Story, photos, video by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Successes, challenges, even tragedy took turns in the spotlight as Mayor Ed Murray and a strike force of city staffers descended on North Delridge today for their 12th Find It, Fix It Community Walk, first one in West Seattle.
This was no “drop in and we’ll wander around” event. It was meticulously planned for months, with a community committee involved in planning the route and who would speak where and when. An audio system was carted from stop to stop, and speeches – by community members as well as the mayor and staffers – took up about a third of the hour and a half it actually lasted. With so much planned, it was far more thorough than the last mayoral walking tour we recall in the area, by Murray’s predecessor Mike McGinn five years ago, though part of the route was the same.
We’ll begin at the beginning:
At the starting point, the Louisa Boren STEM K-8 school at 5950 Delridge Way SW, the mayor was introduced by Neighborhood District Coordinator Kerry Wade, who spent months working with community volunteers to ensure this happened without a hitch. With a podium, PA system, and the full crowd, speeches ensued, starting with the mayor explaining what the walks are about:
He introduced the many department heads who were along for the walk:
From left, Seattle Public Utilities’ Ray Hoffman, Seattle City Light’s acting GM Jim Baggs, SPD Deputy Chief Carmen Best, Department of Neighborhoods’ Kathy Nyland, SDOT’s Scott Kubly, Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre, budget director Ben Noble, Department of Finance and Administrative Services’ Fred Podesta. Also taking a turn at the podium, City Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Tom Rasmussen:
The school was also the official first stop on the walk, highlighting the success story of its new crosswalk, installed just before this school year began:
Ironically, as community member Craig Rankin pointed out – having been deeply involved in making it happen (as reported here in March 2014) – it wouldn’t be where it is if the city had had its way:
After he spoke, it was off to the next stop, with residents Michelle Whelan and Maketa Wilborn pointing out one of the many places where the Delridge area – mostly a narrow valley, the “dell” between the “ridges” – has drainage challenges:
Using a tablet, they showed the mayor and SPU director Hoffman some images of problems in the past, and pointed out that nearby slopes are slated for development, wondering just how much worse things will get because of that, if something’s not done.
Stop number 3, as the group headed north, was a piece of city-owned property that will remain greenspace thanks to a community organization’s efforts to keep it from being sold off.
That’s Willard Brown from the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, which – as reported here recently – will be using grant money and donations to buy one of City Light’s surplus substation sites; here’s the aerial look from SCL’s website.
During the Find It, Fix It walk, Brown spoke about how preserving the greenspace will benefit students from the nearby school:
But some “fixing” is still needed here, he noted, adding his voice to those clamoring for drainage and water-routing improvements in the area. Turning west, the group crossed Delridge Way, and stopped by the planting strip on the south side of the Super 24 store, where, as previewed here last week, the Nature Consortium had a cleanup project under way:
(You might recall some controversy over that planting strip – which previously had been part of a small perpendicular-parking area, and then, when converted, was overpaved, leading to the creation of the beds that were weeded today.) NC executive director Merica Whitehall spoke here during today’s event:
She told the mayor and participants about her organization’s work with the community and with the West Duwamish Greenbelt, in tandem with thousands of volunteers every year:
The alley leading toward Delridge Library was the next segment of the route:
While walking northbound in the alley, community advocate Pete Spalding (above right) talked about neighbors’ watchfulness and the principle “if you see something, say something.” The mayor also heard from library manager Jane Appling, whose staffers and clients have to deal with what happens in the alley, too, and with North Delridge Neighborhood Council‘s Michael Taylor-Judd (below left):
(At right in the photo above is city traffic engineer Dongho Chang, seen at many a local project meeting.) Concerns related to the alley, besides its overall condition, continue to range from vandalism to drug use; the mayor mentioned the ongoing work to hire more officers for SPD, as well as rampant problems attributed to the nation’s “drug epidemic.” Finding needles and syringes was a problem also mentioned by Delridge P-Patch volunteers, who spoke at the next stop:
They also spoke of successes including their Giving Garden – growing food-bank donations – and how they were able to convert some young area troublemakers into garden volunteers. Some of the walkers moved on through the garden, still beautifully in bloom for fall …
… while some stopped for treats, including the mayor:
DGC volunteers met the visitors and talked about their years of work to get a store open to help make Delridge less of a “food desert.” This week, they announced to their 400+ members that they had been told “informally” that DGC would be declined for a loan it had hoped would bring a big boost toward opening – but they vow to push on and find financing some other way. This stop was a rare chance, by the way, to look inside their future space at 5444 Delridge Way SW – mouse over our Instagram clip to play a :15 clip panning around inside:
In the courtyard of Cottage Grove Commons, those who hadn’t straggled off along the way heard about the building – open now for almost two years as housing for people who were previously homeless – and that one of residents and managers’ biggest concerns is nearby traffic and safely crossing the street. This is where tragedy was mentioned – the death of a CGC resident hit by a car in November of last year. This next clip also includes the mayor’s closing remarks:
With his promise to return, the first West Seattle “Find It, Fix It” walk wrapped up after about an hour and 20 minutes – a visit that had been months in the making.
Perhaps one of the most important exchanges was back at the P-Patch, where the garden volunteers said they didn’t know how to ask for help with some of their problems – where to go in city government. The mayor said for one, speaking up at the event was the same as asking for help. For two, he said, his staff is working on ways for people to navigate the tangle of city departments and services more easily. Sometimes it might seem like departments are in silos – but a sighting along the way was a reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way:
Staffers from multiple departments – including the firefighter in our photo – carried grabbers and bright yellow bags, picking up trash and debris as they walked in the Saturday sunshine.
P.S. Both candidates for West Seattle’s new District 1 City Council seat were there too; photos to come, in a separate report looking ahead to Election Day, now exactly one month away.
P.P.S. Lots of side conversations – we’ll be adding notes about the ones we hear of, like this mention from Sanislo Elementary, whose reps brought up the illegal dumping that’s a chronic problem nearby.