Union Bay Watch: Ducks in Trees?

If you haven’t been out to Foster Island lately you may want to take a walk and watch for…Image

…Ducks in Trees. The wood ducks are looking for nesting sites. You should bring your binoculars so you can get a good view without scaring them away. If you would like to see more photos and videos check out Union Bay Watch.


Montlake springs into full bloom


All images: Montlaker








Bridge closure weekend: University CLOSED, 520 OPEN, I-5 Ship Canal down to ONE LANE overnight

University Bridge fender bender. Image: Erik Freeman via fremonttugboat.com

University Bridge fender bender. Image: Erik Freeman via fremonttugboat.com

As goes this fickle spring weather, so does construction along 520. WSDOT’s on-again, off-again, on-again weekend closure of the 520 Bridge is now officially OFF-AGAIN. Expect business as usual on 520 this weekend.

The University Bridge, however, is set to close from 6am to 10pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Crews will make in-water repairs to the bridge’s north fender which was damaged in a recent marine accident. If the work wraps up earlier than expected, as often happens with these closures, the bridge will reopen accordingly.

And for late night travelers on Southbound I-5, expect just one lane to be open from 10pm to 10am Friday night/Saturday morning and Saturday night/Sunday morning*— from Ravenna Blvd to East Newton St. In other words, it’ll be slow going on the Ship Canal Bridge while crews repair pavement, so be sure to give to ’em a brake. To help ease congestion, the Express Lanes will be open southbound from 9:45pm to 1:30am both nights.

*UPDATE* Saturday 12pm: WSDOT has canceled tonight’s planned I-5 closure.

City Council moving ahead with small lot development update

Image: Montlaker

Image: Montlaker

The Department of Planning and Development has forwarded recommendations to the City Council regarding new rules for small lot development in single-family zones following a moratorium enacted last fall. In short, the new rules would close a building code loophole allowing subdivisions of residential lots using pre-1957 tax parcels. The loophole fired up neighbors last year when Soleil Development converted a backyard on Blaine Street into a legal, buildable lot. Residents banded together with those in other neighborhoods living in the shadows of tall-and-skinny houses to lobby Council for the moratorium — and won.

The new rules up for adoption would:

  • Create a permanent provision that disallows the use of historic tax records and mortgage records to create undersized lots.
  • Set a uniform absolute minimum lot area of 2,000 square feet, to apply to lots qualifying under all lot area exceptions.
  • Limit structure height for new buildings and additions to existing houses on lots that are less than 3,200 square feet to 18 feet, plus a five-foot pitched roof.
  • Add other provisions that will limit problematic development and provide some regulatory flexibility with appropriate notice.

Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee, and DPD are seeking input on these proposed changes. Email comments to richard.conlin@seattle.gov and andy.mckim@seattle.gov before April 3rd. Residential density issues are hot these days, with Councilmembers also considering a moratorium on “aPodment” micro-housing. See CHS and The Stranger for more on that.

While there aren’t any (known) micro-housing projects planned for Montlake, density pressure is increasing here — and will continue to increase with light rail coming to Montlake Station in 2016. A mixed-use project with student-friendly studios is already in the works for 24th & Boston. Density is usually considered a dirty word here, but it’s also related to the small school enrollment that keeps Montlake Elementary on the budget chopping block.

Meanwhile, construction of the backyard house on Blaine is nearly complete — its permits were granted before the moratorium went into effect. After all the hubbub, does it really seem all that bad?

Image: Windermere via seattlepi.com

Backyard before. Image: Windermere via seattlepi.com


Backyard no more. Image: Montlaker

City Landmark Preservation Board to consider Montlake Elementary School


Images: Seattle Public Schools via BOLA

Montlake Elementary will soon go before the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board in an effort to maintain the building as a key feature of the neighborhood. The school is an important resource for neighborhood families, and (unsuccessful) efforts in recent years by the Seattle Public School District to shut it down have raised questions and concerns about the building’s long term future. Should the school close one day, a landmark designation would preserve its architectural integrity while allowing it to be adapted for other uses. Should the school not close, Montlake would join the esteemed company of other historic schools in the district.

The nomination report was prepared by historic preservation specialists, BOLA Architecture + Planning, with funding from the Montlake Community Club. “The management goal of the Board will be to preserve the site and building as a main feature of the Montlake Community neighborhood,” said neighborhood preservation activist Jon Decker. “The benefits also include having more flexibility with the Seattle Department of Planning and Development with regards to the zoning ordinances. This would include the possibility of converting the use of the building into a combination of housing, a community center, offices and retail shops.” Decker cites the West Queen Anne School condos, the Wallingford Center and the Northwest African American Museum at the former Coleman School as good examples of adaptive reuse.

There are currently no plans to shutter Montlake Elementary, but the school’s low enrollment numbers will likely continue to make it a target for budget cutting at the school district. This landmarks nomination effort is a ‘just in case’ strategy.


Montlake Elementary was built in 1924 and designed by noted school architect Floyd Naramore, whose Seattle portfolio includes landmarked facilities at Garfield, Roosevelt, Hamilton, Dunlap, Bryant, West Seattle and Cleveland. Later in his career, Naramore designed T.T. Minor and as founding partner in the firm NBBJ, he designed UW Health Sciences and the VA Administration Hospital in Seattle.

BOLA’s report details the features of Montlake’s “Georgian Style,” in particular its red brick cladding, large bay windows, decorative stonework and characteristic “MONTLAKE SCHOOL” inscription over the entrances. While most of the building’s architectural interest is in the facade, the sides were left uncharacteristically blank. Naramore’s original design for the school included a north wing extension that appeared to be canceled just before construction began in 1923. Space was left on the south side of the site for a second wing as well. The wings were never built, but the planned flexibility of future expansion was a key feature of early Seattle Public School buildings, brought on by booming population growth in those early decades.


Talk of Montlake’s future these days is more about contraction than expansion. The silver lining, however, is a renewed showing of community support to keep the school open. Today the elementary school receives high marks for achievement and educational resources. How Landmark status would affect the school building as a school remains to be seen.

The first Landmarks Preservation hearing is April 17th — details here.

Union Bay Watch: Spring blossoms bring out hungry Cooper’s Hawk

Images: unionbaywatch.com

Spring is here according to the cherry blossoms and lil’ ducklings putzing around in the Arboretum. But as Union Bay Watch notes, times are not “all sweetness and light.” This week’s reportage takes a long look at the Cooper’s Hawk — its identifying markings, stretching habits and favorite foods. Follow along on a lunchtime hunt, here, if you have the stomach for it. Rest assured, the other bird doesn’t.

This is also a good time to notice the relatively large claws…

Pit bull attacks rattle neighbors

A recent string of pit bull attacks were reported on the Montlake wire this week. Animal control authorities were called to the 24oo block of East Roanoke on Thursday after a resident pit bull broke loose from its tether and severely injured another dog walking with its owner.

An earlier and more severe attack occurred March 1st at 22nd & Boyer. A man walking his dog was attacked by two pit bulls that broke free from their owner’s grasp. Pit bull #1 went for the man’s dog while #2 went for the man, knocking him down and biting his hands and arms.

My dog and I were walking North on 19th Avenue East from Boyer to Blaine about half way from Boyer when I noticed a Middle aged woman with little control over two pitt bulls. I immediately turned back to Boyer, shouting and pointing to the woman that I would be walking back up Boyer. A few Minutes later at the Blind NW corner of 22nd Ave E & Boyer we met. My dog was a pace ahead of me, without warning one of the pitbulls came around the corner with my dogs neck in it’s jaws. The second pitbull came charging around the corner knocking me to the ground faced to face with the jaws pittbulls. I sustained a bit to my left arm, two deep wounds into my right wrist and hands. Fortunately two wonderful neighbors came along and helped get the vicious dogs under control. I thank them for being there and helping.

According to the victim, the dogs reside on Delmar Drive East and were quarantined by control authorities for a mandatory ten days. A third sighting of a pit-bull-on-dog attack occurred in “January or February” also on Delmar.

Reactions to these attacks have ranged from fear for small children to gentle reminders against breed discrimination. Before heading out for a neighborhood stroll to ponder the societal consequences of breed discrimination, consider reading The Stranger’s How to Defeat a Pit Bull with Your Bare Hands.