(WSB photo: Quiet moment on Beach Drive by Constellation Park, May 13)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Would removing parking solve the problem of drivers gathering along West Seattle’s public waterfront?
That was one of the suggestions as residents of three Alki-area neighborhoods dominated the discussion at the Alki Community Council‘s onlne meeting last Thursday night.
The meeting began with an update from Southwest Precinct operations commander Lt. Steve Strand. While police have launched their seasonal emphasis at Alki, he warned that the city’s COVID-19-related budget crunch is reducing the amount of money available for overtime to staff those extra assignments (and others). Nonetheless, extra officers were planned for two of the three days on Memorial Day weekend.
Addressing the driver-gathering concerns, he said the “Stay Healthy Streets” designation for Beach Drive by Constellation Park (and then Alki Avenue west of 63rd) was inspired by the ongoing problems there. The situation worsened after the Don Armeni Boat Ramp parking lot was closed, he noted, displacing the “car clubs” who liked to gather there. He acknowledged that the problem keeps shifting, and noted that they’re “looking at long-term solutions” if, as has been suggested by SDOT, the Constellation Park-side change is temporary.
What alternatives? asked attendee Barb, who described the escalation in recent years as rendering the stretch into “almost like a war zone” at times, not only in the warmer months. “Hundreds of cars, drag racing, burnouts, drinking, pot smoking, littering …it’s become just an unbelievably discouraging place to be.”
The designated police/ADA spots could be kept, Strand suggested, or perhaps make it a one-way street, or put in traffic-calming islands. SDOT would require planning and community input, he added, also noting that while nearby residents are happy about the current restrictions, they’ve heard concerns from other community members, including scuba divers.
The new restrictions by Constellation Park have pushed the drivers further south to Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook/Me-Kwa-Mooks, attendee Stephanie said. Whenever the drivers get dispersed from Alki, they converge in her neighborhoo. “I don’t even feel like I can leave my front yard … it was bad before, it’s worse now.”
Another attendee said “physical barriers” are needed to prevent the road from being used as a “race track,” since “the police can’t be everywhere at all times.”
Lt. Strand said police need help ID’ing the “car clubs” that cause trouble. Can’t officers figure that out? retorted an attendee. Yet another wondered whether “gang issues” were involved.
Steve, who lives on Duwamish Head, said that side of Alki is seeing issues too – if drivers can’t gather elsewhere, that’s where they flock. He’s written letters to SPD and the City Council.
More ideas were suggested, like a speed-enforcement camera on Admiral Way in the Alki area; state law limits how those types of cameras can be used, Strand said. Parking restrictions might be more feasible.
Another attendee wondered about the much-touted noise-ordinance enforcement. Are citations being issued? Are motorcycle officers being deployed?
Lt. Strand said the Traffic Unit (which isn’t based at the local precinct) keeps track of citations and is supposed to be delivering a quarterly report to the City Council.
Could extra money be raised to add officers for enforcement? wondered Barb.
Another attendee suggested a “laser focus” on the parking issue. (That brought words of caution from someone else who said street parking is needed for some apartment residents with “insufficient parking.”)
Lt. Strand left shortly after that, but told community members he can be reached at email@example.com – “I’d be happy to talk with anyone about the issues they’re seeing.”
The discussion among attendees continued. ACC president Tony Fragada suggested bringing together SDOT, Parks, and SPD. Balancing the needs of park users – like the divers, as well as kayakers and people going fishing, who all have gear to haul in – with residents, visitors are welcome, it was stressed, provided “they don’t drag-race at 3 o’clock in the morning.” Eventually, the topic wrapped up with a call for unity between the beach neighborhoods, rather than working at counterpurposes as a solution for one area pushes problems to others.
WHAT’S NEXT? SDOT has promised a survey about the Stay Healthy Streets program, but it hasn’t appeared yet. It’s set up a feedback mailbox, though – StayHealthyStreets@seattle.gov.
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