West Seattle, Washington
People at West Seattle’s only city-sanctioned tiny-house encampment are doing OK with the two current health crises – air quality and COVID-19 – so far.
So said Camp Second Chance‘s site coordinator during the monthly Community Advisory Committee meeting, held online Sunday afternoon.
Participants included, from the committee, chair Willow Fulton and members Cinda Stenger, Grace Stiller, Aaron Garcia, and Judi Carr. From Camp Second Chance, site coordinator/co-founder Eric Pattin was in attendance. But for at least the third month, no one was there to represent the city.
COMMITTEE MEMBER REPORTS: Fulton, who lives near CSC, said the Seattle Public Utilities temporary worksite just south of the camp on Myers Way (explained in last month’s report) seems to be expanding. “Other things on the street have been fairly quiet,” she added, and noted that dumping issues she reported in the past month were handled promptly. … Stenger noted that Alki UCC continues to organize twice-monthly food/clothing drives so if the camp finds itself with excess donations – as it has in the past – it can repurpose them. … Stiller said the grant-funded weed-removal project she’s organized, with camp residents’ participation, removed 33,000 square feet of invasive weeds and now has a pile of them that can be composted into mulch. She’s pursuing another grant to get the blackberry roots out and replant the area. … Garcia subsequently noted that Stiller won Burien’s “Citizen of the Year” award. He also said the King County Subarea Plan for North Highline is looking for residents’ input on issues that could include more support for affordable housing to help more people out of homelessness. … Carr said Arrowhead Gardens, the senior complex a few blocks north of the camp, has remained virus-free and is loosening its lockdown a little bit, recently bringing in a flu-shot clinic.
CAMP UPDATE: Pattin reported that 53 people are there – 15 women and 38 men. Four people have moved out into permanent housing, while four new people have arrived. “Spring cleaning” is starting, to get out some unneeded items like plywood that are cluttering the camp. Camp operator LIHI has provided a wireless security-camera system but CSC needs to find help installing it, so committee members will put the call out. He also said LIHI is planning to install a washer/dryer at the camp.
DISCUSSION/Q&A: Fulton asked.about COVID-19 testing at the camp, which was a question last month; Pattin said 16 people were tested “about a month ago” but he hasn’t heard anything about the results. No one’s shown any symptoms. The wildfire smoke hasn’t led to any health problems so far, either, he added. (It did lead to some cancellation of tiny-house building at the site, though.) They had one camper a few weeks back with an ongoing respiratory issue and got her an air purifier. … Though the original plan for Fauntleroy UCC to lease the camp site is no longer needed because of the change in city encampment rules, Rev. Leah Atkinson Bilinski said the church is still working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the city regarding ongoing support for the encampment. … Arrowhead Gardens reps say they had some crime problems – a break-in that affected more than a dozen storage units, plus a recent auto theft in the garage, so they wanted to give the camp a heads-up of trouble in the area.
NEXT MEETING: 2 pm Sunday, October 4th.
Our nightly pandemic toplines:
NEWEST KING COUNTY NUMBERS: Here’s today’s daily summary from Public Health – the cumulative countywide totals:
*20.931 people have tested positive, 63 more than yesterday’s total
*743 people have died, unchanged since Friday
*2,305 people have been hospitalized, 4 more than yesterday’s total
*401,635 people have been tested, 3,121 more than yesterday’s total
One week ago, the totals were 20.320/734/2,264/385,152.
STATEWIDE NUMBERS: See them here.
WORLDWIDE NUMBERS: See them – nation by nation – here.
CITY TESTING SITES TO REOPEN TOMORROW: They were closed today because of the air quality, but the sites – including Southwest Athletic Complex in West Seattle – are expected to be open Tuesday.
GROCERY-SHOPPING UPDATE: With one chain store changing its senior/at-risk hours, we checked to see where other stores stand with those.
GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING TOMORROW: At 2:30 pm Tuesday, Gov. Inslee plans a briefing that is expected to cover the COVID-19 response as well as the ongoing wildfire disaster. You’ll be able to watch here.
GOT SOMETHING TO REPORT? firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-293-6302, text/voice – thank you!
We’re no longer updating the state of West Seattle grocery shopping every week, but the pandemic’s far from over, so major changes remain notable. Tonight, we’re updating the state of “special shopping hours” for seniors and those at higher risk of COVID-19, starting with a change:
Checking where the other stand-alone supermarkets stand on special shopping hours:
WEST SEATTLE THRIFTWAY (WSB sponsor): Senior/at-risk hours remain 7 am-9 am Tuesdays and Thursdays.
PCC COMMUNITY MARKETS: 7-8 am Fridays and Saturdays.
SAFEWAY: 6-9 am Tuesdays and Thursdays.
WHOLE FOODS: 7-8 am Fridays.
METROPOLITAN MARKET: No special shopping hours.
Just went over to Westwood Village to see how the repaving project – first mentioned here last week – was affecting traffic flow around the center. One big thing: Unless you are going to the Post Office, don’t use the SW Trenton entrance; a fence and ROAD CLOSED sign are blocking the north-south route just south of it. Fencing and signage are also placed across the east-west route at the northeast corner near the Marshalls entrance.
In addition to the lot south of the Post Office that’s blocked off as a result, the lot by DaVita is closed off too. Signage says the work will continue around the center through late October; businesses are all open.
Three notes this afternoon:
TRIANGLE POLICE RESPONSE: Thanks to the reader who sent a tip about that big police response in the alley between Link and Lien Animal Clinic a short time ago. We went over to find out what was going on; police at the scene told us they had detained a suspect they had been seeking in relation to an assault on an officer. No other details so far.
STOLEN ROLLERBLADES: Tracey emailed this report this morning:
Reporting a car prowl at 30th ave SW and Holden evening of 9/13. Hoping readers could keep an eye out for my stolen rollerblades. I imagine they will get dumped. Sunglasses and prescription glasses too.
ABANDONED BICYCLE: From Amy:
I found this ditched bike near my apartment (Alki area) this morning.
Yours? Let us know and we’ll connect you.
Three West Seattle biznotes:
WYATT’S JEWELERS SALE: Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 15th) marks the start of a weeklong end-of-summer sale at longtime WSB sponsor Wyatt’s Jewelers in Westwood Village. 10 percent off everything in the store, and higher discounts on some items.
POKE TODAY AT GRILLBIRD: Matt at Grillbird Teriyaki (35th/Morgan) sent word of a one-day poké pop-up:
Starts at 4 pm and goes until we sell out.
Menu includes: garlic shoyu or spicy ahi poké bowls and Poké nachos! We will also be selling grilled Spam musubi’s and ginger pineapple lemonades.
We will also have a live ukulele player welcoming and entertaining guests in the parking lot!
SAMILA & CO. CONTEST & SALE: Bride-to-be? Know one? If you – or they – are working on the front lines of the pandemic, Samila & Co. (4306 SW Walker) is giving away a wedding dress – and today’s the last day to enter. This page explains how. Separate from that, proprietor Yasmin Shirdel adds:
Separately from the giveaway, we are extending an additional discount of 25% off a brand-new dress (not the traditional sample discount structure) – this is an unprecedented discount for a current-season dress – to all brides.
The sale is Friday-Sunday, September 18-20. Samila’s outlet in North Admiral has been open 2 1/2 years.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As noted here last week, the citywide bridge audit – ordered by City Council Transportation Chair Alex Pedersen after the sudden West Seattle Bridge closure – will be presented to councilmembers this week. In advance of that, the audit document is out today, along with SDOT’s response. We’ve just read it. First, so you can read it too, here it is:
(You can also see it on the city website.)
The audit, by the City Auditor’s Office, counts West Seattle’s city bridges as 20 separate structures (see page 31), 8 rated “good” as of last year, the other 12 (including all sections of the high bridge) rated “fair,” the middle of three categories in the federal rating system. “Fair” is how a majority of the city’s bridges are rated:
But the audit does not dive into specific conditions of specific bridges – it is an overview of the program in general, as explained:
We analyzed 77 vehicle traffic bridges that are owned and maintained by SDOT. These bridges have a median age of 70 years.
According to 2019 Federal Highway Administration pavement and bridge condition performance measures, although Seattle has a high number of poor and fair bridges (based on the federal rating system of good, fair, and poor), this is comparable with peer cities around the country. Nevertheless, even bridges in fair condition, like the West Seattle High Bridge, can require major, unexpected closures.
Over the last decade, a larger percentage of Seattle’s bridges have gotten worse compared to those that have gotten better. Over the past 14 years, the average amount SDOT spent on bridge maintenance was $6.6 million annually. 3 However, according to knowledgeable SDOT officials, the City is not spending enough to keep its bridges in good condition and avoid costly future repairs.
… The number of Seattle’s bridges that are in poor or fair condition is concerning for two reasons. First, several of the largest and busiest bridges that connect communities across Seattle are not in good condition, which means they are at an elevated risk of unexpected closures that could affect thousands of people. For example: the University Bridge on average carries 36,000 vehicles daily and is rated poor; the Magnolia Bridge on average carries\ 20,000 vehicles daily and is rated poor; and before it was closed this year, the West Seattle High Bridge on average carried 108,179 vehicles daily and was in fair condition.
Most of SDOT’s bridges are in fair condition but, over time, the condition of the overall bridge portfolio has gotten worse. During this time, the percent of total bridges in good condition has declined from 38 percent to 29 percent (see Exhibit 5). According to federal guidance, SDOT should be working to preserve good bridges in good condition to maintain the structural reliability of bridges and avoid future costly repairs. SDOT is not meeting this goal and only 22 out of its 77 bridges are in good condition.
The audit also notes that while SDOT should have a higher budget for bridge maintenance, it hasn’t spent what it has:
Since 2006, SDOT has spent 93 percent of its budget for bridge maintenance. From 2006 to 2019, Seattle budgeted $98.5 million for bridge maintenance and spent $91.9 million (see Exhibit 7, dollar amounts have been adjusted for inflation). As Exhibit 7 shows, the budget did not always align with actual expenditures on a year-by-year basis. Some of this is to be expected. For example, in 2008 SDOT underspent their bridge maintenance budget because they were saving funds for a large bridge painting project. This large painting project, the University Bridge, was completed in 2009. This use of funds that carryover from one year to the next occurs when the funding for these projects comes from the City’s Capital Improvement Program budget. SDOT officials told us the reason for the underspend between 2016 and 2018 was primarily because they did not have enough staff to perform planned maintenance activities.
SDOT estimates annual maintenance expenditures should be equivalent to one to three percent of the total replacement cost for the fixed assets being maintained, or, for bridges over 60 years old, a minimum of $34 million per year.
In a response letter that’s also included with the audit document, SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe blames the underspending on “that maintenance program delivery fluctuates based on work accrual and staff capacity.”
The audit also contains a critique of “some legacy practices and information gaps [that] hinder its ability to properly keep the bridge portfolio in a state of good repair,” with a declaration that “SDOT lacks critical information for developing a strategic bridge preservation program, including an assessment of the level and mix of staffing resources needed to maintain their bridges.”
One example reveals that SDOT bridge-maintenance staff doesn’t spend all its time on bridge maintenance:
One such practice is using bridge maintenance workers to perform reimbursable work, unrelated to SDOT bridges, for other agencies. SDOT estimates that 20 percent of their bridge maintenance staff capacity is dedicated to performing reimbursable work for other divisions within SDOT, other City departments, or other local governments. This means that two out of every ten hours of SDOT’s bridge inspection and maintenance crew work are not being used on the upkeep of Seattle’s bridges, but to help supplement the department’s budget. SDOT told us they lack the money to fully fund their bridge maintenance staff without the revenue from\ reimbursable work, which means they would need
to make reductions to stay within budget.
Plus, the audit says, “SDOT does not have information on what staffing levels are needed to support essential bridge maintenance, making it difficult to plan for and complete this work.”
The audit also observes that “SDOT does not currently calculate the useful life of its bridges in a precise way, which hinders its ability to efficiently respond to bridge maintenance needs.”
In SDOT’s reply, director Zimbabwe contends that “the issues that led to the closure of (the West Seattle Bridge) do not appear to be the result of any deficiency in our bridge maintenance program.”
Overall, the SDOT response also says it’ll take three years – until the end of 2023 – to make changes/additions responding to all the audit’s 10 recommendations, 9 of which the department says it fully agrees with.
The presentation of the audit is scheduled for Wednesday morning’s meeting of the council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, 9:30 am; the agenda includes information on watching the meeting and signing up to comment. Meantime, here’s Councilmember Pedersen’s news release responding to the audit, and here’s the SDOT Blog post with how the department summarizes the audit and its own responses.
10:12 AM: Monday morning and still smoky. Two notes for starters, and we’ll add anything else of note related to the smoke in the hours ahead:
SEATTLE PARKS: As first reported here last night, parks, playfields, boat ramps, golf courses remain closed today because of the unhealthy air. (Added: The closures have now been extended through Wednesday.)
SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY: Curbside service is suspended again today.
(added) CITY-RUN COVID-19 TESTING SITES: Closed today, including the one at Southwest Athletic Complex.
(added) MADISON MS TEXTBOOK/MATERIALS PICKUP: Canceled for today.
Other closures/cancellations? email@example.com or text 206-293-6302 – thank you!
ADDED 11:36 AM: Though the air-quality alert has expired for now, an update from AlertSeattle notes, “Wildfire smoke making air quality ‘very unhealthy’ to ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ is expected to remain in the area through the middle of this week.”
1:50 PM: The expiration didn’t last long. There’s a new air-quality alert in effect through noon Thursday.
6:25 AM: It’s Monday, the 175th morning without the West Seattle Bridge.
The Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route is back to 2 boats as of early this morning after repairs to MV Issaquah. (Update: The Issaquah broke down again, but has been replaced by the Sealth.)
ROAD WORK, ETC.
*Delridge project: Here’s the latest update, with word of overnight work the next two nights, and closures the next two weekends.
*1st Avenue S. Bridge: One more NB overnight closure for the deck-panel replacement project is planned this Wednesday night (September 16th), WSDOT tells WSB.
*Westwood Village parking lot: Repaving is expected to start this week. The lot section immediately south of the post office appears to be where work will start; we’ll be checking later this morning.
CHECK THE TRAFFIC BEFORE YOU GO
Here’s the 5-way intersection camera (Spokane/West Marginal/Delridge/Chelan):
Here’s the restricted-daytime-access (open to all 9 pm-5 am) low bridge:
The main detour route across the Duwamish River is the 1st Avenue South Bridge (map) . Here’s that camera:
The other major bridge across the river is the South Park Bridge (map). Here’s that camera:
Going through South Park? Don’t speed.
Check the @SDOTBridges Twitter feed for info about any of those bridges opening for marine traffic.
Metro – Still reduced service and distancing, with some changes starting this Saturday (September 19th), and the potential return of fares on/around October 1st.
Water Taxi – Still on its “winter” schedule, with the 773 and 775 shuttles running – see the schedule here.
Trouble on the roads/paths/water? Let us know – text (but not if you’re driving!) 206-293-6302.