The Laurelhurst Letter

November 2004

Pubic asked to comment on community center expansion project LCC trustees advocate budget modifications
Exhibit features many new materials Long-sought signal gets go-ahead
Toy drive announced  

Pubic asked to comment on community center expansion project

Planning is proceeding apace for the expansion of Laurelhurst Community Center.  The Project Advisory Team (PAT), made up of both community and parks department appointees, has met twice and has toured a number of other, recently improved facilities.

The team will be meeting again Dec. 9 to review draft schematic designs for the expansion.  Members of the public are specifically encouraged to attend this meeting to add their input.  The meeting will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the community center.

We have also included in this issue of the Laurelhurst Letter a copy of a parks department survey on community preferences for the expansion.  The survey contains questions regarding two fundamental decisions to be made: whether to add on to the existing structure or construct a separate new building and whether to continue sharing a gymnasium with Laurelhurst Elementary School or build a new gym as part of the community center.  Both decisions have repercussions on the amount of new space that can be built.

Please complete the survey and return it to the parks department as soon as possible.  Alternatively, if you prefer, a copy of the survey appears on our web site,, where the questions can be filled in and mailed electronically.

 For further information, please contact LCC trustee Joe Herrin at 525-6541 or project manager David Goldberg at 684-8414.  Information is also available at®

Exhibit features many new materials

If you thought you knew everything there was to know about Laurelhurst, think again!  A lot of what’s on display at the lastest History House exhibit, “Neighborhood Focus: Northeast Seattle,” hasn’t been seen before in public.

That’s because the community’s official historian, Christine Barrett, who prepared the Laurelhurst display, wasn’t able to fit it all into her comprehensive “History of Laurelhurst,” a book that just about every local resident has on his or her shelf.

“Much of the source material from the book ended up on the cutting-room floor,” Barrett said.  She said this was her first opportunity to dig it all out again and mount it for the public to see.

“I tried hard to put nothing in (the display) from the history book,” she said.  One of the few things that is from the book is an aerial photo of neighborhood.  This time, it’s large enough that you can pick out your house—something that wasn’t possible in book format.

Many of the materials that are included come from real estate brochures from days gone by—when a lot in “Lawn Acres” cost $1,250 and investors were invited to “buy an acre and subdivide it yourself!”  The earliest such brochure dates from 1906 and was found accidentally in a book sale.

The 1906 brochure features only one house, but shows it from a half-dozen different angles.  A 1915 brochure shows quite a few houses, but many were summer homes and “still quite rustic,” according to Barrrett.  She said that many of these homes are still in existence but remodeled beyond recognition.

A picture of Laurelhurst Elementary School reveals that 46th Avenue still wasn’t paved as late as 1928.  Another, from 1961, shows the last barn in Laurelhurst, which was torn down in 1961.

Barrett said a lot of her sources are children of the original settlers, who pass on historical anecdotes as well as photographs.  Another was her own mother-in-law, who moved into the neighborhood before World War II.

Because she served as an air-raid warden, her mother-in-law knew everyone, Barrett said.  “She had total recall, but her compass directions were faulty.”  That meant Barrett had to do a lot of legwork, searching out the actual places where her mother-in-law’s anecdotes took place.

A graduate of Lewis and Clark College, Barrett got started on the history of Laurelhurst through a course she took in the 1970s at North Seattle Community College.  What began as a term paper ended up as her book, and she hasn’t looked back.  “I’m using my education,” she said.®


“Neighborhood Focus: Northeast Seattle” is at History House, 790 N. 34th St. (in the Fremont neighborhood).  Open hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., through Jan. 30.  A $1 donation is requested.

LCC trustees advocate budget modifications

As the mayor and city council worked to finalize the 2005 budget, LCC trustees weighed in on a number of issues that could affect the Laurelhurst community.

First and foremost they urged the mayor and council to beef up spending on public safety.  Although Laurelhurst is well served by the Seattle Police Department and crime is not as prevalent here as in some other neighborhoods, anecdotal evidence suggests that police response times have noticeably lengthened over the past couple of years.

Seattle is currently served by only 224 police officers per 100,000 citizens, whereas the national average is 310 per 100,000.  More officers would result in faster response times, the trustees said.

Increased staffing would also enhance officer safety, they added.  “Police officers are entitled to backup, two-officer cars, and should not be required to work significant overtime.”

The trustees also asked that funding be restored to the city’s popular crime prevention program, which includes Block Watch.  “Block Watch has been shown to be an effective deterrent of crime at the neighborhood level,” they said.  “In our view, it is extremely cost-effective for the police to work in partnership with the community to keep our city safe.”

Another budgetary issue that the trustees addressed was the mayor’s proposal to eliminate all city funding for the Sand Point Community Housing Association, which operates 94 units of transitional housing at Sand Point.  According to the housing association, the city is obligated to provide up to $500,000 annually to cover the association’s operating expenses as part of the agreement by which it secured 151 acres of surplused federal property at no cost.

In the last three years, the level of city support for SPCHA has dropped from $259,000 in 2002 to $130,000 in 2004 to nothing for the next two years.  The city contribution accounts for roughly half the association’s budget.

At their October meeting, the LCC trustees called upon the city to maintain SPCHA funding at the previous rate of $130,000 a year, noting that the city’s contribution is crucial to maintaining a stable, on-site management presence at the facility.  Without such a presence, the current high-quality housing programs could easily deteriorate, with unfortunate consequences for surrounding neighborhoods.

Finally, the trustees unanimously opposed a proposal from the mayor’s office to raise revenues by installing parking meters at four major city parks: Green Lake, Lincoln, Seward, and McCurdy.  Twelve additional parks, as yet unnamed, would be incorporated into the program in 2006.

Noting that the city would spend $265,000 to raise just $100,000 in revenue, the trustees questioned whether the program was cost effective.  They also commented that the meters would inevitably force parking onto nearby neighborhood streets, thereby greatly inconveniencing residents.®

Long-sought signal gets go-ahead

After four years of planning and organizing, and a flurry of last-minute fund raising, the neighborhood is about to get a new stoplight at the intersection of Sand Point Way and 50th Avenue Northeast, next to the Union 76 station.  Already, the Seattle Department of Transportation has been out marking lines and cutting pavement in preparation for the project.

Installation of the new light is a priority of the North Laurelhurst Transportation Plan, which the LCC developed and adopted in 2002.  The project is intended to solve a number of growing problems at this intersection.  The primary problem is the unsignalized crosswalk that pedestrians must use to cross Sand Point Way to reach the bus stop or the Burke-Gilman Trail.  The crosswalk spans five lanes of traffic at a point where visibility is obscured by a curve in the roadway.

The new light will enable pedestrians to stop east-west traffic long enough to cross the road safely. Ironically, had the light not been approved, the existing crosswalk would likely have been removed, since it no longer meets the parameters for safe crossing.

The light will also greatly assist drivers traveling north on 50th Avenue, who will automatically activate the signal via a detection loop buried in the roadway.  At the moment, drivers turning left onto Sand Point Way must take their chances in what has become an increasingly dangerous maneuver.

To allay concerns that yet another stoplight on Sand Point Way will unduly delay through-traffic, SDOT’s engineers have designed the new light to “talk” to its neighbors on either side.  All three signals will be timed to provide as smooth a flow of traffic as possible.

Associated with the stoplight is a new landscaped curb bulb on the southeast corner of the intersection.  The bulb shortens the exposure to traffic of pedestrians crossing Sand Point Way, and also of pedestrians crossing 50th Avenue Northeast.

It also is designed to resolve the dangerous situation of vehicles entering and exiting Ivanhoe Place Northeast, which currently joins 50th Avenue at an oblique angle just a few feet short of the stop sign on Sand Point Way.  With the new bulb in place, vehicles traveling north on Ivanhoe will enter 50th at a right-angle corner marked with a stop sign.  Vehicles traveling either way on 50th will not be allowed to enter Ivanhoe.  This will prevent cars from turning off Sand Point Way onto 50th Avenue heading south, then immediately trying to turn left onto Ivanhoe.

Construction of the curb bulb will involve closing one of the three entrances to the Union 76 station—something the new owner has agreed to.  He also has volunteered to pay for installation and maintenance of underground irrigation for the curb bulb’s landscaping.

SDOT is responsible for the project’s design, but the neighbors are primarily responsible for making it happen. Their perseverance in repeatedly requesting the light over many years paid off when SDOT determined that the location met three of 11 federal criteria for installation of a signal.  Neighbor, local businesswoman, and LCC trustee Maggie Weissman spearheaded the effort.

The total cost of the project is $115,000—$70,000 for the stoplight and $45,000 for the curb bulb.  SDOT agreed to pay for the stoplight and also $15,000 toward the cost of the curb bulb.  The project’s proponents then applied for a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant of $15,000 from the city and set out to raise the remaining $15,000 themselves.

They did it, and more, in just a matter of weeks!  Altogether, they collected $4,000 in in-kind donations and volunteer labor and just under $12,000 in cash.  Contributors included many of the neighbors on Ivanhoe Place and Harold Place and some from further afield, as well as institutions such as Children’s Hospital and Villa Academy and local businesses including City People’s Merchandise, Natural Healthcare Therapies, and S.P.B.S. Associates.  And of course, the project could not have proceeded without the cooperation and generosity of the Union 76 owner.®

Toy drive announced

On Friday, Dec. 17, and Saturday, Dec. 18, for the third year in a row, the staff of Riley and Associates Financial Services will be collecting toys and cash donations to benefit patients at Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.  Look for the big red Dodge pickup truck parked in the driveway outside Coffee Crew, 3612 N.E. 45th St., from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days.®




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