4 to Explore: A Northeast Neighborhoods Newsletter

2016 January

1 Meeting to Connect

Debuts & Discoveries at Magnuson Park (with University Sunrise Rotary)

Finally a “Meeting to Connect” that involves the sampling of local beers. “4 to Explore” typically encourages you to attend community councils and land use meetings, so here’s a gathering this season that offers more zest: DEBUTS & DISCOVERIES AT MAGNUSON PARK. The catch is that the “meeting” is hosted by one of Northeast Seattle’s Rotary Clubs, so you might be tempted by community service in addition to the food and drink.

At this annual event, you and your friends will enjoy samples of the newest local wines, beers, ciders and food trucks while meeting with neighbors in Northeast Seattle.

According to their website, “University Sunrise Rotary presents a tasting smorgasbord of the latest local beverage creations. Complementing these new flavors in the historic Sandpoint Naval Air Station Hangar in Magnuson Park will be the varied bites of the hottest new food trucks. Purchase bottles of the beverages that you liked best as you leave!

This event’s primary proceeds go to the Outdoors for All Foundation, which enriches the lives of thousands of children and adults with disabilities through adaptive recreation activities like skiing, cycling, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, camping, and rock-climbing.”

The University Sunrise Rotary Club meets every Thursday at 7:15 a.m. at Ivars Salmon House in Wallingford.

Before sipping the fine local wines at the Debuts & Discoveries event on Feb 27, arm yourself with the hot issues flowing through every issue of “4 to Explore.”  For the Issues page of our “4 to Explore” website, CLICK HERE. Dazzle the other guests with your knowledge of troubling upzones, leveraging developer impact fees, promising strategies for homelessness, and the king of crowd-pleasers: reforming City Hall pensions!

BONUS MEETING:  To learn more about Magnuson Park, visit the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee on the 2nd Wednesday of each month (Jan 9, Feb 10, March 9, etc) at 6:00 p.m. in the Building 30 conference room.  There is so much important activity at this huge former naval air station, including soccer leagues, the new Waldorf High School, the Tennis Center, the arts at S.P.A.C.E., theatrical performances, the Friends of the Sand Point Magnuson Park Historic District, and the new large apartment project from Mercy Housing on Sand Point Way.

RADIATION UPDATE: In January 2015, “4 to Explore” reported on the slower than anticipated clean up of the radiation at the north end of Magnuson Park — and the frustrating lack of info from our City’s Parks Department. Here is an update:

  • Washington State Department of Health (DOH) website retrieved Jan 2, 2016:  “Cleanup of low-level radiation in and around Building 2 and 27…finished at the end of May 2015. The U.S. Navy and Seattle Parks will continue to research, assess, and test other areas of the park to make sure these areas were the only ones with radiation contamination.
  • Washington State Department of Ecology website retrieved Jan 2, 2016: “Seattle Parks and Recreation has contracted with Thomas Gray and Associates, Inc., a health physics consulting firm to do an independent radiation survey and sampling project in five areas of the park. The areas include: the “Solid Ground” housing area, the off-lease dog park, the children’s play area, the amphitheater and ‘The Pea Patch’ community vegetable gardens. Contact Seattle Parks and Recreation for more information “
  • U.S. Navy:  The Navy’s final reports were not available on the Navy website when we first checked, perhaps due to a technical oversight or glitch. After we inquired recently, the Navy made sure they were posted. For the most recent report on the U.S. Navy website, CLICK HERE.The status indicates “Completed site cleanup…” The report further states, “This is the last Weekly Report on the U.S. Navy funded Time Critical Removal Action at the former Sand Point Naval Air Station. The TCRA has been completed. The next phase is the completion of the final report which is anticipated to be published on this public website in Winter 2015.”
  • City of Seattle Parks Department: Even though the City owns Magnuson Park and the Dept of Ecology refers readers to the Parks Dept, there is still NO info on the City Parks website about the radiation clean-up — except for referring readers back to the state government. When we inquired with the Parks Dept, they responded, “The Dept of Ecology has the latest information on Buildings 2 and 27 on their web page. That is the best source of information for that project – this is why we have links posted for their pages. As for the sampling of five areas of the park, we are reviewing the reports provided to us by Thomas Gray and Associates, Inc. and will be sending out information to the community about the results. This will also be posted on the web site.”

To see where Buildings 2 and 27 are located, as well as the other areas referenced, here, CLICK HERE for a map.

1 Issue to Engage

10 Good Things Our New City Council Should Do, But Probably Won’t

The few Seattle residents who exercised their hard-fought right to vote last November elected another City Council. There is a balance of first-timers (Gonzalez, Herbold, Johnson, Juarez) and veterans (Bagshaw, Burgess, O’Brien, Sawant, and the new Council President Harrell). We urge the 9 Councilmembers to resist the influence of those who contributed money or endorsed their campaigns and work only on what improves the quality of life in our city.

Here are “10 GOOD THINGS OUR CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS COULD DO, BUT PROBABLY WON’T.”

1. Unlock Dollars for Social Services By Reforming City Hall’s Expensive Retirement Benefits.
2. Enact Impact Fees on For-Profit Developers So We Have Money to Build Schools.
3. Fund Only Best Practices That Actually Reduce Homelessness.
4. Visit Community Councils At Least Every 3 Months Just to Listen.
5. Replace the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) with the Best Programs.
6. Increase Community Policing.
7. Require Replacement of Any Affordable Housing Demolished.
8. Universalize the Seattle Preschool Program.
9. Stop Dabbling in Foreign Policy.
10. Require Grocery Stores To Retrieve Abandoned Shopping Carts (and other little things that matter).

1. Unlock Dollars for Social Services By Reforming City Hall’s Expensive Retirement Benefits.
While money is needed to provide housing for the homeless and to expand the Seattle Preschool Program — and while voters are asked to approve tax levy after tax levy — the Mayor and City Council are forgoing tens of millions of dollars each year. How? By perpetuating the outdated, “Cadillac” pension benefits available only to city government employees. In 2010, Seattle taxpayers contributed $45.3 million to City Hall’s pension fund, but that amount has doubled to over $90 million each year since 2014. (That increase of $45 million a year is equivalent to how much we spend to help the homeless.) The City Council should raise the retirement age (currently as low as 52), switch new employees to a sustainable 401(k), and/or enact other cost savings seen throughout the nation. While city officials had private negotiations about modifying the pensions, there was little to no information released to the public, even though the public is paying the bills. 2016 is the time to right-size City Hall’s retirement benefits and re-direct those dollars to greater needs. For a more in-depth article on this issue, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times recently brought to light a modified pension benefit that City Hall negotiated behind closed doors with its unions for new employees. For the newspaper’s January article, CLICK HERE. If we understand the article correctly, it appears that City Hall could have saved significantly more if they had followed some of  their consultants’ more ambitious recommendations. According to the news article, the consultants laid out several options to “reduce pension contributions [by] Seattle and its employees by $1.1 billion to $2.8 billion over 30 years” (up to $93 million per year).  But instead City Hall and its unions chose to move the retirement age from 52 to 55 (which is still very early) and keep taxpayers on the hook. When City leaders continue to raise taxes while struggling to fund programs for those most in need, City Hall should be finding and redirecting  more savings. So Item #1 above still stands as something City Hall could do more of in 2016.

2. Enact Impact Fees on For-Profit Developers So We Have Money to Build Schools.
Politicians pontificate about “progressive” values. Yet Seattle fails to charge for-profit developers the basic impact fees used throughout the country and in 75 other localities in Washington State to build schools, sidewalks, and fire stations. In November, the Mayor and City Council convinced voters to approve a nearly $1 billion tax for the Seattle Dept of Transportation (SDOT). In February 2016, voters will be asked to support 2 more measures for our public schools.  Many believe it is unfair for renters and property owners to increase their share of the burden while developers increase their profits. For-profit developers benefiting from growth should help to pay for growth. If the City Council fails to charge developer impact fees again in 2016, then the Mayor can fill that void of leadership. For a more in-depth article on this issue, CLICK HERE.

3. Fund Only Best Practices That Actually Reduce Homelessness.
The Council is expected to spend over $47 million on homelessness this year. While homeless is going down throughout the nation, it is increasing in Seattle. This is due, in large part, to the city’s inability to fund only programs proven to work (“best practices” or evidence-based programs) such as Housing First and Rapid Rehousing.  While many local news reports focus on homeless encampments, they fail to investigate what is working in other cities. Moreover, framing encampments as compassion vs. NIMBY misses the point. The federal government, which focuses its funding on outcomes and results, does not fund encampments for a reason: they do not provide housing. Seattle seems to be attracting homeless from around the nation, but does not seem to be collecting the data to determine how best to address this. Our local elected officials should invest tax dollars only in strategies that work rather than caving to interest groups better at delivering speeches than results. For an earlier article on homelessness from “4 to Explore,” CLICK HERE.

4. Visit Community Councils At Least Every 3 Months Just to Listen.
The first City Council elected under the new neighborhood-based system needs to take it seriously by getting out of downtown and into their districts. While the City Councilmembers will debate the fate of the Dept of Neighborhoods and the 13 “District Councils,” they should host weekly office hours in their district and engage the community councils. Each of the 7 City Council Districts has approx 15 community councils. “4 to Explore” and other neighborhood newsletters here in Northeast Seattle hosted a candidate debate in October 2015 and asked the candidates to commit to visit all of the Community Councils in District 4 at least quarterly. They said they will. To participate in your community council, CLICK HERE.

5. Replace the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) with the Best Programs. Seattle officials have a tendency to throw together a program du Jour without using evidence-based practices and without replicating what is already proven to work in other cities. For example, an independent report commissioned by the City Auditor’s Office found that, after 5 years and over $20 million, SYVPI was so poorly designed, it is nearly impossible to determine whether the program can reduce violence. If Councilmembers truly care about our city’s young people (not the interest groups getting the money and/or inappropriately playing the race card), they will fund only programs that keep youth safe. For evidence-based programs that prevent youth violence, CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE.

6. Increase Community Policing.
In addition to improving deployment strategies so that more police are available in the neighborhoods when needed, the city simply needs more police officers. This should include those focused on preventing crime and helping communities to solve crimes. Recent data on the slower response times in the largest police precinct (North Seattle) is recent evidence of this need.

7. Require Replacement of Any Affordable Housing Demolished.
This concept, called “one-for-one replacement,” preserves affordable housing. It is needed primarily when the economy is overheating or developers are taking advantage of pro-developer “upzones” enacted by the Mayor and City Council. The current proposal to require developers to set-aside funds for affordable housing is not enough because (a) it generates too little money to fully fund new affordable units and (b) it would allow the demolition of existing affordable housing. A for-profit developer could knock down 50 units of older, naturally occurring affordable housing to build more than 50 high-end condos. Even if the developer set-aside money to build 5 affordable units (10%), the demolition would result in a 90% LOSS of affordable housing (from 50 units to 5).

8. Universalize the Seattle Preschool Program while preserving the program’s high quality. The ambitious Seattle Preschool Program was trimmed back in 2014 for 3 reasons:  (1) The leaders of the successful programs in Boston and elsewhere cautioned Seattle to go slow in order to nurture the high quality needed to achieve positive outcomes that last a lifetime (wise). (2) Some elected officials wanted to re-direct the big spending on the massive transportation levy instead (unfortunate). (3) Some officials wanted to combine the renewal of preschool with the renewal of the city’s Families and Education Levy in 4 years (reasonable). But the new City Council could expand preschool sooner by aggressively seeking federal and state dollars and by requiring some space for preschools in newly up-zoned neighborhood commercial districts.  Regardless, the new Council must preserve the evidence-based, high-quality guardrails established by the City in 2014 — even if interest groups for adults will try to divert funds toward lower quality programs.

9. Stop Dabbling in Foreign Policy.
Put away your megaphone and your kayak. Get to work for the residents of our city. Change the City Council Rules to allow abstentions on Resolutions. Sounds arcane, but it would release the Councilmembers focused on the real work of the city from having to research international conflicts and figure out how to vote on complex foreign policy issues. Let the Councilmembers ignore the blowhards so they can focus on real work.

10. Require Grocery Stores To Retrieve Abandoned Shopping Carts (and other little things that matter)
Wait — what? Probably sounds too small. But litter in the neighborhood is just one of many examples of how “little things” matter. As a famous architect once said, “God is in the details.” Thanks to the City Charter Amendment of 2013, a Councilmember’s commitment now includes the details.

1 Fun to Enjoy

Broadway Bound (U District) Performs “Annie” the Musical (at Magnuson Park)

Better than any weather forecaster, “4 to Explore” can guarantee that the Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow…if you attend the award-winning MUSICAL “ANNIE” AT MAGNUSON PARK. The emerging talents from Seattle’s Broadway Bound will perform at Theatre 47 in January and February. That’s right, this edition’s “Fun to Enjoy” is on stage in a park near you.

The favorite song of Aileen Quinn, who portrayed Annie in the 1982 film, is the one entitled “Maybe.” (The film was re-made in 2014.) Our favorite is the often forgotten charmer, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” with the kids impersonating their favorite radio show.

  • WHAT: see the musical “Annie
  • WHO: you and your family will see the Broadway Bound performers of Seattle.
  • WHEN: “Annie Jr” (shorter and for smaller children) runs from Fri, Jan 8 thru Sun, Jan 24. The regular “Annie” version runs Sat, Jan 16 thru Sun, Feb 7. For exact times, CLICK HERE.
  • WHERE: Magnuson Park’s Theatre 47, 7120 62nd Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
  • TICKETS: CLICK HERE.
  • MORE INFO: office@broadwaybound.org 

The nonprofit Broadway Bound is a Northeast Seattle institution with Seattle kids singing the roof off at the University Heights Community Center. Founded two decades ago, its mission “transforms the lives of children ages 5 – 18 through active participation in a dynamic theatre arts program that combines a fun and supportive atmosphere with professional standards. Children of all skill levels and backgrounds are challenged to develop their mental, physical, emotional, social, and creative potential through the joy and discipline of live theatre” (from their website).

For more on the history of orphanages and foster care, CLICK HERE. In case you missed the comprehensive series on homeless youth published by the Seattle Times last month, CLICK HERE.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Learn more about the Magnuson Park at the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee. MPAC is one of many community councils that serve on our Northeast District Council (NEDC). For other “4 to Explore” newsletters featuring this neighborhood, CLICK HERE.

BONUS FUN: Story Time for Kids at the University (of Washington) Bookstore in the U District. Tuesdays and Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. For info, CLICK HERE. According to their website, this free story time is best for children ages 3 to 7.

Families can find other fun events this month on the calendar websites of Parent MapRed Tricycle, and Seattle’s Child.

1 Store to Adore

University Wines (on Sand Point Way)

Searching for wines from France and Italy with alluring aromas, but not wanting to pay through the nose? Travel no farther than our Laurelhurst neighborhood for this month’s Store to Adore: UNIVERSITY WINES (formerly La Cantina).

Nestled next to two other adorable stores (City People’s Mercantile and Gretchen’s Place), University Wines offers Northeast Seattle an unparalleled knowledge of French wines and champagne.

While the marketing of Washington State wines has intensified and some good-quality wines are easily accessible at grocery stores, there is something extraordinary and enriching about having a conversation with a friendly wine expert who travels every year to France and Italy, nurtures long-standing relationships with family-owned growers, and brings home the most deliciously interesting wines.

And you won’t whine about their prices, which are surprisingly LOWER than prices at grocery stores. As they explain on their website, “We have long-established relationships with small, family wineries in France so that we can bring you premium vintages at an exceptional price.” University Wines is essentially a wholesaler, distributor, and retailer all in one. So there are no “middlemen” to mark up the price along the way.

Surprise your spouse with a fine wine for “date night” or celebrate landing that post-Recession job with genuine Champagne that delights the senses (without the added sugar that most winemakers sneak in to cover up flaws).

Simply tell the owner Gordon the taste or type of wine you enjoy most or want to explore and he will pick out the wines for you. Then you’ll gush with knowledge about the wine when you bring it home or to a gathering.

  • Delicious French and Italian wines? Yes.
  • Champagne? Yes.
  • Friendly, expert advice? Yes.
  • Free Wine-Tastings every Saturday? Yes (Oops, I “buried the lead.”)
  • Car Parking AND near Burke-Gilman trail? Yes.
  • Can get coffee, light bulbs, and prescriptions on same errand? Yes.

But don’t take just our word for it: check out their glowing reviews on YELP.

  • LOCATION: 5436 Sand Point Way NE
  • HOURS: Tues thru Fri, 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays 10-6, and Sundays (11-5)  (closed Mondays)
  • MENU: Click Here.

A votre sante! To your health!

MORE: “4 to Explore,” has highlighted other gems of this quaint shopping strip called “Sand Point Village,” which stretches from City People’s Mercantile to Katterman’s Pharmacy.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  To explore more of Laurelhurst, subscribe to the Laurelhurst Blog and attend the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC).

Get our free "4 to Explore" newsletter delivered to your inbox every month. Click Here to Subscribe