Category Archive: Bellevue

Can you spot the headline error?

I read Bellevue Reporter every week. It’s a great local paper. But I was a little disappointed by the front page copy editing error. Next time, run spell check.

 

Renting goats to clear residential foliage is apparently a thing

I thought I had seen everything. But then, 40 goats were delivered to my neighbor for 24 hours to clear the foliage around his house. Apparently it’s quite a common thing in the Pacific Northwest. Only 18 hours later, they have eaten everything and are taking a well deserved break.

PNW staple PEMCO Insurance company has created an ad around the same idea.

This kind of thing would not happen on the East Coast.

Which Post Office Branch is the best?

USPS recently announced that two of the three Bellevue Post Offices will consolidate into a new location that is yet to be determined. I wondered, based on user rankings, what is the best post office in Bellevue, and is it closing?

Based on personal experience, the Downtown Bellevue Post Office never has a line shorter than 5 deep. The Midlakes branch (116th) has been relatively quiet, and the Crossroads branch is generally more calm than downtown, but out of the way.

But I wanted to use an objective rating, so leveraged ratings within Google Maps.

Based on pretty good sample sizes (27 total rankings, 5 or more for each), Crossroads comes out on top, with a rating of 3-out-of-5-stars. Downtown Bellevue registered 2-of-5. And Midlakes has a paltry 1.5-of-5 stars.

So, it looks like the USPS is making the right decision in closing the 2 lowest-performing post offices in town. And next time you have to mail a package, it might be worth driving the extra distance to Crossroads.

Top posts of 2011

Pacific Northwest-Coast Bias had a great year. But what articles did readers enjoy the most?

5.  Redmond is the most expensive Washington city to live in – Were you like me and thought Bellevue was the most expensive city in Washington?

4. US Debt-to-GDP Ratio- Deservedly, the US got downgraded from AAA debt in 2011. Not surprisingly, Switzerland and Germany are on the list of AAA, but I was quite surprised that the UK was still among the top-rated countries, along with Hong Kong and Norway. Interestingly, the US is one of the few countries with a Debt-to-GDP ratio below 100%. I was quite surprised by The Netherlands and Norway above 400%. It’s clear that the path to solvency is getting the US budget back on track. With the current leadership on both sides, my confidence of this happening is very low.

3. NBA Arena in Bellevue – I don’t know precisely where the NBA might build an arena in Bellevue, but I have a couple ideas.

2. NFL Concussions – My magnum opus of 2011 was inspired by a head injury that I suffered myself, and realized that others were undergoing the same injury with no idea of the long-term implications. Although I wasn’t playing football, I hit my head and blacked out, going into seizures and needing to be revived by medical staff. I was woozy for days. At that time, much less was known about the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, so my recovery consisted of lying on the couch. Like NFL players, the only thing I can do is hope I won’t suffer any long-term impacts.

1. Who has the toughest college football schedule in 2011 – The top post in 2011 wasn’t without controversy. The SEC had the weakest schedule among top conferences, yet the got both spots in the Championship. Do I think they deserved it? No Way. Oklahoma State or Stanford definitely deserved that spot over Alabama. But I’ll be watching the game, and rooting for a playoff in future years.

How quickly will days start to get longer [Shortest Day of the Year]?

Winter Solstice is upon us. Normally I would think of this as a relief and that hours of sunlight will begin to improve moving forward. But, it never really seems that way, especially in the depths of rainy February.

Are days going to start to get longer right away?

Not really.

Right now in Seattle we only have 8 hours and 25 minutes of sunlight. And the curve is not very steep for improvement.

For the first few weeks after the solstice, days get longer by only 30 seconds or so. Then, the pace starts to accelerate, and we gain 2-3 minutes per day pretty quickly.

Where do we gain the extra time? At night or early morning?

The good news is that although we don’t gain very much time in December and early January, it’s almost all at night.

In the first 30 days after the Solstice, we gain 30 minutes at night, but only 5 minutes in the morning (look at the flat red line). I’ll definitely take the longer evenings.

Note: The jump in March is Daylight savings

Where to build an NBA arena in Bellevue?

With rumors this week that at least one person is investigating sites to build an NBA arena in Bellevue (Bellevue SuperSonics, anyone?), I wondered what sites are under consideration.

How much space is needed?

First, I looked up the details of the most recently constructed NBA complex, Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. While the name is perhaps the worst name for an arena in the country (on par with Value City Arena for the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team), the complex is state of the art. The compound sits on 9 acres and has garage parking.

It’s hard for me visualize how big 9 acres is, so I took to Bing Maps. Here’s a screen shot of the Amway Center site (1 inch = 1k feet).

I then isolated the arena with some additional land for parking, which I would use to size potential sites in Bellevue:

Option 1: Bellevue Downtown Park

Ok, this probably isn’t a real option, but if you truly wanted a downtown basketball arena in Bellevue, this site is perfect.

As you can see, the arena would fit perfectly in Bellevue Downtown Park. The site itself is 20 acres, which makes sense for the arena: ~9 acres for the arena and 11 acres for additional parking. Plus, with the Bellevue Square garage a block to the north, parking would be plentiful for 8pm games.

Now, the opposition to this site would be strong and powerful. Bellevue Downtown Park is a mini “Central Park” for Bellevue. It features a 1/2 mile running and walking trail, beautiful water features, and plenty of grass to play and relax on. With the influx of apartment and condo buildings in Bellevue, it has become one of the few open spaces in all of Bellevue. It would be a crying shame to bulldoze the site in favor of an NBA arena, but I’m just calling out the option.

Option 2: Car Dealership Row

Along 116th between Main and 8th, there’s a long stretch of defunct car dealerships. The real estate is prime yet undeveloped. There appears to be a massive opportunity to put something useful in this space, as well as cover up the cracking asphalt that now features weeds as high as corn stalks.

As you can see, the arena would not fit perfectly here. It overlaps the abandoned rail line (which could one day feature the East Link connection), and even butts up against the existing Best Buy and Home Depot.

But with a little creativity, the site could fit if the parking garages were placed to the north, south, and across the street from an arena built on the east side of 116th. The site definitely appears to be a possibility.

From a transportation perspective, the site is near perfect. It has easy highway access via 4th and 8th, would be near the future East Link train connection, and wouldn’t clog up downtown.

However, there would be plenty of opposition to this site as well. The Wilburton neighborhood would have plenty to say about this potential site. Basically, “NIMBY.” They have (so far) successfully fought off the NE 4th Street extension, which has been funded since 2009, but there are no signs of progress.

Option 3: Safeway Complex off 124th

Safeway has a huge distribution center and bottling facility on both sides of 124th. I heard on 710  ESPN that this was one of the sites the Chicago businessman who’s interested in bringing an NBA/NHL team to the area visited in Bellevue. Not sure exactly where he was looking, but there does look like ample room for a stadium.

It looks like not 1 but 3 arenas could fit on the site. Which means plenty of parking and the possibility of additional entertainment/eating/shopping along with the arena.

The close freeway access is another benefit, with 405 and 520 just a few blocks away. And, with light rail proposed in there area (proposal along 12th), it could be a sweet spot.

Another benefit is the fact that it’s largely an industrial area – very few houses are in the vicinity. There doesn’t appear to be a huge NIMBY problem with the Safeway site.

We may have a winner.

Passive-Aggressive Seattle Signs

Marymoor Park:

It’s not that fishing is not allowed. Fishing is not recommended.. in consideration of other park visitors. Or whatever.

What’s the most expensive city to live in Washington?

Following up on my last post using Mint.com data, I decided to look into living expenses by city. Mint breaks down living expenses for 12 cities in Washington. My guess was that Bellevue would be the most expensive to live in, and Spokane would be the cheapest.

Monthly expenses by city


 

Turns out that Redmond, not Bellevue, is the most expensive city in Washington. The average Redmond resident spends almost $97k per year. Redmond beat Bellevue by $16k per year, quite a large margin.

The least expensive city: Bellingham turned out to be the least expensive city, costing $33k per year. You could live in Bellingham for three years at the same cost of one year in Redmond.

What drives the cost of living decrease?

Mint only breaks out four spending categories (Travel, Food and Dining, Shopping, and Transportation), but we can use these to identify what drives up the cost of living in Redmond.

Redmond

Travel: $600

Food and Dining: $750

Shopping: $650

Transportation: $350

Bellingham

Travel: $375

Food and Dining: $600

Shopping: $425

Transportation: $250

Interestingly, the cost of food and dining is only marginally higher in Redmond. Food is about 25% more expensive in Redmond, while overall expenses are 3X that of Bellingham.

Transportation is the next closest category: Redmond costs are 40% higher than Bellingham.

But for more discretionary expenses, Redmond costs are much higher. Travel and Shopping are more than 50% higher in Redmond than Bellingham.

Takeaways:

Living in Redmond doesn’t have to be 3X the price of Bellingham. When looking at core expenses, it appears it’s about 25% more expensive to live in Redmond.

Higher incomes in Redmond drive up the cost of living due to discretionary purchases. Travel and shopping are mainly optional purchases, and the higher incomes in Redmond, and the higher incomes of residents of Redmond allow them to spend more in these areas.

Which Bellevue Restaurant is the most popular?

I recently came across a site created by Mint.com that anonymizes and aggregates users spending behavior. Data.Mint.com allows the public to access its data on consumer spending habits in a searchable and sortable format.

I wondered, what sort of insights can one glean from this data? I have a list of some pretty interesting analyses to do, but I thought I’d start out with an easy question:

Which Bellevue Restaurant is the most popular.

“Most popular” is a pretty subjective superlative. But Mint’s data has a pretty non-subjective measure of popularity: # of unique visitors who have made a purchase at a particular location. That’s the criteria I used for this analysis.

Two restaurants came out on top of Mint.com’s visitor index: Las Margaritas and Sideline Sportsbar.

At first, I was quite surprised by the restaurants that topped the list. I thought for sure that some of the bigger-names in Bellevue would top the list over a couple of dive bars. Re-examining the criteria, cozy bars in high-traffic areas are exactly the type of restuarants that would have the highest unique visitor  traffic. Not surprisingly, Ooba Toobas is also high on the list.

Wild Ginger, the type of restaurant that I would hypothesize being at the top of the list, did rank in the top ten (8/10 on Mint.com’s index). Tap House Grill was among the top 4. But it’s clear that lower-cost bars are “more popular.”

Also: note that a lot of national chains and Seattle Restaurants aren’t on Mint’s list. I’m ok with that. I’d prefer to examine local restaurants anyway.

Which restaurants are least popular?


I’ve never been to Ebru Mediterranian Grill. Maybe it’s a gem of a restaurant that few have discovered. But it’s the lowest-ranked restaurant in Bellevue, a 2/10 on Mint.com’s index. Based on this, I’m not too interested in venturing out for a meal here.

Fortunately, I haven’t eaten at any of the restaurants near the bottom of the list. Maybe I have good taste. Or maybe “Halal Meats” just isn’t my thing.

If you’ve tried one of the least popular restaurants, leave a comment.

Which restaurants are most expensive?

This isn’t too hard to guess. Daniel’s Broiler tops the list at an average check size of $115. Seastar is second at $73.

Interestingly, the priciest restaurants all fell between 4-7 on Mint’s visitor index. Their steep price and lengthier dining experience keeps them from serving more customers.

Biases in the data

There are plenty of biases in Mint’s data that I accepted. The type of person that uses Mint doesn’t match the demographics of Bellevue. Mint users are Internet savvy and budget-conscious.  My guess is that Mint skews young, urban, and male. But, it’s still has a great dataset that I hope to explore more.

Lessons from Redfin’s “Mold” in the Pacific Northwest

I attended a seminar on Tuesday at Redfin‘s offices in downtown Seattle on mold in the Pacific Northwest. Karen Crowe from Envirospect Northwest presented.

My key takeaway was not to worry so much about mold. First, it’s treatable. Second, the horror stories about “Black Mold” and homes slowly killing their occupants are largely media hyperbole. Worst case scenario – if there’s a mold problem, you’ll figure it out, and it’s fixable. It was a valuable class for a soon-to-be first-time homebuyer. Plus, the free Indian food was excellent. 

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t let the media freak you out about mold
  • When buying a house, look for red flags (actual mold, bad smells, water damage, broken pipes, bad roofing/flashing)
  • Try to avoid houses with a basement in the Pacific Northwest
  • Leave fan on in bathroom for 30 mins after shower
  • Put piece of toilet paper on fan to see if its working
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