Friday, January 17, 2020

Birdies Having Happy Hour On 7th Floor

A neighbor sent this to the Laurelhurst Blog saying:

Happy Hour at 7th floor bar on Sand Point Way at the Laurelhurst Condominium building:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Interesting History Of Water Fountains At The Park

Seattle Parks and Recreation has begun their routine winter preparation of parks in Seattle. This includes shutting off drinking fountains to prevent pipes from freezing, including the ones at the Laurelhurst Park.

The bathrooms outside of the Community Center will remain open throughout winter.  

Of interesting note, one of the drinking fountains in the park is part of over one hundred public artworks in parks and facilities across the City.  

The drinking fountain, named "Seattle Scatter Piece" is shaped like a boat and made of concrete and marble (rock). 

A Public Art website says about the piece:
Artist Mark Lere's uniquely sited sculptural vessel thematically connects four Seattle neighborhoods through the repetition and transformation of an iconic image of a boat placed on public property within each neighborhood: Beacon Hill Reservoir, a viewpoint at Interbay, Laurelhurst and Bitter Lake.  
These reiterations of the boat form, created from concrete, are designed to be united figuratively by the viewer's voyage from site to site. This journey constructs a full picture of the boat.  Lere's sculpture began as a simple line drawing of a boat overlaid on a map of Seattle.
Lere’s sculpture began as a simple line drawing of a boat overlaid on a map of Seattle; the corners locate the sites of the artworks. Each of the artworks sites incorporate a part of the boat and other elements. The project was begun in 1981 and completed in 2005.   
Lere was chosen through an invitational competition to select a publicly owned site for a project proposal.  Due to the complexity of his proposal and the number of approvals required by the city, the project took many years to achieve by the time it was completed.
Click through the interactive map to take a virtual tour of the public artwork.  Go here for more information.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Talaris Now Seeking Retroactive Certificate of Approval For New Fence

The Laurelhurst Blog recently posted about the owners of Talaris violating the landmarks agreement with the City, by installing a chain link fence last month at the 7.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street).

Neighbors sent in come comments to the Blog saying:

What is going on at Talaris?  There is a tall new fence and large signs that say the property is under surveillance.
There are new temporary chain link fence panels installed along the 41st street fence, the conference/hotel booking site said it ceased operations on October 29th, and a lot of construction/real estate people have been gathering at the old Seattle Gym building, which looks like it’s being lightly renovated. There hasn’t been much discussion since the 10/2018 MUP change after the sale to Quadrant. I think it would be interesting to find out if demolition is beginning soon and refresh past neighborhood conversations on what that means for neighborhood traffic, the eagle’s nest, future school boundaries, and beach club boundaries. 
Curious if there's any update on the Talaris property? Noticed that new, taller fencing has gone up. Any info would be of interest in the Blog. 

The property was designated with landmark status in November 2013, which dictates that specific controls define certain features of the landmark to be preserved and a Certificate of Approval process is needed for changes to those features. Some incentives and controls included in the City's ruling are zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives, which are protected, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

On December 18, the Landmarks Preservation Board listed on their meeting agenda for Talaris: "proposed perimeter fencing- retroactive."

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted the L
andmarks Preservation coordinator about the outcome of this agenda item and they said:

The owner’s representative attended the meeting on December 13. They were asked by Board members to look at a more comprehensive security plan for the campus, in addition to, or in lieu of the new 6’ fence. 
To be responsive to this request, the owner requested to table the item, so it was not considered by the Landmarks Board at their meeting on December 18th. 
When work is done without approval we assess the situation and attempt to remedy the issue. In this case, we’ve asked the applicant to seek approval, so they have started that process.  

They are currently planning to return to the Landmarks Board meeting on January 15, 2020. 
The code does not address numbers of retroactive applications.  I cannot speculate on the property owner’s motivations.  
We are enforcing the code by requiring the property owner to acquire a Certificate of Approval from the Landmarks Board.  Had the owner not started the application process they would have received a Notice of Violation from Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.

In 2018, Talaris removed a large oak tree with proper approval from the Landmarks Preservation Board and asked for retroactive Certificate of Approval from the City, violating the Landmarks agreement.

And in April 2016, Talaris again 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.

And again, in November 2013, Talaris also cut down another tree with approval from the Landmarks Board and then suddenly got a retroactive certificate in place after the trees were cut down.

Shortly after 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."

The 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) was sold to Quadrant Homes, who has proposed to build 63 single-family homes on large lots that could sell for about $2 million each, according to a recent article in the Seattle Times and Daily Journal of Commerce.

The original plan proposed would keep some of the existing buildings and park space, including the existing conference center and four other buildings, and two ponds. Two other small buildings, including Building G, housing a lodge, would be demolished.

The site, built in 1967, was originally owned by Battelle Memorial Institute. In 1997 Era Care Communities purchased the property for $6,125,000 and it was developed into Talaris Institute which focused on infant and early learning research of the brain. In 2000, Bruce Mc Caw under the name 4000 Property LLC of Bellevue, purchased the property for $15,630,000. The county has assessed the property at $14 million and sold in 2000 for $15.6 million.

The property, when sold several decades ago, included an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) are partnered together with the land owners of the parcel. The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions can't operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc). And the Settlement Agreement has specific restrictions attached which specifies the use of the property to protect the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood.

For decades, neighbors were free to stroll the grounds, until 2013, when Talaris suddenly put up "No Trespassing" signs and installed a four feet chain link fencing in 2013, as well putting up a main driveway barricade, fence on northwest side and a surveillance camera. Neighbors were no longer allowed to use the large grassy meadow area where generations of kids practiced soccer and the past few years the grounds facing NE 41st Street are often neglected and grass not consistently mowed.

The Laurelhurst Community Club, has been involved with the site for over 30 years, working to ensure the property is well integrated with the neighborhood by closely monitoring proposed development. LCC has also worked with current owners in lobbying for better property maintenance

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

All About Red-Tailed Hawks At Union Bay

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time local photographer and birder. Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work.

A Gift to the Future

Around Union Bay, mature Red-tailed Hawks generally have rufous colored tail stripes, which validate their name. 

Immature Red-tails lack this coloring as mentioned in Seattle Audubon's Birdweb. This distinction seems to be fairly reliable in our area, however, Birds of North America mentions that there are as many as 16 subspecies in the Americas. Depending on where you visit (and where the Red-tails visit) you may see a wide variety of tail, chest and body colorings. Click on All About Birds to see some of the various subspecies. Luckily, (or not) we get mostly the common colored Red-tails in Seattle.

Curiously, even with mature birds, the underside of the tail is generally lighter.

Waiting for a soaring bird to give you a peek at the topside of its tail can require patience.

Bud Anderson taught me, that another generally common identifying characteristic for a Red-tailed Hawk is its indistinct belly band. When you add in their normally dark heads, especially as compared to the chest, I think this creates the overall impression of a white bib. I imagine the bib all tucked in and the hungry hawk just waiting to eat. The same All About Birds photostream shows that the bib is not universal, but I find it generally exists on our Union Bay Red-tails. 

Another key identifier, which I learned from my friend Marcus Roening, is that at a distance a Red-tail looks like a football. It does not matter if it is sitting in a tree, on a telephone pole or on the horizontal support for a freeway light.

Last week, when I heard the distinctive sounds of American Crows harassing a predator I was lucky enough to locate this handsome bird. It quickly relocated to this position above the 520 off-ramp, near the Montlake grocery store - the one previously known as Hop-In. 

(Sadly, due to the 520 Freeway improvements, this historic store will only exist through the end the month.)

Flickering back and forth between this and the previous photo will give you an impression of the subtle triangulating movements which predatory birds use when zeroing in on a potential target.

Sometimes Red-tails will soar but often they simply sit and wait for prey to expose themselves.

They are smart, flexible predators who do not care what type of meat is on the menu. They like rats, rabbits, mice, snakes, squirrels, birds or fish. They will eat them fresh, steal from others or consume leftovers - no refrigeration required. I suspect their taste for leftovers may be part of the reason Red-tails can often be found peering down over freeways.

They love to hunt from a perch with nice open views and easy access. The grass beside our freeways provides food and shelter for several potential prey species - very similar to a field spread out below a horizontal tree branch. Red-tails readily adapt to human-altered habitat as long as it meets their needs.

Red-tails are not the only bird species that have benefited from our habitat modifications. American Crows are smaller and probably smarter. The crows respect a Red-tail as a dangerous predator and will generally attempt to drive it out of their territory.

Last spring, I watched this Red-tail get driven out of the Union Bay Natural Area. You can see from the way its head is reversed, by 180 degrees, that it was intimidated by the crow's attack.

Last month, I saw a similar situation immediately north of 520.

Again, the crows prevailed.

Last week, the crows continued their constant harassment. 

Ultimately, the Red-tail left the light post.

It moved to a nearby telephone pole before finally evacuating the area altogether.

The natural creatures we find in the city are a direct result of the habitat we create or enable. We have an abundance of crows because our yards, commercial establishments, and often our garbage, provide a surplus of food for them. By working to restore the quality of our yards (see Going Native below) and our waterways we will be giving the gift of wildlife to future generations of city dwellers.


Is this fruiting plant native to Union Bay?

Black Twinberry: Yes, it is a native plant. Click on the name to read more about how it can be used in your yard and then scroll to the bottom to see a list of birds that appreciate its fruit.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Children's Hospital Construction Activity This Week

Building Care, Forest B, of Phase 2 of Children's Hospital expansion,Children's Hospital is underway, which is planned to open in Spring of 2022. 

The 310,000 square-foot addition will add an eight-story building and will includes diagnostic and treatment facilities, primarily out-patient cancer and others) labs, new state-of-the-art operating rooms, 20 inpatient beds, and a lobby. There will be two floors of underground parking and sterile processing. This will bring SCH bed total to 409, up from 200 before its expansion 2012 plan. 

The helicopter landing pad moved temporarily to the roof of Forest A (176’), now known as Friends of Costco Building, Phase 1 of the expansion. The landing pad will be active until Building Care is completed. Noise is expected to be louder than the former ground-based helipad. When Forest B is complete, the helistop will moves to its permanent location on top of the Friends of Costco Building (same height). 

Lights were added, recently, to the horizontal swing arm (boom) portion of the tower crane to increase safety for helicopter landings. These are in addition to the lights at the end of the boom and on the crane operator’s cab. The additional lights will help the helicopter pilots in identifying the location of the boom when landing or departing the helipad in the dark. While the lights are visible from the ground, they are not bright enough to interfere with any neighboring properties. As a reminder, the tower crane is scheduled to remain onsite through August 2020.

The Hospital posted this information on their Construction Blog about specific construction activity this week: 
  • Erect structural and support steel
  • Install decking
  • Install rebar and pour concrete for walls, curbs, slabs, and stairs
  • Install window framing and jams in walls
  • Install waterproofing for roofing
  • Set stairs
  • Build concrete block walls
  • Install garage fire sprinkler system
  • Move in mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment
  • Installs generator muffler and fuel oil piping
  • Grading
  • Internal activities: install pipes for pneumatic tube system extension

Call 206-987-8000 or email with questions.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Duck Species Found Around Union Bay

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time local photographer and birder. Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work.

The Bum Deal

Mallards are the most common of all duck species in North America, according to All About Birds.

This post focuses on a selection of twenty duck species found around Union Bay. The group of twenty is divided evenly into ten dabbling duck and ten diving duck species. In particular, we will be looking at the rear view of the male ducks in breeding plumage.

Mallards dabble. You might imagine that they perceive life as a buffet filled with a variety of delicious delicacies. Given that they are the largest and most common of the dabbling ducks you might suspect they are bullies who paddle around and try a taste of anything and everything they want. You might be right. They are the only species I have seen eating crabapples off a tree on Foster Island.

However, that is not why they are called dabbling ducks. The dabbling description is related to their inverted feeding style. With their legs attached at 'mid-ship,' they can paddle quickly, walk adequately and, critical for dabbling, they can easily hold their 'upper' body below the surface while feeding in shallow water. However, the placement of their legs is not very useful for diving.

Buffleheads are one of our most common diving ducks. Their legs are attached near the back of the body, just in front of the tail. Their webbed feet function like flippers on a diver and greatly enhance their underwater mobility. As a result, they swim and dive superbly, although they seldom dabble and walk rather poorly.

Diving ducks also have relatively longer tails. I suspect they utilize their tails below the surface in a manner somewhat similar to a Cooper's Hawk. When a Cooper's Hawk flies through a forest, their long tails help them to twist and turn to avoid obstructing branches, to match the agility of their prey and to elude predators.

Similar to the Mallard in the first photo, a Gadwall is another dabbling duck with a dark bum. In both cases, they also have a few light tail feathers which seem even brighter against the surrounding darkness. After years, of watching male dabbling ducks, I finally noticed that most of them have black butts. The sudden realization sparked questions. Do all male dabbling ducks have dark bums? If so, what purpose do they serve? What about the diving ducks? Do they have dark, light or a variety of bum colors?

One of my first thoughts was remembering that Dennis Paulson taught us that dark feathers are more durable than white ones. That seemed like a logical reason for the dark bums but then why do they have white highlights? Why not just solid black bums?

A Northern Shoveler is another dabbling duck with a dark bum and few light highlights. Among the dabblers, shovelers are the most dignified. They generally 'snorkle' about in circles with their bills below the surface while their bodies remain horizontal.

Green-winged Teals do have even larger white highlights but the background color of their bums is still dark. Blue-winged Teals have smaller highlights but more extensive black bums. You can see an example on All About Birds by clicking the blue highlighted text.

Cinnamon Teals have dark bums... do the Northern Pintails.

American (and Eurasian) Wigeons are Union Bay dabblers with black butts.

Even the more distantly related Wood Ducks, who I suspect just barely belong to the dabbling duck society, have dark bums. Their hind feathers are similar in color to their chests but noticeably darker than their sides and their white highlights. All ten of the most common, male dabbling ducks on Union Bay have dark bums in breeding plumage.

My friend Dave Galvin suggested the dark bums might make them less conspicuous to airborne predators. Camouflage certainly seemed like a plausible concept.

However, with so many light feathers surrounding the small black bums, the stark color difference seems like it would attract attention. If memory serves, I believe the underside of most male dabbling ducks is light in color creating this similar situation.

At this point, in my research, I was very curious about the color of the diving duck bums. I learned that Ring-necked Ducks have black bums.

As do, Lesser Scaups...

...the Canvasbacks and the somewhat similarly patterned Redheads.

On the other hand, the Hooded Mergansers have a lighter colored bum... do the male Common Mergansers...

...and the male Ruddy Duck and the Bufflehead which we saw earlier. This leaves the count among the diving duck species at four dark and four light bums.

A glance at the Barrows Goldeneye and the ...

...closely related Common Goldeneye initially convinced me that they have dark bums. Which would make the count six dark bums out of the ten Union Bay diving duck species.

Luckily, I stumbled across this photo. Male Common Goldeneyes do have a dark tail but their bums are white. I do not have a similar photo of a Barrow's Goldeneye, but I suspect their bums may also be light. The bottom-line on the color of diving duck bums is apparently about fifty-fifty.

Finding photos of diving duck bums was much harder. Ultimately, I realized that when they are on the surface their tails are usually at or just below the surface, so their bums are hidden to human eyes. Also, they dive quickly. During the diving process, their bums disappear in flash. Plus they are often encircled by a splash of the water. This led me to conclude that the color of a diving duck's bum may have little or no impact on their top side lives. Although having a completely light underside may be an example of countershading which may help make them less visible to aquatic lifeforms.

In a surprising observation, five of the six diving duck species with white bums are cavity nesters e.g. both Goldeneyes, both Mergansers and Buffleheads. The only exception is the Ruddy Duck. Since only female ducks enter the nesting cavities, as far as I have seen, and only the males have the light-colored bums I cannot conceive of any logical reason for this correlation. I would love to hear about your thoughts and ideas.

On the other hand, the consistent dark color and constant exposure of the ten male dabbling duck bums makes me suspect the darkness serves a useful purpose. Not only are dabbling duck bums exposed while they are feeding they are also obvious when paddling about on the surface. In essence, their bums are exposed nearly all of the time. Plus, many of the species have contrasting light-colored highlights which most likely draws attention to their bums. My best guess is this flashy arrangement functions as a signal to other males of their species.

I suspect it informs competitors that the nearby female has a mate, even if the male mate has his head underwater, or if his back is turned. During breeding season an approaching male is unlikely to mistake a mated pair for two unaccompanied females. This idea is my best guess at explaining dark bums on male dabbling ducks. If you think of a more logical explanation please let me know. In any case, Thank You for following along!

Is dark-bummed dabbling duck native to Union Bay?

Eurasian Wigeon: As the name makes clear Eurasian Wigeons are not native to Union Bay, the Pacific Northwest or North America. They come here from Siberia, according to Seattle Audubon's free online application e.g. Birdweb. It is always fun to scan a large flock of American Wigeons and then suddenly spot the striking head of a Eurasian Wigeon.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

December And Year End Laurelhurst Real Estate Summary

Kim Dales has provided this neighborhood real estate activity report for the month of December:

Laurelhurst waterfront home 
for sale

We had a busy 2019 in Laurelhurst with 71 sales, 9 of which were non Beach Club. In comparison, there were 62 homes sales in 2018 with 12 non Beach Club.

The median home sale in 2018 was $1,595,000 and the median home sale in 2019 was $1,500,500.

December had a decrease in median sales price over the previous December to $1,284,500 with a bump in average days on the market to 87. This increase was largely due to one property
that was on the market for 238 days.

What does this mean for 2020? Here is one prediction for this year.


List Price
5011 44th Ave NE, #B
4558 51st Ave NE
5020 NE 45th St
4911 NE Laurelcrest Ln


List Price
5011 44th Ave NE, #A
4811 NE 41st St
4560 52nd Ave NE


List Price
Sale Price
Date Sold
3503 NE 44th St
3822 42nd Ave NE
4314 NE 41st St
4804 NE 40th St



Median Sales Price = $1,284,500

* Median Sales Price December 2018 = $1,816,000

CDOM = Cumulative Days on Market