Story, photos, and video by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Though cleanups preceding Monday night’s Find It, Fix It Community Walk in Westwood/Roxhill left less of the area’s rawest problems to be “found,” it wasn’t all pre-sanitized.
The top photo is from a peek into an overgrown lot just off Trenton, northeast of Westwood Village, passed by the 120=plus walkers between official stops; the previous stop had been nearby, at a spot where a resident took the microphone and talked about a “recycling” bin that seemed to be a dumping magnet.
Another unofficial stop was a home on 24th with signs meant to catch the procession’s eyes – asking for speed bumps and police reform.
The department heads in whose purview those lay – SDOT’s Scott Kubly and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole – both stopped for a look, though not a chat, so far as we saw.
A few minutes earlier, we talked to the people in the yard, who said that regarding the speed bumps, their street is a popular cut-through, and somebody who zoomed through recently not only almost took out young siblings, but actually, they say, flipped off the kids before continuing on their way.
Also unplanned: A question about long-promised improvements that hadn’t materialized along Barton, after an SDOT employee promised some community-requested improvements are on the way to the crossing by the RapidRide stop and Longfellow Creek,
But let’s get back to how it all started. Community members and city staffers gathered in and around Longfellow Creek P-Patch, east of Chief Sealth International High School, awaiting Mayor Ed Murray:
Once he arrived, it was showtime:
In the clip above, Mayor Murray went through a long list of people to acknowledge – the first 2 minutes, followed by introduction of city department heads and other officials who were there – SDOT’s Kubly and SPD’s Chief O’Toole as mentioned above, plus Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, Seattle Public Utilities Deputy Director Madeline Goddard, Finance and Administrative Services director Fred Podesta, Office for Civil Rights director Patricia Lally, Department of Neighborhoods director Kathy Nyland, and Office of Planning and Community Development director Sam Assefa.
No one from Parks was introduced at that point, though area supervisor Carol Baker spoke later, explaining that Superintendent Jesús Aguirre would have attended if not for a death in the family; we didn’t hear from a City Light rep, either. The mayor next went into an explanation of what Find It, Fix It Walks are about:
(If you hadn’t heard before about the mayor’s West Seattle roots, he speaks often, when visiting here, of spending his childhood in Alki.) Before the actual walking began, he turned the microphone over to City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who acknowledged community accomplishments:
If you listened carefully, you heard a subtle nod to the controversy ignited by the mayor’s recent announcement of plans to cut city support for neighborhood district councils as part of a not-yet-mapped out change in city “engagement” policies – Herbold mentioned the value of geography-based and issue-based groups working together.
That wasn’t the last allusion of the night. But it was almost time to stop talking and start walking – after the first community speaker talked about challenges at the Barton Street P-Patch, many of which, she said, could be solved if a trash can was put in at the nearby bus stop. A Metro rep was asked to take note of that (we’ll check to see if a trash can turns up, as happened recently when a can-less stop was called out at Alki).
Some trash pickup was in order for bag-and-grabber-wielding participants as the group headed up Thistle and turned onto 26th, heading south, on the east edge of Southwest Athletic Complex. This is an area that has been problematic for students, although, perhaps since this was held during the summer, school-related issues weren’t spotlighted – mentioned in passing, at most. West Seattle’s school-board rep Leslie Harris was on hand, though.
The mayor had a list of people with whom to talk – on this stretch, we were at the back of the pack, so we talked a while with West Seattle Crime Prevention Council president Richard Miller, whose meetings are on summer hiatus, but he’s busy planning for fall.
Public safety was in fact the spotlight topic at the next stop, where Chief O’Toole spoke:
The “micropolicing plans” she mentioned now have their own section of the SPD website. Chief O’Toole was joined by several reps from the Southwest Precinct; commander Capt. Pierre Davis is in our photo below with the mayor:
After the chief spoke at 25th and Trenton, northeast of Westwood Village, a local resident talked about her hopes of getting a trash-attracting recycling box removed.
With her in the photo above is Lemmis Stephens from AmeriCorps, who emceed the stops along the way. The box isn’t owned by the city, so it’s not clear how that problem might be tackled, but everywhere along the way, notes were being taken in profusion.
The subsequent route along 24th SW took us past a unique remodeling project we covered three years ago, then the house with the signs mentioned above; and then, to the 22nd/Henderson stairway mentioned in our first report. This is where Ami spoke.
We didn’t get video of her comments about crime, safety, and the need for a cleanup, but here’s the clip she played of a former neighbor chased out of the area by all of the above and then some:
The former resident had hoped to be there in person but at the last minute had to send the clip instead. Ami, meantime, pointed to the tangle of brush along the stairway and pleaded with SDOT (which manages most city stairways) to help neighbors clean it up, to discourage vandals and drug dealers from hanging out. She got a promise of help with that; she also asked for trash cans and lighting.
As the group turned west and downhill toward the east side of Westwood Village, the mayor walked with South Delridge community advocate Mike Riedel, who spoke with him about not only crime/safety concerns but also neighbors’ interest in community planning.
Much of the area is part of an “urban village” that’s had no investment. Riedel explained that the city had told community members there was no money for that planning; the mayor said he wasn’t sure why they had gotten that answer.
Arriving on the perimeter of Westwood Village, what the group didn’t see was as much of note as what they did see.
While we had word from SPD before a cleanup in part of Roxhill Park last week, we didn’t hear about what Kirk Keppler of Wyatt’s Jewelers (WSB sponsor) says was a sweep of the shopping center, including panhandlers, pre-walk. He expressed his ongoing concerns to Councilmember Herbold.
Back on the sidewalk along the south side of Westwood Village, the transit center came into view.
Chris Stripinis, transportation committee head for the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, walked with the mayor to point out the concerns that WWRHAH’s long been lobbying to get fixed, including the crossing conditions on Barton by the RapidRide stop. At the next official speaking stop, near that crosswalk, an SDOT rep promised some help is on the way:
That’s where more unscheduled questioning broke in – asking for details of the improvements, and wondering if the long-promised lighting alongside Roxhill Park would ever be arriving.
Then, it was across the street and into the park, along its south edge, and past the “bog.” WWRHAH co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick was walking with Murray at this point, talking about the park’s challenges, including the hydrology challenges related to its bog.
Then the walk reached its endpoint on the west side of Roxhill Park, near the revitalized playground, whose story was told by Mat McBride:
He also spoke of his community advocacy helping WWRHAH get going – of note if you listened through the prism of the mayor’s plan to cut ties with neighborhood district councils (McBride is chair of the Delridge NDC and led the meeting it hosted last week as a rally of sorts with NDC members from around the city):
But ultimately there were no words of discord, and the mayor took the microphone for his closing remarks:
He promised community members that the city “will work with you.” Conversations ensued; sunset approached. Longstanding concerns lingered, but there was a bit of hope in the sunset, that help might could be on the way.