Tag Archives: beacon hill station

New ordinance allows parking lot at El Centro

The El Centro de la Raza parking lot is a step closer to existence. On March 21, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that allows parking lots of up to 100 spaces as interim uses on sites “occupied or owned by established institutions within a quarter mile of a light rail station, including the North Beacon Hill light rail station.” Earlier proposed versions of the ordinance limited all lots to 40 spaces.

“Parking, especially at places like El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill, will serve as a handy resource for game day fans.”

El Centro has expressed an intent to put 80 parking spaces on the lot directly south of their building, which is located across South Lander Street from Beacon Hill Station.

The ordinance also allows parking lots of up to 40 spaces on other properties within Southeast Seattle station areas, however, this part of the ordinance excludes the Beacon Hill station area.

The City Council’s press release on the ordinance quotes Councilmember Sally J. Clark: “We want to see these lifeless, empty parking spaces serve a use, at least until the economy rebounds. Allowing longer-term parking, particularly at places like El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill, will serve as a handy resource for game-day fans hoping to avoid parking around Safeco Field or Qwest Field.”

The ordinance will not allow permanent parking lots; permits for the lots will expire after three years.

The El Centro parking lot has been the subject of some neighborhood controversy, as seen by a lively discussion on our earlier post. BHB contributors Melissa Jonas and Joel Lee also posted dueling opinion pieces, one supporting the parking lot, and one suggesting different uses.

A group of neighbors enjoy last summer's Beacon Rocks! in front of the El Centro south lot, soon to become a parking lot. Photo by Wendi.

High winds knock down pole at Beacon Hill Station

One of the banner poles at Beacon Hill Station fell early this evening in gusty winds. The pole, one of three, displayed several cut metal banners as part of the “Community Threads” installation by artist Carl Smool.

Neighbors in the area strung ropes and put up warning tape while Sound Transit security staff moved some of the metal banners to a safer location after gusts of wind caught some of the downed banners and started blowing them down South Lander Street.

The damaged pole appeared to have broken at the point where it was welded to the base. The poles still standing seem to be constructed similarly, but were still holding steady this evening though they moved quite a bit in the wind gusts. Luis Rodriguez, owner of the nearby Station coffeehouse, was helping mark the area with warning tape about half an hour after the fall, and expressed concern for the stability of the remaining poles: “They should close this. Someone could get killed! These [poles] keep on moving.”

Please be aware that the area is still under a wind advisory until midnight tonight.

Photos and video of the scene at the station plaza this evening:

Sound Transit staff observe the fallen pole at Beacon Hill Station. Photo by Wendi.

The cut metal banners that were attached to the pole. Photo by Wendi.

The base of the fallen pole, at the point where it broke off. Photo by Wendi.

El Centro proposes parking lot

The El Centro building on opening day of Festival Street in December 2009. The lot behind the chain-link fence is proposed to become a temporary parking lot until it can be developed. Photo by Jason.
(Updated at 12:48 p.m. to add a link to Estela Ortega’s letter. The link was mistakenly left out of the story when posted earlier this morning. — Ed.)

El Centro de la Raza is seeking permission from the city to open a parking lot south of the El Centro building until the land on that site can be developed, and is asking neighbors to support this proposal.

A January 31 letter from El Centro’s Estela Ortega (read the full letter here) to the Beacon Hill community requests support for a temporary parking lot in El Centro’s south lot, adjacent to Beacon Hill Station. The proposal is for 80 public parking spaces, to “help generate much needed revenue to support (El Centro’s) programs and mission during these difficult economic times.” The letter goes on to describe potential benefits to the neighborhood including security improvements, access to Link Light Rail and neighborhood businesses, hosting of mobile food vendors, and parking for Festival Street events.

Currently new parking lots are not allowed in light rail station areas. A current proposed land use amendment would allow interim parking use on lots that already have legally established parking near Mount Baker, Columbia City, Othello and Rainier Beach Stations, but the proposal says “Light rail parking would not be allowed within the North Beacon Hill station area.” However, though El Centro is adjacent to the station, it is not within the officially-defined “station area.” The land use amendment currently being considered would allow commuter and business parking on certain lots such as El Centro’s that are just outside the station area and already have existing parking.

You can give your opinion on the proposed parking lot at a hearing of the City Council’s Committee on the Built Environment on Wednesday, February 23 at 9:30 am in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue.

Ortega’s letter lists other El Centro items of note:

  • Santos Rodriguez Park has new playground equipment and is open to all neighbors. $350,000 in funding from the Seattle Parks Opportunity Fund will be used to improve the park further, with input from a community advisory committee.
  • South Lander Street between 16th and 17th Avenues South will be renamed Roberto Maestas Festival Street in honor of El Centro’s late principal founder and leader. Lewis Park, at the north end of Beacon Hill near the Dr. Jose Rizal Bridge will be renamed the Roberto Maestas Nature Park.
  • El Centro has received funding to begin a community process to plan the development of their south lot. A community meeting is planned for Saturday, February 19 to discuss the project. The meeting time will be announced later.

Also at El Centro:

  • United Way is operating a free tax preparation site. In addition to filing tax returns, customers will be able to purchase savings bonds, open credit union accounts, sign up for prepaid debit cards, and apply for public benefits such as the Washington Basic Food Program. Hours are Tuesdays from 5-9 p.m. (English, Spanish, and Arabic), Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. (English, Spanish, and Chinese), and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. (English and Spanish).
  • Spanish classes at El Centro will run from April 12 until June 9, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuition is $300. Please contact 206-957-4605 or execasst@elcentrodelaraza.org for more info, or visit the El Centro website to enroll.
  • The Just Garden Project is kicking off their Spring into Bed fundraising campaign with an event at El Centro on March 5 from 7-9 p.m. Proceeds from the event go to building free and subsidized gardens for low-income families in King County. See the invitation for more info.
  • Estela Ortega has been confirmed as one of 14 community members to serve on the city’s Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee III. This is the third committee of its kind that has selected to advise the city on questions that affect transportation in Seattle. Other members represent organizations including (among others) Cascade Bicycle Club, Downtown Seattle Association, Carpenters’ Union Local 131, Transportation Choices Coalition, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Don’t hate the station, hate the game

Beacon Hill Station. Photo by Wendi.
Erica C. Barnett calls Beacon Hill’s gain the rest of Southeast Seattle’s loss in a Publicola article titled “South End Screwup”:

Today’s loser: Residents of Southeast Seattle who might, had Sound Transit not decided to build an expensive (and over-budget) station through Beacon Hill, have had two more light-rail stations in their part of the city.

Barnett’s analysis appears to be in error, however. She claims that:

…The distance between stations on the south end of the line is much longer than in the central, north, and (planned) east portions of the line: Nearly two-and-a-half miles from station to station, compared to just over 1.5 miles for the north section and just over a mile for the central portion.

However, the 2009 Seattle Transit Blog article in which she has found this statistic is not referring to Southeast Seattle when it describes “South Link.” The existing light rail line, from Westlake south to Sea-Tac, is known as “Central Link,” and is listed on the STB article with an average station distance of about 1.2 miles. “South Link,” on the other hand, is used in the STB post to refer to the extension of the line from Sea-Tac to Tacoma (or Redondo/Star Lake — it’s unclear which version of the proposed line is being referred to here). The distance between the Rainier Valley stations actually averages (very roughly) 1.25 miles.

Also mentioned in the Publicola article is a statistic from the February 2010 Metro/Sound Transit rider survey (also discussed on Seattle Transit Blog), showing low ridership numbers at Beacon Hill station, with only two percent of riders boarding at Beacon Hill. To put the number in context, this total was just above SODO and Stadium stations (one percent or fewer), and just below Mount Baker, Othello, and Columbia City (each of which accounted for three percent of daily boardings). SeaTac/Airport (30%) and Westlake (23%), unsurprisingly, accounted for the highest number of boardings.

More recent numbers released by Sound Transit last month (February – June station activity based on actual boarding data instead of survey responses as was the February survey) found here and here show Beacon Hill Station with more boardings than Columbia City, Othello, Rainier Beach, SODO and Stadium, and more deboardings than all of the above plus Mount Baker, and only a few short of Pioneer Square.

Leaks in Beacon Hill Station being fixed

During last week’s miserable, rainy weather, we noticed something disconcerting—it was raining in the southbound tunnel of Beacon Hill Station.

You can't see it, but there are droplets constantly falling into this puddle. Photos by Wendi.

The leaks along the wall in the tunnel (seen above in the photo on the right) were noticeably worse, and a constant shower of droplets was falling over the platform, all the way back to the wall, where drops were falling out of the front of the light fixture there.

We asked Sound Transit about this, and spokesperson Bruce Gray told us: “The short answer is, we have a leak and are fixing it. We don’t think it’s indicative of anything seriously wrong. Our engineering folks tell me this is fairly common over the first year or so of deep-mined projects, which is why the work is all covered by warranty.”

Indeed, this week work is being done on the south platform.

Repairs to the south platform at Beacon Hill Station. Photo by Jesse Odam.

Beacon Bits: Spanish classes, squeaky rails, and help with the bills

Alleycat Acres and ROCKiT space are planning to transform this yard into an educational garden for the community. Photo courtesy of ROCKiT space.
Alleycat Acres and ROCKiT space have been pretty busy in the neighborhood lately. Now, they are working together to build an educational community garden in the backyard at ROCKiT space. On Saturday from 1:00-5:00 pm, the two groups are inviting the community to a work party to transform the space. They will also sell plant starts and baked goods to help raise funds for the garden, and there will be music and artsy activities as well as a potluck. To help out, email rockitspace@gmail.com or volunteer@alleycatacres.com or just show up on June 12th. ROCKiT space is located at 3315 Beacon Avenue South. For more information, see the website.

* * *

El Centro de la Raza is hosting another series of Spanish classes, to begin on June 28. Classes are instructed by professional native Spanish speakers in an interactive community-based setting. Classes will be on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:00 pm to 7:30pm. Go here for information and a registration form. If you have questions, please call (206) 957-4605 or email execasst@elcentrodelaraza.org.

* * *

The last two parts of Kevin Minh Allen’s three part series in the International Examiner, “Beacon Hill, Our Story,” are online now. Read the full series here: part I, part II, part III.

* * *

Local Metro driver and YouTuber punkrawker4783 has posted a video tour of Beacon Hill Station.

* * *

Speaking of Link, Mike Lindblom reported in Sunday’s Seattle Times (BHB news partners) that there are still issues with the noise of the trains in Tukwila, along Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, and along the curve near Mount Baker Station and the Beacon Hill tunnel, though a lubrication system added last winter has helped somewhat. Have you noticed the noise, and have you noticed any improvement?

* * *

Dan Bennett took this cool panoramic photo of Jefferson Park recently. Click on it to see a larger version. Once you’re there, click “Original” to see a much larger version.

* * *

A land use application has been filed to allow change of use in the basement of an existing apartment structure at 1731 South Horton Street to a religious institution (Zen Buddhist Meditation Center); it would require approval of an Administrative Conditional Use to allow an institution in a single family zone. See this bulletin for further information. The comment deadline is June 20.

* * *

Lastly, we wanted to pass on some information about a financial assistance program that is currently open for low-income families in Seattle. Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) offers an Energy Assistance Program that provides financial assistance through LIHEAP and Puget Sound Energy HELP to help low-income families and individuals pay home heating bills and minimize future home heating costs. Eligible clients can receive up to $1,000 through LIHEAP or Puget Sound Energy for utility payment assistance and up to $5,000 for dysfunctional heating system, chimney, or window repair or replacement. For more information, see the website or call the Appointment Hotline at 1-800-348-7144.

Once, many years ago, I was in a very bad financial situation and CAMP’s program was what kept the heat from being turned off in my apartment that winter. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for being there when I needed help. If you know anyone who might need similar help, please do make sure they get information about CAMP’s program.

Opinion: A bold idea for Beacon Hill’s Central Park

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

by Andrea Leuschke and Tim Abell

What if you could start from scratch and locate the Beacon Hill Central Park, the neighborhood’s focal point, anywhere on Beacon Hill—without disrupting existing businesses, without relocating current residents, without demolishing any of the many buildings of character on Beacon Hill? Ideally it would be located on Beacon Avenue, in the heart of the Urban Village, close to the transit station… and that is exactly what we are proposing.

The Parks and Green Space Levy Oversight Committee announced that there are funds available for the acquisition and development of park space. The intent of this project is to acquire the land surrounding the light rail station (see a map of the area here) to create an urban park in the heart of the North Beacon Hill Urban Village.

Neighbors enjoying a park's wading pool in the summer.
Our neighborhood has seen great changes in the past few years with the addition of a new library and the recent opening of the Beacon Hill light rail station. As both the adopted North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan (NBHNP) and the 2009 Draft Plan point out, the central area of our neighborhood is still missing public spaces that provide opportunities to play for young (play structure) and old (chess table), talk to friends and neighbors (benches, picnic tables), and for community gatherings (plaza). The adopted NBHNP points out that with the existing population North Beacon Hill does not even meet the minimum city standards for the ratio of open space to residents.

A park-like setting in the core will also help alleviate the lack of tree cover and vegetation. It would give residents and visitors a great opportunity to connect with nature, the environment, and the larger landscape of the Pacific Northwest, and for all to share the spectacular Beacon Hill views.

With community backing, this acquisition would most likely score highly due to the central location in our community, the consistency with the adopted plan, the coupling with the transit station, and the vacancy of the desired land. All these factors combine to make this an unique and creative opportunity.

Please comment on this blog about what you think and what you would like to see in the Beacon Hill Park. This proposal will be submitted to the North Beacon Hill Community Council for endorsement at the meeting on Thursday April 1, 2010. Please come out to express your support!!

Andrea Leuschke is a landscape architect who has worked on the Beacon Ridge Improvement Community (BRIC) stairway project. Tim Abell is a resident of Beacon Hill and an architect who designs and develops work force housing in Seattle.

(All images courtesy of Andrea and Tim. Click on each thumbnail image to see a larger version.)

Process, participation, and progress: a neighborhood planning primer

Many Beacon Hill neighbors took part in a planning meeting last March. Photo by Jason.
While many people pay a great deal of attention to national politics, relatively few participate (or are even aware) of events happening in their own neighborhood—until issues percolate into the media. Recent events in Southeast Seattle might have caused some neighbors to wonder how the neighborhood planning process works, and what is actually in the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan. Here’s a quick introduction to planning in our neighborhood.

What is a Neighborhood Council?  Why should I get involved?

North Beacon Hill is fortunate to have an engaged neighborhood council and to be part of a dynamic, functional district council. The North Beacon Hill Council describes their role as follows:

“NBHC is one of the the major community groups that represents North Beacon Hill to city, county and state agencies. It is the major political body of the neighborhood that works to improve the living conditions of our neighborhood… We work to empower our neighbors to implement the improvements to the neighborhood that they envision, we work to inform our neighbors of issues that will affect our standard of living, and we work to create a sense of community for our neighborhood.”

If you can make it to one meeting, you’re a voting member of the North Beacon Hill Council.  Attend a meeting to familiarize yourself with the issues and people involved.  If you can’t make it regularly, stay connected and attend when you’re able or when an issue motivates you.  It’s even possible to vote by proxy.  We have the Beacon Hill Blog, the BAN mailing list, and the North Beacon Hill Council website as resources.    Get involved!

Who represents neighborhoods?

There are important connections between neighborhood councils, district councils, and City Council.  Seattle elects City Council members “at large”—all council members represent all residents.  To ensure that residents of all neighborhoods have representation on the community level, Seattle has neighborhood councils—groups that meet in the community and are composed of residents, business owners, and other interested parties.  Residents and members of the councils elect board members.  Council Boards interact with the City and other levels of government, representing the community. The neighborhood councils also elect representatives to a district council. Seattle has 13 district councils.  North and South Beacon Hill are part of the Greater Duwamish District Council. District Council representatives participate in the City Neighborhood Council.

The North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Council and the Greater Duwamish District Council are a key way for our community to engage with City Council members, the Mayor’s office, and other elected officials.  They also advocate for our community to receive funds for sidewalks, crosswalks, greater police engagement, and more.

NBHC meets the first Thursday of every month at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South. The next meeting is March 4 at 7:00 pm.

What are neighborhood plans? Who develops them?

There has been active debate recently around the three identical appeals filed to oppose Neighborhood Plan Updates in North Beacon Hill, North Rainier (a.k.a. Mount Baker Station), and Othello.  The appeals themselves are intended to address concerns about the environmental impact of development in the area. The appellants and their supporters are also concerned about the process the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) used to create the updates.  This is a separate, but very important issue.
Continue reading Process, participation, and progress: a neighborhood planning primer

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.