for two entrees, coffee, and an appetizer), and nearby. Once the trains start carrying passengers, we’ll venture down again.

Neighborhood: Rainier Valley
6715 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
(between Holly St & Willow St)
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 721-7777

Walking with Tica: Doggy diversity

Dogs on the Hill reflect a neighborhood of diversity. Photo by melissajonas.
Dogs on the Hill reflect a neighborhood of diversity. Photo by melissajonas.
My 8 year old niece was recently visiting from Eastern Washington. One of her favorite things about coming to see us is being able to walk the neighborhood dogs. There’s a 9 year old who visits her grandmother next door, and the girls have become close “vacation friends”. We allow them to take the small dogs around the block alone—reminded each time about safety and sticking together.

On our block alone, we have a West Highland Terrier, a Belgian Malinois, a Shih Tzu, a black Lab, a Whippet, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, and our mixed breed Tica. If you cross a street in any direction, you’ll meet an English Bulldog, a Catahuoula, a Min-Pin, more Labs… an incredible variety of dogs. My niece is fascinated by the diversity, and loves learning the names of breeds and their history.

I share her love of doggy diversity, and have fun watching the big dogs play with the puppies—and how well all the dogs behave around the little girls.

Beacon Hill is also an incredible example of human diversity. Staying within one block of our house, you will smell cooking from every continent and hear over a dozen languages being spoken over the dinner table. We have new babies and great grandparents, a wide range of income and education levels, different sexual orientations, and families of every possible composition.

Walking the dogs has given me—and now my niece—a chance to develop an appreciation for the similarities our neighbors share. Everyone smiles when they see two little girls holding leashes or selling lemonade. Everyone strives to create a safe, welcoming place.

Our neighborhood is a community. New neighbors are welcomed by those who have lived here 50 years. History, current events, and hopes and fears for the future are all discussed in front yards and on street corners. I celebrate our diversity, and I cherish every chance we have to come together.

Beacon Hill has seen many changes over the generations, and we will see more as light rail begins. We’ve weathered several years of construction and traffic challenges, and I expect some bumpy patches as we face increased numbers of people coming through (and moving to) the neighborhood. I’m confident that this diverse, welcoming community will continue to come together to face every challenge and celebrate every positive change.

Walking with Tica: Summertime and the living is noisy

Tica yawning in the hot sun. Photo by Melissa.
Tica yawning in the hot sun. Photo by Melissa.
We aren’t walking much this weekend. Tica is zonked from the heat and freaked by the fireworks. She wants to go out, but pulls strongly towards home as soon as she hears a crack, snapple, or pop. Often, she’ll be too afraid to even potty.  I have to be watchful and remember to let her in the backyard when it’s quiet.

If you have dogs (or cats), remember that they need extra consideration over the next few weeks. Many animals react very strongly to fireworks, thunder, and other loud noises.  My cats don’t seem to mind fireworks as much as Tica, but all of us suffer when the Blue Angels are practicing. The cats hide under the bed and are out of sorts.

Here are some ideas that work well for our furry roommates in July:

  • Go out early in the morning, when it’s cool and quiet
  • Keep dogs on leash
  • Make sure all animals have identification with current information–even reliable pets can panic and escape
  • If you’re traveling, update ID tags with cell phone numbers and NEVER leave pets in the car/truck
  • Provide shelter/shade for outdoor animals
  • Check all gates and fences–are they secure?  If your dog can jump the fence, consider tying out during peak noise
  • Make sure your pets have constant access to fresh water
  • Run fans and/or radios for background noise during Blue Angels practices or performances, or if someone in the neighborhood is setting off leftover fireworks from the Fourth
  • Consider locking pet doors and keeping pets inside if they seem fearful
  • Be patient and compassionate

Speaking of kitties–I’ve posted several snapshots of cats we notice on our walks to the Beacon Hill Blog flickr group. If you have a BeHi feline, post your pictures to the group.

Walking with Tica: the Triangle Park stream

Water leaking next to Stevens Place Park running north on 17th Avenue South. Photo by Wendi.
Water leaking next to Stevens Place Park running north on 17th Avenue South. Photo by Wendi.
I’m drafting a post about walking the stairs around Beacon Hill for fun and fitness (okay…not really that fun). That was yesterday’s walk–a little much for an old dog on a hot day.

Today’s walk was a slow stroll around the west side of Beacon Ave. As we often do, we looped around Triangle Park (Stevens Place) for a drink from the fresh, cool water running out into the gutter. Tica appreciates the drink and the chance to splash/pad around in the water. I’m a bit worried about the waste.

The water runs out from a pipe on the curb underneath this blue pillar. Often birds use the resulting puddle as a birdbath. Photo by Wendi.
The water runs out from a pipe on the curb underneath this blue pillar. Often birds use the resulting puddle as a birdbath. Photo by Wendi.
Has anyone else noticed this? There’s either a broken water main or some other problem, because I don’t think the City intentionally pumps large amounts of fresh water into the storm drains on a regular basis. This water has been flowing for at least 2 years. I keep forgetting to call it in and can’t find a way to email it in while it’s fresh in my mind.

Maybe if several of us call? Or if someone reading this works for Parks & Rec and/or Seattle Public Utilities? The water flows out directly underneath the locked blue box on the SW corner of Triangle Park.

Take advantage of the cooler weather and go out for a walk!

New column: Walking with Tica

Tica enjoying Jose Rizal Park back in January. Photo by melissajonas.
Tica enjoying Jose Rizal Park back in January. Photo by melissajonas.
(Editor’s note: This is the first of what we hope will be many posts by Melissa, a new contributor to the blog. Please give her a hearty welcome!)

Howdy neighbors! I’m starting a new project on the blog, loosely based on my observations and adventures as I walk around Beacon Hill. We moved to Beacon Hill from the Central District in 2003. I grew up in Walla Walla and settled in Seattle in 1997. Our household includes me, my sweetheart, two cats, and a somewhat cranky 10 year old mutt named Tica. She’s been a major ice breaker in getting to know our neighbors. We’ve also met other dogs and the people who walk them from all around the neighborhood; there are lots of folks out there holding leashes and scoop bags. (There are also lots of cats watching all these dogs warily from living room windows, porch railings, and behind bushes.)

For six years, Tica and I have explored the neighborhood, from Pac Med to the stairs on Lucile Street, but we spend the most time between College and Spokane. The north-south streets are more gently sloped, but I also enjoy the east-west hills and stairs for the incredible views and great workout. We also frequently visit Blue Dog Pond (an off leash area on Massachusetts) and occasionally stop at the dog park at Jose Rizal or the informal dog run at Pac Med/Amazon.

Taking Tica for a walk is more than just exercise, for both of us. It’s a chance to check on construction progress at the light rail station, notice “for sale” signs, and admire gardens. It’s also a fantastic socialization opportunity for both of us. Often — especially on these sunny days — we wander slowly around a few blocks and stop to see neighbors in their yards. Tica is getting older and slower, and appreciates a chance to lounge in someone else’s parking strip while I stand at the gate and gab. She also looks forward to the treats and belly scratches many of our neighbors generously dispense.

When I’m with Tica, people smile and say hello. They ask what kind of dog she is (I don’t know, probably a Blue Heeler mix), where we live (McClellan), and how progress is going on our house (it’s coming along). These basic conversations helped established relationships in a neighborhood evenly mixed between old-timers and people who just moved in. Sharing pet stories opened doors — often literally. People will invite us in to see the latest progress on a project, or ask if Tica needs some water. Slowly, over time, these sidewalk conversations are turning into invitations to dinner and exchanges of phone numbers.

Walking the dog has given me the chance to see and appreciate my neighborhood in a way that I don’t take for granted. It’s a chance to catch up on the latest news (I get the latest void updates fresh from the source), get restaurant reviews, and celebrate (or commiserate) what’s going on in the lives of our neighbors. Even if you don’t have a dog, I encourage you to get out and walk a few blocks. Especially right now — all the flowers are blooming and everyone’s yard looks great!

I’m looking forward to sharing my pedestrian experiences on the blog. Thanks to Wendi and Jason for the opportunity!