A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

Reminder: Greenwood Community Council meeting tonight will discuss business recovery and safety issues one year after natural gas explosion

March 21st, 2017 by Doree

Reminder: The Greenwood Community Council’s March meeting tonight will focus on reviewing the aftermath of the Greenwood natural gas explosion last year, recap the neighborhood’s recovery efforts, and discuss concerns over safety going forward.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) at Woodland Park United Methodist Church, 302 N. 78th St., in Fellowship Hall. (Note: The meeting is in a different location than usual, because the Greenwood Library is closed for renovations.)

A representative from the Phinney Neighborhood Association will talk about the results of the neighborhood’s fundraising efforts; Chaco Canyon owner Chris Maykut will discuss the ongoing recovery efforts of affected businesses; and a representative from Puget Sound Energy will discuss natural gas safety issues and whether our neighborhood is safer now.

The Council also will take nominations for its annual election of officers. The election will be at the April meeting.

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Greenwood Community Council meeting Tuesday will review safety in the wake of last year’s natural gas explosion

March 19th, 2017 by Doree

The Greenwood Community Council’s March meeting will focus on reviewing the aftermath of the Greenwood natural gas explosion last year, recap the neighborhood’s recovery efforts, and discuss concerns over safety going forward.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, at Woodland Park United Methodist Church, 302 N. 78th St., in Fellowship Hall. (Note: The meeting is in a different location than usual, because the Greenwood Library is closed for renovations.)

A representative from the Phinney Neighborhood Association will talk about the results of the neighborhood’s fundraising efforts; Chaco Canyon owner Chris Maykut will discuss the ongoing recovery efforts of affected businesses; and a representative from Puget Sound Energy will discuss natural gas safety issues and whether our neighborhood is safer now.

The Council also will take nominations for its annual election of officers. The election will be at the April meeting.

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State Rep. Frame sponsors bill to help businesses affected by future gas pipeline accidents

March 10th, 2017 by Doree

State Rep. Noel Frame, who lives in Greenwood, is sponsoring a bill that would help businesses and non-profits affected by future gas pipeline explosions.

According to the press release, House Bill 2135 would establish a mitigation fund to assist entities that suffer damages in future accidents. The House Technology and Economic Development Committee heard public testimony on the bill yesterday (the one-year anniversary of the March 9, 2016, explosion in downtown Greenwood). Scott Nolte, Producing Artistic Director of Taproot Theatre, and Kelly Kasper of HT2 Consulting Services and a Greenwood resident, testified.

You can see video of that hearing here.

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Puget Sound Energy talking natural gas safety with businesses, residents today, on 1-year anniversary of explosion

March 9th, 2017 by Doree

Two dozen Puget Sound Energy employees are talking about natural gas safety with Greenwood businesses and residents today on the one-year anniversary of the natural gas explosion that destroyed three businesses and damaged 50 more.

PSE has an information table set up inside the Greenwood Fred Meyer on NW 85th Street, and a tent in the parking lot at the corner of NW 85th Street and 1st Avenue NW, where employees are staging as they go out into the neighborhood.

PSE Vice President of Corporate Affairs Andy Wappler (in photo above, second from right) told me at 1 p.m. today that PSE employees had gone to every business within about a two-block radius of the intersection of NW 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue North.

Starting at about 2 p.m., employees planned to fan out in teams of two to knock on residents’ doors within about a four-block radius, a total of about 400 homes. Employees will be wearing bright yellow/green jackets with the PSE logo.

PSE’s website has information on what to do if you think you detect a gas leak in your home or business.

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One year after Greenwood’s natural gas explosion

March 9th, 2017 by Doree

One year ago today, downtown Greenwood exploded after an improperly decommissioned natural gas line ignited. Three businesses were instantly turned into rubble, and numerous others were damaged – some only lost a window or two, while others took months to repair and reopen. Nine firefighters were injured, none seriously.

The wreckage of three destroyed businesses was still smoldering hours after the natural gas explosion on March 9, 2016.

Of the three destroyed businesses, Neptune Coffee told Seattle Met in January that reopening in Greenwood would be impossible; Greenwood Quick Stop owner Joon Park told the Phinney Neighborhood Association that he’s been helping out at his family’s other store in Marysville and doesn’t know what the future may hold in Greenwood; and Mr. Gyros continues to frequently park its food truck at the explosion site and operate its Ballard and Wallingford locations.

Today, G&O Family Cyclery, which was adjacent to the three demolished businesses and whose building was severely damaged, celebrates its grand reopening in its new permanent space, at 8558 Greenwood Ave. N., just one block from the explosion site. From 7-10 p.m., stop by for music, snacks, reduced price vegan hot dogs from Cycle Dogs, and generally celebrating the bike shop’s rebirth.

Other damaged businesses never reopened. Kouzina Greek restaurant, two doors south of the explosion site, tried to keep its catering business, Zoey Catering, which provided gluten free food to numerous large clients, including Seattle Children’s hospital, but announced in January that issues with the building and the inability to find a new location meant shutting down. Insurrection Performance, directly south of the explosion site, held fittings for its leather motorcycle clothing at the Phinney Center by appointment but no longer has a physical location.

The explosion site today is an empty lot surrounded by a chain link fence.

The Angry Beaver tavern, directly across the street, suffered extensive damage and took months – and loads of money not provided by insurance — to reopen. The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center, spent months providing its free programs to children at the Phinney Center before moving back into its space in September after extensive repairs.

Flint Creek Cattle Co. restaurant, on the corner of Greenwood and 85th, finally opened in October after suffering explosion-related damage during construction.

The list of damaged businesses (more than 50) and each one’s issues with reopening and insurance companies is too long to go into here.

The property owner, Slattery Properties, which owns the entire west side of the block of Greenwood Avenue between 84th and 85th streets, has applied to develop that entire block (minus the Flint Creek building), into a six-story residential/retail building.

The community’s spirit kicked in immediately after the explosion. Just hours after the blast, the Phinney Neighborhood Association organized the Greenwood Relief Fund, raising more than $321,000 to help affected businesses pay employees and make repairs. Several thousand dollars of that came from Greenwood Elementary parents who sold “Show Greenwood Some Love” T-shirts with a design that a school parent had originally conceived as a school fundraiser. And dozens of other businesses held fundraisers and put out donation jars on their counters for months.

During Friday’s monthly Art Up Artwalk, the Phinney Center Gallery is hosting the grand opening of “Greenwood Rising,” a collaboration of the PNA and Urban Hands (a Greenwood nonprofit that provides free meals to tent cities and others in need, and which organized a massive neighborhood cleanup and painting party the Saturday after the explosion.) The show is up now at the PNA, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., and features the artwork of numerous street artists who donated their talents to paint colorful plywood murals over the many blown-out windows and doors of downtown businesses. Professional photographer Chuck Johnson has created new art by combining photos of the murals with mixed digital art to bring to life different components of the images. The original pieces are not for sale but prints of most of the pieces will be available. You can meet many of the artists at the opening reception from 7-9 p.m. on Friday. The show will be at the Phinney Center Gallery through April 7.

“Greenwood Rising” was a motto taken on by the neighborhood after the explosion, to illustrate its resilience. It’s also the second time the neighborhood has used a variation of that motto – the first was when an arsonist destroyed four businesses just half a block away in October 2009 and artists depicted a phoenix rising from the ashes on a huge mural that covered the safety fence where the businesses used to be. Part of that mural now lives in nearby Naked City Brewery’s beer garden, a permanent testament to the strength of Greenwood.

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Puget Sound Energy representatives will discuss safety with residents and businesses tomorrow on the anniversary of the devastating natural gas explosion

March 8th, 2017 by Doree

Puget Sound Energy representatives will be in our neighborhood tomorrow providing safety information to residents and business — on the anniversary of the natural gas explosion that demolished three businesses and damaged another 50 in the heart of Greenwood.

Dom Amor, PSE local government affairs and public policy manager, and Wendy Weiker, PSE outreach manager for King County, attended the Phinney Neighborhood Association Business Group’s quarterly lunch today. Amor said PSE will be stepping up its partnership with the PNA, and plans to join the PNA Business Group to become more involved in the community.

PSE representatives will set up an information table in the Fred Meyer parking lot beginning around 10 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday), and will visit neighborhood businesses to discuss safety issues. Later in the afternoon, somewhere around 2-6 p.m., representatives will be walking neighborhood streets, checking in with homeowners about natural gas safety.

“We take this anniversary very seriously,” Weiker said. “This is kind of an all-hands-on-deck event. Safety is the bottom line.”

Amor said after the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s department of Pipeline Safety released its September report saying the explosion was the result of an improperly decommissioned gas line that was later damaged, PSE checked all other decommissioned lines in the neighborhood to make sure they had been properly decommissioned.

The UTC investigation is ongoing, with a settlement meeting scheduled for July 6.

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Businesses affected by last year’s natural gas explosion call Puget Sound Energy negligent and call for the utility to accept responsibility

January 25th, 2017 by Doree

Several business owners affected by last year’s natural gas explosion that destroyed two buildings, heavily damaged many others and sent nine firefighters to the hospital, are demanding that Puget Sound Energy accept responsibility and pay some kind of restitution.

The business owners gathered at Taproot Theatre, half a block from the explosion site, this morning for a press conference with Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

Eleni Ponirakis, owner of Kouzina/Zoey Catering, tears up as she announces her business will close after continuing insurance problems after being damaged in the March 9, 2016, natural gas explosion. She is surrounded by other business owners affected by the blast.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s department of Pipeline Safety announced in September that the explosion was caused by an improperly decommissioned gas line between two buildings, where a damaged threaded coupling above ground let natural gas accumulate until it was ignited. Pipeline Safety staff recommended a fine of up to $3.2 million. At the time PSE called the findings and proposed fine “disappointing and excessive.”

O’Brien said State Rep. Noel Frame, who lives in Greenwood, told him the state has scheduled another hearing with PSE in July.

Davey Oil, co-owner of G&O Family Cyclery, whose building was adjacent to the destroyed buildings and was too damaged to reoccupy, said he wants Puget Sound Energy to take responsibility and proactively check all its gas lines to make sure this doesn’t happen again – with deadly consequences.

“The blast only took two seconds to occur, but the real violence has been every day since,” Oil said. “Ten years prior (PSE) improperly decommissioned a gas pipe and they lost track of it. As a society, we need to know that our vital infrastructure is well secured, and is monitored for safety. We trust that someone has checked the brake lines on a speeding bus. We want to know that someone has checked the explosive gas lines that lead into our homes and our businesses. We have no choice but to have that trust.”

O’Brien said he’s spoken to PSE representatives several times, most recently yesterday to invite them to the press conference (the company did not send a representative), but that he believes the company is dragging its feet because it has the money and time to do so.

“We need to hold Puget Sound Energy accountable to make sure that every neighborhood is safe,” O’Brien said. “Some independent entity needs to watch over their shoulder to make sure that mistakes that happened here haven’t happened elsewhere.”

Neptune Coffee, Mr. Gyros and Greenwood Quick Stop were destroyed and have not reopened, although Mr. Gyros has locations in Ballard and Wallingford and regularly brings its food truck to the explosion site.

Meanwhile, other neighborhood business owners are still struggling to get insurance settlements, G&O has moved twice (first to a temporary location, now they’re about to open in a permanent location a block away), and Kouzina/Zoey Catering will be closing its doors for good in a week.

Kouzina owner Eleni Ponirakis said her insurance company paid her just $6,000 for the 10 days she was closed after the explosion, but refuses to pay relocation expenses. Her front door was unable to be used after the blast and she had to use the back door, but the kitchen was intact, so she continued to bake gluten-free foods for her catering customers, including Seattle Children’s, Evergreen Hospital and Victrola Coffee.

“We worked very hard to make sure our kitchen was properly set up for the gluten free…doing the right thing for our community, serving the right products,” Ponirakis said through tears. “When the gas explosion happened we didn’t think this is going to be the end for us. We were closed for almost two weeks. After that we were back and doing our wholesale and delivering to our customers.”

But after growing concerns about mold caused by explosion-related water damage in her back room, and unable to share an established kitchen because of cross contamination with gluten products, she concluded Kouzina had to shut down.

Part of the ceiling is falling down and black mold grows on the back wall of Kouzina/Zoey Catering, which was damaged in the March 9, 2016, natural gas explosion. Owner Eleni Ponirakis is at right.

Nikki Visel, marketing director at Taproot Theatre, encouraged people to call or email PSE President/CEO Kimberly Harris and demand that PSE pay the businesses restitution.

“Please tell her that unlike malls and big box businesses, in small neighborhood ecosystems part of what’s exciting is that the businesses are often indigenous to the neighborhood and are very unique. They’re also fragile,” Visel said.

Taproot didn’t sustain heavy damage, but the frames on four sets of entry doors were bent, preventing them from closing and locking properly. Staff had to scramble to figure out a way to keep patrons – especially the hundreds of children in its acting programs – safe.

Chris Maykut, owner of Chaco Canyon Organic Café directly across the street, said his business was luckier than most, “even though the inside of our storefront was completely blown in, all the windows broken; everything looked like it had been put through a blender,” he said. “I’m really outraged, not for myself, but for Eleni, for Davey, for all the businesses that have been affected, destroyed, displaced. We have a billion dollar corporation…and all they’re doing is looking at a piece of paper in a big office saying, hey, if we stonewall these guys, if we don’t accept responsibility, if we don’t admit guilt, even though a nonpartisan body has found us to be liable for this, then we might be able to save some money.”

M. Louise McKay of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center directly across the street from the blast site, relocated its programs to the Phinney Neighborhood Center for several months, but its store – Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. – was closed for five months. The store’s profits support BFI’s programs, and BFI did not receive any kind of reimbursement for that. “We are disappointed by PSE’s inaction,” she said.

Oil encouraged people to support Greenwood’s small businesses.

“Puget Sound Energy’s negligence blew a hole in our dreams, but it doesn’t have to kill them,” Oil said.

Puget Sound Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on today’s press conference.

Update 3:20 p.m.: I spoke with PSE Spokesperson Christina Donegan, who said, “We know it’s been really tough for the whole neighborhood and especially for small businesses. Ultimately we are waiting for the process to fully play out. It takes time. We understand it’s a difficult time in the interim. Ultimately we’re about doing what’s right for safety and the businesses.”

She said the Utilities and Transportation Commission has a settlement hearing scheduled for July 6. Meanwhile, UTC and PSE are working to learn from this explosion and how to ensure high safety standards, especially regarding decommissioned pipes.

“How do you accurately analyze abandoned pipe? That’s what we’re working on with regulators right now because they want to make sure it’s done right too,” Donegan said.

She said 10 businesses filed claims against PSE, and seven of those have been resolved. The other three claims are “more complex.” She couldn’t tell me which businesses filed claims, but she did say claims could be for things like physical damage or to cover lost payroll.

“Again, we care about the community. We’re there; we serve the community. Those businesses are our customers too. I understand they may not feel that way right now, but ultimately we want to do what’s right.”

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Reminder: First Early Design Guidance meeting for explosion site development is tonight

January 9th, 2017 by Doree

The first Early Design Guidance meeting for the residential/retail development that will replace the March 9 natural gas explosion site is set for 6:30 p.m. tonight (Monday), at the Ballard Community Center, 6020 28th Ave. NW, in the Sunset/Captain Ballard Room.

Slattery Properties, which owns the entire west side of the block from North 84 to 85th streets (including the recently opened FlintCreek Cattle Co. building), has proposed a six-story building with 70 residential units on five floors, 7,560 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, and parking for 70 vehicles in two levels below grade. The building where G&O Family Cyclery was will be demolished, as will the building formerly housing Insurrection Apparel and Boots, Better Hearing and Kouzina. In two of the three options proposed, including the preferred option, the FlintCreek building at the corner of Greenwood Avenue and 85th Street restaurant will remain and would have a “green” roof.

You can see the design proposal here. The developers’ preferred option has four retail spaces of 1,950, 1,465, 1,350 and 1,895 square feet and all facing Greenwood Avenue; and the residential lobby entrance on North 84th Street.

That block is zoned NC2P – 65 (Neighborhood Commercial 2 Pedestrian), with a height limit of 65 feet.

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Development to replace Greenwood explosion site will have Early Design Guidance meeting on Jan. 9

December 15th, 2016 by Doree

The first Early Design Guidance meeting for the development that will replace the March 9 natural gas explosion site is set for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 9 at the Ballard Community Center, 6020 28th Ave. NW, in the Sunset/Captain Ballard Room.

The new building at 8403 Greenwood Ave. N. is proposed to be six-stories tall with 70 residential units on five floors, 7,560 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, and parking for 70 vehicles in two levels below grade. The building currently housing Flint Creek at the corner of Greenwood Avenue and 85th Street restaurant will remain. The building where G&O Family Cyclery was will be demolished, as will the building formerly housing Insurrection Apparel and Boots, Better Hearing and Kouzina.

The Greenwood Community Council got an early look at the plans and has a link to the preliminary proposal here. The developers’ preferred option of the three is Option C, which calls for a green roof on top of Flint Creek; four retails spaces of 1,950, 1,465, 1,350 and 1,895 square feet all facing Greenwood Avenue; and the residential lobby entrance on North 84th Street.

That block is zoned NC2P – 65 (Neighborhood Commercial 2 Pedestrian), with a height limit of 65 feet.

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