Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Talaris Property Update

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) recently published an update about the 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) in their newsletter.

The For Sale sign put up in May, was recently taken down.  LCC told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that they don't have any additional information about status of the property. They contacted the broker who said they were "looking at the offers."

LCC Newsletter Article:

Talaris Land Use: Then Until Now...

Recently, the Laurelhurst Community Club, the City of Seattle, and 4000 Properties LLC, (the current owner of the Talaris site, the former Battelle Institute site), signed off on an agreement closing out a lawsuit about the property that had lingered without decision in King County Superior Court for almost four years. The dismissal agreement does not resolve any of the parties’ various claims and defenses. Instead it leaves them for future resolution, if necessary.  
The Battelle site has been a focus of community concern for over three decades. Originally permitted as an “institute for advanced study” under the Seattle Zoning Code, by the mid-1980s its conference and event venue business had become a source of neighborhood complaints related to traffic and parking. Responding to Battelle plans for expansion, LCC through its land use counsel, Peter Eglick, brought the community’s concerns to a legal proceeding before the Seattle Hearing Examiner in 1988.  
The outcome was a Hearing Examiner decision that called into question not only whether Battelle was entitled to expand, but also whether it could continue with some aspects of its existing operation. Battelle sued in King County Superior Court to overturn that decision. Ultimately, Battelle also entered into settlement negotiations with LCC and the City. The negotiations resulted in a 1991 “Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land.”  
The Agreement, recorded in the King County land records, applies to the site regardless of any change in ownership. It includes provisions regulating expansion of the current uses and buildings, barring control by major institutions such as the University of Washington or Children’s Hospital, and prescribes a specific landscaping plan and parameters for the site.  
Over the years since entry into the Settlement Agreement, LCC has monitored site activity and redevelopment plans and has occasionally been forced to take formal legal action. For example, a proposal two decades ago to convert and develop the site into a facility for Seattle Community Colleges, violating the Settlement Agreement, prompted a Club lawsuit.  
The community college plan was dropped, followed by withdrawal of lawsuit. LCC has also worked with site owners and potential developers for the site. More recently, renewed owner moves toward site redevelopment resulted in another round of negotiations between LCC and the owner. These were largely unsuccessful.  
At the same time, the owner asked the City Council to move on changes to the City’s single-family land use planning designation for the site. The Club opposed this change as unwarranted, and the City Council did not adopt it.  
In 2013, as knowledge spread of an owner plan to divide the site into over 80 lots for development, some community members became concerned about how that might effect the site’s building and landscape design, notable examples of work by prominent Seattle architects.  
A landmark nomination was submitted to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board and by November 2013 the Battelle/Talaris’ exteriors of the existing buildings and site were designated as land marked status. A landmark designation is not an empty honor. Instead it can carry a significant regulatory punch through “controls and incentives” adopted by the Board after negotiations with the property owner.  
Therefore, in response to the designation, the 4000 Properties LLC owner sued the City challenging the designation and attacking the actions and fairness of the Board and the Seattle Landmarks Ordinance itself. In response, and to protect the integrity of the landmark process, LCC successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit in December 2013.  
For three years, the lawsuit proceeded based on the position that the owner just needed a few more months to work out a possible sale or other deal concerning the property. LCC protested, pointing out that the owner had made the choice to file the lawsuit and could make the choice to withdraw it if it was interfering with plans for disposal of the site.  
After almost three years had passed, the court finally said no to yet another extension, telling the owner either to proceed with the lawsuit or withdraw it. The owner dropped the lawsuit with the understanding that he may re-bring its claims later. At that time, the owner also entered into a “neighborly agreement” concerning mowing the site lawn.   
For the first time in almost four years there is no pending litigation concerning the site. Meanwhile the Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land continue to apply.  
One more piece of the continuing Talaris site puzzle is still outstanding. Over the same period of years starting with the 2013 landmark designation of the site to the present, the volunteer Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has granted the owner extension after extension of the time frame for agreeing to “controls and incentives” implementing the landmark designation. Another such extension was granted in early July.  
LCC continues to participate in this important city process. LCC also continues to monitor the situation as property “for sale” announcements come and go and proposed uses are floated.

The Laurelhurst Blog published this information in May:

The site,  built in 1967, was originally owned by Battelle Memorial Institute.  In 1997 Era Care Communities purchased the property for $6,125,000 and it was developed into Talaris Institute which focused on infant and early learning research of the brain. In 2000, Bruce Mc Caw under the name 4000 Property LLC of Bellevue, purchased the property for $15,630,000.   The county has assessed the property at $14 million. 

Pistol Creek Management, appears to manage the property and may be involved with ownership.  Bruce McCaw is referenced as Chairman Emeritus of Pistol Creek and Co-Chair of TalarisThe owner of Talaris listed on the City's Public Records is Greg Vik, with 4000 Property LLC, also associated with Pistol Creek.

Seattle Mansions Blog said that Bruce McCaw "is involved in large scale commercial real estate investments with his Pistol Creek Financial Company."

The property was originally sold with an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club are partnered together with the land owners of the parcel.  The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions can't operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc).  And the Settlement Agreement has specific restrictions attached which specifies the use of the property to protect the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood.

The property was designated with landmark status in November 2013, which dictates that specific controls define certain features of the landmark to be preserved and a Certificate of Approval process is needed for changes to those features. Some incentives and controls included in the City's ruling are zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives, which are protected, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

Last year, 4000 Property LLC was exploring several options including a planned residential development with townhomes and houses, as well as development of the entire site into a private school campus, Academy for Precision Learning School

The housing proposal, initially presented in January of 2015 included three options: 1) 37 houses with no removal of existing buildings  2) 63 housing units and remove existing Building G and 3) remove Building G and the lodge and add townhomes and 72 single-family homes. 

The Laurelhurst Community Club, has been involved with the site for over 30 years, working to ensure the property is well integrated with the neighborhood by closely monitoring proposed development.  LCC has also worked with current owners in lobbying for better property maintenance.

LCC's other priorities in partnering with the owners are maintaining open space, the eagle's habitat and valuable mature trees, supporting and enhancing property values and character of the entire Laurelhurst neighborhood and minimizing traffic impacts on all neighborhood streets and access points.

LCC issued this statement following the recent Seattle Times article about the property going on the market.

At Monday's LCC monthly Board Meeting the Talaris property was discussed.
The Seattle Times story  that was published yesterday was filled with many inaccuracies.
The Laurelhurst Community Club has had a long standing role in the development of the property since it became a unique" island" in the single family zoned neighborhood when the Battelle Research Institute began in the 1960's.
The original architects including Bill Bain Senior, and later , Bill Bain Junior (Founded NBBJ), and Richard Haag  (who built Gasworks Park) were visionaries for the site with overarching concept of providing a respite for the "think tank" scientists. The Battelle Research Institute was built with the purpose of an "Institute for Advanced Study", and the City of Seattle granted that special use permit for that purpose because it  was a small institution located within a single family residential neighborhood.
Governed by a legally binding "Settlement Agreement" that runs with the land, both LCC and Battelle were "good neighbors" throughout their occupancy, and access to the site was openly casual, without barricades as the architects has designed to meet the needs of the scientists within, and the neighbors from the outside. The Battelle owners maintained the landscaping at the site and shared in the maintenance of the median strip outside their entrances, as per the mutual agreement.
When Battelle vacated the site, numerous proposals were offered, and many did not materialize due to their own financial constraints.  LCC supported many of these new ideas and development plans.
Bruce McCaw and his immediate family bought the property in the early 2000's and the Talaris Institute was welcomed by LCC and neighbors-another good fit with mutual respect.
More recently, the Talaris Institute was dissolved, and the property was offered on the market for development for the past 4 years. . LCC has vetted a variety of uses, and only the 400 unit apartment complex was strongly opposed as it was not compatible with the underlying single family, nor Institute for Advanced Studies. That proposal would have completely destroyed the entire site, and LCC fought hard to prevent that development that was not context compatible.
The Seattle Landmark's Board then designated the exteriors of the buildings in late 2013.  In addition, the relationship of the buildings to each other and the garden as "landmarked" are also landmarked. This limits the development to uses that retain the buildings and the site configuration.
Other proposals such as single family connected housing was proposed by the owner, as was a school for autistic children called Academy for Precision Learning. LCC worked through each one in a constructive manner, and had not rejected either concept.
The owner, Bruce McCaw, now wants to completely dispose of the property from his real estate holdings and hired a big real estate broker, CBRE to list the property for sale.
LCC has heard from some sources that the price is around $30 million.
Another entity called the Orion Center For Integrative Medicine, a clinical research center, which specializes in integrative medicine support for cancer patients , expressed interest in buying the property. Bonnie McGregor, the founder and executive director, who is located currently at Talaris, spoke at the  Monday night LCC meeting with a positive reaction.
LCC maintains an open viewpoint and willingness to work with any, and all, proposals that respect the Landmarked status and underlying zoning, and the Settlement Agreement of the property, and provide the owner with compensation for his initial purchase, albeit the covenants were in place at that time which restrict development and its future value.

As mentioned in LCC's statement above, for decades, neighbors were free to stroll the grounds, until 2013, when Talaris suddenly put up "No Trespassing" signs and installed a four feet chain link fencing in 2013, as well putting up a main driveway barricade, fence on northwest side and a surveillance camera.  Neighbors were no longer allowed to use the large grassy meadow area where generations of kids practiced soccer and the past few years the grounds facing NE 41st Street are often neglected and grass not consistently mowed. 

A real estate agent told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that, though there is residential development potential,  in speaking with a few investors they feel the project is too complicated and are not interested.

Bonnie McGregor, mentioned previously, who operates the Orion Center for Integrated Medicine at the Talaris campus, commented in the Seattle Times article:
...the property "is frequented by wildlife ranging from coyotes to ducks. Bonnie  often pulls into her parking spot and takes a minute to breathe in “the peace of this place” before starting work, she said. "There’s nothing else like it,” Bonnie said. “To lose it, to have it developed, I think would be a crime. It breaks my heart to think about that happening.”
Here is an article from The Registry and also the Puget Sound Business Journal.

For more information about Talaris go here.

Fall Gardening Class Tomorrow At Center For Urban Horticulture

UW Botanic Gardens’ Center for Urban Horticulture (3501 NE 41st Street) is holding a class tomorrow evening called "Gardening with the Seasons: Fall" from 7-8:30pm.  The cost is $20.

The information says:

Autumn is a dynamic season in the garden. Many plants are heading into dormancy, while others are in a period of active growth. Doing the right gardening tasks now can set the stage for next year's garden: adding new plants for seasonal interest or making changes to address problems observed over the past season. Some of the best things to do - or to avoid - at this time of year may seem counter-intuitive to some gardeners.  
This session will cover what to plant in fall, lawn care, how to prepare the garden for winter, and how to maximize seasonal interest and appearance.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Variety Of Dance Classes For All Ages Offered At Community Center

Registration is underway for various dance programs for all ages at the Laurelhurst Community Center. .

Register online, in-person at the Community Center Monday through Friday 9-2pm or by calling 684-7529.

Here is the list of classes:

Ages 2½-4
This class will provide a fun and energetic introduction to dance that will encourage social and motor skill development, while facilitating language exposure and natural acquisition. The class will be taught in a mix of both English and Spanish and will focus on learning basic dance movements and musicality from a variety of different rhythms and styles with an emphasis on use of imagination, free-movement, and body awareness.
9/18-12/11 Mon 9:15-10 a.m. $156

Ages 3-5
This class will introduce young dancers to ballet with a focus on developing basic movement coordination,
vocabulary, and musicality. Through an expressive and creative environment, dancers will be introduced to classical positions, body placement and experimentation with creative movement and performance!
9/18-12/11 Mon 10:15-11 a.m. $156

Ages 8-10
This class will introduce you to hip-hop and street styles of dance! We will explore variety different hip-hop styles through both choreography and improvisation, also known as “freestyle”. This class is largely choreography based. Hip-Hop is a great genre to start with new dancers and a good opportunity
for those that may already have experience with other genres to become more well rounded dancers.
9/20-12/13 Wed 4:30-5:30 p.m. $169

Ages 8-10
An introduction to jazz dance and jazz style technique, choreography, and performance! This is a great next step for dances that may have taken ballet or other dance forms in the past and want to try and more upbeat genre, or for new dancers to get exposed to a range of movements that incorporate ballet techniques, musical theater, and specific jazz repertoire.
9/20-12/13 Wed 5:30-6:30 p.m. $169

Ages 13 and Older
This class will introduce hip-hop and street styles dance to young adults of all ages! Hip-hop is a fun and creative way to get exercise, learn some new moves, and join the dance community. This class will cover a variety of styles and teach dancers basic movement techniques for learning choreography, improvisation, and musicality.
9/20-12/13 Wed 6:30-7:30 p.m. $169

All the classes are taught by Callie Nissing, who grew up dancing in Olympia,  training in ballet and hip hop a nd has performed in local musical productions, story ballets, EDGE hip hop team, UW's Hip Hop Student Association's dance team and Aura Dance Collective.  She is certificated from the International Dance Academy in Hollywood and recently completed a jazz intensive at the Joffrey Ballet School. Callie has taught bi-lingual hip hop class at the Seattle World School and ballet at local community centers and studios.

Seattle Public Library Card Sign-Up Month Underway

September is Library Card sign-month at all Seattle Public Library locations. The closest one to Laurelhurst is the NE Branch at 6801 35th Avenue NE.

The information says:

The Library has six unique cards to choose from. Sign up online or visit any Library location
Libraries also offer other assistance such as free Wi-Fi hotspot, tech help, classes, downloading movies and music, getting help filing taxes and 24 hours a day librarian assistance 24 hours a day.  Library Card Sign-Up Month is a national celebration of public libraries and time to make sure that students have the most important school supply of all—a free Library card.   
Resources at The Seattle Public Library are available to anyone who has a Library card. Here are a number of things you can do for free at The Seattle Public Library:
  1. Visit a museum - we've just added The Living Computer Museum.
  2. Learn how to write.
  3. Publish your e-book.
  4. Watch a movie online or at the Library.
  5. Download (and keep!) five songs a week.
  6. Send print jobs from your laptop, tablet or smartphone via the Library's free Wi-Fi.
  7. Speak a new language - we've got 80 to choose from!
  8. Learn programming or Web design with Safari Books Online.
  9. Become an Excel spreadsheet guru with Microsoft IT Academy.
  10. Find a job.
  11. Take an online class.
  12. Get healthy with easy-to-browse health and medical journals.
  13. Save money with Consumers' Checkbook, a guide to Puget Sound services and stores such as auto repair shops, hospitals, plumbers, banks and insurance companies.
  14. Research your purchases - check Consumer Reports online.
  15. Download an e-book.
  16. Download a magazine.
  17. Not sure how to download a book or magazine on your new device? Sign up for Tech Help.
  18. Reserve a computer - up to 90 minutes a day.
  19. Use Adobe Creative Cloud or MS Office 2013 on computers at every Library location.
  20. Scan photos at the Central Library.
  21. Research your family history.
  22. Start a business.
  23. Learn how to invest your money.
  24. Attend a story time with your kid.
  25. File your taxes. Free tax help is offered every year from January to mid-April.
  26. Read a book that the rest of the city is reading - Seattle Reads happens every spring.
  27. Preview ballet and opera performances or enjoy a concert.
  28. Hold a meeting - non-commercial groups can book one date per month.
  29. Use free Wi-Fi when you're at the Library, and check out a Wi-Fi hotspot for when you're at home or on the go.
  30. Join a book group to talk about books with other readers.
  31. Get personalized book recommendations with Your Next 5 Books.
  32. Browse through digitized materials of historic local photos, posters, maps, atlases, menus, art and more online with the Library's Special Collections.
A Library card is free for anyone who lives, works, owns property or goes to school in the Library's free service area. Cardholders from several library systems in Washington may also qualify.  

Apply online if you are 13 or older, or visit a Library branch to sign up. Bring a valid I.D. and proof of your current address, like a utility bill. Young adults and children ages 17 and under do not need to provide proof of their resident address.     
For more information about services of The Seattle Public Library or its support groups, call 206-386-4636, or visit www.spl.org.

Friday, September 15, 2017

All About The New NE 45th Street Radar Speed Signs And New Crosswalk Near Hospital

new pedestrian crossing 
at NE 45th Street and 40th Avenue NE

one of two new speed radar signs
on NE 45th Street

Recently two speed radar signs were permanently installed, in both directions, towards the bottom of the NE 45th Street.

A new pedestrian crossing, at NE 45th Street and 40th Avenue NE, has also been installed.

Children's Hospital initiated the request, to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), to improve traffic safety ,after a pedestrian was struck at the above intersection in March of last year.

Children's hired Transpo, a transportation service group, which submitted a "Memorandum" in June 2016, which states "Seattle Children’s Hospital proposes to construct intersection safety improvements for the intersection of NE 45th St and 40th Ave NE."  

The memorandum includes a summary of the traffic data collected by IDAX Data Solutions, on April 19 and May 11 of last year as evidence "to determine whether criteria for converting a two-way-stop controlled intersection to all-way-stop control and the installation of traffic speed cushions are met."

The intersection didn't meet the criteria for an all- way-stop at the intersection: 1) an average of at least 300 vehicles per hour for any 8 hours of an average day; and 2)  combined vehicular, pedestrian, and bike volume average be at least 200 units per hour for the same 8 hours, with an average delay to minor-street vehicular traffic of at least 30 seconds per vehicle during the highest traffic hour.

The memorandum states, however, that "the criterion of 300 vehicles per hour was met for 6 hours of an average day, and is nearly met for another 3 hours.

The criteria for installation of speed cushions on 45th Street is met for both travel directions, the memorandum states, which must be that the "85th-percentile speed of the roadway would need to be greater than 5 mph above the posted speed limit of 30mph."

Transpo states:

There was not a perceived speeding concern on 40th Ave NE, so travel speeds were not collected or analyzed. As the criteria for converting the intersection from two-way-stop controlled to all-way-stop controlled is not me, we recommend the installation of the traffic speed cushions at locations approximately 200 feet in advance of the intersection for both the westbound and eastbound directions (if all-way stop control is not implemented at 40th Ave NE).

Transpo, also commented about crash data in their report stating:

Crash data for the intersection was requested from Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for the years 2010 to 2016, and during that time 2 crashes were reported (one crash resulted in injury and the other in property damage only). A third crash also occurred at the intersection in April of 2016 that was not included in WSDOT’s reported crash data, when a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle.

Todd Johnson, Children's Hospital Vice President, Facilities and Supply Chain, told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

There have been ongoing safety concerns related to the area around NE 45th Street and 40th Avenue NE.  We’ve heard from Children’s staff, as well as from members of our Citizens’ Standing Advisory Committee, that pedestrian safety is a real concern.  People tell us, and we’ve witnessed drivers exceeding the speed limit as they travel down the hill toward Sand Point Way.  At least one injury accident occurred there in 2015 or 2016 when a vehicle struck pedestrian.  We reached out to Seattle Department of Transportation for help making the area safer.  SDOT selected the methods to calm traffic – a speed monitor and a new crosswalk – and SDOT directed their implementation.  I know that they accomplish a lot of their work during the warm summer months, but have no insight as to why they chose this particular time.  This work was not part of Livable Streets, nor was it required of the hospital.  It is in our interest to keep pedestrians safe around our campus, whether those people are patients or families, Children’s staff, or neighbors.  I’m not aware of any other improvements being scheduled.

Jamie Cheney, Hospital Director of Transportation added:

In March 2015, the hospital submitted the request for traffic calming to the City, after  a pedestrian (not associated with Children’s was struck in the crosswalk.) 
Children’s underwrote the traffic study as a way to accelerate SDOT’s consideration of safety improvements. 
Children’s Security and Shuttles staff heard the incident and where first on the scene. The pedestrian was taken away in an ambulance.  This pedestrian incident was discussed at the next Children’s Standard Advisory Council (SAC) meeting.  The SAC advises the City and Children’s Hospital on issues related to the design and construction of new buildings and other projects under the City approved Children’s Hospital Major Institution Master Plan. 

Several members heard about the incident and wanted to know more.   Many neighbors weighed in with their experience that vehicles travel at excess speed westbound on NE 45th Street. And the right hand turns from  NE 45th Street o northbound 40th Avenue NE put neighbors who are crossing 40th Avenue NE at risk. SAC members also felt strongly about having a clearly marked crosswalk across NE 45th Street as many neighbors are trying cross NE 45th Street to get to bus stops or Talaris.
Almost any walk, except walking around the block, requires crossing a street which in many cases includes crossing 40th Avenue and/or NE 45th Street.  Three of the four bus stops serving the area are on the hospital side of the block so Children’s staff are less likely than neighbors to need to cross the street to catch the bus.  Neighbors or employees of businesses on Sand Point Way are the most likely to be the users of the cross walk for safe access to the bus.  

While there are no painted crosswalks for most of NE 45th Street there are legal cross walks at every intersection, where vehicles drivers are required to yield, as explained in RCW 46.61.235 which states: "The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning."
When a pedestrian crosses at these intersections it is not considered jaywalking.  The city installs curb ramps at intersections all over the city to support this very activity (see picture below).  Without this legal protection, it would be almost impossible to walk to many locations in a city like Seattle where only a small percentage of crosswalks are marked.

curb ramp where pedestrians may cross
(courtesy of Children's Hospital)