Seattle lights up plan to ban smoking in parks (again)

Are books next?!? Striped socks?!? Being cool??!? (Image: Michael Guio via Flickr)

Are books next?!? Striped socks?!? Being cool??!? (Image: Michael Guio via Flickr)

Seattle is, again, looking at banning smoking in public parks. And opponents of the proposal are, again, reminding that such a ban is likely to be used as yet another way to harass homeless people without providing solutions for those living outside.

“The proposed new rule would prohibit smoking in all public parks in the city of Seattle,” a statement on the possible ban reads. “This ban would extend the original smoking prohibitions put in place in 2010, which banned ‘smoking, chewing, or other tobacco use…within 25 feet of other park patrons and in play areas, beaches, or playgrounds.'”

What’s the proposed penalty for lighting up in Cal Anderson? “Breaking the rule against smoking would result in a warning, followed by a possible park exclusion for repeated violations,” the parks department statement says. “The rule would not become part of the Seattle Municipal Code.”

A public hearing on the proposal is planned next month:

The Board of Park Commissioners will host a special public hearing on Thursday, April 16, to take comments on a proposed parks-wide smoking ban. The Board of Park Commissioners public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Kenneth R. Bounds Board Room at Seattle Parks and Recreation Headquarters, 100 Dexter Ave. N.

The ban — which sounds like a good idea but really isn’t — is supported by Mayor Ed Murray:

Residents of and visitors to our beautiful city deserve to fully enjoy every amenity our parks have to offer, including fresh air and a clean, sustainable environment. We know the dangers of secondhand smoke, particularly for those with asthma and allergies, and we know that cigarette litter is abundant and harmful to our environment, especially for the wildlife that inhabit it. Waste from cigarettes leach arsenic, cadmium, lead and other toxins into our soil and water streams and damage ecosystems. This ban just makes sense for our community. It is the right thing to do for Seattle.

City Council member and parks committee chair Jean Godden supports the ban — but only if it is fairly enforced. “To ensure equitable enforcement, I’ll be reaching out to the Park Board to request that an evaluation be tied to the new rule,” she said in a statement.

So much for our plan for solving the renter’s pot paradox.

Central Seattle egg hunts include 3rd annual Spring Bunny visit to Cal Anderson

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

8603137719_c32bd07d53_b-400x599The Capitol Hill Community Council is asking how you help contribute to the culture of the neighborhood. You can include volunteering to help make plastic egg-crazed children happy on your roster. Seattle Parks has put out a call for volunteers to help put on 2015’s third annual Cal Anderson Spring Egg Hunt on April 4th:

Volunteers are needed for the Cal Anderson Park 2015 Spring Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 4! We’re looking for people to help with face painting, to hide candy, to supervise the park, to monitor children in the hunt area, to clean up after the event and to hand out prizes. Volunteers need to arrive at the park at 9:15 a.m. The program ends at noon. To sign up, contact Faizah Osayande at 206-512-5256 or

For the young egg hunters in our audience, below is a roster of the public hunts we know about in Central Seattle this year. Here’s a look at the fun in 2012 and 2013 and 2014 to give you a sense of what you are in for, helpers of young egg hunters. Our only advice is don’t be late. Even the youngest wave of egg hunters, like a colony of swift hares, clear their field in around 60 seconds. Continue reading

New Capitol Hill parks: One overdue for construction, one waiting for bid, one in search of grants

(Images: Jeanny Rhee)

(Images: Jeanny Rhee)

By Jeanny Rhee — UW News Lab/Special to CHS

This time last year, CHS posted updates on various small park projects around Capitol Hill, including Broadway Hill Park, 12th Avenue Square Park, and Cayton Corner Park. Here are our spring 2014 updates on Broadway Hill and 12th Ave Square and here is what we had to say about the naming of Cayton Corner.

Some of these small park projects have taken years to get off the ground, which can be baffling to neighbors who watch plots go unused season after season. The sluggish pace of development often comes down to lack of funding. Some cities, including Seattle, have cultivated corporate sponsorships to boost programming and construction times with mixed results.

Thankfully, funding is now complete or near compete for these three projects underway on Capitol Hill:

IMG_0756Broadway Hill Park — 500 Federal Ave E — Target: End of 2015
Thanks to a $750,000 city grant in 2014, bids are out to construct the Broadway Hill Park at Federal and E Republican. Work is expected to start this summer. “We are still looking at the end of the year to finish the project and will have better dates once a contractor is on board,” said project coordinator Toby Ressler.

The park is expected to cost $767,500. The remaining $17,500 from the Neighborhood Matching Fund Small and Simple grant will pay for for the schematic design, which will include community gardening, artwork and open spaces. Continue reading

New streateries — parklets + street eateries — coming to Capitol Hill

(Image: Seattle Bike Blog)

(Image: Seattle Bike Blog)

Capitol Hill’s first parklet — and the first parklet in Seattle — is also slated to be one of its first streateries.

Montana owner Rachel Marshall confirmed to CHS that she is one of the first applicants for the latest twist in the City of Seattle’s parklet program allowing local businesses to apply to change two or three street parking spaces into public patios and decks.

In announcing the city’s transition of its parklet program out of its preliminary phase, Seattle City Hall also announced a new streatery variation which will give restaurants, cafes, and bars a tighter connection with the facilities. Here’s how the Seattle Department of Transportation describes them:

Streateries are like parklets except the sponsoring restaurant or bar can operate the space as a sidewalk café, providing space exclusively for their customers during their open hours of business. When the bar or restaurant is closed, the space will function as a parklet, open to everyone.

Continue reading

Cal Anderson’s hatches to open for Lincoln Reservoir cleaning and maintenance

Lincoln Reservoir — now covered by Cal Anderson (Images: City of Seattle)

With happy times and green space above, below Cal Anderson Park lurks two 6.25 million-gallon vaults full of clear, cool, Seattle Public Utilities drinking water. Soon, portions of Capitol Hill’s central park will be fenced off for a month of maintenance in the subterranean Lincoln Reservoir.

According to SPU, the reservoir will be drained, inspected and then washed and its roof, hatches, vents and screens will be inspected. “Repairs to the system will also be made and debris will be removed from the reservoir’s perimeter and grounds as needed,” a notice from SPU to be posted at the work site reads. Continue reading

First Hill group makes final push to stop preservation of Harborview art deco building

Harborview Hall, on the left, in 1935.

Harborview Hall, on the left, in 1935. (Image: King County)

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 5.46.04 PM

King County’s Harborview Hall preservation plan. Plans initially included leveling Harborview Hall for a plaza. (Image: King County)

It’s rare that a neighborhood group in Seattle would push for a historic building to be demolished, but the fight over First Hill’s Harborview Hall is not a typical one.

Members of the citizens advisory committee for Harborview Medical Center’s major institutions plan say they are on the ropes in a last ditch effort to have the art deco hospital building torn down to make way for some much needed public open space.

On Friday, a city hearing examiner will hear testimony over whether plans should move forward for a Harborview Hall preservation project. Continue reading

3,000 new residents and the need for ‘open green space’ on First Hill

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 7.19.36 PMFirst Hill might get a whole lot greener — at least in the spring and summer. 

Earlier this month, more than 150 residents of the First Hill community and representatives from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Planning and Development gathered at Town Hall Seattle to discuss ideas for revamping certain streets in the neighborhood to allow for more dynamic and multi-purposed public open green space. 

“Not only do streets need to function as mobility, but they need to be the front door, the place where people go to meet. They’re social spaces,” said Susan McLaughlin, project manager for the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan. 

“Over the last decade First Hill has grown by over 3,000 new residents,” said Lyle Bicknell, principal urban designer with DPD and one of the speakers leading the town hall. “These new residents and workers need quality green space, in addition to those who already live here.”

During the session, First Hill residents gleaned insights into how parts of their neighborhood might be transformed within the next few years. Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | A comforting search for Capitol Hill’s largest (and likely oldest) trees


The Chinese scholar tree of Cal Anderson Park. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

Trees are magical organisms, woven into the fabric of almost every culture on earth and thankfully we have an abundance of them on Capitol Hill. Many species live hundreds of years, much longer than most people which means they have stories to tell, if only we take the time to look. However, when I set out to find the oldest tree on Capitol Hill, I quickly discovered I wouldn’t get a definitive answer.

Typically there aren’t sufficient records of tree plantings (outside of the Arboretum) to supply this information passively. To really find the answer I’d have to use an increment borer or wait for a tree to be cut down to count the rings. In my work as a Capitol Hill dendrochronology detective, I couldn’t just go cutting into trees.

Most people know our temperate rainforests are home to some of the largest trees in the world. Ideal rainfall and temperatures grow huge specimens. Capitol Hill was not far from where the original Seattle settlers set up shop and, therefore, it was quickly denuded of easy to harvest giants. What’s left of that era are trees that were spared because they weren’t worth logging. I tell this story, not to make you feel sad or to mourn their loss, but because it tells you something about my quest for the oldest and largest trees on Capitol. They aren’t native. Continue reading

First Hill open house to discuss ideas for creating public space in a dense, expensive neighborhood

10849746_10152681958713472_254082806541285596_nThey can construct big and tall apartment buildings on First Hill — and there are projects underway and plans to do so on a growing number of corners along Madison like here and here. Creating public space for those residents present and future and the thousands of people who work on First Hill is the goal of the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan. Wednesday night, city planners will host an open house at First Hill’s Town Hall to talk about how “street spaces” and “private development” can create “a greener, more walkable neighborhood” —

Open House: First Hill Public Realm Action Plan
Wednesday, January 7 5:00 PM
First Hill’s growing residential population, cultural institutions, and influx of workers warrants high quality public spaces that meet mobility and recreational needs. The current First Hill neighborhood plan (from 1998) recognizes this need for open space in this bustling, downtown-adjacent neighborhood, but despite efforts to advance this goal, land acquisition has proven to be challenging. For this educational open house, city staff will be present to discuss open space concepts and implementation strategies for these innovative open space proposals. Moving beyond land acquisition, the plan incorporates street spaces and private development to create a greener, more walkable neighborhood.

Presenters include Susan McLaughlin, Urban Design Lead/Project Manager at Seattle Department of Transportation; Donald Harris and Chip Nevins, Department of Parks & Recreation, Property and Acquisition Services; Lyle Bicknell, Principal Urban Designer with the Department of Planning & Development; and Alex Hudson, Coordinator for the First Hill Improvement Association.

Last year, CHS wrote about the City of Seattle initiative for the First Hill neighborhood born of the challenges of acquiring adequate land for parks in the area. In 2000 and 2008 voters approved levies to fund land acquisitions for new parks on First Hill, but affordable properties are almost non-existent in one of the densest neighborhoods in the state. With Seattle’s continued growth, First Hill’s plan might end up part of the solution for the future of “parks” in the city.

A documentation of the plan including specific concepts for locations across First Hill is below.
Continue reading

Volunteer Park Conservatory — 103 years old and counting — reopens after ‘historically accurate’ overhaul

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

IMG_3581Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park Conservatory reopens to the public this weekend after a three-month layoff to complete work on a $3.5 million “historically accurate” restoration of its east wing. What’s a few months after serving as the Hill’s Crystal Palace for 103 years!

Powered by a fundraising effort by the Friends of the Conservatory group, the restoration of the the glass, wood, and aluminum seasonal house and the cactus house was vital for the 1912-built conservatory’s long term health and finished a project started in 1993 to transition the building’s slender frames from wood to aluminum. The Friends — many well-heeled, others just wearing fancy shoes — were on hand Saturday night for a ribbon cutting to reopen the wing with a fancy holiday gala party.

The conservatory was planned to reopen to the public on Sunday.

City Council Tom Rasmussen at Saturday night's ceremony (Image: CHS)

City Council Tom Rasmussen at Saturday night’s ceremony (Image: CHS)

Thursday night, December 11th, the Conservatory’s lights will be part of the 2014 edition of A Holiday in Volunteer Park along with choral groups and “paths lit by hundreds of luminarias.”

In the meantime, the Volunteer Park Trust, the community group dedicated to supporting the park as a whole, has embarked on the first step in a project to create a new bandshell to replace the park’s crumbling amphitheater structure.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory is located in the northwest corner of the park at 1400 E Galer. You can learn more about hours and more at