UPDATE: This post has been changed since it was first published. Links to a story by KOMO News was added.
One of the best known and most popular gardens in Eastlake is in trouble with the City of Seattle and part of it may have to be trimmed.
Mary Hansen has spent the last three years planting and growing her garden on the northwest corner of E. Lynn and Minor E. What was a nondescript corner of grass and a couple of shrubs is now a profusion of trees, vegetables and colorful flowers. People in the neighborhood may not know Mary but they do know her garden. The Seattle Times featured it and Mary's house in an article in April.
But sometime in the last few weeks, someone complained to the city's Department of Planning and Development that the height of the garden in the planting strips on Hansen's property violated city zoning codes and created a line-of-sight issue for cars turning at the corner. It's the second time the garden has drawn the scrutiny of city zoning inspectors because of its height.
In a letter dated July 16, a city zoning inspector informed Hansen that, under city zoning codes, any vegetation within 30 feet of the corner can be no taller than 24 inches high. Vegetation can't overhang the sidewalk unless it is at least eight feet up, the inspector said, then added:
"Even following these guidelines you are creating a very real and dangerous corner with your vegetation. Many people would not consider this neighborly.
"Please prune to develop the best line of sight from the corner as possible above and beyond the city requirements."
The letter notes that the inspector is "required to send you a $150 citation without warning for all future complaints." A second complaint would bring a $500 fine, he says.
In a report aired Friday (see below), KING 5 news quoted Planning and Development Customer Service Manager Bryan Stevens as saying the city isn't opposed to gardens but has to enforce zoning codes.
"It's beautiful landscaping, but it really is an issue of public safety at the intersection," Stevens told KING 5.
Hansen posted the city's letter at the corner and asked passersby to sign a letter of support "if you agree this garden creates community rather than danger (as the city contends)." She says she has collected several full sheets of names. Wednesday night, she brought the issue to the attention of the Eastlake Community Council.
"The garden isn't the problem," Hansen says, "the traffic is." She notes that traffic speeds down the hill on E. Lynn, creating a dangerous situation at the corner. Many of those signing her letter of support have written in agreement.
Don Bliss, a resident who lives diagonally across the intersection from Hansen, agrees. "A stop sign here wouldn't hurt," he says.
Bliss likes what Hansen has done with the garden. "I've watched this corner get better and better," he says.
Hansen would like to see something done about the traffic speeding downhill on E. Lynn.
"My plan is to have something come from this," she says of the zoning issue. "I hope we can all benefit from this."
She'd like to see a four-way stop at Lynn and Minor. She plans to contact the Seattle Department of Transportation to see what can be done.
Hansen was planning on working on the the roses on the Lynn Street side of her lot this weekend, moving some bushes and reducing the height of others. She will be meeting with the zoning inspector who sent her the warning letter on Wednesday to find out what exactly she has to do to be in compliance. She's hoping she won't have to take out any of the plants on the Minor E. side of her lot.
- KOMO 4 News had a report on Saturday that includes video.
- KING 5 news reported on the controversy on Friday: