Bulletin: Alki sidewalk opponents suggest they’ll sue

Just back from the contentious Alki Community Center meeting where SDOT briefed community members on two options for completing the segmented sidewalk on the north side of Alki Ave from the west end of Alki Beach Park to the spot where the unbroken sidewalk picks up again just south of Alki Point. Most of the residents along the affected stretch of Alki Ave want to keep the status quo, which the city says is not an option; at the end of the meeting, after one attendee said “What would it take to just stop this process?” and Sandra Woods from SDOT said she couldn’t answer that, neighbor Charles Turbak announced he’s starting an opposition group with the goal of hiring a lawyer to stop the project. Stand by for more details from the meeting. ADDED 11:22 PM: Here are those details:

63rdcalming.jpg

That’s one of several fairly rudimentary PowerPoint slides shown tonight – photos marked up with blue lines, pink lines, and more. That one is part of the proposal — as we first reported here in early February, when neighbor opposition first led SDOT to revise the Alki sidewalk plan, its managers decided to look at ways to more clearly mark 63rd/Alki as a “turn here” spot — what you see above is a proposal for realigned crosswalks, signage (hard to see from the aerial view), and narrowing the entrance to Alki Ave west of 63rd.

One more radical proposal for that stretch of Alki Ave seemed to be dead in the water before tonight’s meeting was even over — Woods showed a rough proposal that would make it a one-way street, heading clockwise/northeastward from the north end of Beach Drive; under that proposal, drivers heading west on Alki Ave would be forced to turn left at 63rd and head over to Beach to reconnect with Alki. Woods stressed she was only floating the idea because it had come up as a suggestion during her conversations with area residents in recent weeks, and hadn’t seriously studied it; she asked for a show of hands on the idea and it didn’t gain much traction, so she indicated it wouldn’t go any further.

What will go forward, beyond tonight’s meeting, is a lot murkier. First a little backstory: As recently departed Alki Community Council trustee Gary Ogden explains (and tried to explain again to the angry crowd tonight), closing the sidewalk gaps on the west side of Alki Avenue around Alki Point is a project that community leaders had been trying for 12 years to get the city to fund. Finally last year, as we first reported in September (WSB coverage here), the project made the list of Neighborhood Street Fund projects the city might fund – our September report pointed out that the city was offering an online survey where residents could have a say on which projects advanced in the process.

After that survey was done, we reported last November that the mayor recommended funding for the sidewalk plan (along with another West Seattle project). In December, we heard from an area resident concerned about possible effects of the project. Over the next month, neighborhood opposition gathered steam, and in mid-January (WSB coverage here) a large, upset crowd of neighbors appeared at an Alki Community Council meeting to try to get a resolution passed; main problem at the time, most of them weren’t voting members of the ACC (any resident can join; online signup/payment is available). Then in February came word the city was pulling back on its first draft of a plan, adding 63rd “traffic calming,” and planning to present options at a community meeting (the one held tonight).

Major concerns voiced previously by residents along the north side of Alki included fears they would lose parking spaces that currently exist where a sidewalk would go, and also lose existing landscaping. Woods’ presentation tonight indicated that city engineers have worked as hard as they can to minimize parking loss and to come up with a plan that doesn’t take away any existing landscaping.

She started her presentation with some numbers — more than half of the nearly half-mile stretch, 1220 feet total, already has sidewalks, and they go in front of 62 percent of the residences in the area. She said only about 10 existing parking spaces would be lost, more than half of them in the southernmost stretch of the project, right around Alki Point. She explained a dizzying array of ways the added sidewalk stretches would be built without disrupting most of the existing parking configurations.

And then the concerns flew fast and furious. What about bicyclists? “The sidewalk will be raised, so they should stay on the street,” said Woods. “You wish!” somebody hissed.

Concerns about the safety of visitors not following the rules was a frequent theme — bikers, skateboarders, just plain gawkers. And speeders too, one attendee noted, saying: “The good thing about the mess we have now is that it slows everybody down – it’s kind of a good thing.”

Why not just improve the sidewalk on the other side of the street? came a voice. “We’re trying to create the links between the existing stretches of sidewalk,” explained Woods. “Why not just remove those stretches altogether, then?” asked a man, and applause erupted.

Then another voice from the back of the room: “People who live there are taking advantage of public property. We woulid like to take advantage of public property — we’re just asking to use the public property.” (That referred to the fact the disputed area is largely in the public right-of-way, with some of the residents’ usage stretching beyond their property lines into that right-of-way.)

And later, a similar question for the neighborhood opponents: “I’m just wondering, what’s your objection if you are not losing landscaping, and losing minimal parking spaces? It seems like the city has bent over backward to accommodate your concerns.”

A voice from the opponents: “Nobody asked us! Nobody came to our door and asked us if we wanted a sidewalk.” That’s when Turbak announced he would take e-mail addresses to form an official opposition group and look into hiring a lawyer. As one more person from the 70-plus-member audience said, “This would steer traffic toward an unsafe area,” Woods made one more try: “People are going to continue to walk (along Alki Ave) toward the lighthouse. This is providing them a safe option.”

By then, she had lost most of the audience; they were gathering around Turbak at the back of the room to sign up for his list.

Next steps: We’ll be checking with the opposition group as well as with the city. April 9 is the deadline Woods gave tonight for the city to receive comment cards that weren’t completed at tonight’s meeting; she says the compilation of those comments should be put together by mid-month, and the project will proceed from there.

22 Replies to "Bulletin: Alki sidewalk opponents suggest they'll sue"

  • Jeremiah April 2, 2008 (9:40 pm)

    Imminent Domain. Bwahahahaha.
    And the kicker? Once the sidewalks are put in, the homeowners will have to be responsible for the maintenence.

  • Huindekmi April 2, 2008 (9:46 pm)

    Yeah! This is our street! No one else can use the public right of way but us! We’ll sue to make sure this public space stays private!

  • acemotel April 2, 2008 (10:08 pm)

    I wish I could have attended this meeting to hear the lamentations of the privileged. What is the foundation of a lawsuit? Jeremiah, the term you’re looking for is eminent domain (not imminent), which is the seizure of private property for public use. These people have been parking on PUBLIC land. That’s called encroachment. A private party encroaching on public property doesn’t have any standing in a lawsuit. If there’s any lawsuit, it would be against the private homeowners who are preventing public access to the public right-of-way. ::shaking head

  • miws April 2, 2008 (10:28 pm)

    acemotel, It might actually end up being imminent after all! :P

    .

    Mike

  • Mike Dady April 3, 2008 (6:20 am)

    Sad. The very limited Bridging The Gap funds available for sidewalk construction are being ‘processed’ to death. What a shame.

  • Alki neighbors fight sidewalk investment- I know some neighborhoods happy to take those funds. — Smarter Neighbors April 3, 2008 (6:44 am)

    […] read about this on the West Seattle Blog. It seems that folks along Alki Ave are fighting(!?!) against “two options for completing the segmented sidewalk on the north side of Alki Ave […]

  • Will on 56th April 3, 2008 (6:57 am)

    I have lived in the Alki area for thirty years during that time I have always wondered why the sidewalk at the West end of Alki Beach Park was illegally blocked by obstacles and cars. This requires I and all others who wanted to walk over to the South side of Alki Point had to cross the street. I realize that parking is at a premium but do not see why I and my fellow citizens are required to vacate the sidewalk for some of those on the water side to park close to their homes.

    I think this is a once in a life time chance to return the sidewalk to its rightful owners and to provide a maximum amount of legal parking for the residents of the Alki Point area.

    Further I if this improvement is rejected, I suggest that all parking laws be enforced in this area so that the sidewalk will be as open as possible.

  • carraig na splinkeen April 3, 2008 (7:07 am)

    Lawsuit? Poppycock. It’s public right-of-way. There are many cases throughout the city where residents have encroached on public R-O-W to park and landscape but that doesn’t mean ownership goes along with that.
    And I think it’s important to point out that it’s neither eminent domain nor condemnation when it’s in Public R-O-W.
    Worst case of NIMBY-ism in a long time.

  • m April 3, 2008 (7:12 am)

    why not just enforce parking laws now?

  • intheneighborhood April 3, 2008 (8:08 am)

    WSB, please tell us how we can comment to the city about the proposal, so we don’t get drowned out by the opponents. Remember, for every whining sidewalk opponent who just wants to park on city land, there are dozens of locals who frequently walk around the point and would like to use the sidewalk there.

    I hope the opponents do bring a lawsuit and waste a lot of their money. They remind me of the landowners who tried to block (unsuccessfully) the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

  • WSB April 3, 2008 (8:20 am)

    I am doublechecking on that along with the “what’s next.” In the short run, the city person who has been working on this project and led last night’s meeting is probably a good person to e-mail for starters (I will post an update later if not):
    sandra.woods@seattle.gov

  • carraig na splinkeen April 3, 2008 (8:37 am)

    Don’t forget to send pro comments (or give SDOT staff permissiion to) to City Councils’ and Mayor’s offices.
    I already did just all of the above.

  • sam April 3, 2008 (8:37 am)

    as a “have not,” it is interesting to hear that the “have’s” are whining. I’d love sidewalks in my neighborhood, and I’ve heard that many of my neighbors would too. I fear for my safety when I take the dog for a walk, go up the street to get the mail. If he’s late, I wonder if my husband got hit by a car on his way back from the bus stop.

    too bad our neighborhood’s Bridging the gap proposal got turned down for something like this.

  • Chris April 3, 2008 (9:29 am)

    I walked my dog along there yesterday and had no trouble just as it is. It works fine. Wheelchairs can use the other side of the street. The homes were built back when this was a beach community and it seems non-standard. I like the funky quality to it. Use the money on more pressing needs…

  • GenHillOne April 3, 2008 (10:23 am)

    I find it so funny that “the voice” thought someone should come to his door and ask him/her if they wanted a sidewalk. So wrong on a number of levels. While I’m completely jealous of their location, those homeowners need to remember that on one side they have a beach that is open to the public and on the other, a street that is open to the public. With priviledge comes responsibility.

  • Jumbojim April 3, 2008 (10:26 am)

    Gee, I guess we didn’t see this one coming huh? It seemed pretty obvious when this story first popped up that it was just about some selfish people not wanting to give up “their” private parking spots on PUBLIC property and that they would do wahtever they could to fight it.

    I hope they blow a big wad of cash in a losing effort…..

  • north of 85th April 3, 2008 (11:53 am)

    We would gladly take the West Seattle BTG funds and use them in the north end. We have millions of dollars in projects that are sorely needed. Wow. This is amazing.

  • WSB April 3, 2008 (1:30 pm)

    OK – official word from SDOT is that the address I provided above in comments is where to send your feedback on this situation (Sandra Woods). SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan says they are still researching how they would go about canceling this sort of project (as one person asked last night) because nothing like this has ever happened before. Will keep following up …

  • acemotel April 3, 2008 (1:54 pm)

    Cancel the project, enforce the parking rules on Alki Ave (ticket cars obstructing the public ROW) and tax and fine encroachments on public land via driveways, walkways, landscaping, enclosures, patios, garages, decks, etc. Just like it’s done in the real world to the working people. Anyone else would get a ticket if their vehicle overhangs the sidewalk by one foot. Anyone else trying to construct or garden on public land would get a visit from DPD faster than a speeding bullet. Hello! Is the city sleeping? Or do campaign contributions help in turning a blind eye? something to research……. Our elected officials should answer for this.

  • Jen April 4, 2008 (8:23 pm)

    I walk this stretch with my dog nearly everyday and I am really looking forward to having a connected sidewalk. It’s public property and is now taken advantage by those who live there. People walk where there should be a sidewalk now, creating danger for themselves and for drivers. As a former East Coaster (I’ve lived in Seattle for 10 years), I’m often surprised at the selfishness of Seattlites. Many seem to feel a lovely neighborhood solely belongs to themselves and the general public have no right to use the public property. It’s sad.

  • Gary Ogden April 7, 2008 (8:10 am)

    The sidewalk proposal is all about Public Safety. Public Safety in the existing Public ROW. The Bridging the Gap criteria was that the projects be near Schools and Parks. This uncompleted sidewalk connects two (2) public parks (beaches) and a Public Lighthouse facility in the middle. Currently pedestrians are forced to cross Alki Ave SW two (2) times to access either the Lighthouse or the opposite Public Beach. Crossing a busy street either in a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk is dangerous. The completed sidewalk will allow pedestrians to walk on the water side of the streets from SW Spokane Street onto Harbor Ave SW onto Alki Ave SW onto Beach Drive SW all the way to Lowman Beach Park and into lower Lincoln Park Beach without having to cross any streets. The priviledged nimbys who reside on Alki Point are using the existing Public lands for thier personal uses while paying no taxes or user fees. Thay are attempting to use scare tactics in order to keep thier privacy. While suggesting the people who live accross the street assume all of the alleged negative impacts that they do not want to dael with. A very selfish perspective indeed.

  • CS May 7, 2008 (10:08 am)

    As a property owner on Alki Beach – well the enforcement of the sidewalk has already begun. We’ve been ticketed twice for parking on the “sidewalk” this past week, although we’ve been parking there without issue for decades. I called Parking Enforcement but their stance is – it was always illegal, and now we’re enforcing it due to public (anonymous) complaint. I called Theresa Casper, the Project Manager for the sidewalk proposal, but she denied having anything to do with it (ya, right). So there is no way for property owners to expect formal notice – if people start complaining – the police will start ticketing. However, our property extends into the water. We have never bothered enforcing the right to prevent people from walking on the beach. But we will now. So – the public can take the sidewalk back – but the property owners will take back the beach they own and you can bet I will be reporting any trespassers on it from now on.

Sorry, comment time is over.

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