By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At the north end of Delridge Way Southwest, one of West Seattle’s four major north-south arterials, sits the house by The Bridge.
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Though it looks for all the world as if it should have a Delridge address, it’s officially on 23rd SW. Technicalities aside, it’s seen by thousands of Delridge drivers who stream by every day on their way to one of West Seattle’s two bridges – the Spokane Street Swing Bridge, aka “the low bridge,” or the newly rechristened Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge, aka “the high bridge.”
The house is not exactly a beloved landmark. By some estimates, it’s sat empty for more than 20 years – it’s had the same owner for 21. It’s got a history of complaints, most recent one a case closed last summer. One year ago, it was the first stop on a “problem properties” tour organized by Mike Dady, then-co-chair of the North Delridge Neighborhood Council – he’s on the left in this photo, with Councilmember Tim Burgess:
Since that tour, both city councilmembers who participated – Sally Clark was the other – have helped pass code changes that give the city new tools to deal with abandoned, trouble-magnet buildings. Two of the houses on the tour have since been demolished. But the house by the bridge carries on. Because of the code changes, its owner could tear it down – but has never pursued a permit to do so.
Now, where it fits into the graffiti-vandalism photo: A few weeks back, it sported big new tags. A neighborhood activist sent us this photo, which we’ve partially blurred because our policy is generally not to show tags in their entirety:
The puffy lettering was explained at a recent crime-awareness meeting as the work of simple vandals, without a gang connotation. Nonetheless, it needed to be painted out, and at that meeting, Delridge Neighborhoods District Coordinator Ron Angeles said he was pretty sure it was scheduled for a paintout shortly – and indeed, within a few days, it was gone.
And therein lies the rub, and the brush, for the neighbors. It’s hard work to keep this up. Some tools are available – in Angeles’s office at the Neighborhood Service Center, about a mile south of the house, the “red wagon” is there for the borrowing:
It’s a citywide program – detailed here. But it comes with a long list of caveats – Angeles shows us the printouts while we take photos of the wagon and its contents; they’re in the Paint It Out brochure offered by the city.
Tagging is a crime that stirs passions because it has so many victims – those who are forced to look at it, day after day, until and unless it gets painted out. In a WSB discussion of West Seattle graffiti vandalism, “Pie” wrote: “I wish someone could explain to taggers that the only people they are impressing are the other moronic taggers. 99% of the people in the neighborhood who see the crap aren’t impressed – we don’t understand the idiotic need to spray an ugly symbol on public or private property to “claim” it. If someone could get that through their heads, that no one but you and your idiot rivals cares, I doubt tagging would be long for the world.”
In the same discussion, “Dick” countered: “It’s just paint! Who cares? You shouldn’t associate us graffiti writers with gang members. There’s a very distinct line. They do it to mark their territory. While we do it for the rush, fame, or what have you. Comparing us to real criminals such as drug dealers, murderers, rapists etc is just absurd. You’re really going to get so upset over a millimeter thick layer of paint?! I can’t tell who is the one acting like a child. Us writers, or you guys…”
Without a voice in the discussion, the house by the bridge sits. Today with a big gray patch – from the last paintout – interrupting its faded brick-red exterior; tomorrow? Depends on whether anyone shows up with a spray can tonight.