Ballard High bots battle it out


(Photo: Pacific Science Center)

More than 40 teams from high schools around the state — including our own Ballard HS — gathered at the Pacific Science Center on Sunday for a battle of the bots.

The Special Olympics Unified Robotics Championship, a partnership between kids with and without disabilities, featured four teams from Ballard. The students designed, built and programmed their robots over six weeks prior to the competition.

The robots’ names: Bulldozer 2.0, Ava2400, A Pair of Sox and Slicer and Dicer. The goal: to push the competing robot out of the circle. Here’s a video of Bulldozer 2.0 in a match:

A Pair of Sox made it into the semi-finals and lost to… The Purple Robot Eater.

The Ballard team took home two “Rising Star” awards as well as accolades for perseverance and sportsmanship. Well done!

Large Ballard lock closed for annual maintenance, tours are sold out

Just like every year, the Army Corps of Engineers has closed and emptied the large lock at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks for annual maintenance. Crews will scrape barnacles off the walls and check all the mechanical systems.

It’s always fascinating to see what lies 55-feet down — both in the lock and inside the chambers that feed it. However, the VIP tours, which begin today, have sold out. Back in 2009, we tagged along with the Army Corps and took some photos and videos.

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The money raised from the tours goes toward the upcoming Fish Ladder Education Center project, which begins later this fall.

Crews will be working on the large lock through Nov. 22nd. Until then, all marine traffic is routed through the small lock.

As deadline nears for Ballard Nickelsville to move, new location is not ready

The Ballard Nickelsville camp on Market St. will officially reach the end of its two-year stay on November 18th. But in a meeting with neighbors and the camp’s residents last night, the City of Seattle said the new location — at 3814 4th Ave. NE in the Northlake neighborhood — will not be ready until mid-December.

With winter approaching, the city says Nickelsville is welcome to stay in Ballard until then. But camp residents say they’re concerned that they’d be breaking their promise with the community if they don’t move on the 18th, according to KOMO TV. Neighbors at the meeting said they didn’t mind if campers stayed a little longer.

Another issue is the size of the new location — a plot of land owned by City Light. While 20% larger, campers worry it may yield less usable space than Nickelsville’s current location in Ballard.

Earlier this summer, a city report found that the Nickesville encampments around Seattle have met or exceeded performance expectations. The Ballard location was the first city-permitted encampment, and it serves up to 25 residents at a time.

The city says it’s planning two community meetings on Nov. 16th and 20th to discuss the Northlake site. There’s an existing meeting already planned for Nov. 28 to discuss the Northlake site at 6:30 p.m., UW Fisheries Building — Auditorium 102, 1122 NE Boat Street (flyer here).

We’ll keep you updated.

Diagon Alley keeps growing, new project coming next Halloween


Photo from DiagonAlleyProject.com

The Halloween replica of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter has attracted thousands of people to his Ballard home and news coverage from around the world. But Jon Chambers isn’t done yet.

He’s hard at work on a two-story children’s playhouse in the likeness of Gringotts bank — complete with the dragon on top. And he’s issued a casting call for witches, wizards and other Harry Potter characters for a “magical weekend event” with Dumbledore Santa on Dec. 2-3.

And Chambers is already thinking about next year. A possible theme? Star Wars, according to a conversation he had with Seattle Magazine. He may need a bigger driveway.

In the meantime, Diagon Alley will remain open until the first of the year, and so far it’s generated more than $4,000 in donations for pancreatic cancer research. Chambers also plans to auction off the Gringotts bank play structure at Whittier Elementary PTA’s auction in April. (He’s raising money for materials here.)

If you’d like to visit, Diagon Alley is open from 3-7 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on the weekends. It’s located at 7514 13th Ave NW.

What’s on this weekend in Ballard and beyond


The annual Winter Beer Taste at the Phinney Center

There’s LOTS going on this Veterans Day weekend, so you have no excuses. Get out there and enjoy it! If you have an upcoming event, you can now submit it to our new Ballard events calendar.

Friday, November 10:

Saturday, November 11:

Sunday, November 12:

Welcome to My Ballard’s new design

Welcome to the all-new My Ballard. It’s been 10 years since we launched, and we’re a little embarrassed to admit the site was so old, things were breaking all over the place. Our apologies.

So we’ve upgraded with a clean, fast design. You’ll notice that the comments now work, and we’ve added an events calendar where you can submit your own events.

We’re still tweaking and updating a few other things, so thank you for your patience!

New zoning plan closer to reality, Crown Hill could see most change

Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess and Councilmember Rob Johnson released the city’s “preferred alternative” today for upzoning several neighborhoods as part of the proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) plan.

It’s an interactive map that you can browse right here. (To close the splash page once it launches, click the OK button in the lower right).


(From the new “preferred alternative” map.)

As you can see — and as the Seattle Times previewed a few days ago — Crown Hill would be one of the most impacted areas in the city.

“Crown Hill in Northwest Seattle is one of the leading laboratories for the grand-bargain experiment,” explain reporters Justin Mayor and Bob Young in the Times. “In one scenario proposed by the city, Crown Hill faces the greatest encroachment into single-family areas of any of the ‘urban villages’ where the city aims to steer growth.”

The mayor held a press conference today in Capitol Hill. “With this plan, we will extend our requirement that new developments contribute to Seattle’s affordable housing supply,” Burgess explained. “We’ve already implemented this requirement in the University District, downtown, and elsewhere. Now it’s time to bring this requirement to other high-opportunity neighborhoods so that we can hasten our progress in building a more inclusive and equitable city.”

In the “high-opportunity” neighborhood just to the north of Ballard, the Crown Hill Committee for Smart Growth has argued for less upzoning, more support for small businesses, better infrastructure and a neighborhood plan. As we reported last week, one of the area’s oldest businesses, Crown Hill Hardware, is closing at the end of the month.

While the plan is one step closer to reality, the full council vote isn’t scheduled until summer of next year. In the meantime, there are several community meetings scheduled to receive more community feedback. We’ll keep you updated.

New apartments, assisted living and retail center proposed

Browsing the list of upcoming design review board meetings, we discovered some new proposals in Ballard and Crown Hill:

8-story apartment building, 2432 NW 56th St

This is a proposal to build 55 units (with parking for 48 vehicles below) on 56th, behind the Mark 24 apartment complex in central Ballard. Looks like one or more houses would be torn down. The early design meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4th at 8 p.m. at the Ballard Community Center.

5-story and 6-story assisted living and retail center, 10002 Holman Rd. NW

This maps to the location currently occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Wok and Childish Things at Holman Rd. and 4th Ave. NW. The proposal is for two structures with 95 assisted living units and retail at ground level with underground parking for 51 vehicles. The existing structures would be demolished. The early design meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4th at 6:30 p.m. at the Ballard Community Center.

We reported on these next two proposals earlier this summer, but there are design review board meetings coming up:

4-story “congregate residences”, 8311 15th Ave. NW

The map takes us to the home of Restaurante Michoacan, and the proposal is for “five congregate residences with 80 sleeping rooms” and retail on the ground floor. The next meeting is Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Ballard Community Center.

4-story apartment and retail space, 8541 15th Ave NW

This address leads us to 85th and 15th and a building occupied by the Wild Orchid Thai and Taki’s Mad Greek restaurants. This proposal is for “four small efficiency dwelling units and 36 apartments above retail space” with no parking planned. Existing structure will be demolished. The meeting is Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ballard Community Center.