Earth movers have been busy busting up ramshackle
tennis courts and an old RC track to make room for six homes that
will be built on the site — which actually abuts 12th Street — in
the coming months. Brad Young, a developer and house-flipper who
moved here three years ago, believes the location will
“I’m really looking forward to building there,” he
said, noting it’s within walking distance of the ferry. “I think
the market is really good in Bremerton.”
Each residence, constructed by Young’s company
Spectrum Homes, will be about 1,600 square-feet and will include
garages and covered decks. The construction comes at a time when
the city has
serious demand for housing.
The area has seen its share of changes over the
years. Before the Warren Avenue Bridge was constructed in 1958,
11th Street didn’t even reach Warren Avenue due to an embankment
near Chester Avenue. The
Pee Wees have long practiced at the playfield and tennis courts
at 11th and Warren were once home to city league matches. There was
Girl Scout’s hall on the site, according to former Kitsap
Sun Editor Chuck Stark.
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
Another Castle Arcade Edition is coming to 305 Pacific Avenue,
former home of Alchemy Tattoo & Gallery.
The Edmonds-based adult “barcade,” which started as a video
store in 2006, expanded to serve drinks to its gaming customers.
They’ll soon open similar barcades in Bellingham and Bremerton,
according to Jason Alloway Greye, the company’s district manager.
The expansion speaks to the state of the industry, he
“Demand is growing exponentially,” he said.
Greye, who happens to be from Bremerton, pitched the idea to the
company to give downtown Bremerton a try. He sees a city that needs
more for younger people — those over 21 — to do. Plus, he figured
there’s plenty of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers nearby that
would want to give the place a try as well.
Like Quarters Arcade around the corner, there will be a mix of
old and new games. You’ll be able to play about a dozen
pinball machines and around 30 arcade games.
“We focus on classic and retro but not exclusively,”
Bremerton’s will be the only location with a full bar, he
Muslims in Bremerton and Kitsap County have long
commuted to places of worship in Tacoma and other Puget Sound
communities. But a permanent home locally is now at
hand, with the
Islamic Center of Kitsap County‘s purchase of the old Kitsap
Bank building on Marine Drive.
“We the muslims of Kitsap County have been living in Bremerton,
WA for 20 years,” the GoFundMe page explains.
“There are about 10 muslim families living here currently and the
community is growing. With no masjid in the community, we currently
commute about 60 miles or more to the closest masjid for Friday
prayers and Ramadan.”
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, I will lead my latest Story Walk through the
cove, starting at
Hi-Lo Cafe at 15th Street and Wycoff Avenue. We’ll hear from
the owners about how they’ve created one of the best breakfast and
lunch spots in all of Kitsap County.
Then, we’ll set off for an approximately 1/2 mile walk to
Bremerton’s newest park, named for Bremerton civil rights pioneers
James and Lillian Walker. The park, with an ampitheater-like
setting overlooking the Port Washington Narrows, will likely open
in September. We’ll get a sneak peak with help from Bremerton Parks
Preservation and Development Manager Colette Berna. The architect
of many of Bremerton’s redeveloped parks will take us through how
the less than 1-acre parcel came together, and how it demonstrates
the state’s newest methods to keep stormwater out of Puget
We’ll return to 15th and Wycoff to conclude the walk (you can
also take a bus back for $2) and a stop at Bremerton’s newest
restaurant, Bualadh Bos,
for some food and good company. I am also hopeful we can speak with
the proprietors of soon-to-be opened Hale’s Ales brewery and
taproom, on the corner of 15th and Wycoff as well.
I hope you’ll join us for a walk through this changing
Bremerton neighborhood Saturday! Please RSVP here, and
here’s links to our previous walks.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them here.
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!
Manette residents and property owners got a step closer to a
future they can live with Monday, continuing a process that began
for a second time in January.
About 30 people attended a Manette sub-area planning process
meeting Monday, choosing zoning that would allow 15 small detached
homes per acre near the commercial core and mulling over how to
make 11th Street more attractive.
The work of residents ends up replacing entirely work done by a
consultant hired earlier.
Makers Architecture of Seattle presented some options for the
neighborhood at a meeting in August last year that drew the ire of
The city had planned to use the residents’ ideas to provide a
format for the designers’ final plan. Andrea Spencer, director of
community development, said given the city’s current budget
shortfall, it would end up better to opt out of the rest of the
design contract, saving $25,000 on a $50,000 agreement.
No one in the audience Monday appeared to have any
Using a designer to present initial ideas has worked in previous
projects, such as the Wheaton-Riddell Sub Area plan approved in
“It didn’t work here,” Spencer said.
Residents want wider sidewalks and diagonal parking in the
neighborhood’s chief retail street, but differed on whether to
create one-way streets surrounding 11th.
Spencer and the community development staff will take the
feedback from Monday night and create a draft plan to be presented
back to the residents on March 30.
Out of that meeting the staff will create a plan that could go
to the planning commission in April and the city council in
Spencer said having the plan makes Manette a better candidate
for grant money to get the improvements residents want.
I cracked wise on the recent pleasant weather in that last post,
but I have enjoyed the sun. The seeds I ordered for my garden
arrived Thursday, I read on the porch one afternoon, I ran through
a fairly full Lion’s Park on Monday morning.
Which reminded me to pass along an announcement about a public
meeting coming next week. The city is planning a renovation of the
park, and asking for insight from users as they finalize plans. The
city has grant money in hand for low-impact development as part of
the renovation, and among the goals are water quality improvements
in Port Washington Narrows. That may not directly enhances the
Sunday night softball experience, but maybe someone will get
creative and explain how new dugouts and a beer garden are needed
The meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m., at the Sheridan Park Community
Center, just up the street on Lebo.
Also next week, if you’re really feelin’ civic-minded, is
another round of the Manette Sub-Area plan meetings. At 5:30 p.m.
at the Norm Dicks building, there will be an open house on the
draft plan. According to an email from the Manette Neighborhood
Coalition, they’ll likely bring up zoning issues concerning the R10
designation, or where the commercial core zoning of the
neighborhood will be, and maximum height designations for the
entire neighborhood, or whether any part of the plan will include
buildings over 35 feet.
After this open house, the Sub-Area plan is scheduled to head
for the Planning Commission March 17.
Some people have asked recently about a “For Lease” sign on the
portion of Westpark slated for commercial development. The sign,
near Kitsap Way and Oyster Bay Ave., apparently was put up in
The redevelopment plan for the
82-acre site has about five acres designated for retail use along
Arsenal Way and at the corner of Kitsap Way and Oyster Bay.
The properties are intended for sale, the Bremerton Housing
Authority says. A new sign that says commercial plats are
“available now”, has already been put up. First Western Properties (College
Marketplace/Olhava in Poulsbo) is handling the sales.
We’ll have more information about the progress of the area’s
redevelopment soon. You can read up on what we’ve written about it
so far: Continue reading →
Over at the Caucus blog we’ve got a little ditty about SKIA annexation.
You might not be surprised to hear that I’m seeing slightly
different characterizations from Port Orchard and Bremerton. The
official word from the board, for now, is the annexation of the
northern property was accepted as submitted. A written decision
will be issued later this month.