News blog for Seattle's Fremont neighborhood

 

Entries from August 2009

Gunshots fired near troubled Aurora motel

August 31st, 2009 by Heidi

Neighbors near the Italia Motel (4129 Aurora Ave N) reported hearing two gunshots around 5am this morning.  The incident follows a recent crackdown by the city to enforce change on several Aurora motels plagued by problems.

Diane Horswill, SPD North Precinct Community Crime Prevention Coordinator, confirmed the occurrence in an email:

Early this morning there were two shots fired up in the air from a moving car.  Officers arrived quickly and spoke to witnesses and guests but there was a lack of cooperation as well as conflicting stories.

No other information is available at this time.

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Fremont indulges in retail and ‘Runway’

August 31st, 2009 by Heidi

Forget confessions.  This weekend was a shopaholic’s dream at the first ever Boutique Couture Warehouse Sale.

On Saturday morning, a line of eager shoppers waited for doors to open at Fremont Studios.  Buying was to begin at 10am but doors opened about a half-hour later.

BC Sale

27 local boutiques set up shop in the warehouse-like setting.  More than 1,300 people attended the 2-day event over the weekend.   Bargain hunters discovered deals of up to 80% on items.

Logan autograph

Seattle designer Logan Neitzel, who is competing on the current season of Project Runway, took pictures and signed autographs for fans of the TV show.  We didn’t get any spoilers as to how far he gets.  Regardless, he did say he’s busy getting ready to show his spring collection in New York in September.

The next Boutique Couture Warehouse Sale will be in Seattle on December 5-6.

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Furlough for Fremont Library

August 29th, 2009 by Kirby Lindsay

Rekha Kuver, librarian for the Fremont and Green Lake Libraries, pleaded to patrons, “please, do not leave bags of books outside.” Every branch of the Seattle Public Library system will be closed for the week of August 31 – September 7, 2009. Anyone who has recently visited Fremont, or any Seattle library, must have seen the posted notices but Kuver knew, “a lot of people aren’t reading the whole sign.” Nothing is due, she explained, and no fines accrue during the week. Materials patrons checked out before August 31 will not come due until after the libraries re-open on September 8.

All library employees will be on furlough for the week leading up to Labor Day. The doors of every branch will be locked shut, and all library services – book drops, web sites, Quick Information phone services, etc – will also be inaccessible. “We have to shut things down like the book drop,” Kuver explained, “if there is no one here to empty the book drop it would fill up in the first 24 hours.”

Cost-Cutting Measure

Seattle Public Library system spokesperson, Andra Addison, described closure of the entire system as a cost-cutting measure. “All city departments were asked to reduce their budgets,” she explained, “Our budget deduction target was about $1 million for 2009. The library closure will allow us to save about $655,000.”

The rest of the savings will come from “other cuts in management and administration,” according to Addison. Computer maintenance has been restructured and rescheduled, the training budget has been trimmed and executive staff took pay cuts.

The complete loss of all library services, such as web site access to catalogue and database information, may seem unnecessary. Addison admitted, “the website is a very busy electronic branch for us,” that does require human involvement, for hold requests and on-line librarian interface. Also, “we wouldn’t be able to respond or fix it, if it went down during the week,” Addison explained.

Stripping down to a skeleton crew – a drastically diminished staff that would tend to only the highest priority items for a week – could cause more problems, Addison maintained. For instance, devising criteria over which staff remained on-duty, and collected pay, and which didn’t, as well as deciding priority for one service over another, could create endless conflict. A furlough for the whole system avoids frustration, Addison suggested, and is “equitable for all staff.”

Little Library That Could

Kuver, who came to Fremont Library in late June, reported the branch currently has great usage numbers. “I’m always astounded at how many new card applications we get every day,” she praised. Both circulation (individual materials checked out, and returned) and door count (each body through the door) numbers are up.

Hopefully a closure won’t change that. “It was good we got word of the furlough as early as we did,” Kuver admitted. They have not had to cancel, or reschedule, any programs or community meetings. Instead, patrons get an extra week to enjoy their books, CDs, DVDs, and books-on-tape at home. “People want to do the right thing,” Kuver acknowledged but, for a week, please don’t return materials and definitely don’t leave them sitting outside.

Kirby Lindsay works, lives and plays in Fremont, and has for longer than anyone wants to remember. Her columns have previously appeared in The Seattle Press, the North Seattle Herald-Outlook and on the Fremont Chamber web site. Contact her at instigator@fremocentrist.com

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Shopping extravaganza in Fremont this weekend

August 28th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

It’s time to refresh the wardrobe for fall. The Boutique Culture Warehouse Sale is 2 days of shopping bliss at Fremont Studios (155 N. 35th St) with discount prices from local boutiques and designers. As an added bonus, there will be a special appearance by Project Runway 6 contestant Logan Neitzel on Saturday from 10am-12pm. Admission is free. Click here for more info.

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Fremont business robbed at gunpoint

August 28th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

Police say a man walked into a business in the 600 block of N 34th St. just before 10 p.m last night and demanded money. “The employee did not believe the suspect was serious and told him no,” the police report explains. “The suspect then produced a silver handgun from his waistband.” The man robbed the store and escaped with the cash before police arrived. Fortunately, there were no injuries. As is customary, police didn’t reveal which business was robbed. But PCC, Cold Stone Creamery and Peet’s Coffee are all on the block, and an employee at Peet’s tells us it wasn’t them.

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Second penguin dies at zoo

August 27th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

A second penguin has died at the new Humboldt Penguin exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo.

According to a press release sent out today, 21-year-old “Burkles” died Tuesday night from complications related to a possible case of avian malaria. The bird had been undergoing intensive treatment, including a blood transfusion, since the onset of the symptoms last week. “Penguins are known to be especially prone to avian malaria. However, like other diseases spread by mosquitoes, avian malaria is not typically a major concern in the Pacific Northwest because of our relatively small mosquito population,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo Director of Animal Health. “It’s important to stress that zoo visitors are not at risk. Neither birds nor mosquitoes can transmit avian malaria to humans,” Dr. Collins added.

This is the second penguin death this month. It was thought that the first bird died after ingesting sealant material from a pipe. Subsequent tests done on that bird revealed the presence of avian malaria, which may have contributed to his death. Three other penguins are showing minor symptoms of avian malaria and are undergoing treatment. The zoo has sent in blood samples to the lab and results are due back within ten days. (Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo)

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Construction begins soon on bridge barrier

August 26th, 2009 by Kirby Lindsay

Editor’s note: This is the first column written by lifetime Fremont resident Kirby Lindsay, who has written for the North Seattle Herald-Outlook and the Seattle Press. We’re happy to welcome her as a regular contributor.

On September 2nd, bids for construction of a safety barrier on the George Washington Memorial Bridge are scheduled to be opened, according to Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) spokesperson Greg Phipps. Phipps reported a contractor shall be announced in mid-September. Currently construction of the barrier on the bridge, more commonly known as Aurora, is scheduled to begin in January or February but Phipps admitted, “there is a chance it could be earlier.”

After two years of public meetings and consideration among representatives of the City of Seattle and the State of Washington, construction plan cleared final hurdles on June 3rd when WSDOT representatives presented their final plan to the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. Beth Chave, coordinator for the board, reported issuance of a certificate of approval for changes to the bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Washington Heritage Register and a designated City landmark, on June 16, 2009.


(Photo by WSDOT of a mock up panel installed as a test on March 29th.)

A Difficult Decision

“The vote was close, but the board doesn’t always vote unanimously,” Chave explained, “It was a difficult decision for the board.” The decision came amidst much controversy. Public comment before the vote included three representatives from Queen Anne Community Council and Eric Pihl, a member of the Fremont Neighborhood Council, who spoke against this barrier plan. A couple residents who live within sight of the bridge and spoke in favor it.

According to Chave, her office sent copies of the certificate of approval “to an extensive list of people,” although this is not standard procedure. Citizens who had written to the Landmarks Board requesting information about this project were proactively sent copies. “On the second page it explains how to appeal,” Chave said. An appeal of the decision had to be filed with the Hearing Examiner within 14 days of issuance and, according to Chave, “no appeal was filed.”

Construction Begins Soon

This leaves WSDOT free to move forward on a barrier, intended to deter people from attempting suicide by jumping from the bridge. It is also expected to provide safety, and less trauma, to those who live, work and move about beneath the towering structure. “We are proceeding with construction and we wouldn’t do that if there were an appeal,” Phipps asserted.

As to when construction will begin, it depends upon the contractor. “Contractors are looking at the plans,” Phipps explained, “we don’t know how many will bid.” WSDOT has specified night closures for work on the bridge deck, with traffic limited to one lane in a single direction at such times. Phipps admitted nighttime construction could create noise problems for those who live close, but will allow for normal traffic flow during high volume times.

The WSDOT web site says installation is scheduled for “early 2010,” but Phipps explained, “We will know more when we have a contractor on board.” The contractor, in conjunction with other local agencies, will ultimately decide the schedule for the work. Although, as Phipps asserted, “There will be information sent out” as WSDOT sets a construction calendar.


(Photo provided by Ryan Thurston of anxious witnesses to someone poised on the bridge, contemplating suicide in November, 2008.)

A Personal Note:

Efforts to build a barrier of some kind began in earnest in April of 2007 due in large part to Ryan Thurston, founder of Seattle F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (FRemont Individuals & Employees Nonprofit to Decrease Suicides) (www.seattlefriends.org.) Later this year, despite his triumph in his first foray into community activism, Thurston has chosen to leave Fremont to realize a personal goal, that of graduate school.

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City turns up the heat on Aurora motels

August 26th, 2009 by Heidi

After years of criminal activity in and around five Aurora Ave motels, the city has had enough.  According to a release from the Mayor’s Office on Tuesday, there were more than 460 calls for police help in 2008 alone.  Confiscating significant amounts of drugs and drug paraphernalia have become routine for officers, and public safety is a major concern. 

Last week, the City Attorney’s Office filed 152 criminal charges for tax violations against the operators of the motels, all run by Dean and Jill Inman.  They are also behind in utility payments.  Notices were sent out earlier this week that electricity service would be cut off to the motels if payment wasn’t made.  The city has also initiated action to revoke the business licenses of the motels if they fail to pay up their taxes. 

The five properties include the Wallingford Inn, Fremont Inn, Isabella Motel, Italia Motel, and Seattle Motor Inn. 

You can read more about the city’s actions here

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Paper mache people draw attention at Gasworks

August 26th, 2009 by Heidi

A mysterious art installation popped up overnight at Gasworks Park, drawing plenty of curious attention on Tuesday. 

Nine gold paper mache figures were left by an unknown artist near the water sometime Monday night.  

Each piece appears to be a person at various stages of emerging from a shell.  A plaque in front of one of statues reads:

Anew is gifted to the citizens of Seattle in the spirit of awakening.

Each of us has shells to break through, parameters to look past, and wills to exercise.  Arise and stand.  And then start moving.

If still here, I will remove these once the rains return.

So far no one knows who left the statues but lots of people have stopped to check them out.  If you have any information behind the artwork, let us know…

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Fremont Universe partnering with Seattle Times

August 26th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

We’re excited to announce an editorial partnership with the Seattle Times that encompasses Fremont Universe and the rest of Next Door Media’s sites: My Ballard, Queen Anne View, Magnolia Voice and PhinneyWood. The partnership originated with a grant by American University’s J-Lab, which aims to explore how established media companies can work together with promising neighborhood news sites.

Our friends at West Seattle Blog, Capitol Hill Seattle and Rainier Valley Post are also part of the partnership.

This new partnership is a testament to how our readers and advertisers have helped make Fremont Universe and the other neighborhood news websites an integral part of the neighborhoods they cover. Most of our stories originate with tips from readers. Now, some of the best stories will be linked from Seattle’s largest news site. We’re very pleased that the Times has chosen to work together with organic, neighborhood-grown news sites, instead of creating competing efforts designed to draw advertising dollars away from the neighborhood.

For the full scoop, and The Seattle Times official announcement, check out the story on MyBallard. And keep those story tips coming!

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Center of the Universe gets a ‘SPACE’ lift

August 25th, 2009 by Heidi

For nearly 2 weeks, the galaxy has been appearing afoot at the corner of N. 36th and Evanston Ave N.  It’s the result of passionate – and tireless - efforts by Project Manager and Lead Artist Jessica Randall.  She comments, “This is the real center of the universe”.

ArtSPACE has been in the works since 2005 but it it took a year just to get the permits approved.  It wasn’t until the summer of 2007 that they finally got lift-off for SPACE and construction began.  Several artists have contributed to the art display, from glass planets and lighting fixtures to out-of-this-world benches.  (Photo by Kirby Lindsay.)  

Jessica says the reaction from passers-by have been remarkably good, with people complimenting the work and expressing their thank yous.  “I must represent something people want to see more of.”  She adds that hopefully there will be many more community pieces like this to come.  If all goes smoothly, the art installation should be completed by next week. 

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Library closed next week

August 24th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

In an effort to save money, the library will close a week from today through Labor Day. The last day to check out Library items before the closure is Sunday, Aug. 30 and operations resume on Tuesday, Sept. 8th. No library materials will be due during this time and no fines will be accrued. The website and online catalog will be down, and there will be no “Quick Information” telephone service. This closure will save the system $655,000, more than half of the nearly $1 million budget reduction this year. The other $350, 000 in cuts will include layoffs, extending the staff computer replacement schedule and reducing the training budget.

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Work underway on green space around Troll

August 22nd, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

Dozens of volunteers, city officials and the mayor attended a “Clean and Green” event at the Troll this morning, and neighbors caught their first glimpse of preliminary plans to revitalize the green space surrounding the Fremont icon.

The two strips of land on either side of the Troll at the base of the Aurora Bridge have been overgrown with brush and littered with trash for years. Two weeks ago, SDOT crews cleared out the heavy brush and grass, and today volunteers picked up trash and spread mulch.

Mayor Greg Nickels toured the property with neighbor Kimberly Scrivner, who has spearheaded the project. “I think it’s a great opportunity,” the mayor said, complimenting neighbors for rolling up their sleeves and tackling the project. “Here’s a publicly-owned space that is clearly under-utilized.”

The preliminary designs (see here) include a community garden, pathways, new trees, planters and log benches. “I’m very excited, and I think the time is right,” Scrivner said (above). “Getting the state on board, getting the city on board, now getting our designs together, and finally we get can get the community to vet the designs.” The Fremont Chamber of Commerce, Department of Neighborhoods, SDOT and WSDOT have all been involved in the project.

Scrivner says they’ll apply for a neighborhood matching fund grant on August 31st, and they plan to present the proposed designs to the Fremont Neighborhood Council. A community meeting will follow to hear more input from the neighborhood. “Everyone in Fremont always looks up to this bridge and says, this is our place,” said longtime resident Suzie Burke. “We’re happy that the little piece of ground that is around it is available to take an interest in.”

To help fund the work, neighbors signed petitions pledging time and money, which would be matched by the city’s neighborhood grant.

Volunteers also voted, by paying a dollar, on proposed names for the green space: The Troll Knoll, Troll Knoll and Billy Goat’s Bluff. We’ll keep you updated on upcoming meetings and developments…

July 15: Neighbors plan improvements around the Troll

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Nickels concedes mayor’s race

August 21st, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

Two-term Mayor Greg Nickels conceded this morning after trailing Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan since the primary election on Tuesday. Although King County still has around 30,000 ballots left to count, the mayor was in third place trailing leader McGinn by 1,170 votes after Thursday’s count. “I think the people of Seattle decided it was time for a new generation of leadership,” Nickels said at press conference today that the Seattle Times attended. You can read their entire story here.

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Rollover accident on Aurora Bridge

August 20th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

A rollover crash closed the southbound lanes of the Aurora Bridge at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. When we arrived, medics were loading one patient into the ambulance. The accident occurred on the Fremont side, above 39th St.

It appeared that only one vehicle was involved.

The northbound lanes had slowed to crawl. An interesting side note: We were waiting at the Fremont Bridge when a fire engine responding to the accident approached. The bridge was just beginning to close, but the operator re-opened the arms to let the engine pass through.

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Repairs to close lanes on Aurora Bridge

August 20th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

The Aurora Bridge will be down to one lane in each direction on Sunday night as SDOT crews makes repairs on expansion joints. Then next week, two lanes will be open in each direction from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (the inside lanes will be closed) as maintenance crews work.

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