Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earth Day Free Day Photos

Extra special thanks to those that made it out today in spite of the threat of rain. I forgot my camera but, as usual, someone took some photos that are better than mine would be and put them up on CHS. Anyway, it was great to see old friends, meet new ones, and spend some time with the likes of John Boylan and Alex Steffen.

Our next official event will be the Capitol Hill Garage Sale on June 6th. Come hunt for bargains, meet neighbors, and claim this space as ours. Hopefully JT can make it out to DJ again and we're even talking about bringing in a food truck to serve the hungry bargain-hunters.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Calls for Ideas

Both the Seattle Design Commission and local chapter of the AIA are looking for ideas about re-activating vacant urban space. Click here and here for the respective announcements.

I'm of the opinion that we should submit ideas for the People's Parking Lot to both organizations but with one thing in mind. I am, obviously, all for the re-activation of unused space but my real concern is what happens when and if we recover from the current financial situation? Do the same sorts of project restart on the spaces they have left abandoned for all these months? Are the temporary projects just a band-aid for the interim? To date the activities we have organized for the lot have been in good fun, but I'm concerned that as this fun is institutionalized, it might become watered down. I do want to participate in these projects but think we need to do something with a critical edge; something that looks beyond the "wackiness" of "feeding wallabies downtown" and more to what happens when the money returns.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reminder: Re-Imagining Cities

Tonight, 7 pm, at Vermillion: John Boylan's Conversation, "Re-Imagining Cities."

From John's website:

The Story

We start with a simple question: What are the ways in which we re-imagine a city? In Seattle, there has been a lot of talk about remaking our town, at many levels. Most of that talk lately seems to revolve around the need to move people: the mayor’s talk of more mass transit, the push for a new waterfront tunnel and a new 520 bridge, the affect of Sound Transit’s new stations on Capitol Hill and the University District.

But can we rethink our city outside of that focus on big transit projects? Simply, how do we rethink what a city can be? Often it starts with a simple “what if?” question that leads to a huge project: “What if we had a monorail, or a big new park in the Cascade neighborhood?” Or sometimes it’s more fantastic, as in, “What if civilization were to fall apart? Would Seattle become a series of villages? And what would they look like?” But is “what if?” the best way to re-imagine a city? What else is there? And most important, what sort of imaginings can actually lead to a re-imagined city?

For this conversation I’ve invited four guests who loosely represent four ways of re-imagining cities. For me Sarah Bergmann represents a viral and activist approach: think through a small project, execute it, and then work on ways to grow it and spread it across a city. Transformation grows from a small kernel. Ray Gastil is a city planner and urban designer, and brings to the conversation a background in architecture, formal city planning, and a rigor of urban design. I asked Kurt Kiefer to join the discussion as well, in part because of a thought experiment he ran not long ago. He took an artist’s eye to the idea of what would happen if global warming were to turn Queen Anne hill into an island. How would the hill change? Would the new island be able to sustain itself? Finally, Alex Steffen rounds out the list. As a writer, editor, and international lecturer, Alex has been doing a lot of observing and thinking about how cities work and how they need to change. At a set of lectures at Town Hall in February, he called for Seattle to reach citywide carbon neutrality by 2030.

Come and talk about how you would re-imagine your city.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Garage Sale is a Go

Just got word from the property owners about the Capitol Hill Garage Sale on June 5th: It's a go! If you're interested in setting up at the lot, follow the link above to register. Again, this is what it looked like last year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Updated Flier

A Note from New York

Am I a mean person?

Original message:


My name is Kathryn. I am contacting you on behalf of Friedland Realty ( Friedland sells and leases commercial property in Metropolitan, NY. Currently, they are working on a lot of projects in the Bronx and Westchester to increase commerce and promote growth. As I primarily write content for Friedland, I was wondering if you accept guest posts on your blog relating to green infrastructure and architecture. I’d love the opportunity to share an informative and educational article with you and the readers of ( Please let me know if this is something you are interested in.

Best regards,


My response:

hi kathryn,

thanks for the message but i have to decline for two major reasons:

1) 99% of the blog content concerns one site in seattle.

2) said site was a popular symbolic place for the neighborhood and was ruined by people in your industry: a classic case of gentrification where they bought old buildings that small businesspeople and artist-types had made popular, and tried to make a fast buck off it with their reactionary designs and overpriced rents. i know that's the way the world works, but the readers of my site and the neighbors that i try to 'organize' have no sympathy for the industry until it responds to what we value. we'll probably never win this fight (the owner of the property lets us use it now but we have to get insurance and follow their rules) but i'll never do anything to 'support commerce or promote growth' unless it is something radically different from the current paradigm. prove to me that you're not an agent of a shallow, exorbitant profit-seeking business enterprise; that you care about the daily experience of 'place' and the residents who already live there (regardless of their income), and maybe i'll share your marketing material with my readers.

in the meantime, good luck with your financial crisis,

I'm actually not even sure this message was sent to me by a real person, but I'm hoping it is read by one...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Earth Day Free Day Signage

Thanks to the lovely and talented Catherine Bailey for drawing up this Earth Day Free Day flier for us. I'm going to add website info to it tomorrow, but I like it so much I wanted to go ahead and share. Feel free (read: please) to print out a few copies on the sly at work and hang them up in your favorite places around the city. Or print four to a page, cut them out, and drop them off at your favorite cafes and record stores...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Urban Ag Invitation

Here's the Facebook invitation for the aforementioned urban agriculture events Thursday and Friday at the University of Washington.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tearing Up Two Capitol Hill Parking Lots

The groundbreaking for the John and Summit P-patch is happening next Saturday. Here's the facebook invitation. They're looking for non-amplified entertainment so if you need to rehearse before Earth Day Free Day, this would be a chance to perform in a parking lot, in front of some people.

And you've all probably seen the news over at CHS about Seven Hills Park, at 16th and Howell, but if you haven't, take a look here.

(photo from CHS)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Great City Brown Bag: Revitalizing Pioneer Square

I posted an announcement about this event last week, as I do every so often, but this time I actually went. I've turned over a new leaf in my life.

The event was great: the presentations from the organizers were short and sweet and the charette was fantastic. The turnout was great and consisted of people with diverse backgrounds (planners, architects, an employee from Cleanscapes, a planner from vulcan, residents, students, etc.).

We were asked to brainstorm ideas for activating Pioneer Square, both temporarily and permanently. The ideas were myriad -- and I will post them as soon as I get the email with a rundown -- but my personal contributions were:

1.) Demolish the 'sinking ship' garage.
2.) Try to cultivate a paseo culture (leisurely walk), like they do in Spain.
3.) Bring in a few national chain outlets to take up residence in empty retail spaces. I know, I know, this actually goes against pretty much everything I believe in, but I recently saw it in NYC and Philly and was amazed. Sure, local is better, but a few anchors might serve the neighborhood well. The goal here is to kill urban malls -- Pacific Place and Westlake, though the latter is almost dead -- and bring shoppers back out on the streets.

(Barnes and Noble in a beautiful old building next to Jane Jacobs' celebrated Rittenhouse Square)

4.) Encourage some sort of light manufacturing (furniture building, perhaps?) that could create jobs in the area, possibly for the transitional population that utilizes the social services in the neighborhood.

I'd like to add that Kevin Daniels was supposed to be there but had to go to New Orleans for a project. While this is understandable, I'd like to point out that, in my experience with developers, this seems to be all too typical. The community side of their business seems to always take a back seat to the business itself. No surprise, I know, but I was disappointed. To be fair, he's somewhat of a hero when it comes to preservation, which is why I expected him to show (but don't forget what Brecht said about heroes...).

All this to say that I'm even a bigger fan of Great City now and will be attending more of their events. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Giant Foosball and Urban Agriculture Events

Remember Park(ing) Day and the giant Connect Four board brought up by the good folks from Portland? Check out the recap of their design process over on the terrafluxus blog, which includes a plan for a huge foosball table.

Jason from Terrafluxus will also be at the two urban ag events next week at UW. You should stop by. Here's the flyer: