Mayor Murray’s 2 1/2-plus-hour West Seattle visit, report #1: Roll call, walking tour, coffee chat

(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 RecordsMatt 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.”

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

15 Replies to "Mayor Murray's 2 1/2-plus-hour West Seattle visit, report #1: Roll call, walking tour, coffee chat "

  • Hannah March 28, 2015 (3:13 pm)

    Walking around west seattle does not equate to leadership which this mayor lacks in so many areas
    Remember fish Tuesday when he asks for 1 billion dollars for his transpertation scheme that does little or nothing for our community
    One term mayor!

    • WSB March 28, 2015 (3:30 pm)

      He came to listen. Were you among those who were there to talk? As you’ll see in the forthcoming story, two people brought up transportation issues. One was local neighborhood advocate and City Council candidate Amanda Kay Helmick. The other was a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch. – TR

  • Eric D March 28, 2015 (3:24 pm)

    I love that shirt David! Good pic.

  • KT March 28, 2015 (4:08 pm)

    Dear WSB;
    I read you faithfully several times per day for all the news that is the news about West Seattle! However, I find your response to “Hannah” a little beneath you. For an endeavor that boasts of it’s journalistic impartiality, you sound an awful lot like the Mayor’s Press Office. And your comment “Were you among those who were there to talk” just flat out condescending. She can’t express her displeasure with this Mayor if she didn’t attend? What if she wanted to but something like a job prevented her?

    I wasn’t there and I really do not believe he “came to listen”. He came to pimp his humungous transportation property tax levy. How many times has he “come to listen” since his election?

    • WSB March 28, 2015 (4:32 pm)

      KT, thank you for your comment. Covering just about every meeting of note, with or without elected officials, and publishing advance notice of them, to help get the word out, is something we spend a ton of time on – because it’s important. (And yes, that’s an opinion. You may disagree.) At many such events, whether they’re on weekends or in the evening, whatever the neighborhood, we see the same relatively small group of committed citizens. Meantime, here in the comments, we see some people who offer the same criticism or argument over and over again without as far as we can tell actually showing up to help with the small group of people who are trying to make a difference (and believe me, the more help they have, the more voices who join in, the more difference is made), or showing up when there’s a chance to actually look somebody who works for you/us (the mayor, for example) in the eye and say, “Why didn’t you …” I’m sure there are a thousand reasons why – life is busy and we are all tired – but if maybe 10 more people every week jumped in and participated, mountains could be moved. – TR
      PS – You edited your comment while I was responding to it, adding the part about the transportation levy, so I’m editing mine: That meeting is on (correction) TUESDAY 3/31 (6 pm, WSHS). This was about business and then development, and then whatever people asked about in the coffee chat (no speech, it was all Q/A). I keep hearing he’ll be part of the Monday meeting but I forgot to ask. General meeting announcement:

  • KT March 28, 2015 (4:48 pm)

    Sadly, this from the PI does not indicate a real “give and take” on the transportation levy issue at these meetings …

  • AmandaKH March 28, 2015 (4:49 pm)

    TR – Tuesday! The meeting in West Seattle in Tuesday! And what you said – Spot On.

    • WSB March 28, 2015 (4:51 pm)

      Thanks, Amanda, sorry, fixing.

  • Alki resident March 28, 2015 (4:49 pm)

    @KT- Spot on

  • WS JUNO March 28, 2015 (6:14 pm)

    Happy to hear the mayor say West Seattle is the most upbeat neighborhood he has visited!

  • Genessegal March 28, 2015 (8:00 pm)

    I hope that the meeting at the high school on Tuesday will be well attended, and an actual exchange of ideas and not just a PowerPoint presentation.
    Dialogue needs to happen if the mayor wants the support for his package
    I know I have several questions and without answers I can’t support the project. It does feel like we are not being heard and being told by the adults what is best for our community. The mayor has the opportunity to change that perception should he choose to engage versus lecture
    I agree with KT regarding your response to Hannah, not your finest journalistic hour

  • Jean9 March 28, 2015 (8:33 pm)

    Not happy with his bandaid solution to growing homelessness and at same time skyrocketing real estate. Why can’t our city do what Utah does? They ended homelessness AND saved money.

  • Diane March 28, 2015 (9:07 pm)

    waiting for rest of the story; and what did Amanda ask/say?

    • WSB March 28, 2015 (9:11 pm)

      I’m still writing it – we wound up covering a ton of stuff today and I had no break to go back and fill this in; likely to be a couple hours now.

  • Millie March 29, 2015 (2:01 pm)

    Appreciate the Mayor’s visiting West Seattle and referring to it as “the most upbeat neighborhood”. Having said that I agree with several other comments regarding the timing of this “walk-about”. Really there is no connection with timing for the public meeting on the $900 million transportation levy? I’m still waiting for the promises made with “Bridging the Gap” levy. With all due respect “transit” is not the only answer. There needs to be more communication between the City departments of transportation, planning and development and land use. Witness the “admitted” problems with SLU and First Hill streetcar road design. Too much emphasis/money spent in SLU, Belltown and not enough in neighborhoods such as West Seattle, Ballard, Beacon Hill, etc. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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