Video: What’s big and furry and likes to climb trees?

I spotted this large raccoon yesterday waddling across my backyard in the middle of the day, pretty much on the same path that many of the neighborhood cats use. Today I caught it in action near the side of my house with my video camera. Being a bit shy, it scrambled up a tree.

This animal is very large and could easily take any of the local cats. Please, cat owners, be aware we live close to a wildlife area and there most definitely IS wild life out there.

Neighbor Appreciation Day February 9th

While not quite the household name that Valentine’s Day is, Seattle’s Neighbor Appreciation Day turns 19 on Saturday, February 9th. It’s billed as, “a special day to reach out to neighbors, create new friends, and express thanks to those who help make your neighborhood a great place to live.” The city encourages residents to plan an activity for our neighborhoods, such as a block party, potluck, or work party. Or you could attend an event such as one of the fire station open houses, park cleanups, or swims around the city. You can even send a Neighbor Appreciation Day e-card to someone with artwork by local students. Or maybe it would just be a good opportunity to knock on your neighbors door and introduce yourself. Victory Heights is a pretty friendly place, so get involved!

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The Case Against Sidewalks

sidewalkA very common complaint about neighborhoods in Seattle north of NE 85th Street is the lack of sidewalks on many residential streets. This is due to the fact most were built before these areas were annexed to the city in the late 1940s when unincorporated county streets did not require sidewalks. So everyone loves sidewalks, right? Not necessarily. A discussion on a mailing list last year revealed that not everyone is on board with sidewalks everywhere.

Vici wrote, “I like Victory Heights just the way it is.  I’m sure you’ve seen the sidewalks north of here.  Check out how much less parking space is available.” Stuart and Jocelyne added, “We totally agree, we love the ‘country’ feel of our neighborhood and don’t want to lose some front yard and our parking strip to sidewalks.” Aaron said, “Yeah, we don’t need sidewalks.  But sure would be nice to have curb & gutter (not a joke). Though I think that takes an act of congress or something monumental. Suppose it would be easier and quicker to  move into a different neighborhood that had that already.” Tom noted, “I agree. Many streets become increasingly narrow towards their ends and have little room for sidewalk without removing parking & even yards. Ever pass through 23rd Ave NE, north of Northgate Way and find folks still walking down the street in spite of the sidewalks that have been created and now reduce the street to single lane through out most of this street?”

In any case, sidewalks are not imminently coming to Victory Heights or any other neighborhood soon because of the extreme expense to the city. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) says the cost of constructing a block of sidewalk in the city of Seattle averages $181,000 per block (a range between $85,000 and up to $300,000 depending on the amount of work required to construct it). Short of a monumental tax hike to pay for that, the city is in no rush to build sidewalks on every residential street given current budget shortfalls.

But even if a magical sidewalk fairy (or rich billionaire) could fund the construction, what are some of the liabilities to sidewalking the entire north end of city? Water runoff during rain would be a big factor. Love them or hate them, the current grass culvert system along most of our streets absorbs a tremendous of water, meaning it never makes it to treatment plants or dumped into our creeks and lakes. Replacing these with storm-drained sidewalks would mean ALL the rain would suddenly be streaming into the storm system, flowing into Thornton Creek, or overwhelming water treatment plants.

The city in fact, anticipating this problem, has instituted a stormwater code that basically says if you construct a new sidewalk in front of your home you are required to deal with the increased runoff from that surface area. The range of solutions includes using pervious pavement, constructing an infiltrating raingarden, etc. With a large project, like a new residential building or paving/covering more than 5000 square feet of surface, the code requires a formal detention system. You can see this in practice, though, when a new building goes up and there’s a detention pond or similar structure in a common area to deal with the increased storm water. For some buildings, it involves constructing a temporary holding tank underground, which holds the water until the stormdrain system can handle the increased flow.

Developers include the costs of all this when designing new buildings. For communities like Victory Heights, such a retention system in an existing neighborhood seems rather impractical if sidewalks were to be put in.

So sidewalk haters, rejoice! Due to factors like the high cost, and stormwater concerns, don’t expect to see any new sidewalks in Victory Heights for some time.

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Thornton Creek Alliance Meeting January 24th

thorntoncreekalliancelogoThe Thornton Creek Alliance‘s monthly meeting will be Thursday, January 24th with the theme “How’s The Water Quality In Thornton Creek?” Featured guest speakers will be Jonathan Frodge, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) Stormwater Scientist, and Sherell Ehlers, SPU Stormwater Policy Advisor. You’ll learn the results of a recent 2-year bacteria study, and a status report on the revision of the stormwater code. There will also be updates on the confluence project, 92nd Street culvert, Beaver Pond Natural Area plans, and future program.

The meeting begins at 7 PM at the Meadowbrook Community Center, 10517 35th Avenue NE.

Community Council Approves By-Laws; Elects Officers

On Tuesday, the Victory Heights Community Council met at the Pre-School in Victory Heights Park and approved new By-Laws and elected a slate of officers and Board Members. Twenty-two residents attended the meeting, many of whom found out about it via the sandwich board signs I placed around the neighborhood last week (well worth the three hours it took me to letter them).

Some minor changes were made to the Draft By-Laws which were then approved unanimously (with one abstention).

Ardith Lupton was elected President; Sharon Haggerty Vice President; Ryan Johnson Secretary; Brad Cummings Treasurer; and Eileen Canola, Susan Causin, Justin Almeida, Kate Waterous and Heidi Smeller as Board members.

Meetings will continue to be held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, the next will be February 19th, starting at 7PM at the Pre-School.  Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Read the minutes of the meeting (PDF document).

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Victory Heights Community Council Organizing Meeting Tuesday

The resurrected Victory Heights Community Council will be having its organizing meeting this Tuesday, January 15th at 7 PM at the Co-Operative Preschool building in Victory Heights Park (we recommend bringing your own chairs, the preschool’s are all for small children). Residents are encouraged to attend and vote on a new set of by-laws (see a PDF draft of the proposed by-laws) as well as a slate of officers including President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Related article: What Does A Community Council Mean For Victory Heights?

Although this seems like a lot of effort just to organize fun community things like Easter egg hunts, block parties, or get a traffic circle put in, the city and especially the North District Council take an organized community group much more seriously when it comes to dealing with neighborhood issues. The old Victory Heights Community Council (active in the late 90s) left behind a substantial amount of money which has been parked in a bank account for several years and could be put to good use again.

Related article: The Community Organizes

So if you care about Victory Heights and would like a voice in what is going on in the neighborhood as well as a forum to raise issues, please attend Tuesday’s meeting and get involved.

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Draco The Duck Returns Home Safely

Terri Bell and Draco the duck safe at home again.

Terri Bell and Draco the duck safe at home again.

On Thanksgiving, urban farmer Terri Bell (see previous article about her goats), noticed her drake (the aptly named Draco) had disappeared from her Victory Heights backyard when her attention was distracted. It was assumed Draco had been a victim of racoons (or possibly coyotes) but instead this week he was returned safe and well after a five week adventure. Draco appears to have made a daring escape on Thanksgiving by achieving just enough flight to get over his backyard coop and down the hill to Lake City Way. Terri said, “In the past, he has never managed to raise his webbed feet more than an inch or so off the ground and for no more than seconds. But I was closed up in the kitchen all day, and he may have figured it out while I wasn’t looking.” He was discovered wandering around Lake City Way near NE 107th Street by someone who eventually cornered him and took him to Meadowbrook Pond. There, being a friendly duck and acclimated to humans, he would approach people looking for food.  Apparently the Meadowbook Pond Facebook featured Draco in some photos.

On December 30th, someone on the Ducks and Clucks blog took notice and rescued him from the Pond and put up a notice hoping he could be adopted by someone needing a drake.  Fortunately, Victory Heights resident Ruth Williams saw the picture of Draco, remembered Terri was missing a duck of that species, and Draco was returned home safely.

In the meanwhile, Terri went and got a replacement drake, Mr. Frost, who now hisses at Draco whom he perceives as an intruder.  Although Draco was originally intended as meat, Terri now says that due to the effort and kindness that has gone into rescuing him, “in the Spring, Draco and Mamma Duck will move to a new cottage in the front yard where they will be garden ducks patrolling for their favorite treats of slugs, bugs and maybe baby voles and moles!”

Terri’s goats would love your old Christmas trees. Trees must be free of snow, tinsel, ornaments, and hooks. Bring them by 10538 Victory Lane NE.