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The other Ballard location for which an encampment was proposed was the substation property at 15th and 80th.
I don’t agree with the premise that people’s collective “civic energy” (if that could be defined and quantified) can be exhausted. And it seems like hyperbole (or cynicism) to argue that the relatively minor amount of public discussion that has occurred on this issue (by comparison with highly contentious, long term and angry or even violent public policy arguments that have been raging around the country on matters such as gun control, abortion, military spending and wars, immigration, etc.) could deplete the civic energy of our community.
I also don’t agree that expressing concerns about the administrative process by which the encampment legislation is being implemented is a waste of the city’s (and therefore our collective) time or resources.
In my opinion it is our civic duty to insist that our representatives and the bureaucracies that they lead:
*honestly and openly communicate the policies they advocate and the factual impetus for them
*acknowledge the cons of policy solutions and make every effort to address them rationally and openly
*accept, acknowledge and consider public comment
*use (collect, analyze and report) data appropriately
*estimate/calculate one-time and recurring costs accurately (and be intellectually honest about the scope of programmatic costs)
*write professionally; and
*generally conduct their governmental business competently.
In my opinion, efforts by elected leaders and city staff to deny or abort a fair public policy making process should always be suspect in a Democracy.
In this case the city has fallen short with respect to many of the criteria above. Hopefully the public airing of the shortcomings will be taken into consideration in this City Council election and will result in improved transparency and accountability by City Council and the mayor’s office in the future.
PS I share basic capitalist values but the mere fact that a business owner realizes profit doesn’t mean that I see what they do as valuable or good or that they should be free from public oversight and regulation when law and public policy permit it. I don’t see building as unqualifiedly valuable for society. I think the value depends on what is being built, the purpose it serves, the quality put into the building etc. Although I see the value in citizens having jobs (including building trades jobs) and I do think we need more housing in Seattle I don’t agree that any further housing stock is necessary in Ballard … and when development moves to other city neighborhoods that are not at more than 400% (including permits issued) of growth target still nearly a decade away, those workers will still have jobs — just not at a worksite in Ballard.
Ballard is further beyond its amended 2024 density goal (last time I looked) than every neighborhood in Seattle with the exception of Pike/Pine in Capitol Hill.
As noted by the Displacement Coalition this dramatic increase in supply of housing in Ballard has not done anything to increase availability of affordable housing in Ballard (recently quantified in proposed legislation as a little over $1,000 a month). In fact it has resulted in the destruction of what had been affordable housing while Ballard has become an expensive neighborhood to rent an apartment. A KUOW analysis by Kara McDermott stated “Ballard rent has far surpassed Seattle’s average, rising 75 percent to about $1,500 for a one-bedroom unit in 2014. Only the Belltown/Downtown/South Lake Union area has a higher average rent. For the most part, Ballard kept pace with the average rent increase in the city until 2009. Then, from 2008 until 2014, rents climbed 61 percent. As a result, a neighborhood that had some of the lowest rents in 1998 (above only Beacon Hill and Rainier) became the second most expensive in the city. No other neighborhood made a wider jump in the rankings.”
This is prima facie evidence that continuing to promote increased density in Ballard to increase supply of housing in the hopes of driving down rental costs in this neighborhood is irrational. The policy is already failing to have the desired effect.
With home sales prices rising significantly developers are spending more with each project to acquire land so to make their desired return on investment they are already going to be inclined to build premium to luxury complexes. And exacerbating the matter is the reality that supply and demand is not uniform throughout the city. It varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Ballard is (still) a very desirable neighborhood for its quality of life, amenities and close proximity to the city. It is only going to be more desirable with greater influx of high income earners and future neighborhood improvements including light rail to Ballard, measures to reduce bridge openings and/or extend water taxi service to Ballard (which have been discussed), completion of the B-G trail, completion of several large commercial developments (including the Martin Selig development at 15th and Market and the announced CD Stimson development on the ship canal waterfront) and the completion of the new Nordic Heritage Museum. In the face of unrelenting demand from people who have the money to afford a desirable neighborhood, developers are going to continue to build premium/luxury housing and profit-take. They are not going to build affordable units unless forced or provided with a major incentive. Maybe the upzone available with proposed mandatory inclusionary zoning and Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program will be enough. But the mandatory inclusionary zoning proposal allows developers to opt out of building affordable units at a site by paying a fee into city’s housing trust fund. If they can rent units in a trendy neighborhood at a premium price I don’t see why they wouldn’t just pass their opt-out costs on to renters. And AHIMP essentially works as a converse — it requires a fee of $5–$17 per square foot unless developers build affordable units on or off site. Those fees could be passed on to renters and paid off in a couple years or the developers could simply choose to build affordable units in another part of town.
The solution it seems to me is to look at neighborhoods that are not at or beyond their development targets and work at promoting more development in those areas while working to slow development in areas that are far beyond target. When you look at neighborhoods most beyond targets you see that generally they are the more desirable neighborhoods like Pike/Pine, Ballard Hub Urban Village and central Fremont. Conversely those that are behind the targets (or basically at but not beyond targets) are neighborhoods that have traditionally been less desirable (it could be due to crime, or distance from the city or lack of amenities etc.) Neighborhoods behind targets include Chinatown, Denny Triangle downtown, First Hill, Rainier and even Lake City. Many of these areas are already more likely to be affordable than Ballard and can be developed more affordably. Then there is SLU.Their target is 8,000 residential units and even with permitted units they are only at 66% of their 2024 target.
I think it is clear that the city is letting developers rabid to continue developing hip neighborhoods to the maximum extent possible have their way at the expense of their constituents from those neighborhoods and not meeting their obligation to ensure that the city’s density burden falls fairly on all neighborhoods.
I was a proponent of density in Ballard and some of that density really helped provide enough critical mass of people to support the indie bars, restaurants and businesses I patronize. That mass made it viable for breweries to locate here and for the farmer’s market to relocate here and flourish. Historic buildings on and off of Ballard Ave have been renovated. Ballard Seafood Fest and Synttende Mai have gotten more successful. The city has built parks and greenways, improved Bergen Place Park. There has been a lot of good from density. But in the 15 years I have been in Ballard I have begun to see that development is also having quality of life consequences on Ballard from crowds and traffic (with associated increased incivility) to significantly increased noise, nighttime light, loss of views over the city and Mt. Rainier, diminished privacy, and destruction of neighborhood architectural heritage. I no longer support further growth in Ballard … not for awhile.
PS I signed the initial petition.
There is clearly a perception that the two petitions represent some kind of statistically significant referendum on the Market St. site but they are not.
The best way to accurately and scientifically gauge public opinion would be polling which could address matters such as public process, accountability and transparency, the perceived pros and cons of the Market St location vs. other locations, the public policy on licensed encampments generally … and other perhaps relevant facets of the ordinance like the time for which an encampment could be authorized initially, the availability of renewals, and the process by which potential residents will be selected (if the encampments will give priority to long standing local homeless first).
I would be interested in seeing the extent to which direct and close by residential and business neighbors of the site were in favor of the site or against it and comparing their views on the above matters to those of the greater population of Ballard residents and business owners and visitors. The views of District 6 voters on those issues and of Mike O’Brien I think are also particularly germane.
Private sites were not included on the city’s list to the best of what I have been able to determine but the city has been obscure about what it did and did not consider and also about what factors they used to disqualify specific sites and to rank the acceptable sites. In their letter to City Council they alluded to a ranking system but did not provide detail and City Council did not ask.
City Council passed an ordinance authorizing sale or condemnation of the Yankee Grill (Diner) property in February for a Combined Sewage Overflow tank or tunnel facility. The city acquired the property in late April or beginning of May.
Essentially DPD appears to be saying now that if not the Market St. site in Ballard then another site as long as it is in Ballard — even though the sites were not on the list of those that the city initially identified as the seven best (the preferred and alternate site lists). To me this raises the issue of whether the city is acting in an unlawfully arbitrary and capricious manner in response to public concerns and comments and I believe litigation with accompanying discovery might uncover that.
Note that DPD and HSD have published their proposed rule and now the minimum (14 day) period has passed they can move forward. It was wholly inadequate in discussing how decision makers should evaluate whether the site identified by an applicant is appropriate. When city officials had meetings with the public in August they did not tell the public that this rulemaking was published and that they could or should comment. I had to read their land bulletin to figure it out. I only discovered the rule after the minimum 14 day waiting period (for final implementation) had passed but I submitted a comment anyway given that the rule did not appear to be signed or finalized. They have not acknowledged my comment.
CR’s post providing “what if” examples was saying in essence that everyone is likely to have an issue they care about and on which they expect government transparency in process — and by extension most should be able to empathize with (or at least understand) a petition seeking government transparency and predetermination process — even if you have a different opinion on the neighborhood issue under consideration. The post lists largely plausible government impacts (including those that are ancillary to zoning or permitting). Some allude to past neighborhood disputes over transparency and process. Others I think are timely and reasonable given current developments city wide and in Ballard.
My post, in turn, was not to present an airtight case against density or debate the actual probability that fire could spread to one’s house from new construction. It was to express my opinion that the examples CR raised seemed reasonable and could provoke a range of legitimate concerns.
I don’t think CR was trying to use rhetorical exaggeration. I think she was trying to come up with examples where people in the neighborhood would want notice and an opportunity to be heard before decisions are made by the city that could affect them, such as:
*light or noise nuisances (ballfield lighting, large new housing developments) interfering with their quiet enjoyment of their property
*reduced privacy (tall apartments, condos or a 35′ house built to a minimum setback from your property)
*more limited or difficult parking (a green route, an apodment without parking), or
*public health and safety or environmental concerns like
-overloading strained wastewater capacity (a large multifamily housing development)
-the potential for fire damage to your home from a structures built to close to increase density, or
-electromagnetic field or toxic contaminant risks from a substation.
When I first moved to Ballard I lived a few blocks from Loyal Heights Community Center.I distinctly remember the conflict over the lights and the nightly late-night sporting events at the ballfields that the lights enabled. We had actually looked at, but passed on, buying a house directly across from the field because we were concerned with the potential for parking problems, noise and intrusive light. If you don’t recall it, here is an article from Ballard Herald-Tribune from 2006 talking about the issue and expressing familiar concerns about lack of responsiveness from the city.
Note that in that case “the city council approved the installation of the lights and rejected a move by Loyal Heights’ neighbors to keep the lights off for more than one night a week.” However the “decision came with a condition that the parks department seek ‘meaningful public involvement and review’ of the proposed lighting plan before building permits are issued.”
At least in that case the City Council required public process by the Parks Department before the final decision was made whereas with the encampment the City Council is refusing to provide any predetermination process. Informational sessions after permitting has occurred are inherently inferior to a predetermination process in that the they can’t/won’t have any effect on the decision already made. Moreover in the case of the ballfields conflict the process was with the city and not, as in the case of the encampments, a mere licensed operator.
On CR’s reference to building height, for the most part zoning in the hub urban village does not allow development in excess of 85′ (actually there is a small strip around Swedish allowing more height). So to the best of my knowledge central Ballard doesn’t have 10 story residential complexes (the On The Park complex adjoining Ballard Commons Park is listed as 8 stories on a few different sites but an article in the Daily Journal of Commerce from the project’s structural engineer described the building as 10 stories). Regardless of whether a 10 story building could currently go up next to you the point is that large buildings grossly going up next to residential neighbors has become increasingly common. More large developments are in progress and further height allowances in Urban Village Hub areas are being considered.
There is a rational relationship between increasing the number of people living on a block and potential effects on surrounding neighbors, their property and city infrastructure. Parking is one that a lot of people complained about but I don’t think it is the only or the best example. There is the potential for noise, fire, impacts on the power grid and water and sewage issues. Large buildings block the light of neighboring homes and their gardens. Neighbors may have diminished privacy when apartment or condo residents are looking directly at upstairs windows or down on previously-private back yards. Then there is the effect of creating extra housing supply and more dense conditions on the market value of resale homes in a neighborhood.
There aren’t likely to be any new substations anytime soon but they are building one in South Lake Union and not only do active stations create eletromagnetic fields you can see from the toxins discovered on the Market Street substation site that substation sites can become contaminated.
I also voted for Mike O’Brien last election but I am voting against him this time for the same reasons as Vegan Biker.
I voted for Catherine Weatbrook in the primary. I liked her experience as Co-Chair of the City Neighborhood Council and her positions seemed more reasoned. I am not sure she has my vote for City Council if she advances but I would like for her to advance and then see if we can get further information.
Like most voting guide position statements Weatbrook’s were a little vague. Her website blog posts provided additional insights.
I also reviewed additional materials and based on that I am not sure she is taking a consistent position on the issue of homeless encampments. But honestly there is not a lot of disagreement among the candidates in our district (and the at large candidates) on that issue. The issue of housing density, and any redesignation of SF-zoned residential areas, are more important to me.
This is from Weatbrook’s website:
“Affordable housing news: The crafted behind closed doors HALA report is deeply troubling. The report proposes little other than investor profits, and lacks anything meaningful to address affordability. In addition, it throws Seattle Public Schools under the bus. Created with a clear agenda from day one, by a non-representative group, at the urging of city staff, and the entire report is of questionable value.
“Transitional Encampment news: The news that 2 of the top 7 sites in Seattle for transitional encampments are in Ballard, and 3 of 7 are within 2.3 miles of each other, is an ongoing topic in our community. Even those unanimously in favor of tent cities are deeply disturbed by the city’s dictatorial approach.
“We are a district with many unmet needs of the homeless and chemically dependent already here. Requests for help routinely go unanswered. We seem to get city response only in election years. The many challenges for the sites have yet to be publicly addressed. The public meeting I asked for, as received no response, but July 25th 10am we’ll meet at the Market Street location – 2826 NW Market St. I’ll bring along the information I have, and please do the same. There are many smaller meetings happening, and I’m getting to as many of them as I know about.
“Low rise zone – code corrections: The first draft of the low rise code corrections was an 11-month collaborative effort that got back to the original intent of the 2010 changes – changes that I was involved in and has concerns about at the time. In the 2010 changes, the height bonus + height bonus + bonus +++++ was discussed, and those of us at the table were assured by DPD and then Council Member Sally Clark that the regulations would never be interpreted that way. Anyone who follows low rise zoning in Seattle knows how that turned out. The original draft of the code corrections took 11 months and were a series of compromises that balanced goals. That legislation was on the way to council, when the HALA committee pulled it out of process, and not only gutted it, but when the dust settles, it will have more uncompensated impacts on neighborhoods than ever.
“The common thread through these three topics, is the repeated and frequent dropping of changes on neighborhoods, the heart of our city, without meaningful community and neighborhood engagement and consideration, with a lack of a complete plan and strategy for having livable, workable, walkable, sustainable communities in the end. I bring a fundamentally different approach to the table, with a track record to back it up.
Here is what she said in the Wallyhood District 6 “Wonkathon” on improving housing affordability.
“Solving the affordable housing issue will require short and long term changes in many areas. Removing the shared housing utility rate penalty is one quick way of rewarding larger living groups in existing units. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit with a development tax is an idea worth exploring. I think we need to make it easier for owner occupied accessory dwelling units to be rented, perhaps removing rental inspection fees, and lengthening inspections to every 7 years after the first successful inspection. I know some areas of our city have many vacant homes that are not in foreclosure; I would like to understand why those homes are not being made available for rentals. We need to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing by purchasing those developments before they are sold off and jump to market rate. We need to better account for affordable units lost to development, other lodging models, and renovations. With each tool we use, we need results in more affordable rates, with low administrative overhead.
“What we have been doing for camper vans, hasn’t worked. As a City Council member, I would work on new approaches. I would ask for regular garbage pickups in the areas they gather, rather than relying on the public to call it in when it’s a mess. I would work to either provide port-a-potties, or regular pump out services for the holding tanks to deal with the human waste. I would encourage social services to regularly partner with Seattle Police patrols so that we can start addressing the underlying issues and get these people on the road to health, employment, and housing, and off the streets. We need a “tent city” for camper vans.
Here is what she said in response to written questions on her positions from the Housing Action Fund:
Q. “If elected, what will you do ensure everyone in Seattle has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home?
A. “We need to preserve existing affordable housing (SHA and naturally occurring), we
need to build more, and we need both a levy and to look at leveraging the Seattle
reserve funds to finance more units (CM Licata is working through this idea).
Q. “What is the city’s role in addressing [racial/ethnic housing] disparities?
“I see the need for Seattle City Council action as vital, and the approaches here in
groups of time frames:
“Short term, we need to:
– Find additional funding to pay for partial rents
– Incentivize property owners to have their own voluntary low cap on rental prices,
perhaps with other offsets.
– Identify naturally occurring affordable housing that’s been held a long time, and
start conversations with the land owners, possibly paying for the first right of
“Mid term, we need to:
– Improve transportation options to lower that cost
– Create more affordable housing of all types
– Create more diverse housing types
– Close the wage gap, because it’s the right thing to do and the majority living in
poverty are women and if they were paid equally, they would struggle less.
“Long term, we need to:
close the education gap
close the achievement gap
create a supply of affordable homes to purchase
Q. “Do you support an inclusionary housing policy that goes beyond
voluntary incentive zoning and requires that development contribute to
A. “Yes. We need housing NOW, not partial funding for a yet to be determined location,
yet to be designed, and currently un-permitted future structure.
And, we need people to be able to live where they work. The separate buildings,
feel too much like a separate but equal approach, rather than inclusionary.
Q. “Do you support asking the state legislature to remove the state ban on
A. “No. Rent control has failed everywhere it’s been tried – New York and San Francisco
are a bigger mess than Seattle. In addition, the state legislators with whom I’ve
spoken, say it’s not an option in any sort of short timeframe.
Q. “Should encampments for people experiencing homelessness be allowed
in residential areas?
A. “Yes, but with several requirements that apply to all encampment locations: Access
to frequent public transportation, access to services, and with noise restrictions
consistent with the zoning of the location.
Lisbin, on his website, makes an emotional (perhaps slightly unprofessional sounding) statement about over-development and loss of neighborhood character. I do agree with him in several respects.
Here is his website post on development:
“If you want to piss off the entire city, I don’t know if the Mayor’s HALA task force recommendations could have done a better job. What the heck went wrong?
“There are some good recommendations in the report to address housing affordability and I am not against density. I am against the way it is being done. Did the committee not learn from the destruction of central Ballard, Queen Anne and West Seattle in the name of housing affordability and environmentalism? Did they juice the strategy groups with developers, bankers, and Vulcanists to turn Seattle into South Lake Union? The report sounds like it came right out of a developer handbook on how to make profits without really trying. It’s time to stop the madness!
“Honestly, it is hard to really piss me off, but this report has gone too far. I don’t know if I can be any clearer or shout any louder. This must stop! We can’t keep building density without the infrastructure to support it. We can’t reduce standards for off street parking and expect people to fend for themselves on already overcrowded streets. We can’t build row houses right up to single family homes and not destroy the neighborhood feel. There’s no more room in the schools, on the streets, and in the parks. There’s no more room at the INN. We need to build infrastructure to support growth. We need developer impact fees for non commercial development to help pay for it!
“Call me a NIMBYIST and use any other developer tactic you can throw at me! If this sound like a rant; you’re right, it is. I am not going to take it anymore. The Council and good citizens of our city should put an end to this madness now.
I don’t see that he has taken a specific position on the encampments issue.
Here is what he said in the wonkathon:
“It would be foolish to say I have the answer to the wicked problem of homelessness. As in business, I like to rely on the opinion of experts. The mayor’s emergency task force on homelessness came up with some good short term solutions, to get people off streets and out of vans, but we are going to need more permanent long term solutions.
“I like to look at the issue of housing affordability from multiple angles.
“I am an advocate for developer impact fees. Growth should pay for growth and developers should pay their share. Moreover, many developers are not committed to our community and should be taxed for the infrastructure needs their developments leave behind.
The $15 minimum wage is an attempt to help low income workers afford housing in Seattle and not have to commute from outside the city. The UW Evans School of Public Policy (my recent alma mater) will be reviewing the impacts of the program, and I will be paying close attention.
“An ongoing Harvard study is concluding that frequent, reliable transportation options are the most important factor in helping move people out of poverty; even more so than a two parent household. We need to triple down on transit especially in low income neighborhoods.
Finally, being number one is not always a great thing. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the country, primarily due to the sales tax which overly impacts the poor. That’s why we need to replace the local portion of our sales tax with an income tax and petition the state to do the same. According to economic forecaster Dick Conway, Washington’s effective local and state tax burden is below the national average. If we were average the state would have collected an additional $28.4 Billion over the past 10 years. That would pay for a lot of what’s ailing us!
This is what he said in response to position questions posed by the Housing Action Fund:
Q. “The Seattle City Council recently passed an ordinance authorizing encampments in certain areas for people experiencing homelessness. An amendment called for studying the impacts of allowing encampments in residential areas. Should encampments for people experiencing homelessness be allowed
in residential areas?
A. “Yes. I would like to see the results of the study before making a definitive decision.
Q. “Do you support asking the state legislature to remove the state ban on
A. “No. Rent control has been tried and failed in major cities like New York and San
Francisco. Typically it’s reserved and held by those who got in early. Additionally,
the republican led legislature would be very unlikely to remove the ban so the
council would be wasting their time and effort.”
Q. “Do you support an inclusionary housing policy that goes beyond
voluntary incentive zoning and requires that development contribute to
A. “Yes, I support with mandatory affordable housing provisions for developers;
which most likely will be in the form of linkage fees.
Q. “If elected, what will you do ensure everyone in Seattle has the
opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home?
A. “Homelessness is a wicked problem that must be tackled head on. I am not the
expert in reducing homelessness so I would rely on the advice of those who work
with the homeless population day in and day out. I would also support whatever
means are available to reduce housing cost or build more affordable housing. The
mayor has goals to build 20,000 additional affordable housing units in the next 10
years and I support that goal whole heartily.
Q. “What is the city’s role in addressing [racial/ethnic housing] disparities?
A. “The city can target this issue by building more rent stabilized units in
neighborhoods with higher low income and black populations. Similarly, targeted
transportation initiatives to provide better access to employment is essential to
moving people out of poverty. The $15 minimum wage is another tactic the city is
using and we will see how that goes.”
The SCL rep made the same argument that they would have to do remediation anyway. To me that seemed a bit disingenuous given that they aren’t widely testing city properties or widely engaging in expensive remediation of toxic soil on unused city-owned properties … and there is no indication that, putting aside the homeless encampment (which could be easily relocated to a different property that has not had a prior substation use), the city had any plan to sell this property for a residential use.
WAC 173-340-360(2)(d) does state that for current or potential future residential areas and for schools and child care centers, soils with hazardous substance concentrations that exceed soil cleanup levels must be treated, removed, or contained. Property qualifies as a current or potential residential area if: (i) The property is currently used for residential use; or (ii) The property has a potential to serve as a future residential area based on the consideration of zoning, statutory and regulatory restrictions, comprehensive plans, historical use, adjacent land uses, and other relevant factors.
Arguably if the homeless encampment was moved to a different property though, the plot would not be serving any imminent residential use and given the zoning as Industrial Buffer it seems unlikely that they would be compelled to concede that the property would serve as a future residential area.
Looking at the WAC on site cleanups though I noted some language that I thought seemed important and highlights some of the concerns I have had about public risks disturbing the soil as part of a planned cleanup, not having enough details about the clean up plan for the site and the city resisting public comment.
The law provides that cleanup actions at a minimum will:
*Protect human health and the environment;
*Comply with cleanup standards (see WAC 173-340-700 through 173-340-760);
*Comply with applicable state and federal laws (see WAC 173-340-710); and
*Provide for compliance monitoring (see WAC 173-340-410 and 173-340-720 through 173-340-760).
When selecting from cleanup action alternatives that fulfill the threshold requirements, the selected action shall:
*Use permanent solutions to the maximum extent practicable
*Provide for a reasonable restoration time frame; and
*Consider public concerns (see WAC 173-340-600).
The law is complex. There are a lot of considerations. There is the duty to prevent or minimize present and future releases and migration of hazardous substances in the environment. Then there is the question of whether permanent effective cleanup can be obtained. If not they have to consider institutional controls which might impact their ability to use the site for certain uses even after cleanup.
I have turned the bike over to SPD. It had a serial number on the bike which the officer checked.
Here is the SPD blotter on found bikes
They have a twitter feed @Getyourbikeback03/28/2014 at 11:15 am in reply to: Since you have helped with a vet..how about an Americanized Chinese restaurant #63004
Bean Dogger, you are entitled to your opinion as ill informed as it may be. Cafe Besalu has been in business for about 14 years now so it irrational to equate it with one-month-and-gone places. Moreover you provide no justification for why you find it overpriced … or why you find it “lame” (other than it isn’t a bar where you can order a Rainier). Miller has been a James Beard semifinalist in the national pastry category three times since 2008. That’s a credible indicator of quality. They have received acclaim for their pastries year after year from travel article and food blogs not to mention that they recently were named as one of the top reviewed restaurants/bakeries nationally on Yelp. You may be reasonably skeptical about the objectivity and validity of individual Yelp reviews but collectively 4.5* based on about 500 reviews is possibly about as close as you are going to get to an adequate sample providing a valid indicator of quality and value. Consider also Urbanspoon’s 4.5* and 92% approval rating based on nearly 800 votes and 4.5* average ratings on TripAdvisor, Google reviews and Foursquare.
It’s a rule. I have been going to Besalu at least once a week since 2001 — during the first full year the cafe was open. This has always been an source of conflict to my recollection and the policy has always been the same: you don’t earn the privileges of a customer simply by standing in line. You have the right to an inside seat on a space available basis and to reasonably linger once you have purchased food and/or coffee. The front counter staff will enforce the policy when it is brought to their attention.
When a person in front of you waited their turn in line and buys their food or coffee, they have a right to enjoy the cafe and when they finish paying and turn around with a plate and cup they are planning to eat in. If people behind them in line have put their things down (or sat) at the last remaining table(s) is it fair that the person in front (who has already bought something) is put in the position of having to outside to eat or having to go back to the counter and get a to-go bag and cup? It is a matter of common sense and common courtesy.
If you get up to the front and all of the tables are filled by people who have purchased coffee and/or pastries you have four options: 1) get your food to go, 2) sit at an outside table, 3) wait to see if someone is finishing momentarily (but the space is really too small to do that for more than a minute or two feasible) or 4) ask someone if you can join them. I have done option 1 on many occasions but you would be surprised how open people can be to #4 if you just ask nicely. I will sit outside in season infrequently.
I have been maybe 5 times since they soft opened last month both mid-week and weekend and both early (5p) and late (10-midnight). I have been really enjoying it. It has been pretty full.
I would say that like most places casually labeled gastropubs it is not first and foremost a pub and is not particularly pub like in feel. The food is modern American with Asian influences. Mike Wisenhunt after all came from Revel and the sous chef Lieu Hoang came from Poppy. Execution on the food has been excellent. They have a talented and hardworking kitchen. I have eaten just about everything on the menu plus a number of specials. A few standouts: the fried lardo with pickled quince is one of my new favorite snacks; toasts with berbere spiced pork and aioli; the cold smoked potato salad with green goddess sauce and olives with pecorino cheese (it sounds very retro but the smokiness is very surprising, the sauce very lightly used, and the pecorino and olives really make the dish pop); pickled oyster shooters on the late night menu; the chilled dungeness crab trifle (rich and delicious, the crab meet is layered with crab custard, brioche and brussel sprouts … like the potato salad a creative take on a retro comfort food); the rabbit crepinette; and the small size of broiled pork shoulder with carmelized onion kimchi and the roasted chuck steak with shio-kombu salad and pickled mirepoix are killer values I think at $9.
A couple interesting things about the menu are that most dishes on the menu come in a small plate or larger plate option. Also on the late night menu they have “our family meal” referring to the dish that the kitchen makes for the staff. The prices vary but it is cheap and good. They have done a pork ramen with six minute egg & brussels sprout kimchi that was I think $8.
In terms of how it feels, I like the atmosphere a lot. I sat at the bar and at tables in the front half of the restaurant. It is lively and comfortable with good sightlines and lighting in the front. You can see the bar and into the kitchen from the whole front dining room and there are large windows to the street all around. You can see through to the back dining room as well (which is a combination of high top seating and tables. The back room is a little darker but with good fixtures and the penny flooring.
Tap beer is all Washington and Oregon. Right now they have Maritime (lager) and Stoup (ISA) representing Ballard; Fremont (winter warmer); Two Beers (espresso stout); Georgetown (red); Black Raven (IPA) from Woodinville; No-Li (pale) from Spokane; and Pfriem (Belgian strong blonde) from Oregon. Cans and bottles are also mostly NW: Hilliard’s (Saison) representing Ballard, Rainier (lager), Avery (witt bier) from Colorado, Rogue (seasonal red) from Oregon. The spirits inventory looks good and they have a good looking short cocktail list. The bartender has good skill. I haven’t run him through his paces yet with off-list requests. The wine list is in expensive with most bottles in the 20s and 30’s and all wines also available by the pour or carafe.