Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Unused Space, Indoors

I received an email yesterday from someone who said that a performance artist friend was having a hard time finding affordable rehearsal space. Her idea was to try and integrate these rehearsals into entertainment for an outdoor venue, a la the street food court + garden/art space that was previously mentioned on this site.

While I think this is a terrific idea, I couldn't help but think that these artists might prefer space indoors, and might need electricity, a flat surface to work on, and so forth. Where might one find such a space? How about in the street-level empty retail spaces that grace many of the new condo and apartment developments around the hill?

For example, John Court, at 15th and John, has a huge empty retail space -- one that could either be a restaurant or be subdivided into three smaller shops; they are probably hoping to get a tanning salon, a real estate agent, and a check-cashing spot -- that could easily accommodate a small theater troupe, dance crew, guerilla projection team, etc.

The major obstacle to such an arrangement, and a recurring theme around here, would probably be liability insurance. Other than that, I can not imagine why a property owner would not be open to leasing space out temporarily, especially to the arts. In such a situation, everyone wins: the artists have a place to rehearse, the owner gets good PR and can bring in a few bucks without substantial risk, and the street becomes that much more lively during rehearsals.

As an exploratory effort, I'm going to put together a google map showing buildings with this sort of dead street level space (wanna help? email me). I have asked the emailer to round up a list of artists in need of such space, and hopefully we can find a way to help them make connections with the owners. Also, if you have any connections at companies like CBRE, I could use all the inside help I can get.

Cracked Viaduct

Check out this video from the 5:AM Gallery. As a wall essentially separating the city from the bay, and a monolithic structure out of scale with the natural human experience, it begs for this sort of intervention. Only the top surface is used, and then only by motor vehicles: the remaining surfaces either block the view of the water and city, or threaten to crush the unfortunate soul who wanders beneath it at the wrong time.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Independence Day

Something is brewing over at CHS.

A Few Comments and Moving On

Regarding the Guerilla Dance Party:

In general, PPL thinks it was great to utilize the space, even if the event was illegitimate and even if it upset neighbors. The party brought more attention to this empty space and I hope others continue to organize events, whether they have permission or not. However, a few minor critiques that would serve to better unify the neighborhood and "cause":

First, pick up after yourself. Leaving bottles all over the lot makes you look as disrespectful as the "system" the led to the destruction of this block. It's my opinion that we should show the owners how to be better neighbors, rather than fighting back with the same sort of disregard for the neighborhood that brought this empty space upon us.

Secondly, and in the same vein, aiming to do something noisy with a little more consideration for the time would have probably been more productive. More people would have come out and less people would be bitching. Starting an hour earlier would have made the event a lot closer to following noise ordinances, which state that it has to be done by 11:00 on weekends.

That's it, as far as I'm concerned. I congratulate the organizers for pulling it off and hope to speak with them shortly. In the back of my head, I fear that the owner might put up fences and/or not allow any more legitimate events to take place on the lot, which would be a shame. I also think that would be a mistake on their part, given the effectiveness of this guerilla campaign. I guess we'll see what happens.

Moving on:

Coming up on Wednesday at Town Hall, the German Urban Planner Thomas Sieverts will be in town to give a talk entitled "Re-imagining Urban Spaces." Though this lecture addresses "in-between" areas, or sprawl, as I would call it, I find it an interesting topic related to unused space. He's interested in the future of what we've already built: places like Tukwila and Burien, places that are in between the city and country. I'm interested in the future of what we haven't built, what we've destroyed or abandoned in the city, places in between past use and possible future use. It should be interesting.

On Thursday, Sieverts will be touring the B /IAS installation: an in-between place in an in-between place (temporary art in Burien). It's free and open to the public.

Lastly, on Friday at Northwest Film Forum, he will sit on a panel that includes the Stranger's own self-styled urbanist, and ignorer of this blog and everything we're trying to accomplish, Charles Mudede. (I actually do respect what Mudede does, I've just been hoping for more of his support, so I'm venting here. That's what most people use blogs for anyway, right?)

More details about these and other events on Suddenly.org.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dance Party Manifesto

Taken from a comment on the Line Out story. The commenter said this was published on indymedia but I couldn't find it:

These kids wanted to put the "punk" back in "punctuality" so they promptly began at 11:55pm. The first song was by Michael Jackson, the crowd of for than 250 people went crazy. They were kicking up dust and yelling. They had been enduring a costly, corporate 21+ pride for two whole nights, this was there moment, their time to shine.

Someone climbed to the top of the hill and asked the DJ to stop. "It's midnight motherfuckers! Stonewall was a queer and trans riot and it happened 40 years ago as of right now! Maybe you didn't know Pride is supposed to be celebrating that moment in our history, Budweiser doesn't include that on the banners they have all over the place. Fuck 21+ venues, fuck covers, fuck corporate Pride. This moment is yours, its ours!"

Dolly Parton blasted and everyone cheered. We did it, we really did it.

At the other end of the parking lot two cars had called the cops because of a minor wreck. The cop who was taking that report had been watching the goings-on and called for backup. The parking lot where a queer bar called Pony used to be suddenly got the Swine Flu as more and more cop cars showed up and began shining their lights on the crowd. The queers were not phased, they danced harder, used to the things they value being threatened by the systems that are supposed to protect them.

After five songs and much "you need to leave the parking lot" talk, the cops approached the speaker where the music was coming from. The DJ calmly unplugged his music player and walked away has he had been instructed. One person grabbed the cords connecting the device and disappeared into the crowd. The queer in charge of the power source flew into action and had everything in his bag in a matter of seconds. The kid who needed to take one part of the sound system ran with it clutched to their chest, ridding away in car. All of this took seconds to happen. These well prepared folx had their shit on lock and the cops were too slow to stop them.

The woman in charge of getting the speaker that was providing sound was carrying it away. The cops grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back, she screamed, witnesses saw the cops hand come down hard on the woman's back. Another cop was shaking a man by his jacket screaming, "I've worked for 12 hours and don't have to deal with this shit!". The cops had pushed the large crowd out of the parking lot by now. Cops yelled hilarious things like, "There's still time to drink, go back to the bars!". Some of the crowd had disappeared leaving only 150 people to chant things like, "give us back our speaker!", "up the punks!", "fuck corporate pride", "out of the bars and into the streets".

One man was arrested, a cop claiming he had keyed his car. The man's room mate was with him the entire night, "He was standing with me, he didn't key anything. He was standing there and then he was gone." People quickly formed a group around supporting the man until he got out on bail.

Last nights guerrilla dance party showed two things, that queers now how to throw a fucking party and that we're only allowed to celebrate Pride if a large company profits from our gatherings. But the cops came too late, we had proved to ourselves and others that queers don't need to be backed by a corporate sponsor in order to commemorate the queer and trans folx who came before us and made the shit we do daily possible. The folx at Stonewall would have been proud of us and recognized what we were doing because they did it themselves, last night we made the world we wanted to see.

Send any other info/photos you have.

Dance Party News/Opinion

On Line Out.

Guerilla Dance Party!

Well, evidently I made a mistake not going down to check it out. An hour after it was supposed to start, I heard it was only going to last twenty minutes. Maybe the timing on this twitter feed archive is wrong because it unfortunately seems like such an event would get shut down quickly, especially with neighbors like this person:

The police pulled out the bullhorns & sent everyone on their merry way. Small consolation considering I am now wide awake. Douchebags.
43 minutes ago from web

Annnnnnnd, now that the dance party is disbursed by Seattle's Finest, the partygoers are going to chant in protest. That's fucking aces.
about 1 hour ago from web

They don't even have the decency to play good music. I mean, I'm being kept up by Rihanna on full blast?
about 1 hour ago from web

Seriously, I don't care if it's pride weekend, I'm calling the cops as many times as I have to on this one.
about 1 hour ago from web

about 1 hour ago from web

I'll refrain from posting this person's username out of decency, though I'm not sure they deserve it. Hopefully everyone had fun while it lasted! Surely some photos and information will pop up tomorrow. If you have either, let me know.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Facebook Discussion Boards

In an effort to promote some discussion in the facebook group, I've started a few discussion topics that are relevant to the lot or any other disused space. As of now, the topics are gardens, planned events, art installations, street food, and flash mobs. As you may have noticed, I've been posting lots of articles on gardening lately, mainly because one of the my most co-conspirators runs the ROW Garden on Harvard, but that isn't meant to exclude any of these other uses.

So, please, come and share some ideas. Feel free to start your own threads too.

Multifamily Guerilla Gardening

I use the term "guerilla" here not so much to mean unsanctioned -- though my small plot is -- but to mean occupying unused space. A small section of parking garage roof, which is right outside my first floor window, is the perfect location for a little intervention. The two small poles you see are supporting Roma and grape tomato vines.

I also have a dwarf blueberry bush, some basil, and both zucchini and yellow squash, all within watering distance of my living room windows.

A neighbor (or a group of neighbors?) has planted a little food garden in the corner of our (quite large) backyard, adjacent to the worm bins. She has tomatoes, herbs, peppers, and leafy greens in the ground and in pots.

She has also used buckets to plant carrots and Yukon Gold potatoes

Admittedly, our building has a love for decorative gardens and is located on quite a large parcel, so this type of garden fits well. On the other hand, some apartment residents may not have this sort of space at their disposal, and that's where the former type of garden might work better. And if neither of these options is available, there's always the ROW Garden model, or the full parking lot takeover...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Park(ing) Day 2009

People's Parking Lot is proud to announce their intention to secure the lot for Park(ing) Day 2009. As you may have seen in years past, this is a full-day event where participants convert parking spots into small parks.

(Image from Inhabitat)

We hope to transform the lot into a Central Park for the entire event, though without disturbing the smaller, parking space-sized lots around the neighborhood. In the Central Park, the intention is to host parks for individual groups, nonprofit organizations, and especially artists/design firms interested in the temporary use of disused space. Additionally, it would be great to invite some neighborhood retailers to host parks: for example, maybe Spine and Crown could set up a bookworm park.

A proposal will be sent to the lot owners shortly and the organizing committee will begin planning shortly thereafter. The date of this year's event is September 18th, a Friday, so go ahead and ask for that day off now.

If you're interested in setting up a park, go ahead and send us an email now (contact info is n the upper right-hand corner) so we can gauge interest. If you have organizational ideas or want to take part in hosting the event, please get in touch as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Urban Beekeeping

Continuing the trend of highlighting ways to bring small bits of the country to unused parts of the city, I bring you this short article on urban beekeeping from Brooklyn's own Brownstoner.

These folks are setting up on rooftops but ground level would work just as well:

(Image from Sacred Earth)

Social Media Redux

Vik recently sent me a link to this story about Zero Trash Laguna, a successful nonprofit that formed as an online grassroots movement. Utilizing social media sites like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, the organization has connected citizens from the Laguna Beach, who have moblized to make a difference offline, in the real world. This connection between online media and social action is an essential ingredient of People's Parking Lot's success.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Guerilla Gardening

A link apropos to the last post.

Returning to the problem of watering the ROW Garden, I have though of an elegant solution. A bike trailer retrofitted to carry a few ozarka type bottles. Anyone out there handy enough to help make this small dream a reality?

In closing, enjoy this photo of bok choy growing in a real parking lot (see the stripe?)

(photo from green zone garden)

ROW Garden

About an hour ago I sent out a tweet -- which is a strange term and a concept to which I am still adjusting -- saying that I was harvesting lettuce at the Harvard and Olive Guerilla Garden. This space actually has a better name, The ROW Garden; ROW standing for Right of Way, which is fitting because this garden exists in the right of way of Harvard Ave, half a block south of Olive Way.

Looking around the garden, one can find copious amounts of ro(w)maine lettuce:

There are also broccoli and squash plants:

Radishes, beets, mustard greens, and snap peas are also growing in this formerly unused space. On that note, it is for this reason that I find the ROW Garden related to the who premise of People's Parking Lot; that is, using underutilized space for social interaction. Tending a communal garden is certainly a social activity, as is the dialogue that often arises from curious passersby. And to top it off, food is produced right here in the neighborhood.

Now one question is, what should they do with the surplus? As I understand it, they cannot legally sell it. My best idea so far is to set up a table in the People's lot, or any other lot for that matter, and give it away, sadboytacos style.

Interested in participating in this garden? Or do you live nearby, and want to help them get water to the site? Send me an email and I'll put you in touch with the organizer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Flash Mob w/ Sparklers

An idea for the fourth of July: maybe at, say, midnight neighborhood folks could show up at the lot with sparklers (or they could be provided as people enter), light 'em, shake 'em, and walk around. As they burn out, everyone walks away (with what's left; remember, leave no trace). We take some photos, some video, and share it here later.

(Sorry it's a wedding photo, but the idea is the same. Image from BWright Photo)

The whole event would be kind of like this pillow fight that seems to have been great.

Interested? Send me an email. Have experience organizing this sort of thing via the web/twitter/cell phones/smoke signals? Email me.

Let's keep the momentum going.

Our Purview is Expanding

Upon reading this post on CHS, I contacted the developer of the Cameo Condos, which were -- and still are, supposedly -- to be located at 15th and Pine.

In an effort to pull in some money, the developer is interested in setting up a sort of street food court, which is a great idea. In my message, I asked about the possibility of installing some temporary gardens and/or art projects; he liked the idea but is also concerned (understandably) with recouping some of their losses on the property, via parking and street food.

Have ideas for street food vendors or are you one? Either respond to the CHS article above or contact the owner directly at jzier (at) halrealestate (dot) com. What could be better than enjoying some of Seattle's finest street food while walking amongst temporary gardens and art installations? It's like a hipper version of the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cap to the Hill

Check out two posts about People's Parking Lot and the Garage Sale over at Cap to the Hill (you can now also find a permanent link to them on the sidebar).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Public Service Announcement

The Capitol Hill Community Council elections are coming up next Thursday, June 25th, and will be held at the Cal Anderson shelter house (between the park itself and the ball fields), at 7:00 PM. Click here for more info about the candidates.

Temporary Art/Architecture

Instead of being static, everlasting, inflexible and expensive, (architecture) can be removable, mobile, a stage for all kinds of scenarios.

-- Niklas Maak, A New Approach To Urbanity, from raumlaborberlin's book, acting in public.

This quote is from an introduction to a book that touches on new, dynamic forms of architecture that question the current relationships between interior and exterior space, permanence, and even materiality. For example, raumlaborberlin's kitchen monument at first appears to be a sheet metal piece of minimalist contemporary art....but!

The box is actually a pneumatic vessel that explodes open and fills the surrounding space with an inflated plastic bubble that is occupied as a communal kitchen. The kitchen, a space that is traditionally private, interior, hestial, is now filling the public realm, twisting 'round trees and filling empty spaces: it is dynamic, transparent, hermetic. It is playful and temporary, a product of the "urban generator," the cold metallic box.

Imagine such a device set in the middle of our lot, only to erupt and provide a location for sad boy tacos to prepare food on a grand scale; or maybe the output is seating for outdoor movies on beautiful summer nights?

Or maybe, rather than architecture, something else temporary occupies the lot. A gentleman whom I met through the facebook group told me this morning of a project in Burien by Ignition Northwest, a non-profit whose mission is to "foster radical self-expression, participatory art, and sustainable community through regional events, art grants, and information sharing and education."

The project is part of the Burien Interim Art Space, and was something I had read about (and seen photos) a few months ago on hugeasscity, though I was unaware of who was behind it. Turns out that the temporary art project is on the site of future phase of development for the Burien Town Center or, in other words, a vacant lot.

Perhaps a similar temporary installation is in order for the people's parking lot. A discussion last night with a young lady -- who lent me the raumlaborberlin book and is behind a certain guerilla garden on Capitol Hill -- revolved around portable raised garden plots that could occupy the lot for now (anyone who was at the garage sale knows it gets good sunlight). Maybe these plots are portable, that is sized so that they can be transported by a bicycle or two?

Whether the temporary installation is architecture, art, or agriculture, now seems to be an opportune time to take advantage of a (possibly) temporary situation. Are you an experimental architect, large-scale artist, or gardener/handy bike nut? If so, this seems like the right kind of project for you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Big Time (and the last garage sale post)

I recently wrote up a quick recap of the order of events that brought the garage sale to fruition, and posted in on my other site. It was picked up by Sustainable Cities Collective, a blog aggregator service, and made it to the front page yesterday. You can check it out here. As of right now, over one hundred people have viewed the story; it's nice to see that there is interest in what we accomplished.

Okay, enough basking in the glory that was Saturday. Let's move it forward.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


A photo of Ellen and Jen from mayoral candidate Mike McGinn's twitter feed.

Next Event?

As many of you may have seen, at the garage sale we were collecting ideas for future events on the lot. Unfortunately I only have this photo of the board from early in the day, which shows about a quarter of all the ideas received:

Don't believe me? Here are the post-its on the PPL headquarters floor:

The ideas range from practical to whimsical, from active use of the space to leisure. The point here was to both solicit feedback for actual events as well as giving attendees a way to participate, the latter of which is the real point of this blog: email me if you want to be a team member and post your own articles here.

Without further ado, here are the ideas, in random order:

Sounders tailgate party
Masquerade ball/Carnaval
Movie tent & chai stand
Crowdsource development of this property!
More events like the community garage sale (drawing of a happy sunshine)
Runway show!
Neighborhood BBQ!
Arts and Crafts fair, folks
BMX track
Outdoor Movies
independent shops
lecture series
Ballroom disco hall (drawing of a disco ball; i heard one was for sale at the lot)
Farmer's Market @ light rail station
Block Party -- BBQ, Music, Neighbors
Potatoes (could they grow in that mound of dirt? maybe...)
Invite Skillet Airstream once a week
60 second idea pitches
Walkable streets!
Free tacos
Skill building workshops (this link meshes nicely with Unpaving Paradise and the newly formed Howell Collective)
Street food vendors
Zombie dance (Flash mob ideas are very popular; anyone ever participated in or organized one? If so, email me.)
P-patch on every block!
Flea market
Swimming pool!!
Lego build
Carnival with rides
Putt-putt golf
Bands! Movies! Temporary Gardens!
Crop circle and/or corn maze
Strand bar (beach bar) sand + beach + chairs + booze
Solar powered robot battles
Pinewood derby
Speed dating on roller skates (now that's speedy!)
Ski mountain plus shooting range
P-patch in large (moveable) containers -- shipping containers?
Inflatable pool park (imagine if all these people were sitting in inflatable pools)

So, what do you think of these ideas? Outdoor movies was a recurring favorite and someone is serious about getting a lecture series going through their nonprofit. Someone else would like to move this year's incarnation of this block party to the lot and many folks expressed interest in a weekly flea market.

As it stands, the major hurdle to any of these events is getting the insurance required to use the space. I personally bought the insurance for the sale and am still quite a few bucks in the hole. If you'd like to help out, CHS is trying to recoup some cash so that we can hopefully put on more events soon. I'd appreciate the help.

But still, money or not, let's keep the dialogue going about what needs to happen next!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Garage Sale Video

Below is a video shot on a Blackberry by Vik Duggal of Konstructr. It was through his site that I met Scott Mueller, who in turn helped me contact the correct folks over at Murray Franklyn, to obtain permission to use the lot. A victory for social media indeed.

Garage Sale Photos

A view of the front gate off Belmont Ave.

The early morning crowd.

Looking for deals.

Exploring the sales.

Matt of Sad Boy Tacos giving away his delicious vegan fare. Want him to cater your next event? Email him at sadboytacos (at) gmail (dot) com.

More sales action.

Ellen manning the outreach board. We collected quite a few suggestions for future events at the lot, all of which will be shared in a future post.

Preparing for the Takeover

Here at PPL's headquarters -- also known as my kitchen and living room -- tension is running high: it's like election night. Well okay, perhaps not, but some signage for both the PPL table and the premises in general is coming together.

Please make sure to come by our table tomorrow and express your ideas for the lot. Bring a few lawn chairs* and hang around for a while.

* Thanks, Jen, for posting this link!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

(Huge) Garage Sale Saturday!

Check out the 2009 Capitol Hill Garage Sale Roster here. Of 78 registered sales, 38 will be on the lot. Please come by and plan to stay a while.

People's Parking Lot will have a table set up where we will be brainstorming your ideas for the future of this space.

And if you have a buck or two to spare -- to help cover the insurance premium cost -- tip jars will be available.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garage Sale at the People's Parking Lot!

Since the destruction of the 500 block of East Pine – former home to Capitol favorites like the Cha Cha Lounge, Bus Stop, and Kincora Pub – to make way for another bread loaf of a condo development, the block has been anything but “vibrant.” After neighborhood residents called the city on its lax enforcement of development standards and the economic crisis made construction projects less feasible, the project was put on hold, hastily paved over, and stood for a short time as a parking lot (a use not permitted by its current zoning). For the last few months, the lot has served mainly as a repository for beer cans and a shortcut for pedestrians, though it has also been inspiration for one painter, and the subject of an amateur video calling for occupation by the neighborhood residents.

However, the lot is poised to regain its status as a social center of the neighborhood, for one day at least. The Second Annual Capitol Hill Garage Sale– sponsored by the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog,Unpaving Paradise, Sustainable Capitol Hill, and People’s Parking Lot – has been granted permission by the property owner, Pine and Belmont LLC (Murray Franklyn of Bellevue), to use the spot as a community garage for all the apartment dwellers that want to participate on June 13th. It is free to participate in the sale but registration is due by June 10th.

This event also stands as an example of the power of social media to connect similarly minded people and allow them to, in this case, have an effect on the built environment, or its use at least. In an age where it is easy to join a facebook group or author and read blogs, without actually doing anything – slacktivism, as they call it – some might consider this small victory inspirational.

In the wake of Unpaving Paradise being awarded $150,000 of park levy funds for the conversion of another Capitol Hill parking lot to a P-patch, could this event be construed as evidence a shift from auto-centric and generally top-down development patterns to a more community-based future, focusing on the needs and desires of current residents? Are we going to get a nice public plaza or a handsome building with local shops at grade on this site? I doubt it, but it is refreshing to see positive use coming out of spaces that sit empty in one of most active neighborhoods in the city.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Still here

Just sharing a video to keep you all interested in this site.

Not much is going on with the lot or any event planning. I have sent Murray Franklyn a proposal to use the lot for a legitimate event, the Capitol Hill Garage Sale. Unfortunately, my emails have only been met with silence. Perhaps they are just busy or are out enjoying the weather?