Last-minute settlement with U. Village
averts neighborhood appeal of permit
|Community gets $10,000 from city to develop traffic plan|
|Around the neighborhood: Cookies, playgrounds, and stolen cars||Thieves take bicycles from unlocked garages|
|Larger-than-usual reward offered in UW arson case||CUH Proclamation|
In August, the Laurelhurst Community Club and the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association filed an appeal of a decision by the Department of Design, Construction and Land Use (DCLU) to issue a master-use permit for the project. The city Hearing Examiner was scheduled to hear the appeal on Sept. 20.
On Sept. 19, the two sides signed an agreement to dismiss the appeal in light of the shopping center's willingness to address some of the neighborhood groups' concerns. Those concerns focused primarily on traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety.
The groups argued that the project would substantially increase the number of vehicles traveling on neighborhood streets. They said pedestrians, bicyclists, and neighborhood residents would all be adversely affected. They asked for various mitigations, including sidewalks for those streets that do not have them and a lighted crosswalk where the Burke-Gilman Trail crosses Northeast Blakeley Street.
The groups also asked the Village to increase the number of on-site parking passes for employees from 150 to 500. "Neighborhood streets have become clogged with vehicles from University Village employees," they said.
In the Sept. 19 agreement, University Village management pledged, "in the interest of providing increased pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle safety," to contribute $65,000 toward the cost of off-site neighborhood improvements. Such improvements could include sidewalks, the illumination of the Burke-Gilman crosswalk, or any other mutually-agreed-upon project.
They also agreed to increase the number of on-site parking passes for employees to 200. In addition, their policy to allow on-site parking for some additional employees after 5 p.m. will be expanded to include all employees after 5 p.m., even during holiday seasons.
Lastly, the Village committed to work cooperatively with the neighborhood groups, as well as local businesses, the University of Washington, and the city, to resolve outstanding traffic issues such as the hazardous center turn lane on 25th Avenue Northeast.
The purpose of the plan is to identify ways to improve pedestrian safety, as well as traffic circulation, in the vicinity of the three churches, two schools, hospital, and playfield that are located in the area.
Work on the project must be completed within six months. Already, the LCC has advertised for a traffic-management consultant, and a series of community meetings is planned.
The Neighborhood Matching Fund provides over $1 million each year to Seattle neighborhood groups for neighborhood-initiated improvement, organizing, or planning projects. Since 1988, more than 700 projects have been funded.
Speaking of cookies, Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center delivered "truckloads" of Great Harvest cookies this month to the neighbors fronting the site of the hospital's new underground parking garage. The cookies, packed in yellow Tonka toy dumptrucks, were a good-natured gift to those most impacted by the construction. More than 100,000 cubic yards of earth have been removed from the site at a rate of 100 truckloads a day.
And speaking of Children's Hospital and dumptrucks, the trucks parked along Northeast 41st Street in front of the Talaris Institute for a couple of weeks this month did not come from Children's. Rather, they were part of the excavations taking place at Intracorp's new Blakeley Commons condominium project on Northeast Blakeley Street.
In other news, LCC trustees voted to contribute $100 for a playground for Sand Point Community Housing Association's transitional housing facilities. The playground has been selected by Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and the national nonprofit KaBOOM! as a project deserving of funding. Now, the housing association must raise $10,000 in matching contributions.
The trustees also wrote a letter in support of SPCHA's attempt to get the city to continue its 1993 commitment to provide funds for their programs. A proposal being entertained by the Budget Office would lower the 2002 appropriation from $391,220 to $132,220, a 60 percent reduction. SPCHA provides case management, counseling, and assistance finding permanent housing to families with children, single adults, youth, and young mothers.
Finally, LCC Crime Prevention Representative Pat Wright reports that the Seattle Police Department is giving away free gun locks at its North Precinct office, 10049 College Way N. (opposite North Seattle Community College). The police ask that anyone wanting a lock not bring their gun with them.
Also, police say that Saturn has now joined Honda and Toyota as the makes of automobile most often stolen in Seattle.
Police have released a description of a possible suspect who was seen near the center a few days before the fire and on the day of the fire, but not since. He is a white male, six feet tall with a slim build, and is approximately 40 years old. He has a scraggly salt-and-pepper beard and a scruffy appearance.
The man was last seen wearing a bright, multicolored, reggae-style hat and sunglasses and was riding a red bicycle. He was with another white male, also six feet tall and slender, who appeared slightly younger.
Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-CRIME-13. All calls are confidential, and callers do not have to give their name.
The fire, which destroyed the center's main office building, Merrill Hall, and severely damaged its Elizabeth C. Miller Library, broke out at approximately 3:15 a.m. Investigators quickly determined the cause to be arson, and a self-proclaimed "environmentist" group, the Earth Liberation Front, later claimed responsibility.
The group said it acted to disrupt research involving the genetic engineering of plant material. Researchers at the center denied they were engaged in genetic engineering and said the fire had actually set back efforts to preserve the environment by destroying specimens of rare and endangered native plants.
The amount being offered as a reward is an indication of how anxious law-enforcement officials are to solve this crime. Ordinarily, Crime Stoppers pays $1,000 for information, but in this case, the University of Washington, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have joined in to offer the larger reward.
However, the chances of there being an arrest are slim, officials acknowledge. "This is not a group to become optimistic about catching," said center director Tom Hinckley. "They are very well organized. They know an extraordinary amount about their targets."
In the future, Hinckley said, the authorities will be keeping a long-term record of incidents that happen near the center. He urged neighbors to report any and all suspicious encounters to university police.
Hinckley also thanked the neighbors for all they have done so far in helping the center get back on its feet. "It doesn't go away quickly," he said of the anguish.
On a happier note, he reported that the state Legislature has appropriated $2.83 million for reconstruction of the center, including $276,000 to retrofit the undamaged buildings with sprinklers. But "the goal is to go beyond what the Legislature provides," Hinckley said. Already, the lumber industry has pledged to donate materials, and friends of the center are busy raising money to build "the best environmental design" possible.
Hinckley said the center plans to apply for a building permit next June, with construction to begin in March or April of 2003 and occupation to take place in November or December. An architect - the Miller Hull Partnership - has already been selected, and design ideas are due to be presented this December. Neighbors have been asked to assist in the design process.
In the meantime, several trailers have been moved onto the site to provide lab and office space. Hinckley apologized for the appearance of the trailers, but said their presence would definitely be temporary.
The proclamation singled out Laurelhurst resident Bill Gore for special commendation. Gore was in large part responsible for moving the proclamation through the city legislative process, as well as for helping generate recognition and support for the center in the aftermath of the fire.
At their September meeting, the LCC trustees presented Gore with a framed copy of the city proclamation.
The neighbors speculate that the thieves reconnoiter during the day, when many garage doors are left open, then return at night to target specific garages. They warn residents to be alert to strangers wandering in the alley for no apparent reason.
Residents also are reminded to keep their garage doors shut and locked at all times when not in use.