Carving out a niche: Sculpted at streetside


Thanks to Greg for sending word of the wood sculpture that he says has just emerged from beneath a tarp at 44th/Brandon. Here’s a wider shot:


52 Replies to "Carving out a niche: Sculpted at streetside"

  • WSMom May 20, 2008 (7:13 pm)

    The house you can see a peek of in the second photo is a blight upon our neighborhood. The overgrown yard and tarp on the roof are just the beginnings of this travesty. The trees, of which the stumps are now all that is left, used to be lovely until an enormous pile of fill dirt was mounded in front of the house. The trees began to die and now we are greeted with this “art”. The department of land use must have a file a mile thick on all of the violations reported on this property. I guess you can tell that I’m annoyed that anyone would photograph and reward this man who has shown no regard for the people who live around him by his creating an eyesore.

  • Mr. Truthiness May 20, 2008 (7:39 pm)

    Yeah… Really lovely. You don’t have to live next store to this monstrosity.

  • Ikonoklast May 20, 2008 (7:42 pm)

    Should have kept it under the tarp, IMHO. What is it anyway, some chimeric half-man-half-dog abomination? I bet his neighbors are praying that he doesn’t similarly inflict his artistic urges on the remaining denuded stumps.

  • JimmyG May 20, 2008 (7:43 pm)

    Too bad the homeowner at this location can’t take care of his lot before he spends time on his “artwork”.

    The house was moved there from another location (on California) years ago and was never completed in it’s “new” location. Huge mound of fill in the front yard, rebar sticking up straight out of concrete for over 5 years now, etc.

    It’s a blight on the neighborhood.

  • Jaxon Merrill May 20, 2008 (8:02 pm)

    Although this sculpture could be considered some sort of effort, the house that it is in front of is an eyesore and a health hazard at best.

    This house was moved to this location over 8 years ago. It has sat in that condition, with no improvement since then. It has exposed rebar next to the sidewalk, a giant pile of dirt that is covered in weeds in front of the house, broken windows, a roof that is all but completely bare, no siding and exposed wiring. Again, this house has been in this condition for over 8 years (that I know of). What’s more is, people are living in this house. I find it extremely difficult to believe that the city has not condemned this house.

  • WSB May 20, 2008 (8:48 pm)

    We got a note from a reader who walks thru the neighborhood noting this had been tarped for a while and finally emerged. Didn’t know the history, that’s what comments are for, so you’ve all certainly made your point; have you guys all complained to DPD? What explanation have you received for action apparently not having been taken? I don’t have an exact street address handy (our tip pointed to 44th/Brandon) but would be interested in looking it up — TR

  • tt May 20, 2008 (8:50 pm)

    I’ve known John (the patron of this object de arte) since moving to the south junction area in ’97. The sad truth is that these stumps use to be fabulous mature trees until he exposed their roots as part of the ongoing (stagnating) landscaping efforts. According to John more sculpture is in the works, he favours a sci fi/fantasy theme and gleefully reports that a three breasted woman is soon to come! As for me I miss the trees.

  • austin May 20, 2008 (9:03 pm)

    Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon VI?! No way!

  • GenHillOne May 20, 2008 (9:13 pm)

    Ironically, I couldn’t picture the location of this interesection, but now with descriptions of the house, know EXACTLY where it is. Have always wondered what the deal was…didn’t know the house was moved there. What a disappointing outcome for a great idea. I feel for the neighbors. If someone is living under those conditions, perhaps in addition to reporting to DPD some social services are in order.

  • k May 20, 2008 (9:17 pm)

    i walk my dog by there nearly everyday. it used to make me sad. now it angers me. i cannot think if ANY reason that the city has not stepped in. at one time, there were exposed metal pieces, glass, broken bricks etc all over the grass and sidewalk. it has to be a hazard not to mention unsafe to inhabit. hopefully, someone who reads the WSB can shed some light on this or some much needed help.

  • Booger May 20, 2008 (9:18 pm)

    The house is absolutely an eyesore. Truely a blight upon the neighborhood. The address is 5284 44th Ave SW. It is right smack behind the West Seattle Nursery. I feel for the neighbors who have to live around this…

  • WSB May 20, 2008 (9:22 pm)

    According to the DPD website, there is currently one open complaint at this address:
    (and a variety of others listed as closed, “voluntary compliance”)

  • WSMom May 20, 2008 (9:36 pm)

    The owner of this home also owns two other homes on 44th between Dawson and Brandon. These homes are not in quite as bad of shape as the one on the corner, but nearly so. Obviously John is not a man without financial means. Anyone walking on 44th can easily pick out the properties owned by him because they need painting and repair. It’s really sad that numerous complaints to DCLU have done nothing to improve this situation. Apparently there is nothing the city can do to force a property owner to maintain his/her property beyond forcing them to mow the lawn on the parking strip.

  • TheHouse May 20, 2008 (10:02 pm)

    This is hilarious!! True story….about 2 years ago I got rounds of that tree for free (he put them on craigslist) and told me at the time that they were infested with a certain type of insect. The wood kept us warm during that storm that knocked out electricity for 3 days!

  • Diane May 20, 2008 (10:38 pm)

    so funny to see this; the house and yard are both atrocious; the rumor couple years ago in the neighborhood was that he planned to sculpt nudes out of the trees; interesting to hear the background on the house, etc

  • Scooter May 20, 2008 (10:47 pm)

    Funny – about 6 years ago I was going to rent a home from the same owner, up the street from this property. The rental I looked at was very nice and newly updated. After viewing the rental, the owner walked me back to his house (the one in question) and it was a complete mess inside and out. Made me skeptical and I walked on the rental because of it.

  • JanS May 21, 2008 (12:20 am)

    I vaguely remember when this house was moved…to save it from the wrecking ball. Condos now live where it was on Calif. Ave. There was a big news story about when it was moved…and I think a pretty good coverage in the WS Herald. Wonder if they have it in an archive somewhere? You out there, WS Herald?

  • Doug May 21, 2008 (1:35 am)

    I have walked past this house on many occasions, and wondered how in the world the city allows it to remain standing. This article should be a rallying cry for neighbors on this block. Get rid of this place once and for all!

  • matthew darling May 21, 2008 (8:40 am)

    i used to live a few houses down from this house…not only an eyesore, but kind of a flop house…they used to keep a dog chained up at the top of the mound who barked at everyone and everything…cars abandoned behind it…eww.. glad i moved…by the way jaxon…are you back in the NW? if so, hey.

  • JenV May 21, 2008 (8:50 am)

    wow…what a bunch of judgemental people on here. Everyone gripes that they hate that West Seattle is turning into ‘cookie cutter condos’ yet when you don’t like what this man’s property- that he OWNS- looks like, you complain about it. better we just have rows and rows of tidy little houses that all look the same lest someone complain to the homeowner’s association.

  • OP May 21, 2008 (9:02 am)

    I feel for anybody that has to live next door or even near property. Nice too that the they can spend time to sculpt a tree but not take care of his property. 100%, Grade A asshat.

  • OP May 21, 2008 (9:30 am)

    JenV–You’re correct to point out the hypocrisy shown by some here when it comes to townhouse construction. You’re also correct to point out that this is private property. I completely agree with you on both those points. However, there’s a certain modicum of decency and respect for neighbors that this asshat is sorely lacking. If he can’t afford to fix the house, then the cheap SOB should sell it. (We’ve got a similar problem in my neighborhood with 2 absentee homeowners whose houses and properties have angered every one who lives near them.) I’d really like to know if there’s some recourse through the city that people in this situation can take to pressure property owners. It’s terribly frustrating.

  • KB May 21, 2008 (10:02 am)

    JenV – I would agree with what you are saying, if I had not seen the house myself. There is no way you can put this eyesore in the category of “quirky self expression”. This is downright dangerous for those living nearby. There are rebar spikes sticking out from the foundation adjacent to the sidewalk. I cannot believe someone lives in that house. There has got to be some mental illness going on for someone to live in a property in that condition, yet spend effort sculpting the dead trees in the yard. I don’t understand how the city hasn’t done something about this by now.

  • WSMom May 21, 2008 (10:28 am)

    JenV: Honestly, I would not want to live in a “covenant” neighborhood, but the dangerous and indecent condition of this house is frustrating for those of us who have lived near to it for eight long years. I have contacted the code compliance dept regarding this property more than once and yet the rebar still pokes out through the blackberry thistles next to the sidewalk. It also appears that someone is living in a small trailer on the back of the property. Perhaps the WSB could take a few more “wide” shots so you can appreciate the horror we’re describing, then I think you’ll may have more sympathy for us “judgmental people”.

  • JenV May 21, 2008 (10:32 am)

    understood- if it is dangerous, the city should step in. But I bet they don’t care….I tried to make a complaint about a 1/2 finished house going up in my neighborhood that no one has worked on since January- and there was a big pile of garbage/rats/etc outside of it…the DPD essentially said they did not care, it was not their business, they had more important things to worry about.

  • WSB May 21, 2008 (10:42 am)

    Since so many people who live nearby seem to have found this post, as I said in an offline e-mail response, I don’t think we are going to be able to get back to this neighborhood any time in the next several hours, as we are fairly tightly scheduled with some stories previously set up and a backlog of other things that need to be written. However, if anyone sends us a photo, we could certainly consider adding it to the post. I’m also curious … has anyone here talked to the owner to ask that he clean up the property, besides calling the city? I don’t see anything about that in any of the comments above, so I’m curious what the results of that were.

  • b May 21, 2008 (11:35 am)

    Speaking as someone who lives nearby, but not so nearby that I have to see the place everyday, I’ve always thought the house was kind of lovable in an eccentric sort of way. But now that I see the sculpture, I’m starting to side with the NIMBY types here. It’s really odd that someone with enough time and gumption to carve a minotaur out of a stump can avoid base-level projects like cleaning up debris and other hazards. I am curious about the owner’s plans for the three-breasted woman sculpture. Maybe the neighbors can dress her up a la “Walking on Logs.”

  • JenV May 21, 2008 (11:40 am)

    FINALLY! I will have a use for that 3-cup bra I’ve had lying around! :D

  • JT May 21, 2008 (12:30 pm)

    There is nothing *eccentric* about this house. It’s a health hazard in every possible way. I feel sorry for all of you that have to live near by, and can’t fathom why it hasn’t been condemned.

  • flipjack May 21, 2008 (12:56 pm)

    Obviously the owner doesn’t care what anyone thinks and is probably happy that he is pissing off his neighbors and getting this kind of reaction.
    Someone once said a person’s house represents the soul of the inhabitants. I would say this rings true in this circumstance.
    But hey, it is PRIVATE property. Where would you draw the line if we gave the city the authority to say how we could keep our house and mow our lawn.
    Unless he’s violating code and safety standards (which he may very well be) aesthetics is totally subjective and up to the owner.

  • WSMom May 21, 2008 (1:08 pm)

    Flipjack is right on every point. Therein lies the dilemma, aesthetics are subjective and I think John LOVES tweaking his nose at his neighbors. All we can do is turn in whatever violations we can see on his property and wait for his roof to fall in. I wonder, will the city condemn a house with a fallen in roof??

  • Yeah-me May 21, 2008 (2:47 pm)

    My understanding is that John did not actually “sculpt” the tree himself, an artist friend did. I am glad to have the tarp off — the sculpture is a bit better.
    I live on the same block…and I hate the house too (it is especially difficult to get by it when the blackberries have overgrown the sidewalk). The city is not going to do anything and neither is John. It has been YEARS. The city AND John could care less.

  • knitter666 May 21, 2008 (3:01 pm)

    WS Mom: you would hope a roof collapse on someone just so you could win your fight? You, poor women, are in need some serious emotional healing.

    You should examine your motives and then seek professional help.

    Your position is pure evil; I will pray for you tonight.

  • TDL May 21, 2008 (3:11 pm)

    John is an interesting character. Neighbors have approched him over the years (not just reporting him to DPD). He has goals for the house, but is willing to wait until he can get the materials for free/barter. The house will be in rubbles be for that time. The landscape project started out strong about 6 years ago…but he quickly ran out of money and now sits idol. The trees id get infected with insects and he indicated the city wanted them removed. If you walk by though, it is evident that his landscaping took out many core roots.

    Frankly has has no care in how his is perceived by his neighbors. He does visit with them ans participates in the block watch Block Night Out.

    His two rentals on the 5200 block of 44th avenue are also in need of repair. One he turned into a duplex with a closet that extends underground to the property line. Many things done without permit.

    DPD has stated that their hands are tied on many of the issues due to laws that protect personal property. They do, however, feel for those that have to live with the mess.

    Overtime mother nature may solve the problem…the roof is sagging and has been drapped with traps for three years.

    The inside does sport a climing wall…and the “Rental”trailer is on his property instead of the street (where is was before neighbors turned that infraction in).

  • WSMom May 21, 2008 (3:18 pm)

    Oh my gosh, I’m not hoping for the roof to fall in on them, good grief! The roof on that house is obviously rotting (at least the part that’s not under a lovely blue tarp) and looks like it will fall in eventually. I would never wish for it to land on him. Hopefully he won’t be home when (and if) it happens. Or maybe, he’ll change his behavior and repair the roof, who knows. Thank you for praying for me though, although, wow, calling me pure evil, you may be the one needing professional help.

  • Annie May 21, 2008 (3:48 pm)

    I live on this block and am responding to the comment by someone who asked if neighbors had simply asked John to clean up the safety hazards on his property rather than making complaints to the city. My husband and I met John the week we moved in – we didn’t know he owned this house. We were on our porch and introduced ourselves to him as he walked by. His response? “I’m John. I own the dump at the end of the street. And, no, I don’t ever plan on fixing it up.”

    John knows his property is unsafe and dangerous and seems to get his jollies keeping it that way. While standing on the sidewalk 3 years ago, he told me of the really expensive glazed chimney pots he has ordered from some artist in England. It was ironic – his house had a collapsed chimney which has still not been repaired. This house is sad, sad, sad.

    There’s really not much of a “fight” about the house – John won’t take care of it and the City doesn’t care. John will probably let the roof fall in on himself as he carves his nude 3-breasted woman. He’ll just throw a tarp over everything and call it good.

  • westseattleite May 21, 2008 (4:41 pm)

    My husband and I walk by the house on a nightly basis and I always remark that if I lived right next door I would be incensed. If he at least got rid of the mountain (and it is a mountain folks) of dirt out in front of the house it would help. The re-bar is what bothers me most. I also noticed for the first time the other night that’s there is actually a fire hydrant hiding among the jungle.

  • Jon May 21, 2008 (5:46 pm)

    I too live on the same block as that eyesore. Unbelieveable. The house, the sculpture, the “landscaping” – it could not be uglier or in poorer taste.

    That there is a depressing little trailer where someone lives in the back yard is the icing on the cake.

    Ironically, the guys who bought the house on the opposite end of the alley had been walling up their garage to make an extra living space and a “stop work” sticker appeared over the weekend.

    So DPD was in our alley within the week and obviously didn’t do anything about this place.

    Seems like, at the very least, the roof of house is in violation of SMC 22.208.010 – Conditions for declaring a building or premises unfit for human habitation or other use.

    It should be condemned as a blighted or uninhabitable building.

  • binkytheclown May 21, 2008 (7:08 pm)

    I too live in the neighborhood and walk my dogs by this “eyesore”,… I love to walk by and see what new developments have occured. I think the minotaur or Pan or what have you is great, and what ever else he wants to do with his private propert will be interesting to watch.Do any of you know the guy personally, like are you his friend? Leave the guy alone. Should we judge you because of what kind of up-keep your home is in. I would hope not, I am a renter whose landlord doesn’t care about his property.I have peeling paint, tarps on my roof, but that doesnt make me a bad person.
    If ya’ll don’t like the rebar and all the unsafe bits of the property, don’t walk by it! Don’t look at! It seems to me like you’re just a little bit too interested…

  • J May 21, 2008 (7:49 pm)

    And I thought my crazy neighbor who has been living without electricty and water for 4 years is crazy!! Her house looks like it’s going to fall down and after the city inspected, they said there was nothing they can do. I’d take her any day over a sculpture of a three-boobed lady!!!

  • Neighbor in digust May 21, 2008 (8:27 pm)

    The house being in the condition it is in, with the large mound of dirt in front, is used as a dumping spot for old couches, mattresses, bags of dog excrement, and various flotsam and jetsam.

    Responsible neighbors call the illegal dumping hotline. Jon has “alternative” solutions—

    I have personally witnessed Jon walk over to an offending mattress left by an illegal dumper and throw it into the middle of 44th Avenue then walk to his car and drive away. Illegally dumped couches were similarly found in middle of 44th Avenue, so that adults may tend to it. We got the message Jon.

    Similarly, when Jon “mows” his weeds he lets the 3 foot clippings lay in the street where they fall. He leaves the clean up for the adults. Remains of spent barbeques are found in the middle of the street.

    Yes, his bohemian self-expression is a wonderful addition to our neighborhood. We do need to loosen up. Applying western standards of behavior to an aggressive anarcho-tribalist like Jon is unfair. We need to be tolerant of the intolerant. Let multicultural idea that “all social practices are of equal merit” prevail. /sarcasm.

  • Kristina May 21, 2008 (8:56 pm)

    I read this article and all the posts with interest, as the house in question is about a block away from my house. I met the owner once when he was just starting the sculptures; he actually showed me the architectual drawing that the artist had rendered to show what the finished sculptures would look like. He termed them “erotic nudes.” I can live with the weirdness of it all but I feel very sorry for the neighbors in closer proximity (it’s not in view of my house). The house across the street was for sale for a long time, and I wondered if part of the difficulty in selling was this eyesore.

    My consolation for all of this is that the owner does not appear to excel in completing any project – I wasn’t too concerned about the “erotic nudes” (and explaining them to my five year old) because I didn’t think they’d ever get finished. Time is proving me right on this one – the tarps and scaffolding are down, and it doesn’t look like the project will go further.

  • dj May 21, 2008 (9:37 pm)

    Too bad this man cannot sell and move into the “country” and self express there. I myself could handle the so called art but come on dude, get over your big ego and at least fix your house up. Sounds like to me this man John is very unhappy with his life and gets his revenge by making others unhappy not even considering property values for every one.
    One of these days he will make the news big time because of his mental state. He not that old so unless he gets help that seems to be the direction he is heading.
    People with this sort of problem never listen until its too late usually. That is called denial of a problem.

  • Neighbor in digust May 22, 2008 (12:40 am)

    Binkytheclown says “If ya’ll don’t like the rebar and all the unsafe bits of the property, don’t walk by it! Don’t look at!

    Yes, good advice. When a child, elderly person, or adult gets impaled on the rows of exposed rusted rebar in Jon’s moat of death, we can say, “they should not have been using THAT public sidewalk. How silly of them. That’s Jon’s public sidewalk. Let this be a lesson to us all.”

    Why should any person think they have the right to take the shortest route home to their house using public sidewalks?

    Your advice is that we ‘should just take the detour around the elephant in our living room, avert our eyes, and keep our mouths shut. Nothing to see here. Move along now.’

  • moldygreg May 22, 2008 (8:55 am)

    A March 30, Seattle Times article notes that Mayor McCheese is allegedly cracking down on negligent property owners by increasing penalties-

    Disconcerting that DPD was recently in the neighborhood but did nothing.

    Obviously this individual has issues. Why anyone would first carve a minotaur, before carving a Three Breasted Space Vixen shows an obvious inability to set priorities in life.

  • JC May 22, 2008 (9:18 am)

    I’m surprised that folks have had such little luck with the DPD. I filed a complaint a few weeks ago about a neighboring house that was unoccupied with a host of violations and the city had a notice on the door within days. I even got a couple of calls from the DPD inspector with updates and the recourse they were considering. Granted, the house is owned by developers, but it hadn’t been lived in for awhile and had become a dumping ground like Jon’s place. With the DPD order and a few calls to the developer reminding him that being an asshat isn’t very neighborly…and voila, cleanup ensued.
    The penalties the city can hand out can get steep. Why does the city keep claiming it’s hands are tied? Does anyone have any detail about their excuses? One would think squeaky wheels like Jon would be dealt with, given how many neighbors are rightly complaining…

  • tt May 22, 2008 (2:17 pm)

    As witness to Johns behavior for over ten years I’ve read the flood of comments with interest. I can honestly say that I’ve felt just about every emotion expressed by the various contributors. My work puts me in occasional contact with such fringe characters and I’ve naturally applied some of my professional mindset to my feelings about difficult neighbors. There is a broad class of diseases which are associated with behaviors like Johns, these are the personality disorders. People with these conditions rarely escalate to the point where the men in the white coats show up, though straight jackets may be in the future of some of the people he shares a neighborhood with. It’s characteristic for such people to generate intense emotion in their social contacts, the propensity to do this is part of the diagnosis.

    To those committed to action go ahead and contact the authorities but be assured he won’t be changing any time soon. Because he knows the law and the workings of city government he knows just how far he can go.

  • changingtimes May 22, 2008 (4:01 pm)

    to the west seattle blog, is it really ethical to be calling out this guy? i know his last name isnt being used but his first name and real address?? i understand the issue at hand but for any issue no matter what it is, it seems that the person being talked about since there name and address is being used should be notified of this. i would hate…thankfully my yard is kept up…to be surfing the web and come to a sight with all my information out in the open and a while community bashing me.

  • b May 22, 2008 (4:15 pm)

    Does anyone have any insight into what John’s original plans were for the driveway ramp into the basement? It’s an impressive concrete creation; the forms must have been a real effort to make. I daresay it’s almost…beautiful. There’s also this very odd steel bar over the top of the driveway.

    I mention this because it looks like John, at one point, was making a real effort to fix the place up. But then…something changed.

  • WW May 23, 2008 (8:02 am)

    I heard a rumor once that there’s a pool in the basement, and can see a climbing wall inside the upstairs stairwell when walking by. We’ve been curiously waiting for the unveiling of this mysterious sculpture with it’s horns sticking out, and hope to see it finished someday. It’s a shame those big beautiful trees had to be destroyed, but I think its great that they tried to salvage some of it and give us all something to talk (and complain) about. As far as the property goes, I just hope that no kid or animal plays on that mountain of dirt and falls to get impaled on the rebar (that you now can’t see because of long grass). I also think it’s great that so many in our neighborhood are using this blog!

  • m May 23, 2008 (9:13 am)

    I’ve never even seen this house but based on the comments, I really doubt the owner would be surprised if he reads this string. He seems to be clearly aware of the state of his property, that there have been multiple complaints filed with DPS, and that some neighbors are not happy with the way the property looks or how dangerous it is. If he doesn’t want the community to bash him, he should clean up the lot!

  • Kravitz June 1, 2008 (6:57 pm)

    This property is extremely inviting to vermin, criminal activity, illegal dumping and more. As a neighbor (though one lucky enough not to have a view of this hideousness), I’ve looked into the city complaint list and they are asleep at the wheel. I think it might be time to call in Jesse Jones of King 5 News to help the neighborhood solve this problem once and for all. Maybe a little public humiliation of city officials and the slum lord himself would generate some action?

Sorry, comment time is over.