“I would approach them with love.”

This morning, I went to Mass at St. Alphonsus. It is the second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. Today’s Gospel (John 1:35- 42) struck me deeply, and instead of making some phone calls on my walk after Mass, I decided to reflect on the Word as I walked through Ballard. I was led to have an encounter that I wanted to record and share.

First, the Gospel (John 1:35-42):

“35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,

36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”*

37 The two disciples* heard what he said and followed Jesus.

38Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

39He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.*

40Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

41He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”* (which is translated Anointed).z

42Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;* you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).a

All through Fr. Richard’s homily and the rest of the Mass, I kept hearing Jesus’s question: “What are you looking for?” At first, I responded that I was looking for Him, but then I said “I’m looking for love.” It’s so hard to summarize in a coherent way on paper one’s thoughts during Mass, but this is what I reflected upon as I received the Eucharist and then afterwards, as I went on my walk afterwards. I had to go get some things at Fred Meyer, and the only way to do that was to walk through the light industrial area of Ballard that has become a place where many homeless people are now living. Usually, I would use this walk as an opportunity to make some phone calls, but I wanted to continue to hold on and contemplate the Gospel.

While there have always been homeless people living in Ballard, and in this area in general, there has been a huge increase, particularly in the past year. Many of these people are no longer living along the streets but have now moved around and into the parks. This morning, I walked through Gilman Park, where there are several encampments, including one near the playground. The last time I was at the park, I had an animated conversation with a young man who lived near the park about the situation.

This morning, I was walking past a young man trying to fix his red and gray tent set up on a grassy knoll near the tennis courts. The young man kept looking at me, so I made eye contact, raised my coffee cup to say hello and kept walking through the park.

“Excuse me,” the young man said. I stopped and looked back at him. He went from where he was working on his tent and came over to speak with me. As he got closer, I was able to see that he was a white man, probably in his twenties, wearing black and gray clothes with matted dreadlocks and tattoos on his face and hands. His hands were so dirty they were gray themselves.

“Someone slashed my tent,” he began.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“What would you do,” he continued, “if there was someone who was obsessed with you- her name is ___- and every time that you tried to push them away, they started doing things like slashing your tent?”

“Does this person live in the park?” I asked.

“No, but they keep on doing this, and I’m asking people trying to figure out what to do.”

I paused and stopped thinking and tried to be a conduit. “I would approach them with love. I don’t know who this person is, but you might want to approach them with love.”

He paused and looked at me. If I had to guess, I thought that as we were talking, he was sober and lucid. “You know, I’ve asked a bunch of people about this, and you’re the first person to say to approach them with love. I think I’ll try that. Thank you.” With that, he turned and walked back to the ruins of his tent.

The power of prayer manifested

A few weeks ago, Fr. Richard Klepac gave a homily at St. Alphonsus Parish in Seattle that touched on the power of prayer and its efficaciousness. One thing that he mentioned in particular that stuck with me for the rest of the day was to develop a habit of saying a prayer every time you hear sirens to pray for the person in need as well as for the first responders.

Later that evening, I heard a siren and started to pray a Hail Mary. As I prayed, the sirens got closer until finally I could hear them outside. I opened the front door and to my left I could see a column of flame shooting up into the night sky. There is a construction project going on across the street from our house and there was a fire right next to it. The firefighters were able to put it out, but if they had not arrived when they did, the new building would have probably caught on fire.

I asked the firefighters what had caused the fire and all they could tell at that point was that it had started in a plastic container. The next day, my daughter and I checked it out and found the remains of a port-a-potty and what looked like some clothes.

Abstract art, or the remains of a portable toilet that could have caused a huge fire?

I wanted to share this story because it is such a simple and profound example of the power of prayer.

God is listening. God answers our prayers. Most of the time, they will be answered on His own time, but sometimes He gives us clear, immediate responses that make you feel His presence in that moment.

Viva Christo Rey!

My Ballard light rail letter was published in the Seattle Times!

While I was at Fred Meyer on Monday, I noticed that the front page story of the Seattle Times was about the Ballard to West Seattle light rail line. The title (“Call to add light-rail tunnels would boost light-rail costs”) and the summary (“Ballard to West Seattle | Neighborhood groups and politicians say tunnels would be less disruptive that elevated routes, but no one has yet identified funding sources for them.”) hinted at potential NIMBYism on the part of those who were suggesting the tunnel options. Desperately wanting to know, I eagerly paid for a copy of the newspaper (I’m not a Seattle Times subscriber at the moment, but I do buy a copy at least once a week) .

After reading the article I was disappointed to discover that the vast majority of it was devoted to the potential effects on West Seattle. I don’t mean to suggest that their concerns aren’t valid, and indeed I wanted to know what was happening there, but the article hardly mentioned Ballard at all. Inspired, incensed, or perhaps a bit of both, I wrote a letter to the editor and sent it off.

To my surprise and delight, they published my letter in the April 4, 2019 print and digital editions of the Seattle Times:

Coming soon to microfiche…? My Letter to the Editor in the 4/4/2019 edition of the Seattle Times.

The letter has received a few comments thus far. I will go over them after the comments close in a few days.

Ballard Light Rail Comments to Sound Transit

I did manage to send in my comments to Sound Transit before the April 2nd deadline. Here is what I sent:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you in regards to the plans for the Level 3 Alternatives in Interbay/Ballard for Salmon Bay Crossing and Ballard Station. I want to express my strong preference for the “Tunnel crossing/Tunnel station at 15th” option. The two options for 14th will result in lower ridership. The 15th option, while the most costly, is the one that will make the most sense for Ballard in the near future as well as for extending the line in the long term.

My family and I attended the Open House at Ballard High School on 2/28/19. We appreciated the informative presentation and that there were Sound Transit engineers and other experts on hand to answer questions. I was very concerned when I saw that two of the three plans being actively considered would be on 14th Ave NW. We live near 14th Ave NW and we use it every day to get around Ballard, get groceries, and go to church. The “Fixed bridge crossing/ Elevated station at 14th” option, which includes tail tracks, would adversely affect the quality of life in the East Ballard neighborhood. The bridge would be massively out of scale and would also negatively affect the remaining businesses in the industrial area on 14th.

One of the most concerning things we heard, however, was when we asked an engineer how the light rail line would be extended if the elevated station was built on 14th. He replied that when it was extended to Crown Hill it would probably have to go underground before Ballard High School at NW 65th St. This would make 14th Ave NW from NW 58th St to NW 65th St a tunnel mouth. If the long-term plan is to build a tunnel, why not do the right thing for Ballard from the beginning and put the tunnel and station on 15th where everyone expects it to be?

Ballard has borne more than our fair share of development in the past decade. Affordable housing has been torn down and replaced by overpriced, oversized structures while those who can’t afford the rent in Seattle anymore live among us in tents and vans. Densifying Ballard before mass transit was in place has resulted in severe congestion.

Most of this densification has taken place to the west of 15th Ave NW and NW Market St., which now takes several minutes for a pedestrian to cross. If people can just go underground at the intersection to the station it will have much higher ridership. Forcing people to walk that extra block to 14th may make them consider other options. While I know that East Ballard has been upzoned/rezoned as part of the HALA legislation, it will not be as dense even by 2030 to the extent that the area west of 15th already is.

I support light rail to Ballard- I just want it to be done right. 15th and Market is where everyone expects the station will be. I also understand that this option is more expensive, but the benefits of placing the tunnel and station at the optimal location for current and future growth will more than justify the investment. It would be even more costly to terraform our neighborhood to build an underused light rail line.

Ballard light rail comments deadline is April 2nd!

I wanted to remind everyone in Ballard/East Ballard/West Woodland/Frelard that the deadline for submitting comments to Sound Transit regarding the options for the Salmon Bay Crossing and Ballard Station is Tuesday, April 2nd. Please use this link to submit your comments. I haven’t submitted my comments yet, but will post a copy after I submit them.

Kristin Doll’s flyer on telephone pole at 14th Ave NW and NW 60th St., 3/28/19

If you want to read a well-researched analysis of the three options that includes tons of great pictures and Sound Transit diagrams to put everything in perspective, please check out Kristin Doll’s blog post. Kristin is a neighbor who lives much closer to 14th Ave NW than we do and lays out a compelling case for why Sound Transit should go with the “Tunnel crossing/ Tunnel station at 15th” option. If you agree with her analysis (and I do) but you don’t have time to write a letter to Sound Transit, she has helpfully provided a form letter to use.

Kristin has done a great job promoting her post in the area around 14th. I can only hope that enough of our neighbors grasp what is happening right now and submit their comments in time. Will you?

Light Rail Plans and the Possible Impacts on East Ballard

On Thursday, February 28th, my family and I attended the Open House about the West Seattle and Ballard Light Rail lines. Sound Transit has completed three main design options for getting across the water as well as the Ballard station and is presenting them for public comment. There are three options: 1) a tunnel with an underground station on 15th Ave NW, 2) a tunnel with an underground station on 14th Ave NW, or 3) a fixed high (130’ or about as high as the Aurora Bridge) bridge over the Ship Canal and an elevated light rail station on 14th. From what we saw and the questions we asked about the station, two of these options are going to have a HUGE impact on 14th Ave NW. I am going to focus on sharing what we learned about the options, their impacts on 14th, and strongly urge you to investigate on your own and submit your comments before the end of the comment period which has been extended to April 2nd.

-The Facts (as we saw them- I strongly urge you to check out the plans online):
This is a design that shows both station options the elevated option on 14th and 15th. In the original plans, they considered a movable bridge over Salmon Bay near Fisherman’s Terminal with an elevated station at 15th, but that is apparently no longer under consideration due to the effects on the maritime community:

The elevated station would be located at Market and 14th. The additional tracks past the station are referred to as “tail tracks” and would extend in between NW 57th and NW 58th on 14th. The columns will be 45’ high. The tail tracks are where the light rail cars would be switching or turning around. The engineer said that the light rail cars on the tail tracks would be going 5 MPH or less on that part and they would use the latest sound dampening technology. Even so, but they will still be noisy.

Here is another look at the design for the elevated station on 14th Ave NW:

In order to get over Salmon Bay and/ or the Ship Canal to Ballard, they are still actively considering 1) a fixed high (130’ or about as high as the Aurora Bridge) bridge over the Ship Canal on 14th, or 2) a tunnel underneath the Ship Canal with a station either on 14th or 15th. With the tunnel options I assume (but haven’t confirmed) that the stations would be underground, but the fixed bridge would end at an elevated station. Their current estimates are that the fixed bridge will cost $100M more, and the tunnel would cost $350M more. Of course, it will end up costing way more than that.

Regardless of whether 14th or 15th is chosen, the engineer we talked to said that they are planning with the consideration of expanding service in the future to Crown Hill and beyond, which makes complete sense. We asked how the line would be extended if they build the elevated line on 14th. The engineer said they would probably have to make a tunnel at that point, and the entrance would be on 14th before Ballard High School. There might be a stop at NW 65th, but the convenience to the neighborhood would be offset by the noise created by the light rail entering and exiting the tunnel on 14th.

In the sketches, the columns appear to be in the roadway on 14th. When I asked the engineer if 14th was still going to be open to vehicles, he said that was only a rendering and the placements could change depending on what they decide to do. He couldn’t confirm if 14th would still be open to vehicles, but that is still open to debate.

The bottom line is, whichever option is chosen, it will have a massive and permanent impact on the area along 14th or 15th. If you want to get an idea of what an elevated station and support columns will look like, go visit 1st Ave NE from NE 92nd St. to the Northgate Mall. Take a look at the impact construction has had on that area. Imagine how much more infrastructure will be needed to create and support tracks with a sharp enough incline to ascend up to a 130’ tall bridge. Or a tunnel that goes to Crown Hill.

The Sound Transit site with all the information on the project is available here.
Check out all the plans but the ones that are relevant to our neighborhood are called:
West Seattle Elevated/C-ID 5th Ave/Downtown 6th Ave/Ballard Elevated
West Seattle Tunnel/C-ID 4th Ave/Downtown 5th Ave/Ballard Tunnel

Personally, having a tunnel and underground station on 15th would be the least disruptive option for the neighborhood. I don’t think, however, that Sound Transit will subject 15th to this much construction. If they are going to have to build a tunnel in order to eventually extend the service, they will probably do it on 14th, and they might as well do it now. Having a bridge and elevated station on 14th that would eventually have to enter a tunnel before 65th would permanently destroy the neighborhood.

I highly urge everyone to conduct your own research, decide which option you prefer, and submit your comments to Sound Transit before April 2nd. Please tell everyone that you know who would be affected by this. This is the opportunity to make your opinions known while they are in the early stages of conducting the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). While it will be great to have light rail service in Ballard, the majority of the impact on the construction and the permanent infrastructure will be borne by the East Ballard neighborhood, and everyone who lives in the area should be aware of what this actually means.

Ballard Terminal Railroad_09.20.2017

Today I was biking on the Burke-Gilman trail and I got to see the Ballard Terminal Railroad’s Lil’ Beaver engine coming down the line! Being an old school railfan, I hopped off my bike and started snapping pictures and videos. I also got to meet James and Kat (sp?), who were running the Lil’ Beaver.

I will write up more of this exciting event, but in the meantime, I promised to put a link up to my article that ran in the Ballard News-Tribune almost 9 years ago. The BN-T has been folded into another paper, but they still are hosting this story for now. Hopefully they also have some of my other classic articles and 21st Century Viking essays still online!

One thing at a time, however. Without further ado, here’s Ballard Terminal Railroad Delivers Local Freight!

21st Century Viking: What Would Joseph Coolidge Say?

Photo by Kristin Jones (CC/Flickr)

My latest article for the Ballard News-Tribune was published a few hours after I posted the second part of my watertown_4.19.13 series. I submitted the editorial under a different title but it turned out that both the post and the editorial for the Ballard News-Tribune were given the same name.

They are, however, different pieces.

The Ballard News-Tribune article is a little shorter, gives a bit more background on Watertown and ask the reader to imagine a similar scenario unfolding in Ballard.

The blog post is longer and goes more into depth in some areas, particularly with Joseph Coolidge.

Both pieces, however, invoke the name of Joseph Coolidge and his importance to Watertown and American history as the starting point of my discussion. I have a feeling that the Spirit of Joseph Coolidge will continue to be invoked as the watertown_4.19.13 project evolves.