Photos from Harvest Farmers’ Market

On Sunday the Mercer Island Farmers Market did its special pre-Thanksgiving holiday market. A beautiful day for it:

There were some new booths, including arts and crafts with nice gift ideas.

And some good food. In addition to the pizza and the veggie quesadillas that they usually have, Skillet made an appearance:
Want to make it out to another one? You’ll have to wait til spring. Follow the Mercer Island Farmers Market website or Facebook page. By the way, they are applying for beer and wine tasting license. Should be some great new vendors next year.

Yesterday’s Opening of the New Dragon at Island Crest Park

Yesterday was the ribbon-cutting on the new dragon at Deane Children’s park.

Here’s the ribbon cutting:

The old dragon was much-loved but 50 years old. The celebration included an interview with the artist, Kenton Pies, also the artist of the original dragon:

The music lady Nancy Stewart was there with a new song for the occasion:

Lots of folks turned out, and the kids knew what to do at the playground.

More on the project, including photos of building this dragon and the original dragon, on the Mercer Island Parks website.

What Six Years of Mercer Island Real Estate Says

It’s been an interesting last few years in the Mercer Island real estate market. As it turns out, I’ve tracked it for long enough that I have a nice little database of six years of data, which shows how prices fell through 2011 and 2012 and have only recently began to pick up.

The first chart is average price per square foot, which is basically the price taking into account the size of the house. Clearly prices hit a bottom in 2011-2012 and are slowly climbing out.

Also interesting is the second chart, which is the amount that buyers have to pay relative to what sellers ask. Sale-to-list price hit their low at 86% in 2009 and has now rebounded to the mid-90’s. Lower sale-to-list prices signal a weaker market.

And finally, in the last chart above you can see that the number of home sales has also picked up since a low in 2009.

What’s the punchline? The Great Recession seems to be losing its hold on the market, if slowly. Volume, prices and sale-to-list prices are all picking up at the same time.

Let’s look at the last six years another way, by neighborhood:

On the left we see all home sales plotted on a map with the size showing sale price. Clearly some of the mansions around the edge of the Island are the big whales, selling for $10 million and up.

What’s most interesting here are neighborhood differences. The median sale price is higher as you go south, but the houses tend to be larger too. The boxplot in the lower right shows that North Island has the most diversity in home size, the median price per square foot is quite similar up and down the island.

These charts are made using Tableau, which is also where I work. You can find interactive versions with all the data here.

Ski Swap at IMS today

It’s the annual ski swap and at 820 there’s already a line. It’s open at 830 til 230. Come get yur ski on!


Island Books 40th Anniversary Celebration this Saturday

We have a gem of a bookstore here on the Island. Island Books has been around for 40 years, and this Saturday they’re inviting everyone over from 3 to 5 pm for pie to celebrate:

Pie + books– you really can’t go wrong.

On Our Ballot: City Council

The political signs are up along Island Crest, which can only mean one thing: election season. Here’s a guide to the City Council race. The other local positions are on the School Board, which we’ll get to in the coming weeks.

As a reminder, in this blog we cover only local news and local races, or larger races that relate to Mercer Island.

So here goes:

Council Position No. 2: Dan Grausz or Kevin Scheid

Dan-Grausz Kevin-Scheid

Now this is an interesting one. Dan Grausz is a longtime veteran of the council. Kevin Scheid is a very involved resident (who celebrated his 38th anniversary at Island Crest Way and 40th on Friday). They both talk about I-90 tolling and a vibrant downtown as major issues. Both are against tolling and for, well, vibrancy in downtown. So what’s the difference?

I-90 Tolls

In I-90 tolling, it seems to be the level of compromise and negotiation. Kevin Scheid has a stark view: agree to no tolling whatsoever. Dan Grausz seems more in favor of negotiating as a way to fight the toll.

The Mercer Island Reported endorsed Grausz, saying “His opponent says that any sort of compromise regarding tolling is wrong. Yet, Mr. Grausz has demonstrated that he knows how and when to negotiate. He weighs what is best for Islanders in the face of change or circumstance that may or may not be welcome, but always inevitable.”


On this issue the best I can tell is that Dan favors building a residential and retail community: “I do not want to see only professional offices in our buildings that turn our Town Center into an empty cavern at nights and on weekends.

Kevin wants office buildings that will pay more taxes (“Future development needs to contribute its fair share of infrastructure costs“). Their sites are all in political code though so I may be wrong.

Council Position No. 4: Tana Senn or… someone else

Tana Senn is running unopposed for the fourth position. Tana joined the City Council in 2012 and has since been elected by the King County Council to as the 41st District State Representative, replacing Marcie Maxwell after she moved on to state government, according to The Mercer Island Reporter.

Council Position No. 2: Rich Erwin or Benson Wong
Benson-Wong Rich-Erwin

Benson Wong is interesting. He’s got a long history of service on the Island, which counts for a lot. Like all the candidates, he’s against I-90 tolling, for a good downtown and great schools. But he actually points out some things he would do, like push for full implementation of the recommendations of the Sustainability Task Force and support the upcoming school bond. That’s refreshing.

Rich Erwin seems like a nice guy but it’s hard to figure out what he would actually support. Benson Wong seems the better candidate.

Next up is a review of the School Board candidates on the ballot in November. Watch this space…




Thanks and Good Luck, Kendall Watson

Patch is losing its editor today, which probably means no new posts from that blog. Kendall Watson has covered Mercer Island well for many years at Patch and before.

It’s a shame. The failure of Patch was, in my view, a failure of AOL and not of the many excellent journalists who have been trying to cover their communities. AOL’s version of journalism was of great local profits, and by and large the journalists of Patch had a different vision– great local journalism.

There’s plenty to say about a small city like Mercer Island. Kendall covered high school sports and local stories thoroughly and well. I read his posts often. The problem is, nobody has figured out how to make money at it. Some of Seattle’s great local bloggers can make a go of it, but it’s a full time job and more. It’s a labor of love, and AOL’s not in the labor of love business. (Side note: if anyone can figure out what business AOL is in, please leave a comment. I’d love to know.) This blog is run by yours and generates absolutely no profit but also provides the flexibility to take a couple of years off if I need to.

End rant. Good bye and good luck Kendall, and thanks for your coverage of Mercer Island. Hope to see you around these parts soon.