The NATCO mailbox/shipping store behind Olympia Pizza is now vacant with a “For Lease: 206-595-5752″ sign in the window. George wrote the following to his mailbox holders last month when his lease could not be renewed:

To all mailbox holders,
I had the pleasure of serving you all these years. However, I am retiring due to a family emergency and my age, 71 years. We had someone who was going to assume our business to insure the continuity of your address at this location but the landlord refused to sign a new lease with him and informed me just end of last week. So, I am sorry to let you know that we are closing the business by the last day of this month, May 31, 2015, that’s when my lease ends.
I already talked to the manager of our post office. You can fill change of address there when you get a new one. I also talked to the UPS Store on 45th St, between Corlis and Sunnyside. They have mailboxes available. We will be receiving mail until the last week of this month. Please check with us even if you put change of address.
NATCO will prorate the rent for the months paid in advance.
If you have any questions, please call us or see us.
Thank you all for doing business with us all these years.
Best regards,
George Bet-Shlimon
 George was a great guy to chat with, a real fun and forceful personality. He’ll be missed, and if the lease indication is correct then all the other businesses on that block are also under threat. Wallingford is getting a little less quirky.
Thanks to the heads up from Mike and Jim on this item.


Honey, I’m Home!

Good Morning, Wallingford, I’m home!

Back in March, I handed over the reins of Wallyhood to Eric Fisk so that my family and I could take a little Grand Tour of Europe.

In case you’re curious, we had a great time. We started off in Seville, Spain, made our way north to Basque country, then over to Lisbon and southern Portugal, where we spent a bit over a month (with a brief side trip to Fez, Morocco). Finally, we hopped a plane to Holland, and spent a fabulous two weeks in Amsterdam, before returning home to Seattle this past week, 98 days after departure.

2015-04-19 08.07.00Of course I blogged much our adventures (see my Hive Mind Travel site for fun bits and photos), and I’m putting together a short series of “lessons learned” on topics like “travel with kids” and “digital nomad” for others contemplating a similar undertaking, so I’d be happy if you’d take a look.

Being in all those different cities, then returning to Wallingford, did get me to thinking about some of the things I’ll miss, and some of the things that make me appreciate being home.

I think the biggest thing we ended up missing about Wallingford (aside, of course, from our friends, and the fact that we could speak to anyone we wanted without resorting to hand gestures) was the amazing access to fresh, local, organic produce. I mean, not only do we have organic produce available at the PCC, QFC, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, we have the Wallingford Farmers Market, CityGrown, CSA’s and, in season, people just leaving signs on their trees saying “pick me”!

Let me tell you: Wallingford, you don’t know how good you got it. It was nice to be able to shop in small, neighborhood butcher shops, bakeries and produce markets, but by their nature, the selection was slim, it was rarely local and organic was almost impossible to find in Spain, Portugal and Morocco and quality fresh meat was especially difficult (although the cured meats were everything you’ve heard about and more.)

But there’s much I’ll miss. Amsterdam, in particular, with its lovely canals and bike culture, wowed us. The absolute flatness lends itself to biking, but they’ve taken it to another plane: everybody bikes, and because there are so many bikes, they’re treated as first class citizens.

I often feel there’s an us-vs-them struggle between bikes and cars here in Seattle, with cars angry at “their” roads being encroached by slow-moving, fragile cyclists and cyclists visibly enraged by the perceived dangerous incompetence of the drivers. I’ve been honked and yelled at by cars when on my bike, and I’ve had cyclists shout and give me the finger when I’m in my car. Maybe that means I’m just doing it wrong all around, but the attitude seemed much, much mellower all around there.

Sitting in a cafe one day in the de Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam, I saw a motorcycle, going a bit too fast, skid into a cyclist at a crossing, toppling her over. Elsewhere, things might have come to blows (and certainly would of come to lawyers), but here, the woman on the bike got up and kind-heartedly berated the contrite motorcycle rider. I couldn’t hear the words, but it seemed she was scolding a beloved child who had run too fast and dropped his cake: “You klutz,” she seemed to be laughing, “you must be more careful or you’ll hurt someone. Now promise me you’ll watch out next time, OK?”

I wish we could take that friendliness, that assumption that, while we all make mistakes, we’re all basically good people, and imbue it into all the arguments we have in Seattle. Sure, we disagree about whether dogs should be on or off leash, whether Molly Moon should build a parklet in front of her shop, whether the bus system should be supported by taxes, but we all mean well, even if the means different things to each of us.

Anyway, I’m back! Huge thanks to Eric for keeping Wallyhood alive and kicking while I traveled, and to all the writers who contributing during my absence. It was fun to peek in and see what was happening back home (and also to take a break and just be somewhere else for a while).

Eric has agreed to stay on in all his wonderful wonkiness and continue to contribute to Wallyhood, so we’ll be sharing the editorial going forward. So send your Wallingford news, reports and tips to [email protected], we’ll both be listening.

The city announced that the reconfiguration of N Northlake Way at Stone Way N now has a contractor and will get built this this fall. It’s a project I worked on with the WCC last year, so I have some attachment to it. It seemed like a straight win-win to us all.

From the City:

This project will construct the following changes at this intersection:

  • A new sidewalk on the west side of Stone Way N, south of N 34th Street
  • A new sidewalk on the south side of N Northlake Way at Waterway 22
  • A new striped crosswalk on the west side of Stone Way N at N Northlake Way
  • New curb ramps, compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, on the west side of Stone Way N and on the south side of N Northlake Way
  • A new right-turn only lane on southbound Stone Way N, north of N 34th Street
  • The southbound lanes on Stone Way N, south of N 34th Street, will be reduced to one lane, while the two northbound lanes on Stone Way N, south of N 34th Street, will remain intact

These changes aim to improve the flow of bicycle, pedestrian, car and truck traffic that converges at this intersection. This project is funded by the Bridging the Gap (BTG) transportation levy, passed by voters in November 2006 and scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Stone and Northlake Way

You can learn more about the project background and impacts by visiting the project webpage at

Jeff from Bedrooms and More says:

It has been a long time coming. Five years and now we break ground. We will be having a ceremonial groundbreaking on Sunday, June 28th with the official bulldozing starting on the 29th.

Construction will pose challenges, both for us and neighbors. We will attempt, to our best ability, to make everything go as smoothly as possible but there may be inconveniences. Our plan is to have a building that all of Wallingford can be proud of and be a true “Gateway to Wallingford”.

Bedrooms and More Groundbreaking

Friday through Sunday is the Fremont Solstice Fair (Friday is just main stage music). The parade starts at 3 on Saturday, which means that being down at Stone and Northlake Way at 4 is a good solution for seeing the good stuff. If you come at 3, expect to be watching naked bikers for over an hour (it does get old). Beyond that, a few things jump out:

  • There’s a dog parade on Sunday starting at 2:30 plus you can take your dog into the beer gardens on Sunday. Sunday is your day if you prefer domesticated wolves to hairless apes.
  • Free disaster preparedness kits at the ‘Good and Ready’ booth, located on 35th Street between Phinney and 1st Ave, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m Saturday. Each kit includes first aid supplies, a flashlight, a water bottle and other items.
  • Starting at 11 AM Saturday and Sunday there is free music at the The Solstice Music Festival’s Waterfront Stage plus a beer garden (not free).
  • The music main stage features Deltron 3030 on Friday and Presidents of the USA on Saturday. Deltron 3030 is worth a listen if you haven’t heard them- pure fun rap.
  • For the kids there’s art cars and a crafts area.

fremont festival map

I’m not going to pretend anything else comes close on the calendar, but here’s a few other events this week:

Get out there and enjoy!


The elections this fall represent a complete turn over for our local leadership. Not only is Seattle City Council moving to a district election process, but our long time Seattle School Board representative Sherry Carr is leaving and will be replaced by a new face.

My understanding is that the school board’s role is to be like the board of a company- it chooses the superintendent, helps them set priorities and policy, then evaluates the superintendent and chooses whether to keep them on. The school board is not supposed to muck about with individual personnel issues or school issues except by going through the superintendent.

One funny thing is that there are 7 school board seats in Seattle and 7 district seats being elected to Seattle City Council, yet the geographical maps for who represents what are entirely mismatched. Why does one school board district contain all of Wallingford while the City Council district splits us? Why do City Council districts number clockwise from bottom up while School Board districts number top-down? Because government.

Seattle City Council Map vs Seattle School Board Map

Anyhow, the upshot of the map is that all of Wallingford and Green Lake are in Seattle School Board District 2, so I’m planning to interview the 2 remaining candidates for the Seattle School Board District 2 race, Rick Burke and Laura Obara Gramer. Here’s the questions that I’m thinking about asking- please pile on with changes to the questions or suggestions for new questions or format issues or what not in the comments. Thanks!

1. School Assignments: Wallingford does not currently have a neighborhood elementary school, with both John Stanford and McDonald being designated as language immersion option schools. School assignment policies mean that people directly across the street from these schools may not get into the schools even if it is their first choice, instead being assigned to BF Day or Green Lake.

Do you see a need to change Wallingford’s school assignment policies or curriculum to address this issue, and if so, how?

2. School Reform vs School Communities: There’s been obvious tension between the top-down, test-centered school reform movement and school teachers. School reformers argue that it is necessary to measure the effectiveness of teaching in order to achieve better outcomes. Teachers argue that tests are a poor measure of a teacher and that administration should be focused on supporting school communities instead of passing judgment on them.

How do you plan to navigate this rift, and what path do you see for improving schools without alienating teachers?

3. Simplifying Programs: SPS provides many differentiated learning opportunities for advanced students like APP, Spectrum, ALO, and IB programs. Some argue that Spectrum in particular creates more troubles than it solves and should be replaced with differentiated learning programs like Walk to Read and Walk to Math.

Further, SPS provides a wide range of option schools, some of which are under-enrolled like Licton Springs here in Wallingford. Some argue that SPS should close the most under enrolled option schools so that SPS can focus its resources more efficiently.

Do you believe any programs or option schools at SPS should be wound down or changed, and if so which ones?

4. Professionalism at District HQ: A key problem at SPS district headquarters has been turn over and people dropping the ball and not following through. The result has been budgetary and planning problems coupled with law suits and compliance failures. On the up side, some are saying the situation appears to be getting better as of late, particularly in Special Education.

What do you see as the main remaining issues that need to be fixed at district headquarters, and how do you plan to help make those changes?

5. Closing the Achievement Gap: A vast amount of resources at SPS and in the Families and Education Levy are concentrated on trying to close the achievement gap by focusing supports on schools with high levels of free and reduced lunch students. Some of these efforts seem well intentioned but ineffectual, while others seem so focused on drilling minority students in order to raise test scores that schools are drained of their sense of community and joy.

What do you think of current efforts to close the achievement gap, and what changes would you like to see made to it?

6. Priorities for the District: Running for the school board and then being on the school board are both crazy hard jobs full of contentious, emotional issues, and you will get paid nothing for your efforts. We assume there’s something motivating you other than a love of little people, or else you would just become a teacher.

What are the top one or two priorities that you hope to accomplish for Seattle Public Schools by being on the School Board?

7. Evaluating the Superintendent: Finally, your primary role on the school board is to evaluate the superintendent. Larry Nyland is still arguably in his honeymoon period, but there have been promising signs regarding compliance improvements and an ability to deescalate conflict that were not evident in the work of his recent predecessors.

How would your rate our current Superintendent’s efforts so far?


Congestion Pricing vs Property Taxes: Vote!

The Move Seattle Levy will request $277 per year from a typical homeowner, and that’s only 1/4th of SDOT’s funding and doesn’t even include Sound Transit. In other words, about $2000 of your annual rent or your annual property tax bill is going to pay for congestion relief, primarily trains and buses (non-motorized transportation has less than 1/10th the level of expenditure, and WSDOT is funded through the gas tax). Do we really want to fund our transportation systems by making housing affordability worse?

There is another way to pay for fixing our transportation system that’s much cheaper and more effective, and that’s congestion pricing. The idea is to toll cars on congested roadways at whatever level is required to prevent regular congestion. When a roadway has regular stop and go traffic, the price to drive on it is ramped up. When extra capacity is available, the price to drive is dropped down as far as possible, being free at certain times of day. The idea is to discourage daily commuters from driving alone during peak hours, then to use the funds to pay for road maintenance and transportation alternatives.

Congestion pricing has been demonstrated to work. It’s been put in place in London, Stockholm, Singapore, and Milan. In London, after congestion tolling began, the main effect was that all the buses were so far ahead of schedule that they had to rework the entire bus system for the extra capacity. Transportation planners love it because it’s by far the best path to meeting transportation goals:

  • Instant Success: Unlike adding a bus lane or a rail line, congestion tolling simply opens up existing infrastructure to better use, meaning you get results instantly without years-long construction delays and expense. In particular, buses go faster and can service more people right away, even on 4 and 2 lane roadways that don’t work for bus lanes. Instead of working around congested roads, the focus can shift to making our existing transportation system work better and safer for everyone.
  • Maximized Throughput: A saturated freeway running near the speed limit moves more people and wastes far less fuel than stop and go traffic. Not only that, but since congestion pricing incentivizes carpools, transit, and off peak driving, you end up moving many more people overall. Unlike a carpool or bus lane, congestion priced roads rarely fill up and never sit empty while traffic is stopped up along side.
  • Fairly Raising Revenues for Transportation Alternatives: Transportation alternatives are all expressly designed to coax people out of their cars, including people that don’t live in Seattle. This means that today someone in a live / work unit in Seattle is spending thousands of dollars a year on rent or taxes in the hopes that someone outside of Seattle might take a transportation alternative when they are in Seattle. The fair solution is not to put taxes on housing affordability, but instead to put a price on people causing the congestion we are trying to fix.
  • Fairly Incentivizing All Transportation Alternatives: We currently use our property taxes to subsidize a grossly distorted economy of transportation alternatives. On the one hand, alternatives like telecommuting, living near work, and carpooling get virtually no support from government at all. On the flip side, anyone paying rent or property taxes in Seattle is subsidizing each bus commuter at a rate of $11 per day, and each light rail commuter at a rate of over $200 per day. The only way to fairly incentivize all transportation alternatives is to put a price on the problem of congestion.

A complaint about congestion tolling is that we don’t want our roads to just be for rich drivers and buses, like the 520 bridge is now. It’s a fair complaint. One solution is to provide every driver with a monthly credit for toll-free driving that can be applied to any vehicle. That way somebody who only drives once a week on congested roads can still do it for free, and people that carpool can double their time on a road before needing to split the cost of paying the toll.

Too Many Cars

Seattle should be leading the way on congestion tolling as we are ideally set up for it with our many bridges acting as choke points for congestion pricing. We are way behind on building out a rail network and are also poorly set up for one with our varied topography, sandy soils, earthquakes, and high property values. Yet congestion pricing isn’t even being discussed here yet.

The trouble is that congestion tolling is a very tough sell politically. Emotionally, half of people don’t want to be told to make sacrifices or carpool, they want to be left alone with their car and be free of government social engineering. The other half of people are fixated on having big government pay whatever it takes for new public transportation systems that will shuttle them around wherever they want to go. Nobody wants to focus on sacrifices like tolls and driving less.

The only political solution that everyone can agree on today is a purely additive transportation solution like rail, so we ignore the decades long time scale and mind blowing costs for construction, operations, and maintenance. We jack up rents and housing prices with sky high property taxes to pay for a solution that will take decades to build and won’t even address traffic, then complain about housing affordability. Take London or New York, with perfect rail topography and with rail systems that have been in development for over a hundred years. What do you get? Gridlock so bad, both cities are leading the way on congestion pricing!

Politicians here are too afraid to even raise the topic of congestion pricing, and instead are doing what’s possible with majority support. Namely, the ironically named “Move Seattle” levy this year and the Sound Transit 3 levy planned for next year, both of them record setting tax increases. However, I’m a cranky vegetarian blogger and it’s OK with me if you think I’m wrong. You did last time, when I argued that rail was a bad investment but most people voted for rail anyway. So here, ya go, a vote to set me straight:

How should we pay for our transportation alternatives?

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