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

 

PNA receives King County Executive’s Award for Community Resilience for organizing rebuilding efforts after last year’s natural gas explosion

September 26th, 2017 by Doree

King County Executive Dow Constantine today presented the Phinney Neighborhood Association with the Executive’s Award for Community Resilience for helping organize the massive community rebuilding effort after the March 9, 2016, natural gas explosion that leveled three businesses and damaged another 50, and injured nine firefighters.

King County Executive Dow Constantine (center), with, from left: City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, AJ Cari from Seattle Office of Economic Development (behind Constantine), PNA Executive Director Lee Harper, Chaco Canyon owner Chris Maykut.

Immediately after the early-morning explosion, the PNA’s phones began ringing as community members asked how they could help the businesses and residents affected. PNA Executive Director Lee Harper said she and other staff members really didn’t know what to do, but they met at Chocolati Café – half a block from the explosion site and with plywood windows after the blast broke most of its windows – and decided they could at least put up a “donate now” button on the PNA’s website.

“We quickly realized, oh, this is not just a ‘donate now’ button, this is much, much more,” Harper said.

That initial decision eventually turned into a huge fundraising effort that collected more than $330,000 for affected businesses and residents, an advisory board to make sure those funds were distributed equitably, and helped rally neighbors to clean up broken glass, and patronize affected businesses. The PNA also coordinated with the city’s Office of Economic Development, Department of Neighborhoods and the Red Cross.

Another community volunteer group, Urban Hands, organized 150 volunteers the weekend after the explosion to clean up the area, paint murals and plant flowers.

“And then, in the best demonstration of community pride, they patronized local cafes, pubs and restaurants after the work was done. That’s right, they selflessly ate and drank the community back to health,” Constantine said to laughter. “That’s why I created the Executive’s Award for Community Resilience, to honor and to celebrate this kind of effort.”

Harper said the PNA has become an organization that others now come to for guidance after a disaster. She noted that when Bothell suffered a devastating fire on its Main Street later that year, Bothell officials called the PNA for help in organizing the community.

“This is not the kind of knowledge that you want to have, but now that we have it, it’s been great to be able to help other folks,” she said.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles and State Rep. Noelle Frame also attended and spoke at the awards ceremony, along with AJ Cari from the city’s Office of Economic Development, Chaco Canyon owner Chris Maykut, Seattle ReCreative co-owner Jenna Boitano, and Kelly Kasper, who was the Greenwood Community Council’s Health and Safety Committee Chair at the time of the explosion, and who lives half a block away and was jolted out of her bed that morning. She also does disaster preparedness for a living.

“What we saw were people coming together as a community,” Kasper said. “This was a huge event for a small area. We have the potential to have a huge event for a huge area. Let’s learn from what went well here, and as a community, get prepared for the next interruption.”

Maykut said the county should rename the award after the PNA, because future award winners will have a lot to live up to. O’Brien echoed that sentiment, saying our neighborhood is lucky to have the PNA.

“This whole community went to bed on the 8th and woke up on the morning of the 9th to a completely new reality,” O’Brien said. “Whether you were a business owner or an employee working at one of those businesses that was completely gone. At the center of all this, of this community, was the Phinney Neighborhood Association and the amazing work that they do. And I think today about where this community is, and it’s still in the recovery process for sure, but so much better off than if it were a community that didn’t have a resource like PNA.”

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King County Executive to honor Phinney Neighborhood Association for helping the neighborhood recover after last year’s Greenwood gas explosion

September 25th, 2017 by Doree

King County Executive Dow Constantine tomorrow will honor the Phinney Neighborhood Association for its efforts to help the neighborhood recover after last year’s natural gas explosion in Greenwood. The ceremony is at 1 p.m. at the PNA.

The early morning explosion on March 9, 2016, leveled three businesses, damaged another 50, and sent nine firefighters to the hospital.

The PNA’s staff was out in the neighborhood immediately, assessing damage at businesses and residences, and they organized a fundraising effort that ultimately raised more than $330,000 to help businesses recover and displaced residents find a place to stay.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission ultimately found Puget Sound Energy at fault for a contractor that improperly decommissioned a line a decade before, and fined PSE a record $2.75 million.

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Seattle Times: Greenwood firefighter suing PSE over injuries from March 2016 natural gas explosion

May 16th, 2017 by Doree

The Seattle Times reports that Firefighter Jeff Markoff, one of nine firefighters injured in the massive natural gas explosion that destroyed three businesses and damaged another 50 in downtown Greenwood on March 9, 2016, is suing Puget Sound Energy for lingering health issues related to the blast.

In September, the state Utilities and Transportation Commission’s Department of Pipeline Safety released a report saying PSE’s contractor failed to properly decommission that gas line in 2004, and proposed a fine of $3.2 million.

In March, PSE and UTC proposed a settlement of $1.5 million. UTC commissioners discussed the settlement at a meeting yesterday in Olympia, but likely won’t make a decision until this summer.

PSE is now in the process of inspecting 40,000 retired natural gas service lines to make sure they were properly decommissioned.

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Greenwood firefighters recognized for service during 2016 natural gas explosion

May 15th, 2017 by Doree

Seattle Fire Department held its annual awards luncheon last Wednesday, and recognized nine firefighters who were injured in the March 9, 2016, natural gas explosion in downtown Greenwood.

SFD’s Unit Citation went to Battalion Chief Tamalyn Nigretto, Lt. Charles Meyer, Lt. Ed Newell, Firefighter Nathan Buck, Firefighter Mike Camlin, Firefighter Joey Haugen, Firefighter Jeff Markoff, Firefighter Richard Martell, and Firefighter Steve Roberts.

Lt. Newell also received a separate Commendation for his service that day.

Thank you, Defenders of Greenwood!

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Comment on any environmental concerns for development to replace explosion site

April 10th, 2017 by Doree

The Department of Construction and Inspections is asking for public comment on any environmental concerns for the proposed development on the site of last year’s natural gas explosion.

The project at 8403 Greenwood Ave. N. will cover the entire west side of the block between North 84th and 85th streets, except for the Flint Creek Cattle Co. building, which will remain. The new building will be six stories tall with 70 apartments, ground floor retail, and underground parking for 70 vehicles.

The first Early Design Guidance meeting was held in January. You can email comments on environmental issues through April 24 to PRC@Seattle.gov or comment online.

Be sure to reference project #3025261.

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Seattle Times: Puget Sound Energy to pay $1.5 million fine for Greenwood gas explosion

March 29th, 2017 by Doree

The Seattle Times reports that Puget Sound Energy has settled for a $1.5 million fine with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission after last year’s devastating Greenwood gas explosion. You can read the Times’ full story here.

The UTC’s department of Pipeline Safety released a report last September saying the explosion was caused by an improperly decommissioned gas line that had been damaged by transients who used a narrow space between Neptune Coffee and Mr. Gyros to store their belongings. The UTC originally proposed a fine of $3.2 million.

The explosion happened in the middle of the night, while firefighters were on scene investigating a report of a possible natural gas leak. Nine firefighters were injured, but none seriously. Three businesses were destroyed and 50 more damaged. Adjacent G&O Family Cyclery’s building was too damaged to reopen (they’ve since reopened a block away at 8558 Greenwood Ave. N.), as was Insurrection Apparel (which works with clients by appointment elsewhere) Better Hearing Center (which moved to Oaktree Village), and Kouzina Greek restaurant, which said in January that its Zoey Catering was closing because the building was too damaged and it couldn’t find a new location. The Angry Beaver across the street was heavily damaged and took months to reopen. Dozens of other businesses’ damage ranged from a single broken window to serious structural damage.

Business owners held a press conference in January taking PSE to task for fighting the UTC’s proposed fine and claimed the company was not doing enough to help affected business owners, many of whom were having trouble getting reimbursed by their insurance companies.

Puget Sound Energy is in the process of checking that every decommissioned gas line in the state has been properly capped.

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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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