Barking up the wrong slope

Dog owners who feel they don’t get any respect from City Hall now have compelling evidence: the sites selected to replace the temporary Volunteer Park dog run. Admittedly, one of the candidates is pretty good: 2 acres of Department of Transportation land adjacent to the Washington Park Arboretum near the abandoned R.H. Thomson Freeway ramps. This is, however, a popular informal sunning/picnicking spot that some would hate to see mongrelized.

Perhaps the other three sites were picked to make this one look irresistible.

The first of the competing sites is on DOT land under Interstate 5 at East Blaine Street. What’s wrong with this choice? Well, it’s under a freeway. It’s also adjacent to an arterial street and surfaced with dirt and occasional patches of brambles, and it slopes sharply to the east. Otherwise, it’d be a prize winner. Perhaps its nomination is a prelude to clearing out the homeless people who now camp there.

Also under consideration is a property just up Lakeview Boulevard, adjacent to that weird slanted-roofed house the city bought a while back with open-space funds. It’s on the same arterial, seems rather small for the use, and most of the area is currently paved.

But if dog owners don’t get any respect, think how veterans must feel. The final site is city land adjacent to the Grand Army of the Republic (Union Civil War veterans) cemetery, just north of Lakeview Cemetery. The tiny GAR cemetery is a wonderful, peaceful urban hideaway on a seldom-traveled Capitol Hill backstreet. This site proposal is shockingly disrespectful treatment for both cemeteries; an indicator of a city that honors neither its veterans or its history.

What legislative accomplishments?

We’re sure it had nothing to do with his upcoming election challenges from both left and the right, but wasn’t it nice of US Rep. Rick White to send the media a package outlining his “legislative achievements” and “policy initiatives,” plus articles outlining the same? Surely the taxpayers have no problem with picking up the tab for the franking, in an “official business” envelope, and copying.

Park neighbors organize

Cowen Park in Seattle’s North End has long been home to a small population of homeless persons, living in cars along the park’s western edge or in the sprawling woods of adjacent Ravenna Park. But neighbors say the situation has gotten out of control during the past year, intimidating would-be visitors and turning the park into a haven for illegal behavior: fights, late-night parties, public drunkenness, and drug dealing. About 130 people attended an August 25 forum on park problems sponsored by the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association. The forum also got a good turnout from local media; after the meeting, twin satellite beacon trucks belonging to local television stations were seen parked at the southwest corner of the park, waiting for live, on-the-scene reports during the 11pm newscasts. Also present was Seattle Times reporter Michael Ko, whose sympathetic feature story depicting the park as the modern version of a hippie commune got many neighbors angry enough to organize.

Some 15 city employees were there too, including police, parks officials, and representatives of mayoral and council offices. Residents told officials they want to see enhanced enforcement of park hours (like most city parks, Cowen and Ravenna are officially closed from 11:30pm to 4am), buy busts of park drug dealers, and increased use of available tools such as the parks exclusion ordinance. Neighbor Jim Bledsoe invoked the authors of Seattle’s original parks plan in his comments: “I submit that some of the things going on in the park right now are not what the Olmsteds had in mind.”

Others cautioned against creating an us-against-them mentality. “We’re choosing to see these people as being inhuman so that we don’t have to be responsible neighbors to them,” complained Fred Miller, an organizer of a University District feeding program.

Pleading limited resources, police promised to do their best to address problems, but asked residents to take action to institute a neighborhood residential parking zone to restrict long-term parking.

Cheers and jeers for a tax break

Public hearings don’t often feature huge surprises. That being said, you likely won’t be astonished to learn that developers like the idea of a 10-year property tax abatement on multifamily housing projects in selected Seattle neighborhoods. Nor will you be stunned by the fact that some folks hate the proposal for this almost-no-strings-attached subsidy to development. The proposal, reviewed at an August 26 City Council Housing Committee hearing, has been tightened up a bit: The program will be monitored annually and will sunset in four years unless reauthorized by the council.

Developers griped that getting the subsidy will entail too much paperwork. (The council is, however, unlikely to seriously entertain their alternative suggestion of cash in brown paper bags.)

Others testifying seemed less concerned about developers developing writer’s cramp. Jenny Eichwald told the council she didn’t mind her taxes going to subsidize housing for low-income people, but she’d prefer market-rate developments be left to fend for themselves. “I suspect this is the first of many tax breaks our mayor is planning for high-income housing developers,” she added conspiratorially.

Low-income housing advocate John Shaw brought down the house by taking his guitar to the podium and presenting his concerns about the program in a humorous talking blues. (Confidential to John: We need more pro-capitalist folk songs.)

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