A tiny beach lot on the Lake Washington shoreline near Lake City now exists as a park. It took seven years of court wrangling and, most recently, an $800,000 payout by the city of Seattle.
This 60-foot-wide lot, a patted-down grassy slope ending with dirt at the water’s edge, is going to be succinctly named N.E. 130th Street End.
The winners in this battle over the 13,736-square-foot lot were residents who live in the less-expensive homes up the hill from the beach. For 82 years, they had been using it as a local hangout, a stopping place when taking a walk along the Burke-Gilman Trail.
The losers were Keith Holmquist and Fred Kaseburg, the neighbors on each side of the lot at 13000 Riviera Place N.E.
They split the $800,000, but if you want to buy a home on this street, you better qualify for a loan of $1.5 million, or maybe $3.3 million.
The two men found out that the empty lot between their properties was in limbo because a deed back in 1932 conveying it to the Cedar Park Community Club – for use as a public beach – had never been delivered.
Of such a mistake a neighborhood crisis is created, eight decades later.
In 2012, Holmquist and Kaseburg laid claim to the vacated land under a “quiet title action,” according to court documents, and got it.
In March 2015, they put up a chain-link fence with signs: “PRIVATE PROPERTY. NO TRESPASSING” and, ‘WARNING: Security Cameras in Use.”
In a June 2015 Seattle Times story, Holmquist said the beachside lot had become party-hardy headquarters.
“Alcohol, sex out there, drug use,” he said. “Hypodermic needles, syringes. Beer cans, hard-liquor bottles.”
The neighborhood battle was on, led by Dave Pope, a retired graphic designer, who said, “I never saw a naked person there, never saw a person drinking on the beach.”
Pope was savvy about social-media campaigns.
He created the Facebook page, Friends of NE 130th Beach, now with 1,205 members.
He placed a plastic box with colored chalk at the top of stairs to the Burke-Gilman Trail above the lot.
Holmquist described how he woke up to see in front of his home the chalk message ‘GREED,’ with an arrow pointing to his property.
“I’ve had people go by and leave dog poop in a plastic bag on my carport, people hollering things, I’ve been called . . . well, it rhymes with truck,” he said.
The neighbors carried the battle to the Seattle City Council, showing up with “Save the Beach” signs and a petition with 2,400 names.
The city listened. There are 149 public streets that end on waterfronts, and sometimes adjoining property owners have put up fences and landscaping at the dead ends. The city wants them for public use.
In September 2015, the City Council approved an ordinance to acquire the tiny lot “through voluntary negotiation or it may use its powers of eminent domain to condemn the property.”
Holmquist and Kaseburg appealed the eminent-domain condemnation, first to the state Court of Appeals and then to the state Supreme Court. The latter denied a review in July 2018.
So it came down to settling on a figure: $435,798 for Holmquist and $364,202 for Kaseburg, the latter saying he got a smaller amount because his property is smaller.
That’s $58 a square foot; a property nearby had its land appraised at $62 per square foot.
On Sunday, the neighbors who fought for the lot had a picnic there.
One man posted on the neighbors Facebook page, “Came up from Oregon to see my childhood beach reopen!” A woman posted, “Sooooo happy!”
But a man named Rob, who wrote that he’s lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, posted a caution: “I’ve read so many unpleasant comments about the adjacent land owners on this board, that I’ve asked, where did the civility go in our neighborhood? People have to realize the land was legally theirs . . . So yeah as a land owner I’d put up my best defense for my land being taken by the government . . .”
Kaseburg says that on Sunday, the picnic went smoothly. “They warned people not to bring cars because there is no parking. They cleaned up after themselves.”
Kaseburg has a hedge between his property and the new park. “It’s a visual screen but not much of a sound screen,” he says.
Holmquist says that when he walks on his dock, “I’m right on top” of the park. He has no hedge.
Kaseburg and Holmquist had to pay their attorney fees.
“It was a substantial amount,” says Holmquist.
As the eminent-domain issue wound its way, the neighbors’ cause was represented by city attorneys. Dave Pope estimates costs for the neighbors were minimal, around $3,500 for signs and miscellaneous costs.
And what now?
Pope says he expects people to show up at the park because of its notoriety.
“Eventually, a year from now, it’ll be mainly neighborhood people wanting to launch kayaks, families and children playing in the water,” he says
Holmquist says, “Time will tell. I don’t know.”