(WSB photo: David Groves of Seattle Logo Pro presents the mayor with a hometown T-shirt)
2:23 PM: Within the past half-hour, Mayor Ed Murray wrapped up more than two and a half hours in West Seattle – including second-watch roll call at the Southwest Precinct, a walking tour of The Junction and Triangle, and an open-to-all coffee chat that drew more than 20 people. Talking with WSB for a few minutes after all that (we were along for the walking tour and coffee chat), the mayor said he was inspired by the “positive, can-do attitude” of the people he talked with – the “most upbeat … neighborhood” he’d visited. We’ll be adding more photos and the full story over the next few hours.
MIDNIGHT: Took longer than we had hoped. Here’s how it unfolded:
(Photo courtesy Mayor Murray’s office)
The mayor’s visit to the precinct wasn’t pre-announced to the media, unlike the walking tour, so we don’t know what was said – we heard about it from an officer we were talking to about something else, somewhere else, then asked mayoral communications director Viet Shelton if a photo were available. The walking tour started from Elliott Bay Brewing, where Murray checked out EB’s new reusable takeout containers:
Meeting up with the mayor there were four community advocates – René Commons of the Junction Neighborhood Organization (JuNO), Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association, Josh Sutton of the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor), and Vlad Oustimovitch.
He stopped in several more of The Junction’s small independent businesses:
Walking north on California after the stop at Husky Deli with Jack Miller, the mayor stopped to reminisce about his West Seattle childhood, saying, for example, that Taqueria Guaymas had been a fish market. And he heard about the historical-resources survey just announced this month, intended to catalog what The Junction has that might be worthy of protection.
Further up the street, in a building often mentioned informally as a possible landmark, a stop to talk with Easy Street Records‘ Matt Vaughan:
After that, a journey through one of the city’s few Walk-All-Ways intersections:
Then east down Alaska, with a stop at Junction Plaza Park, for the first of three short TV interviews he did – not about the West Seattle visit, but about an action he had just announced this morning, banning city workers from spending city money to travel to Indiana because of the potentially discrimination-enabling law just passed there.
Moving into the development-intensive zone along Alaska, the mayor heard from community advocates pointing out what was going on, and going in. That included, once they reached The Triangle, concerns about the low-rise CVS drugstore planned for a site where something denser would be allowed under the current zoning. And on the other side of Fauntleroy/Alaska, he got a quick primer on the almost-complete Spruce development, on the site that spent several years known as “The Hole.”
At the ex-Hole, aka Spruce, with the mayor & Vlad Oustimovitch pic.twitter.com/kjDPUr28Ka
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) March 28, 2015
Also at that intersection, a brief discussion about West Seattle’s transit challenges, and the fact buses get hung up in traffic without grade separation or dedicated lanes.
With city employees along including Yun Pitre and Kerry Wade, local district coordinators from the Department of Neighborhoods, and employees from the Departments of Transportation and Planning and Development, including Susan McLain, a West Seattleite who had been the lead on the Triangle Plan a few years back, the mayor continued eastward. Another business stop: Greg Whittaker of Mountain to Sound Outfitters invited the mayor in to shop their clearance sale. (He did buy something; we missed seeing what it was.)
Before catching up with the group waiting inside Chaco Canyon Organic Café’s community room, discussion turned to pedestrian challenges across SW Alaska in The Triangle, which will intensify as its relationship to The Junction deepens. Sutton pointed out the development at 35th and Avalon that will have a hillclimb for people to head up into the business districts.
And the last point made to the mayor before the group headed into Chaco Canyon was about property crime and street disorder in The Junction; Melrose told the mayor they had had “beat cops” there for a while and would love to have them again. He pointed out the acknowledgment that enforcement and prosecution of property and drug crimes had dropped about five or so years ago and that the city and county were working to get back to that. Regarding people sleeping on the streets, he touted the in-progress legislation to facilitate more legal encampments, and plans to spend more money on shelter, though he also pointed out the city already spends plenty on trying to alleviate homelessness, and that it’s a “national crisis.”
Inside the café, the mayor was first greeted by Mary Fleck from the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, who had a blown-up “job description” she said they wanted to present for the next CEO of Seattle City Light:
She explained to them that they’ve been working to get the city to save at least some of its former substations as open space. Murray acknowledged, “As we grow, we need more open space.”
Next to bring up an ongoing issue, Paul Haury from Seattle NERD (Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development). He didn’t go into the entire background of the appeal ruling his organization won relating to development proposals on SW Avalon and calculations regarding traffic and parking, but in relation to the recent turn that has taken – as reported here – he told the mayor they want to “make density reasonable” and they “appreciate the city abiding by the rules.”
The mayor, told the exchanges with the city had been “adversarial,” expressed regret and said, “We want to work with you.” He also told Haury that “you can’t be NIMBY with a name like (Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development).”
Next around the table, Amanda Kay Helmick, speaking as co-chair of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (while also noting her leadership role with the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council and her candidacy for City Council District 1). She brought up the need for a bus lane to get transit through bridge traffic, not just the partial one that exists there now. Murray said, “We know we have to do something to get transit in and out of West Seattle before light rail. … We’re in the process of looking at that, we have to find something that works now.”
Other issues brought up:
*The Terminal 5 modernization “determination of (environmental) non-significance” – Murray said he wasn’t sure he saw the city’s path through this, since it doesn’t have an oversight role with the port.
*New standardized testing in schools, so controversial that some are opting out – the mayor says there has to be some standard of some kind. He moves on to briefly point out that Seattle Public Schools has long since regained its lost areas.
*Housing affordability. He was asked by a woman who later revealed herself to be Janice Harper, who wrote the wrenching “Dear Landlord” published by Seattle Weekly. The mayor defended Seattle as “producing affordable housing at a higher rate” than other cities, but also acknowledged that more needs to be done, saying it’s a “difficult” time. “I can see my way through almost every issue, but this is tough.”
*Transportation infrastructure in the face of densification. The man who asked about this said we’re adding housing, taking away parking, need the streets fixed. The mayor said the main way to deal with all this is to get more transit. And regarding density, he said, at least it’s happening in the places designated long ago – such as the Junction and Triangle.
In all, one theme emerged for much of what the mayor was asked about – “We’re playing serious catch-up” on a variety of issues, due, he suggests, to inactivity/slow activity in the past.
One more neighborhood issue brought up before the community chat concluded – an Alki man explained his concerns about cell-phone antennas planned to go onto the roof of an apartment building at 61st/Stevens, across the street from the Log House Museum, barely a block from Alki Elementary. (He has an online petition.) The mayor said he hadn’t heard about this but “You’ve got my attention – that’s the street I grew up on, 61st.”
After he left Chaco Canyon, we were allotted some time for a one-on-one conversation. We’ll be adding results of that in a second installment later this (Sunday) morning.
–Tracy Record, WSB editor