Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Impacts On Neighborhood Of New SR520 Bridge Noise And Lighting Issues, Affected Neighbors Encouraged To Take Survey

Large expansion joints on the new 520 floating bridge allow swelling and movement of the structure, but despite the state’s effort to minimize noise, the sound of vehicles hitting the joints has brought complaints from residents on both sides of Lake Washington. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) recently published this information in their newsletter:

New SR520 Bridge Noise and Lighting Issues
Now that the new bridge is carrying traffic, a number of concerns have arisen. Residents on both sides of the lake as far north as Windermere have expressed dismay regarding the visibility of bridge lighting.  
Apparently, the lighting on bicycle-pedestrian path aims out from inside, not down from north side, making it quite noticable at night to communities north of the bridge. In addition, the blue lights on the sentinels have been described as “overwhelming,” suggesting their light pollution would lead migrating wildlife astray.
Expansion joint noise has been described as louder than the old bridge and has generated many complaints.  
Eastside communities already are working with WSDOT and have created a short survey to define concerns.  
Laurelhurst neighbors are invited to take the survey as well. Since the survey is time-sensitive, please respond at your earliest convenience.  
Neighbors can also submit comments directly to the WSDOT SR-520 Bridge Team at SR520Bridge@wsdot.wa.gov.

The Seattle Times published this article on the issue last week:

520 Bridge Expansion-joint Noise Drives Hundreds Of Complaints

Medina and Clyde Hill neighbors complain that noise from the new 520 bridge expansion joints is wrecking their lives and their sleep. WSDOT is investigating.

Seattle Times staff reporter

An avid gardener, Gretchen Stengel typically spends hours out in her Medina yard with its sweeping view west to Lake Washington and the Olympic Mountains. But since the new Highway 520 bridge opened in April, she said, the loud, intermittent thunk, thunk, thunk of cars driving over metal expansion joints has penetrated her house — even her sleep.
“I’m very distraught,” she said. “Traffic on the old bridge was background noise. You could tune it out. This is 24/7, every day, erratically and constantly.”
More than 200 residents from Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point and Yarrow Point on the Eastside, as well as homeowners across the lake in Seattle’s Laurelhurst and Madison Park neighborhoods, have registered noise complaints, according to Medina city officials and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
At a cost of $4.6 billion from Interstate 405 to Interstate 5, the new 520 corridor is supposed to feature the latest in sound-muffling technology, from the grooved pavement that reduces the rushing noise of tires to the miles of noise walls between the freeway and residential neighborhoods. The state installed steel plating on the bridge’s underside to help contain the sound around the expansion joints.

Within days of receiving the complaints, WSDOT dispatched crews to take sound measurements above and below the bridge, from the shoreline and at neighboring homes.

State officials plan to report back to the Medina City Council at a June 13 meeting.

“There are no simple fixes for the sound generated by expansion joints, and WSDOT wants to make sure that we are thoughtful and creative in exploring ideas,” said Stacey Howery, with the 520 Bridge Replacement Program.

Medina leaders remain concerned. They say the state’s measurements, released in an April 29 update, averaged the sound over a 15-minute period, which would not reflect the loudest thunks.

“The sound looks good when they’re measuring at rush hour because the cars aren’t going as fast” said Medina Mayor Alex Morcos. “It’s worse at night when cars hit the expansion joints fast. That’s the problem.”

He said the hills on either side of the eastern approach to the bridge seem to act as an amphitheater, projecting and amplifying the sound. He also speculated that reduced traffic noise from the grooved bridge deck makes the expansion joints seem much louder.

Morcos said he hopes WSDOT returns both with measurements that better reflect the impacts on residents as well as possible interim steps to address the problem while permanent solutions are explored.

Medina Deputy Mayor Sheree Wen downloaded an app with a sound meter and measured decibels — the relative loudness perceived by the human ear — at her home on Evergreen Point Road and at Evergreen Point Park, which overlooks 520.

She said county and city ordinances specify a maximum decibel level of 55 during the day and 45 between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Wen said her own readings found a peak of 93 on Saturday morning at 8:22 a.m. at her house and 98 at 8:36 a.m. at the park.

“The new bridge has generated tremendous noise and disrupted residents’ daily lives,” said Wen. She said property values likely will be affected if people can no longer enjoy being outside in their yards.

Design to muffle noise

WSDOT faced similar complaints about expansion-joint noise after the opening of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 2007.

To address that problem, WSDOT specialists worked with private industry to design concrete walls coated with a sound-absorbing material. The material also was applied to crash barriers on the bridge.

A report, published in 2011, said the strategy successfully reduced low-frequency sounds — those that travel the farthest and are the most annoying to the public, according to the report’s executive summary.

But the fix wasn’t cheap — $878,302. The report also said the noise-absorbing materials had not previously been used anywhere in the world and that “globally, there are, currently, no best practices for reducing bridge expansion joint noise.”

Encapsulating the expansion joints was an effort to address noise in the design of the 520 bridge, said Steve Peer, 520 Bridge Program spokesman. WSDOT said it will also consult with the expansion-joint manufacturer and compare the specifications with the actual performance on the bridge.

The 520 expansion joints allow the road deck to move and flex with changing traffic, weather and lake conditions, according to the April update. Unlike most joints, these also connect the fixed and moving portions of the bridge.

There are two large expansion joints on each end of the bridge, one westbound and another eastbound.

About a mile away from 520, at a home high on Clyde Hill looking northwest over the bridge and lake, Mary Magnano describes the noise as “a hammer hitting metal.” She also spends hours working in her beautifully landscaped yard.

Last week, she said, it was “unbearable” to be outside. “I was so depressed.”
She said she used to hear the old bridge only at night, and only occasionally as a speeding motorcycle or large truck pierced the quiet.

Now, Magnano says, she can hear the bam, bam, bam through closed, double-pane windows indoors.

“On a still night, it’s absolutely penetrating,” she said. “It’s destroyed my quality of life.”

(photo courtesy of Seattle Times)

Tonight Children's Hospital Advisory Committee Public Meeting

Tonight from 6-8pm, the SAC (Standing Advisory Committee), made up of representatives of Children’s Hospital and surrounding neighborhoods, which advises the City and Children’s Hospital on development that is occuring under the provisions of the Children’s Hospital Major Institution Master Plan, will hold its 14th meeting in the Ocean Cafe on the 7th floor of the hospital from 6-8pm. 

Public comment will be at 7:35pm.

Agenda items are:
  • Chair & Vice-Chair Nominations
  • Main Campus Project Updates
  • Transportation – bike/ped upgrades
  • Infrastructure
  • Five-year strategic plan
  • Timeline for SAC review of proposed development Children’s

All SAC meetings are open to the public. Those interested in any of the topics on the agenda are encouraged to attend.
For more information, contact Maureen Sheehan at 206-684-0302 or Maureen.sheehan@seattle.gov. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Community Invited To Learn More About Emotional Behavioral Disabilities Program at Laurelhurst Elementary, Impacts On School And Community

Laurelhurst Elementary School is having a follow-up meeting tomorrow night, from 6-8pm, from their March meeting where Seattle Public School representatives discussed the Emotional Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) program at the school. 

At that meeting, current parents as well as community members at large filled the school cafeteria to discuss the program in general, the location of the program inside the main building instead of in a portable, how general education students are being impacted, safety of all students at the school, training of all staff at the school to manage the students, as well as many other topics of concern.  

Many of those who attended the March meeting reported to the Laurelhurst Blog that they felt the meeting was very one-sided with the District choosing which hand-written questions were to be answered, amongst many that were submitted, regarding the social and emotional program which focuses on students with a variety of unique challenges.

A PTA representative confirmed this saying "Attendees felt their questions were not answered at that meeting and hopefully the meeting tomorrow will be more conclusive and action oriented."

The Laurelhurst Blog received these comments:

It seems that the administration was only taking comments and questions that they found appropriate and set parameters for the meeting. I think it was also clear that they were accusing the community of being insensitive to the special needs program and setting the dialogue up to point fingers at our community.
The meeting ended before most people's questions were answered. When a parent tried to ask a question that had not been submitted, it was shocking how the District treated that parent in such a demeaning and dismissive manner.  
There was time for only a few questions at the very end of the meeting.  Certain questions were selected from those that people handed in. The questions were answered but no follow-up questions were allowed or comments of any kind. It was solely the District representatives running the show. If someone tried to speak up, they were shut down. And this is how the District believes it is acceptable to treat our parent community and neighborhood?   

The PTA said that the initial meeting came about as "some community members voiced concerns that learning is being negatively impacted at our cramped school with the current set-up for programs. So Principal Sarah Talbot agreed that it would be useful for neighbors to attend the forum, in addition to school parents, as neighbors sometimes see EBD activity around school."

Reports have been made that students in the program are sometimes outside of the school supervised with a staff person but other times it has been reported that staff members are asking anyone they see if they have seen a particular child who has left the school unauthorized.

Here are additional comments received:
We have lived near the school for almost 25 years and we have become increasingly concerned seeing students running away from the school being chased by a staff member and even being asked if we have seen a student. We feel for these students and their families. We are concerned the Principal is not managing this program efficiently and effectively so that the young students don't escape and staff are then obviously panicking trying to find them. And do their parents know their student walked out of the school and they temporarily can't be found?  
We live a block away from the school and are worried more and more about the emergency vehicles that seem to come to the school more and more frequently. We heard last year that a student turned a classroom upside down and then this year a student tried to climb up a ladder onto the roof. Are these students not being closely supervised? We certainly have compassion for these students, but at the same time, we hope all the students are safe inside the school, as well as those that live around the school. 

Tomorrow night's invitation says:
Please join us for a moderated discussion and solutions session regarding the learning challenges facing all our students at Laurelhurst Elementary.  The format/content of this evening was determined by a taskforce of LES general and special education parents and teachers

Attendees are:
Wyeth Jesse, Director of Special Education
Jill Geary, School Board Member
Kim Whitworth, Education Director for the Northeast Region
Sarah Talbot, Principal at Laurelhurst Elementary

Here is a video of the first 30 half of the March meeting, which solely includes the presentation from Principal Talbot and Wyeth Jesse. The video doesn't include all the questions "so it is not entirely representational of attending the meeting," a PTA representative said.
Here is information about the school program from their website.

Another Planter Taken Off Porch

The Laurelhurst Blog received this information:
We’re at 48th Avenue NE and NE 40th Street and our hanging basket was snatched from above our front porch on NE 40th Street, some time between Friday and Saturday afternoon.   
It’s a sentimental loss, both because it was a Mother’s Day gift and because we like to brighten the view for passers by.   
We hope it was a random snatch, not part of a larger trend of petty thefts in the neighborhood.  
I saw the post about the missing planters after I sent my notice — sounds like we have plant-nappers on the loose!  Thanks for keeping us all informed.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Neighbors Sees Daytime Car Prowler On 42nd Avenue NE

The Laurelhurst Blog received this information:

We live on the 3800 block and 42nd Avenue NE and on 5/18 about 3:45pm, there were two African American males in their early 20's looking into our car.   
My husband opened the door and confronted them and they ran towards NE 41st Street and 42nd Avenue.  
At approximately 4:45 pm, we heard a car alarm go off at our neighbors across the street just south of us.  
My husband didn't call police because nothing had been done to his car.

UDistrict 47th annual Street Fair And Farmers Market This Week-end

University District Farmers Market's Profile Photo

This week-end the 47th annual University District Street Fair is happening on University Way below 50th Avenue NE. 

And on Saturdays year round from 9-2pm, the University District Farmers Market is also going on  with dozens of local farm and artisan food vendors.  It is also located on University Way between 50th and 52nd Avenues NE.
Over 55 one hour parking spots are available in the north and south lots of U-Heights Center just west of the market.
In June of last year the Rachael Ray show visited the UDistrict Farmers Market. 
Here is what is fresh this week along with a list of vendors.
For more information go here and for up to date information go here to the Facebook page.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Heavy Planters Stolen Off Porch Last Night

two stolen planters

The Laurelhurst Blog received this information:
We live on the 3800 block of 42nd Avenue NE and sadly, I have more property crime to report happening in the neighborhood.   
This morning, we walked out our front door to find the two large planters on our front steps had both been stolen.  These are large, heavy planters, so clearly the theft was planned. They're too heavy to have just randomly run off with.  
This happened sometime between 11:30pm and 7:30am last night. It's a fairly sad state of affairs when people are stealing flower planters, but it just goes to show that you always need to be on the look out for suspicious people in our neighborhoods.   
And unfortunately, the property crime problem in our neighborhood only appears to be increasing.   
I've sent photos of the planters in case anyone spots them, but more as an illustration of just how far thieves are going these days.
Please contact laurelhurstblogger@gmail.com if you have information.

Beggining Bird Walk At Magnuson Park On Sunday

The Seattle Audubon Society is having a  bird walk at Magnuson Park on Sunday at 9am with leader Emily Bishton.  

Participants should meet at the Promontory Point Environmental Learning Center,  the red-metal-roofed shelter next to little drive-in road at the west edge of parking lot #E-1, marked with a pink square on the park map.  

The information says:

This field trip is geared for beginner birders and families.  We will spend approximately 3 hours spotting birds from the trails of Promontory Point, the Flyway, and the entire Wetlands Complex.   
We'll keep a lookout for the multiple sparrow and swallow species that are annual summer visitors, as well as year-round residents such as Downy Woodpecker, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, other raptors and waterfowl.    
Be prepared for approximately 2 miles of walking, up hill and down.  
If you wish to borrow binoculars, make sure to request them from the Seattle Audubon office when you register.  
Donation $15 to Seattle Audubon for Birdathon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Talaris Violates Landmark Agreement Second Time And Cuts Down Trees Without Approval


On the morning of April 27, the Laurelhurst Blog received this information:
Talaris  is cutting down major  trees this morning on the north side of the property and I wondered if they have the right or permission to do it? Please forward this to the powers that be in case this can be stopped.  

From what I can tell,  it looks like they thinned at least 2 trees and I think at least one was totally cut down.  I'm not on site so this is from a little ways away.  It looks like they are preparing other trees to come down.  These are major trees we are talking about!  Just wanted to try to keep the damage minimal if possible. 

The Laurelhurst Blog Staff immediately contacted Erin, Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, who said: 

I was contacted recently by the property owner and provided with documentation regarding two significantly rotted trees.    I explained that Landmarks Board approval is required for their removal.

This is the second time Talaris has cut down trees without proper approval from the City Landmarks Board and after the trees were cut down, then requested a retroactive Certificate of Approval from the City.

The first violation happened on November 13, 2013.  Then in January, Talaris suddenly got a retroactive certificate in place after the trees were cut down: 

Here is the timeline and Blog post detailing the first violation: 
11/6/13 - Talaris designated Landmark
11/14/13 - Talaris cut down trees without approval in the buffer that provide privacy to adjacent neighbors.  Erin issued stop work order after three big cottonwood trees had already been cut down.
1/6/14 - Landmarks Board received application for retroactive Certificate of Approval
1/31/14 agenda item for Landmarks Meeting "Certificate of Approval"

And before that time on September 20th, after the Battelle / Talaris property was nominated, the Landmarks Preservation Board, "issued a report that informed the property owner that they were required to have approval from the Landmarks Board before making alterations or significant changes to specified features proposed for preservation. The areas of control for this property include the site and the exteriors of the building."

 Lois Maag, City Strategic Communications Advisor, told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff, regarding the recent violation:


Erin received an email from the property owner’s representative on Friday, April 22nd, indicating that they wanted to remove two trees this Spring.  The owner’s representative provided assessments prepared by a certified arborist as well as photographs that illustrate the level of decay relating to Project #6523889.

Erin read this email on Monday, April 25th and responded.   She explained to the owner that in the absence of a controls and incentives agreement for the property she did not have the authority to administratively review the proposal, and that they would need to seek approval from the Landmarks Preservation Board.  She urged them to prepare and submit the application and we would get it scheduled for the Board’s review as quickly as possible.

The property owner or their representative also contacted SDCI (City of Seattle Department of Constructions and Inspections - formerly DPD). SDCI’s arborist analyzed the trees and determined they were hazardous and therefore not subject to tree protection codes. The trees were non-exceptional and were a safety hazard. Permits from SDCI are not required.  
People are allowed to cut down up to 3 non-exceptional trees a year on their property. Not only was this tree non-exceptional, it was a safety hazard. Permits are not required to remove non-exceptional trees.   
Even though the trees were cut without approval by the Landmarks Board, the process still needs to be followed along with an explanation given to the Board as to why this happened.  
On the morning of Wednesday, April 27th some neighbors reported to you and to Erin that there was tree removal underway.   Erin immediately called the property owner’s representative who was unaware the trees were being cut. We cannot explain to you why the tree removal occurred when it did, the property owner will need to respond to that question. 
When we are notified of a compliance violation we always attempt to work with the property owner to try to find a resolution.  We start by assessing the situation, looking at potential alternatives to mitigate the issue, and review the Certificate of Approval process with the property owner.   
In this case, the need for a Certificate of Approval was made clear to the owner’s representative prior to the action taken to remove the trees.  The next step is for the owner to seek retroactive approval from the Landmarks Board. 
The property owner’s representative prepared a complete application by Thursday, April 28, and presented it to the Landmarks Board at their Board meeting on May 4 for retroactive approval, which was then approved.   
Of course, giving retroactive approval is not our, nor the Landmarks Board, preferred methodology. At last night’s Landmarks Board meeting, the Board voted to approve the retroactive Certificate of Approval.  
The Board stated that it understood the trees needed to be removed, but made it clear to the property manager that it was very displeased with the situation. The property manager accepted full responsibility for the mistake and stated that he will make sure to seek approval in advance.
Given this is a landmarked site, the owner is responsible for coordinating with the Department of Neighborhoods on any required approvals before proceeding with removal.   
Given that the Board has voted to give retroactive approval for the application, there is now no outstanding violation and there will be no further compliance action on our part regarding this matter.
The basic tree assessment performed by certified arborist on March 4 regarding the  red oak trees located on the northwest corner of the property says:
Decay and a large scar at the base of the trunk and lean to the north increases the failure potential of this tree.  Approximately half of the tree has failed.  The tree is located adjacent to a road, buildings and landscape all of which are used frequently.  The best mitigation option for this tree is tree removal.

Another report from a certified arborist wrote after his visit on the same day: 

This tree has advanced decay throughout its entire structure and is likely to fall in the weather events stated common to this region.  It will impact a target, and the consequences would be significant to severe. Immediate removal is recommended and certainly before the tree leafs out and we have any moderate winds.


Here are photos taken by a neighbor on April 27th while the tree work was happening:

The 2 large logs and stump were from a substantial tree.
These trees have been thinned very hard, quite a way up. 
This is where they were working when they stopped in the morning.
I don't know if the intent was to remove them or just thin them hard.

      Here are 2 large logs and a large stump. 
      This is on the main road right
      by the edge of the road on the right toward the ponds.
    A neighbor also commented about the specific property upkeep: 
    I hope they are keeping the water circulating in the ponds to prevent a mosquito infestation.  The 41st Street side of the property is so neglected but once you pass that first big bend in the road they are maintaining it somewhat,  not like they used to by any means but a lot better than 41st.

    Neighbors have also complained over the last two years that Talaris has stopped mowing the grass on NE 41st Street along the roadside where for decades, the large grassy area was popular for sports teams to use for practices until Talaris suddenly put up a fence around the entire property  in September of 2013.  

    One neighbor reported that the grass, just a few weeks ago, had grown to about 24 inches high and was  "looking awful."  Talaris finally mowed the grass about two weeks ago.

    The Laurelhurst Blog reported about the same overgrown grass problem in May of last year after receiving numerous  complaints about it.  At that time, neighbors became more and more worried about the tall dry grass, hot weather and impending 4th of July firecrackers and continued to voice concerns. 

    A Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) representative attended a Landmarks Board Meeting, at the time, and showed six  8 X 10 inch photos of "the tall grass and deteriorated conditions of the landscape at Talaris."

    A nearby neighbor also went to the fire station  to voice concerns about Talaris not cutting the grass and the possibility of a fire.

    Finally, Talaris finally cut the grass two days before the 4th of July holiday last year.


    Crime Prevention Workshops Offered

    Seattle Neighborhood Group

    The Seattle Neighborhood Group, a non-profit agency, whose mission is  to prevent crime and build community through partnerships with residents, businesses, law enforcement and other organizations,
     is offering crime prevention workshops.

    Here is information:


    Seattle Neighborhood Group is offering FREE crime prevention presentations to the Seattle community!
    These presentations are informative and hands-on. Each vary in length, from thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the need. We have brochures in many different languages and can assist with interpretation if requested. We are pleased to present at community meetings, events, multi-family buildings, neighborhoods, etc., anyone who is interested! Please contact us to make arrangements.
    Personal Safety: How to protect yourself from crime
    Preventing theft
    What thieves look for?
    Transportation safety
    Safety on the street
    What should I do?
    Vehicle Security: How to protect your car from crime
    If your car is stolen of vandalized
    If your car is stolen and recovered
    Theft from your vehicle
    What attracts a car thief?
    Calling 9-1-1
    When to call?
    Tips when calling
    Interpreter services
    Methods to report
    Suspicious Activities: How to recognize and report suspicious activities
    How do you know what to report to the police?
    Reporting crime is important
    Calling the non-emergency number
    Behavior that indicate criminal activity
    Identity Theft & Fraud
    Increase awareness of identity theft and fraud
    Prevent identity theft & fraud
    Common ways identity theft happens
    What can you do if you become a victim?
    Please note: 
    We get many requests, please allow a few days for a response.
    We look forward to working with you!
    Gina Lee & Kylie Helmuth

     Our Crime Prevention Education Team works mostly with Seattle communities, immigrants, seniors, and low-income housing. The presentations topics include: Personal Safety, Vehicle Security, Suspicious Activity, 911 Basics & Interpretation, ID Theft & Fraud
    Click here for more information.

    Seattle Neighborhood Group | 206-323-9666 | info@sngi.org | www.sngi.org