1 Issue to Engage

A Sustainable City

As the spring weather brings forth sunshine and blossoms, it would be wonderful if City Hall could re-craft some of its more controversial policies to reduce the dramatic discussions dividing our communities. So many discussions are dominated by the “D” word: “Density.” Communities and interest groups battle each other every week over former Mayor Ed Murray’s backroom deal for real estate developer upzones. Our own Councilmember in Northeast Seattle carries the torch for that divisive policy.

If you’re a fan of legendary urban thinker/activist Jane Jacobs, you know that she viewed density (“concentration”) as just one of four necessary elements for vibrant communities (“exuberant diversity”). In her view, the other 3 elements were equally necessary: mixed uses, small blocks, and older buildings.

We also want vibrant communities to endure. Therefore, another overarching goal that transcends density is SUSTAINABILITY.

According to Wikipedia, “There remains no completely agreed upon definition for what a sustainable city should be…Generally, developmental experts agree that a sustainable city should meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Think of a balanced diet that sustains us. To endure, you need a balance. Build, baby, build — construction cranes are the carbs. But too many carbohydrates can make you sick. And you can’t live on carbs alone. You need water and protein as the balancing foundation. Water would be core city services like streets, safety, and…water. Protein would be the people. And you don’t displace protein to make room for new protein; you slowly build upon the muscle that you’ve got. This analogy is making me hungry, so I’ll move on.

Seattle’s present course is not sustainable. Presently, there are many needs not being met by city leaders, even with a $5 billion city budget: we need more schools, better bus service, more affordable housing now (not waiting to build the affordable housing several years from now or waiting decades for expensive tiny units to age in place).

To add fuel to the fire, the upzones on steroids that incentivize rapid growth are not coupled concurrently with other services and amenities to sustain our Emerald City’s livability for our children and grandchildren. In other words, City Hall’s jolting land use policies are sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Here are some ideas to re-focus Seattle leaders on Sustainability:

  1. A sustainable city strives to sustain the people who live here already and does not push them out with higher taxes or real estate development upheavals.
  2. A sustainable city builds schools, parks, and transit as it grows. (BTW, public schools should not be considered a mere “amenity”; they are a constitutional necessity for an informed representative democracy.)
  3. A sustainable city gets developers to pay their fair share of the growth through Impact Fees, like those used by cities across the state and nation.
  4. A sustainable city gets developers to build affordable housing on site, instead of allowing them to exclude low-income families by writing a check to City Hall.
  5. A sustainable city focuses on ecology, not ideology.
  6. A sustainable city — one that really cares about the environment — preserves its trees and plants more; it does not turn a blind eye to profiteers ripping them out one-by-one across the city.
  7. A sustainable city protects and provides access to its waterways (For example, focus on preventing raw sewage from being dumped in Puget Sound or Lake Washington instead of grandstanding about issues outside of King County.)
  8. A sustainable city supports its existing assets (from the Port of Seattle and its middle class jobs to the charming houseboats that made the city famous on film).
  9. A sustainable city supports its small, neighborhood businesses (Many upzones hurt small businesses that rent their space because the triple net leases allow landlords to pass all increased real estate taxes to the families that own those funky, adorable businesses. Therefore, City Council should not sneak back the harmful upzone of The Ave in the U District! Save The Ave!)
  10. A sustainable city lives within its means. (Thank you, Mayor Jenny Durkan for recognizing that!)
  11. A sustainable city takes care of the basics first. (Yes, it matters that City officials building more buildings don’t know the capacity and vulnerability of our aging sewer lines.)
  12. A sustainable city prioritizes projects after asking residents to pony up a billion dollars to catch up on transportation infrastructure (Mayor Jenny Durkan should pause SDOT’s ill-conceived 35th Ave NE re-paving project by installing just the crosswalks for now because the entire $8 million re-paving lacks urgency, removes bus stops, and ignores the need to build sidewalks throughout the city where families, seniors, & school kids desperately need them now.)
  13. A sustainable city takes care of its vulnerable (including seniors and children with special needs).
  14. A sustainable city is affordable — by keeping steady the regressive utility bills that burden seniors and families with children — instead of allowing them to skyrocket by forcing ratepayers to subsidize other government ventures.
  15. A sustainable city ensures that profits earned in the city are reinvested in the city (instead of hidden offshore or paid to developers from Texas).
  16. A sustainable city employs common sense by replicating best practices from other cities instead of inventing hair-brained schemes on the fly.
  17. A sustainable city analyzes data on recent projects to inform new projects. (Where is the data on the expensive road re-do of Roosevelt Way NE before spending so much to re-pave / re-configure 35th Ave NE?)
  18. A sustainable city does not have leaders who allow their interest groups and campaign donors to demonize neighbors who take time from their busy lives to voice their for concerns.
  19. A sustainable city is where elected officials listen to their constituents — and “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.
  20. Share your ideas at Alex@4toExplore.org

Sustainability is within our ability. And our city’s politicians can achieve true sustainability by living our most important constitutional value of representative democracy — listening to the people who elected you.

1 Meeting to Connect

Ravenna-Bryant Annual Meeting and other Community Councils

No matter which neighborhood you call home in Northeast Seattle, there is a Community Council of active volunteers who track important local issues, lead frequent meetings to inform the public, and raise concerns to government officials.

The community council covering one of the largest geographic areas in Northeast Seattle is the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (RBCA).

To learn about RBCA’s key accomplishments for the neighborhoods in 2017, CLICK HERE. Most recently, the RBCA has been advocating for traffic-calming, pedestrian safety measures on Northeast 65th Street.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is the annual gathering of the RAVENNA-BRYANT COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION.

  • WHAT: general membership annual meeting of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (you don’t need to be a member to attend)
  • WHEN: Monday, April 2, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center at 6535 Ravenna Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and city officials — including the Assistant Chief of the Seattle Police Department (SPD)
  • WHY: because you love where you live

Board members of RBCA (and most community councils) meet monthly and bring a diversity of views on how to be good stewards for the neighborhoods. The current chair is Inga Manskopf, with previous chairs including Sarah Swanberg and former candidate for City Council Tony Provine. Add your voice to the mix.

The Special Guest will be Assistant Chief of Seattle Police Department Steve Wilske. 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.

The Assistant Chief can answer your questions and will likely advise us to call 9-1-1 for nearly every public safety concern, even if it’s not an emergency because it enables SPD to use those statistics to deploy resources, such as police patrols.

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.

One of the best ways to get involved in your neighborhood is to attend the community council in your neighborhood and subscribe to their newsletters. Click on the links below to see their next monthly meeting:

To subscribe to RBCA’s e-newsletter, CLICK HERE. The Ravenna Blog seems to be most active on Twitter, which you can access by CLICKING HERE.

MORE “MEETINGS TO CONNECT” (from the sample of Northeast Seattle community groups listed above):

  • WHAT: University Park Community Club (UPCC) shares information about “Mobility” around the incoming Sound Transit light rail station at Brooklyn Ave NE in the heart of the U District.
  • WHEN: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: University Lutheran Church at 16th Ave NE and NE 50th St Seattle, WA 98108
  • WHO: you and your neighbors and local transportation experts
  • WHY: because you want to learn more about the light rail station that opens in 2021. Will there be a way to drive there and drop off your family members?

Community Councils of connected neighborhoods used to join together to collaborate and share information at a district level, forming 13 District Councils across Seattle. Disappointingly, Former Ed Murray abandoned the all-volunteer District Councils. Some believe he did this because many of those groups were opposing the centerpiece of his H.A.L.A. recommendations: the top-down, back-room deal to grant citywide upzones to real estate developers in exchange for funding some affordable housing in the future. The irony is that the volunteers still meet in neighborhoods throughout the City, while the former Mayor was abandoned.

Neighborhoods endure. But it takes neighbors like you to keep them going. Connect!

1 Fun to Enjoy

Fiddler on the Roof in Roosevelt

Couldn’t score tickets to Hamilton? The next best thing is performed by Roosevelt! That’s Roosevelt High School here in Northeast Seattle. Bring the entire family to a show.  Avoid downtown traffic for a low pressure outing that supports the budding thespians in your neighborhood. During Roosevelt High School’s open house, we heard the teachers and students proudly announce the upcoming performances including their epic Spring musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

While you may already know about Roosevelt High’s Jazz Band and their annual performance of the Jazz Nutcracker, our neighborhood high school also boasts a top-rate drama program.

This season’s “Fun to Enjoy” is “FIDDLER ON THE ROOF” at ROOSEVELT HIGH.

  • WHAT: “Fiddler on the Roof,” a live musical and dramatic performance
  • WHEN: May 24, 25, 31st and June 1 and 2, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. (also Sunday, June 3 at 2:30 p.m.)
  • WHERE: Roosevelt High School’s Theater at 1410 NE 66th Street, Seattle, WA 98115. For a map, CLICK HERE.
  • PARKING? Yes.
  • For tickets, CLICK HERE. (on sale starting May 1, 2018.)

For other shows put on by the Roosevelt High School drama department, including The Variety Show in April, CLICK HERE.

As you may know, Fiddler on the Roof is about the Jewish family of Tevye, the local dairyman (“I have 5 daughters!”) of a vulnerable village within Imperial Russia during the early 1900’s. The family and their neighbors struggle with changes as the evil czar tries to force them out of the neighborhood to make room for others.  Famous songs include “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker“, “To Life,” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” I am hoping that the wedding scene features the nail-biting, balancing bottle dance. According to Wikipedia, “Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease...It won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned five Broadway revivals and a highly successful 1971 film adaptation.


  • Number of Students: 1,700 (approx)
  • Origin of Name: President Theodore Roosevelt
  • Mascot: The Rough Riders
  • Year Established: 1922
  • Famous Alumni: Noble Prize winner Linda B. Buck; Cartoonist Linda Barry; musician Sir Mix-a-Lot; Joe Rantz, the powerful rower of “Boys in the Boat;” and Dan Evans, former Governor and U.S. Senator.


  • Flights of Fancy: Art Show at The Gargoyle Statuary on The Ave in the U District, Opening Night: Fri, March 16, 2018 from 6-9 p.m. (runs thru April 17).
  • Debuts & Discoveries: Food, wine, and fun at Hangar 30 in Magnuson Park, Sat, March 17, 2018 from 5-9 p.m. hosted by the University Sunrise Rotary Club. For tix, CLICK HERE.
  • Best of the Northwest Arts & Fine Crafts show – 30th Anniversary – Sat, March 24 and Sun, March 25, also at Hangar 30 in Magnuson Park.
  • Caspar Babypants Music:  For fun for the tiny music lovers in your family, CLICK HERE for a concert at the Neptune Theatre in the U District on Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Learn more about the Roosevelt neighborhood, named after former President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Check out the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) and read their publication “The Roosie.” While the RNA typically hosts an annual “Bull Moose” Festival, they are not able to in 2018 due to lack of time / volunteer power :(.  So, neighbors, that’s a call to action:  for several ways to get involved and boost the RNA, CLICK HERE. The RNA continues to have monthly meetings about key events and issues in the neighborhood, including the proposed mixed-used, 245-unit affordable housing project that will sit on top of the light rail station opening in 2021.

The Roosevelt neighborhood is going through a lot of changes with the light rail station and upzones (the big red crane has been a recent fixture). One of our first Stores to Adore already closed Peaks Frozen Custard and many other may be pushed out by demolitions and rising rents on cherished neighborhood businesses such as Teddy’s Tavern. We at 4toExplore.org have featured a few more including Rain City Burgers, Bengal Tiger, and India Bistro.

1 Store to Adore

14 Carrot Cafe in Eastlake

Hungry for an informal and delicious brunch, but you’ve already enjoyed most breakfast places between Wallingford and Wedgwood? Jaunt across the University Bridge to explore the Eastlake breakfast joint 14 Carrot Cafe.

14 CARROT CAFE, this season’s Store to Adore, bucks the trend of social media and relies instead on word-of-mouth and neighborhood newsletters like Eastlake News and this here 4 to Explore.org. When we asked why they have no website, they said, “We are super old school, so we have little online presence. We just serve anything you can possibly imagine for breakfast.” Well said, When you have anything you can possibly imagine, who need’s an online menu?!

Written on their actual menu is some of their story: “The 14 Carrot Cafe nests in the historical Hines Public Market building on the Eastside of Lake Union.”  With so much being demolished in Seattle by new real estate developments, our need to appreciate and preserve the city’s history is becoming more urgent. 14 Carrot Cafe says, “Enjoy an organic breakfast and lunch with a side of Seattle history.” 

14 Carrot Café opened 41 years ago in 1977 when the new Seattle Mariners first played in the new Kingdome, George Lucas blew our minds with the first Star Wars film (yes, I know it’s Episode IV) and the top songs included Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night” and Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”

As the brighter spring weather encourages more exploration, head down to Eastlake for a family brunch at 14 Carrot Café:

  • LOCATION: 2305 Eastlake Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102
  • HOURS: Mon-Fri 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Sat/Sun 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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

Northeast Seattle breakfast places featured by 4toExplore.org over the past 5 years:

If you eat donuts for breakfast, you could also include Top Pot in Wedgwood. Or, if you count spicy “breakfast pizza” as breakfast, there’s Mioposto in Bryant.

But we want to hear from you, so please let us know your favorite breakfast place in Northeast Seattle. Contact our family at alex@4toExplore.org

NEIGHBORHOOD: The 14 Carrot Cafe is located next to the Eastlake Zoo Tavern. Other Eastlake stores featured by 4toExplore include Pazzo’s Pizza 2307 Eastlake Ave E.

Sadly, the beloved Louisa’s Cafe/Bakery/Bar, which operated for 20 years, closed. Echoing the burdens small businesses face in neighborhoods throughout Seattle — including higher taxes and disruption from street projects — the owner of Louisa’s told the Seattle Times, “The business just couldn’t support the costs to continue”. The final entry on Yelp said, “Louisa’s will be missed. And its closure was a shock to the immediate neighborhood.” The new eatery in that space is The Otter Bar & Burger.

To explore more of the Eastlake neighborhood, checkout the Eastlake Community Council website or Facebook page.

Because Eastlake is sandwiched between lovely Lake Union and I-5, the quality of life for existing residents and businesses is often put at risk by short-sighted city “planning” that allows over-development without adequate transit and parking.

1 Issue to Engage

How to Make a Real Difference in City Government

As published recently in The Seattle Weekly.


As Tim Burgess’s service as an elected official came to an end a few weeks ago, I heard many city officials expressing gratitude for my former boss. They listed his many accomplishments during his brief service as mayor and during his leadership on the Seattle City Council. During the bittersweet farewell event, I believe I was not the only person there reflecting on what it means “to make a real difference” in city government. The answer could be a powerful guide for our new mayor as she enters the New Year.

Today, too many local officials speechify about national issues as if they were running for Congress.  They seem focused on anything other than the core mission of city government. That’s a shame because, as Tim Burgess said at the event honoring his public service, city government is where you are closest to the people. Keeping them safe, providing clean water, keeping the lights on, fixing the roads – a “high calling” of serving your neighbors.

So what makes a real difference?

First, City Hall needs to listen to residents rather than lobbyists. For more on that, you can CLICK HERE to read our piece called “Listen Up, City Hall!”  Then, each proposal needs to meet these tests:

  • The city program or policy must be proven to work based on the evidence. It’s not just throwing money at a problem because an interest group lobbied.
  • The improvement is institutionalized, meaning that it is codified and not easily undone by the next budget cycle.
  • The improvement changes a system or creates a ripple effect, positively impacting other programs.

Here are 4 recent changes that did not last in the headlines but are making a lasting difference:

1. Requiring Results For Homeless Programs.  While city leaders increase funding for homeless programs every year, it was the city staff committed to effectiveness and positive outcomes that made a real difference. This year they convinced city leaders to require results through performance-based contracts. House the homeless or we will reinvest the money in organizations that can. As Burgess said, “Business as usual is no longer an option. The scale of the human crisis that we face requires that we set high standards for accountability.” While some criticized certain homeless strategies receiving funds this year, that’s the beauty of requiring performance:  if a program doesn’t work, reinvest the tax dollars into other best practices.

2. Empowering the Police Chief to appoint her own Assistant Chiefs. Appointing Kathleen O’Toole as Police Chief was the best personnel decision in the last 4 years. But people leave. The more lasting change was codified by Burgess, a former police officer. Burgess recognized that a 35-year old policy preventing Police Chiefs from hiring their own command staff repelled the best candidates and handcuffed any chief’s ability to implement reforms.  So Burgess fixed the law by quietly crafting Ordinance 124415. Whoever becomes our new Police Chief will benefit and so will our city.

3. Demanding Efficiency from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). For the first time in recent memory a Councilmember (Lisa Herbold) made a city agency reduce costs in order to benefit regular people. She also made those profiting from the city’s growth pay their fair share to connect to utility services, adopting the best practice seen in cities throughout the country.  While the effort fell short because utility rates are still increasing too quickly and the city still makes ratepayers (the people) inappropriately subsidize other government agencies, the Councilmember set a positive precedent for other city officials to find savings within the city’s $5 billion budget.  Freeing up dollars from inefficient or ineffective programs enables us to invest in what works and/or to reduce financial burdens on city residents.

4. Creating the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL). Crafting the Seattle Preschool Program, with its commitment to high-quality, was a nationally recognized accomplishment and is improving the lives of low-income children. But it was the creation of a new city department (DEEL) that forged a powerful continuum of learning programs to benefit Seattleites from cradle to college. The creation of DEEL smartly shifted the focus away from just supplementing a family’s income to providing life-long benefits through education. To thrive instead of survive. And the DNA of DEEL is a model for city government: DEEL measures and produces outcomes and sticks to high-quality, evidence-based programs.

Here are 4 more changes city leaders should implement to make a real difference:

  1. Expand the high-quality Seattle Preschool Program to close the achievement Gap.
  2. Charge Impact Fees (already authorized by State law) to help build public elementary schools and relieve overcrowded classrooms.
  3. Revive grassroots Neighborhood Planning so that residents have a real voice in our growing city.
  4. Reform the retirement system for new city government employees to free up dollars for public safety and homelessness prevention.

City government does not need to be hip or loud or ideological to make a difference; it just needs to work well.

1 Meeting to Connect

Forum on School Funding

Overcrowded classrooms make it harder to teach and learn. Schools in North Seattle continue to burst at the seams even as regressive taxes keep rising.  Yet our Seattle Mayors and City Councilmembers consistently dodge a key source of money for our schools:  Developer Impact Fees.

Although we are accustomed to blaming our State officials in Olympia for poor policy and funding decisions for our public schools (much of which is still warranted), our city officials also have tools they refuse to use.

Impact Fees, already authorized by State law, enable cities to charge for-profit developers a fee to help construct and renovate schools, fire stations, parks, and nearby streets to mitigate the impact the new real estate developments have on communities. Impact Fees could help relieve overcrowded classrooms. Savvy city leaders collect Impact Fees throughout Washington State (including other Puget Sound cities) and the nation.  Why not in Seattle?

Asked at the December 6, 2017 meeting of Wallingford Community Council about charging developers Impact Fees, Councilmember Rob Johnson replied lamely, “I don’t know the status of impact fees.” Yet he’s the chair of the City’s land use committee that would craft such fees. He suggested checking in with Councilmember Mike O’Brien. O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw surprised supporters of impact fees by penning an Op Ed in the Seattle Times along with affordable housing expert Lisa Herbold called “Seattle is Overdue for Developer Impact Fees.” But that was back in July 2017 and nothing has happened — even with the opportunity to direct policy or research funding during the Oct-Nov budget process.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is a FORUM ON SCHOOL FUNDINGorganized by local Parent-Teacher-Student Associations (PTSAs).

  • WHAT: School Funding Forum
  • WHEN: Wednesday, Jan 3, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
  • WHO: you, your fellow parents, grandparents, guardians and others in the neighborhood passionate about fully funding public schools
  • HOSTED BY: local PTSAs
  • WHERE: Hamilton Middle School 1610 N. 41st Street, WA 98103.

At this meeting, we need to collectively ask, “Why have city leaders failed to collect $$$ from Developer Impact Fees?”  Is it because real estate developers contribute to their political campaigns and favorite ballot measures?

Here is the official invitation to the meeting from the PTSAs: “You may have heard rumors of recent new funding for Washington state’s schools and restrictions by the state on the use of local levies. At the same time, Seattle Public Schools forecasts a budget shortfall, with increasingly overcrowded schools and even basic projects like refurbishing Lincoln High School remaining underfunded.

Join us at 7:30pm on January 3rd in the Hamilton International Middle School library to hear from our local legislators on how Seattle will be impacted by recent and upcoming legislation, and what you can do about it.

Panelists will include:

  • Washington State Senator Jamie Pedersen (District 43)
  • Washington State Representative Nicole Macri (District 43)
  • Seattle Public Schools Director Rick Burke (District 2)
  • Seattle City Councilman Rob Johnson (NE Seattle)

We’ll hear from each member of the panel as well as take questions from parents…”

For budget news and views from the Seattle School District, CLICK HERE.

Later this year, city leaders will be asking voters to renew the property taxes that fund both the Families & Education Levy and the highly successful Seattle Preschool Program. Before asking existing homeowners AND renters to increase regressive property taxes again, City Hall should enact Impact Fees to show that we are leveraging all available resources. It’s an equity issue:  investors benefiting from the city’s growth should contribute their fair share. As Nikkita Oliver deftly framed the issue earlier this year, real estate investors are people, too, and of course they should care about education and infrastructure. Investors should want the people for whom they build their buildings to enjoy healthy communities. It’s good for business and it’s the right thing to do. Moreover, it’s important to note that the blame/burden rests not with for-profit developers who naturally strive to build profitable projects while trying to influence an unpredictable City Hall. The responsibility rests with City Hall officials — those serving the public must show the political will to craft a fair deal for the public.

MORE “MEETINGS TO CONNECT”:  Upzoning Your Neighborhood. As mentioned in our Holiday Edition, City Hall plans to upzone your neighborhood whether you want it or not. To tell City Hall how you feel about it, CLICK HERE for our article. The upzone meetings are Jan 30, 2018 at Hamilton Middle School and Feb 28, 2018 at Whitman Middle School, both at 6 p.m. Engage with your neighbors!

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