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The Harrison Ridge Greenbelt: A History of Community Activism, Chapter 3


Previously, in the first two chapters, I presented an overview of our neighborhood’s successful effort to save the wooded hillside along 32nd Avenue East from development. First, in the 1960s, the community rallied together to prevent an ill-advised low-income housing project from being built. Then, twenty years later, the neighbors again banded together to block the construction of houses in the green space. The financially stable City of Seattle was able to purchase the property in question under the law of eminent domain. It was the first time that eminent domain had been utilized to acquire property for the specific purpose of maintaining green space in the city. Now that the community had its wooded hillside, it was up to the residents to maintain the site.

In 1993, a committee was formed within the newly resurrected Harrison-Denny Community Council (the prior name of the present MVCC) to apply for grant money and carry out a reforestation project. The group, lead by Jerry and Peggy Sussman, received a Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund Grant for $13,000. With the money, they began a project that spanned two years.

To begin, the committee hired landscape designer Blair Constantine. Blaire surveyed the area and drew up the plans to restore the 6 1/2 acres of land. The woods had been used a dumpsite for generations. In the summer of 1994, students were recruited from the area’s schools as paid workers to clean up. Volunteers from the community pitched in too. Huge amounts of debris such as old tires, car parts, and abandoned appliances were pulled from the land. Truckloads of invasive ivy and clematis as well as other vegetative waste were cleared. The Parks Department provided trucks and hauled away all the debris. The volume of detritus was astonishing!

In the summer of 1995, after the previous year’s cleanup, five hundred conifers, native plants and shrubs were purchased and planted within the newly cleared woods. Arborist Paul West from the Parks Department oversaw the planting and worked among the volunteers. These plantings occurred after two years of very arduous work. The next several years brought new volunteer work parties to the greenbelt to maintain the baby plants. As the trees and shrubs began to thrive, the community rejoiced.

In late 1995, the Council applied for and received another grant concerning the Greenbelt. This Small and Simple Grant outlined a two-part effort to educate the community about the Greenbelt.

The first part concerned the publication of the spiral booklet, “City Woods”. “City Woods” was a locally set story of native trees and plants with a brief history of how the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt was saved. It included illustrations of different plants as well as drawings of historical images.


city woods


Volunteers from the neighborhood did all the art and writing; only the printing costs were paid from the grant money. One thousand copies of the first edition were printed. A second printing, including some new illustrations, soon followed. The booklets were sold for $5 each in local bookstores and at community events.

The second part of the grant concerned the development of a curriculum to teach about local history to the students of Martin Luther King Jr Elementary School. For eight weeks, volunteers came to the classrooms of grades K-5 and taught about the woodland history of the region and the identification of plant life. Three hundred copies of the “City Woods” booklet were gifted to the school.

The next chapter will describe our current efforts to continue reforestation and about local student involvement in learning about urban forestry.


Post a Comment | Topics: Beautification, Nature

February 2017 Police Reports


Incidents in Madison Valley reported to the police during February remained at the relatively low level we have experienced during the past several months. Of the 40 incidents reported only about one quarter were car prowls or vehicle thefts, but this decline was balanced by increases in theft and property damage/graffiti. Six burglaries were reported in February.




1. Sometime between 9:30 and noon on Feb. 2 a burglar gained entry to a third-floor apartment on E. Olive near 23rd and stole three rings valued at approximately $10,500. The police found no fingerprints and although the apartment was locked at the time, there was no evidence of a forced entry. The resident told police, however, that it is easy to open the locked door to his apartment with a credit card.

2. On Feb. 6 at 4:26 AM police responded to a report of a burglary at a restaurant on Madison near Lake Washington Blvd. When they arrived, an employee told them that someone had smashed a glass door leading to the restaurant's office. There was no evidence that anything had been taken, however, and two safes next to office door were intact. No fingerprints were found at the scene.

3. At around 9:20 AM on Feb. 9 neighbors across the alley from a residence on 21st Ave. E. near Mercer noticed a man who appeared to be disoriented and who was talking to himself in the alleyway. Because the man, described as a thin white male around 50 years old with brown hair and a beard, was wearing shorts during a heavy downpour, one of the neighbors called 911, but when units arrived he had left the scene, apparently heading west on Mercer. When the resident of the home on 21st learned of the incident, she found that her backyard storage unit, which was unlocked at the time, had been burglarized. When her neighbors described the man who had been in the alley, she realized that he was probably the same person who had been arrested for stealing her Yamaha scooter last August. The police report notes that that person was due to be sentenced for the previous offense on Feb. 24. It also notes that the scooter had been damaged in the present incident, possibly in retaliation for the earlier arrest.

4. During the morning of Feb. 18 there was a forced-entry burglary at a residence on Union near 30th Ave., but the police have not released a description of this incident.

5. Police were called to a building on Denny near 25th on Feb. 25 to investigate a burglary that had occurred sometime in the previous couple of days. The victim reported that someone had entered the building's secure storage area and taken two bicycles worth approximately $1200. The bikes’ front wheels had been locked to a bike rack in the storage area, but the burglar was able to take the bikes after removing their front wheels. No fingerprints were found at the scene.

6. On Feb. 26 police were called to a house on 26th near Denny to investigate a burglary. Once there they found that the house had recently been sold by its previous owner, who was in the process of moving to a new location. A neighbor had notified the previous owner on Feb. 23 that several people had been seen exiting the house that day. When the previous owner returned to the house on the 26th to remove the remainder of his possessions, he found that basement windows had been broken and that there were signs that someone else had occupied the house. However, the previous owner reported that nothing seemed to be missing from the house.

During February, there was also an incident that began as a shoplift but ended as a robbery.

Around 10 P.M. on Feb. 6 a clerk at the liquor store on Union near 23rd observed a man putting five liquor bottles inside his coat. After being confronted by the clerk, the man defied him and headed for the door. Three bottles fell out of the man's coat when he reached the door and when the clerk grabbed the man's coat outside the store he was able to recover the other two bottles. At that point, the man threatened to shoot the clerk and fled from the scene. Police found multiple fingerprints on the bottles and the store is well covered by security cameras. 


Lowell Hargens is a Madison Valley resident and former University of Washington professor of sociology specializing in the statistical analysis of data.


Post a Comment | Topics: Climate March at The Valley School

The Harrison Ridge Greenbelt: A History of Community Activism, Chapter 2


In the first chapter of the Greenbelt history, we presented the story of the initial attempt to develop the hillside along 32nd Avenue E between E Denny and E John. During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s the community rallied together to block the building of a low- income housing project. Then, after twenty years of quiet, another threat to the woods brought the community together. This rallying cry was the genesis for the current community council, which at that time was named Harrison-Denny Community Council.

In the early 1990s, a neighbor across the street from the Greenbelt contacted community activists reporting that a sign had been posted. The sign stated a lot owner’s intent to begin building a house. The owner was contacted and after hearing the community’s wish to preserve the site, agreed to sell his lot to the City. At that time, the City of Seattle had funds to acquire undeveloped land to preserve green spaces in the neighborhoods. Communities were becoming aware of a development boom and were concerned that their beautiful green city would someday be lost to construction. In those days, $6,000 was the cost of an average lot. This acquisition effort of the City has resulted in the many green spaces you see throughout Seattle neighborhoods today.

Well-known community activists and leaders, Peggy and Jerry Sussman organized a small band of like-minded neighbors and decided to reinstate a community council. The Council would enable the group to create an organized forum to present the community’s concerns to Seattle City Council. The newly minted Harrison-Denny Community Council became an instantly popular magnet and attracted up to 100 residents and business owners at each meeting. The annual spaghetti dinner was always sold out and the treasury was filled with proceeds from the tremendously successful rummage sale.




Of course, the first order of business for the new Council was the protection of the neighborhood’s only wild green-space, the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt. The few other lot owners in the Greenbelt readily agreed to sell their properties to the City. They enjoyed a generous compensation. One parcel, owned by King County, was gifted to the community.

However, one lot owner was not moved by the community’s spirit and refused to cooperate. Again, the appearance of a sign along the street alerted neighbors of an intent to develop the site. The owner had applied for his property to be re-platted from 3 into 2 lots and intended to build 2 large houses. When he realized that the community was moving against his plans, he brought in bulldozers and began clearing the property. The Council immediately contacted the City and a stop work order was issued. Subsequent hearings with the Seattle City Council resulted in a judgment against the owner.

In an unprecedented move, the City condemned the property under the right of eminent domain. This Washington State constitutional law allowed the government to acquire and preserve pieces of undeveloped property as parks or green spaces. The City was required to pay a fair market value for such land and negotiated a price with the property owner. A reduced price was paid due to the destruction of the land.

The entire community was ecstatic as the realization of many months of perseverance resulted in a new park. The 6.2 acres of the wooded hillside became officially known as the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt.

Now that the community had realized its goal of preserving the green space, the next step was to care for this property. That part of the Greenbelt history will be presented in the next chapter.


Post a Comment | Topics: Nature

Land Use Notices Madison Valley Area, February 21 – March 13, 2017


Here are the Seattle OPCD and SDCI Land Use notices in the land three weeks for communities from 18th Ave. to Lake Washington and E Union St. to SR-520.




2301 E Denny Way
Administrative Design Review Early Design Guidance Application proposing 46 small efficiency dwelling units. Existing structures to be demolished. Zone: Lowrise-3, Arterial within 100 ft., Scenic view within 500 ft., Urban Village overlay
Notice of Administrative Design Review

111 26th Ave E
Land Use Application to allow one, 3-story, 4-unit row house structure in an environmentally critical area. Parking for 14 vehicles proposed within the structure. Existing structure to be demolished. To be considered with project at 115 26th Ave E for shared access. Environmental review includes future unit lot subdivision. Zone: Lowrise-2, Potential slide area, Steep slope (>=40%)
Notice of Revised Application

115 26th Ave E
Land Use Application to allow two, three-story, two-unit townhouse buildings (four units) in an environmentally critical area. Covenant parking for seven vehicles will be provided on adjacent site at 111 26th Ave E. To be considered with project 111 26th Ave E for shared access. Environmental review includes future unit lot subdivision. Zone: Lowrise-2, Potential slide area, Steep slope (>=40%)
Notice of Revised Application

212 25th Ave E
Land Use Application to allow two 3-story, two unit townhouse structures in an environmentally critical area. Parking for 4 vehicles provided on site. Existing structure to be demolished. Environmental review includes future unit lot subdivision. Zone: Lowrise-3, Potential slide area, Arterial within 100 ft., Scenic view within 500 ft.

Notice of Decision
139 27th Ave E
Land Use Application to subdivide one development site into three unit lots. The plan is that the 1900 house remains with a duplex built behind it. This subdivision of property is only for the purpose of allowing sale or lease of the unit lots. Development standards will be applied to the original parcel and not to each of the new unit lots. Zone: Lowrise-1, Potential Slide Area
Notice of Decision

Land Use Information Bulletins
Property & Building Activity Interactive Map 
Design Review Board
Buildings in Design Review Map


Post a Comment | Topics: Construction

Join Us for the Next Merchants Association Meeting


Guest Speaker: The Bus Rapid Transit team will be making a presentation on BRT in Madison Valley. The discussion will cover stops, turnarounds, parking, and construction. Learn how this will change the neighborhood!

Additional topic for discussion: Spring Clean in April.

Everyone in the neighborhood is invited to participate in this get-together. Coffee and snacks will be served. Please share with anyone interested. 

8:30 AM
Wednesday, March 15
Cafe Flora

Post a Comment | Topics: Merchants Association

The Harrison Ridge Greenbelt: A History of Community Activism


Some of our newer neighbors may view the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt as only an undeveloped hillside above 32nd Avenue. However, the preservation of this community green space developed over a period of 70 years. Many of our neighbors have worked tirelessly to preserve the only green space in Madison Valley.




During the 1930s, the city of Seattle was still in the process of paving the streets in the Madison Valley neighborhood. One specific street project involved paving a pathway directly through the heart of the woods from E Denny Way to E Harrison along what is now 33rd Avenue E. However, during the construction, the hillside gave way in a landslide bringing the work to an abrupt halt. The project was abandoned and the hillside remained intact. This is the reason that 33rd Avenue E is not a throughway.

In the 1960s and ’70s, developers approached the neighborhood with a design for a “Model Cities” low-income housing project. The developers’ goal was to construct 25-unit apartment buildings on the site. Among other radical changes, this plan called for significant excavation of the woods for a parking lot to accommodate the large numbers of prospective tenants. However, the builders underestimated the negative reaction and cohesiveness of the Madison Valley community. The first group to protest the development of this neighborhood land was the Harrison School PTA (later renamed M.L. King Jr. School). The protesting group called itself the Harrison-Denny Community Council whose boundaries encompassed the woods. The Council found much support among the Valley residents. With so much support, the organization was able to send a large delegation of residents to the Seattle City Council hearing regarding the federal Model Cities proposal.

During the meeting, there were accusations from the developers that the protestors were motivated by a desire to restrict low-income people from living within their neighborhood. However, angry African-American representatives countered that assumption with disheartening tales of living within such projects in other cities. They did not want to see another “warehouse” approach as the solution for low-income people. Appreciating the presentation of the community, and recognizing other problems with the proposed plan, the Seattle City Council ultimately refused to permit the apartment buildings.

Their recorded decision was based upon probable geological instability of the hillside. Once again, the wooded hillside was saved from development. There was one house on the hillside, which was built in the 1920s. The community relaxed, and over the next few years, lacking a burning issue to rally around, the Community Council was dissolved. However, in early 1990s another threat arose which initiated a new alarm regarding the woods. Please look forward to the next chapter of the Greenbelt history in a few weeks!

Post a Comment | Topics: Community Planning, Nature

Join Madison Street BRT Project at a March Open House


Come see what we’ve been up to and share your feedback! We’re holding in-person and online open houses this March to share the updated project design.



Join us in person or online to provide feedback on the:

Updated design, including information on sidewalks and pedestrian access, parking and loading zones, bicycle infrastructure, and station design.

Preliminary construction information, including a draft construction sequencing plan and potential construction impacts.

Our project team and other City staff will be in attendance to listen and answer your questions about the project. This is also an opportunity to learn more about Ben Zamora’s work, the artist chosen to create public works of art along the Madison St corridor.

Madison Street BRT will become RapidRide G Line!

Madison Street BRT, which will become Metro RapidRide G Line, is the latest RapidRide line to begin service in Seattle. We anticipate Madison Street BRT (RapidRide G Line) service will begin in late 2019.

We hope to see you in person or online in March!



Thursday, March 9
11 AM – 1 PM
Town Hall, Downstairs
1119 8th Ave

Wednesday, March 15
5:30 – 7:30 PM
First African Methodist Episcopal Church
1522 14th Ave



March 8 – 22
Give feedback online!
(Link will go live March 8)


If you have specific questions, or would like to schedule a meeting or briefing, please email us at [email protected] or call Emily Reardon, Public Information Officer, at 206-615-1485.


1 Comment, Join In | Topics: Transportation

The BottleNeck Lounge Turns Ten


It’s hard to believe, but The BottleNeck Lounge has officially enjoyed a decade of Kentucky Derby parties, rollicking St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, rafter-packed political debates, bar-pounding Seahawk Sundays, and $6 Manhattan Mondays. Help us ring in the double digits with a two-night anniversary celebration on March 10th and 11th – we may be small but our ability to celebrate is huge!


We kick things off that Friday with a Bourbon-Soaked Happy Hour from 4–8 PM featuring $4 pours of Evan Williams (our well whiskey for the past decade) and the much-anticipated return of the Hair of The Dog Drink menu, featuring doggie-themed cocktails all at – you guessed it – ten bucks. On Saturday, March 11th we reprise our Bang Your Head Happy Hour, replete with $3 cans of ice cold PBR Tallboys and the raucous return of the Buttrock Suite Dancers. These lovelies graced our bar (and subsequently, our bar top) with a visit in 2008 and have offered to cap off Happy Hour and jump start the rest of the night. Thanks to everyone for supporting our little neighborhood bar over the years – we love you and we have presents to prove it.

March 10 & 11, 4 PM onward
2328 E. Madison St.


Post a Comment | Topics: Food & Drink

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