Category Archives: News

Redistricting plan would move Beacon Hill into the 9th District

The state congressional redistricting proposal released on Wednesday morning not only adds a new 10th District in the Olympia area, but, closer to home, would move Beacon Hill and part of Georgetown from the 7th District into the 9th District. The 9th District, with Southeast Seattle as well as Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton, Kent, Federal Way, Des Moines, SeaTac, and Tukwila, would become the state’s first “majority-minority” district, containing 50.33% people of color. The rest of Seattle would remain in the 7th District, represented for many years by Jim McDermott.

The new proposed 7th and 9th District boundaries.

The 9th Congressional District is currently represented by Democrat Adam Smith.

You can comment on this plan online here. (Comments are public. Previous comments may be read here.) Time is of the essence; the redistricting commission, made up of two Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees, must agree on a plan by New Year’s Day. If they cannot agree, the decision falls to the State Supreme Court. If they do agree, the legislature will have 30 days to make changes, with a required two-thirds vote.

Earlier this month, the commission proposed a new map for state legislative districts, but there were only minor border changes in Southeast Seattle, where Georgetown and the western part of Beacon Hill would remain in the 11th District and the rest of Southeast Seattle (including most of North Beacon Hill) would remain in the 37th District.

For further information on the broader statewide implications of the proposed plan, see our news partners at KOMO.

Election Day: Have you mailed your ballot?

It’s Election Day, and while the focus on one specific election day has dimmed somewhat since we switched to vote-by-mail, it’s still the deadline for turning in your ballot. Ballots must be postmarked today or returned to a ballot drop box by 8:00 pm to be counted. (If you get your mail to the mailbox after the final pickup of the day, you won’t get a November 8 postmark, even if the final pickup is before 8 p.m. Be careful to check pickup times.)

If you would rather not use a stamp to mail in your ballot, you can drop off your ballot at one of the county’s official ballot drop boxes. The nearest ones to Beacon Hill are located downtown, at the King County Administration Building (500 4th Ave), and in the International District at the accessible voting center at Union Station (401 S. Jackson St.). There are no drop boxes in Southeast Seattle.

If you have lost or damaged your ballot, or if you are one of the up to 21,000 voters who did not receive ballots, you can vote the old-style way in a voting booth at the accessible voting center, until 8 p.m. tonight. Bring your identification. However, the Union Station voting center is one of only three in the entire county, so be aware that there may be lines at peak periods. Get there early if you can.

If you want to remind yourself about the issues in this election, you can find the statewide candidates and ballot measures you’re eligible to vote on by filling in the form here. Local candidates and ballot measures can be found by filling in the “Your Voter Guide” form here, or reading the online voters’ pamphlet.

The first batch of results will be posted to the King County Elections page tonight at 8:30 p.m., and thereafter at 4:30 daily. Unfortunately, the 8:30 batch is the only batch of results that gets posted on Election Night these days, making Election Night parties a bit less suspenseful.

Last November, voters at the Union Station accessible voting center waited as much as three hours to vote. However, there was no wait to use the ballot drop box. Photo by Wendi.

Rizal Park Off-Leash Area reconfiguration announced

Dr. Jose Rizal Off-Leash Area reconfiguration. Click on this image to see a larger PDF of the area.
The reconfiguration of the Dr. Jose Rizal Park Off-Leash Area (OLA) has been announced. OLA suppporters had feared that the 5-acre dog area would be reduced to 1.5 acres in the new site design, but after community input, Seattle Parks and Recreation announced that the reconfiguration would give the OLA a 4.1 acre space. This would provide about the same amount of usable space as the previous site had, since part of the previous site was inaccessible.

Acting superintendent of Seattle Parks, Christopher Williams, sent the following letter out to the community:

Dear Off-Leash Area Supporter,

Thank you for your participation in our efforts to reconfigure the Dr. Jose Rizal Park off-leash area to accommodate the new Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail. We listened to what you told us in the recent public meeting, and I’m very pleased to let you know that Parks staff have identified a 4.1 acre area that maximizes the available, usable space in the park to serve as our off-leash area. To see the new configuration, please see the attached schematic.

Major change has come to Dr. Jose Rizal Park because of the construction of the trail. The trail, which is a wonderful new amenity for the city and for the neighborhood, unfortunately took about one acre of the original off-leash area. It has also brought about renewed interest in the park, increased volunteer activity by the ever-active and much appreciated Beacon Area Neighbors, and recent Parks improvements that include:

  • Thinning the quaking aspen and birch trees. This thinning, consistent with Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles, improves sight lines in the park, both within and outside the off-leash area. It also gives the remaining trees the opportunity to thrive and creates more usable space in the off-leash area.
  • Along with volunteers from Beacon Area Neighbors, maintenance crews cleared approximately 1.5 acres of blackberries, which also creates more usable spaces within the off-leash area.

Continue reading Rizal Park Off-Leash Area reconfiguration announced

Neighbors get first look at planned station block development

Clayton Smith shows an example of a courtyard from another Pacific Housing NW project. Photo by Wendi.
A couple dozen community members attended the Early Design Guidance meeting held last night to discuss the proposed development on part of the Beacon Hill Station block. Representatives from Pacific Housing NW (who, previously, were involved in the Beacon Hill Central Park proposal) presented preliminary ideas for the building to the Southeast Design Review Board as well as to the community members in attendance.

It is very early in the process, so all the designs shown were nowhere close to a final form. (The designs are currently not available online, but should appear on the DPD website soon. I’ll post a link then.) Several options were presented, including 40′ buildings and 65′ buildings, depending on whether the rezone currently in process goes through or not. All the options had a few things in common: an entrance to a 14-17 space parking garage via the alley, a courtyard to the north of the building, and some commercial space on the southwest corner of the building. The options varied in height, the presence of live-work space, and the configuration of entrances and setbacks. A 40′ building would probably have 30 units, and a 65′ building would have 45.

Pacific stated that their goal is “sustainable principles”; they hope to include solar cells and possibly even wind power generators on the roof. They intend to plant large trees in the planting strips around the building.

Materials Pacific said they may use for the building include “some lap siding,” masonry, concrete, and some paneling for upper levels. (Several community members expressed a strong dislike for panel-type siding during the public commentary period.) “Green walls” would probably be included as well.

Parking would be below-grade, with a small 14-17 space garage. Parking is not required at all within the station overlay area, so there is no requirement to have spaces for each unit.

The amount of commercial space in the building, as presented by Pacific last night, is very small—one small unit in the southwest corner. This was the most frequent concern mentioned by commenters during the public comment period. Neighbors who spoke up about it were unanimous in wanting more retail/commercial space in the building, preferably along the entire McClellan frontage. The current proposal “is not lively,” said neighbor Judith Edwards.

Some commenters also expressed concern about setbacks. The designs showed setbacks above the fourth floor. Judith Edwards commented that, according to neighborhood design guidelines, setbacks are supposed to start above the second floor. She concluded, “We are going to hold firm on this.” However, this was not a unanimously-held opinion. Another neighbor commented that setbacks are unnecessary for this building because it will have plenty of visual interest already.

Another major concern mentioned by the neighbors in attendance was the alley. In the proposed designs, the alley side of the building contains a driveway into the parking garage, but seemingly nothing else. Commenters wanted to see the alley as an “active alley,” with shops and cafe tables, preserving the view toward El Centro de la Raza. (See this illustration by Joel Lee for the basic idea.)

In general, however, the commenters seemed fairly supportive of the development.

After discussion, the Design Review Board members recommended “significant modulation” and an increase in commercial space. Setbacks will be required if the building is 65′ tall. The designers should draw on existing structures in the neighborhood for materials influence. They must enhance the alley, activating it for pedestrian use.

There will be another meeting in the future, after new designs have been created to address these issues. Stay tuned for the rest of the process.

(Thanks to Melissa Jonas for some additional information.)

La Esperanza de Seattle applies for new liquor license

According to the State Liquor Control Board, La Esperanza de Seattle at 2505 Beacon Ave. S. has made a new application for a liquor license of the type Grocery Store – Beer/Wine. This appears to be the same as a license application we wrote about last May; it is not uncommon for notifications to be re-announced with a new date if certain changes had to be made to the application.

The applicants are La Esperanza de Seattle GP, Geovanni Santacruz, and Omar Santacruz. The license number is 407963. If you wish to make any comments on this application, whether positive or negative, e-mail

Greenway signs sprout on 17th and 18th Avenues

New wayfinding sign on the 17th/18th Avenue South Greenway, on 17th Avenue just south of South Forest Street. Photo by Wendi.
New signs appeared along 17th and 18th Avenues South recently, the first visible step toward the new Beacon Hill Greenway, part of a planned network of neighborhood greenways on Beacon Hill. The signs direct cyclists to neighborhood locations such as Jefferson Park and Beacon Hill Station via the greenway route.

Greenways are residential streets that are designed to be safe neighborhood connections for bicyclists and pedestrians, while still allowing automobile access using traffic calming measures. (City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has posted a FAQ with more information about neighborhood greenways on her website.)

Seattle’s greenways have recently seen a lot of press, including articles in The Seattle Times, Publicola, Seattle Bike Blog, and The Atlantic Cities.

For more information on bicycle and pedestrian strategies on Beacon Hill, see the Beacon Hill Family Bicycle and Pedestrian Circulation Plan, a ten-year plan put together by Beacon B.I.K.E.S. and ALTA Planning + Design. (See also the appendix.)

Crews make quick work of bedroom fire near Jefferson Park

Photo courtesy of KOMO News (BHB news partners).
By KOMO Communities Staff (Beacon Hill Blog news partners)

Seattle firefighters quickly extinguished a fire inside an apartment complex near the south end of Jefferson Park Golf Course on Saturday.

Crews were called to the building at 4715 Beacon Ave S. about 12:35 p.m. and found smoke coming from the bedroom of one of the units.

The fire was out within minutes, and no one was hurt.

Several adjacent apartment units suffered smoke and fire damage, and those occupants were displaced.

Officials said no one was inside the apartment when the fire broke out, and the cause is under investigation.

Foreclosure a possibility for PacMed building

The landmark PacMed building dominates the northern tip of Beacon Hill. Photo by Wendi.

Eric Pryne of the Seattle Times reports that developer Wright Runstad has defaulted on their loan on the PacMed building at the north tip of Beacon Hill, and that the building is now in the beginning of foreclosure proceedings.

Most recently, the building was occupied by, whose lease expired this spring. Amazon has moved their operations to the South Lake Union neighborhood, and the PacMed building is currently mostly vacant.

The PacMed building was in the news last month when Wright Runstad proposed that the King County juvenile court and jail complex move into the building. However, county officials determined that the proposal wouldn’t meet affordability criteria, and so it was scrapped.

Pryne suggests that the default and threatened foreclosure could be “saber-rattling”:

“Owners of other financially troubled buildings, such as downtown Seattle’s Columbia Center, have engaged in ‘strategic defaults’ to prod lenders to modify their loans.

“And there’s no evidence so far of any foreclosure filing involving the PacMed building in King County court or property records—although the first step in foreclosure in Washington, a ‘notice of default’ from lender to borrower, generally isn’t recorded.”

Pryne also notes that an appraisal last year valued the building at $11.3 million, a little more than half of the $20.5 million Wright Runstad owes on the loan. Monthly payments are about $181,000.

The owners of the building are the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority, who negotiated a 99-year lease with Wright Runstad in 1998. Wright Runstad then subleased the the building to Amazon.

The Preservation and Development Authority is a non-profit quasi-public organization whose mission is to promote health care for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Find out more about the PHPDA here.

County says PacMed proposal doesn’t meet “affordability criteria”

The proposal to move the Youth Services Center (including juvenile court and detention facilities) into Beacon Hill’s PacMed building is now off the table. King County officials have determined that none of the six proposals for replacement of the Alder Youth Services Center—including the PacMed proposal—meet the county’s affordability criteria.

According to County Administrative Officer Caroline Whalen, one of the primary goals of the process was that “the [Youth Services Center] project should be, to the extent possible, cost-neutral to King County or at least minimize the financial contribution required to be made by King County.” None of the submitted proposals were found to meet this criteria, so the county is ending the current procurement process and considering its next steps.

See further reporting from the Beacon Hill Blog‘s news partners:

  • The Seattle Times: County says PacMed won’t work for juvenile court
  • Beacon Hill KOMO: County makes it official, juvenile jail to PacMed proposal doesn’t meet ‘affordability criteria’
Photo of the PacMed building by Wendi.