4 to Explore: A Northeast Neighborhoods Newsletter

2018 June

1 Meeting to Connect


Can setting up a barbecue in the middle of your street make your neighborhood safer? YES it can — on NATIONAL NIGHT OUT.

On Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018 after 6 p.m. (which is also Election Day), your neighbors throughout Northeast Seattle will connect and enjoy food on their blocks. Connecting with neighbors makes everyone safer.

As we know, Northeast Seattle has suffered its share of significant crime incidents, including the recent home invasion and shooting in Bryant, scary school lock-downs, frequent bank robberies (such as Key Bank in Wedgwood), and the horrific multiple shooting at Cafe Racer.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is NATIONAL NIGHT OUT.

  • WHAT: National Night Out (crime prevention and neighborhood bonding)
  • WHO: You and your neighbors, Seattle Police & Fire Departments
  • WHEN: Tuesday, August 7 from 6:00 p.m. into the evening
  • WHERE: on a neighborhood block near you. To set up a block party or find one nearby, CLICK HERE.

If you prefer to learn more about Seattle’s National Night Out on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

While our Police Department has made tremendous strides reforming how it uses force and analyzing data to fight crime under Police Chiefs Kathleen O’Toole and Carmen Best, our new Mayor Jenny Durkan is in the process of selecting a new Chief from among 3 finalists. My former boss Tim Burgess played a key role in conducting a national search for a highly qualified replacement who can solidify the reforms as required by the federal judge. Stay tuned.

— The head of our North Precinct continues to be Captain Sean.ODonnell@seattle.gov — and he grew up in NE Seattle!

— Community Policing Officers (solving community issues; not 911): Um, it seems like our police department has veered away from “community policing” as it’s no longer possible to find our community policing officers on the SPD website.  We hope the new police chief embraces community policing to build community and prevent crimes.

— Crime Prevention Coordinator: If you would like to talk to someone at SPD about crime prevention techniques, ongoing crime problems in your neighborhood, getting involved in Block Watch, and setting up a meeting to train you and your neighbors on crime prevention tips, contact Mary.Amberg@seattle.gov or call her at 206-684-7711.

Our North Precinct has been the subject of intense debate about how best to deploy tax dollars for crime prevention and enforcement, specifically how to spend tax dollars to replace the 34-year old station currently across from North Seattle College. Protests derailed the project. For the latest, CLICK HERE. In sum: instead of building a new station on Aurora (Highway 99) soon, the City will extend the useful life of the existing station until decisions can be made on a new station later — perhaps even building two, scaled back stations to cover the large geographic area of the “North Precinct” (entire city north of the ship canal).

If you’re inspired to stay connected with your community after experiencing National Night Out, here are links to some of our community councils:

Be sure to get on your neighborhood email list so that you can report suspicious activity and spot trends together. When in doubt, always call 911.


  • WHEN: Sat, July 14 and Sun, July 15, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • WHERE: Our Lady of Lake Parish at 35th Ave NE and NE 89th St
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and art lovers
  • WHY: art, music, food, fun
  • WHEN: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Maple Leaf Park on Roosevelt Way NE at NE 83rd Street
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and ice cream lovers
  • WHY: ice cream
  • WHEN: Saturday, Aug 4, 2018 (Parade starts 7:00 p.m.)
  • WHERE: Parade runs south on Lake City Way from 135th Street to 125th Street
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and seafairing lovers
  • WHY: Seafair!
  • DETAILS: CLICK HERE for website CLICK HERE for their Facebook.
Neighborhoods endure. But it takes neighbors like you to keep them going. Connect!

1 Issue to Engage

Annual Community Survey 2018: We Love Hearing From You!

We Heard Your Voice and the results are HERE. Nearly 400 subscribers in Northeast Seattle completed our 14-question survey about local issues May 8-10, 2018.

As you may recall, we believe public officials should “conduct official surveys and release results to the public,” as we urged in our Crosscut column entitled, “4 Ideas to Make City Hall Listen.” While our annual survey is not “official,” we hope it advances discussions and clarifies important issues impacting our communities in Northeast Seattle. For our COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS, CLICK HERE. For a potentially annoying and definitely subjective summary of the survey, keep reading:

MYSTERIOUS Result: After 6 months of her leading our city, residents are still unsure of Mayor Durkan. When asked “Are you happy with the new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan” an unusually high 50% said “Don’t Know.”

URGENT Result: One of the most pressing issues is City Hall’s proposal to spend $8 million to repave 35th Avenue NE. As if City Hall officials were literally deaf to the people who elected them, the project is poised to proceed even though only 12% support it, according to this survey (see discussion below about the validity of our survey).  In our view, Mayor Durkan should immediately revamp the project by completing only the crosswalk improvements. This would free up some of these tax dollars to address other urgent crosswalk and sidewalk needs throughout Northeast Seattle (65th Street, View Ridge, Lake City, etc) — and throughout the rest of our city. While Mayor Durkan might have been hoping 35th Avenue would be “too local” of an issue to impact her, a trifecta of forces changes the political calculus:  residents are still forming an opinion about her leadership, the media has recently published several reports of SDOT over-spending, and there is major opposition to the project. 35th Ave is poised to become a memorable litmus test for the Mayor in an area of the city that turns out the vote.

LOPSIDED Result: A whopping 88% of respondents said “real estate developers should be required to provide some parking spaces at their new buildings.” This flies in the face of City Council’s recent 8 to 1 vote to loosen the requirement again. (Thank you, Lisa Herbold, for bravely voting against it.)

You might remember the most lopsided result in our previous surveys: 85% of residents agreed that “real estate developers should be required to pay Impact Fees to help defray the costs of building new schools, fire stations, and sidewalks as the city’s population grows” (See HERE and HERE). Because it has been so clear Seattleites would like to see their Mayor and City Council impose Impact Fees, we decided to ask the parking question instead this year.

It’s important to clear up a false premise repeated by some to confuse the public: if the cost to build housing increases, do rents or home prices increase? No. Prices are set by the maximum the market will bear. In other words, developers do not voluntarily charge lower rent or home prices. When the costs to build increase, developers and investors make less “profit” (their return on equity decreases). The genuine concern then becomes, at what point would a developer not build, therefore negatively impacting supply?  Adding Impact Fees and on-site parking back into the costs to build need to be considered cumulatively, just like City Hall considers the cumulative impact of each property tax that they propose on us. (Ha! kidding about the property taxes; City Hall just piles those taxes onto residents.) Seriously, though, most other Puget Sound and west coast cities require both Impact Fees and on-site parking. Talented developers can cope and can leverage the fact that Seattle is still an extraordinarily desirable place to live, thanks to the hard work and spirit of existing residents. This debate will surely continue!

INTRIGUING Result: Among the qualities people want in their local government leaders, “Accountable” and “Fiscally Responsible” scored by far the highest, while scoring the lowest were “Experienced,” “Creative,” and “Environmentalist.”

For the other 10 survey questions, including “Do you support Environmental Initiative 1631?” and “Should Wallingford and The Ave be removed from the proposed upzones?” and “Should the City Council put Mayor Durkan’s Families and Education Levy on the ballot?”, CLICK HERE.

Thanks to the hundreds who completed the survey. We know it takes time and we are deeply grateful — especially for your thoughtful written comments that added context and passion to your choices.

Validity of the Survey (a.k.a. no good deed goes unpunished): 

  • Significant? The good news is that the survey is statistically significant among the universe of our readership (~7,000 subscribers). According to statistical tools, such as calculator.net, creative research systems, and surveymonkey.com, we exceed the magic number to achieve statistically significant results. The 387 respondents produce a 95% confidence level, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 basis points. In other words (subject to the caveats below), we should be 95% confident that between 83% and 93% of the 7,000 subscribers (5 below and 5 above 88%) believe developers should provide off-street parking. In fact, most city-wide polls survey only 400 people.
  • “Self-Selection”? While 100% of our subscribers are above average and good-looking, we acknowledge that they might not reflect every adult resident of Northeast Seattle. Those who continue to subscribe to 4toExplore are “self-selected” in that they probably share my overarching concerns about the direction City Hall has been taking. Certainly my sense of humor is not sufficient to keep them reading. Moreover, this is not a pure “random sample” of our readership because only people with the time or interest completed it. Of course, even sophisticated, live telephone polls have this problem when many respondents interrupted from their dinner of salmon and coffee slam down their phones on the hapless surveyor.
  • Objective? We acknowledge that it’s difficult to craft surveys with pure objectivity. Opinions of the designer (me, in this case) surely seep into how questions are phrased. I tried to avoid loaded questions liked, “Come on, do you really want this stupid project to proceed?” But even deciding which questions to ask is subjective. We believe, however, that it’s better to try to ask reasonable questions and to listen to your responses, than not to ask at all.

The limitations of community surveys reinforces the point we made earlier: City Hall — with its financial means and public mission — should be the one to conduct and publish surveys for everyone’s benefit.  As we said in our previous issue of 4 to Explore, “a sustainable city is where elected officials listen to their constituents.  ‘Listening’ does not mean public hearings and blog posts to state concerns — listening means materially changing / re-crafting government policies and budgets to address the concerns of residents….”

If you were not able to take this most recent survey, share your kind thoughts by e-mailing Alex@4toExplore.org

1 Fun to Enjoy

Summer Story Time

Let your children soak in a summer story while you browse for books, enjoy a coffee break, or reserve lunch for the family.  Summer Story Time at Northeast Seattle bookstores and libraries can be exploring time rather than boring time when you time it with other activities. And, no matter much you crave sunshine, sometimes you and the kids just want to escape the heat.

That’s why this season’s “FUN TO ENJOY” is SUMMER STORY TIME.

Ravenna Third Place Books on NE 65th Street at 20th Ave NE is an ideal location for parent fun while the kids are enjoying story time because you can explore their extensive collection and cozy corners. You can also enjoy the coffee and food at Vios or consider an outing another time at Third Place Pub (downstairs).

Third Place Books also has a low-stress “Summer Reading Challenge  for kids through August 31. Read books, keep track, get prizes.

For ideas on summer books to read for Pre-K to 3rd graders, CLICK HERE. For 4th grade to 8th grade, CLICK HERE.

Use the story time as the foundation for your day of fun. Here is the (clickable) List of Summer Story Times in Northeast Seattle, located near other activities:

For the Seattle Public Library’s Summer of Learning activities, CLICK HERE.

For other activities for kids at our Public Libraries, CLICK HERE.

BONUS FUN: Many of the Summer Funs featured in 4 to Explore are annual events. So you can explore them again and again. Here’s a recap of Summer Funs:

Parks like DahlLaurelhurst, and View Ridge.

Farmers Markets in the U District and Wallingford.

The Fremont Fair, to the Left of Wallingford

Wedgwood Art Fesitval in Wedgwood

National Night Out on nearly every block (Tues, Aug 7; see “Meeting to Connect”)

Party in the Park in View Ridge

Thistle Theatre at Magnuson Park

Sounds of Summer in U Village on Wednesdays (Bryant)

Great Wallingford Wurst Festival (Wallingford)

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

NEIGHBORHOOD:  To explore more of Ravenna and Bryant, subscribe to the Ravenna Blog, “like” 4 to Explore on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. You can also attend the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (RCBA). The RBCA is among the many community councils that serve on our Northeast District Council (NEDC).

1 Store to Adore

Solstice Cafe

Where can you sip a delicious coffee and immerse yourself in the college scene without seeming out of place — all while savoring a cream cheese brownie?

SOLSTICE CAFE is this season’s Store to Adore. As reviewed by Seattle Coffee Scene:  “Sitting at the edge of the University of Washington, the first thing that hits you when you walk into Solstice is the high energy atmosphere they’ve got going. Regardless what day of the week it is, it-always-feels-like-a-Friday when you’re at Solstice.”

As they say on their website, Solstice offers “coffee, tea, beer, food, art, and events in the heart of the U District…Solstice’s open, inviting atmosphere on The Ave is a favorite among college students who hunker down for long study sessions on rainy evenings…” Says their co-owner Joel, “We’re an old school coffee shop. We like having a comfortable place for people to hang out.'” For their menu, CLICK HERE.

Cafe Solstice is still overseen by its original owners, Joel and Doug, who opened their first cafe 25 years ago in 1993. That’s the year Mariner‘s pitcher Randy Johnson set a record for 308 strike outs and local legend Nirvana played for their last year including a powerful performance on MTV’s “Unplugged” show. Solstice Cafe opened in the U District 12 years ago in 2006.

  • LOCATION: 4116 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
  • HOURS: Sun-Thur 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Fri & Sat until 9:00 p.m.)
  • Fresh local coffee, hand-mixed tea, locally brewed beer, wines, and homemade Kombucha? Yes.
  • Espresso Cream Cheese Brownies? Yum!
  • Patio? Yes!

But don’t take our word for it, CLICK HERE to check out their reviews on YELP!

As many of you know, The Ave in the U District is under assault by City Hall’s misguided obsession with upzones, fueled by profit-motivated developers and landowners who donate to political campaigns. While it makes sense to increase density around the forthcoming light rail station (scheduled for 2021 on Brooklyn Ave), it does not make sense to destroy the funky charms of The Ave by knocking down existing buildings or jacking up rents on small businesses (to pay for higher property taxes caused by the upzones). City Hall should protect, not destroy. City Hall should listen, not dictate. City Hall should embrace, not displace.

Tell Your Councilmembers and the Mayor:  Remove The Ave from the upzone legislation.

Fortunately, communities are fighting back. Over 25 community groups are appealing the upzones across the city because ““The City has not adequately assessed the negative impacts of its planned upzones, nor studied reasonable alternatives to upzoning to create affordable housing, nor has the city accompanied its plan with measures to prevent displacement of longtime residents and small businesses, loss of tree canopy, loss of open space, and the loss of historic buildings that inevitably will result”. For an update from Outside Seattle Hall (Seattle Displacement Coalition), CLICK HERE.

In addition, small businesses formed “Save the Ave” which funded a study by former City Council President Peter Steinbrueck. For his presentation to City Council, CLICK HERE (and scroll to item #8). For the entire 40-page report, CLICK HERE. Based on the key findings (65% of its businesses are women or minority owned), City Hall should NOT upzone The Ave.

Disturbingly, The Ave is in the hands of City Councilmember Rob Johnson who never met an upzone he didn’t like. For more about concerns over Rob Johnson’s land use schemes, CLICK HERE.

In another perplexing move, Metro, SDOT, and Sound Transit are forbidding buses from delivering transit riders directly to the new light rail station. How? They are making Brooklyn 12 inches too short. Don’t let them. To take the survey and demand “Buses on Brooklyn” CLICK HERE and tell Dow Constantine kcexec@kingcounty.gov (who runs Metro) and City Councilmember Rob.Johnson@seattle.gov who oversees SDOT (from the City Council’s Transportation Committee). Both Constantine and Johnson sit on the Sound Transit Board. Don’t let them screw up the light rail station at Brooklyn like officials screwed up the station at Husky Stadium by cutting off express bus lines and making residents with mobility challenges (such as senior citizens) walk over the long bridge to the light rail.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Learn more about the U District. Stroll through Farmers Market Saturday mornings. Engage the many groups: University District Community Council, the U District Partnership (formerly the Chamber of Commerce), the alternative Small Businesses Directory (associated with Save the Ave and the U District Square campaigns), and the City / University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC). Fill up at the diverse eateries such as Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Persepolis, and Portage Bay Cafe. Adore stores such as The Trading Musician, Gargoyles Statuary, and Artist & Craftsman Supply as well as the Henry Museum and Burke Museum. In short, you can spend an entire day exploring the U District, starting your morning with espresso at Bulldog News or Solstice Cafe and ending it with beer & pizza at Big Time Brewery. To Save the Ave, contact info@bigtimebrewery.com and write all 9 of your City Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov .

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