Friday, February 26, 2010

Queen Anne View: Off-leash area, development options dominate Lower Kinnear Park town hall discussion

On Thursday night, nearly 60 landscape architects, parks department officials and Queen Anne residents convened at the Bayview Retirement Community to give feedback on the potential options for the rejuvenation of Lower Kinnear Park. The second of three meetings followed a gathering of 40 people on Jan. 19in which neighbors voiced their concerns to community planning groupFOLKpark and architecture firm Hough Beck and Baird.

Using large maps with overlays of the proposed changes, Dean Koonts and his team of architects took turns explaining the three “preliminary drafts” they created based on input from community members at the previous meeting and from the online survey, to which there were 88 responses.

Of the 59 attendees, 27 chose to discuss the development of an off-leash area (OLA) for dogs as the meeting split into discussion groups. After an hour of dialogue, the group relayed their suggested area size (5,300 sq. feet) and their desire to integrate it into the park’s landscape.

“It would be a great asset to the neighborhood to have an off leash park considering how far away every other off leash area is,” Brad Weinberg wrote onFOLKpark’s Facebook page. “To have a designated area for off leash play would open up the rest of the park for those people who aren’t dog owners [and] would limit people from using the rest of the park as an off leash area.”

While there are 11 OLAs in Seattle, none exist in the Queen Anne neighborhood, and in 2006 the Park Department Superintendent designated Lower Kinnear Park as the best site for that purpose. However, according to Parks and Green Spaces Levy manager Rick Nishi, the allocated funding source doesn’t allow for off-leash projects until later years.

The three large draft plans were fundamentally different, but the two major components that each concept shared were increased compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a reestablished linkage to the waterfront via the “North Trail Link,” (.pdf) one of the ideas from the previous meeting that Koonts said “came through loud and clear.”

Plan A” (.pdf) primarily focused on the northeast slope, re-engineering the hillside and easing the grade to make it more easy to navigate. While the cost of that effort was a concern for many of the community members in attendance, there was a general consensus in support of the plan’s expanded plaza on Mercer Street. Koonts also mentioned that this option best fits a designated OLA.

The most notable feature of “Plan B” (.pdf) was its elevated trail and boardwalk, as well as refurbished and redesigned tennis courts—ideas that drew mixed responses from community members based more on cost effectiveness than the design itself.

Focusing more directly on safety and sustainability, “Plan C” (.pdf) featured popular ideas such as rain gardens and other stormwater solutions as well as less popular ones such as a connecting set of hill-climb stairs near West Mercer Place.

HBB now plans to adjust their drafts in order to create an action plan and cost estimate, taking into account the feedback from the most recent discussion. With that plan, FOLKpark plans to apply to the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund in early April seeking an amount likely near $700,000. They then plan to hold the third and final community meeting on April 8 at 7 p.m., also at the Bayview, to establish a community consensus on the preferred plan.

FOLKpark initiated a rejuvenation of the five-acre urban forest after winning a $15,000 grant from the city’s Department of Neighborhoods last year. They chose HBB based on the firm’s history with sustainable green design and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED).

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

JT News: UW Panhellenic Recognizes Jewish Sorority

From left to right) Lauren Brown of Hillel, President Jaclyn Leiberman and member Nicki Balk of The Jewish Sorority and Chaya Estrin of Chabad worked to create the recently university-recognized sisterhood.

Three-and-a-half years of hard work and dedicated organization came down to one vote. And that vote, deciding whether the University of Washington’s Panhellenic Council would recognize the 18-member Jewish Sorority, passed.

“It makes a lot of sense,” said Lauren Brown, director of Undergraduate Engagement for Hillel. “There’s a community of Jewish women out there and we’ve seen that build over the last couple of years, and many of them are interested in being a part of the Greek System. It’s really easy for Jewish guys who come to campus, but this gives an independent place for Jewish girls. Now they can say, ‘I really want to join a Jewish house for the best of both worlds.’”

Students at UW have the option of joining special-interest fraternities or sororities as an alternative to traditional Greek organizations. The options for Jewish women have long been limited since the Jewish-founded, non-sectarian sorority Phi Sigma Sigma left campus in the ‘80s. Even Jewish men have had multiple options—namely the Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau fraternities.

But with the granting of recognition by the campus’s sorority community governing body, that quickly changed. Now, frankly titled “The Jewish Sorority,” this long-running project already has 18 fully committed women and hopes to be housed by recruitment time next fall.

“This is really important to the UW community because the Jewish girls on campus didn’t really have a place to go,” said Jaclyn Lieberman, Jewish Sorority co-president. “But now, with the Greek community having a place for Jewish women, it’ll help all of us become so much stronger.”

Before the sorority’s creation, the only other Jewish women’s organization at UW was Banot—originally created to be the Jewish sorority—which has since evolved into a less formal bonding group for Jewish women. Most members of The Jewish Sorority were or are also members of Banot, and while overlap exists between the two organizations they’ve come to fill different purposes.

Although the sorority’s members can’t yet hold leadership positions on the Panhellenic Council, they do have every social, philanthropic and community leadership opportunity that the nationally recognized fraternities and sororities do. The sorority just doesn’t have letters—yet. When a new national organization is invited to campus, it will hopefully take them under its umbrella and grant what is now The Jewish Sorority membership from its national headquarters.

And while Chabad and Hillel are organizations nationally notorious for butting heads, the two organizations saw this opportunity as one truly important to the Jewish community as a whole and had no difficulty setting aside their differences.

“When I think about it, it’s an amazing thing that Hillel and Chabad were able to come together and bring this huge asset to the Jewish community,” said Chaya Estrin of Chabad. “If the whole world would work like that it’d be amazing.“

Though it has taken time and hard work, both UW Greeks and the organization’s members and supporters see this endeavor to create a new division of Jewish campus life as an important addition to the UW community and an exciting new place for Jewish students to live and be supported.

“AEPi only started nine years ago, and ZBT just three years ago, and they’ve both so strongly helped solidify the Jewish community on campus,” Estrin said. “I think everyone sees that having a Jewish sorority on campus will enhance the Jewish fraternities and enhance the Jewish community. Now more students can be actively Jewish and actively involved at the same time.”