Monthly Archives: November 2009

Mendoza sentenced for pot smuggling; feds seize some property

UPDATE: This story has been changed since it was first filed. The details of exactly which properties have been seized have been clarified. We previously reported that Pazzo’s was one of the properties seized but that appears not to be the case. See below.

The Seattle Weekly reports that Dave Mendoza, the owner of Pazzo’s Restaurant, 2307 Eastlake Ave. E., was sentenced on Thursday to 14 years in prison for his role in smuggling marijuana into the U.S. from British Columbia.

Mendoza pleaded guilty in June to importing thousands of pounds of marijuana into the U.S., “much of it by helicopter,” according to the Associated Press. He fled the country in 2006 after federal authorities identified him as the head of the group that imported thousands of pounds of B.C. pot into the U.S. between 2001 and 2006. Federal agents caught up with him in Spain and he was returned to the U.S.

In October, Mendoza issued a letter of apology to the Eastlake neighborhood for his actions.

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, four properties have been seized but NOT Pazzo’s:

As part of the plea agreement, Mendoza is forfeiting to the government properties he owns in Bellevue, Tacoma and Deer Park, Washington, as well as a movie theater in Bend, Oregon. Mendoza admits these properties were purchased with the proceeds of the drug conspiracy.

In that June story, the Times also said that Mendoza had been “convicted of cocaine possession in 1990 and conspiracy to distribute hashish and cocaine in 1993.”

A previous Seattle Times story on Mendoza’s case is here.

Judge says Gas Works fireworks don’t need environmental review and the Seattle Times both report that King County Superior Court Judge Chris Washington has ruled that the Gas Works Park July 4 fireworks display doesn’t need an environmental review:

The P-I says:

In a decision Friday, Judge Chris Washington said such displays clearly fall under the public-celebration exemption to the state Environmental Protection Agency’s assessments.

Lake City resident Benjamin Schroeter claimed in the suit that the city needed to do an environmental review of the fireworks display. Schroeter feared that thousands of people attending the fireworks at Gas Works would stir up contaminated dirt at the former coal-to-gas plant. He sued the city and One Reel, which produces the show, to force the review.

In an e-mailed statement, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Timothy Gallagher said:

“Fourth of July Fireworks at Gas Works Park is a beloved tradition in Seattle, and one that many families look forward to every year. One Reel has been an excellent partner in a providing free holiday event that is open to the general public for many years. They can now begin preparations for the 2010 event, and continue their search for a sponsor.”

Washington Mutual, the long-time sponsor of the Gas Works fireworks display, was closed down earlier in the year by federal regulators. One Reel is now looking for a new sponsor for the event. Cost to the sponsor, according to the P-I, is about $500,000.

Seattle appeal of NOAA move denied by federal agency

An appeal of NOAA’s planned move from Lake Union to Newport, Oregon, has been denied by the Government Accountability Office apparently because owners of the land the Seattle base sits on failed to file a legal response in time.

NOAA announced in August that it would be leaving the Lake Union site where it has had a base for several decades and would relocate to Newport’s Yaquina Bay starting in 2011. Both the Seattle owners (1801 Fairview Avenue East LLC) and the Port of Bellingham, which had also been bidding for the NOAA base, filed appeals. A decision on the Bellingham appeal is pending, according to the Bellingham Herald.

The two-page GAO decision, announced Thursday, says the Seattle appeal was denied because “the protester failed to file any comments on the agency report within 10 calendar days after the report due date, as required by our Bid Protest Regulations.”

Chris Leman, Eastlake Community Council vice president, explained to the ECC Board in September that NOAA had 30 days to respond to the appeal. After NOAA’s response was filed, the land owners had 30 days to respond, which they apparently failed to do.

The Associated Press quotes Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office as saying the owners of the property decided they no longer wanted to pursue the appeal.

Cantwell, in a letter to Commerce Secretary (and former Washington state governor Gary Locke), cast doubts on whether the move is a good one for NOAA. The Seattle Times quoted from her letter: “I have serious doubts about whether the final award decision is truly in the best long-term interest of NOAA, its scientific mission and its employees.”

The Salem Statesman-Journal quoted Newport city councilor Patricia Patrick-Joling as saying that Newport residents were indifferent to GAO the ruling because everyone there assumed NOAA would be moving:

“All of Newport is moving forward. The Port is moving forward, the city is moving forward. We are looking forward to NOAA being a member of the Newport family. That’s all she wrote.”

A commenter on the Statesman-Journal web site said: “The NOAA is coming to Newport! Too bad Washingtonians!”

It’s unclear whether there are any options remaining for those opposing the move. When the appeals were first filed, hope for overturning the decision rested on a regulation from the Carter presidency that prohibits building federal facilities on wetlands and flood plains. And the Newport base would sit on a 100-year flood plain.

Eastlake Ave. Blog meetup this Saturday at Voxx

I’m going to take a page from my friend and former co-worker (and our fellow Eastlake resident) Monica Guzman and have an impromptu Eastlake Ave. blog meetup on Saturday.

Nothing fancy or formal. Feel free to come hang out with me at Voxx Coffee, 2245 Eastlake Ave. E., starting about 2 p.m. on Saturday. I’ll be the guy with the Mac laptop and a latte, blogging away. Check my profile photo to see what I look like.

We can talk about the neighborhood or chat about blogging or gripe about the weather. Sorry for the almost last-minute notice but you know how crazy life is.

Hope to see you there!

Seattle Times: Lawmakers pick new 520 bridge design

A wider Montlake interchange and a second drawbridge over Montlake Cut are part of a plan for the new 520 bridge endorsed by a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday, the Seattle Times reports .

Design discussions have been going on for a decade, the Times reports, and the 10-2 vote reflected impatience with the lengthy process.

Option A, the version chosen Tuesday, includes freeway lids at I-5 and Roanoke and 10th and Delmar Drive.

Next up: The endless environmental impact statements, hearings, public comments and inevitable lawsuits.

The Seattle Times story is here .

And a video of the design is available on YouTube:

School board votes on attendance zones on Wednesday

Closeup of Eastlake’s attendance zone map.

The Seattle School Board will vote on new attendance zones for city schools at their meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at school district headquarters, .

There don’t appear to have been changes in the map for TOPS@Seward, Eastlake’s local school, since it was released in early October. Students in Eastlake fall within the attendance zone map for Montlake Elementary. See our previous post for more information on the attendance map.

Still to come will be a school board decision on the geographic zone for Seward. Geographic zones are a new category of “tiebreaker” used to determine which children can attend options schools like Seward. The Eastlake Community Council has proposed a geographic zone that would include everything from I-5 west to the houseboats and from E. Galer in the south to the Ship Canal bridge in the north.

The ECC had hoped to make a joint presentation of that proposal with the TOPS@Seward Site Council, a group composed of parents and staff at the school. A vote by parents on the council (staff were ineligible) ended in a tie (previous post here), leaving the ECC to go it along.

For more information, see the school district’s page on the new attendance plan here.

Clarification on Metro’s snow emergency plans

Rochelle Ogershok from Metro e-mailed today to clairfy about when Metro’s Emergency Network plans, with its special bare-bones bus schedules, will go into effect.

It won’t be used for regular snow storms, she explains, only where there is “severe” winter weather like the pounding we took last December. From her e-mail:

‘During more typical snow events, riders will be able use the Internet to quickly see which buses in the Metro system are on snow route based on “geographic area.” Green will indicate buses are operating on normal routes, yellow will signify minor reroutes (primarily in higher elevation areas), and red will alert customers that buses in the entire geographic area are on snow route or are being significantly impacted by snow.”

You can sign up for e-mail and cell-phone alerts and find out more about emergency’s a Metro’s special web page.

Our previous post about Metro and City of Seattle snow plans for Eastlake is here.

Update: Repairs coming to damaged ‘Cornerstones’ artwork

Repair is coming — eventually — to the damaged “Cornerstones” artwork at Eastlake Ave. and E. Howe Street.

Staff from the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs met last week with staff from the Seattle Department of Transportation to discuss repairs. SDOT will be taking care of the repairs. Crews replacing sidewalks at that end of Eastlake Ave. on Oct. 24 damaged the glass pieces of the artwork.

It may be after Christmas before the repaired “Cornerstone” is in place. Arts and Cultural Affairs is waiting for templates for the glass pieces from the artist, Stacy Levy. The glass company that will create the replacements is currently tied up with its holiday production. 

So, it will get done but it may take a few weeks.

In a related note, the repair project that damaged the “Cornerstones” artwork did result in a nifty new traffic island in the middle of Eastlake Ave. (see photo). The island includes reflective zebra-striped signs to alert oncoming cars to the possible presence of pedestrians.

People using the crosswalk there to get from KIRO to Azteca and back have always taken their life in their hands. The new island and warning signs should be a welcome change. If you’re driving that stretch of Eastlake Ave., slow down and give the pedestrians a chance.

For the history the “Cornerstones” artwork, check out our post from early October.

Seward Site Council geographic zone vote: It’s a tie

Parents on the TOPS@Seward Site Council have completed their vote on a proposed geographic zone for the school and the result is a tie.

That means that the Site Council and the Eastlake Community Council will not be presenting a joint proposal to the school board for the new zone as many in the neighborhood had hoped. Instead, says Jules James, the ECC’s representative on the Site Council, the ECC will have to present a proposal to the school board on its own.

The ECC’s zone proposal (see attached map) would have included everything from I-5 west to the houseboats and from East Galer in the south to the Ship Canal in the north. A second proposal would have included the triangle of neighborhood between Eastlake Avenue and I-5 and the Roanoke Park area.

Staff at the school weren’t eligible to vote on the proposal. Since the first part of the vote, on the ECC’s proposal, tied then the second part, on adding the triangle and Roanoke Park, was rendered moot.

As we explained in a previous post:

The geographic zones are part of the Seattle School District’s new assignment plan. They would be used in the case of “option,” or “alternative,” schools to help determine who can attend them.

The school district has already issued maps for “attendance zone” schools. Eastlake falls into the attendance zone for Montlake Elementary. Students will automatically be assigned to school there. To be placed at TOPS by either the geographic zone process or lottery, students must apply during the open enrollment period during the winter.

TOPS@Seward is an “option” school, which means that children from a large part of the city can apply to go there. When children who live near an option school apply to go there, the district uses three “tiebreakers” to determine whether or not they can attend: whether siblings attend the school, the geographic zone and then the lottery. One of the tiebreakers is a new “geographic zone.”

The school district is currently working on a new attendance policy for the entire district that will emphasize assigning children to schools in their neighborhoods as much as possible. The school district staff is expected to present proposals for the geographic zones to the school board on Dec. 16.

The ECC had hoped to make a joint proposal to the school board on the geographic zone, the assumption being that that would make for a stronger case with the board. The ECC is now working on submitting its proposal to the school board, James says.

Ugly auto courts and the future of multi-family housing

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many badly designed townhouse developments in Seattle, a speaker from the Congress of Residential Architects (CORA) had the explanation at a public meeting sponsored by the Eastlake Community Council on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

David Neiman, of David Neiman Architects, explained the history of multi-family zoning (buildings with multiple residential units in them) and how the design guidelines might change under new codes being developed by the Seattle City Council.

Work on the new code was put on hiatus last summer after the council decided it needed more time to study the proposal and identify potential loopholes. It is hoped that the multi-family zoning will be taken up again in 2010.

The current code was passed in 1989 after a strong negative reaction to code changes made in 1982. Those changes allowed buildings to be erected in many neighborhoods that were much taller than had been the tradition. Neiman explained that the unintended consequence of the 1989 code requirements is a proliferation of the cookier-cutter “auto courts” you see all over the city:

  • Four or more vertical townhouses on a single site
  • Poor street frontage
  • Garages below the living space with a narrow entry from the street
  • Most of the ground space given over to cars.
  • The open space around the building is poor quality and usually fenced and cut off from the street.
  • There’s no easy, natural way for residents to look out and keep tabs on what’s going on in the complex.

As Paige Richmond, co-chair of the ECC’s Land Use Committee, explained, changes in the multi-family code are a big deal in Eastlake because most of the neighborhood is zoned “L-3,” which allows 30-foot high buildings. Although there are many single-family homes in the neighborhood, those homes could be replaced with taller multi-family buildings. Having good zoning and design rules in place is in our best interest, she said.

Neiman said that the new code would replace the current code’s strict setback rules (15 feet at the front of the lot, 20 feet in the back, five feet on the sides) with a new standard: floor to area ratio, or FAR. The formula for computing it is: FAR = total building square footage/total area of the lot. The proposed ratios in the new code for the various low-rise zones would be:

  • LDT: 1.0
  • L1: 1.1
  • L2: 1.2
  • L3: 1.4-2.0

You could stack up the building space in any way you want, you just can’t exceed the ratio. Also, setbacks from the edge of the lot would be flexible and would have to meet a seven-foot average.

Any project larger than a duplex would have to go through an administrative design review which would help prevent developers from taking advantage of the code to produce bad designs. That process is still being developed.

Neiman is a proponent of the administrative design review. “Things get better during a design review,” he said.

In September, the results of a “White Hat/Black Hat” study of the new multi-family code were presented to the City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee (PLUNC). Three teams (one from the Master Builders Association, one from CORA and one composed of longtime neighborhood advocates) each designed projects that showed the best potential outcomes of the new code and the worst (read the executive summary of that report here or the complete report [13mb] here).

As a result of that exercise, CORA made a number of suggestions to the PLUNC (including a rethinking of the FAR numbers) to help close those loopholes. Further work on the proposed new multi-family codes will have to wait until the new mayor and city council take office next year.

Related links on the multi-family code:

  • The DPD’s Multi-Family Zoning Update web site
  • An article from the Great City web site about the “White Hat/Black Hat” exercise
  • Seattle Channel broadcast of the “White Hat/Black Hat” report to the PLUNC
  • What zone do you live in? Enter your address in this map to find out
  • CORA Northwest’s blog
  • Previous Eastlake Ave. post about the delay in the multi-family code