Madison Valley News


By Ranji Sinha

How about being greeted with graffiti in the New Year??

That’s the situation for several homeowners in one Seattle neighborhood. Some of them alerted KIRO 7 to a few acts of vandalism, and our crews ended up finding some more.

Most of it was graffiti, and graffiti of any type carries a message, but the messages in the Madison Valley section of Seattle appeared to target certain homes with phrases such as “Eat the Rich” and “Yuppies.”

Graffiti art is in the eye of the beholder, but when the message writ large on someone’s home is “Eat the Rich” or advocates hurting police with the phrase “Kill Cops” or highlights anarchists, the message and messengers can seem clear.

The graffiti found New Year’s Day targeted new or renovated properties in the Madison Valley, and at least one piece of graffiti defaced a sign for an empty lot where homes haven’t even been built.

One homeowner who asked that we not use his name says he spent New Year’s Day wiping away the graffiti in his front yard.

“Saw it happen to a neighbor three blocks down, somebody had written ‘eat the rich’ on this house. So we were coming back from a walk from the Arboretum and saw as we came somebody had written ‘Kill Cops’ on our fence.”

He says that he recognizes the political bent from phrases like “Eat the Rich” but also wonders if the political message could be sent without defacing someone’s home.

“I empathize with a lot of things that are happening in the world, but I don’t think that’s the right approach.”

Other vandalism included a smashed pickup truck window.

All of it bothered Mario Estany, who says he’s lived near 29th Avenue East for 11 years, kept an eye on things, even cleaned his own street, only to see furniture dumped on corners, and now spray-painted properties,

“I sweep because I love to do community service … It’s so wrong,” he said of the graffiti.

Estany says the lesson to not deface things came at an early age in his native Cuba.

“I want to write something on the walls in my house in Cuba. They say, ‘NO, you have paper!’”

Madison Valley has seen changes that some would call gentrification. Newer homes, new construction and some remodeling are the norm, and in 2018, Seattle is poised to keep changing in a similar fashion, and some class conflict could come with it.

The person who wrote the graffiti decrying the wealthy or relatively well-to-do and the new resident in a new home who has to clean it may both think “There goes the neighborhood.”

Estany’s solution for both is simple: “Paint something beautiful.”

Residents said the Seattle Police Department took photos to catalog the graffiti. Seattle Police did respond to several reported incidents in the areas of 29th and 30th Ave East.

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By Brandon Macz

The East Design Review Board on Wednesday praised changes made to plans for a future mixed-use development that will include a PCC Market on East Madison. A majority of Madison Valley residents in attendance at the recommendation meeting said it will destroy the neighborhood.

This was the fourth time Studio Meng Strazzara came before the EDRB to pitch its design for a six-story mixed-use development that will replace City People’s Garden Store at 2925 E. Madison St. The total project will include 82 residential units, a 24,500-square-foot PCC Market and a 1,500-square-foot corner retail space.

Studio Meng Strazzara principal Charles Strazzara was quick to point out Wednesday night that zoning allowed for a 50,000-square-foot grocery store.

Strazzara highlighted widened sidewalks along the East Madison side of the development — 19.6 feet wide at the PCC entryway — and changes to the design of six townhomes added to the back of the project, facing residences on Dewey Place East. The board had asked the design team to simplify the design and articulation. Strazzara said the main floor was elevated, the setbacks aligned and the pitched roofs were ditched.

The design team received support from SDOT for a departure for dual vehicular access, putting retail parking and commercial loading on East Madison and residential parking on Dewey Place East.

EDRB chair Curtis Bigelow said he felt the dual access parking would provide a better pedestrian experience on Madison and Dewey, eliciting grumbles from the audience.

“I second the hope that we will all presumably be getting out of our cars soon,” said EDRB member Barbara Busetti, drawing more criticism from the crowd.

The neighborhood will change soon with the addition of the Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

The EDRB also supported a departure to go beyond the allowable 30-foot curb cut to 40 feet, in order for delivery trucks to have an easier time turning into the loading entrance. Busetti said she’d like the portion between the customer and loading entrances on East Madison reduced, while EDRB member Andrew Haas said he’d like developers to explore whether the full additional 10 feet of curb cut is necessary. The board agreed to request further study on the matter.

The design board also lauded the inclusion of a pedestrian stair linking the East Madison and Dewey Place East sides of the project. The pedestrian stair was required by the city.

Many residents at the Sept. 13 EDRB recommendation meeting remained opposed to the project, saying the height, bulk and scale is still out of place in the neighborhood and will result in the removal of a mature tree canopy.

Neighborhood group Save Madison Valley formed last year to oppose the project for those reasons.

“Through three EDGs (Early Design Guidance meetings) the east facade of Dewey has remained pretty consistent in mass and height,” said Melissa Stoker with Save Madison Valley, adding it does not fit in well with the narrow length of that street at the proposed setbacks.

She said she does not believe the pedestrian experience will be positive, particularly with a massive project on a 30-foot slope, overlooking the neighborhood.

Shannon Underwood said the project doesn’t adequately address the board’s request for public space.

“The widened sidewalk and supermarket entrance is commercial space,” she said. “It’s not inclusive, it’s not for everyone; it’s for the supermarket to sell to people, and for shoppers. Just because customers greet each other doesn’t make it a public community space.”

Underwood said the project’s design has been compared to the Madison Lofts across the street, but that structure also doesn’t fit in the neighborhood.

“This building will be a community destroyer on all three sides because of its unbroken mass, its height and its oversized garage, which draws more traffic than we can accommodate,” Underwood said.

Proposed commercial and residential parking stalls are set at 70 each.

Cherie Sato provided a physical model of the design to the EDRB, asking them to consider whether it fits with the height, bulk and scale of the neighborhood. She said a 12-foot-wide planting strip in front of the townhomes does not provide an adequate buffer for the neighborhood, and bemoaned the loss of the mature canopy.

“This proposed building is an antithesis of the design guidelines — the Seattle Design Guidelines,” Sato said. “The design review board, which you serve, was created specifically to prevent a project like this from destroying our neighborhoods.”

Resident Mark McDermott suggested neighbors ban together and file a lawsuit if the city were to allow the project to move forward. He said municipal code calls for reducing the impact of removing trees and vegetation from a steep slope area.

“The proposal of these developers is to come in and mow the entire canopy down,” McDermott said, with the city looking to replace that canopy elsewhere. “… And I say to you, my fellow neighbors, if the city tries to cram this project down our throats, we need to open up our wallets and load up and file a lawsuit and fight this sucker until they comply with the spirit and letter of the law…”

Resident Andrew Engelson said he supports the project because Seattle needs more housing, and it will mean having a nearby grocery store.

“Save Madison Valley does not speak for every resident of Madison Valley,” he said.

Cynthia Ford also voiced support for the project, but said she wanted to see more bike parking. She said she believes PCC will be a good steward of the neighborhood.

The EDRB did ask the design team to consider more bike parking, possibly adding that in the garage, and also set a condition that bike parking along the sidewalk be set between tree plantings as to not inhibit pedestrian traffic.

Responding to public comments, the board also requested that the design team address privacy concerns between the retail portion of the project and neighboring residences.

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By Brandon Macz

The Seattle Department of Transportation is considerably more optimistic it will have the federal funding needed to complete a major bus corridor project along Madison Street than it was when President Donald Trump released his budget plan back in May.

“We’ve been following this very closely,” said Andrew Glass Hastings, SDOT transit and mobility director. “When the president came out with his budget back in May, it was very disturbing sort of for the future of the federal government’s partnership with cities like Seattle.”

Trump’s budget proposed to eliminate the TIGER and Capital Investment Grant transportation funding program, the latter SDOT is depending on to fund 50 percent — $60 million — of the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project.

“Even though there’s not a lot of weight to the (president’s) budget, it kind of set the floor,” Hastings said, “so anything other than zero was better than Trump’s zero.”

Dedicated bus lanes are planned along three-fifths of the Madison BRT project, with bus platforms running along the future RapidRide G route from First Avenue in downtown to Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Madison Valley.

Before its August break, Congress passed two appropriations bills — one from each chamber. The House bill would have eliminated the TIGER grant, but phased out the Capital Investment Grants more slowly. It would have put SDOT in better shape to complete its Center City Connector streetcar line connecting the First Hill and South Lake Union lines through Pioneer Square, Hastings said, but not the Madison BRT project.

On July 27, Washington Sen. Patty Murray’s office reported the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved multiple transportation infrastructure investments, including $2.1 billion in the Capital Investment Grants Program that includes Madison BRT funding.

The project remains estimated at $120 million, and the Madison BRT design is proceeding under an assumption the federal funding will come through, Hastings said. There are contingencies being worked out, including shortening the corridor or adjusting the level of investment in the project.

“That’s just sort of the worst-case scenario, if you will; if we don’t get that federal funding,” Hastings said.

Both the Madison BRT and Center City Connector projects received high rankings from the Federal Transit Administration, which were also released in May, he said.

“We take that as a very positive sign, Hastings said, “that the FTA is doing independent rankings of these projects and both of these projects are worthy of funding.”

SDOT now believes it could have everything in place for a mid-2018 construction start. The transportation department had initially expected to have a funding agreement signed later this year.

“That became clearly sort of overly optimistic in the face of a Trump administration,” Hastings said.

SDOT provided a 60-percent design to the public for review this spring, and expects to be at 90 percent by early 2018.

“At this point there aren’t a lot of significant changes,” Hastings said. “A lot of it is sort of refining and adding design details to get it to the fundamental design.”

Neighbors and community stakeholders toured the intersection of East Madison Street, East John Street and 24th Avenue on May 19.

Another stakeholder walk regarding the 12th Avenue/Union Street and 14th Avenue intersections took place on June 29.

One request to consider making East Union Street one-way between 12th and 11th was determined to be unsafe unless another pedestrian signal phase were created. The design team committed to further assessment there.

Hastings said it’s important to get this complex intersection right in its design, and its next design should make it more intuitive for users, especially pedestrians and cyclists.

People also worried about the loss of on-street parking in Capitol Hill, which already struggles with parking availability. Most parking west of 24th Avenue will be removed to accommodate bus facilities and dedicated lanes.

An option for protected bike lanes on Union Street that showed up on a locally preferred alternative map two years ago that was not meant to be in the Madison BRT plan isn’t dead. In April, SDOT chief of staff Genesee Adkins committed to finding a place for the project after its disappearance — likely in the five-year Bicycle Master Plan.

“Analysis on that is moving forward,” Hastings said of Union protected bike lanes, “not on the Madison BRT project, because that’s not part of our federal scope.”

He added business and residential restraints on Union has caused analysis to take longer.

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By Melissa Stoker, Save Madison Valley

For a while now, those of us working with Save Madison Valley have warned that if the proposed development for the City People’s site is allowed to proceed as currently planned it could turn Madison into quite a mess.  You might recall that an independent traffic consultant found that the developer’s traffic study had left some gaps: they hadn’t counted the current number of trips at the location, hadn’t identified current back-up patterns, hadn’t counted truck deliveries at a comparable PCC, and hadn’t addressed the impact of losing street parking, to name just some of the shortcomings.

The developer’s traffic engineers countered that they had done everything that is required of them.  And this is true.  They pulled trip estimates from a handbook of national averages and plugged numbers into a formula and — voila! — the 30 second increase in traffic delays we heard about.

So we asked a transportation planner to actually go out and count some cars and trucks.  Here’s what he found: After counting cars over three days it appears that the developer’s estimates for current peak traffic at the site are double the actual number.  What does this mean?  Well, the increase in traffic they’ve suggested the development will bring sounds minor because they’ve estimated a heftier quantity of traffic now than we actually have.   (It’s nice when hard data line up with common sense:  Do any of us doubt that a nursery open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. generates a lot less traffic than a supermarket open from 6 a.m. to midnight?  And who stops shopping and eating when the weather turns bad because they don’t want to get wet and muddy?)

Counting deliveries at a comparable PCC the consultant found there were 25 to 35 truck deliveries in a day — many of which happened simultaneously, curbside (or any old place drivers can find sometimes — even a neighboring business’s parking lot in a pinch).  It quickly becomes apparent (if it weren’t already) that we’re talking about a lot of traffic and a lot of deliveries.

One solution on the table is to put the apartment residents’ entrance on the backside of the building on Dewey Place (full disclosure: my home backs onto Dewey).  Too bad for those folks, but it’s just one street — and a traffic disaster would be avoided.

Except it won’t be. While the residents’ traffic would have a significant impact on Dewey and the surrounding neighborhood, it is a minor piece of the issues that plague Madison.  Dewey is a small drop in the traffic bucket.

The challenges inherent in trying to build a destination supermarket on a relatively narrow stretch of Madison without a second entrance (as most supermarkets have) are major.  Maybe there’s a solution.  I don’t know; I’m not an engineer.  But I have a strong suspicion that the developer and the developer’s traffic engineers don’t yet know either, because they haven’t yet taken an honest look at the situation and searched for a serious answer.  It looks like a case of starting with what the result needs to be and then backing up from there; no room for any data that deviate from the desired end result.

Instead they’ve floated the idea that they can split the traffic – commercial on Madison; residential on Dewey.  This is a red herring, a diversion from addressing the true problem.  It falsely reassures worried commuters that a solution has been found; it allows the city of Seattle to avoid confronting the developer; but it won’t take care of the mess that will be Madison.

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