By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Whoever you talk to about the “South Delridge Triangle Bus Stop Park” [map], Kim Barnes began, “they say, oh yeah, we gotta do something about that.”
Last summer’s Find It, Fix It Walk provided the spark to ignite “something,” and after a community workshop on Saturday morning, it’s officially launched. About 20 people gathered at the Highland Park Improvement Club to discuss the site’s challenges and possibilities.
Along with community members – led by Barnes, who’s with the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council – city reps were there too, including SPD’s Lt. Ron Smith and Sgt. Ryan Long, since safety/crime concerns are a major motivator for doing “something.”
So is the fact that the site could become a RapidRide stop when Delridge’s RR line opens in a few years.
Barnes said there’s talk the triangle might be a RapidRide stop when Delridge gets its RR line later this decade. Right now, it’s primarily a stop for Route 60, described as relatively little-used.
SDOT rep Susan McLaughlin gave a presentation about possibilities. She noted that people are more likely to use public transportation when stops are safe, clean, etc. She shared her view of the spot “from an urban design standpoint” – the vegetation is dense and shady, with “a lot of hiding places,” for starters. The streetlamp nearby needs to be switched to a brighter, LED bulb, which is something they could talk with SDOT about. The sidewalks are too narrow to support a major transit stop; there are too many lanes of traffic for a crossing without “controls.”
This is by no means the first attempt to upgrade the area, participants pointed out – there was talk of a neighbor who had been involved in past efforts. “There’s a ‘for sale’ sign in front of her house now,” one person observed, sadly.
That veered to talk about staying vigilant about trash and dumping in the triangle, and working with Seattle Public Utilities on that. “Ultimately design will mitigate all those occurrences,” McLaughlin said.
The problem affects people living nearby as well as people passing through. Barnes noted that property across the street, holding “abandoned homes,” is up for sale; the area has seen a lot of recent redevelopment. But this event was very specifically intended to address the triangle itself.
McLaughlin went on to discuss possible short-term actions, introducing the term “tactical urbanism.” That happens, she explained, when “people get fed up waiting for change,” and make it happen themselves. She manages SDOT’s Adaptive Streets program, which she said can help those “fed up” people work on “creating change now.”
She showed examples of projects from New York City to downtown Seattle, including the first P2P project on First Hill, where “we closed an intersection.” This is all in the service of creating more-walkable neighborhoods, whose residents “are more likely to engage in active transportation.”
Her program “may not be the only answer here, but it’s part of the solution.” She’s tasked with launching Pavement to Parks projects and says the Delridge Triangle may not “hit the mark exactly … it’s not pavement … but the strategies are the same.” She also discussed “tactical projects” that often precede “pavement to parks,” with things like curb bulbs and painted crosswalks. Priority areas include those that are short on open space, where race/social justice are a factor, traffic safety is an issue, and more. And the forthcoming RapidRide line could be the perfect catalyst to mobilize the community.
But this isn’t something that community can just throw in SDOT’s lap, McLaughlin said – “community partners” are vital. As are metrics:
“You never know what’s going to happen once communities mobilize,” she concluded.
So the discussion moved on to a list of problems:
*Harassment/intimidation/aggression (from people loitering)
*People living in vehicles “on the 18th SW side” or camping
*Lack of community accessibility
*Space has no “identity” (or) obvious use (or) legible use
*Main bus on Delridge doesn’t stop there (the 60 does, 120 doesn’t)
*Trouble at nearby 7-11
*Apartment buildings nearby are “a wall” giving cover to illicit activity
Some said they had tried to get nearby businesses involved – that they had reached out but not heard back.
Then came possibilities:
*Address the elevation change in the park – flattening it might help
*Respect and honor the memorial that’s there
*Lots of other Delridge Triangles – maybe take them on
*Establish an identity for the core of our neighborhood
*Be clear on who ‘owns’ the site – park? SDOT? – so that police are aware
*Incorporate Green Stormwater Infrastructure
And as for how could the space be used?
*Bike infrastructure – bike parking for large family-size bikes could enhance neighborhood transportation
*Connect with 17th SW greenway
*Connect with White Center
*Could 18th SW south of Barton be closed to traffic? Or made one-way?
*Play structure for kids in neighborhood – swing? space for soccer? ping-pong table? (McLaughlin pointed out the Play Streets program at this point)
*Could city consider buying the vacant houses nearby for open space?
*Murals on side of a nearby building
Regarding the site’s functionality as a bus stop/pedestrian connection:
*Moving it might be more workable than other dramatic changes, said SDOT’s McLaughlin
*Permeable pavement is required as first consideration for new sidewalk
*Community crosswalk/intersection painting – though, it was cautioned, they have prerequisites. Starting with that kind of project could be a good incremental improvement to start with.
*Figure out where you want people to cross – matching sight lines, safety, desirable crossing spot, etc., all that could precede where the bus stop would be located for RapidRide. A marked crosswalk would be hard to install without “stop controls,” at least on Delridge, but one might be an option for Barton.
The adjacent areas came up again – specifically, concerns about the empty business spaces across Delridge, such as the former payday-loan business and ex-dispensary space. Improving public spaces would make the privately owned spaces more attractive for businesses, McLaughlin said. And in the nearer term, perhaps some simple actions would be possible in the public right-of-way – plant a tree, “de-pave,” etc.
Brightening the light in the antique-style streetlamp at the park could happen fairly quickly, it was agreed. The small grant obtained to “jump-start” this process could cover some small things, Barnes said.
SPD’s Sgt. Long was asked about the possibility of regular patrols in the area. He reminded attendees that SPD is generally “complaint-driven,” but said that the newly added bicycle squad (6 officers and a supervisor, though they are awaiting 4 more bicycles) could include it in their areas of emphasis, which currently include nearby Westwood as well as South Park.
The group was also reminded of other agencies whose efforts can be brought to bear against some of the recurring problems – vacant buildings and properties with overgrowth and trash could be part of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections complaint process.
The workshop’s final action was formation of a committee to start making plans and taking action, including working with SDOT’s McLaughlin “to get us to a deliverable,” and checking into upcoming grant processes, such as the new “participatory budgeting” plan for Neighborhood Park and Street Fund money (previewed here last week).
The South Delridge Community Group, which had members at the workshop, has monthly cleanups and decided on the spot to meet at the bus-stop triangle at 10 am Saturday, February 11th. If you missed the meeting but want to get connected with the triangle improvement process as it unfolds, subscribe to e-mail updates here.