The Bremerton Beat

If it's about Bremerton and happening now, it's on the Beat. Written by the Sun's Josh Farley.
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Photographer goes solo downtown

April 23rd, 2014 by josh farley

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Photography is becoming bigger business in downtown Bremerton. 

Hudson Photographic Artistry has long been a venerable part of downtown; more recently came the RockIt Roost’s  Hanah Reed, who brought her Kustom Kulture style here.

They were joined recently by Elaine Turso, who moved into a space above the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce on Fourth Street. Her spacious new studio has five rooms and allows her to do a little bit of everything, including boudoir and glamor photography, her specialty. A great success story for the scrapbooker turned professional photographer.

Turso isn’t exactly new to the neighborhood. She recently moved her studio from nearby Ish Vintage Clothing & Costume just up the street, where she says she outgrew the space. You may also recall Turso’s Empowerment Calendar, which is looking increasingly likely as becoming a yearly product.

She believes the photography scene downtown is growing and that’s a good thing. Rather than take business from each other, she says they support one another.

“Although we overlap in some areas, we still have our own expertise,” she said. “It’s about supporting one another.”

View Turso’s web site here.


The Bremerton Beat’s conversation with Developer Ron Sher

April 22nd, 2014 by josh farley

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As he watched 32,000-pound concrete tiles peeled off the Harborside Parking Garage that he owns, a fedora-topped Ron Sher (in photo, at left) stopped to take time for a few questions from this reporter. The Seattle developer, who’s turned failing malls into vibrant community centers, stopped by Bremerton to plan the facade that will replace the tiles on the garage, still known by many as the JC Penney’s building.

We sat down at the Bremerton Bar & Grill  (a restaurant he built and owns) for a few questions. What’s his next move, you ask? Here’s what he told me.

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Q: To start, let’s go back to 2007. Why did you invest in Bremerton in the first place?

A: Bremerton has got a great infrastructure and it’s got a great location, and a great history. It’s got the economic base of the shipyard and, at that time, I had a relationship with Cary Bozeman. He talked me into it. I spent most of my career trying to improve and create activity and vitality in communities on a smaller scale and I said, ‘wow, here’s a chance to do it for a city.’” Everything seemed right and everything was growing, I got enthusiastic, and here I am.”

Q: Things didn’t pan out the way we thought, in terms of the economy. How did your plans change?

A: Yeah, everything sort of dried up but we didn’t want to give up. I was working a lot with (former Bremerton economic development manager) Gary Sexton and I wanted to do something with this corner for the sake of Bremerton (where the Bremerton Bar & Grill is). I felt that I hadn’t done what I wanted with the Penney’s building, and I still haven’t, and I wanted to make a serious difference and I felt we could do that if we took this corner, this old bank building and put something vital that makes a statement about Bremerton. We did that, and I’m pleased with it. But I haven’t given up on the other (Penney’s) project. Its time just hasn’t seemed to have arrived.

Q: You’re not in the residential development business, but you’ve said apartments could go on top on the JC Penney’s Building. Who could do that kind of work, if not you?

A: I’ve never done any residential development. And I’ve always felt I needed a good residential partner and for years I tried really hard to find one. I wanted somebody who would do a great job and do something we could be really proud of. I put out the word but it hasn’t shown up. We still have a long term goal of creating a lot of vitality here but it’s always been a bit of a chicken and egg issue. You can’t get the retail because you don’t have the residential and you can’t get the residential because you don’t have the vitality of the retail. And one of the things I love about our project is you can come up with enough residential to support the retail on a smaller scale and you can get away from that chicken and the egg conundrum. And that’s the way we’re looking at it.

Q: Has the City of Bremerton been good to work with?

A: The city’s always been good to work with. They were great with (former mayor) Cary (Bozeman) and (current mayor) Patty (Lent) has been great. The city has not been the problem. The fast ferry would be huge. What’s happening on the Seattle waterfront, right now, is a problem, but when it’s completed it will be a huge plus. Bremerton will happen. We know that — we all know that. We all keep waiting. And I think we’re tired of waiting.

Q: What will it take for Bremerton to ‘happen?’ What’s that last roadblock, or last few roadblocks?

A: We have to find a good residential developer who has the right ethic, financial capacity and the enthusiasm to make the investment in Bremerton. And I would be happy to partner with that person. But on my own, I’m not going to be able to do it by myself.

Q: When you purchased the Penney’s building, the concept was a mixed use development — book store, health facility, apartments and more. Is that still the game plan, or has it changed?

A: I think that the game plan might change. We have to have a really good economic plan for it to work, and it seems that looking at the neighborhood and everything around it, that it might be best to revitalize all the retail around the building, rather than take out valuable parking, when there’s already so much retail available. Use this parking to support that retail and the apartments. But if we get this done, it will be a collaboration between myself and the apartment builder. We’ll have to feel it out.


Bremerton Blotter, April 5-18

April 21st, 2014 by josh farley

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(Blogger’s note: Introducing the blotter, a new feature at the Bremerton Beat, that will give you the inside scoop on police activity around the city. This blog does not take the place of the Kitsap Sun’s Code 911 section, which will still cover serious crimes and incidents across Kitsap. But it will provide an idea of what Bremerton police are up to in town.)

Among the calls Bremerton Police handled recently:

Vehicle Prowl, 300 Callow Avenue: A resident watched surveillance footage of a suspect going through a church van April 5. He reported it April 11. It was unknown if anything was taken.

Burglary, 3200 Herren Avenue: A resident came home to find a downstairs exterior door wide open April 12. The resident’s backpack was found strewn in the yard and an XBox was taken from inside. Police took fingerprints but have found no suspects as yet.

Civil issue, 2700 Callahan Drive: A resident complained that her neighbor was “banging on the walls,” April 13 and that it has been an issue for three months. Police noted an eviction process was ongoing for the neighbor.

Vehicle prowl, 2300 Ninth Street: A motorist reported his truck was rummaged through April 13 but nothing was taken. He told police he had locked it.

Burglary, 1200 10th Street: A garage was broken into and a “bunch” of power tools stolen from inside on April 11. Police learned a nearby resident was suspected but did not make any arrests at the time of the report.

Fight in the drive thru, 4300 Kitsap Way: Officers responded to the Jack in the Box restaurant for reports of threats with a gun early April 13. A man reportedly drove up the drive thru and asked for a shake, but the restaurant staff couldn’t make one because they were performing maintenance. The man “became belligerent” and ultimately said something along the lines of “I’m going to shoot the place up.” Another customer said that same driver began blaring his horn and then began taunting the customer and “gesturing toward him.” The two men got out of their cars and fought for a brief time until the threatening man was pulled away by acquaintances and left. Police said the fight was “mutual combat.”

Vehicle prowl, 2500 15th Street: Two cars were prowled “overnight” April 11. One victim reported nothing stolen from their car; another said $6 in cash and the vehicle registration was taken. Both motorists believe their cars were locked. Police had no suspects at the time of the report.

Traffic ticket, 600 Fourth Street: A cab driver was cited for running two stop signs the evening of April 14.

Assault, 1300 Callow Avenue: Early April 15, officers responded to an apartment where a suspect had pushed down a man outside and then shoved his way into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, where he pushed her down twice. He mentioned he was “going to prison forever so this does not matter.” Neither victim was seriously hurt. The suspect, who police said was violating his probation, was arrested after calling the victim from a home on Olympic Avenue. He was arrested and taken to the Kitsap County jail on $50,000 bail.

Theft, 1100 16th Street: A woman reported her bike tires, valued at $800, were stolen about 9 a.m. April 15 from the Olympic College parking area. She’d locked the bike to a bike stall, but when she returned, the tires, rim and hardware were gone. Campus security reviewed surveillance video but police did not have a suspect at the time of the report.

Agency assist, Bainbridge Island: A Bremerton officer drew a composite sketch April 15 of the suspect in a burglary to a Wing Point Way home on Bainbridge.

Theft, 800 McKenzie Avenue: A resident reported that car parts, including a transmission and five wheels sitting in his driveway, were taken April 15. They are valued at $800. Police have no suspects.

Car prowl,  4500 Auto Center Way: A man early April 15 tried to steal items from a convenience store before the manager confronted him. An hour later, walked up to a car in the parking lot and asked for the vehicle. The driver declined to give it to him. Later, employees of a local company nearby caught the man trying to prowl a car in their parking lot. Police came and took him to the Kitsap County jail on $30,000 bail.

UPDATE: Suspicious incident, 300 Callow Avenue: A man in his 60s entered a local business demanding his “suit of armor” back. Employees inside would not give it to the man, described as intoxicated, and he tried to punch the employees. At some point, a gun fell off the the suspect’s person, and he eventually fell through the business’ front window, breaking it. Police took possession of the gun and the man was taken to Naval Hospital Bremerton for treatment.

Bike theft, 1500 Spruce Avenue: A man April 17 informed police that his BMX-style “pawn shop junker bike” had been taken from his residence after thieves had cut the cable he had secured it with. There are no suspects in the case.

Shoplifting, 4200 Kitsap Way: Police said a man stole two quarts of motor oil from Winco Foods April 18, and then promptly went to a nearby parking lot where he prowled a van. The van’s owner yelled at the apparent their and the suspect asked that he “not call the cops.” The cops were called, and he went to the Kitsap County jail with bail set at $10,000.


The raccoon crackdown in Bremerton begins now

April 17th, 2014 by josh farley

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 Problematic raccoons, and those who feed them, take note: Bremerton’s crackdown has begun

The city’s new ordinance, which stiffens fines for those who feed the animals and creates a contract with the federal government to neutralize the most dubious critters, takes effect today.

The City Council passed the new ordinance 7-0 at its April 2 meeting. For the Council, putting more weight into the fines and hiring a United States Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist for up to 80 hours a year (at a cost of $3,500) was a slam dunk.

The thornier issue between Mayor Patty Lent and the Council was deciding who the point of contact for raccoon complaints would be. The Council had been pretty adamant at a meeting the prior week that City Code Enforcement Officer Janet Lunceford should be involved, and that, in a worst-case scenario, raccoon feeders could be hauled before the city’s hearing examiner.

Lent asked that the raccoon point person be City Clerk Shannon Corin. She was backed by her Department of Community Development Director Andrea Spencer, who pointed out to the Council that Lunceford has no experience in the animal control field — and has plenty to do already.

But Younger said at the City Council’s March 26 meeting that he “would not budge on this.”

In the end, the Council did, in fact, budge.

Lent would’ve vetoed the ordinance had it crossed her desk with code enforcement involved. That puts the Council in a tough spot — they’d need five of seven members to override the mayor. Plus, the task of implementing the ordinance falls to the city administration.

Younger, in a meeting just before the vote April 2 with the mayor, decided the ordinance sans code enforcement was better than no ordinance at all.

“I felt the buy-in by the mayor was more important than the additional language concerning the hearing examiner,” he told me. “In reality, I can pass all the ordinances in the world. But the administration is the one that carries them out.”

For now, the City Clerk will be that point of contact. Corin will respond to complaints and refer them to different sources: Kitsap County Animal Rescue, Kitsap Public Health District and the wildlife specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture.


Downtown Bremerton: the dreams that have yet to come to the old JC Penny’s

April 9th, 2014 by josh farley

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The removal of 30 concrete tiles this month from the Harborside Parking Garage downtown got me thinking about the gritty building itself. Most of you will recall Ron Sher, the prominent Puget Sound developer who’s turned aging malls into vibrant shopping centers, bought the garage in 2007. He’d planned to build apartments, a workout facility, bookstore, commons area and other amenities at the spot that may always be known as the Old JC Penny’s building.

So far, those plans haven’t materialized.

They were certainly ambitious. Artist renderings (pictured) show lots of gathering places, apartments reaching into the sky, and a central market.

While those renderings exist only on paper, Sher and an architect will tour the garage next week, designing a new facade for it to replace the tiles. I’m told it will look much better and the removal of the 32,000 lbs. tiles would make it easier to construct apartments on the roof.

Though a bigger project remains elusive, Sher hasn’t held back on other parts of downtown. He bought the former Westsound Bank building from the city for $910,000 and ultimately turned it into the Bremerton Bar & Grill. Chuck Henderson, his local property manager, is still in talks with developers and grocers about prospects for the old Penny’s building, as well as other spots Sher’s purchased downtown. I’d say stay tuned.

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A sign of the times in Bremerton?

March 27th, 2014 by josh farley

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There are signs of change in Bremerton. Or, more literally, there are changing signs.

I’ve noticed several local businesses have recently upgraded their storefront signage. Some, like Uptown Mercantile and Marketplace (above), recently opened. Others, like the Bremerton Ice Arena (below), have been there for a long while.

Perhaps the signage is just a little image upgrading in time for spring. Have you seen any sign upgrades lately? Drop me a picture and a line at jfarley@kitsapsun.com and I’ll post them here.

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You might have noticed that Rimnam Thai Cuisine, formerly of E. 11th in Manette, is getting pretty close to opening in the defunct Bay Bowl near Harrison Medical Center. Sign’s up!

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Raccoons to take center stage at Bremerton City Hall

March 26th, 2014 by josh farley

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It’s finally on the agenda. On Wednesday night, the Bremerton City Council will tackle an issue long discussed, but never dealt with — not recently anyway.

Yep, we are talking about raccoons.

Councilman Eric Younger told me he’s lived in different homes in Bremerton and has seen problems with raccoons in each one. He is most concerned with neighbors who feed them, thus creating a reliant critter population that can create problems in neighborhoods.

“I’m trying to come up with a solution,” Younger said. “To the best of my knowledge, no one has addressed this.”

Here’s what’s on the table.  The city administration has responded with a potential change to city code that would include making it unlawful to feed raccoons outdoors at anytime. Violators would be subject to a $125 fine for a first offense; $250 for a second offense in the same year and $500 for a third and each subsequent offense in the same year. 

Failing to respond to an infraction would become a criminal misdemeanor offense as well, and could be subject to civil action from the city.

Here’s the other part of the plan: the city would hire a United States Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist for up to 80 hours a year, at a cost of $3,500. They will assist the city “in the form of educational information, non-lethal techniques or direct control.”

“If direct control is necessary, the most effective and safe tools and techniques available will be utilized,” the program plan says.

I think that means the wildlife specialist will have the ability to use traps and to shoot raccoons in the city.

I’d like to hear from my fellow Bremertonians about this issue. Do you have a raccoon problem? Do you love them and keep one as a pet? (Not recommended.) Drop me a note below or email me at jfarley@kitsapsun.com. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this issue.


Exploring the story: Fourth Street edition

March 19th, 2014 by josh farley
Photo of tour by Tad Sooter.

Photo of tour by Tad Sooter.

There was just something about Fourth Street’s economic divide that cried out for more than a story. And so, on Tuesday night — following Sunday’s publication of “In Bremerton, a tale of two Fourth streets,” I hosted a talk and tour of the downtown Bremerton thoroughfare.

We had a nice turnout, with 15 people coming along to learn about the successes of the western half of the street, and failures of the eastern half. Some participants knew a lot — I’d even quoted them in the story — while others came along to expand their knowledge.

In any event, I really enjoyed going beyond the story to help others experience Fourth Street for themselves. Response thus far has been good from the tour, and I am planning to do one similar event each month for the rest of the year.

Won’t you come along next time?

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Photo by Tad Sooter.


Mural comes home to Manette Saloon

March 12th, 2014 by josh farley

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If you’ve been in the Manette Saloon on East 11th lately, you know that one of its walls has recently been adorned with a fantastical mural, complete with soaring bald eagle, moss-covered tree and a Rainier-esque mountain. 

But those who’ve lived in the area awhile know the artifact is not new to the bar.

Rebecca Dove Taylor, the saloon’s owner, said the mural has come home, having been gone for more than a decade. Painted inside the bar sometime in the early ’90s, a former business partner took it with him when he left saloon management.

How it was painted — and who created it — is a great story in and of itself. His name is Jason Najarak, an artist and art conservator who once came to Bremerton to visit his brother.

Najarak, who has become renown for his “primal realism” style, is based in Minnesota. I tracked him down for a phone call a few weeks back.

A frequenter of the bar while here, Najarak, who tells stories of meeting Picasso on his web site, asked to paint the ambitious mural and created it right in the bar itself.

He used oil and egg tempura paint, a tradition that dates back to the middle ages, and took a few months to put it all together.

“Sometimes I’d go in there before they opened,” to work, he told me. “Sometimes, I would paint right there while they were partying behind me.”

He didn’t have a plan at first. In fact, that’s part of his signature style — he likes to work the canvas with some basic ideas, then go from there once he sees what he’s got. Often, he’ll paint over things he’s worked on for hours, even days, if he’s not feeling it.

“I like to paint my way out,” he said.

The best way to see this method is to watch him construct a similar mural over several weeks, thanks to the beauty of time-lapse photography.

Najarak said he’d love to return to Bremerton sometime, and get another look at the mural he created more than twenty years ago.

The old management partner that took the mural recently brought it back, Manette owner Dove Taylor told me.

She said the mural is now there to stay.


Bremerton drivers beware: Cops keep an eye on those carpool lanes

March 5th, 2014 by josh farley
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Bremerton police nabbed 24 drivers in just over an hour for driving solo in the HOV lane. Photo by Bremerton police.

Bremerton police officers made a curious discovery last Thursday while patrolling the carpool lanes on Navy Yard Highway. As they peered into one of the cars they stopped, they noticed the driver, alone, had a carseat riding shotgun, with a blanket over it.    

And they found this not once, but twice, after only an hour and 15 minutes of patrolling.

In total, five officers trolled the carpool, or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, on Highway 304 between 3:45-5 p.m. The officers sat in traffic and watched for cars to go by in the carpool lane that looked like they had only one occupant. The HOV violations added up quickly, and by the time it was over, 24 tickets had been written.

“There are few traffic violations that make peoples’ blood boil more than High Occupancy Vehicle lane violations,” Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan wrote in his weekly update. “While traffic is backed up and stop-and-go for people following the law, drivers by themselves in the HOV lane go flying by, effectively saying to everyone else that their time is simply more important than yours.”

Strachan also noted that by their presence, traffic actually moved more smoothly as less cars moved along the HOV lane.

And it won’t be the last time police will be out there.

“We will be doing this again,” Strachan wrote. “The word will start to get around.”


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