day : 04/05/2018 11 results

SUMMER CAMP! What Hiawatha’s offering tweens this year

(Photo from seattle.gov)

Continuing our mentions of camp opportunities as summer gets ever close: New Hiawatha Community Center assistant coordinator Andrea Sisco wants families to know about their Tween Camp for kids 11-14:

This is a day camp that runs from 7:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m. where kids get a mix of structured and unstructured recreation time, field trips, and a ton of projects and activities. Each week has a theme like “World Travelers” and “PNW Stomping Grounds.” We offer 10 weeks of camp beginning the week of June 25th and you can register through Hiawatha Community Center for one week, two weeks, all ten weeks – whatever fits your schedule.

You can register online for this and/or other Hiawatha summer-camp opportunities by going here.

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold asks for investigation into whether landlord ‘loophole’ all but emptied a Highland Park building

(WSB photos)

When older apartment buildings are put up for sale, the accompanying listing often assures prospective buyers that a little work can bring the rents up to market level. That might be good news for the buyers, but not necessarily for the renters. West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold says the city is investigating what happened after a building in her neighborhood, 900 SW Holden in Highland Park, changed hands. This is republished from her weekly newsletter, published on the city website today:

Last Wednesday, while I was walking from my house to the Highland Park Action Council (HPAC) meeting I noticed one of the large apartment buildings in my neighborhood was boarded up. I didn’t know why that had happened, and because I work hard to keep up on what is going on in my District, and especially my neighborhood, I was feeling disappointed in myself for not being aware that a new major development was apparently occurring just two blocks away from my home. But then, during the meeting with HPAC, one of the attendees mentioned that the very building I had noticed on my walk to the meeting had been recently cleared by the landlord of all its tenants and some of them had become homeless as a result.

This immediately alarmed me because the City of Seattle has, since the 1980s, had a Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) that gives renters at least 90 days’ notice and financial moving assistance whenever a building is going to be renovated, demolished, or if there’s a change of use. It was immediately apparent to me that there was no way that the legal process for the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance could have occurred so quickly and I became worried that people had been improperly displaced. On my way home that evening, I walked around the perimeter of the building and indeed, it was apparent that all but a couple of the units were vacant.

When I got home that evening, I looked up the address on the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) website to see what development activity was planned at the site. But there were no planned development activities associated with TRAO or a demolition, renovation, or change of use associated with the address. This further confirmed my suspicion that renters in the building had been improperly forced to move. The next morning, I contacted SDCI and asked them to send an inspector out to the property.

I am saddened to report that I learned yesterday that SDCI has found that the tenants in the building recently had received a 100% rent increase and that this increase led to 20 of the 23 households being displaced from the building. Again, I’ve been told by my neighbors that several of these households are now homeless. This is, I believe, a shameful result and an abuse of a landlord’s right to increase rent free from any regulation.

The TRAO says that it is unlawful for landlords to use excessive rent increases to circumvent the requirements for 90 days’ notice and access to moving expenses assistance. But, there is no limit to how much a landlord can raise the rent. You see, the TRAO entitles low income renters who must move because of renovations to money to help them pay their moving costs ($3188). But if a tenant moves because of a big rent increase, they won’t get the assistance.

Not only do rent increases in Seattle lead the nation, but some rent increases are actually used to circumvent other tenant protections such as the TRAO. In 2014, Councilmember Nick Licata brought attention to the fact that “each year more and more tenants find out they were deprived of critical relocation assistance following a massive rent hike due to loop holes created by state law” and that some property owners do this as a regular business practice. You may remember the story of the Lockhaven Apartments and the Prince of Wales. In 2014 and again in 2015, State Senators David Frockt (46th District) and then State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th District) introduced legislation to disincentive for the practice of using rent increases to circumvent TRAO.

A number of landlords and their lobbyist testified against the bill, and it did not pass the State Legislature, so in response, Councilmember Licata worked to amend Seattle’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) to help tenants deprived of relocation assistance and 90 days’ notice to move that they would have otherwise received if their landlord followed TRAO instead of displacing them with a large rent increase. Specifically, the law prohibited rent increases for the purpose of avoiding the required Tenant Relocation Assistance process. If a landlord increases rent by 20 percent or more, which results in a tenant vacating a unit within 90 days, then applies for a permit to substantially rehabilitate the unit within 6 months, the owner can have their building permit denied until the owner pays the penalties. Penalties are $1,000 per day for each day from the date the violation began. The change Councilmember Licata made to the law has helped a lot of people, see this article from March, where under the new TRAO law, SDCI was able to require a landlord to pay $168,268 in relocation payments to 46 households that were living at 104 Pine St.

But somehow, and sadly, people who want to avoid their obligations seem to manage to find new loopholes as soon as you close one set of loopholes. The owner of this property that has displaced 20 Highland Park household with a 100% rent increase found yet another loophole in TRAO. From SDCI’s investigation we have learned that the property was purchased in January 2018 and the new owners, after the rent increase of nearly 100%, and after 20 tenant households vacated as a result of the rent increases, is now doing a rehabilitation that includes painting the exterior, painting interior units, tearing out carpeting and replacing some appliances. None of this work requires that the owner obtain a permit and it does not meet the definition of substantial rehabilitation (which requires work of $6000 or more per unit).

I am thankful that SDCI is continuing to investigate and will be requesting the owner sign a certification that the rent increase was not for the purpose of avoiding application of TRAO. If people are in touch with the displaced renters, please encourage them to contact me so that I can put them in touch with SDCI for purposes of this ongoing investigation.

lisa.herbold@seattle.gov is her e-mail address. Records show the 51-year-old complex was sold for $4.2 million in January to a Renton-based LLC led by a real-estate investor who also leads the corporation that holds an Everett building that the Daily Herald reported was the subject of discrimination accusations in 2015. The listing flyer for 900 SW Holden, meantime, noted that its rents were 30 to 40 percent below market level, and that more than 80 percent of its tenants were month-to-month.

BASEBALL: Season-ending playoff loss for West Seattle High School

It was a beautiful afternoon for baseball at Southwest Athletic Complex – but the end result wasn’t so pleasant for the West Seattle High School Wildcats. Their first season with head coach Bryan Tupper ended with a 9-4 Metro League tournament loss to Bishop Blanchet. More later.

UPDATE: West Seattle, Vashon Water Taxi service resumes after Colman Dock evacuation ends

(Added: Photo by Carolyn Newman showing vessels awaiting the all-clear, including both King County Water Taxis)

5:03 PM: The West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxi routes are both suspended right now because Colman Dock downtown has been evacuated. Via Twitter, Washington State Ferries explains why:

Updates to come.

5:20 PM: And from SPD:

If you need to head westward across the Sound, we do NOT advise trying Fauntleroy-Southworth as an alternate – it had a major Friday afternoon backup going even before this.

5:52 PM: Colman Dock is reopening, SPD just announced:

Now we’re just waiting for word on Water Taxi management about how/when service will resume.

6:27 PM: From KCDOT:

The Vashon and West Seattle Water Taxi routes are resuming service. The West Seattle route will resume service with the 6:25 sailing from Seacrest Dock and the Vashon route resumes service from Pier 52 at 6:30pm.

DEVELOPMENT: Design comment period opens for 3084 Avalon Way apartments

That’s the official “administrative design review” (public comments but no meeting) packet now online for 3084 Avalon Way SW – as mentioned here last week, the project that first turned up as an early-stage proposal last year is now on the books with 7 floors, 35 apartments, and no offstreet parking spaces, replacing a 64-year-old triplex. And the two-week public review phase is now under way. The city has just overhauled its permit system, so notices and announcements don’t look quite the way they used to – here’s the one for this project. If you have comments, you can send them to the assigned planner for the project, Joseph Hurley, joseph.hurley@seattle.gov.

WEST SEATTLE WHALES: Orcas visible right now

2:03 PM: Thanks for the tip! Orcas are in the area this afternoon – just got a report that at least three are visible southbound between Blake and Vashon Island. As always, if you’re going to go look, take binoculars. And let us know if/when you see them!

3:00 PM: Kersti Muul just texted to say they’re visible south of the Vashon ferry dock, on the Vashon side.

BIZNOTE: Happy 20th anniversary, Curious Kidstuff! Sale on Sunday

Ann Walker has a big reason to smile – her West Seattle Junction shop Curious Kidstuff (WSB sponsor) is celebrating 20 years in business! And in honor of that, this year’s anniversary sale is bigger than ever – 11 am-5 pm on Sunday (May 6th). More on that in a moment – but first, a bit more of this business’s backstory!

Ann came to Seattle from St. Paul, Minnesota, where she grew up, and Curious Kidstuff is modeled after a shop in Minneapolis. It’s officially described as a shop that features “non-violent toys, books, music, art, and other tricks and treasures. You will find green toys, wooden toys, infant to 12 years. All products in our store are up to the highest new safety standards and every item has a USA General Conformity Certificate. We welcome children to play with our many display tables. We have truly created a safe and warm environment to discover and socialize with others.”

So what’s changed over the 20 years she’s been in business? Back when she was starting up, Ann says, The Junction had about 10 open retail spaces – long before new construction added more retail spaces – so she had many options. Also, she says she could never have imagined she would see a second generation of customers – some who came to her store as kids are coming there now with their own kids! She also recognizes that toys and games aren’t just for kids, and has begun stocking more puzzles and games geared toward adults – they are popular with the new apartment residents, who are becoming steady customers. Meantime, her store has grown to have a staff of six.

Whatever you’re looking for, you are invited to help Curious Kidstuff (4740 California SW) celebrate on Sunday. Ann calls it the 20/20 sale – 20 years in business, 20 percent off everything in the store (excluding LEGO brand items). Besides the discounts, the daylong party will include games and crafts, prize drawings, a family photo booth, treats, and … what’s the store’s always about … fun.

LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit’s West Seattle ‘neighborhood forum’ tomorrow

Your next major chance for input on where Sound Transit‘s West Seattle light-rail extension goes is now just hours away. The first “neighborhood forum” for West Seattle is 10 am-12:30 pm Saturday (May 5th) at the Masonic Center (4736 40th SW) and we wanted to remind you about it one more time. This is the final round of feedback in the “Level 1” part of the year-long process moving toward coming up with a “preferred alternative” (route and stations) by this time next year. The format for the forum, according to ST:

*Sign in and check out project maps and background info (10 minutes)

*Watch a brief presentation that covers the project overview and new concepts from early scoping (20 minutes)

*Break out into small groups to discuss neighborhood-specific topics and share your insights (2 hours)

The most recent developments, in case you want a refresher ahead of time:

-Sound Transit reps briefed the Junction Neighborhood Organization a week ago on where things stand (our report includes video of their presentation and attendee Q&A)

-The Stakeholder Advisory Group for the West Seattle/Ballard light-rail extension met two days before that and made some first-level recommendations (above) that the Elected Leadership Group will consider in two weeks (here’s our report)

This is by no means the last chance for community feedback but it’s a crucial point before potential options advance to “Level 2,” and ST emphasizes that it’s particularly interested in “refinements” to what’s on the table, so if you have an opinion, you’ll want to be there. The Masonic Center is at 4736 40th SW.

5 for your West Seattle Friday

(Female Rufous Hummingbird, photographed by Mark Wangerin)

From the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar:

ST. JOHN’S SALE: Get your rummaging skills in gear for next weekend’s West Seattle Community Garage Sale Day by going to St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church‘s big rummage sale today and/or tomorrow. Today, it’s on until 7 pm. (3050 California SW)

BILL DAVIE: Alternative folk singer/songwriter/poet performs at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), 7-9 pm. (5612 California SW)

BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: It’s a must-win game for the West Seattle High School Wildcats in the Metro League tournament, 4 pm today at Southwest Athletic Complex vs. Bishop Blanchet. (2801 SW Thistle)

CORNER BAR: The “monthly neighborhood party” at Highland Park Improvement Club starts at 6 tonight. Featured band this month is One Bad Hat from White Center; DJ Dr. Lehl is spinning, too. (1116 SW Holden)

‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’: Madison Middle School‘s presentation of the popular tale is at 7 tonight and 10 am tomorrow in the West Seattle High School Theater. You can buy tickets online – the links are in our calendar listing. (3000 California SW)

PREVIEW THE WEEKEND … by browsing our complete calendar!

ROAD WORK ALERT: Eastbound bridge deck repair today

Just got word of this from SDOT, which says it’s happening now, and since it’ll affect traffic well beyond the morning commute, we’re publishing it outside the traffic report:

Emergency deck spall repair work, on the (bridge).

The location is eastbound in the left general-purpose lane approximately 10 feet after the exit for 4th Ave S.

Crews should complete all work by 3:30.

Message board signs will be in place to alert drivers, approaching the work area.

TRAFFIC/TRANSIT TODAY: Friday watch

(SDOT MAP with travel times/video links; is the ‘low bridge’ closed? LOOK HERE)

7:09 AM: Good morning! Only one incident reported in the area – if you head this way from points north, note that there’s a crash blocking one lane of southbound 99 at King St.

7:16 AM: That has cleared.

7:23 AM: If you use East Marginal Way to head to/from downtown, note there’s a crash response right where it becomes Alaskan Way near Massachusetts.

7:29 AM: SDOT says that crash is blocking SB lanes but not NB.

7:33 AM: From the scanner, trouble at 4th/Spokane, blocking a westbound lane there.

7:38 AM: SDOT reports the East Marginal/Alaskan Way S. scene is all clear.

7:40 AM: Transit alert – the Metro Route 113 bus that would usually leave 26th SW/SW 116th, downtown-bound, right now, won’t operate today, Metro just texted.

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