Heads up! 1/2 Price Pots is 1/4 Price Pots on Leap Day

Wow, I scored a great deal on planting pots and feet at the 1/2 Price Pots on Aurora Avenue earlier today. If you’ve been saving up money to buy new pots for your deck or patio, today’s a good day since you get a super good deal! A really nice pot normally only $30 I got for $15!

I normally don’t like the pots at this store, preferring Herban Patio and Pottery, but today I did get lucky and find two that I really liked.

Emeril Lagasse Bringing Some Green Cooking To Discovery Channel

Front page of the ultra-cool ecorazzi this morning, Discovery Channel is launching a new “Planet Green” network. From the article, “Emeril Green will be shot entirely on location in Whole Foods Market stores around the country. “I try a little harder every day to think greener and be respectful of our environment and our resources,” Lagasse said.”

Read Emeril Lagasse Bringing Some Green Cooking To Discovery Channel

Wow, I can buy my old apartment for $300,000

You know, it’s funny how how things are. Since I have lived in West Seattle for over 10 years I have had the opportunity to watch it change and grow, its ups and downs, the good and the bad. When my husband and I first were married we decided on West Seattle since he worked in Auburn and I worked downtown and it was a good commute for both. There was a brand new 20 unit apartment “complex” (if 4 buildings can be considered a complex), with some 1 bedroom flats topped by two story townhomes that were GINORmous by my standards at 1,400 square feet. We jumped at the chance to live in new construction and actually moved in a *teensy weensy* before the wedding (ok, 2 months). If we didn’t grab it, it would be gone.

The place was luxurious compared to the apartments I had lived in before. Not by way of finishes, but just by its size and floor plan. I had always rented suites before (flats). It was two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and a main floor with a large kitchen, powder room, combined dining/living area with a deck just feet from and above Longfellow Creek. There was room for a dining table, my piano, and we had an office/craft room where we kept our futon couch just in case we had guests. Eventually the spare bathtub made great storage space…

We were there just a little over two years. The last few months we assisted the owner for a rent credit and we tried to clean the place up, manage parking problems, and I distributed a newsletter (I am always writing something it seems…). The owner was “slumlord” Derek Brown, who had some sort of weird purchase contract with Mastro Company (he was later sentenced to live at one of his properties, Allison Park in Des Moines, that had a lot of plumbing, sewer, and rat problems – watch the KOMO 4 video from 2001 here). And some of the people living there (it was called Holden Lane Townhomes at the time) didn’t appreciate upstanding citizens trying to bring order to the parking lot. The back window of my husband’s car was smashed in, and then we were burglarized by way of the 2nd floor deck – they jimmied the sliding glass door open and stole a number of personal items in complete privacy since the deck was on the creek side of the building. We lost computer and stereo equipment, jewelry, my handgun (which I never replaced) and the owner’s fax machine was stolen. This was 1999 and there were “old High Point” ties between some of the people who lived here but we just couldn’t prove which thugs stole our stuff.

We decided we had had enough and gave notice to move – we found a nearly new building down in Westwood (on 25th Avenue SW). We had thoughts of buying a house so we majorly downsized from 1,400 sq ft to about 700 (with three cats). We got rid of a bunch of stuff and squeezed in with the bare necessities with some useful convertible (as in, folding) furniture from Ikea. When we vacated at Christmas time, our old apartment owner actually withheld our $300 security deposit to pay for the stolen fax machine. We were so indignant we took him to small claims court, to which he never appeared, and made sure we got a judgment against him for illegally withholding our security deposit. Of course, I always had to explain the judgment on my credit report was against my landlord, not my landlord against me.

So year after year as I drove by our newlywed apartment I watched it deteriorate to the point that it looked downright scary. And then a few months ago, I saw fences go up and “condos coming soon”, and then someone started tearing off the siding. I wondered what they could do to the place to make it better than it ever was, because honestly I never thought the construction was all that good.

And then yesterday when I drove by, I saw the “Model Home Open” sign. And I stopped. Just out of curiosity.

I got a tour by one of the carpenters and then the new owner, Major, took me to see the models. He is a turban-wearing detail-oriented man, well spoken and proud of his work. I was quite impressed with the finishes they have installed, and said so. There is a two-sided glass-doored cabinet they installed over the bar in the flats that I really liked the look of and commented on it. Major told me that the designer/architect told him he didn’t think it was a good idea, but I told Major that it was a good thing he argued with him and included them because they look really nice. They have slab granite counter tops, the sinks are installed below slab (they look really nice), all stainless appliances, glass doors on the shower/tubs, floating hardwood floors, very nice fixtures, and they all have been painted one of four different modern color schemes.

I didn’t tell Major that I used to live there, but I did tell him I had been in the area for a long time and watched the property deteriorate. When I asked him if he had included any “Built Green” features in the remodel, he said they tore off the old vinyl siding and installed new vinyl siding that had a insulated foam backing, and of course the appliances are Energy Star. They probably will be quite heat efficient. They re-did the decks, installed all new vinyl insulated windows, and designer window treatments.

So, a nicely remodeled two story 2×2.5 townhome, with a covered carport, can be had for $300,000. There are 4 units over the creek, and 6 units over Webster Pond. There are six 1×1 suites about 560 square feet for $209,950. There are two 2 bedroom suites, in the 1,000+ sq ft range also, Major said, that are priced a little over $300,000 since flats are more desired than townhomes (not everyone likes stairs). I think I saw a Skyline flyer there in the model but didn’t grab one.

I am going to take my husband by to show him, just for kicks. That kitchen is not nearly as big as I remembered!

I then went to Sylvan Ridge to check those “San Francisco style” townhomes to see if I could find ANY redeeming qualities in these three story all-look-alike townhomes. And surprisingly I did. But that’s another post…

Free Toilet Program Helps Low-Income Homeowners Save Efficient Toilets Cut Utility Bills, Water Consumption

Seattle Public Utilities is helping low-income homeowners save money and water by offering free efficient toilets.

Qualified Seattle homeowners can have their old water-guzzling toilets replaced with free efficient models, helping to cut their utility bills and reduce water waste.

Toilets are the main source of water use in the home, accounting for approximately 30 percent of residential indoor water use. These efficient toilets use just 1.6 gallons per flush compared to the 3.5 gallons per flush or more used by toilets installed prior to 1994.

Tracey Rowland, Program Manager with Seattle Public Utilities, said that these toilets will deliver big savings to low-income homeowners. “Most households can easily save thousands of gallons of water and more than $100 a year on utility bills, just by installing this efficient toilet,” said Rowland. “Better yet, these toilets are absolutely free to qualified homeowners,” said Rowland.

To qualify for free toilets, properties must be located within Seattle Public Utilities’ service area, must have existing toilets installed before 1994 and the homeowner’s household must earn less than 50 percent of area median income.

Installation and recycling services are also provided at no charge for homeowners earning less than 30 percent of the area median income.

Homeowners earning between 30 and 50 percent of the area income will be charged a small co-pay for installation services.

For more information, call (206) 448-5751 or visit www.seattle.gov/util/Services/Water.

Learn to design your own garden

Sure, you could hire a garden designer or landscaper. Or you could learn to do it yourself. The UW Center for Urban Horticulture has a class called “Home Project Garden Design” that will give you the tools to create your own garden plan. Learn how to make your own plans, work with plants creatively, and design spaces for outdoor living. It is a four-part series, plus one weekend field trip to a nursery. Tuesdays, March 4 through 25, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. $160 course fee; pre-registration required. To sign up or learn more, contact Jean Robins or call 206-685-2590. Register early: many of their classes fill up!

My own garden design project…

Before the fence…

After the fence…
Just the building of a fence can be the beginnings of a garden. I did hire a garden designer for a few hours to help me with plant selection since my experience is primarily with native plants that grow in the shade and this garden area was on the south side of my house and got full sun. Also, I am color blind and wanted help with foliage and flower color selection.

The arbor and the bench were not a part of the designer’s plan. So basically I got some help from a pro but then I still personalized it the way I wanted to. The planting plan wasn’t executed quite the way it was drawn.

Perhaps if I had taken the class from UW Center for Urban Horticulture, I could have saved a few hundred dollars in design costs and had more money for plants! Also something you should know: Plant popularity comes and goes – of the 14 or so different plants/trees suggested by the designer I hired, I was only able to find three available in nurseries that spring. I had to go back to her and ask her to make some substitutions since the varieties she had indicated were not available. I also then ended up going to four different nuriseries to get them together. If I had taken the class, I would have not had to rely on someone else and their ideas of what would look good together quite so much.

The last thing I added was a “dry creek bed” from all of the rocks that got dug up when we removed all of the old soil from this space and brought in high quality garden soil – about 10 inches deep in the entire space. What’s fun about the dry creek bed is that on rainy days it has water running thru it – the overflow hose from the rain barrel seen in this photo is buried in the creek bed.

We sold our home last summer and bought a townhome in High Point. Strangely enough, I left my Perennial Retreat (what I called this new garden) untouched. I dug up all of my major and favorite plants from other parts of the property and now I garden in pots. I brought hostas, sorrels, bamboo, and lots of natives! Since my deck faces northeast it is PERFECT for native plants.

Sword fern, red huckleberry, oregon grape, salal, and a few other varitiees of fern made the transition to pots very nicely.

Look how having all of these plants, including tall bamboo, in pots on your deck still give you a sense of privacy and intimacy!

Trend Watch – the shift to walkable urban environments

Wow! I’m a trendsetter!

It’s not just about the mortgage crisis – it’s also about choice. There is a fundamental shift in American lifestyle happening as we speak. This made me realize that my motivations for choosing to move from a rural part of West Seattle, without sidewalks and with few street lights, up the hill the the newly redeveloped High Point, is just a part of this larger trend happening all across the country. And we are not alone – hundreds of others have moved to this and other communities like it within the city limits.

Read The Next Slum? in The Atlantic magazine online. “The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.” by Christopher B. Leinberger

Become a Native Plant Steward

I just received the press release that the Washington Native Plant Society will be offering Native Plant Stewardship training again this spring. I completed this program in 2001 and it is invaluable – both to myself personally, since I grew up in the woods with these plants but never knew much about them, and it also teaches you how to preserve and protect our wonderful native plants and work with the public in this effort.

According to their web site, the King County Stewardship Program will be working with City of Seattle Parks and the Green Seattle Initiative, so much of the volunteer effort will be focused on urban forest restoration in six Seattle Parks. There is a separate training program for Snohomish County.


Native Plant Stewardship Program Offers Free Education and Habitat Restoration Skills

Are you interested in the native plants in your community and taking on the challenge of restoring Seattle’s forested parklands? The Washington Native Plant Society is now accepting applications for the 2008 Native Plant Forest Stewardship Program. This year, as in 2007, WNPS will partner with Seattle Parks and Recreation, Cascade Land Conservancy and the Green Seattle Partnership.

In an exciting and extensive ten-week training program, you’ll learn and experience first-hand how to identify native plants; the importance of soils; how to propagate, plant and care for native plants; the functions and benefits of wetlands and forests; how to remove invasive plants; tips on educating the public; which native plants work well in urban settings (and attract wildlife); how to train and lead volunteers, and how to restore and monitor a variety of habitats. Expert training is through lectures, workshops and field trips.

The 10-week program is free in exchange for a 100-hour volunteer commitment within King County—most of which will take place in a Seattle Park. Following the training, teams of stewards will be assigned 1-acre sites in identified Seattle Parks where they will fulfill their volunteer commitments through designing and implementing native plant restoration plans.

Classes will be held on Fridays from 8:30am until 4:30pm at South Seattle Community College. Classes will begin Friday, April 25, 2007 and will run until June 27th, including three all-day Saturday field trips.

All applications for this Native Plant Forest Stewardship training are due by 5pm Tuesday, April 2nd to Washington Native Plant Society, 6310 NE 74th Street, Suite 215E, Seattle, WA 98115 or by emailed to npsp_KC@wnps.org. Download an application from Washington Native Plant Society at www.wnps.org or email Stewardship Coordinator, Deb Gurney at nsps_KC@wnps.org.

“This program gives stewards the tools and confidence they need to teach others about native plants and lead projects that improve our streams, lakes, parks, forests, soil and air, and make us proud to live in our neighborhoods,” said Gary Smith, Chair of the Washington Native Plant Society’s Stewardship Program. “We encourage all native plant enthusiasts to apply, as well as volunteers who are working on or want to start a restoration project. The more we can educate and train people to provide this type of preventive care, we’re keeping the tax burden down for everyone—now and in the future—with benefits that will last well past our lifetimes.”

Urban Development: Do We Recognize the Changing Face of Our Neighborhoods?

Unprecedented development is reshaping Seattle’s neighborhoods unlike any other time in the city’s recent history. From Ballard to Capitol Hill and South Lake Union, neighborhoods are adapting to a new, denser urban reality. What do these developments say about the future of Seattle and how we define vibrant, livable urban neighborhoods? How do we preserve a neighborhood’s character and charm while making room for new buildings that help accommodate undeniable growth? How can the public and private sectors work together to shape growth in a way that supports a diversity of housing, complements the existing community and respects the environment?

Friday, March 7, 2008, Washington Athletic Club, 1325 Sixth Avenue, Seattle
11:30 AM Registration
12:00 – 1:30 PM Luncheon
Register at http://www.seattlecityclub.org — $35/CityClub Members; $40/Guests & Members of Co-Presenting Organizations; and $45/General Public
For reduced rate, DSA members must identify their affiliation during registration.

Panelists to date:
Jim Diers, Author, Neighbor Power
Ada Healey, Vice President of Real Estate, Vulcan Inc.
Diane Sigamura, Director, Department of Planning & Development
Leonard Garfield, Executive Director, Museum of History and Industry
Jim Vesley, Editorial Page Editor, The Seattle Times (Moderator)