No ‘Summer Streets’/car-free festival on Alki this year, city says, unless you want to organize one

(WSB photo from 2011 ‘Summer Streets’ on Alki)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After seven years, it’s the end of the road – at least for now – for the city-presented “SDOT Summer Streets” event on Alki.

We have just confirmed that with SDOT, after noticing that no announcements or sponsorship solicitations had been circulating, though it’s just a little more than a month until the West Seattle 5K Walk/Run, which “Summer Streets” has followed since 2009.

The street festival (part of a series around the city) debuted in 2008 as “Car-Free Day” – a program announced by then-Mayor Greg Nickels and then-SDOT director Grace Crunican as part of the city’s climate-change-awareness campaign. The two West Seattleites even came to the WS waterfront to make the announcement.


(WSB photo of ‘Car-Free Day’ announcement, July 30, 2008)

That year, the city closed almost the entirety of Alki and Harbor Avenues for the first “Car-Free Day,” noon-6 on September 7th, a warm, sunny day, as is so often the case in late summer. It drew reactions from controversy to giddiness:


(WSB photo, September 7, 2008)
The next year, 2009, the city renamed the program “Summer Streets” and moved it to May 31st to follow the WS High School PTSA-presented West Seattle 5K, which already was closing much of the beachfront route for the first few hours of the morning. May, however, is seldom truly summery, as evidenced in our photo of street art during the 2012 Summer Streets event:

That’s been typical of Summer Streets weather – no all-out-sunny days since the September 2008 “Car-Free Day.” Nonetheless, community organizations have soldiered on with activities and festivities each year, and bundled-up community members have come to the beach to join in.

In 2011, the city shortened the no-motorized-vehicles zone to between 56th and 63rd, recognizing that few activities had been happening east of the Alki business district anyway.

Flash forward to this year. Two months ago, the Summer Streets Facebook page featured the cryptic status: “Sorry for the radio silence. Summer Streets is undergoing some changes this year – please stay tuned for our event schedule and a big announcement.”

No announcement has ensued over those two months, so we pinged SDOT spokesperson Marybeth Turner, who replied today, “SDOT is redesigning the Summer Streets program. While SDOT will still continue to support and sponsor the West Seattle 5k, we will no longer be organizing the street festival that has traditionally followed the race. If a West Seattle community group would like to sponsor a Summer Streets event this summer, we are willing to assist. SDOT’s new Summer Streets program is being developed, not quite ready for a public announcement.”

Again, the WS 5K is still on (we’re a co-sponsor again this year), and that will still close the beachfront road until about 11 am on race day, Sunday, May 17th. But after that – for the first time in 7 years – you’re on your own.

18 Replies to "No 'Summer Streets'/car-free festival on Alki this year, city says, unless you want to organize one"

  • Matt April 8, 2015 (3:00 pm)

    That’s a shame, that looks like such a great idea for an event. Something like this has to be very hard to organize with the amount of traffic.

  • Oliver Little April 8, 2015 (3:11 pm)

    I’d help with that if it actually occured in the summer.

  • Guy Olson April 8, 2015 (3:33 pm)

    Geez, what a shame! It’s been a blast the last two years. They are still going forward with the 5k? Haha!! What a joke!!!

    • WSB April 8, 2015 (3:36 pm)

      The 5K is a fundraiser for the WSHS PTSA and has always been separate – the city just decided after year one to add this afterward, since the road was closed already (although it could have followed the Alki Beach Run, the Northwest Hope and Healing fundraiser that happens in the actual summer, too) …

  • Eric April 8, 2015 (3:43 pm)

    Glad to see it go! I’m fine with the concept, but it was generally a ghost town with fewer people attending than you’d see on an average weekend on the beach.

  • G April 8, 2015 (4:36 pm)

    Could never understand the concept – close down the street when there is already a spacious boardwalk, bike path, and beach? Better suited to somewhere else in the city.

  • Eileen April 8, 2015 (6:04 pm)

    have you ever tried to ride there on a nice day? For it to be spacious it should be as wide as the street.

  • Nw mama April 8, 2015 (7:35 pm)

    Too bad! It always felt like a community thing rather than a city sponsored event. Last year was so fun- dancing in the streets with bubble man, people watching, pizza at slices, the bike parade and combing the beach without the madness of booming car stereos passing by.

  • barry d April 9, 2015 (6:37 am)

    What a shame. Just part of one day, in one tiny place, without cars, is too much for us to endure, I guess.

  • Sue April 9, 2015 (8:13 am)

    I never went to the summer streets on Alki because not only could you not drive there (since no cars were allowed and there was no parking anywhere reasonably close), but bus service to Alki on Sunday is abysmal. It seemed more of a benefit to the people who lived there rather than attracting people to come.

  • HMB April 9, 2015 (9:37 am)

    Living right in the heart of alki, its nice to see no cars for one “Sunday” out of the year. This is def more of a benefit to the community of alki, and I think we deserve it!! Usually, if its any kind of nice warm sunny day, we don’t get it to ourselves, but rather everyone and their brother from other areas come up and enjoy it too. Give Alki a break, we pay to live here…why not have a day dedicated to the community of neighbors, friends and family with no car traffic. Its a shame to see it go, and all the other people that come in who are not locals just to use the beach, well hey they get every other day of the year…the locals deserve a day off…we put up with a lot of crap.

  • Rhonda April 9, 2015 (10:32 am)

    I’m all in for helping organize if you, WSB, need volunteers. I’ve lived on Alki for 11 years and have been a big fan of this gift to the community to local residents. If ‘you’ can’t appreciate it or find it too difficult to walk a half mile then by all means, stay home!

    • WSB April 9, 2015 (10:38 am)

      Won’t be us – we have just enough bandwidth to cover the news, to oversee West Seattle Community Garage Sale Day (May 9th – registration under way now!), which we picked up 7 years ago when its original presenter shut down, and to throw in the occasional one-off like the candidates’ forum we presented in February. But keep watching because if anyone gets something going, we’ll be happy to put out a call for volunteers, sponsors, whatever! – Tracy

  • Rhonda April 9, 2015 (10:42 am)

    Will do! Thanks Tracy!

  • 2 Much Whine April 9, 2015 (11:16 am)

    It’s great to see that although we complain about how much West Seattle has changed over the years one thing remains constant. In looking back at the posts from 2008 when the event started the mix of complainers to supporters remains roughly the same. The names may have changed but there is always a whiner among us. Surprised nobody brought up Merlot.

  • Guy Olson April 9, 2015 (5:41 pm)

    One last thing. If you go to the SDOT website, the cover photo they use is from Alki Car Free Day/Summer Streets. Baaaaahahaha!! What a joke!

  • Kathy April 9, 2015 (7:56 pm)

    Unsustainable West Seattle? By all means let’s hear more lip service from the politicians about how important it is to fight global warming. Come down to Alki on every nice evening like tonight and watch the cars cruising and driving around blocks burning gas just for the fun of it.

  • Kathy April 11, 2015 (10:42 am)

    OK, now that I got that off my chest, I have to say I am very grateful to the City of Seattle for giving the Alki Community this wonderful opportunity for one brief car free day each of the past 7 years. Unfortunately it mostly occurred during inclement weather since business owners wanted to hold it at a time of year when business was slower. That of course impacted participation. Hopefully the City will be holding a similar event in other deserving neighborhoods. Dear City of Seattle: instead of Alki Car Free Day, could we have better transportation options so that fewer people feel like they have to bring their cars to and through our neighborhood? How about more space for bikers and pedestrians? How about more frequent public transportation options with longer hours on weekends and evenings in high season (which is getting to be all year down here)? How about a couple of Pronto Bike Share stations along Alki, at both ends of the Water Taxi route and near the first/last West Seattle stop of the Rapid Ride? How about a festival street like Georgetown is getting that can be blocked off for special events? How about woonerf? Thank you.

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