2005 in review

The News covered everything from the monorail fiasco to bridgework to homeland insecurity this past year. Here's a recap of some of those stories.


The Seattle Center started unloading property in an effort to make up part of its $9.4 million operating deficit. One deal involved the $4 million sale of a parking lot near the Pacific Science Center, but the big announcement involved the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rolled out in a press conference attended by the mayor and other city officials, the agreement called for the foundation to buy the Seattle Center parking lot on the east side of Fifth Avenue North for a whopping $50.4 million.

Foundation president Patty Stonesifer said the Seattle Center is a good fit for the philanthropic organization. However, she described Nickels and his team as "sometime difficult negotiating partners."

Center director Virginia Anderson described the negotiations for the 12.3 acres as tough. Just how tough became apparent when it was also announced that the city had to kick back $28 million in the deal.

More than $15 million of that is for financing a parking garage, while the balance is to be spent on clean-up costs for contaminated soil on a former Metro bus barn site, and on part of the costs for relocating the skateboard park and basketball court.

The proposal to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel and surface streets was slammed by a Magnolia resident for reasons that didn't have anything thing to do with the hefty price.

Backed up with a 2003 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAH) study, Gene Hogland warned that a tunnel could be flooded and everyone in it drowned by a tsunami generated by an earthquake along the Seattle fault. A similar tidal wave slammed into the Elliott Bay area in A.D. 900-930, according to the study.

Karen's Place playground near the Magnolia Community Center got a major makeover. Named after neighborhood residents Norm Maleng and his wife Judy's daughter, who died in a 1989 sledding accident, the new playground and equipment cost $140,000. Dedicated local volunteers took two years to pull it off.


The price for replacing the Magnolia Bridge skyrocketed to around $200 million from earlier, preliminary estimates of $100 million to $130 million.

The Seattle Department of Transportation blamed the high cost of purchasing of rights-of-way, the need for more extensive earthquake-proofing, as well as the shifting of cost estimates to mid-way through the project. The idea of retrofitting the bridge surfaced as a possibly cheaper alternative.

The Port of Seattle bought the 3.4-acre site of the former South Tsubota Steel property off 15th Avenue West. The cost was $6.1 million, but plans for using the property were put on hold until the Port figures out what to do with its 57-acre North Bay land.

Coffee wars broke out in Magnolia Village when the owners of Java Jazz espresso stand in the Union 76 station squared off against new owners of the station about lease rates that had gone through the roof. Java Jazz ended up moving away.


Heavy-handed Seattle Monorail Project staffers infuriated the owner of Read Products on 15th Avenue West by serving him with condemnation papers even before anyone came by to talk to him about acquiring air rights to some property he owns near the Emerson Street Bridge. Chuck Reed wasn't a monorail fan to begin with, and he was even less so afterwards.

Fishing Vessel Owners Marine Ways, a ship-repair business in Fishermen's Terminal, was facing closure to make room for the monorail line.

CEO and president Don Lindblad said there were no other viable locations, and he noted the monorail's condemnation powers would put an end to a business that has been in the same location since 1919.

The state yanked the license of a Magnolia adult family home following a damning investigation by the Department of Social and Health Services. Run by New Beginnings Family Homes of Seattle Inc., the single-family home on 25th Avenue West was used to care for frail elderly clients, but they weren't cared for very well.

Among the allegations: floors were sticky with urine, there was delay in getting residents hospital care when necessary, domestic violence involving staff members took place in the home, and an 89-year old woman died possibly due to complications from neglect. The investigation revealed that the deceased woman had bedsores so severe that one reached the bone.

Retex Northwest set up collection bins for used clothing and shoes in a Magnolia Village parking lot, claiming that donations "would help the less fortunate."

The non-profit Northwest Center, which stations a donation truck in the same parking lot, begged to differ. Retex, it turns out, is a for-profit outfit that donates only a small portion of the money it makes to the less fortunate.


ET Towing landed the city towing contract and set up shop in an Interbay office and on a parking lot north of QFC. It was all too much for the Interbay Neighborhood Association, which wanted the area to be declared a Hub Urban Village in an effort to revitalize the deteriorating mini neighborhood.

The association figured the city would pay more attention to the area if it had a village designation, but the Department of Planning and Development was against the idea. So was the mayor's office.

Pink flyers announcing the opening of The Art Amore Adult Book and Video Superstore were left on cars in Magnolia Village, causing quite a stir among those who felt a porno joint in the neighborhood would be less than appropriate.

The flyers were distributed on April 1, which offered a clue to the real reason behind them. That and the fact that the owner's name, Lali Sporof, was an anagram of April Fools.

Billionaire Paul Allen tried a different approach with the floundering Experience Music Project by opening the nation's first science-fiction museum in the Frank Gehry building at the Seattle Center.

He even hired former NASA scientist Donna Shirley to run things, and the exhibits included the queen from "Aliens" as well as Gort, the huge robot from the 1951 film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still."


The Seattle City Council said no way to the Port of Seattle's proposal to include housing in its redevelopment plans for its North Bay property north of Terminals 90 and 91. Still, council president Jan Drago said the issue might be reconsidered in the future.

Port staff insisted that housing was only a supporting use to begin with, but the mayor's office was concerned about maintaining a healthy maritime-industrial sector in the area.

Rehabilitating the Magnolia Bridge instead of replacing it became one of the four alternatives being considered for the project. Preliminary estimates pegged the cost at around $178 million.

Pigeon poop became a problem for businesses near the Galer Street flyover on 15th Avenue West. The cause was a huge flock of the birds that had taken to roosting on phone lines in the area, with predictably messy results.

Albert Lee Appliances was especially hard hit by the problem, but Seattle City Light workers came up with a solution that appeared to work fairly well. They hung shiny whirling doolybobs from the lines, and they seemed to scare most of the birds away most of the time.

A film about Fishermen's Terminal was included in the Seattle International Film Festival. Director B.J. Bullert documented the fishermen's reaction to Port plans to allow pleasure boats to moor at the marina, along with a dispute about the sales of salmon off boats. The Port was not amused.


A Seattle Department of Transportation workshop about replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct revealed that no one in the crowd favored the ultra-expensive tunnel option heavily promoted by Mayor Greg Nickels.

Longtime newspaper executive Peter Barnhard bought Pacific Publishing Company, which owns the News and six other associate neighborhood publications in Seattle and in Kirkland.


King County Executive Ron Sims thought it was a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" when Southwest Airlines proposed moving its flight operations from Sea-Tac to Boeing Field.

But others, including King County Council president Larry Phillips from Magnolia, thought the idea was terrible. The change would have routed up to 90 flights a day over Magnolia, where residents have complained for years about noise from existing planes heading to Boeing Field.

Phillips and council member Dwight Pelz from South Seattle were also concerned that roads to the county airport wouldn't be able to handle the increased traffic if Southwest moved in.

The United States Army Reserve center at Fort Lawton next to Discovery Park was nominated for shutdown by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

No one would speculate about likely new uses for the 38-acre complex, but Seattle Parks and Recreation isn't very interested in the property. However, another possible use would be housing for the homeless, according to the feds.

The Seattle Port Commission approved plans for redeveloping North Bay in a narrow 3-2 vote. The focus would be on research and development, office space, retail and maritime-industrial uses. Housing wasn't part of the mix, despite a staff recommendation to the contrary.

The Seattle Monorail Project was feeling the heat at a community meeting in Ballard following news that the revised price was going to be a staggering $11.4 billion.

There were still some supporters of the project at the meeting, but they were far outnumbered by opponents that included Dick Falkenbury, the former cab driver is one of the founding fathers of the monorail movement. However, everyone was cheered by the news that executive director Joel Horn and board chairman Tom Weeks had resigned.

A 28-year-old man was shot multiple times in the parking lot of the Soundtrack Bar & Grill on West Dravus Street. The shooting followed an argument about a pool game, and the alleged shooter had been banned for a time from the bar for an incident involving a gun, according to one witness. The SPD gang unit investigated, but police say the victim eventually declined to cooperate.


The Magnolia Community Cub, in a letter to county executive Ron Sims, went to detailed lengths to slam Southwest Airlines' proposal to move to Boeing Field.

Besides increased noise over the neighborhood, the community club worried that taxpayers would be on the hook for the costs of infrastructure improvements such as roads. In addition, the letter warned that Sims could face ballot-box fallout for his support of the proposal.

The King County Democratic Central Committee, in a nearly unanimous vote, also warned that Sims could lose support from the party faithful for promoting the idea.

The lack of support would be especially important in a tight race, the county dems said. Spokespeople for Sims had denied he'd made up his mind about the issue.

In an exclusive interview with the News, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President Ron Ricks maintained that the move to Boeing Field would be a good deal all around.

Only the quietest Boeing jets would be used, GPS technology would allow the company's jets to fly over Elliott Bay instead of Magnolia, and the $130 million terminal and parking garage the airline proposed to build would be a shot in the arm for Boeing Field, he said. Ricks also maintained that the existing road system near the airport would be adequate for accommodating the increased traffic.


Neighborhood businesses, along with students and parents from all seven public schools in Magnolia and Queen Anne raised $30,000 to buy school supplies for students driven out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. The supplies were sent to Baton Rouge after students at Coe Elementary School loaded them into backpacks.

A Grindline Skatepark design was refined for a proposed skateboard park and basketball court next to the Combined Sewer Overflow facility on Elliott Avenue West.

The skateboard park would replace the Seattle Center facility that will be lost when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is built. The design included both bowl and street-skating elements. Parents for Skateparks, which objected to the location, pressed for including other uses such as an off-leash dog area.

Lifelong Magnolia resident, Lt. Robert Leisy, was honored in a ceremony at Fort Lawton for his service in Vietnam. The Queen Anne High School graduate was killed by a mortar round in 1969 at age 24. The ceremony was attended by many of his military comrades, friends and family members. The ceremony took place at the Leisy Reserve Center, which was named in his honor.


The U.S. Coast Guard turned over the West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park to Seattle. The lighthouse was first opened in 1881, and it was made available for public use by the 2000 National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. It will become part of the Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center.

Three chickens living in a Magnolia back yard made national news highlighting a trend of people raising so-called city chickens in urban settings. Owned by Jennifer Carlson, the trio were covered by local and national magazines, as well as The Today Show.

The backyard critters not only provide eggs that are tastier than the store-bought variety, they also help prepare compost. And so popular is the pastime, Seattle Tilth even teaches classes about city chickens.

A Magnolia boy who's around 11 got into serious hot water when he brought a semi-automatic handgun from his home to Catharine Blaine School. He was caught after he handed it off to another student, who alerted school authorities.

The Seattle School District stressed that no threats were involved in the incident, and the boy was temporarily turned over to Child Protective Services.

Blocked in its effort to have the area declared a Hub Urban Village, the Interbay Neighborhood Association came up with a new approach to revitalize the sometimes-hardscrabble section of town around West Dravus Street west of 15th Avenue West. They proposed as an alternative a zoning overlay that would allow increased density and taller buildings.

Magnolia News editor Rick Levin and Beacon Hill News & South District Journal editor Erik Hansen wrote a three-part series investigating the lives of migrant laborers in Seattle and the United States, focusing their efforts on the inner workings of CASA Latina, a day-labor organization headquartered in Belltown.


Magnolians Peter Titcomb and Leslye Wood were part of a Global Citizens Journey group that traveled to the conflict-plagued, but oil-rich, delta region of Nigeria.

Working with a local development organization, the grass-roots-diplomacy group already had helped forge a cease-fire between warring tribes. The purpose of the trip was to complete construction of a new library and stock it with books and computers.

Plans were put on hold for a new skateboard park and basketball court to replace the ones that will be lost on a Seattle Center parking lot.

The preferred new location had been on Elliott Avenue West, but Seattle Parks and Recreation and the mayor directed the Seattle Center to make another effort to find a place for the facility on campus.

Seattle Center staff had already looked for but failed to find a suitable location on its property; the parks department was also instructed to look for a new location on its land.

The November vote that finally killed off the monorail project was greeted with relief by almost everyone in Magnolia and Queen Anne, which had initially voted heavily in favor of the system.

The $11.4 billion price tag killed the dream, although non-voting monorail board member Jeanne Kohl-Welles thought the shortened line proposed in the last vote could have been feasible.


Opponents of the proposed cluster-housing project on the grounds of the old Briarcliff Elementary School won a small victory when a city hearing examiner ruled the setbacks were inadequate and the total lot coverage was too much.

The rehabilitation approach was added to three other alternatives that would replace the Magnolia Bridge. At $178 million, the new alternative was marginally cheaper than the replacement options, and it would take the bridge out of service much longer than the other alternatives.

The newly instituted smoking ban in bars left some people grumpy in Magnolia and Queen Anne. But outside of a huge number of cigarette butts littering the ground outside, the ban wasn't that big a deal for most drinking establishments.

And finally, the Seattle Police Department promised to target speeders on the Magnolia Bridge following a rash of citizen complaints.

Reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at 461-1309 or by email at rzabel@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]