Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Frasier Crane in Seattle

About twice a year I get an email asking me about Seattle locations linked to Dr. Frasier Crane, or Kelsey Grammer's character on the NBC-TV show, FRASIER.  Since I am a huge fan of the show and enjoy discussing Seattle movie locations from a real estate perspective I am finally taking this chance to put my Frasier Crane information on the record, once and for all.

On the show, Frasier, his uptight brother Niles, their grumpy father Martin, ditzy housekeeper Daphne Moon, and sexpot Roz Doyle all hang out at the Cafe Nervosa at the corner of Pike Street and Third Avenue in downtown Seattle.  This favored coffee shop is across the street from the radio studio, KCAL (780 AM) where Frasier and Roz work.

None of this is true in the real world, except for the intersection of Third and Pike.  The Google Map of 3rd and Pike is where Cafe Nervosa is supposed to be.

View Larger Map

I have featured this location many times in this blog since, despite being one of the most important crossroads of the city for business and shopping, 3rd and Pike is a dangerous place with rampant drug dealing, prostitution, stabbings, and even public murders in the middle of the day.  I honestly can't see the fictional Niles wanting to hang out very much at the real 3rd and Pike.

And yes, there is a coffee shop there.  A tiny and always crowded Starbucks on the southwest corner.  There actually is a chain Italian restaurant called Cafe Nervosa but there is no location in Seattle.  The now defunct Elliott Bay Bookstore in Pioneer Square is thought to be the inspiration for Cafe Nervosa on the show, but it was located nowhere near 3rd and Pike.  I agree that both Frasier and Niles would have been regulars at Elliott Bay Books, as was I for many years, and I miss the place.  Niles would have thrived on the intellectualism (pseudo and otherwise) that oozed from the walls.  The store did move to Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood but the new location is not just the same.

In Seattle, the radio and TV stations are located about a mile from 3rd and Pike near the Space Needle.  There is no KCAL, 780AM in Seattle either.  The nearest call letters are KTTH, 770 AM, which is a conservative talk radio station featuring Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Ever see the opening credits of the ABC show GREY'S ANATOMY?  The "hospital" where the helicopter lands is actually the KOMO-TV studio at Fisher Plaza in Seattle, about one block from the Space Needle and a mile from the mythical Cafe Nervosa.  Frasier and Roz would work within 250 yards of the Space Needle where just about every Seattle radio and TV station in the city is located.

This area, unfortunately, is a high crime area at night, especially for prostitution.  There is extensive new residential and commercial development around Seattle's Space Needle, especially the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters literally across the street.  But the real Frasier and Roz for the most part would work in a gritty neighborhood known for the homeless and drug dealing at night.

On the other hand, Frasier, Martin, and Daphne live in an apartment with an amazing balcony view of the Space Needle and the downtown Seattle skyline.  Many people looking for apartments wish this view actually existed.  It doesn't in real life, at least visible from a building.

A question I've gotten from friends and website visitors for years is "Where is Frasier's building?"  I'm sorry to say that Frasier's magnificent view is a figment of Hollywood's imagination.  No apartment building in Seattle has such a view.

The actual studio backdrop shot used on the Frasier apartment set was taken with a long lens from Seattle's famous Kerry Park, a stop for any tourist visiting the city.  The views are amazing.  Tourists line up with their cameras to take this shot. Can you see how similar it is to the view from Frasier's balcony?

Ever see the film 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles?  The introduction of the movie was filmed at Kerry Park.  So if you watch the opening sequence to the film, this is where Frasier was supposed to live, a very nice part of Seattle called Queen Anne, known for its wine bars, cheese shops, and luxury housing all atop a VERY VERY VERY steep hill that was one of Seattle's first planned residential communities---for the wealthy.

In real life, however, Frasier Crane's apartment building with that angled view of Seattle (looking directly to the Southeast) would have been in a part of Seattle called the Denny Regrade, an area of extensive condo development since NBC put Frasier on the air for the first time in 1993.  The Denny Regrade is famous in Seattle history because this entire neighborhood was created by washing mountains of soil into the bay using high pressure hoses to create flat level building lots.

This first photograph is approximately where Frasier Crane lived in the year 1906.  Notice the hose squirting water and the house in the distance for scale. It is amazing to believe that a full 27 cubic city blocks of soil was sluiced into Puget Sound to create two neighborhoods for residential and commercial development.  The entire meat of the project took just 22 months from start to finish, even though sluicing continued in the area for more than thirty years.

The second picture is the 1907 intersection of 3rd Avenue and Virginia Street, about three blocks from Frasier's mythical Cafe Nervosa, which would have been exactly where the wooden buildings in the distance are located.  The building being constructed in the background still exists and is a residential hotel.  Once again, notice the size of the hills being chopped away using the railroad locomotive as scale.

The third picture shows the last stages of the Denny Regrade in 1929.  Notice the city skyline in the distance.  Frasier Crane's apartment building, called the Elliott Bay Towers on the show, would have been built on the land in the foreground of this photo.

Incidentally, Seattle has no Elliott Bay Tower Apartments---YET.

What I can tell fans of the show is that the screenwriters definitely were looking at Seattle maps when they were writing the scripts.  The city of Bellevue, WA, for example, is EAST of Seattle, just like Frasier says.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

125% Increase in Seattle Car Tabs

Voters in Seattle are being asked to approve Proposition 1, a $60 per year increase in automobile registration rates.  The proceeds, according to a unanimous vote by the Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike "McSchwinn" will be used for transportation improvements.

In a unique and rare repudiation of both the City Council and the Mayor, the Seattle Times editorial board is urging a voter rejection of Prop 1.

I agree with the Seattle Times in what must surely be a sign of the Apocalypse.

If you understand what Prop 1 is really all about, you will appreciate life in the People's Republic of Seattle and how everything public in the Emerald City has a certain Alice in Wonderland quality.

And King County, where Seattle is located, just added another $20 this past August.

If approved, this would mean the average Seattle car owner would see their vehicle registration jump from $80 per year to a whopping $180, a massive 125% increase.

Of course, you pay this $100 increase no matter what type of car you drive.  The 2011 BMW 760Li and the 1975 Ford Pinto pay the same regressive rate.

Seattle claims it needs this new money, an estimated $27 million per year, to make important local transportation improvements.  REALLY?

$18 million would go to study (not build, but study) the development of two streetcar lines in the city.  Even supporters agree that these lines will likely never be built.  The current Seattle streetcar, the South Lake Union Trolley (nicknamed "The SLUT" for the obvious acronym) is a money loser and white elephant

So, at a time that all five of Seattle's main bridges are in need of urgent repair and earthquake retrofitting, the city wants to spend $18,000,000 to study streetcar lines that should not be built and likely never will.

Oh, the story gets better....

Remember the original $20 increase from August 2011 imposed by King County?  Did that amount go to help build new roads or repair the existing ones?  No, the money went to mass transit and to preserve bus lines.  Once again, car owners subsidize non-car owners.

But in a city where sidewalks are needed desperately in some northern Seattle neighborhoods, only NINE BLOCKS PER YEAR are allocated to be built.

At the present time, it appears that Prop 1 will fall to defeat.  Virtually everyone is against it except the bicycle clubs and labor unions that would benefit from the financial windfall.

So what does any of this story, however interesting it is, have to do with real estate investment?

Simple.  When Prop 1 fails, Seattle will do once again what it did before.

Tax real property owners to get the road and bike money it needs.

The great sham in the Prop 1 debate is the relatively untold story of a 2006 tax increase called "Bridging the Gap" which was supposed to completely eliminate the backlog of transportation projects in Seattle.

It didn't, obviously.  Homeowners (and investors) in Seattle are still paying the $365 million tax bill.  Where did much of the Bridging the Gap money go?  You guessed it.  Mass transit and not road repairs. Aside from being ashamed of this fact, Seattle boasts about it.

"BE BOLD" he admonished the City Council.

Instead, they were reckless and came up with the madness that is Seattle Proposition 1.

When I finally find myself agreeing with Ken Schram, maybe the Apocalypse really is on the way after all.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

S&P 500 Bear Market

As Mr. Bernanke spoke today, the S&P 500 index officially hit bear market territory.  You can watch the video above and listen to the words that spooked traders this morning.

What is more interesting to me is how the financial press covered Bernanke's testimony today.  Here is an excellent example from IBT.  Did you hear what they say he said?