Saturday, March 26, 2016

Democratic Caucuses See Sanders Landslide in Washington


Above: A long line of people wrapped around Madison Elementary School as they await the doors to open at their neighborhood caucus Saturday morning. Caucus goers indicate a preference for a presidential candidate, who in turn allocate delegates, who ultimately elect the presidential candidate. After giving a brief speech, Clancy Mullins, in green jacket, was elected at the caucus as a delegate to the county convention. 

By Janine Gates

If you saw more people than usual walking on sidewalks early Saturday morning, it could have been that they were going to their Democratic caucuses in support of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Caucuses were held throughout Thurston County in over three dozen locations.

Besides casting ballots for presidential candidates, voters also elected delegates who will represent them at legislative district caucuses and the Thurston County Democrats’ convention on May 1. 

Late Saturday, Thurston County chairperson Katie Nelson said that an estimated 12,000 people participated in the process.

We are sure that blows any records! she laughed, in a telephone interview with Little Hollywood.

The unofficial count shows Senator Sanders winning 868 Thurston County delegates and former Secretary of State Clinton with 246 delegates. Three of the delegates elected are uncommitted.

“I’m ecstatic about the turn out, especially by the young people who everyone claims are apathetic. The future of the Democratic Party is looking really good. This is what happens if you throw a party and everyone shows up!” she said.

Nelson disagreed with detractors who think the caucus system is archaic.

“They might say it’s archaic but people are coming together in person and making decisions. That predates the voting system, and with our surrogate affidavit form, we’re still inclusive. This is a very religious week, and it’s important we not block people out who can’t attend, unlike the Republicans,” she said.

Above: Thurston County Democratic Party vice-chairperson Susan Herring, standing on a chair in purple shirt, addresses about 600 participants from six precincts at a caucus held at Madison Elementary School in Olympia’s eastside neighborhood.  

Thurston County Democratic Party vice-chairperson Susan Herring coordinated the activities and protocol for Precincts 215, 230, 247, 248, 250, and 258 at Madison Elementary School. 

Her favorite quote, “Politics is only as good as the people who participate,” was reflected in smiles and neighborly, good spirits as an estimated 600 people crowded into the school gymnasium to participate in the democratic process.

It was often hard to hear in the initially bewildering, noisy environment as each precinct did their business in different corners of the gym. Sporadic applause rewarded first time caucus go-ers, first-time voters, and particularly eloquent speeches that didn’t duplicate well-worn rhetoric.

After submitting a piece of paper indicating one's preferred presidential candidate, there was an opportunity to be swayed by brief, impassioned speeches by supporters of either candidate. Some were undecided. Ballots for each candidate were counted in front of everyone and cross checked by those aligned with the opposing candidate. 

For Precinct 215, the initial raw votes came in with 142 for Sanders, 23 for Clinton, two undecideds, and one for President Obama. 

A woman who was initially undecided was concerned about Sanders’ ultimate electability, and wanted to make a statement, as a woman, to help a woman get elected to the position of President of the United States. 

Wendy Wachsmuth, who volunteered to help count the ballots, spoke about why she is a Clinton supporter.

Darleen Muhly, who works for the state, explained to her neighbors that she is a ‘devout feminist and union member’ and why she is supporting Sanders. Muhly said it was her son, Adrien Simkins, 19, who first told her about Sanders. 

After some conversation, the two undecided voters went with Sanders. The one who voted for President Obama went with Clinton.

Above: Under many watchful eyes, ballots for each candidate are counted. Wendy Wachsmuth, a Clinton supporter, (back to the camera), counts Sanders ballots, while Adrien Simkins, 19, right, a Sanders supporter, counts Clinton ballots. Simkins was later elected as a delegate from his precinct to the county convention.

Next Step: County Convention

Those who wanted to participate in the democratic process further gave brief speeches nominating themselves to be a delegate from their precinct and their legislative district to the county convention. 

Clancy Mullins, a Sanders supporter, was elected to be a delegate. He, his girlfriend Evelyn Blevins, and two daughters went to Seattle to see Sanders at Safeco Field on Friday night.

An enrolled Chinook Tribal member and a state worker for 16 years, Mullins said he grew up in a poor family, financed his own education, and still has college debt. 

This was his first caucus.

“I have worked in prisons as a correctional officer and as a classroom facilitator and have seen first-hand how families lives are changed by warehousing people for drug offenses that should be considered a medical addiction issue and not a crime where your freedom is taken away. This Bernie agrees with!

“I also support a healthcare system where anyone can see a doctor and not need to worry about how they will pay for it and if they get sick worry about financial ruin. I also love that Bernie is the only candidate I have heard talk about the Native Americans, the first people to this land and the injustices that occurred to these people. Bernie wants to work and partner with tribal nations,” said Mullins.

The Thurston County Democratic Convention will be held May 1 at Black Hills High School in Tumwater.

Thurston County has four legislative districts – Districts 2, 20, 22 and 35. All but District 2 will caucus at the county convention. Legislative District 2 delegates will caucus on April 17 at Ridgeline Middle School in Yelm.

By late Saturday evening, Sanders won Washington State with 101 delegates, and Alaska with 16 delegates. At this writing, Hawaii is still caucusing.

When we started this campaign no one thought we would win a single state, let alone 13 out of the first 31. No one thought we could compete financially with the most prolific fundraiser in Democratic Party history, especially by relying on small-dollar contributions from working Americans. We keep proving the political establishment and corporate media wrong. And if we continue to stand together, we are going to win,” said Sanders in a press release.

Above: Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in Seattle on Friday evening at Safeco Field.

For more information about the Thurston County Democrats and the caucus system, go to www.thurstondemocrats.org or call (360) 956-0235.

For a previous article published March 16, 2016 about the Thurston County Democratic Party caucuses, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search button.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

City May Purchase Blighted Griswold Building


Above: The City of Olympia has entered into an agreement to possibly purchase the former Griswold’s office supply store at 308 and 310 East Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia for $300,000. Built in 1928, it also served, in its heyday, as the Avalon Theater.

By Janine Gates

Yep, it's a fixer-upper, but if it checks out, it's all ours.

The City of Olympia has entered into an agreement to possibly purchase the former Griswold’s office supply building at 308 and 310 East Fourth Avenue for $300,000. 

The agreement was on the city council consent calendar and was passed, without comment, along with other agenda items Tuesday night. 

The purchase is contingent on a structural evaluation, title report, an environmental review, and more. Based on those reports, the city has until May 25 to decide whether or not to go ahead with the purchase.

The building is located between Dumpster Values and an alley, and across the street from Jake’s on 4th. 

Built in 1928, it is noted in the city's historic inventory, but is not on any historic register. In its heyday, it was the site of the former Avalon Theater.

The current owners, Clifford and Sean Lee, bought the property in 2007. It was gutted in a fire in 2004 and lost its roof over the main section that backs to Dumpster Values and Old School Pizzeria on Franklin Street. The eastern portion still has a roof, however, it is deteriorated and not usable. 

The Lee's were unable to transform the 7,200 square foot space into something - anything - thus creating a section of blight on a main street of downtown Olympia.

A fa├žade featuring a rainbow mural reading, “Respect and Love Olympia,” currently fronts the space, and makes the street a bit brighter.

City manager Steve Hall said the papers were signed with Cliff Lee on Wednesday.

“If it all checks out, we hope to close by the end of June,” said Hall.

Financing for the possible purchase is from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money and General Fund year end savings, roughly $150,000 from each source.

“There are a number of different activities that are eligible for use of the federal governments CDBG funds including economic development, affordable housing and clearance of slum and blight. We are characterizing this project, at least at this time as removal of slum and blight. In the end it may end up being affordable housing or economic development depending on the nature of how the property is ultimately redeveloped,” said City of Olympia community planning and development director Keith Stahley.

According to county assessor information, the Lee’s bought the property from Billy Griswold in January of 2007 for $257,500. The 2016 assessed land value for the property is $344,950, plus $3,600 structure value, for a total assessed valuation of $348,550.

Under the purchase agreement, the city will pay the seller’s real property excise taxes on the property. Taxes for 2015 are delinquent. With interest and penalties, $5,025.20 is owed. The first half of the 2016 tax principal amount is $2,113.43. 

As to what happens if the city purchases the property, and then can't unload it in a timely manner to a private developer, is undetermined, Stahley said. 

Asked about the role the new Community Renewal Area (CRA), a planning tool used to eliminate blight and encourage economic development, played in potentially making this purchase, Stahley said the CRA may be valuable going forward when the city is ready to sell the property. 

While the city has established the downtown boundary for the CRA, it still needs to put in place a community renewal plan to put the powers of the CRA into effect. The city anticipates doing that between now and the end of the year. 

The plan focuses on specific parcels and projects, like the Water Street Redevelopment Area. An agreement for urban design and planning services for that area was also passed by council at Tuesday night's meeting.

Asked why the city opted to buy it instead of taking the property via eminent domain, Stahley agreed that eminent domain would have been another way of acquiring the property. 

“.…The city would have still paid fair market value. After several rounds of discussion and negotiations we were able to arrive at a mutually agreeable price between the assessed and appraised value,” said Stahley. 

The negotiations took several months.

For more information about the Community Renewal Area, the Downtown Strategy planning efforts, blight, and other issues about downtown Olympia, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button.

Above: A close up of the former Griswold's office supply store on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Downtown Olympia Development, Views Survey Available


Above: This view of Mt. Rainier across downtown Olympia from the Fourth Avenue Bridge becomes obscured by the nine-story Capital Center Building as one travels into downtown. A new survey by the City of Olympia asks questions regarding downtown development, pedestrian improvements, types of preferred bicycle lanes, viewsheds, and more.

By Janine Gates

The City of Olympia is encouraging everyone in Thurston County to take a survey to help shape downtown Olympia.  As noted in a recent Little Hollywood story on March 14, part of the survey includes weighing in on downtown views to area landmarks.

The survey, part of the city’s ongoing Downtown Strategy planning efforts, is online at www.olympiawa.gov/DTS through March 27. The city says it takes about 15-20 minutes to complete.

City of Olympia city planner Amy Buckler says the city has heard “loud and clear” from a previous survey that the city must address parking, sea level rise and homelessness issues. 

Based on this survey and other plans, the city’s next steps in the Downtown Strategy will focus on design, view protection, historic preservation, business and development standards and incentives, and more specific strategies related to housing, retail and economic development.

It took Little Hollywood about 35 minutes to read through the survey questions, much less answer them. 

When asked about the nature of the questions, and their tendency toward the need for significant zoning and code changes, Buckler responded that the survey reflects what the city has heard in the public process so far, and include the input of their consultant’s recommendations.

“It is likely the city will update some development standards, and perhaps zoning, if needed, to align with the guiding framework of the Downtown Strategy. We are waiting for a guiding framework to be vetted through the…process of public engagement and analysis and discussion with city council on May 10 before scoping what updates might be needed. The guiding framework will drive any needed updates….”

Questions about viewsheds are included about mid-way through the survey, after questions about development scenarios, shared streets for pedestrian and intersection improvements, festival streets, types of bicycle lanes, and more.

Some questions are hard to argue with:

1. In the waterfront area, improve upon existing attractions to create a vibrant, attractive, family-friendly destination, with emphasis on the surrounding natural environment and many landmark views. Maintain vibrant and visible gathering places for public activity and events; increase waterfront recreation opportunities; and create inviting pedestrian connections to the historic shopping district, marinas, Farmers Market, Hands on Children’s Museum, LOTT Wet Center, and Capitol Campus.

On a scale of 1-5, with (1) being very important and (5) being not important, how important is this overall concept to you?

This question specifically involves the Northeast area neighborhood:

3. In the "Artisans/Tech" area, improve upon Port and LOTT activities and existing warehouses to create a mixed-use, artisan, culinary arts, and tech hub that includes affordable commercial space, housing (especially for artists), studio/workshop, gallery, live/work, and retail space. Encourage the reuse of industrial buildings and diverse, eclectic, energy- and water-efficient architecture. Ensure that visitors of all ages feel safe and comfortable arriving by bus, foot, bike, or car to participate in exciting education and recreation opportunities. Spur mixed-income residential development to support car-free lifestyles near the Transit Center. A more active atmosphere, redevelopment of blighted or underused sites, good design and continued clean and safe efforts by the City and other partners generate a feeling of safety in this area.

On a scale of 1-5, with (1) being very important and (5) being not important, how important is this overall concept to you?

Regarding the future of the Southeast area neighborhood, this question provides the only “not sure/don’t care” option in the questionnaire, among other options:

13. This area has significant potential for growth as a residential neighborhood. We have heard a range of preferences for the style of residential development in this area, sometimes a preference for tall residential buildings and other times for smaller scale residential development like townhouses, small lot homes, and low-rise multifamily buildings.  Assuming the same number of units are added in both scenarios described, check the circle that best represents your preference.

Above: Now it's gone - the view of Mt. Rainier becomes obscured by the nine story Capital Center Building as one travels into downtown Olympia.

Survey Questions about Views

The viewsheds for potential analysis have changed since the city’s March 3 Land Use and Environment meeting and now includes a new viewshed: City Hall to the Capitol Dome. The photo used to illustrate this view is from the sidewalk outside city hall on Cherry Street.

Two potential viewsheds were removed from the list: Marathon Park to Mt. Rainier, because it does not exist, and the effect of the 1063 Building, currently under construction, on the view of the Capitol Dome from downtown.

The survey uses computer generated illustrations of two viewsheds under consideration. City staff is in need of a photo from the navigation channel into Olympia on Budd Inlet, and a photo of downtown Olympia from the beach area of Priest Point Park. 

City staff provided Little Hollywood a map that indicates that the desired viewshed from the navigation channel is from the coordinates of 47 03.960 N and 122 54.509 W, which is roughly the center of the channel across from Swantown Marina.

Buckler confirmed that a photo of the viewshed from the East Bay pocket park to the Capitol Building featured in Little Hollywood’s March 14 article is one of ten proposed viewsheds slated for analysis. 

That view runs through Port of Olympia parcels 2 and 3 which are slated for development by local developer Walker John. Concept plans by architect Ron Thomas are not yet available to the public, Thomas said in an interview with Little Hollywood last month. If those parcels are developed as proposed, the public’s view of the Capitol Building from the park would be obscured.

If there are additional important viewsheds related to downtown that you think the city may have missed or if you have photos of your favorite views related to downtown that you want to share with the city, send them to dts@ci.olympia.wa.us.

Submitted photos will become part of the public record and may be used for public engagement purposes, so the city asks that you indicate who should receive credit for the photo. Views must be from public observation points within downtown or looking through downtown to landmark views, such as Mt. Rainer, the Black Hills, Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains, Capitol Dome, says the city.

For more information, contact Amy Buckler, Senior Planner, City of Olympia, at (360) 570-5847 or abuckler@ci.olympia.wa.us.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

First Day of Spring 2016


Above: Maddy Russell, 4, created amazing bubbles on the first day of spring!

By Janine Gates

The first day of spring was welcomed with enthusiasm at an annual community bubble blow on Sunday by “The Kiss” statue on Percival Landing.

Sponsored by People-Who-Know-We-Live-In-A-Great-Place, the activity is held from noon – 1 p.m., regardless of wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, high tides, or sea-level rise. 

This was the 24th year for the event, and while the sun has made an appearance some years, it is certainly not expected.

A special, earth friendly bubble elixir was painstakingly created just for the occasion. Wands were provided, but some folks brought their own. This year, someone cleverly brought an automatic bubblemaker! It really spit out the bubbles and added to the festivities! Sponsors hope they come back next year!

Above: City of Olympia councilmember Clark Gilman tries his hand at bubbleblowing. 

Above: Bubble Blow Matriarch Gita Moulton knows how to do bubbles.

Above: Wearing Batman boots, Wyatt Nichols, who will be four next month, created several great bubbles with his mom Joanne!

Above: Daphne Williamson, almost six months old, will be ready to blow some bubbles next year, says her mom, Shannon.

For past Bubble Blow events and pictures, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

County Democrats Feel the Bern and Stand Up for Hillary



County Democratic Party Caucus is March 26 at a Location Near You

By Janine Gates

The Thurston County Democratic Party caucuses will be held Saturday, March 26, from 10 a.m. – noon in over 30 locations such as schools and community centers throughout the county.

In presidential campaigns, a caucus is a local gathering where voters decide which candidate to support. It’s complicated, but in a nutshell, the caucus system is how the Democrats allocate delegates, who ultimately elect the candidate that you get to vote for in November.

Caucuses are lively meetings which can be a bit raucous and intimidating for newcomers to the political process, but well worth the effort. They are an opportunity to meet your closest neighbors, see old friends, make new friends, listen, and engage in a grassroots, democratic process. 

Go to www.wa-democrats.org or www.thurstondemocrats.org to find your precinct and your precinct caucus location.

National field organizers for both the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns have recently arrived in Thurston County, and have hit the ground meeting local activists. 

Getting out the vote, phone banking and doorbelling to educate voters, especially undecided voters, are the most important part of both campaigns right now.

At caucus, voters must declare their Democratic preference. Eligible voters, including 17 year olds who will be 18 by November 8, can register and vote at the caucus. To register ahead of time, go to www.sos.wa.gov/elections/myvote.

If you cannot attend the caucus due to military service, work schedule, illness, disability, or religious observance, you can get a surrogate affidavit form and return it by March 18. Go to the Washington State Democrat website at www.wa-democrats.org for more information.

Walt Bowen, Thurston County Democratic State Committeeman, has been active in numerous leadership roles for the Washington State Democrats since 1969. A precinct committee officer, Bowen is a big fan of the caucus process.

“Democracy is work. The price is vigilance and commitment to support it,” he said. Bowen said the caucus process costs the Thurston County Democrats about $20,000 to $30,000 in rent for facilities, insurance, janitor fees, security, and more.

“It’s labor intensive, but we get a lot out of it on multiple levels, in grassroots communication and commitment….On a local level, we identify the issues, have discussions, take votes in front of other people, and develop a platform. That’s not easy. 

We meet each other, identify potential future candidates for city council and the legislature, raise money, win elections, and govern. This is the weakest time for political parties. Look at the money in politics! Who’s left to protect democracy? An informed electorate….Winning is getting organized,” said Bowen.

Above: Olympian John Van Kampen, 78, is campaigning for Bernie Sanders.

Local Sanders Supporters Feel the Bern

National field organizers for the Bernie Sanders campaign recently arrived in Thurston County but hundreds of local fans having been “feeling the Bern” since their county kickoff campaign event last July.

Organizers will host a Sanders “Bernstorm” campaign event on Thursday, March 17, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at Obsidian , 414 4th Ave East, in downtown Olympia, which will kick off a flurry of upcoming events. 

Retired veteran John Van Kampen, 78, doorbelled Eastside neighborhood residents in early March, educating potential voters about the upcoming caucus.

A South Sound resident since 1983, Van Kampen says he never knew until recently that Washington had caucuses.

Asked why he is supporting Sanders, Van Kampen said, “Bernie speaks for me in a way and to a degree I am unaccustomed to since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his magnificent wife, Eleanor. Maybe I was a bit young, then, to understand the details my mother explained to me, but I sensed greatness of those two and what was once the best of the Democratic Party, a greatness maybe the Kennedy clan might have restored if assassin's bullets had not cut the heart out of that family.

“….I hurt when I see the homeless on our street corners but have not the gifts they need or the acumen to make their plight seem real to…those who watch unreality TV and live in that world too much…to have the time to look around  and see what they can do for their country and their neighborhood. If face to face is uncomfortable, I ask for a vote for Bernie. It's a start,” said Van Kampen.

Joe Nilsson, Olympia, is also a Sanders supporter and a past chair of the Thurston County Democrats.

“My personal journey has taken me from serving on the 1992 and 1996 Clinton-Gore Washington steering committees, being a 1992 Clinton party leader delegate, a 1996 Presidential elector, and the state party treasurer for eight years to the painful recognition that in the last two decades, the Democratic Party and Democratic politics had been compromised at the national level by corporate money and very wealthy donors.  In the process, our democracy has slipped towards becoming an oligarchy, the middle class has been decimated, and 90 percent of Americans are worse off, many far worse off.  Economic inequality is at the most extreme since the 1920's.

“As a member of a very large, multiracial family…I worry that the younger members of my family and their peers won't have a fair shot at a decent future if we don't change the dystopian status quo.

“I see Senator Sanders as an honorable, compassionate, progressive, forward-looking leader and the catalyst we need to create the peaceful revolution we so desperately need. Amazingly, I have yet to find any issue I have any serious disagreement with him on.  Bernie inspires me and gives me hope for the future we all ought to have and deserve,” said Nilsson.

Above: Clinton national field organizer Erin Phillips met with Thurston County caucus captains for Hillary Clinton at the Lacey Timberland Library on Tuesday evening.

Standing Up For Hillary

About 15 Clinton caucus captains met late Tuesday afternoon at the Lacey Timberland Library, and let out a big whoop upon hearing the news that Hillary Clinton had won Ohio Tuesday evening.

Their three talking points: “She’s a fighter for you and your family, she gets things done, and she’s tough enough to stop the Republicans from ripping away the progress we’ve made.”

Almost more important than telling Hillary’s story, campaign coordinators said, is telling your own story, and explaining to others why you support Clinton.

“Tell Bernie supporters or undecideds something about your life that connects to Hillary’s values. It doesn’t have to be positive or negative,” said Clinton national field organizer Erin Phillips, 24, of Michigan, who arrived in Olympia about two weeks ago.

Another field organizer, Tess Rabin, 24, of California, backed her up, and told her own story of why she is supporting Clinton. 

Saying 18 million Americans rely on the Affordable Care Act, she told the story of her friend’s mom who needed medical care for ovarian cancer and got the care she needed because she had access to the health care system created by President Obama.

“…The other reason I’m supporting her is because she has shattered the glass ceiling. She’s protecting my body.  Roe v. Wade should not be up for discussion. I trust her with that responsibility wholeheartedly….” said Rabin.

Tyler Mesman, 24, is new to Olympia, having recently moved here from Michigan. A college graduate, he has traveled internationally and is now an environmental education assistant. Mesman said he is supporting Clinton because she has “figured out the best way to move forward,” and appreciates the fact that she will make college affordable.

Wendy Frankel-Reed, a retired teacher, is the Clinton caucus captain for Precinct 35. Frankel-Reed said Clinton is experienced, incredibly bright, imperfect like any candidate, would work with world leaders, and has the skills and talents to compromise and find common ground.

She says Sanders doesn’t have foreign affairs experience and she can’t see him winning.

“I like Bernie a lot, and his values are my values as well, but he feels a little bit more like a one trick pony to me….He doesn’t offend me, but I don’t think the country is ready for somebody who identifies himself as a Socialist….

“Some say we'll have a woman candidate someday, but it needs to be the right woman. To me, she is the right woman for the job,” said Frankel-Reed.

For more information about the Thurston County Democrats, the caucus system, and precinct locations, go to www.thurstondemocrats.org or call (360) 956-0235.


To learn more about Bernie Sanders, go to bernadvisory.org or https://go.berniesanders.com or contact field organizer Meghan Sutter, meghansutter@berniesanders.com.

To learn more about Hillary Clinton, go to www.hillaryclinton.com or contact field organizer Erin Phillips, (517) 944-0263, ephillips@hillaryclinton.com.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Downtown Olympia Views Studied by City


Above: On one of their frequent walks to the popular Madison Scenic Park, Eastside neighborhood residents Michael McFarlan and Ginger appreciate the view of the Capitol Building, downtown and the territorial Black Hills on Monday morning. This view is one of several priority viewsheds to be analyzed by the City of Olympia as part of a downtown strategy planning effort. 

By Janine Gates

Located at the southernmost tip of Puget Sound, Olympia, Washington has long been described as having the most spectacular views of any state capitol.

From downtown Olympia looking north, one sees Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains. To the south, the state Capitol Dome, the fifth-tallest masonry dome in the world and the tallest in North America, rising 287 feet high. To the east, Mt. Rainier. Looking west, the territorial Black Hills.

On March 3, City of Olympia staff briefed councilmembers serving on the city’s Land Use and Environment Committee on the next steps for analyzing several viewsheds within downtown. 

A viewshed is the line of sight between an observation point and a view. The purpose of the city's analysis is to protect or enhance existing views, not to create new viewsheds. 

The recently updated Comprehensive Plan shifted an emphasis from protecting certain views from public streets to protecting and enhancing views from public gathering places. The city says that the observation points to be analyzed must be in public spaces either in downtown or look through downtown to a landmark view. 

An upcoming online city survey will offer the community an opportunity to comment on the viewsheds proposed for analysis. 

The Downtown Strategy’s process builds on past planning efforts during the Comprehensive Plan and Shoreline Master Plan updates. At a November 2015 workshop, participants prioritized certain viewsheds with observation points within downtown that were most important: the Olympic Mountains, the Capitol Dome, Budd Inlet, and Capitol Lake.

With the input of community members and city staff, consultants will analyze up to ten community-valued viewsheds. The analysis will also consider zoning and potential building height increases. Using 3D graphics, modeling will show each view as it exists now, if redeveloped under current zoning, and under any zoning options being explored.

The viewshed analysis will be presented at a June Downtown Strategy workshop and viewshed protection recommendations will be offered to the city council by August.

Above: The viewshed of downtown and the Capitol Building from a pocket park on East Bay Drive as seen on Monday afternoon. If the Port of Olympia parcels are developed as proposed near Chestnut and Olympia Avenue NE, the view of the Capitol Building would likely be obstructed. 

It is unclear from city documents which East Bay viewshed the city is considering analyzing: there is another pocket park further north on East Bay Drive, created in 2004 through a community partnership with the East Bay Drive Neighborhood Association, the Port of Olympia, and the City of Olympia.

Viewshed Priorities

The city has already identified five priority viewsheds for analysis: the Capitol Campus to Budd Inlet with a view across the isthmus, the effect of the 1063 Building on the view of the Capitol Dome, Madison Scenic Park to the Capitol Dome and the Black Hills, the Puget Sound navigation channel view to the Capitol Dome, and the West Bay Park view to Mt. Rainier through downtown.

Five viewsheds under consideration for analysis include Capitol Way and Union Avenue to the Olympic Mountains, Marathon Park to Mt. Rainier, Park of the Seven Oars (near the Harrison Avenue NW and Olympic Way NW roundabout) to Mt. Rainier, Priest Point Park to the Capitol Dome, and the East Bay Waterfront Park to the Capitol Dome.

Above: The 1063 Building is currently under construction on Capitol Way. During the design process, the city made its concerns known to the state about the five story, 215,000 square foot office building. When completed, the building will block the view of the Capitol Building from downtown. Conversely, views of Budd Inlet and the Olympics, as seen here from the Capitol Campus, will soon be obscured. The city does not have zoning authority over the Capitol Campus. Photo taken February 25, 2016.

Several community members attended the March 3 Land Use and Environment committee meeting, commented on the limited scope of the viewshed analysis, and urged the inclusion of other views. 

Krag Unsoeld commented that Mt. Rainier cannot be seen from Marathon Park on Deschutes Parkway, so that particular viewshed should not be listed, and instead be replaced with another viewshed.

Former City of Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs also commented, saying that view protection should involve the whole city, not just downtown.

“The first step in this kind of process should be a community conversation to define what is important to community members about views,” said Jacobs. 

Jacobs is active with Friends of the Waterfront, a local group that has advocated for view protections for several years. That group offered city staff a specific list of comments, questions, and suggested views.

“….We also note the need for clarification of some terms. For instance, what exactly is meant by Capitol Dome? Just the dome? Or does this include the columns beneath the dome? Does it include the Temple of Justice and other buildings? Wilder and White designed the ‘Capitol Group’ to appear as a single structure when viewed from the north. Also, what exactly is the ‘Navigation Channel’ and where is it? Clear definitions will be necessary to the development of clear regulations….” asks Friends of the Waterfront in their letter.

In response to the city’s call for suggested viewsheds for analysis in addition to those already published, the group offered: Capitol Campus to Mt. Rainier, Port Plaza to Capitol Dome, Percival Landing to Capitol Dome, a larger stretch of East Bay Drive to the Capitol Dome (not just the mini-park), Rt. 101 at the Red Lion hotel to Mt. Rainier, Harrison Avenue roundabout to Mt. Rainier (broader than Seven Oars Park), lower roundabout to Mt. Rainier, Deschutes Parkway to Mt. Rainier, Lakeridge Drive to Capitol Dome and Capitol Lake, San Francisco Street to East Bay Drive and Capitol Dome, Eastern Washington Butte at Heritage Park to Mt. Rainier, Port Plaza viewing tower to Mt. Rainier, views of East Bay and West Bay ridgelines, and the Thurston County Courthouse to the Capitol Dome.

Editor's Note/Full Disclosure: Janine Gates also commented at the March 3 meeting. Providing personal pictures as examples, she said the viewshed of landmarks should be expanded to include the experience of coming into downtown and take into consideration the special viewpoints of children and animals who see the city from different perspectives. She also asked that the city conduct a nighttime viewshed analysis to determine the impact of light pollution. Light pollution from the 123 4th Avenue Building and the nine story Capitol Center Building, if it is ever redeveloped, she said, would mar the nighttime beauty of landmarks such as the Capitol Building. With regard to sea-level rise issues, she also suggested an underwater view analysis of downtown.

For more information about the viewshed analysis, go to www.olympiawa.gov or contact Amy Buckler, Senior Planner, City of Olympia, at (360) 570-5847. The city welcomes descriptions and photo(s) of your favorite view(s) which can be emailed to Buckler at DTS@ci.olympia.wa.us.

Above: An unencumbered view of Mt. Rainier from downtown Olympia is one of the most spectacular, cherished sights enjoyed by community members. Photo taken from a West Bay Drive office building parking lot in May 2012.