April 2017 by Eliot Mueting
A typical meal from a street food vendor in Vietnam looks like this, a small counter or makeshift kitchen area immediately adjacent to the vendor, dishes typically include, banh mi, rice bowls, noodle bowls and all forms of quick grab and go eats. All aspects of SaiTown pay homage to this culture of Vietnamese Street Food, great food, casual atmosphere and personal service.
SaiTown does not seek to emulate any old Vietnamese street eatery, founder Steven Truong has incorporated the exact coordinates of his favorite spot from his childhood directly into his business' logo. Located at exactly 10.8028 degrees north and 106.6947 degrees east in the city of Saigon is where Steven originally got the idea for his future restaurant SaiTown. I sat down with Steven to discuss the past present and future of SaiTown.
Truong, originally from Vietnam came to Seattle in 2008. He attended Franklin High School while washing dishes for a neighborhood pho shop on nights and weekends. One day while working at that the restaurant he came to the front of the house to help clear some tables and noticed a customer waiting for their food without water. Steven stopped what he was doing to address the customer and make sure they got water and utensils. The customer expressed a great deal of gratitude to Steven directly and even left him a $20 tip. From that day on ward Steven knew he wanted to work in restaurants and one day start is very own.
That day finally came on February, 7th 2017 when SaiTown opened up in the space formerly occupied by long time neighborhood favorite Banh Mi Unwrapped at 4725 University Way NE. Steven had been looking for a restaurant space downtown when a family friend of his informed him that Banh Mi Unwrapped would be closing and there could be an opportunity for him to lease the space. Steven jumped on the space immediately.
"With student population and the demographics in the area, we decided to simplify our concept and focus more on connecting with community in the U District"
His early exposure to working in restaurants and his time spend as a bartender lead Steven to quickly learn that it is his relationship to his customers that can separate one restaurant from the rest.
"I talk to my customers and make thoughtful recommendations for them based on what they want, not what we want to sell them, if I am talking to a customer about their day and they say they are going to the gym later I know when they ask me for a recommendation I can suggest a dish with more protein."
SaiTown currently has five employees and being a new business has hopes to integrate into the community and win over there hearts, minds and tastebuds with his commitment to quality and friendly service. Written on the wall in SaiTown are the Vietnamese words "tao may ân gî" which as slang roughly translate to "hey buddy lets eat".
"High quality and attention to detail are an everyday for us, every vegetable we prepare is all cut by hand to achieve the perfect blend of textures in our product, each of our meats is prepared individually to ensure a distinct flavor"
This summer SaiTown plan to continue adding items to its menu that pay respects to the specific eatery in Saigon that Steven used as inspiration for SaiTown. Currently the coconut chicken is a direct shout out, in the works they plan to add mocktails and a mung bean coffee that can either be served hot or cold, SaiTown will be the first place in Seattle to offer anything like it.
If you haven't been by to experience the friendly service and great food at SaiTown you ought to stop by and say hello.
The U District Partnership (UDP) and City of Seattle are partnering to update the University District Design Guidelines, and we need your help. The U District received a historic rezone earlier this year and now the Design Guidelines that have been used in the neighborhood to inform development are no longer applicable. Join us in this process and help lay the foundation of the controls that will shape the neighborhood for years to come.
By Eliot Mueting March 2017
In the late 1920s on the corner of University way and NE 47th St University Seafood and Poultry opened it's doors. Almost 100 years later and just a few from it's original location University Seafood and Poultry's door is still open serving up some of highest quality seafood along side some of the most rare and obscure cuts of meat that can only be found in the U District.
I sat down with Dale Erickson current owner operator of University Seafood & Poultry and his grandson Andrew to ask about the past present and future of their long time family business. The story for the Erickson's begins in 1945 when Dale's father was working down at the waterfront when a close friend of his lost his son in WWII and had decided to retire to California and offered to sell the business to him. Since the begining the store has been about close personal connections, to this day University Seafood has about 8 employees, including Dale's grandson Andrew and a group of guys who have an average tenure of 20+ years working in the shop. The crew at University Seafood is a family first.
When I asked Dale about how is it that his business has been able to remain so successful for so long he, attributes the longevity to two qualities, their stedfast dedication to extreme quality and variety as well as their flexibility to adapt to change. Every morning University Seafood buyer heads to SeaTac airport to meet the fresh seafood brokers and gather new stock, constantly rotating their inventory to meet customers changing demands.
"If we acquire something and it sells out we will get it agin, if it doesn't sell out we won't" says Dale, "If someone comes in and asks for some really strange cut, we probably have it.".
These two mentalities leads to University Seafood keeping one of these most diverse selections of meat found anywhere in the city.
"We have Fresh Wild Stealhead only available from the Pacific Northwest Native American reservations, we have Bronzini from the mediterranean, and fish from all over the world" Dale explains.
What many don't know is that University Seafood is one of the only places you will find in Seattle that keeps; salmon, swordfish, mackeral, tuna, iguana, alligator, llama, python, camel, beef, venison, duck, pheasant and more all for sale everyday.
When discussing University Seafoods' legacy Andrew Erickson puts it into perspective best.
"I plan to stick the coarse, focus on quality, the reputation we have is something that you can not buy. No one says anything if you are doing it right but it can all be lost if you do it wrong."
"There is no other place I would rather be than working here, with my Grand Father, it's in my blood."
We at the UDP look forward to many more years to come with University Seafood and suggest if you haven't yet, to stop by University Seafood and say hello to Erick, Andrew and the rest of the crew.
Utility boxes are a necessary part of the urban streetscape as the provide the essential controls to our traffic lights, however, they are simply there for “Utility” and to a passer-by amount to nothing more than a large grey obstruction. This project aims to build community through the transformation of the Utility Boxes in the U District from ordinary obstructions into community assets that contribute to both placemaking and wayfinding. The guiding theme in this project is to enhance the U District as an Urban Center in motion specializing in human connectivity. The project will be a highly visible and prominent series of artworks in one of Seattle’s Urban Centers. The design will need to be approved by SDOT based on their evaluation criteria can be found at
March 8th 2017 - Statement of Interest and Portfolio examples Due
March 29th– Interviewees Notified
April 19th – Proposals Due
May 3rd – Artist or team selected
May 17th – Design Completion
May <–> June - Artwork Installed
By Eliot Mueting February 2017
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious, when you walk into Gargoyles Statuary on The Ave your senses are immediately invaded and you know you have arrived at a place full of both. Gargoyles provides an experience and one that can only be found in the U District.
The heart beat of this sanctuary flows from owner and operator Gayle Nowicki and her 5 employees. Since 1992 this shop has been selling statues, figurines, charms, lanterns, taxidermy, incense, candles, original and local art from the all the world's regions, religions, and mythologies. The staff at Gargoyles find themselves playing the roll of tour guide more so than merchant as passerby and long time customers step into their world. Gargoyles celebrates the macabre and the seemingly subversive by telling the stories behind the objects they market for sale, often changing first time visitors perception from idea of the store being a "scary" place to one that sees it for what it is, a wonderful, welcoming and completely unique shopping destination. It's true the brand of Gargoyles as a place is so strong that few people fail to notice their extravagant window displays typically full of decorative skulls, skeletons and dragons and one could see how before you ever went into the store and hear Gayle describe the true meaning behind the pentagram or a particular dragon figurine, someone could see the dark incense wafting entry way as "scary".
I sat down with Gayle to hear about the past, present and future of Gargoyles Statuary. Gargoyles was first opened in 1992 by a pair of graphic artists who sold statues and beads out of their location on NE 45th just west of the alley that bisects the 4300 block of University Way NE in the space currently occupied by Slate Coffee Roasters. One year later the shop moved to its current location and shortly after a Valentines Day fire in 1995 that broke out in the store (which is still celebrated to this day with Gargoyles Cremation sale) Gayle Nowicki assumed ownership. From her constantly engaged demeanor and smile it is obvious that Nowicki loves what she does, and this makes shoppers love it too.
"I love challenging and changing people's minds" says Nowicki "People have a perception of Gargoyles before they ever come in, and when they leave, they leave with that idea of what this place is completely transformed."
As the driving force behind the neighborhood's longstanding 3rd Friday of the month Art Walks Gayle's fierce passion for the product she provides extends to her love and connection to the community around her. This is prevalent in her boasting of how 75% of their statues, which total well into the 100s of unique pieces, come from materials sourced within 100 miles of her store.
"We are constantly searching, featuring and engaging with the local artist community"
Gayle continues to collaborate with other businesses in the neighborhood. One piece of excellent synergy she has been involved in is providing the Neptune Theater with it's iconic faces of Neptune along the building's facade.
Like other businesses located in the U District, Gargoyles enjoys the proximity to the University of Washington and its constant churn of new students. One of the things that brings Gayle the most joy is when alumni return to the neighborhood after years away and remark about how glad they are to be back in Gargoyles.
Today Gayle attributes some of her success to her robust social media presence and her ability to access a larger market that way. In the future Nowicki hopes to grow Gargoyles web presence even larger and perhaps expand her shop to include cafe like amenities enhancing her shops' ability to continue to serve as a sanctuary for all people curious enough to stop by.
If you have never been inside Gargoyles you ought to stop in, say hello to Gayle and her team and prepare to have your day transformed.
by Eliot Mueting January 18th 2017
Walking through the doors of Scarecrow Video is pretty impressive, you've got to see it to believe it, a recent account of a father and son walking into the Roosevelt Way storefront for the first time only to have the young child pause in the door way, gaze up and down the vast interior of the space and exclaim "Dad! it is a movie castle!" describes the feeling best.
The sights of Scarecrow Video are awe inspiring and they can only be found in the U District.
Founded in 1988 Scarecrow video now holds claim to over 128,000 unique titles one of the largest collections of its kind. In 2014 the changes in technology that have shifted the market place for video rentals has lead to the reconfiguration of Scarecrow Video to a Non-Profit entity with a mission to:
" Scarecrow Video is dedicated to championing the indispensable role of film arts in community, cultural, and civic life
We are committed to: building film literacy, ensuring full public access to the largest privately held video and physical media archive in the United States, advancing cultural and educational enrichment through community-based programming, and supporting the arts capacity of civic groups, educational institutions, and nonprofits in the Puget Sound area."
U District Partnership staff sat down with Scarecrow's Kate Barr to discuss the past present and future of the movie mecca.
Scarecrow does not aim to compete with services like Netflix (even though Netflix's streaming library in North America is roughly 1/20th of the size of Scarecrow's) and Kate suggests that there is plenty of room for the both to exists and continue to provide access to movies to people everywhere. However the proliferation of online streaming services paired with the importance of the physical collection and the strength of community that Scarecrow maintains has made the transition into a non-profit inevitable.
Now the work of Scarecrow has become growing their community by communicating the importance of Scarecrow to the world at large. While looking for new ways to ensure that the collection can continue on and provide the breadth of perspective and variety of stories being told. Without Scarecrow what happens to the over 15,000 VHS titles they still keep because they never made the jump to DVD or onto popular streaming services.
"What doesn't get watched and what does and who is making the decisions on what we get to watch?"
Asks Barr while articulating the message of why Scarecrow ought to be supported, preserved and cherished.
One avenue Scarecrow has identified as a way to get their message out there is through educational programs. Scarecrow now boasts programs that include:
Due to the critical importance of story telling to our cultural history Scarecrow is hoping to grow and expand these programs. The collection Scarecrow holds is an amazing resource and they are constantly looking for ways to exploit it.
For more information check out Scarecrow's website and if you have never been to the Movie Castle yourself you ought to stop on by.
The Seattle City Council is considering amendments to Council Bill 118862. Council Bill (CB) 118862 would amend the City’s Land Use Code and Seattle Zoning Maps to implement some policies and recommendations contained in the U District Urban Design Framework. Information about the U District Urban Design Framework is available at: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cityplanning/completeprojectslist/universitydistrict/whatwhy/default.htm.
The Council is considering the following types of changes to CB 118862, these changes will be discussed by the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee starting at their January 19 committee meeting:
· Rezone University Way NE (the Ave) from NE 41st Street to NE 50th Street to Seattle Mixed-University District with a 75 foot height limit (SM-U 75) instead of Seattle Mixed-University District with an 85-foot height limit.
· In the SM-U 75 zone under consideration for the Ave, reduce the number of uses exempt from floor area limits, the number of uses that are granted additional floor area, and the total amount of additional and/or exempt floor area permitted to be used in structures fronting on the Ave.
· Make the Ave only a “sending” area for Transfers of Development Rights (TDR) and Transfers of Development Potential (TDP), not allowing transfers of floor area from other parts of the U District to the Ave.
· Reduce maximum building width for buildings in the proposed SM-U 75 zone to 160’ rather than 250’, equivalent to 4 traditional 40’ store fronts.
· Consider different options for supporting the creation of spaces appropriate to the types of small businesses currently located along the Ave:
o Adding a size limit for retail spaces to be exempt from floor area limits (only exempting spaces that are 2,000 square feet or less),
o Allowing buildings that front the Ave to be wider than the maximum size width if they provide smaller retail bays,
o Requiring spaces for individual small businesses in all buildings that front the Ave. The number of small spaces required would vary based on the total commercial floor area at the street level, or
o Requiring an entrance to retail spaces every 40 feet to mimic the current pattern of development, but not limiting the size of spaces.
· Increase the mandatory housing affordability requirements for the core area from M1 (9% of units in the structure or $20/SF for residential units) to M2 (10% of units in the structure or $22.25/SF for residential units).
· Modify the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements as applied in the University District to increase the estimated number of affordable units that could be produced through MHA.
· Amend Chapter 23.58B of the Seattle Municipal Code to include performance and payment amounts for the MHA-Commercial program for all levels of MHA and all areas.
· Consider alternative incentives for family-size units, such as exempting units with 2 or more bedrooms from Floor Area Ratio limits or allowing additional floor area for family size units.
· Allow TDR or TDP from landmark structures in the proposed MR zone south of NE 45th Street and west of 9th Avenue NE to preserve structures in that area.
· Amend Section 23.48.624 related to bonuses for open space to make it clear that open space amenities that receive a bonus are required to be publicly-accessible.
· Require Transportation Management Programs for all buildings that could result in 50 or more single-occupant vehicle trips and for residential buildings that are projected to lead to demand for 25 vehicles parked on-street overnight, where the program would include subsidization of transit passes to reduce trips and car ownership.
· Increase the permitted heights on the north side of NE 50th Street from 11th Avenue NE to a half block east of Brooklyn Ave NE from NC3-55 (M1) to NC3-75 (M1) and extend the NC3-75 (M1) zone a half block east to Brooklyn Avenue NE.
· Rezone the multifamily zone between NE 50th Street and NE 52nd Street from LR3 to MR.
· Increase the heights on properties on the south side of the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue NE and NE Ravenna Boulevard from NC2P-30’ (M1) in the Mayor’s Recommendation to NC2P-40’ (M1).
· In the Seattle Mixed-University 75-240 and 95-320 zones, to accommodate a wider range of uses, either increase the average floorplate size to 24,000 square feet and the maximum floor plate size to 26,000 square feet throughout these zones, or just above the light rail station.
· Exclude light rail station uses from street-level transparency requirements.
· Allow waivers of loading space requirements for the SM-U district if certain findings included in SMC 23.54.035.B.2 are met.
In addition to these broader policy changes, the Council is also considering a number of more minor, technical changes. Additional information regarding the scope of changes under consideration is available by searching for record number 118862, on the City Clerk’s website: seattle.legistar.com/Legislation.aspx
After reviewing public comments and deliberating on the content of CB 118862, the Council may choose to adopt a final version of the legislation that includes some or none of the changes described above or otherwise differs from the legislation described.
Written comments may be submitted at any time until the final Council vote on the legislation. However, the Council prefers to receive written comments by 5:00 p.m. on February 10, 2017 to allow for review by the Council during its consideration of the proposal. Please send comments to Councilmember Rob Johnson via e-mail at: email@example.com, or by mail to:
Councilmember Rob Johnson
Seattle City Council
600 4th Avenue, 2nd Floor
PO Box 34025
The Office of Planning and Community Development Director’s Report, and Final Environmental Impact Statement and other key documents are available at:
http://seattle.legistar.com by searching for Council Bill 118862.
Information regarding potential Seattle City Council Amendments to the U District Urban Design framework legislation is available athttp://seattle.legistar.com by searching for Council Bill 118862.
Questions regarding the U District Urban Design framework and related legislation may be directed to Dave LaClergue of the Office of Planning and Community Development at (206) 733-9668 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Lish Whitson of the City Council Central Staff at (206) 615-1674 or via email email@example.com.
The U District is home to two of the City's 30 paid parking areas, with over 21,000 spaces of on street parking spread throughout the neighborhood. Of these 21,000 on street spaces about 4,799 of which are paid spaces. Of those 4,799 paid spaces the vast majority are 2 hour spaces 3,235, another 1,518 are 4 hour spaces and the remaining 37 are 30 min zones. The City of Seattle recently completed a report showing the over all occupancy of paid parking areas in commercial zones.
The Core Area of the neighborhood located along University Way NE pays a rate of $2.50 per hour where the periphery Edge Area lays west of 12th Ave NE and mainly along Roosevelt Way NE with rates of $1.00 per hour.
As you can see the District has experienced an increase in total occupancy from 2015 to 2016. The Streets of the U District are most full after 7:00PM with folks hoping to find overnight parking near the end of the paid time restriction. The Edge Area saw the largest increase in occupancy over the last year in the 6:00PM - 7:00 PM time slot jumping from 30% occupied to 50%.