See you later, Capitol Hill – A CHS contributor says farewell

I have lived on Capitol Hill for 6 years, but it wasn’t until I became an active CHS contributor that I realized how rich, unique and diverse this community really is. Very soon, I’m moving off the Hill to work for Patch.com, a community news platform owned by AOL. They’ve already launched Patch in some states like California and New York, and Patches will start popping up in Washington this fall. I can’t say where I’ll be working yet but it won’t be on Capitol Hill.

Anyone interested in a career in journalism and new media should think about becoming a CHS contributor, because the best way to build your portfolio is to get out there and start writing. Be consistent, be accurate and doors will open. Working with CHS been a great experience and I thank all of you, the readers, for your feedback and thoughts.

By reading the CHS blog, you are participating in what I believe is an integral conversation about Seattle’s future while creating and archiving a living history of this neighborhood. When you contribute stories or news tips, add your events to the calendar and voice your opinions, you are helping Capitol Hill become the best neighborhood in the world.

I hope you all have enjoyed reading my stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Cheers,

lauren.p (a.k.a Lauren Padgett)

Rock ‘n’ roll summer camp brings girl power to Neumos

Musicians from around the world have graced the Neumos stage, and many more will only ever dream of it. This Saturday, a group of teenage girls from across the state will get to live out that dream and rock out for their friends and family in the Girls Rock! Seattle Showcase.

Saturday’s show is the culminating performance for the Girls Rock! Seattle Summer Camp, a weeklong day camp for girls ages 8-16. Throughout the week, the girls get a “crash course” in playing instruments, songwriting, audio engineering and stage performance. They attend courses in life-building and self-esteem, addressing issues like self defense and body image. The girls form bands on the first day of camp and work on original material throughout the week, culminating in a final performance for their families and friends on the Neumos stage.

It’s a great opportunity for young women without any music background to try out an industry perhaps otherwise unavailable to them, and, Girls Rock! hopes, bring more women into the sound production and music industry.

“It’s all about girls becoming familiar with what goes on behind the scenes. You go to a show and see the performance, but then you can go to camp and see how the house sound is run, how to sound check […] you learn how important all that is to running a concert,” said Girls Rock! instructor and local artist Anomie Belle. “For people who aren’t interested in being the center of attention on stage, or who want to work behind the scenes, there are lots of opportunities, and this is a chance for the girls to see what interests them most.”

Anomie Belle is a local music powerhouse – she’s a performer, producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. When she’s not in the studio, Belle collaborates with the VERA Project on youth advocacy projects, mentors film composing at Reel Grrls and is a Girls Rock! Seattle grantwriter.

Her introductory class is an hour and a half long, called “Audio Recording and Electronic Music Production,” which received funding from the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs this year. Belle hopes that the program will inspire young women to enter the field of audio engineering and production, or record their own electronic music.

“It feels like it’s a boy’s game, and has been for a long time […] less than 5 percent of audio engineers are female,” said Belle. “I feel like encouraging the next generation of female artists and musicians to take electronic music in their own hands would certainly help close that divide.”

Girls Rock! Seattle is a non-profit organization fiscally sponsored by Reel Grrls. It’s modeled after Portland’s nine-year old Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, which serves over 300 girls a year and has year-round events and projects. As Girls Rock! Seattle grows, they hope to add year-round projects, more summer camps and workshops to their roster, too.

This year’s Girls Rock! Summer Camp is already exponentially larger than last year’s– they had to turn some girls away when they reached capacity. 80 girls are scheduled to attend. 

The Saturday Showcase event is open to the public and starts at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10, available online, and at Moe Bar.

And if you’re a lady rocker over 16, well, there’s a Ladies Rock Camp for you. It runs August 27 – 29th at 7th Ave. South’s Theater off Jackson. Contact Girls Rock! for more information, to volunteer or let them borrow your gear for their projects.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club next door: Summit house doubles as martial arts gym

No matter what your fitness goals may be, chances are that Capitol Hill has your fix. With options from yoga and cross training to boring old treadmills, you may never run out of options. But if working on your tree pose just isn’t high intensity enough for you, a local fitness club specializing in martial arts may offer the edge you’re looking for.

Summit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a submission wrestling club located at 711 Bellevue Ave. in a residential house between Bellevue Ave. and E. Roy St. There is no indication from the outside of the ceiling to floor wrestling mats – a living room wrestling wring – within.

“Anyone can do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu regardless of gender, size, or shape. I have seen females under 5 feet tall be just as effective at Jiu-Jitsu as men that were former collegiate football players,” said Summit BJJ instructor George Watkins. “Because Jiu-Jitsu is a game of kinetic chess, it is more about outsmarting your opponent then out-muscling them.”

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, was developed in the early 1900s and is a blend of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo techniques. The combination of submission and take-down make it popular training for UFC and mixed martial arts fighters. But, unlike those contact arts, BJJ focuses on technique and balance, rather than strength and agility. It’s a great self-defense tool, because the techniques can help a smaller or weaker person bring down a much larger assailant.

It’s an affordable workout. Summit BJJ members only pay $35 a month. Since the club doesn’t have a full time black belt, they cannot call themselves an Academy or School. So, Summit BJJ keeps it chill, and the members learn the sport together.

“The only qualification for membership is a genuine interest in BJJ. We consider it to be a club, as we are not a business,” said Watkins. “Summit BJJ is more than just a place to train Jiu-Jitsu, it is a family.”

The members are throwing a family-style BBQ and open house this Saturday, July 24 with the money they’ve raised from water bottles sales at the practices. There will be open mat wrestling from 12 – 1 p.m., and the BBQ goes 1:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. Anyone interested in learning more about BJJ or the club is encouraged to join and meet the other members.

Phil Anderson, bike messenger and former head coach of the Roosevelt High School wrestling team, transformed his living room into a training gym and officially opened Summit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in March of 2007.  While he doesn’t own the house, Anderson is on the master lease and splits the rent between Summit BJJ, two tenants who live upstairs, and Summit BJJ mascot Spike the cat.  

While Summit BJJ doesn’t have a sign on the outside, it does have a bright yellow sign on the front lawn that sticks out like a sore thumb. The Land Action Notice sign details plans to remove the existing structures on that property and replace them with – what else – condominiums. There are five houses, including Summit BJJ, slated for demolition on that block to prepare for construction. Residents in the area have fought the development, according to Anderson. The application for the plan was accepted by DPD in December, but no construction has commenced. 

“The project has been stalled multiple times due to the economy as well as adjacent neighbors petitioning to keep the property as is,” said Watkins. “At this point we do not know when or if the project will commence, but will be given adequate notice when a decision is made.”

As of now, Anderson and Watkins don’t know for sure what will happen to Summit BJJ once they get their three months notice. But until then, Summit BJJ meets several times each week to push each other to the next level in their training.

“The skill level of our group continues to improve with every class. We are a very young Jiu-Jitsu club that is growing at an amazing rate,” said Watkins. “It is every Jiu-Jitsu club’s instructors’ dream to have a room full of black belts to mentor incoming students and hope to some day see this dream materialize. Until then, we’ll be on the mats getting better every day.”

Sun Sal-u-thon yoga fundraiser brings hundreds of sun salutations to Cal Anderson Park


Downward-Facing Dog
, originally uploaded by stirwise.

This Saturday, yogis of shapes and sizes from all over Seattle will gather in Cal Anderson Park to participate in the Samarya Center’s third annual Sun Sal-u-thon fundraiser.

Samarya Center founder Molly Lannon Kenny is asking all you yogis out there to put your money where your warrior pose is, and support programs that bring yoga to the disadvantaged. “Yoga has become this commodity in our world, where the consumer is upper middle class, white, and typically female,” said Lannon Kenny.


“If we really think about that deep experience that yoga is supposed to bring, a feeling of contentment, of peace, of being OK with the world, shouldn’t we think about how to bring it to the people who need it the most?”

Saturday’s Sun Sal-u-thon goes 11 to 2 PM at Cal Anderson. Participants are invited to do up to 150 sun salutations throughout the day. Sun salutations are linked with the breath, flow together and represent the warm-up sequences in most yoga classes, organizers tell CHS as we hunch over our keyboards while slumping in a coffee shop chair.

Planners hope for the largest yoga demonstration in the park yet and the Samarya Center is getting some help pulling it off from different people and groups around the city, including Genessa Krasnow, who organized last year’s Equalityoga event in the park. That particular Pride component didn’t become a repeat event but the Sal-u-thon is ready to make its third year a big success.

The Samarya Center is a Northwest non-profit profit yoga and yoga therapy organization, located in the Central District. They provide affordable yoga training with classes specializing in anxiety, chronic pain and addiction.

The minimum donation is $25 to participate, and the Samarya Center hopes to raise $10,000 during the day. Participants can either raise money on their own to participate, or pull from their own pockets. If you want to join but can’t scrounge up the $25, a few Sun Sal-u-thon sponsors have paid for you to participate, so talk to Lannon Kenny or other event volunteers if that’s the case.

If you have tickets to the Capitol Hill Block Party, don’t fret, you can go to both. The Sun Sal-u-thon ends at 2, and the Block Party doesn’t start until 3.

“Yoga is the original punk rock. It’s all about DIY, sticking it to the man, cheering on the underdog and social justice,” said Lannon Kenny. “If you really want to get your punk rock on, come do yoga with us, then go get drunk.”

Lannon Kenny knows a thing or two about punk rock – she traveled from her hometown in New Jersey to play bass in ‘90s Seattle punk bands, like the all-girl group 66 Saints and Matchlist.

When the Samarya Center started to take off, she put her rockstar lifestyle on the shelf to lead it. The event will kick off with some hearty “loga” – a form of laughter yoga practiced by a small group every Sunday morning in Cal Anderson. Through the day, the group will do 25 poses, and then break. During the breaks, there will be live music, yoga demonstrations, poetry readings and more. There will also be a kid’s program, so bring the family. Folk singer Camille Bloom is scheduled to perform, and the women from Samarya’s Latina women’s class will be on hand to sell homemade tamales. When you buy one from them, you’ll be directly supporting the chefs. Residents of Bailey Boushay house will be there, too.

“We really want it to reflect the diversity and community at our center,” said Lannon Kenny.

Lannon Kenny is still open to adding other performers to the docket, so if you’re a performer (especially a hula hooper!), then sign up as a performer on the Samarya website.

“This is a really fun event and it’s a really radical thing we’re doing,” said Lannon Kenny. “It’s all about community activism and taking the idea of yoga, which has become a really white and mainstream thing, and bringing it back to its roots.”

Reality check: Plan for Capitol Hill street food court on Broadway hits bumps

Lest CHS be accused of civic sensationalism, we try to follow up on some of the fantastic (and less so!) ideas that people float across Capitol Hill. With another for the civic fantasy file coming in this weekend — a year-round Capitol Hill Block Party in Pike/Pine? — we thought it might be good to check in with another recent urban planner fever dream: the city’s plan to invite street food entrepreneurs to set up shop on Broadway and create a Capitol Hill street food court.



Julia’s in Springtime

Originally uploaded by nanoflux

“We have to go through huge hoops with the city, health department and other agencies to get our licenses, and pay a lot of money to serve food in the city of Seattle,” said Karsten Betd, co-owner of Julia’s on Broadway. “Some of us have lost 10 to 20 percent of our business already, because of the economy and [light rail] construction. We’re still here, we’re stuck in our leases for five, 10 or 15 years. Put more competition in there, and what are we going to do?”

Another Broadway restaurant owner declined to be identified because, as the owner told us, their long-running restaurant needs all the business it can get and can’t afford any backlash sparked by opposition to the popular street food plan.

“I honestly feel, in this business climate at this particular point in time, the last thing we need is more competition from operations that haven’t put in near the amount of time and money that [Broadway restaurants] have invested,” said the restaurateur. “The time and money spent on equipment, lavatories, garbage pickup, water and many other things needed to run a business… the costs street vendors will pay pales in comparison to what brick and mortar businesses are paying.”

Michael Wells, president of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, said that the community’s overall opinion on the matter is so divided that the Chamber is not able or willing to take an official stance on the issue at this time. The Broadway Business Improvement Association, also headed by Wells, hasn’t chosen a side, either.

“Neither one has taken a stance, and I don’t know if either one will,” said Wells.

Brick and mortar businesses, said Wells, are concerned that moving food vendors with lower price points and lowered standards from the Health Department will run them out of business.

“Some of the folks working in the traditional realm feel nervous about a shifting dynamic in the way people think about the dining experience and pricing. That’s justified,” said Wells. “It’s a difficult time for all small businesses. If it feels like an unfair playing field and there are certain inequities in the way a business is run, I can respect and understand those concerns.”

While the Chamber does recognize the struggles that brick and mortar restaurants could face with an increased amount of competition, part of their mission is to evaluate what’s best for the neighborhood, which could mean increased foot traffic and vitality, a proven outcome in other cities like Portland that offer food truck service.

“It’s very interesting, the way that [street food vendors] could activate spaces and create new food experiences,” said Wells. “It’s a valid economic model and very sexy right now. People are excited about it.”

One compromise being discussed that could lessen the blow of increased competition is a full-blown street fair, where people could sell things like watches, t-shirts and other goods, much like New York City. This could bring more foot traffic to the area and give people from outside the city more of a reason to visit — and eat.

An issue that hasn’t been fully addressed by DPD regarding street food vendors is bathroom accessibility. The city famously tried — and failed — to offer sanitary public restrooms on Broadway once before, but now, outside of Cal Anderson, bathroom options are limited to paying customers in brick and mortar businesses. If food vendors are serving food outside, where will their employees use the restrooms and wash their hands? Where will their customers go? Some restaurants fear that those customers will roam Broadway, going into other businesses just to use their bathrooms. Business owners are also worried about increased trash in the streets and wonder who will pick it up.

“I’ve been to Portland and other places near fast food or quick service areas, and there’s trash everywhere, it’s rather unsightly,” said the anonymous restaurant owner. “It doesn’t smell good, there is water in the streets… it’s unsanitary, a huge health risk and a nuisance.”

One thing to keep in mind while debating the pros and cons of the issue, said Wells, is to “level the playing field and play fair.” That statement can be used on both sides of the argument.

“I think these are all real world concerns and needed to be respected as such,” said Wells. “These restaurant owners put their heart, soul and family savings into creating a business on Broadway.”

UPDATE:
We received this e-mail from the new owner of the Broadway Grill who read this post and wanted to add his voice to the conversation. If you have have more to say and want to let us know about it, you can reach us at CHS@capitolhillseattle.com

As a brand new business owner of one of the largest restaurants on Broadway, I understand the concerns of my fellow Broadway restaurant owners.  I get that it is incredibly expensive to run an establishment on the hill.  When first taking over the grill, I was shocked by the amount of rent/taxes etc. that has to be paid monthly, but that is the price you pay for guaranteed foot traffic.  On the other hand, I sympathize with the community about wanting food cart vendors.  I too enjoy a greasy hot dog slathered with cream cheese upon leaving The Cuff after one too many vodka tonics.  Isn’t there a solution that would favor everyone?  Perhaps we could have a tax for the food vendors to pay for extra garbage clean-up and help “level the playing field” so to speak.  I think that if we do accept the food vendor idea, they should be responsible for supplying compostable utensils and food containers that would help with the amount of waste created.  I also am interested in the street fair concept.  I think that both are wonderful ideas to help increase the popularity of Capitol Hill.  After living in New York for five years and spending a lot of time in Portland, the street activities were some of my favorite things in both cities.  The street fair concept would help limit the amount of food carts allowed possibly helping to ease the amount of competition for Capitol Hill restaurants, also helping to fill the “dead zone” between John and SCCC until the light rail construction is finished.  To me, this is not a problem…this is an opportunity for growth.  Re-evaluating how we run our businesses could be the best thing that ever happened to us.  Why is everyone so afraid of change?

To close, I would like to caution others of the criticism towards Michael Wells and The Capitol Hill Chamber, they are working to find a solution that will benefit everyone.  If you have a comment or criticism, attend a meeting and let your voice be heard.

Matthew Walsh
Owner
The Broadway Grill

Council member Clark floats idea for year-round Pike/Pine block party

At Thursday night’s Capitol Hill Community Council meeting, the agenda said City Council member Sally Clark was scheduled to address “Pike/Pine Walkability Improvements,” and would focus on “future pedestrian improvements” for the area. Turns out, one way to improve walking in Pike/Pine is to put a beer can in your hand. Here’s the lowdown from another wild and woolly session of the Community Council.


ranier crush
Originally uploaded by subsetsum

“If it turns into drunk-fest in the streets, this is no good,” said Clark of an idea she floated Thursday night to block off the streets of Pike/Pine on weekend nights.

Clark said the idea is inspired by the Austin, Texas bar scene. On 6th Street in Austin, the city blocks off popular downtown streets for bar foot traffic starting at 11 PM and going through last call. 6th Street is notorious for its street parties, but it also plays a successful part in the city’s economy, Clark said.

“Do we have the conditions, or desire to, shut down the street on Broadway or Pike and Pine? I have no idea. I’m not sure if this idea will go any place, or if it’s interesting at all,” said Clark. “Would it bring more vibrancy or energy to the neighborhood, or would it be more trouble than it’s worth?”

Clark is exploring the idea of setting up police barricades down the Pike/Pine corridor, blocking cars from entering and allowing people to move freely down the streets.

It’s extremely early in the discussion and, at this point, the conversation is mostly about discussing possibilities, not making policies. Clark said she is gleaning interest from nightclub and bar owners across the city — and looking for help from the businesses to pay for it. She said she is talking to Dave Meinert and will have coffee with the owner of Neumos next week to determine if he would be willing to cooperate and participate in street cleanup before the idea moves forward. Meinert, of course, is busy next week planning the final elements of his own giant street party, the Capitol Hill Block Party which kicks off next weekend. We’ve covered some of the community issues surrounding that annual event here.

Clark said, especially with the current budget conditions at City Hall, it’s difficult to promise any more security or cleanup crews, and buses might have to be rerouted.

Some in attendance at the Community Council session expressed concern over the amount of trash that already exists in Pike/Pine and questioned the commitment of the local bar owners to keeping the streets clean. Another concern was the potential for unruly partying in their neighborhoods creating an unwelcoming atmosphere for those who live in the area. They wanted to know about fire and police access and taxi availability.

“We don’t want to allow people to be jackasses,” said Clark. “Some people are interested in the music, and others are just there to get hammered. We don’t want to have the character of the neighborhood change at different times of the day.”

Clark said one possible location would be “the retail district” down Pike, from 12th Ave. all the way down to Boren, either the whole thing or sections of it. An alternative idea is shutting down 10th or 11th Ave. between the two, while keeping Pike/Pine open to traffic. What would go in the streets? Maybe a street vendor food court, or live music.

The discussion comes as the mayor begins pushing his 8-point Seattle Nightlife Initiative plan which could lead to staggered closing times at bars across the city, increases in late-night public transit options and an improved police presence at nightlife hot spots. While Clark and Mike McGinn’s plans aren’t directly related, one thing is clear: The city’s nightlife industry has a growing influence as the economy saps strength from the more traditional power brokers in the Emerald City.

The CHCC will discuss the Seattle Nightlife Initiative at their next meeting, August 15 at 7 PM. Representatives from departments across City Hall plus local business owners will present their ideas related to the proposals. Following Clark’s brainstorm, it will be interesting to find out if a year-round Pike/Pine block party is one of them.

LGBT Commission launches ‘gay census’ lifestyle survey

For its 2010 survey, the Census Bureau made a big push for LGBT participation complete with Capitol Hill giveaways and rainbow-covered signage. This month, the Seattle LGBT Commission launched a 2010 survey of their own, which the group hopes will give them a greater lens into the local gay and lesbian community that they can share with the City Council and other government agencies, to better meet the needs of that population.

You can view and take the survey at www.snapshotseattle.com now through the end of July.

“The City of Seattle has never before undertaken this type of comprehensive needs assessment for Seattle’s LGBTQ community, nor have we attempted to develop City government strategies to meet those needs,” said Michael Jerrett, legislative assistant to City Council member Bruce Harrell. “With the feedback and data from the survey, the LGBT Commission can figure out what’s going on in the community and where the City can better partner with other organizations to make improvements.”

The anonymous survey addresses overall quality of life, topics include housing, ethnic background, education, employment, personal health and social life. It also asks the surveyor their opinion on the greatest issues facing their community today, and asks their levels of involvement in civic engagement and political leanings.

“As far as realistic expectations for outcomes, it is a very difficult question, given that we don’t know what issues are going to be identified,” said Lillie Cridland, co-chair of the LGBT Commission. “The results could be quite effective in helping the Commission and nonprofit organizations lobby to preserve funding for programs if the survey indicates a clear need for certain services.”

The Commission will study the information and use it to identify trends in the local lifestyle and could potentially identify areas of need that they will then share with the public, by as soon as September or October.

Once it’s published, anyone will be able to access the results online.

“I think what makes it unique for us is that the Commission doesn’t stand to benefit in any tangible way from the results. Of course it’s rewarding and our work will be better because of it, but we’re not getting any thing material out of it,” said Cridland. “Our interest is simply in making life better for LGBTQ people living, working or playing in Seattle. I think that gives us a unique opportunity to get an accurate ‘snapshot’ of the community today and it’s helped build cooperation across different organizations.”

The LGBT Commission is a government group that advises the Mayor, City Council and other departments about sexual minority issues, advises them on policy and legislation and works to bring the overall LGBTQ community together.

The benefit local groups could receive from the data could benefit the community for years to come, with the potential for policy change in the future.

“I think we’re all aware that this is not an economy where adding programs or expanding funding is realistic. Where we do see gaps that might require new programs or funding, organizations can beginning planning for that now so that they’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as we start seeing more economic growth,” said Cridland. “The specific example for that could be something like a new LGBTQ Center which is likely to be a few years in the making but we can begin laying the ground work now.”

City Council’s Resolution #31224 mandates that Seattle City government must work with the Seattle LGBT Commission, nonprofit organizations, businesses and associations to address the issues raised in the survey.

“Results of the survey could result in changes to City policies and within the larger community in order to better address people’s situations,” said Jerrett.

The LGBTQ Commission is not the only gay rights organization conducting a LGBT population survey. Gay City recently launched Count Me Out, which they’ve launched in partnership with King County. The statistics they glean will help address “health inequities” the gay community may face.  

“Seattle has the third largest percentage of gay, lesbian or bisexual residents among large cities in the United States. We have abundant evidence of the LGBTQ community’s specific concerns in areas such as health and medical care, civil rights, education and public safety. But we don’t know how those pieces fit together for this segment of our community,” said Jerrett. “For LGBT people in Seattle, the streets may not be as safe, medical care may not be as certain, and housing and employment rights are not something to be taken for granted. This survey is an important first step to addressing those needs.”

Access the LGBTQ Commission survey at www.snapshotseattle.com and the Gay City health survey at http://countmeout.gaycity.org.

One year later, SDOT creates 15th Ave E crosswalk after resident request

A new crosswalk was just installed on 15th Ave E and E Highland Drive, thanks to one resident who asked for it a year ago.

“The recent warm, fair weather enabled us to install the markings,” said SDOT representative Marybeth Turner. Turner said the resident’s request went to the Mayor’s office, was routed to SDOT and installed earlier this month.

The new crosswalk connects one of the Hill’s more tony neighborhoods with Volunteer Park. CHS recently reported on Sound Transit’s announcement that a new crosswalk will be added to help pedestrians cross John at 10th Ave near the light rail construction site.

While many of us could think of more than a few places where a crosswalk would come in handy (13th and Denny, anyone?), SDOT won’t install a crosswalk without addressing a few qualifications:

A marked crosswalk normally indicates one of two things: either a preferred pedestrian crossing or high volume pedestrian crossing area. The first is determined by lighting and visibility, or where the potential for pedestrian and vehicle conflict is low. The second is closely related to elementary school walking routes.

A roadway’s characteristics also determine whether or not a crosswalk is possible. The number of lanes a pedestrian must cross, the proximity to existing traffic signals and the number of pedestrians who cross the street consistently at that location all help determine whether a crosswalk should be implemented or not.

“A marked crosswalk, in and of itself, does not increase safety,” said Turner. “SDOT won’t put a crosswalk if it’s not an area that they wouldn’t recommend people cross, or if it feels unsafe.”

If you see locations around the city that you think would benefit from a crosswalk, you can email SDOT at walkandbike@seattle.gov, or call (206) 684-7583. You can also post questions or concerns on their blog.

Parkour playground on Madison chosen as finalist in plan to activate Seattle empty spaces

Not long ago, it was a rare thing to find a city park with a climbing wall. In a similar fashion, a planned Capitol Hill park could be one of the first to be built specifically for freerunners to jump and climb up curbs, over tables and across walls.

ParkOurPark,” the brainchild of local non-profit Parkour Visions, was one of the 13 finalists selected in the city-wide Holding Patterns Initiative, led by the Seattle Design Commission. SDC developed Holding Patterns in response to growing concern over the growing number of abandoned or unused lots across the city, and sent an open call out into the community for creative solutions to activate those empty spaces.


CHS highlighted the Holding Patterns Initiative when they first announced the call for idea submissions. We identified 9 targets on the Hill, including the People’s Parking Lot, that are eligible for temporary community lots.

ParkOurPark envisions obstacle courses filled with things like donated park benches, picnic tables, reinforced bus shelters and concrete curbs that people could jump off or climb up. Informational signs would be scattered across the park, describing how to use the equipment in a style modeled after training signs at exercise stations in public parks across the country.

They’ve set their sights on the small triangle of concrete on the corner of 19th Street and E. Madison, next to the Hearing Speech and Deafness Center (HSDC). The group is also interested in the much larger across the street that used to be home to the Fratelli’s factory and its famous cow mural. “There are few outdoor Parkour parks in the country – this is really the first idea I’ve seen based around the overall vision of using your environment and what’s around you,” said Beth Jusino, project lead for the Parkour Park Project and volunteer with Parkour Visions. “It’s something that kids get excited about… but that people of all ages could enjoy.”

Here’s what commenter Katy on our Holding Patterns post had to say about the bigger empty lot across the street:

I was excited to read the blog on “Holding Patterns.” I have lived on the Hill for 30 years and have been dismayed to see the ugly,empty lot at 19th and Madison. My neighbors and I were waiting for the lot to be developed, and I remeber the developer addressing a Miller Park Neighborhood Community meeting several years ago to explain his plans for development of the space. In the meantime the Fratelli’s structure (including the iconic cow mural) was destroyed and the space left to graffiti and garbage.

I would like help with any plans to convert this eyesore. Maybe a plan could incorporate a reference to Fratelli’s and the cows.

Holding Patterns received 83 land-use proposals, ranging from temporary graffiti canvases to community food gardens and “blackboard jungles.” They’ve selected 13 finalists and 13 runners-up, which you can read more about on the SDC website.

“In terms of betterment of neighborhoods, we think the program can temporarily fill what are otherwise “voids” in the fabric,” said Mary Johnston, chair of the SDC and partner of Johnston Architects. “Capitol Hill is a great, lively neighborhood that embraces interesting ideas. I think this program will particularly appeal to the neighborhood sense of active engagement.”

The initiative will facilitate conversations between property owners who cannot afford to build or complete their construction projects, and community leaders interested in transforming those spaces into communal gathering areas. The implemented projects will be temporary fixtures on the lots until the owners can begin construction or lot development again.

“The city is open to any of the concepts at this point,” said Johnston. “In general, simple [projects], easy to implement and easily put up and taken down might be the best.”


View Larger Map

Jusino says that Parkour Visions has a team of volunteers willing to set up and break down the park, and a professional consulting team that could develop safe courses and designs. To stay cost-efficient and economically friendly, ParkOurPark would operate under the ‘Leave No Trace’ Parkour philosophy, which promises to leave the space better than they found it.

ParkOurPark and the other 12 finalists will meet with property owners, city department representatives and possible funding partners on July 20. They will have the opportunity to present their ideas, answer questions and determine next steps. This meeting isn’t open to the public or media, but CHS will keep you posted on what happens next.

Capitol Hill rock author uncovers new truths about the King

The last few years of rock n’ roll icon Elvis Presley are becoming demystified, thanks to a new book by local music author and Capitol Hill resident Gillian G. Gaar.

Her book, Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback, chronicles the last years of the legend and gives some new insight into what might have contributed to his tragic death in August of 1977.

“You could say he lived out the American dream but it turned into a nightmare for him,” said Gaar. “He was poor as he could be and went on to achieve these great heights but wasn’t able to hang on to it.”

Gaar is reading from her book and signing copies at Elliott Bay Book Co. this Sunday, June 20th at 4 p.m. She is an established music journalist and author of  She’s A Rebel: The History Of Women In Rock & Roll; Green Day: Rebels With A Cause; Nirvana: In Utero; and The Rough Guide To Nirvana.

Her book looks at Elvis’ fated comeback tour and the the events of the last few years of his life. She interviewed family, friends and longtime King enthusiasts to build the story.

“There is probably some stuff in there that you haven’t heard before, but the book concentrates more on the music and what he accomplished artistically,” said Gaar. “It’s not a particularly gossipy book.”

By 1967, the King was fading fast with unimpressive record sales and lame movie roles. But then came the ’68 Comeback Special, which aired on NBC during the holiday season and brought life back into his career. He went on to perform almost 1,100 concerts between 1969 and 1977 before he died at age 42.

One of Gaar’s favorite sources for the book is the man who set up Elvis’ infamous meeting with Nixon – UW law school alum and former administration official Egil “Bud” Krogh. Gaar said that when she first contacted Krogh, she was surprised to learn he had at one time the same Seattle ZIP code as her and hadn’t been interviewed much about Elvis.

“[Bud] was an Elvis fan, if he hadn’t been, that meeting probably would never have happened,” said Gaar. “When Bud got the letter from Elvis requesting a meeting, at first he thought it was a joke. His friends at the White House would play practical jokes on each other. But when he arranged to meet with him, he realized he was being serious.”

Elvis asked Nixon if he could become a member of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He gave Nixon a pistol, and Nixon gave him a “Federal Agent-at-Large” badge.

His fame has lived on and caught fire with a new generation. But while Elvis’ iconic status is undisputed, Gaar believes it’s still unclear how he perceived himself in those final years.

“I was surprised at how insecure he could be, how he bowed to his managers so much when other [artists] didn’t,” said Gaar. “You don’t get a sense he necessarily took control of his career.”

Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback is published by Jawbone Press, is available on Amazon and Elliott Bay Book Co. Gaar will be signing books on June 20 and will have some fun Elvis memorabilia to pass around during her reading. Check out the book’s Facebook page and join the Elvis discussion boards and to learn more.