Monday, November 24, 2014

Graffiti at Laurelhurst Elementary South Playground On Pavement



Several readers have emailed the Blog Staff about several recent graffiti marks on the South Playground of Laurelhurst Elementary School.

The markings include a clear drawing of a fish, another drawing and some letter markings, about four in total.

They were mostly like made sometime  between late Saturday night and Sunday about noon, a reader told us, as he was there Saturday afternoon and they were not there.

One reader tried to remove them, but said they don't come off. He added, "The playground was graffitied while it was raining, so fortunately some of the markings are partial as they didn't adhere to the pavement."

The Seattle Police Department website says:
Graffiti is any marking placed on public or private property without the owner's permission. Stickers are also illegal.
If the graffiti is on your property or business the graffiti nusiance ordinance requires that you remove or have it removed in a timely manner.

Go here for more information.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Laurelhurst Blog Staff is taking the rest of this week off to spend he holiday with family. We'll be back next week, December 2nd, with more interesting and informative posts for our readers.

In the meantime, please let us know if you have a story idea or see something interesting in the neighborhood at

Friday, November 21, 2014

Should Laurelhurst Elementary School Get Up To Four More Portables Resulting In Permanent Lost Valuable Playground Space As Well As Potential Lasting Impact On Neighborhood?

North playground

The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) is seeking neighbors, living within 600' of Laurelhurst Elementary School to apply by December 17, to be on the School Design Departure Advisory  Committee, to help with deciding if up to four more portables in total, should be added to the North and already small South playground.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is requesting a zoning departure that, if approved, would permanently increase building lot coverage to up to 45%, significantly above the current limit of 35%, allowing the addition of up to four new portables, resulting in significant loss of playground space at the school.

The DON website says that "the intent of the departure process is to allow for the construction, addition, and/or renovation of schools that do not necessarily meet all of the land use and zoning standards of the surrounding neighborhood."

The information continues:
The land use code contains provisions whereby the Seattle School District can request exemption from the provisions of the land use code. They may request these exemptions or “departures” from many of the provisions of the code. However, the impacts of these exemptions fall disproportionately on those residents who reside or own property closest to the school.
In order to assure that the views of nearby neighbors of the school, and the surrounding community, are given weight in any City decision to allow departures from the zoning, a departure committee is formed primarily from nearby neighbors of the school. The purpose of the committee is to review the departures requested, listen to and solicit the views of their neighbors, and make a recommendation to the Director of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) concerning granting, denying, or conditioning any departures requested.

Residents living within 600' of the school should be receiving a letter from DON, in the next few days, soliciting applicants for the Departure  Advisory Committee which in part reads:
The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods is seeking interested persons from the neighborhood to serve on this committee. 
Here’s your chance to serve on an advisory committee that will recommend whether to grant zoning modifications needed to allow the addition of new portables on the Laurelhurst Elementary School Site. 
The process for considering this request involves public meetings before a Committee composed of neighborhood, School District, and City of Seattle representatives.  The Committee will receive briefings from the School District, and gather and evaluate public comment on the departure  
request for the increased lot coverage.  
Following these meetings, the Committee will forward a recommendation to the City to either grant or deny the requested waivers.  The Committee may also recommend relevant conditions to be applied to granting this change to minimize its impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.  The City will make the final decision.


The Committee will be composed of eight representatives from the following groups:

1.       A person residing within 600’ of the proposed site.

2.       A person owning property or a business within 600’ of the proposed site.

3.       Two representatives of the general neighborhood.

4.       A representative-at-large to represent city-wide education issues.

5.       Two representatives of the Laurelhurst Elementary PTSA.

6.       A representative of the Seattle School District.

If you are interested in serving on this committee, please send a letter of interest by either e-mail to or regular mail to:
Steve Sheppard
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
700 5th Avenue Suite 1700
PO Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649

A group of concerned Laurelhurst Elementary parents calling themselves "Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning," with the motto, “Playgrounds Grow Students,” is against higher lot coverage and the addition of more portables for the following reasons, as outlined in a recent flyer distributed to residents living near the school:
·     Studies confirm that quality outdoor play space is critical for healthy learning. Open space that now serves as basketball, soccer, kickball and football play areas would be eliminated.
·     Every family in the neighborhood benefits from the school’s recently upgraded playground (funded by neighbors -­‐ not SPS), whether it’s during school, evenings or weekends.
·     Laurelhurst already has the smallest lot size of all 11 NE elementary schools, in addition to the highest building:lot ratio.
·     More portables do not guarantee smaller class sizes.
·     Portables are inferior to permanent classrooms due to their isolation from the school community (safety concerns, less collaboration, less access to facilities), lack of natural light and HVAC issues.
"Please join us in advocating for vital play space for all our kids by opposing the Departure for higher lot coverage at Laurelhurst Elementary. Our kids deserve better," the flyer says.
Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning told the Blog staff:

Our primary concern is to protect our already limited play area. Science confirms that children need ample outdoor space to play in order to grow and learn. Laurelhurst school can accommodate the children in its boundaries without adding portables. We are asking the Seattle Public School District to solve its growth issues without taking critical playground away from our kids and community.
The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) also weighed in on this very important issue, which would have lasting impacts on the neighborhood, strongly urging neighbors within 600 feet to apply and be part of the oversight committee.
LCC added:
Our  preliminary discussions of the proposal includes why the issue of adding portables matters to our city schools:
1. Portables have a way of becoming permanent structures-note the long length of the current ones at Laurelhurst. The district must find a permanent solution under the edict from the State Legislature. Taking away existing needed playground space was never the intent of city codes, nor the Seattle School District. 
2. Traffic impacts must be considered-access from the very congested NE 45th St, local neighborhood parking for extra staff (there is no parking lot). Safety for all children must be a priority, and enough space for safe bus drop offs. 
3.Is there adequate Laser Space to support longer day care? If not , or if so how is that impacted? 
4. Loss of recreational space for existing children cannot be minimized or dismissed. Healthy bodies and healthy minds are linked. Obesity rates are climbing, and kids need more movement. Playground social skills are also a place where academic rankings are set aside for good fun, and away from electronics. 
5. The City had building and zoning codes for a reason, and any variance must be granted only if due process is followed to the letter of the law.

The PTA at Laurelhurst Elementary School sent out a letter to all school families several weeks ago giving " an update" on the portables saying in part:
Many of you may be aware of the new portable that appeared briefly on our north playground this Summer and you may have heard about a “departure” process anticipated this year to address the city lot coverage codes that current and future portables surpass.  
We have been actively seeking out answers on this process from both the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools (SPS), and want to give you an update on what we know and next steps.SPS submitted an application to the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning (DPD), requesting a departure from current lot coverage codes, as specified under Municipal Code 23.51B.  
We do know that existing portables already put us over the maximum allowed lot coverage of 35%. We have been told that the district plans to submit a request to maintain the existing portables, plus gain approval to add up to 4 more portables in the future.



Seattle Public Schools has released designs drawn up October 19, by Harthorne Hagen Architects, of two options for the placement of the portables.
First option:
  • 2 double portables on the North playground - 28 x 64' foot taking up 1,792 square feet.
  • One right along the north fence that runs along NE 47th Street
  • The other just to the north of the current second grade portable along 47th Avenue NE.
  • No portables on the south playground.
  • The design shows the kickball area moved just next to the NE 47th Street portable and 2 four square courts moved alongside this area.
  • These portables would eliminate a popular, heavily used large play area where currently a large number of students play organized games of  kickball, fliers, soccer and foursquare, as well as just general play by various students.
The second option:
  • 2 single portables on the North playground - 28x32' portables, each immediately to the north of the existing LASER portables, occupying 896 square feet each
  • 1  double portable on the south playground - 28 x 64 ', occupying 1,792 square feet, along  the west fence bordering 46th Avenue NE and NE 45th Street.
  • This south playground portable would take up the entire narrower southwest part of the playground, eliminating both heavily used basketball court and several four square courts.
  • Thee design shows the new location for 3 - four square courts and 2 basketball courts in the southeast corner of the playground along NE 45th Street and 47th Avenue NE, currently where large number of kids play kickball and soccer.
  • This proposal eliminates the area where a large number of children play "Fliers," soccer, kickball, foursquare  and soccer and have generally play.
The Laurelhurst Blog Staff has received many emails from concerned neighbors living close to the school and in the general neighborhood detailing their concerns, some in part listed here:
  • changes feel of residential neighborhood
  • changes tone of neighborhood  with that type of density and  structure - metals shells with aluminum ramps  and windowless shacks
  • gives residential, cozy neighborhood an industrial feel
  • devalues neighborhood
  • significant loss of valuable open space
  • highly negative visual impact for neighbors living in close proximity to the school ,as well as, current and future students and general neighborhood having to look at the ugly structures
  • loss of open space not only for students, but for community as a whole who use the playground seven days a week
  • potential for prospective families to not choose the neighborhood to live in lowering school enrollment and ultimately school funding, as well as property values

Here are one residents comments about the draft proposal:

lt obviously  shows that the architects and SPS have no idea how the children use the playgrounds. Have they even visited the school during recess to see specifically what games are played in what are and what areas children use for free play? The proposal seems to map out for the kids how the playground is to be used and what SPS believes is important to retain. It makes no sense how the  were put together other than to give SPS exactly what they need and want with absolutely no input from the School body, general community or nearby neighbors.
Furthermore, they have not observed playground usage when both playgrounds are regularly used by the general community, neighborhood churches and other neighborhood groups.

Once DON has selected the  Committee members, the ensuing process will take about 30-90 days, following these steps as outlined on the DON website:

Orientation Meeting and first Public Meeting
  • Occurs once Committee is formed and appointed by the Director
  • DON to review overall process with the departure advisory committee
  • DON to provide overview of the role and responsibilities
 Public Meeting
  • At the first meeting the Seattle School District, with the architectural firm, presents the building design and improvements, the departures requested, and any rationale for the departures. After the presentation, the school departure committee must make a formal determination: 1) that the departures are minor, or 2) major.
  • If the committee decides that the requested departures are major in nature, then two additional public meetings must be scheduled over the succeeding 90 days in order to solicit additional public testimony, and to obtain additional information from the Seattle School District to help inform the committee’s recommendations.
  • If the departures are considered minor, then the committee may proceed directly to a discussion and vote to grant the request with or without conditions. Any conditions recommended must be directly related to any impacts of the departure request.
  • The DON staff will then write, on behalf of the committee, a draft report for review and approval by committee members.
  • A second meeting may be called for review and approval of the draft report, or the report may be electronically transmitted for approval.
  • If there is not a consensus, committee members not in agreement may write a minority report that becomes part of the committee report to DPD.
  • Before the committee makes its recommendations, the public is encouraged to testify concerning their general opinions on the departures and any conditions that might be reasonably put on granting the departures.

Decision on Departures

The committee report and recommendations are forwarded to the Director of the Department of Planning and Development, who has the sole responsibility for granting the departures as recommended by the school departure committee with or without conditions. The Director’s decision is appealable to the Seattle Hearing Examiner. 
The PTA said, in their aforementioned letter, that the first committee meeting would be four  weeks after the committee is finalized in late December or early January.
For more information about the "Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning," contact Christi Nagle at or call 529-­‐9296.

For information on the Departure process contact Steve Sheppard, with the Department of Neighborhoods, at or go here.




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Laurelhurst Private Security Patrol Mentioned In Seattle Times

The Laurelhurst private security patrol was featured in a Seattle Times article yesterday:

A tale of 2 cities: Wealthy Seattle areas buy their own cops

With cops, schools, even traffic control in Seattle, the old saying “you get what you pay for” has never felt more true.

By Danny Westneat

Here’s an idea, sent in by a bunch of readers, about what to do if you can’t get the police to come when you call.
Hire your own cops. 
Well, it worked for Laurelhurst. 
Across Seattle, neighborhood groups are meeting with police this week to implore them to do something about Washington’s soaring property-crime rate, which has now risen to the highest in the nation. At two meetings Tuesday in North Seattle they begged police to at least up their response to 911 calls. 
But a few years back, Laurelhurst took a more businesslike approach when it was having these same problems with car prowls, burglaries and vandalism. It hired its own mini police force. 
“Subscribe now to Laurelhurst’s Private Security Patrol,” reads the November newsletter for the neighborhood due east of the University of Washington. 
Calling it a “police force” is probably a stretch. Laurelhurst still is patrolled, officially, by the Seattle Police Department, and all 911 calls remain routed to the city.  
But on any given night, listening in to those calls, and potentially responding to them first, could be off-duty cops paid for by a fund set up by Laurelhurst residents. 
According to the newsletter, here’s what you get for $200 per family per year: “Uniformed, off-duty Seattle Police officers patrol the neighborhood approximately six nights/days a week for five hours each shift. Officers are in uniform, carry police radios and their police firearms and drive unmarked personal vehicles. They monitor incoming 911 calls and will respond to any Laurelhurst calls if on patrol and work with the official response from the on-duty police officers.” 
A number of readers sent me the Laurelhurst private-patrol fundraising appeal after I was unable to get police to help with a van full of car prowlers last month. 
“I bet if you had been in Laurelhurst somebody would have come,” one reader wrote to me. “Your mistake was being in a regular part of town.” 
There’s no way of gauging if that’s true — or at least I don’t have the data to support that. But it is interesting that the reason Laurelhurst hired its own security force six years ago was frustration with a rash of low-level crime combined with little backup from city police. 
When the idea first came up, in 2008, only 40 Laurelhurst families were projected to join what was a temporary pilot program. They borrowed the plan from the more exclusive neighborhood to the north, Windermere, where residents pay $575 a year in part to have off-duty Seattle Police and a private firm patrol year-round. 
But 90 Laurelhurst families signed up immediately. By last year more than 350 families paid into the private patrol fund. So they obviously feel it does some good. 
“Laurelhurst Community Club has had very positive response to this program to deter the increasing number of burglaries, car prowls, auto thefts, and vandalism in Laurelhurst,” the fundraising plea says. 
If hiring their own cops works for Laurelhurst, great. Who knows, it may even free up some regular police resources for the rest of us. 
But increasingly it does seem like we’re living in a tale of two cities. 
It’s not just with hiring your own cops, which most neighborhoods probably can’t do. The public-transit system may stink, but Microsoft and Amazon have their own private shuttle services. The school district may be dysfunctional, pulling teachers from classrooms midyear, but some parents can hire their own at 90 grand apiece. In the Amazon jungle, the transportation system may be jammed, but privately paid, off-duty police flaggers are there to stop traffic on public streets so the tech overlords can get out of their parking garages. 
“Can your employer afford to buy your way out of your garage? Good for you,” read one comment on our story this week about the flaggers. “For everybody else, tough luck. Is that really how things are supposed to work?” 
You get what you pay for, I guess. In Seattle, circa 2014, sometimes it feels like that old saying has never been more true.

Here is information recently published by the Laurelhurst Community Club about the patrol which the Blog Staff reprinted:

Subscribe Now to Neighborhood Private Security Patrol

The reminder notice about sign up will arrive in mailboxes soon. The patrol’s success depends on neighbor participation — the more families who subscribe, the more coverage the patrol can offer.  
Over the past six years, LCC has had very positive response to this program to deter the increasing number of burglaries, car prowls, auto thefts, and vandalism in Laurelhurst. Coverage is planned for six days/nights a week, but hours will vary depending on funding contributed.
The annual cost per family is $200 for the period ending December 31, 2015. Neighborhood institutions such as schools, churches, etc. are encouraged to participate, too, and can contact LCC for cost details.  
Sign up now to ensure coverage during the holidays. This is what your family receives in return for your participation: Uniformed, off-duty Seattle Police officers patrol the neighborhood approximately six nights/days a week for five hours each shift. Officers are in uniform, carry police radios and their police firearms, and drive unmarked personal vehicles. They monitor incoming 911 calls and will respond to any Laurelhurst calls if on patrol and work with the official response from the on-duty police officers.  Vacation check.  
You can notify of your vacation plans and officers will do a walk around of your premises during each shift to secure open doors, packages, or remove door tags.  
Mail LCC’s crime prevention team,, to request vacation checks or to report any criminal activity (after you have called 911), neighborhood concerns, etc.  
To participate, please either use LCC’s secure online payment option (preferred) at, or send your $200 check payable to LCC to the PO Box listed on the back of the newsletter. If you pay by check, please be sure to include your name, address, email, and emergency contact information.  
If you have questions about the LCC Private Security Patrol, please contact Brian McMullen, Crime Prevention co-chair, at 206-367-9325, or email 


Two Black Cats Found And Taken To Animal Shelter

The Laurelhurst Blog Staff received this email:

Two healthy appearing juvenile male all black cats showed up at our house near NE Surber Drive and 42nd Avenue NE on November 12th. They had no collars, but look too healthy to be strays.  
We have since taken them to the Seattle Animal Shelter in Interbay and were told they will be available for adoption soon. The Animal Shelter said that they were probably dumped in the neighborhood.  
My daughter posted on the NE Seattle Moms Yahoo group and got no response.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Don't Miss Annual Neighborhood Thanksgiving Turkey Trot

Start of the Turkey Trot last year

The third Annual Laurelhurst Turkey 5k Trot, open to all ages, is happening next Thursday, Thanksgiving day, November 27th, at 9am. Participants should show up at 8:45am at the northeast corner of Laurelhurst Park, by the overpass.

Brian and Kate, the organizers told us:

Join your family  friends and neighbors for a very casual and informal 5K Fun Run/Walk that zig zags through Laurelhurst following a course map given at the start.   
The Turkey Trot meanders through the neighborhood, and the route is new and improved this year with fewer hills.

There is no entry fee and no need to register.  At the start of the race you predict what your time will be and at the end, the person most closely matching their time wins a prize. And your finish time is based on an honor system.  

Bring your family, dog, or pet turkey and be prepared to burn some calories and have good time before the Thanksgiving stuffing! We are collecting donations of non perishable food for the University Food Bank. 

Katie, a Laurelhurst native, told us that she got the idea for a Turkey Trot from when she lived in Glen Ellyn, a small town, outside of Chicago for a few years before returning to the neighborhood. The town has of local events, including their Annual Turkey Trot.

And two years ago, Kate's husband, Brian, suggested they host a fun run, which they mirrored after the Glen Ellyn event. The first Laurelhurst Turkey Trot was on a beautiful fall morning and there were about 100 participants, and an SUV full of food donations for the Food Bank, Katie added.

For questions or if you are not able to do the Turkey Trot, but are interested in volunteering to help coordinate or direct traffic, please contact Brian Larson at 206-681-0826, or e-mail at


Seattle Public Library Honored As "All Star Library"

Star Library - Library Journal Index 2014
The Seattle Public Library recently sent out this information:
The Seattle Public Library has been awarded the top rating of five stars among large public libraries for a fifth consecutive year in the Library Journal's 2014 Index of Public Library Service.
"The people of Seattle clearly love their libraries and use them heavily,” said Seattle City Librarian Marcellus Turner. “We are constantly working to meet the needs and expectations of our users, whether it is offering homework help, assistance with income tax forms, or providing downloadable movies and music. Our staff's commitment to providing exceptional service is what makes us a five star Library system." 
Ratings for the Library Journal's Index of Public Library Service are determined by statistics for four key library services: in-person library visits, how many materials were checked out, program attendance and public Internet computer use.  
Out of the 7,586 libraries rated, only 258 libraries nationwide received ratings of three, four or five stars. In the top budget category, The Seattle Public Library was one of only five libraries in the U.S. to receive a five-star rating. The others included Multnomah County Library in Portland and three public libraries in Ohio. 
Library Journal is the library field’s leading professional publication. This year’s ratings were based on 2012 data that libraries reported to the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Former Microsoft Employee Opening Cell Phone Repair Store Soon And Applications Being Accepted For Techs


A former 20 year Microsoft employee, David Pankowski, is opening the first franchise in the Pacific Northwest of the national network of Cell Phone Repair stores found nationally as well as in Canada.

David is planning to open the second week of December in Laurelhurst (3544 NE 45th Street), and his store will offer cell phone, IPad and computer repair, as well as the buying and exchanging of cell phones, that will be refurbished. He will also sell cell phone accessories, adapters and cases.

All repairs will be done on-site as "people have data they don't want to let go of" David told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff, adding that a lot of repairs can be done in less than an hour.

David is currently hiring 2 full-time and 2 part-time cell phone technicians. He said that he will offer training to those who are hired and are "astute mechanically" and who already work on computers. He said candidates could also be current UW students.

David left Microsoft earlier this year with the intent of opening his own business, though at the time he didn't know what that would be. After doing a lot of research he was drawn to Cell Phone Repair because of their franchise model including their inventory and point of sales sytem.

David is currently the President and CEO of Lattis Development, "a privately held corporation serving as a catalyst for bringing new businesses and concepts to the Puget Sound region." 

Their website goes on to say:

It is a fact that today's economy is driven by small businesses with our regional economic future being fueled by a diversity of startup endeavours and creative innovation that grows to be the next big thing.
While many businesses do, imagine the positive impact to the region when the majority of those businesses commit to greater good of the communities that support them, the people who work in them, where their goal is to exceed the overall value provided to the end customer. Lattis Development supports those very tenants and believes that business success is fostered in the delivery of those goals.

 We are committed to businesses that support the following:
(1) Provide greater benefit to the community.
(2) Create socially responsible relationships between businesses, employees and customers.
(3) Serve to promote "green" technologies - embracing traditional skills in a modern economy.

Cell Phone Repair or "CPR" provides both a green service to the community while serving to support local hands-on skills for troubleshooting and repairing technologies that were manufactured overseas.  
David's Bio says:
David Pankowski is a 20-year software and services veteran who previously held key leadership roles within Microsoft. David’s underlying passion and expertise has been on continual improvement strategies, and creating efficiencies that yield higher on-going business value. David has a bachelors degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Washington.  

David lives in Leschi but he and his wife both went to the UW and lived in Student housing on Sand Pont Way and are very familiar with the area and were exited that a space opened up in his old neighborhood. David said he wanted to be by the University Village, but not in it, so the location in Laurelhurst was a perfect space.

To submit a resume contact David at 206-979-4410 or