Belltown Scene


By Ryan Takeo

A Washington State Department of Labor and Industries crane expert began an investigation Wednesday, one day after a crane cable snapped and sent a metal piece of debris flying.

No one was injured, but the debris almost hit a bicyclist.

Compass General Construction runs the site at Western Avenue and Blanchard Street. Its vice president, Bob Strum, said workers were parking the crane Tuesday when part of the cable failed.

“They were parking the crane for the night and running the cable up at the end of the day, and a part of it failed and (the debris) fell,” he said.

He added the company is also conducting its own investigation to find out what exactly happened.

The metal debris, called a block, was attached to the cable. The block fell near workers below and then to the nearby street, where it almost hit bicyclist Chris Behrens.

“I was riding my bike up the hill and I heard a loud snap,” recalled Behrens after the incident.

Compass’ L&I inspections over the last four years showed 16 of the 19 inspections had no violations. One 2016 inspection showed two ‘severe’ violations. An L&I spokesperson added context that Compass’ violations were fairly common and the resulting fines were only about $5,000 combined. One inspection is under appeal and another had a “general” violation, which is the most minor type, according to the spokesperson.

Strum said Compass has no open cases he knows of and stood by his company’s safety record.

“It’s a big part of what we do. It’s a part of everyday conversation,” he said. “There are rigorous protocols to maintain safe hoisting practices. Cranes are regularly inspected and maintained by people who that’s all they do. “

Strum added the crane was inspected the day before the incident. He declined to name the inspection company. He said the crane will stay parked for the time being.

“We’re going to have the manufacturer come out to inspect it,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are going to go through it very carefully and we’ll just leave it parked until all of that’s been done.”

A carpenters union recently picketed the construction site, claiming safety concerns.

Compass says it believes the union was and is trying to recruit new members. Several workers did not have the same safety concerns the union described.

The L&I investigation is expected to take about six months.

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By Daniel Beekman

Seattle leaders say a proposed upzone of downtown and South Lake Union would help make the city more affordable and diverse.

But some Belltown residents are worried it would fail to stop their downtown neighborhood from becoming more expensive and exclusive.

The upzone would enable new buildings to climb one or several stories higher than is now allowed.

Though it would trigger a new Mayor Ed Murray program requiring developers to create rent-restricted housing, the developers would be allowed to pay fees to the city rather than include the affordable units in their own buildings.

And downtown, officials have said, they expect developers of high-rise buildings to choose to pay those fees.

The fees would serve a worthy purpose: The city would use them to help nonprofit organizations develop rent-restricted housing.

But Murray’s program wouldn’t require that housing to be located in the downtown neighborhoods generating the fees.

The Belltown residents say the affordable units funded by the fees would most likely end up in neighborhoods far from downtown, where land is cheaper.

“This legislation would treat our neighborhood like an ATM,” Evan Clifthorne, of the new community group Project Belltown, wrote in a letter to the City Council last month.

Downtown and South Lake Union are among more than two dozen parts of the city that Murray wants to upzone this year and next, each in tandem with the requirements of his Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program.

The mayor has said the MHA program can produce 6,000 units of rent-restricted housing in a decade, and he’s counting on downtown and South Lake Union development to generate about 2,100 of those units.

The council got started in February, approving an upzone of the University District. A final vote on the downtown and South Lake Union upzone is happened for Monday.

In certain neighborhoods, debates about Murray’s plan are following a familiar script.

Some homeowners are accusing the city of acquiescing to overdevelopment, while some urbanists are slamming the mayor’s critics as “not in my backyard” obstructionists.

Belltown’s narrative is somewhat different, says Merlée Sherman, a 24-year-old food educator raising two children with her partner in a 250-square-foot studio apartment.

Sherman and her neighbors aren’t afraid of density. Belltown already is very urban. And they aren’t particularly upset about what the upzone would do. They’re more upset about what it might not do — help people of all incomes remain in their neighborhood.

“I want other families to be able to live downtown,” Sherman said earlier this month. “We walk everywhere. Everything is accessible. You’d think 250 square feet would be hell, but when we walk outside we have everything.”

Sherman discussed the upzone with Clifthorne after taking part in a Project Belltown “visioning event” last month. They and some of their neighbors say the legislation should ensure the construction of affordable housing in Belltown. They say it should also consider the needs of people struggling to climb into and stay in the middle class.

The MHA program is set up to create housing for families making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. For a single person, 60 percent of the median is about $40,000 per year, and for a family of four, 60 percent is about $55,000 per year.

By giving Belltown developers the option of paying fees and by helping households making below 60 percent, “you say no” to some middle-class workers, Sherman said.

“You say no to the insurance broker, to the mechanic, the list goes on,” she said.

Terique Scott, who moved to Belltown from Cleveland four years ago, shares Sherman’s perspective. The 30-year-old Belltown Community Council board member says a neighborhood “where you still have black, white, rich, poor, homeless” has become less diverse as rents have soared.

“There should be more workforce housing,” Scott said, sitting around a meeting with Clifthorne and Sherman in the Makers co-working space on Lenora Street. “They’re just making it low-income and high-income. They’re killing the middle class.”

Fees option

Clifthorne, who was an aide to former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, says council members are well-meaning and says the MHA program is a good idea, overall.

But some details of the plan bother him. Clifthorne says the fees option exists partly because developers believe low-income tenants make their buildings less marketable.

And he says the upzone could exacerbate segregation between neighborhoods by using luxury buildings downtown to fund affordable housing in less-wealthy areas.

“The perception that we can’t have poor people living close to rich people is a driving factor,” Clifthorne said.

For a better Belltown, the city could let downtown developers include units for households making up to 80 percent of the median, he says.

The council also could boost incentives for developers who buy existing buildings near their luxury buildings and then keep the rents affordable, Clifthorne says.

Finally, the MHA program could allow developers to spend less on the rent-restricted units they include in their luxury buildings. The program now requires a building’s rent-restricted and market-rate units to have similar dimensions and amenities.

“We’re not being creative enough,” Clifthorne said.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who ushered the upzone through the council’s land-use committee, says he understands the anxiety in Belltown but stands by the plan.

The fees option is valuable because construction dollars go further in neighborhoods such as Rainier Beach and Lake City, Johnson says. In other words, a downtown developer paying fees rather than including units means more affordable housing.

“There’s a natural tension around this throughout the city,” Johnson said.

Though the MHA program doesn’t require the city to use the fees in the same neighborhoods where they were generated, the program makes proximity a consideration, the council member says. The city has a track record of funding low-income housing in all sorts of neighborhoods, including Belltown, Johnson notes.

By targeting families making no more than 60 percent of the median, Johnson says, the program is meant to help people making up to just above the minimum wage.

That’s different from most of Belltown’s existing affordable buildings, which are reserved for people making no more than 30 percent of the median, he says.

Another angle

Clifthorne doesn’t expect the council to make any drastic changes Monday in response to Belltown concerns, he says.

But another angle on the upzone could lead to heated debate. Councilmember Lisa Herbold plans to propose an amendment that would increase the requirements on downtown developers, who are being asked to do less than developers elsewhere.

She says the upzone, as proposed, could yield fewer affordable units in some cases than Seattle’s existing Incentive Zoning program, which is voluntary for developers.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.

Belltown Hospitality Group is overseen by Marcus Charles (previously: Marcus’ Martini Heaven, The Bad Juju Lounge, Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room; currently: The Crocodile, Local 360 Café & Bar, Mama’s Cantina) and is excited to bring a new chapter to 200 Bell Street on the corner of 2nd and Bell with Belltown Brewing.

BHG operated Bell + Whete at this location for 2 and half years with partial success. The bar menu and area at Bell + Whete had significant traction, but the dining room didn’t garner the same clamor. So, Belltown Hospitality Group decided to expand the bar offering by literally turning the restaurant into a Brewery. 

With several months of renovations wrapping up and perfecting various flavors of our craft beer and menu items, Belltown Brewing is currently in the midst of a “soft opening” working toward its Official Grand Opening on the 17th of this month.  Full scale dress rehearsals, open to the public, started over the weekend and will continue until the big day.

The most striking changes include the old dining room’s transformation into the Brewery’s cold side cellar. So far, Belltown Brewing has taken possession of 2 – 10 barrel fermenters, 1- 10 barrel brite, 3 – 1 barrel fermenters – 1 barrel brite.  Still on order for delivery in April are 5 – 5 barrel fermenters and 2 – 5 barrel brites. 

Leading the brewing team at Belltown Brewing is Adam Frantz (previously of American Brewing, Mac & Jack’s) to create three flagship beers –  Local Lager, Speakeasy IPA, and Watermain Amber, an American-style amber. Adam will always have at least 5 different Belltown Brewing crafted beers on tap with small batches galore.  “One of the reasons I took this opportunity on was the ability to do small batch runs with the 1 – barrel tanks. Marcus talked about creating these team-building experiences where groups could come into the brewery, make a beer with me one day, then come into the brewery 3 weeks later and enjoy it with the masses,” said Frantz.

Chef Aaron Barker, the Group Chef for Belltown Hospitality Group, created a menu with his team that could span both lunch and dinner as well as give everyone their favorite options.  Belltown Brewing searched out a well-seasoned Gas and Brick Pizza Oven from the 1970’s and had it completely rebuilt.  The oven is a classic and already turning out incredible pies – Chef Aaron mentioned, “along with the 40-year-old bricks, I have a secret ingredient for our dough.  Find me at the bar late night and I may just give you my secret for this dough, but it will cost you at least a pint.” The Brewhouse also features The Burger (which is ground Brisket, Chuck & Tri Tip), a selection of sandwiches, pastas as well as sweets from Mariana Stepniewski, pastry chef at Local 360.

In addition to team building events, Belltown Brewing has a private room named the Brewer’s Table that is able to accommodate up to 40 guests. This warm & intimate space is good for all day events or after work gatherings.  Liz Rich, Group Events Manager, described the space, saying “one of the special elements of the Brewer’s Table is the ability to have pre-event beers and pass hors d’oeuvres in the cellar surrounded by all the new stainless steel tanks.  It’s like a house party when everyone wants to hang out in the kitchen, only this way, everyone wants to hang out with the beer.” 

Belltown Brewing will be concentrating on generating beer for its own use, but do not be surprised if you start finding it at the other Belltown Hospitality Group establishments later this spring.

Belltown Brewing / The Brewhouse is a full-service neighborhood brewpub featuring its own beers, guest taps, and full cocktail menu. Hours are Noon until Late (10 PM Weekdays & Midnight + Friday & Saturday).

Featured photo source: Belltown Brewing’s Facebook Page

The recent freeze is taking a toll on Seattle-area roads and leaving large potholes.
According to KIRO 7, Third Avenue in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood had some of the most damage. Drivers were eager to talk about it.
“It was bumpy and not very safe,” said Angelique Garcia after driving down Third Avenue. “I slowed down, if someone was behind me it would be a terrible accident.”
The ride was equally upsetting for her daughter in the passenger seat, Rebecca Garcia. The Garcias were visiting Seattle from San Diego and told KIRO 7 they’d never seen roads like that.

Seattle resident Chris Tensley said he tried to avoid the potholes on Third Avenue. “It’s like going through a slalom course. You have to drive and weave. You can’t drive straight, Tensley said.
The Seattle Department of Transportation told KIRO 7 the city would have crews out on Sunday this week working to repair road damage from the recent storm. The pothole ranger crews usually work Monday through Friday.
There is a link on the SDOT website that allows drivers to report potholes: 
The city says it tries to have potholes repaired in 72 hours. If a vehicle is damaged by a pothole the driver can file a claim with the city. The city says each claim will be investigated by an adjuster. If the pothole that caused the damage was reported and not fixed within 72 hours, SDOT says it is more likely to pay the claim.
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SEATTLE, WA – Police seized a large cache of drugs across three downtown locations last week during operations against drug dealers.

In the first operation, bike officers came across a 26-year-old alleged drug dealer and a 20-year-old sitting in an SUV at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Madison Street. Inside the SUV, they found a stash of drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, Xanax, Oxycontin, Viagra, psychedelic mushrooms, a handgun, and cash, they said.

The 26-year-old was turned over to the Department of Homeland Security, although police underscored that he’s a U.S. citizen. The other man was connected with a drug diversion program.

After those arrests, police were able to set up a meeting with another dealer who was working out of an apartment in Belltown along 3rd Avenue. They arrested the 35-year-old dealer, who apparently gave police permission to search his apartment – and they found more drugs.

Inside the apartment, police said they found 60 grams of heroin, 80 grams of meth, 58 grams of shrooms, 25 Oxycontin pills, 25 Viagra pills, and a large caliber gun. The dealer also told police about another stash he was keeping at a hotel along 6th Avenue, and they found 379 grams of meth there.

The dealer was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of possession of narcotics and possession of a firearm.

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