(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.