Category: Seattle

$1.5M condo on $20K income? Prospective buyers lose $175K in Bellevue

Six immigrants who were prequalified for huge mortgages are suing Bellevue Towers and JP Morgan Chase Bank after they lost a combined $174,050 in earnest money. They allege the preferred lender put down false numbers for their income, which made it possible to prequalify but not to qualify for the actual loan, resulting in the loss of their earnest money.

However, there may be more to this story than just the facts put forth from the plaintiff’s lawsuit and the resulting news article in The Seattle Times. Read the comments for some surprising information about the complainants in the suit.

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Pecha-Kucha Night at See Sound Lounge 4/10

Make Magazine

I wrote an article for this months issue of MAKE Magazine ( about folk artist Martin Sanchez and the environment he created out of found objects (including a beer-bottle chapel) and I’m going to be featuring some of those photos with commentary this Thursday 4/10 at See Sound Lounge on 1st and Blanchard in Belltown at 6pm.

Pecha Kucha Night was conceived in 2003 as a place for designers, architects and artists to meet, network, and show their work in public, and it has spread virally to over 100 cities across the world.

Give a mic to an architect or an artist and you may be trapped for hours. The key to Pecha Kucha Night is its patented system for avoiding this fate. Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each – giving 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. This keeps presentations concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show.


Pecha Kucha (which is Japanese for the sound of conversation) has tapped into a demand for a forum in which creative work can be easily and informally shown, without having to rent a gallery or chat up a magazine editor.


Artists and presenters for the evening are Marlow Harris, Alex Steffen, Cameron Hall, Sage Saskill, Elizabeth Buschmann, Karen Lorene, Jesse Harris, Dawn Clark, Ross Leventhal and Michael Franz Horner

Update your house to sell in slow market

I was interviewed over several weeks by a Seattle Times reporter, Kirsten Grind, for an article that started out being about popular architectural styles through the decades, and turned into a how-to on updating your home to sell in a slow market.

It’s funny how 3 weeks of correspondence and a half-a-dozen phone calls and emails turned into 2 quotes, but I guess the direct link to Seattle Dream Homes makes up for it all. That’s some link love for ya….

Update your house to sell in slow market by Kirsten Grind

The next slum?

The Suburbs

If gasoline and heating costs continue to rise, typcial suburban living may not be much of a bargain in the future. And as more Americans move into urban communities, families may find that some of the suburbs’ other big advantages—better schools and safer communities—have eroded.

As conventional suburban lifestyles fall out of fashion and walkable urban alternatives proliferate, what will happen to the obsolete suburbs? Are they the slums of the future?

In Seattle, we already have more gang activity in the suburbs than in the inner-city.

Christopher B. Leinberger in The Atlantic discusses these trends in The Next Slum. Many of the inner-city neighborhoods that began their decline in the 1960s consisted of sturdily built, turn-of-the-century homes, some even considered mansions, by today’s standards. By comparison, modern suburban houses, even high-end McMansions, are cheaply built. Hollow doors and wallboard are less durable than solid-oak doors and lath-and-plaster walls. The plywood floors that lurk under wood veneers or carpeting tend to break up and warp as the glue that holds the wood together dries out; asphalt-shingle roofs typically need replacing after 10 years. Many recently built houses take what structural integrity they have from drywall—their thin wooden frames are too flimsy to hold the houses up.

The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.

The George P. Riley Group

Historical Rainier Vista

Although public housing in Seattle has always been maintained to be livable, elsewhere in the country public housing has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that people can no longer live in many thousands of units. In the early 1990s, a national commission found that about 100,000 public housing units in the U.S. were “severely distressed” and proposed a national action plan to address this problem by the year 2000.

In 1992, Congress authorized a new program called Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, or HOPE VI, to carry out the commission’s recommendations.

In August 1999, the Office of Housing and Urban Development awarded Seattle Housing Authority with a $35 million HOPE VI grant to redevelop Rainier Vista, a 481-unit World War II-era garden community in Southeast Seattle.

The Seattle Housing Authority created a unique partnership with local builders to build not only low-income and rental housing, but market value housing for members of the middle-class.

Most of the builders who have bought and developed the lots are huge experienced general contractor/builder titans with years of experience.

One group that entered the fray is not a big builder, and that is the “George P. Riley Group”.

The original “George P. Riley” came to the NW territories during the Gold Rush. In 1869, Riley along with 14 other folks, 11 African American men, two African American women, and one white man–formed a group and the members pooled funds to purchase real estate. Mr. Riley searched for suitable land and ended up purchasing 20-acres in the present-day Beacon Hill neighborhood for $2000.00. This was the beginning of Seattle’s black neighborhood. He also did the same thing in Tacoma, and that was the beginnings of that cities black neighborhood.

George P. Riley

Fast-forward to today.

A group of African-American men, lead by local architect the late Mel Streeter, got together and decided to do the same thing, pool their money to buy real estate in the same Beacon Hill neighborhood.

The group is made up of several African-American architects, including Donald King, a lawyer, an insurance broker (David Tyner), a couple of real estate brokers, the owner of Ezell’s restaurant, an athlete (Lenny Wilkins), and several other prominent African-American gentlemen.

One of the investors is well-known African-American historian Quintard Taylor and he wrote about George P. Riley on his website Black Past.

They thought it would be interesting, a good story, an honor to Riley’s accomplishment, a good example, all those things and more, if they could pull this off, a modern-day group of black men working together to build something worthwhile in the community in Rainier Vista.

Rainier Vista

And it is a good story, a story that Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Aubrey Cohen expanded upon in his article “Housing group continues mission of pioneering black developer” published last week in the Seattle P.I..

Aubrey is the Seattle PI’s real estate reporter and has written hundreds of articles on the local real estate scene and even has a blog on the Seattle PI’s site, Seattle Real Estate News.

Fusion Partners have created a general Rainier Vista website, but I’ve been assisting the George P. Riley group on sales and marketing so have made them a website specifically for the George P. Riley Group townhomes. I’m so honored to have had this chance to meet and work with these gentleman, to learn first-hand about their story, and I’m looking forward to assisting them in getting these townhomes sold in 2008.

Does this house make my butt look big?

University of Washington researchers recently found wide disparities in obesity rates among King County ZIP codes. The rates range from less than 10 percent in parts of central Seattle and Bellevue to more than 25 percent in some south county neighborhoods.

Obesity Map (From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

The strongest predictor of obesity rates wasn’t income or education but property values, the study found.
Each additional $100,000 in median home value for a ZIP code corresponded with a drop in obesity of 2 percentage points.

It’s further evidence, experts say, that weight isn’t solely about individual behavior and that the environment you live in matters.

As the Seattle P-I notes in “Overweight? Blame your zipcode”:

“If you have this mind-set that obesity has to do with the individual alone, then ZIP codes or areas really should not come into this. But they do, big-time,” said Adam Drewnowski, director of the UW Center for Obesity Research.

It’s common sense that a lack of access to fresh produce and nutritious groceries, plus an excess of fast-food restaurants, might contribute to packing on the pounds. Add that to being in a neighborhood that might be unsafe to walk or exercise, and the result is the residents tend to be overweight.

Nothing to do with real estate


But interesting, nevertheless….

On April 16, 1970, a federal grand jury indicted the Seattle Liberation Front (SLF) leaders for conspiracy to riot in planning a February 17, 1970 demonstration in Seattle.

One of the members, Jeff Dowd, went on to be a big Hollywood agent. He goes by the name “The Dude”.

The Coen Brothers made a film about him called “The Big Lebowski”.

It become an underground hit. Now it has a cult following and a group of fans have festivals and film screenings and bowling and costume parties all based on the film.

The next “Lebowski Fest” is coming to Seattle March 9th.

And Jeff Dowd, the actual real live “Dude” and one of the original Seattle Seven, will be in attendance.

Grow-a-Brain loves The Big Lebowski

Trump investing in Seattle?

The Gang at Trump Tower

It was reported in the PSBJ that Donald Trump and Wood Partners LLC, a multifamily developer based in Atlanta, are in negotiations to find a site in Seattle for a hotel/condominium project.

Is this the beginning of the end for Seattle as we know it?

Years ago, when California buyers were cashing in their equity and moving into the Pacific Northwest, we used to pray for one of those “California Buyers” to walk into our Open House and plop down cash for our properties. Then when that happened too often, we’d put “Seattle Native” on our license plates and mutter “Don’t Californicate Washington” under our breaths.

What’s the East Coast equivalent to this sentiment? When I was growing up here, people used to complain about Seattle being an unsophisticated backwater. Now, they’re complaining that it’s losing its character with all of the unbridled development.

I hope that enough people will treasure our short history here and our town doesn’t become interchangeable with every other American city, with it’s chains and franchises. I hope that developers can fight the urge to fill their condos and developments with mammoth retail spaces and, instead, make the shop spaces smaller and cheaper to encourage quirky boutiques and small businesses. And I hope they don’t turn a “blind eye” to the street when adding that retail space, allowing the stores to board over the sidewalk-facing windows just to pack in more shelf-space in the stores. That makes for a very unfriendly streetscape.

Achieving density of the sort that makes attractive and lively places does not need not be at the expense of privacy, of overcrowded houses or of increases in traffic and noise. Building types and lot arrangements, though, must be chosen or invented to maintain the character of our city. Ostentatious displays of wealth are not in character with Seattle’s self-made and humble fisherman and lumberjack origins.

Condo Map from the Seattle Times

Vancouver B.C., our neighbor to the North, has been undertaking a mammoth experiment in urbanism, making over a city in concrete and glass, unlike anything that’s been done in Canada. As the skyline of Seattle changes in tandem, we stop, pause, and wonder what we’re becoming, where we’re going, and what we’ve become.

In Vancouver, ninety percent of the nine million square feet of new towers approved in downtown during this decade have been condos.

In Seattle it’s pretty much the same story. Last year, the Seattle City Council cleared the way for sweeping changes to the downtown skyline when it repealed the height limits voters set on downtown buildings in the 1989 CAP Initiative. According to an article by Bob Young, High-rise boom coming to Seattle? this change could bring as many as 2000 more condo units to downtown Seattle in the coming years.

According to an article in “Canadian Architect” by Trevor Boddy Downtown’s Last Resort, one-third of Vancouver’s head-office jobs left the city during the past six years and the city is becoming a playground of the super-rich and a repository of international funds, parked there as a hedge against global unrest. Critics decry the shift to a downtown future as a “resort,” not a true metropolis and compare the condo glut to “vertical gated communities.”

Then there are questions about the nature of these new downtown residents. Planners portray them as mountain-biking software and computer game developers, walk-to-work denizens of the postmodern economy–but there is just as much contrary evidence that many of the new residents are a golden global class temporarily parking their investment dollars, linked with a huge cohort of Canadian baby boomers planning to spend their final years in Vancouver.

Will downtown Seattle also become a playground for the rich and the elderly? Who will inhabit our new downtown? It won’t be families. There doesn’t appear to be a huge influx of jobs to the downtown area. How many empty-nesters and suburban couples will want to live out their years in a high-rise Trump-style retirement community called Downtown Seattle?

1000 condos planned for Qwest Field

Downtown living works in Vancouver, B.C. — but will it translate?

New condos: Which one’s the tallest of all?

How We Can Make Our Streets More “Pedestrian Friendly”

Thank you for asking

Well, no one really asked yet, but I’m sure it was just an oversight.
In case you missed it, here are some photos from last week’s “Elvis Invitationals”.

2007 Winner Cliff \"Elvis\" Moody
(Update: Guest Celebrity Judge Cienna Madrid reviews the Elvis Invitationals at The Stranger, “Judging the King“. Thanks Cienna!)

Clark Humphrey’s book “Vanishing Seattle” came out and in an interview he gave to Seattlest, was kind enough to mention me and my site Roadside Seattle as a good place to learn more about the spirit and history of Seattle.

Thanks Clark!

Vanishing Seattle

Vanishing Seattle (WA) (Images of America)

And yes, I AM contributing the occasional news story, blog post, gossip and innuendo to the Inman Blog. I’m sure you would have asked if you’d remembered.

Inman News

Seattle’s Statue of Liberty

Alki Statue of Liberty in Seattle

Did you know that Seattle has its very own Statue of Liberty? It’s at Alki Beach.

The Statue of Liberty, a small replica of the original “Liberty Enlightening the World” in New York City, was a gift from Reginald H. Parsons and the Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 1952. The statue has become such a symbol of liberty and courage that it became a place to mourn, to reflect, and to leave mementos after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Alki Statue of Liberty in Seattle 2

City of Seattle’s Alki Beach Park

The materials used for the Seattle Statue of Liberty prepared it poorly for fifty years of sand, salt spray, and vandalism, leaving it ready for replacement.
Northwest Programs for the Arts plan to recast the sculpture in bronze as soon as they have necessary funds and have an unveiling shortly thereafter, rededicating the statue.

Lost Seattle?

Clark Humphrey

Several people pointed out to me that Clark Humphrey, former Seattle Dream Homes client, had this announcement on his blog Miscmedia a few days ago:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WEEK #2: I’m working on another book.
The tentative title: Vanishing Seattle. It’ll be a picture book all about fondly remembered local bygones–restaurants, stores, TV/radio personalities, buildings, landmarks, tourist attractions, and more.

Was this before or after he viewed Roadside Seattle on Seattle Dream Homes, online since 2001?

Virtual Seattle

Seattle resident Bradford Bohonus has created a fabulous website, VR Seattle, where he features incredible 360-degree images, Virtual Reality tours, of major landmarks around the city. He specializes in shooting interactive Virtual Reality images but when he’s not doing client work, he is shooting VR material for his virtual tour of Seattle which currently has over 1000 locations throughout Seattle and Washington State. He’s currently seeking local artists and musicians to be photographed in their creative environment in VR for inclusion on the VR Seattle website.

If you’re an artist or musician, you should get a hold of him. He’ll make you a star, Baby!

The Tremendous Seattle Circumnavigation

Here’s a blog from Seattleite Ben Tansey, a fellow who decided to walk all around the municipal borders of the Seattle city limits.

Here’s a quote from his blog:

“You could say this is a search for truth. After all, I’ll frequently be talking about the “truest path” or the “purity of the route.” Any obstacle that prevents me from actually following the municipal line necessitates finding an alternate path. All such deviations from the line represent an impurity, but salvation comes in finding the “truest path” back to the city line, that is, the route that provides for the least deviation given the obstacle, be it private property, steep bluffs, vast gated communities, airports, Catholic schools, Port security or even tides. Yes, tides!”

The Tremendous Seattle Circumnavigation

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