The problem with the car wash is cars have to back in and out and if you look at your photo, you can see cars pull into and out of a pedestrian crosswalk - that's terrible!
Yeah Dom, you are wrong on this one. Its a horrible place for a "drive-in" car wash--I walk through that intersection every day--and its busy enough as it is. If you investigate further the owners of the space mis-used it according to use codes, and now are being forced to follow them. I think that it is probable that the car wash operation is related to their business--which in that area is supposed to be pedestrian retail oriented--where you can walk in and actually by stuff. MidBeaconHill on blogspot covered this a long time ago....

And really, a car wash in a neighborhood? That's a recipe for trouble.
Hey dumbass the driveway goes through a pedestrian cross walk right out into an angled intersection controlled by a traffic light, but no light for the "car wash". Better to be vacant than to have this "pedestrian run over" scene.
Looking at that garage entrance, it seems to have poor visibility to the right and left as cars exit. A driver won't see pedestrians until the car is right on top of them. I'm no car wash expert, but it sure looks a shitty set up to me.
Are we talking about some sort of automated drive-through car wash, or is this really more of a car detailing establishment that does hand washes?

Because if it's the latter, then cars really wouldn't be backing in or out through the garage doors, they'd more likely be driving forward through them in each direction, which would mean a much smaller potential hazard to pedestrians.

But regardless, it's still a FUCKING GARAGE DOOR! A door made especially for cars and trucks to DRIVE THROUGH. If that hadn't been the intention the builder would have installed a normal-sized door, unless the "pedestrians" on Beacon Hill have mutated into twelve foot tall giants recently.
Not to mention that this unfortunate driveway is right on the corner of the 100% intersection of North Beacon Hill. There's no way for that driveway to NOT be a hazard, to both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

The driveway had to have been built before codes prohibited such dangers, and as such, it's "grandfathered" in and can legally remain in place, no matter how large the hazard.

But the City still has zoning control and, with community support, has put this block into a Pedestrian zone, which -- yes -- prohibits new auto-oriented businesses.

You seem to be asking the neighborhood and the City to wink at this code violation, to just let it go for the sake of, well, I guess not having an empty building. Sorry, but there's plenty of other uses that could go in there without requiring customer use of this driveway.

If the building owner would actually invest some $$ into their fading asset, they could bring this about.

But it's been my observation that this owner, like too many in our community, is content to just milk the cash cow, and not invest dime one in useful improvements to their property.

Sorry, although I usually buy the Stranger line on community redevelopment issues (yes, including density) I'm not buying on this one. Maybe if you lived in or visited this community once in a while, you would understand what I'm talking about.
Dom, you out way off here. I walk up Beacon ave every day and as soon as that LINK starts running this neighborhood will blossom..its a little strip sure, but some cool things on it..adding a car wash on a strip that is so close to this very unique light rail station is a mistake, and will get more dangerous as time goes by. Also, putting such a magnet for trouble would be unwise here..
Okay, you're probably all correct and I'm probably wrong (it's been known to happen). It seems that any business at all on this site is going to have the same problems; it's just a terrible place for a driveway. But, hell, this site is a garage--garages are going to have vehicles come in and out all day. I just can't imagine a pedestrian-oriented use for a garage.
Blowing up ground squirrels is definitely better than a carwash, to name one thing.
Big garage doors make cool indoor/sidewalk cafe dining rooms. Plus: link rail will bring pedestrian traffic there. All is not lost.
If you like to do some more reporting you can hope on a 60 from Broadway and be there in 10 minutes. The owners of this building are older "importers" and quite stingy, refusing to do anything to upgrade their property which is their right. The area is a designated pedestrian zone and adding more traffic (hell the rail is cranking up 2 blocks away right down the street) is an awful idea--you would know this if you were there. Adding any more car-based businesses (pink elephants, car-toys, oil change places, gas stations) in this area would most definitely draw an undesirable element to a future focal point of pedestrian activity.

Don't be afraid Dominic, you can go south of I-90 sometimes. The stadiums do not count.
Yeah, I've seen cars coming out of that place while I'm waiting for the light to change and it's not good.

The visibility is terrible whenever there's a bus at the bus stop (and there usually is) and you have to pull into the street at just the right time - when no cars are coming from behind you, nobody is in the crosswalk or the intersection, but the light is still green - because by the time you're out of the driveway, your whole car is in the intersection.

On top of all that, this intersection is very pedestrian-unfriendly. The extremely long wait to cross, very long crosswalks, and very short crossing time basically force you to walk through the middle of the intersection, not in the crosswalks.

The whole intersection is one big fuck you to pedestrians, and I think the car wash is pushing people over the edge.
Yes there's a great cafe is Astoria that does the garage door thing well along with oh let's see, Overpriced Pizza Place on Pike, Tasty Beer Place on 65th, Nice Plant Joint on Ballard Ave., and I am sure several other business operators who turn a dark place into a well-lit, hip, beautiful space. I know the glass garage door is pricey, but it would do so well there. Cut a set of double doors there and poof! instant cool hangout facing southish on BH. Please do not be so square in your thinking that "if it has a garage door then is must remain for cars"

Investigate the town you live in and write about. Please.
Dom, the excellent Jen and her Beacon Hill gang have covered a lot of this already..and gave excellent background.…

and some history:…

Ps. You're fired
Yes, it's the problem of 14th/15th/Beacon that serves as the causeway for the rest of Seattle traffic. Beacon is usually mellow, but people speed on residential streets and generally the light at that intersection takes forever... Adding more cars to this mix (via a car-wash) is the last thing we need up here. It's going to get worse when light-rail is introduced and people start parking around here (adding to more congestion).
I'll take the next "Stumptown" coffee outlet, but I'll gladly not take another Pink Elephant. Snobby? Yes, but you can go to 4th ave for that...
So, the fact that this intersection is a shithole and always has been a shithole is the fault of a car wash that was operating there for about ten minutes? How does that work?

I love that y'all are so detailed about the cafe you're designing for this space that isn't yours.
Couldn't a car wash, which involves cars slowing to pull in, and forcing other cars to slow in order to pull out, actually mitigate the traffic here a little bit?
What we need here is obviously a Squirrel Defensive Martial Arts Academy and Squirrel Gun Shop.
Fnarf, check out the location in person -- the problem is not really speeding traffic so much as visibility issues and safety for pedestrians, so having the additional traffic going in and out of that garage doesn't mitigate the problem, it worsens it. There has also been a history of issues at that site and with that property owner, which was alluded to in the Beacon Hill Blog story.

ggg said: "The extremely long wait to cross, very long crosswalks, and very short crossing time basically force you to walk through the middle of the intersection, not in the crosswalks."

The intersection is intended to operate that way. It's one of the three (I think) intersections in Seattle which have an "all-stop for pedestrians", where all the traffic stops at once for the peds to cross. The others are at 1st and Pike and in West Seattle. There is even a brick crosswalk in the center of the Beacon and 15th intersection to show that you can cross diagonally. There are pedestrian issues there, but the all-stop isn't really one of them... other than that the wait to cross is soooo damned long.

Anyway, as others have mentioned, the site may be a garage, but current zoning does not allow a new car-oriented business to open there, period. (An existing car-oriented use would have been grandfathered, I guess. But there isn't one.) So the question then becomes -- should we enforce that zoning if it means there will be no business there at all?
litlnemo and others, I'll repeat what I said above, the owner can choose to invest something in his building and upgrade it to take true advantage of the pedestrian environment and the coming light rail.

You say "enforcing the zoning means there will be no business there at all". That's true only if the owner chooses it to be. MAKE AN INVESTMENT, dammit. Being cheap is not a lifetime affliction.
Parenthetical remark:

(Dominic Holden is among the best architecture/urban design critics anywhere because -- right or wrong -- he gets into the details of places and and raises questions/creates discussion about how spaces are actually used, the spatial dynamics of human behavior. That fellow at the NY Times could learn something Holden.)
Fnarf has nailed it. This is the latest issue these little busybodies have rallied around to get Beacon Hill to look like their vision of Columbia City or the Junction. Thank God that most of us Beacon Hill residents actually care more about the liveability of our neighborhood than those that feel that having-an-espresso-shop-on-every-corner enhances the cultural (and property-value) profile of the area.

This is an issue of values: you want to enjoy the place you live in for what it is--a culturally and economically diverse community with incredible amenities (parks, greenspaces, community services, etc.) that folks actually worked hard for many years to create -- OR you turn it into the monocultural blandness that is patently available everywhere else.

There is, of course, a middle ground between these perspectives. This car wash histrionic crap is nowhere near there.
If memory serves, that whole building was a hardware store, pre Lowes/Eagle. That was the garage door to the warehouse. It was never designed for much traffic.

And FWIW, there's not supposed to be any new car-oriented businesses in that area, as part of the Urban Village (or was it Sound Transit?) plan.
Nah, a car wash would suck, bring more scumballs to an already lousy intersection, and dis a pedestrian zone near a light rail stop. Just another coffeeshop (gathering place) there would be nice 'cos there is demand for it--how many are there right now? One. And a coffeeshop/cafe or restaurant with 1 or two nice architectural details would be killer there with all that sun. Sure it might be priceyto install, but when that line starts running that place is prime...and no dis on Dom but heading out to a spot instead of googling it (a poor substitute) is a good idea. Maybe for the feature article...
I am considering moving outta Beacon Hill due to this little strip being so unfriendly to Peds, I like it here for the past 3 years but feel that I'll be 45 before I really like it. Its cheapp and that's a huge plus, but having 3 places to eat and one to get coffee at or work from when the city cannot remove the snow--hell it gets crowded there. I think we'll wait and see how the light rail works in a few months before we make a decision. But the above posters are right, this intersection is rough, and having more car-oriented biz there would be quite detrimental. I think the rail will make it pop a bit over here...hopefully the RPZ's will go through as there is no real parking provided. ALl the businesses already here know the rail is going to benefit them, they benefitted greatly from all the construction workers here already.
Nothing will get better until the old Asians and Italians who have held on to all that commercial property for the last fifty years die off - or their kids make them either upgrade or sell.
@22, I don't think I nailed it, because I think on the evidence I'm wrong. That's why I framed it as a question and not a statement.
20 years on B.H., I wasn't really disagreeing with you. I think most people think the ideal situation there would be for the owner to invest a little in improving his building, because he's going to have a lot of trouble getting a tenant as it is now. (The uses the building is most suited for at the moment are not allowed under current zoning, so who would rent it?) But if he doesn't improve it, would the community prefer a non-conforming use to no use? I don't think there's an easy answer. There was a lengthy process of meeting after meeting after meeting for the neighborhood plan where people determined what the community theoretically wants in that area, and auto-oriented uses weren't part of that vision. But the vision obviously didn't include vacant storefronts either, so what would we prefer?

We could question whether the neighborhood planning process actually represents what the whole neighborhood wants, but that's another long topic in itself.
@ 21) I'm blushing. Thank you, David.
@26--thank you for making your racist, ageist and monoculture supporting statements out loud. They're easier to argue when they're direct.

I've been around Beacon Hill since 1997 and we bought a house in 2003. The neighborhood is changing, but I don't think it's because the "the old Asians and Italians who have held on to all that commercial property for the last fifty years" are dying or being forced to sell. I think it's because property and business owners are making decisions that make sense for their property and business.

Baja Bistro is a great neighborhood business, targeted to provide exactly what is needed and wanted by the neighbors. They have a liquor license, but the bar isn't a hipster hangout--it's a cozy place to grab a drink. They have good food, but it's not a snobbish foodie hangout.

Red Apple remodeled and greatly expanded their wine and organics selections--but they still have core merchandise for their very diverse customers.

I love living in Beacon Hill, in large part because everything isn't catered exactly to me. I'm reminded that the world is full of lots of different people--including people who disagree with me. I don't want to live somewhere surrounded only by cafes and bars and people who fantasize about more cafes and bars.

That said, I also want a safely walkable neighborhood. Can a car wash operate safely out of that space? I don't know.
I'm not opposed to having a new car wash and auto detailing place, but that spot is terrible for it. To get a car out you have to cross at least two crosswalks and the sidewalk, there's a main bus stop right there, and the corner limits visibility along 15th Ave S. Check it out from above:…
Yeah again...obviously a trip out to this intersection would convince most anyone that a car-oriented business would be worse than no business there. I take the scumball-laden #36 through there twice a day and it is an awfully dangerous intersection for everyone. I do not think its about making our neighborhood here as bland as everyone else--its about exerting control and influence in the environment in which we decide to live and raise children in. Beacon Hill is pretty diverse and has got some problems and there are some great people out there keeping an eye on it and protesting when they see something that would be a step backwards. I think having a light rail stop there--albeit 13 blocks from my apartment, causing me to still get on that horrible #36 bangbus--is a coup for the neighborhood and will completely change it in under 5 years.
I didn't post 26, but I feel compelled to respond to @30.

Is pointing out that the owners of the properties are folks who bought them back when the neighborhood was almost exclusively Asian and Italian, thus implying that they may not share the same ideas of what the neighborhood could be as a younger, highly assimilated person of mostly northern european heritage like me, really racist? I hate it when any mention of a person's ethnicity gets the "racist" label applied. Sometimes it actually is relevant to understanding what's going on.

Check out how much Sam Isreal held back Pioneer Square until he died and his heirs could do something with the properties. There's understanding to be gained from understanding how different cultural viewpoints affect business decision making.

Too often people who claim to love cultural diversity are surprisingly uncomfortable with the reality that "diverse" is synonymous with "different."
@33 wrote: "Too often people who claim to love cultural diversity are surprisingly uncomfortable with the reality that "diverse" is synonymous with "different." "

I am absolutely comfortable with that reality.
I *love* living in a neighborhood full of different kinds of people--especially people who don't share my ideas about what the neighborhood could be like. I live on Beacon Hill because I want to shop, eat, and take the bus with a variety of people.

I don't have to like each individual person, or expect them to like me--but it is nice to be reminded that the world isn't only "younger, highly assimilated person of mostly northern european heritage". I'm tired of hanging out with folks like us; many of us suck.

I visit Pioneer Square and Fremont much less frequently than I did 10 or even 5 years ago BECAUSE everyone there looks like me and/or thinks they can make money from people in my demographic.

Wishing for old people and/or people from other ethnic groups to die or go away might not be, technically, racist. It is hateful.

The way I read it, the poster wished for nothing. He or she just said that a lot of the properties are owned by older people who aren't motivated to do anything different with it. You are reacting to nothing that was said.
Oh blah, blah, blah, MJ. At least get your bullshit faux PC terms correct.

Wanting the old people to die off is AGEIST, not racist. If I were being racist, why would I want their kids to take over? They're the same race, dumbass.

....and since when are the Italians a race? Or Asians, for that matter. We're all one race.

You can spout off your crap all you want about diversity, but the Beacon Hill business district will continue to suck until the old people die off or are forced to sell off their property. That's a fact.
Yeah well the older business owners in general regardless of who/where they are usually the ones who are slowest/most resistant to change. Hopefully the children will recognize the opportunities in having a retail location in a pedestrian zone so near a light rail station. I'm so psyched to not have to ride that asshole-laden #36...this one measly light rail line to going to do so much for the southern end of town wait and see. And to through my opinion into the mix, this intersection would be better served with no business there rather than a car wash.
I'd like to know where the italians are in Beacon Hill. Other than Boracchini's, I think they are gone.
Check out the photo I snapped today of someone coming out of the car wash and then disregarding the red light and getting on her way.…
Bridget, how can you overlook Oberto's?

I know Italians whose families have been on Beacon Hill for generations and have houses on 16th, 17th, and 18th, north of Bayview. That's the historical Garlic Gulch. If you don't live there, you might not notice how many Italians are still around.
Oh, and everyone turns against the red light there, except for me and you.
I never turn on red there!
I live in the North Beacon area and have only been here for 3 years, so I'm not *too* familiar with other areas of the neighborhood. I think I'm definitely the only wop in my area. :)
I forgot about Oberto's.
This place is a dump, the owners have almost always been jerks...that said hopefully they will come around and get rid of that car wash voluntarily, or the economy will put the kibosh on expensive hand-wax jobs. Great photo there a prime example of what I have been seeing there for the past week or so. I'll file a second complaint today!
Heh, I don't turn against the red either. And, truthfully, I've sat behind enough people at that light that I'd say that most people actually don't turn there illegally. But certainly a few do.

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.