Friday, January 19, 2018

Some Yesler Swamp And Union Bay Landfill History


The Friends of Yesler Swamp has published a variety of posts regarding the history of Yesler Swamp located in Laurelhurst, including history of the area from settlement, sawmill, town of Yesler, historic photos, videos, source notes and more, on their website.

Friends of Yesler Swamp and the UW Botanic Gardens have been working together for over a decade to restore the native plants of Yesler Swamp, located near the Center for Urban Horticulture and bordered by NE 41st Street and Surber Drive, as well as construct a handicapped-accessible natural wetland trail, which also serves to protect and conserve swamp wildlife and minimize human impact on the wetlands.  The  boardwalk was completed on October 16th of last year with a celebration.
The Seattle City Council approved a Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund award of $88,887 to restore Yesler Swamp and help with the cost of construction of the boardwalk.
And the King Conservation District provided a $31,940 grant for construction of a Viewing Platform and more. 

Friends of Yesler Swamp said on their website that the trail "offers views of the wetlands, the beaver lodge and the lagoon, while protecting wildlife by directing human foot traffic away from these sensitive areas.  

Here is one of Friends of Yesler Swamp's posts on the history of the area: 



NEXT DOOR TO A LANDFILL

In 1933, people began dumping trash in the Union Bay marsh. Later, the city began using the area as a garbage dump and landfill. The fill material was household garbage, rubbish, ashes, stumps, lumber and rubble. Some 11 million cubic yards of trash, including debris from the construction of the I-5 freeway, were deposited on the marsh.[57]

In the end, up to 40 feet (12.2 meters) of garbage and debris were dumped on the marsh.[58]
The idea was to “reclaim” the swamp land for building or other useful purposes. Walter L. Dunn, a professor of engineering at the University, conducted a study in 1966.

He noted:
When the work of recovery by means of refuse began in 1933, the swamp generally had the consistency of thick sludge, much of it over 60 feet deep. It has been built into a usable part of the campus.[59]

“Bulldozer at Montlake Landfill, University of Washington, August 17, 1958,” University of Washington Libraries Special Collections UW19075

Rubbish was burned on the fill until 1954, when the practice was stopped due to citizen protests. Closure of the landfill was begun in 1965 and was completed in 1971.


Not everyone favored filling the swampland with garbage. In 1951, UW Professors Higman and Larrison published their evocative journal of their visits to the swamp, Union Bay: The Life of a City Marsh.

They wrote:
It is a unique place, this marsh. Man, by building the ship canal, lowered the water of the bay until its margins became a series of exposed flats. Man is therefore responsible for the marsh. If the present trend continues, man, by continued filling, drainage, and building, will some day destroy it.[60]
Fortunately, the “useable part of the campus” — the part of the marsh that was filled in by rubbish for over 30 years — did not extend as far as the east basin.Yesler Swamp, once again, was spared.

THE REBIRTH OF YESLER SWAMP

Following closure of the landfill, the University began planning for the future of the area. Fortunately, the Washington legislature in 1971 enacted the Shoreline Management Act, whose purpose was both to preserve the natural character of the shorelines of our state as well as to increase public access to the shores.[61]

The University approved a master plan for the former landfill in 1974, designating the marshland around Yesler Swamp as “unmanaged wildlife.” The swamp at that time featured red alders, willow, a few cottonwoods and “thickets of Himalayan blackberry.”[62] In January 1978, the University decided to demolish Union Bay Village and move married student housing to other locations.[63] The natural area would instead be devoted to research and teaching. [64]
In 1993, the UW undertook a plan for the future of the Union Bay shoreline. A committee, which included Kern Ewing, was charged with preparing a management plan. The emphasis was on “the importance of preserving this freshwater wetland as a public heritage and . . . increasing concern on the part of the University faculty and students that this rare nearby habitat be available intact for future study and teaching.”[65]

The planners agreed that the entire landfill over the deep, spongy peat deposits of Union Bay was unsuitable for construction of buildings. Instead, the natural area should be reserved for teaching, wildlife habitat and recreation. A wetland study at the time characterized much of the area as “wetland.”[66] All of area encompassing Yesler Swamp was designated as open space.[67] Specifically, the marsh to the west of Yesler Swamp was designated as a Conservancy Preservation Shoreline area.[68]

The planners generally recommended removing invasive non-native plants and animals, adding native plants, maximizing biodiversity, and controlling human impacts.[69] The area would come to be known as the Union Bay Natural Area.

YESLER SWAMP TODAY

In 2000, for the first time, serious attention shifted to Yesler Swamp. In a series of Capstone Projects carried out by UW Restoration Ecology Network (U-REN), teams of students led by Kern Ewing and others began restoration of Yesler Swamp. The students dug out invasive blackberries and canary reed grass, planting willows and other native species to shade out the invaders, and mapped out a rough trail.




Students studied the history of restoration efforts in the natural area and the hydrology of the swamp, observing that the fluctuating lake water levels posed a challenge for constructing a permanent trail for access to the lagoon. They noted that when heavy rains fell, the trail was not navigable without rubber boots.

Taking into account the unusual hydrology of the area, in 2004 the students developed a detailed plan for a loop trail. The route forms the basis for the current loop trail design. Laura Davis, a member of the 2004 Capstone Team, later became a professional landscape designer and joined forces with Friends of Yesler Swamp to develop the current trail plan for Yesler Swamp.[70]

In 2010, Friends of Yesler Swamp, assisted by a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Matching fund, retained SBA Landscape Associates to design an environmentally sensitive, all season trail and boardwalk to provide community access to Yesler Swamp. A professional design was prepared, and all environmental permits were obtained. The Department of Neighborhoods has promised additional funding to begin construction of the Yesler Swamp Trail.

Groups of environmental students at the UW continue to study the swamp and work towards its restoration. Friends of Yesler Swamp has partnered with U-REN students and hosts monthly work parties. Community members and students have devoted hundreds of hours to pulling ivy, chopping Himalayan blackberry, digging invasive grasses, and planting native species like willow and cedar.


(Photo by Carol Arnold)

At the same time, UW students and community groups like the Green Seattle Coalition are working to restore the headwaters of Yesler Creek.


Birders highly value Yesler Swamp for the variety of birds that inhabit the swamp. Over 100 species of birds have been spotted there, including Trumpeter swans and Barred Owl.



Friends of Yesler Swamp also sponsors popular children’s events to introduce kids to Yesler Swamp. Children have laughed with Swampy the Bear and learned the secrets of nature from experts in children's education.



Photo by Jean Colley

Aldo Leopold, the famous author and master of environmental ethics has written:
The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively: the land. . . . A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.[71]

In its long history, Yesler Swamp has endured periods of use and abuse as a resource for the convenience of human beings. Today, the environmental community is working to change our relationship to this rare natural resource from that of “conqueror” to “citizens of this land-community.”

UW Exhibit Of Vintage Maps, Books And More Through End Of The Month



A neighbor would like to share that the University of Washington is having an interesting exhibit in the Allen library featuring vintage maps, books and more in the Special Collections exhibit "All Over the Map" through the end of the month.


Vintage maps, books and more in UW Libraries Special Collections exhibit ‘All Over the Map’

"The Road from London to the City of Bristol," a map circa 1675 by Scottish cartographer John Ogilby -- part of "All Over the Map: From Cartographs to (C)artifacts," a UW Libraries Special Collections exhibit in Allen Library, on display until Jan. 31, 2018.

(“The Road from London to the City of Bristol,” a map circa 1675 by Scottish cartographer John Ogilby — part of “All Over the Map: From Cartographs to (C)artifacts,” a UW Libraries Special Collections exhibit)


Say it’s the year 1675 and you need to ride from London to the city of Bristol. Siri won’t be invented for centuries — how will you find your way? Don’t worry, there’s a map for that.

Drawn expressly for the purpose by Scottish cartographer John Ogilby, the map now sits under glass in the Special Collections area of the UW’s Allen Library, in great shape for being 340 years old.

A decades-old Viewmaster-style item from Disneyland invites viewers to "go ahead in time to 1986..."
(A decades-old Viewmaster-style item from Disneyland invites viewers to “go ahead in time to 1986…”Dennis Wise)


The map is one of dozens of items in a new exhibit titled “All Over the Map: From Cartographs to (C)artifacts.” Carefully chosen and organized by UW Book Arts and Rare Book Curator Sandra Kroupa, the exhibit is a celebration of cartography, geography and travel, featuring maps, travel literature, vintage books, photos, manuscripts and more.

“I really love that map,” Kroupa said. “The interesting thing is that it doesn’t put you in any context, so you don’t know where in the world you are. You know to get from here to there, but that’s it. And all along the road are symbols of what happens there, and one of the things is a tree that people were hung from. We even have an artist book from the collection that was inspired by that map.”

“Here are things that have managed to make it through God knows what, and — especially some of the early maps — where have they been?”
Sandra Kroupa, UW Libraries book arts and rare book curator

To Kroupa, on the job just months short of 50 years with no retirement in sight, caring for centuries-old original items like these is like a “sacred trust.” She added: “Here are these things that have managed to make it through God knows what, and — especially some of the early maps — where have they been?” Some were individual sheets in atlases long dismantled and sold off separately, she said.


An example of the 19th century photography of William Babcock in UW Libraries Special Collection's "All Over the Map" exhibit.
(An example of the 19th century photography of William Babcock) 

Nearby Ogilby’s cartography are other vintage maps as well as travel books by Charles Dickens and others, including a small 1804 book about touring England told in letters from a brother to a sister and an intriguing 1905 guide to “The Ruined Abbeys of Great Britain.”

Behind glass in another shelf are a few 19th century photographs by William Babcock — and really, nothing says “colonial” like a formal British couple solemnly riding an elephant on their honeymoon.

Also included are cycling diaries “recorded in map form” by the late, beloved UW historian Giovanni Costigan. He was — who knew? — evidently a biking enthusiast who cycled around England and Ireland in the 1920s. Kroupa said colleague John Bolcer, librarian and university archivist, brought these to her attention. Nicolette Bromberg, UW Libraries visual materials curator, suggested photos for the exhibit and Lisa Oberg, associate director of Special Collections and history of science and medicine curator, provided the exhibit title.

King Neptune and a mermaid canoodle in this close-up from "Italiae novissima," a 1579 hand-colored copper engraving by Abraham Ortelius of Antwerp. Part of UW Libraries Special Collections' "All Over the Map" exhibit.
(King Neptune and a mermaid canoodle in this close-up from “Italiae novissima,” a 1579 hand-colored copper engraving by Abraham Ortelius of Antwerp)


Book arts, scientific instruments and ephemera are represented here as well. Kroupa herself donated a 1950s-era Disneyland Viewmaster slide promoting Tomorrowland that lures the viewer with: “Let’s go ahead in time to 1986 — a world of spaceports, moon rockets, modernistic buildings and the fun rides of the future!”

Kroupa created the display in just a few days after learning that she had a hole in her schedule to fill. Curators know their collections, and exhibits compiled in this personal way can be a rare glimpse at favorite items from the trove, which at UW Special Collections numbers about 250,000 printed materials and 1,500,000 visual images in all.

It’s like putting together a big puzzle, she said.

“I say to people that when I walked in here at age 21, someone handed me a whole bunch of puzzle pieces, but I never saw the box! So I didn’t know if I was facing Mount Rainier or four kitties in a yarn basket, or fresh fruit. It just seems like everything you do gives you more puzzle pieces.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Children's Hospital Receives Kudos From City On Retaining Trees And Plantings During Expansion





Children's Hospital received a letter of kudos from the City's Urban Forestry Commission Chair, Tom Early, regarding their tree preservation efforts during the expansion of the Hospital.

The Hospital retained many plantings and very large trees from the former Laurelon Terrace Condominium site, which was demolished in 2011 to make way for the current Building Hope, also knows as Forest A, and the and upcoming construction of Building Care, also known as Forest B, to be constructed over the next two years, beginning this summer.   

In 2012, the Laurelhurst Blog posted about seven trees that were removed from the former Laurelon site where they stood for many decades, and were re-planted on the then construction site. 

Jeff  Hughes, Grounds Manager at Children's Hospital, told the Blog Staff, at the time, that the trees moved were Scarlet Oaks (Quercus rubra),  Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and Japanese maples.  The Oaks and Sweet gum were placed adjacent to what is the main entry of Forest A.

As shown in the pictures below, and more here, the trees, three of which were quite large and weighing about 130,000 pounds each, were moved onto a trailer by a crane from their storage site while waiting for exterior work to be done, that then took them to their new permanent location for re-planting.

Two hundred and sixty four trees (evergreen and deciduous) were salvaged from the previous Laurelon site during demolition to be replanted again in the future. Also salvaged were 190 roses, 210 ferns, 150 perennials and a variety of ground covers.



The City's Urban Forestry Commission letter stated:

Mayor Tim Burgess, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, and Councilmember Rob Johnson Seattle City Hall 600 4th Ave. Seattle, WA 98124  
RE: Seattle Children’s Hospital tree preservation  
Dear Mayor and Councilmembers Bagshaw and Johnson,    
The Urban Forestry Commission wants to commend Seattle Children’s Hospital on how they approach their development as an example of how this work can be done by other major institutions.   
Seattle Children’s presented their tree protection, retention, and removal plans to the Commission on September 6, 2017. The design and construction team exhibited ingenuity, diligence, and innovation to exceed the letter and intent of the tree protection ordinance during the multi-phase expansion of the hospital. This included atypical demolition.  
Specifically, the retention of building foundations to maintain the stability of existing trees, successfully moving mature trees (see photos on the next page), maintaining a campus of rich and varied horticultural value, and replanting a large number of trees. All of these efforts lead to a landscape design for a major institution master plan (MIMP) which is exceptional for its vision and leadership; it also exhibits the principles of the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan.    
The efforts, consideration, and dedication of Seattle Children’s Hospital to maintain and construct their landscape for healing and neighborhood enjoyment should be applauded as an example for other MIMP tree preservation and protection efforts. 




 


2021- Scarlet Tree in transport

Scarlet Oak in place 

(photos provided by Children's Hospital)

SR520 Down To One Lane Saturday Morning

WSDOT published this information:

Westbound SR 520 down to one lane on Saturday morning
WSDOT maintenance crews will perform intermittent lane closures on westbound SR 520 between the floating bridge and I-5 from 4 -9am January 20th. This will allow crews to safely inspect the overhead signs. At least one lane will remain open to traffic during the closures.
Sign Inspection


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Keep Sidewalks Clear Of Leaves, Remind Gardening Crews To Pick Up Leaves, Not Blow Them To Adjacent Yards Or Into Street






The Laurelhurst Blog has received several emails about slippery areas around the neighborhood due to leaves in public areas.  


City Code requires property owners to keep adjacent sidewalks, roads, and alleys clear of all obstructions, including raking leaves, shoveling snow and repairing damaged sidewalks

Neighbors wrote:

It would be great if you could remind neighbors to clean the leaves and debris off their city sidewalks. The leaves have become slippery and then when frost is added it is downright dangerous. 
We walk our dog every day and would appreciate neighbors raking up their leaves so that we don't potentially slip and fall. We believe the City has an ordinance regarding keeping public areas clear of debris.  
The 4100 block of Surber Drive seems to be regularly covered with a layer of leaves.  It is hazardous, especially when it is dark.  We ask neighbors to please be considerate and clean up sidewalks around their homes. 


Here is the applicable Seattle City Code:

SMC 10.52.030 Duties of owners and occupants.
A. It is the duty of the owner of the property and of any occupant of the property wherein or whereon any such nuisance exists to abate the nuisance by destroying, removing or trimming vegetation, and removing or destroying any health, safety or fire hazard.
B. In addition to duties the owner or occupant may have to abate nuisances, the owner or occupant of property shall:
1. Remove vegetation in or on an abutting sidewalk;
2. Destroy, remove or trim vegetation or parts thereof on the property, and which are also overhanging any sidewalk within eight (8) feet measured vertically from any point on the sidewalk;
3. Destroy, remove or trim vegetation or any parts thereof on the property or on adjacent planting strips, which encroaches on or overhangs the traveled portion of the street or alley within fourteen (14) feet measured vertically from any point on the street or alley;
4. Remove vegetation constituting a safety hazard found on adjacent planting strips or alleys;
5. Remove vegetation constituting a fire hazard found on adjacent planting strips or alleys;
6. Remove vegetation constituting a health hazard found on adjacent planting strips or alleys.


Also leaf blowing from one property into another neighbor's yard or into the street is not allowed.

Neighbors wrote:

I am continually cleaning up after our neighbors lawn workers blow leaves onto our side of street, weekly. 
It's not just the noise of leaf blowers that's aggravating, it's the dust that flies up into the eyes of passers-by and onto parked cars. 
Landscapers consistently blow the neighbor's leaves into our planting strip and in front of it, then drive off, leaving us to clean it up. Aren't they getting paid to clean up their client's yard, completely and thoroughly, including picking up their leaves and hauling them away? 
I noticed recently some gardeners just blowing leaves around and then blew them across the street.. Please tell your lawn crew to pick up the leaves, not blow them to your neighbors yard.

A landscaping crew working on a house on our block always blows leaves from the neighbor's yard, sidewalk and street in front of their home right into other's yards and right into the sidewalk and street in front of other homes. Is this legal? Aren't they paid to clean up the area that they service rather than just  move it down the street and then drive off leaving a mess to clean up for other neighbors? 
We regularly watch the gardening crew use their leaf blower to blow all the leaves from that house to the street and sidewalk. Blowing leaves into the street is negligent as it clogs the drains and can cause flooding, as well as possibly running the risk of getting water in someone’s basement.  Additionally, the City is not always readily available to clean the drain. Crews that are dispatched to clear the streets also can be hampered by added debris in the street. It is also disrespectful and lazy as the crew assumes the neighbors will clean up the large amount of leaves and other debris left by the gardening crew.  
Can you post in the Blog about landscaping crews that use very loud leaf blowers, and don't even turn them off when pedestrians walk by? Isn't there an accepted and approved noise level in Seattle? And why do they get to blow the leaves into the street and into neighbors yards without any care for others? Maybe because they don't live in this neighborhood.  We, neighbors, are left to clean up double the amount of leaves on our properties and in the street. The best and most neighborly thing to do is for the landscaping crew to pick up the leaves at the home they are servicing and take the leaves or put them into the homeowner’s yard waste bin or make a compost pile.  
Leaf blowers are very loud and thus annoying to neighbors and those that walk or drive by.  Excessive sound levels are not only objectionable, but they can also be a public health hazard.  Leaf blower operators wear hearing protection for a reason, because sustained exposure to more than 85 dBA at close proximity damages hearing. They should take into consideration that when children and others walk by, the blowers should immediately be turned off.  
We have seen pedestrians and even a landscape crew dump yard waste and other matter into our containers and those of our neighbors. Is this legal? We don't believe it is. Sometimes we watch them just blow the leaves onto someone else's property, into the street in front of another home, or just blow them down the sidewalk.

City Municipal Code SMC 15.46.030 states: 

Deposits in street or gutter
It is unlawful to wash or sweep or otherwise deposit any matter in any street or gutter.

Seattle Municipal Code Section 21.36.440 states:
Unlawful use of solid waste container on private property 
It is unlawful for anyone not authorized by the property owner or
occupant to deposit any material in any solid waste container on
private property or on a sidewalk or a planting strip abutting private
property.
Regarding permissible sound levels emitted by leaf blowers, Seattle Municipal Codes sections 25.08.410 and SMC 25.08.425, states that sound levels of up to 60-90 dBA at 50 feet from the source are permissible during regular working hours.  Sound levels that exceed 90 dBA can be subject to notices of violation, citation, and fines. Excessive noise can also be reported to the Seattle Police.

Here is the form a neighbor suggested to submit illegal dumping, including yard waste onto the street. 

In addition, City Code requires property owners cut back encroaching shrubs and hedges to a minimum eight-foot clearance above sidewalks and fourteen feet above roads and alleys.  

All About Woodpeckers, Chip And Goldie, Near Montlake Cut

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.



Silence is Golden
The dark-eyed Goldie on the left and the bright-eyed Chip on the right.

In the fall, young pileated woodpeckers leave their parent's territory and strike out on their own. This reduction in the total number of pileated woodpeckers makes it harder for me to keep track of our resident adults, Goldie and Chip. Before the young leave, they generally stay fairly close to their parents, which is rather helpful from my perspective. I think the three young in 2017, more than doubled my odds of locating at least one of them. 

A few years ago, hearing the pileated woodpeckers call was another method to locate the resident adults during winter. Back then, Elvis and Priscilla - one of the preceding pairs  - were fairly vocal. While feeding, one of them would call out every few minutes and the other would respond. I always thought of these interactions as contact calls. The birds might be fifty yards apart, and not visible at all, but it seemed obvious that they wanted to know they were both safe and still together. Pileated woodpeckers mate for life and apparently Elvis and Priscilla took their vows seriously, and were apparently vocal about their feelings.

Curiously, I do not ever remember hearing Chip and Goldie performing a similar type of call and response. I was happily surprised on Thursday when I heard a pileated woodpecker calling loudly. The increasing volume told me the bird was approaching my location, near Montlake Cut. I was very glad that the lengthy calls continued even after the bird landed. I needed all the help I could get - looking up through the falling rain - to spot the dark bird hanging on the side of a large cottonwood tree.

The red forehead and malar stripe indicated I was watching a male pileated woodpecker. I suspected it was Chip, since I was well within his territory. Later, comparing current and previous photos, helped convince me this was Chip. 

His behavior was unusual. He simply hung on the drier side of the tree, not feeding and yet calling loudly every few minutes. A half an hour passed and I never heard the slightest response. 

At one point Chip raised his crest, displaying obvious excitement, and seemed to hide from something on the far side of the trunk. I never did see the apparent threat. I suspected it was a bird, but smaller than a red-tailed hawk. Last spring, while watching Chip excavate a nest site, I watched his reaction when a red-tailed hawk flew over. He went to the opposite side of the trunk and froze. This time he was very animated and kept peaking around the trunk first from the left and then from the right. Once the danger had passed, he resumed his calling.

Just as my patience was wearing thin, Chip came even closer. He flew down out of the cottonwood and into a willow next to the water's edge. As I turned to watch, I saw a silent flash of movement as another creature entered the willow from the opposite direction. I could not locate the second bird, while peering through the profusion of branches, 

Finally, a few moments later, the dark-eyed and silent Goldie revealed herself.

Chip moved down to an obviously fresh hole, in a clearly dead portion of the tree, and began excavating and eating. With his long bill finding food deep within the tree it was virtually impossible to see what he was eating. However, I suspected he was finding his favorite food, carpenter ants.

After a while he moved away from the prime feeding location and Goldie took a turn. I call her Goldie because of the golden-brown feathers on her forehead. Later, I also compared her current and previous photos, which proved to me that she was the same female I had been watching for the last year or so.

Anytime both of the woodpeckers moved away from the feeding site, a quick little Bewick's Wren would move in and try to catch a meal.

This would inspire a somewhat larger Song Sparrow to chase the wren away. Although, I never did see the sparrow actually settle in and catch any ants.

The wren on the other hand was quicker and far more persistent. It seemed to have a clear goal in mind.

The wren actually caught and subdued this fair-sized flying insect.

The wren's catch seemed to be the same as the creature in the upper left in this photo. I am guessing it was a termite, due to the wider mid-body, even though it did come up out of the same hole as the carpenter ants.

After a while, Goldie returned to the hole to feed some more.

Next, Chip returned and sidled his way over and gently took control of the feeding hole.

Pushed to the side, Goldie continued to search the area for ants which had escaped the initial attack.

In time Chip ate his fill and finally flew off to the north side of Montlake Cut, where he sat and occasionally called out.

Goldie returned to the prime feeding location and got her fill as well, before following Chip across The Cut. 

In the whole time, I never heard a single peep out of Goldie. She clearly can hear Chip and comes to his location, but apparently she does not feel a need to attract him. I have to respect her self-confidence. Even though I certainly would like to hear her vocalize, maybe her silence is helping to protect her from being caught by a predator - like a red-tailed hawk, a barred owl or a cooper's hawk. In which case, I must agree that her silence is golden.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tomorrow Public Invited To Talaris Briefing On Proposed Development At City Halll

The public is invited tomorrow afternoon to the City's Landmarks Preservation Board Meeting to hear a "briefing on proposed rehabilitation and new development" of Talaris (see agenda below). 

A neighbor reported that on January 3rd, Talaris was granted yet another continuance  of another year, to allow more time for them to develop controls and incentives for development.

The neighbor added that there have been three proposed options for the land use -
1) cancer center including acupuncture, counseling and exercise facility 2) 58 single family houses that would sell for $3-$5M. The main building and pond would remain and building G would be torn down (currently houses hotel, neighbors report it as quite run down) 
3) autistic school - neighbor reported the school may not have been able to raise enough money.

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) published information about the 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) in the September 2017 newsletterThe For Sale sign put up in May of last year  was  taken down.  

LCC Newsletter Article:

Talaris Land Use: Then Until Now... 
Recently, the Laurelhurst Community Club, the City of Seattle, and 4000 Properties LLC, (the current owner of the Talaris site, the former Battelle Institute site), signed off on an agreement closing out a lawsuit about the property that had lingered without decision in King County Superior Court for almost four years. The dismissal agreement does not resolve any of the parties’ various claims and defenses. Instead it leaves them for future resolution, if necessary.  
The Battelle site has been a focus of community concern for over three decades. Originally permitted as an “institute for advanced study” under the Seattle Zoning Code, by the mid-1980s its conference and event venue business had become a source of neighborhood complaints related to traffic and parking. Responding to Battelle plans for expansion, LCC through its land use counsel, Peter Eglick, brought the community’s concerns to a legal proceeding before the Seattle Hearing Examiner in 1988.  
The outcome was a Hearing Examiner decision that called into question not only whether Battelle was entitled to expand, but also whether it could continue with some aspects of its existing operation. Battelle sued in King County Superior Court to overturn that decision. Ultimately, Battelle also entered into settlement negotiations with LCC and the City. The negotiations resulted in a 1991 “Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land.”  
The Agreement, recorded in the King County land records, applies to the site regardless of any change in ownership. It includes provisions regulating expansion of the current uses and buildings, barring control by major institutions such as the University of Washington or Children’s Hospital, and prescribes a specific landscaping plan and parameters for the site.  
Over the years since entry into the Settlement Agreement, LCC has monitored site activity and redevelopment plans and has occasionally been forced to take formal legal action. For example, a proposal two decades ago to convert and develop the site into a facility for Seattle Community Colleges, violating the Settlement Agreement, prompted a Club lawsuit.  
The community college plan was dropped, followed by withdrawal of lawsuit. LCC has also worked with site owners and potential developers for the site. More recently, renewed owner moves toward site redevelopment resulted in another round of negotiations between LCC and the owner. These were largely unsuccessful.  
At the same time, the owner asked the City Council to move on changes to the City’s single-family land use planning designation for the site. The Club opposed this change as unwarranted, and the City Council did not adopt it.  
In 2013, as knowledge spread of an owner plan to divide the site into over 80 lots for development, some community members became concerned about how that might effect the site’s building and landscape design, notable examples of work by prominent Seattle architects.  
A landmark nomination was submitted to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board and by November 2013 the Battelle/Talaris’ exteriors of the existing buildings and site were designated as land marked status. A landmark designation is not an empty honor. Instead it can carry a significant regulatory punch through “controls and incentives” adopted by the Board after negotiations with the property owner.  
Therefore, in response to the designation, the 4000 Properties LLC owner sued the City challenging the designation and attacking the actions and fairness of the Board and the Seattle Landmarks Ordinance itself. In response, and to protect the integrity of the landmark process, LCC successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit in December 2013.  
For three years, the lawsuit proceeded based on the position that the owner just needed a few more months to work out a possible sale or other deal concerning the property. LCC protested, pointing out that the owner had made the choice to file the lawsuit and could make the choice to withdraw it if it was interfering with plans for disposal of the site.  
After almost three years had passed, the court finally said no to yet another extension, telling the owner either to proceed with the lawsuit or withdraw it. The owner dropped the lawsuit with the understanding that he may re-bring its claims later. At that time, the owner also entered into a “neighborly agreement” concerning mowing the site lawn.   
For the first time in almost four years there is no pending litigation concerning the site. Meanwhile the Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land continue to apply.  
One more piece of the continuing Talaris site puzzle is still outstanding. Over the same period of years starting with the 2013 landmark designation of the site to the present, the volunteer Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has granted the owner extension after extension of the time frame for agreeing to “controls and incentives” implementing the landmark designation. Another such extension was granted in early July.  
LCC continues to participate in this important city process. LCC also continues to monitor the situation as property “for sale” announcements come and go and proposed uses are floated.



The Laurelhurst Blog published this information in May 2017:

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. 

Pistol Creek Management, appears to manage the property and may be involved with ownership.  Bruce McCaw is referenced as Chairman Emeritus of Pistol Creek and Co-Chair of TalarisThe owner of Talaris listed on the City's Public Records is Greg Vik, with 4000 Property LLC, also associated with Pistol Creek.

Seattle Mansions Blog said that Bruce McCaw "is involved in large scale commercial real estate investments with his Pistol Creek Financial Company."


The property was originally sold with an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club 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.

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.

Last year, 4000 Property LLC was exploring several options including a planned residential development with townhomes and houses, as well as development of the entire site into a private school campus, Academy for Precision Learning School

The housing proposal, initially presented in January of 2015 included three options: 1) 37 houses with no removal of existing buildings  2) 63 housing units and remove existing Building G and 3) remove Building G and the lodge and add townhomes and 72 single-family homes. 

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.

LCC's other priorities in partnering with the owners are maintaining open space, the eagle's habitat and valuable mature trees, supporting and enhancing property values and character of the entire Laurelhurst neighborhood and minimizing traffic impacts on all neighborhood streets and access points.

LCC issued this statement following last year's Seattle Times article about the property going on the market.

At Monday's LCC monthly Board Meeting the Talaris property was discussed.
The Seattle Times story  that was published yesterday was filled with many inaccuracies.
The Laurelhurst Community Club has had a long standing role in the development of the property since it became a unique" island" in the single family zoned neighborhood when the Battelle Research Institute began in the 1960's.
The original architects including Bill Bain Senior, and later , Bill Bain Junior (Founded NBBJ), and Richard Haag  (who built Gasworks Park) were visionaries for the site with overarching concept of providing a respite for the "think tank" scientists. The Battelle Research Institute was built with the purpose of an "Institute for Advanced Study", and the City of Seattle granted that special use permit for that purpose because it  was a small institution located within a single family residential neighborhood.
Governed by a legally binding "Settlement Agreement" that runs with the land, both LCC and Battelle were "good neighbors" throughout their occupancy, and access to the site was openly casual, without barricades as the architects has designed to meet the needs of the scientists within, and the neighbors from the outside. The Battelle owners maintained the landscaping at the site and shared in the maintenance of the median strip outside their entrances, as per the mutual agreement.
When Battelle vacated the site, numerous proposals were offered, and many did not materialize due to their own financial constraints.  LCC supported many of these new ideas and development plans.
Bruce McCaw and his immediate family bought the property in the early 2000's and the Talaris Institute was welcomed by LCC and neighbors-another good fit with mutual respect.
More recently, the Talaris Institute was dissolved, and the property was offered on the market for development for the past 4 years. . LCC has vetted a variety of uses, and only the 400 unit apartment complex was strongly opposed as it was not compatible with the underlying single family, nor Institute for Advanced Studies. That proposal would have completely destroyed the entire site, and LCC fought hard to prevent that development that was not context compatible.
The Seattle Landmark's Board then designated the exteriors of the buildings in late 2013.  In addition, the relationship of the buildings to each other and the garden as "landmarked" are also landmarked. This limits the development to uses that retain the buildings and the site configuration.
Other proposals such as single family connected housing was proposed by the owner, as was a school for autistic children called Academy for Precision Learning. LCC worked through each one in a constructive manner, and had not rejected either concept.
The owner, Bruce McCaw, now wants to completely dispose of the property from his real estate holdings and hired a big real estate broker, CBRE to list the property for sale.
LCC has heard from some sources that the price is around $30 million.
Another entity called the Orion Center For Integrative Medicine, a clinical research center, which specializes in integrative medicine support for cancer patients , expressed interest in buying the property. Bonnie McGregor, the founder and executive director, who is located currently at Talaris, spoke at the  Monday night LCC meeting with a positive reaction.
LCC maintains an open viewpoint and willingness to work with any, and all, proposals that respect the Landmarked status and underlying zoning, and the Settlement Agreement of the property, and provide the owner with compensation for his initial purchase, albeit the covenants were in place at that time which restrict development and its future value.


As mentioned in LCC's statement above, 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. 

A real estate agent told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that, though there is residential development potential,  in speaking with a few investors they feel the project is too complicated and are not interested.

Bonnie McGregor, mentioned previously, who operates the Orion Center for Integrated Medicine at the Talaris campus, commented in the Seattle Times article:
...the property "is frequented by wildlife ranging from coyotes to ducks. Bonnie  often pulls into her parking spot and takes a minute to breathe in “the peace of this place” before starting work, she said. "There’s nothing else like it,” Bonnie said. “To lose it, to have it developed, I think would be a crime. It breaks my heart to think about that happening.”
Here is an article from The Registry and also the Puget Sound Business Journal. For more information about Talaris go here.


Here is the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
Attached and embedded below is the agenda for the January 17, 2018 meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Board.

AGENDA
                                                                                                                           
Landmarks Preservation Board Meeting                               
Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Avenue, Floor L2, Room L2-80 Boards & Commissions
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 – 3:30 p.m.                 
                                               

011718.1          APPROVAL OF MINUTES                                                  5 minutes

                        November 1, 2017 and November 15, 2017                                                                                                       
011718.2          CERTIFICATES OF APPROVAL    

011718.21        Bleitz Funeral Home                                                    20 minutes
                        316 Florentia Steet
                        Proposed exterior alterations and window replacement  

011718.22        Lake City Library                                                        20 minutes
                        12501 28th Avenue NE
                        Proposed exterior and interior building alterations         

011718.23            Pier                                                                           20 minutes
                                1201 Alaskan Way
                                Proposed storefront alterations

011718.3          CONTROLS & INCENTIVES                                                  30 minutes                  
011718.31        Century 21Coliseum / Key Arena                     
                        305 Harrison Street
                        Request for extension   

011718.32        Bressi Garage                                                        
                        226-232 1st Avenue North
                        Request for extension   

011718.33        Broad Street Substation
                        319 6th Avenue North
                        Request for extension   

011718.34        Wayne Apartments
                        2224 Second Avenue

011718.4          BRIEFING

011718.41        Battelle Memorial Institute / Talaris Conference Center   30 minutes
                        4000 NE 41st Street
                        Briefing on proposed rehabilitation and new development                       
                                                                                                                                               
011718.5          STAFF REPORT                                                                                5 minutes