No summertime street closure for the West Seattle Junction

Some neighborhoods are getting city permits to close sections of business-district streets for summertime “café streets.” Not the West Seattle Junction, though. Not for lack of trying, says Lora Radford, executive director of the West Seattle Junction Association (who provided the photo above of a north Seattle street as inspiration). The idea has come up in discussions here on WSB and elsewhere, and WSJA was looking to close a small section of SW Alaska – the half-block east of California, to the service alley. Radford says, “The closure request was June 15 – October 15 with the plan to activate the space with picnic tables and umbrellas for outdoor seating. The SDOT planners and permit review team took a long and thoughtful approach to the plan, with the Junction fully appreciative of their ability to think outside of the box. In the end though, the impact across multiple departments was too disruptive.” A major obstacle in this case was Metro; the city told WSJA that among other things, “Closing this stretch would result in significant service delays and degrade reliability” – that half-block stretch of Alaska is used by routes that total 373 weekday trips. The decision only affects the proposal to actually close that part of SW Alaska; curbside/sidewalk extensions of food/beverage establishments elsewhere in The Junction will continue, and WSJA says a few more Junction establishments are considering those.

49 Replies to "No summertime street closure for the West Seattle Junction"

  • lg June 14, 2021 (2:53 pm)

    why would they apply for Alaska instead of California? Alaska serves our rapid ride and other transit lines, but California is predominantly cars. I wish they would have tried for California, I wish our neighborhood was less stuck in car-centric thinking…

  • Jort June 14, 2021 (2:57 pm)

    Oh! Well this is not complicated, just close California from Alaska to Oregon! No Metro buses run through there (I believe) so it won’t be an issue! It’d be great to reclaim our public lands from automobile movement and storage and it would make the Junction a remarkable place for our community to spend time! Imagine a California Avenue where kids are playing together and families can meet, where people can dine outdoors and musicians can play. All of this is possible! The Junction area is already running low on nearby park land, so taking this public space away from cars and giving it to people is a no-brainer win-win for all involved! I hope the WSJA will consider it!!

    • best cafe June 14, 2021 (3:46 pm)

      + 1

    • Justin June 14, 2021 (6:05 pm)

      We already close this area off too, for the farmer’s market! I doubt it would be too much work to shuffle furniture around as needed. We should really reconsider this. At the very least just consider testing it on a holiday or something.

    • TeddysDad June 14, 2021 (8:51 pm)

      I’d like to agree with this but not sure I want to give Jort the dopamine hit.

    • P June 14, 2021 (9:19 pm)

      Until we get public transportation on par with NYC or other countries automobiles are a necessity – coming from someone who tries to use buses whenever possible. 

      • JenT June 15, 2021 (11:16 am)

        Exactly. On par with San Francisco would be a big start. BART connects much of the entire Bay Area. I lived in Oakland for 3 years and rarely needed a car. But here? We need light rail throughout the entire region. 

    • Auntie June 14, 2021 (10:00 pm)

      Closing the street does not make the cars magically disappear. They just get moved over to adjacent (narrow, many one lane with parking on both sides) streets that aren’t set up to be main arterials. Having tried to make my way around the Junction during market day, I can tell you that sending the traffic the side streets is a bad idea.

  • Chris K June 14, 2021 (3:05 pm)

    The silver lining to this is that cars will not be detouring down my street all summer long.

    • Brian June 15, 2021 (9:02 am)

      Yeah having cars drive on the roads we made for them is a huge bummer I agree /s

  • Anne June 14, 2021 (3:06 pm)

    Not Alaska -not California Ave either. Just because buses don’t travel north/south on California -for many that’s main route from one end of WS to the other & yes that means cars. 

    • DC June 14, 2021 (6:55 pm)

      Which is exactly the problem with it. 

  • vee June 14, 2021 (3:32 pm)

    so glad not closing – is bad enough all the spaces being used up by restaurants already- people dont all walk and bike and want to shop at businesses ;traffic is already bad so no need to make worse or once common sense won

    • Rick June 14, 2021 (5:00 pm)

      I believe that’s part of the grand scheme.

  • best cafe June 14, 2021 (3:43 pm)

    Bummer, maybe try for a section of California or street that isn’t as impacted by buses next time around.  Was the community asked for ideas around this?  Would be great if folks who want this could participate in the process!

    What about working on converting some alleys to plaza style alleyways?  Maybe the one just east of California between Alaska and Oregon, or are there any other alleys in the area that might work?

    • s June 14, 2021 (4:54 pm)

      Right, I don’t understand why they asked for the street that carries all the RapidRide and other buses, and direct access to Fauntleroy and 35th…seems like a no-brainer that the city would say no. Shutting down a section of California sounds like it would have  much better shot…just do what they already do during Sunday Farmers Markets. Alleys are intriguing too, but the rows of smelly dumpsters might make dining there less palatable. 

    • sam-c June 14, 2021 (5:33 pm)

      Yes, it would have made so much more sense to try and close a portion of California. That would have been fun.

  • reed June 14, 2021 (3:49 pm)

    Yeah this doesn’t pass the smell test. Propose to close a corridor that is heavily used by transit, with no way of being approved, to say “we tried”, all the while knowing it was a non-starter with zero risk of upsetting the “nothing but cars” crowd.

    • DC June 14, 2021 (7:07 pm)

      WSJA owes us some transparency, me thinks

  • Pessoa June 14, 2021 (4:12 pm)

    What is the Junction area so desperately missing that these closures would supply?  The ambiance of a ghost town, of empty tables and chairs, when the initial excitement wears off, or during inclement weather? Closing off a central business core works for major cities – in the Europe, the alt stadt –  but this  seems like to be a case of trying too hard for a small neighborhood hub like the Junction. 

    • TeddysDad June 14, 2021 (8:54 pm)

      I actually think this has a lot of legs through October – particularly this year.  I probably would bring the fam more for eating out if we did this on California – not inclined to sit inside in summer and the narrow sidewalk aspects aren’t enough.  Why not Altstadt WestenSeattle?

      • Pessoa June 15, 2021 (10:18 am)

        My objection is not anti-pedestrian, I think it’s trying to superimpose a European fantasy on a small, folksy neighborhood shopping district.  But then I like to cook at home, so dining out which seems to be a preoccupation here, is not a consideration for me. 

    • Frog June 14, 2021 (9:22 pm)

      The answer to Jort’s dream is to convert one of the now little-used car storage lots in the junction to a plaza space, before they are all developed into mid-rise buildings.  The junction needs a master plan whereby any development of those lots (which is inevitable) is contingent on setting aside some open space to create a pedestrian mall or cafe square or whatever.  But care is required.  Such spaces can easily become dirty, barren, full of tents, etc.  Westlake Plaza in the city center, for example, should be a nice example of this concept, but even pre-pandemic it was not very inviting or well-used.  Meanwhile, after every parking lot is filled in with a mid-rise building, and every single family house in the surrounding upzone is replaced with 40-foot townhouses or apartment buildings, and every other development project near California is completed, the Junction neighborhood will start to have a density like the East Village in Manhattan.  Even the existing road network is not adequate for that density.  Note that Manhattan has a subway system much more extensive than anything Seahattan will ever have, and still has more street capacity than the junction.  Closing streets while developing Seahattan would be insane.

  • Nick June 14, 2021 (4:13 pm)

    Would love it if they closed down California one block north of Alaska and one block south of Alaska for the summer — even if just during the evening hours of 6:00 – 9:00 on week days and maybe 12:00 to 9:00 on weekends.  Just look at what they do in the major cities of Europe.  Not surprised that the wealthier north end of Seattle appears to be getting some areas closed while we are not.  But, I am disappointed.

  • KM June 14, 2021 (5:32 pm)

    Echoing others on the “Why Alaska and not California?” Seems like it would have been reasonable to do exactly what is done for the farmers markets. Reroutes, expectations already there!

  • Mark Schletty June 14, 2021 (5:33 pm)

    My question is —Why was this terrible idea being pushed and considered by the City without any formal notice to the general public?  Any closure of streets near or at the Junction would have tremendous negative impacts on so many people. So glad this horror was not approved.

    • WSB June 14, 2021 (6:12 pm)

      This wasn’t being pushed by the city. The proposal was from the West Seattle Junction Association. The city is who said no.

      • Mark Schletty June 15, 2021 (7:57 am)

        I understand that. Poor choice of wording on my part. But the part about no notice to the general public stands and applies to both the City and the Junction Association. The City should have required broad notification before it seriously considered it. 

    • DC June 14, 2021 (7:05 pm)

      If you have to drive to the Junction just to be there, then this proposal isn’t even for you. The slightest hint of “do something nice and city-like for the businesses who want the people walking by to come in or sit down” brings the “but what about the cars” people out to play.

    • Jort June 14, 2021 (8:28 pm)

      I just think, honestly, it’s so hilarious that people would call a street closure for outdoor seating and relaxation a “horror” just because it takes space away from cars. Oh man, such a “horror!” So “horrific!” Ooga booga!

      • Best cafe June 17, 2021 (6:02 pm)

        ‘Ooga booga’ is a cheap laugh, but it works every time. Thanks Jort ;)

  • Marie McKinsey June 14, 2021 (5:59 pm)

    Does anyone wonder why California is a 4-lane road for just two blocks in the Junction, with a bottleneck at each end? Why not make it one lane each way. Use the now outer lane for parking. Put up bollards to separate the cars from the now, much wider sidewalk. That new space can be used for outdoor dining, benches, bike and scooter racks and large planters. It would be a lot prettier and user friendly. 

    • KM June 14, 2021 (6:19 pm)


    • best cafe June 14, 2021 (6:50 pm)

      Maybe to allow for traffic flow while cars also park along that stretch? But I like your idea, and its time to reevaluate car prioritized infrastructure, consider new ideas.

    • DC June 14, 2021 (6:53 pm)

      Every day. Let there be a parade of beautiful bollards, protecting our precious businesses by allowing their customers to feel welcome sitting outside and not fear that an errant car will come crashing into them and their families.Perish the thought!There you go, there’s the campaign name. Businesses for Bollards. 

  • Ceebee June 14, 2021 (6:01 pm)

    Why don’t they rent the parking lots back?

  • Gordon June 14, 2021 (6:04 pm)

    Such a bummer. Hope they can figure something out in the future.

  • Al King June 14, 2021 (6:49 pm)

    Reed. Junction merchants get most of their income from people that DRIVE there.  If that wasn’t true they’d be lobbying hard for all sorts of closures.

    • Reed June 14, 2021 (7:23 pm)

      Any data to back that up?

      • psps June 14, 2021 (9:31 pm)

        A few years ago, they changed California between Oregon and Edmunds to one lane each way and it lasted about two weeks before they put it back. It was devastating to the businesses there.

    • best cafe June 14, 2021 (9:02 pm)

      It is also currently more car friendly than pedestrian friendly, so that might make sense.

      Creating a more pedestrian friendly street or converting to a plaza would be a draw for many, and might also increase the length of time people stay, which could lead to more money spent.

  • JW June 14, 2021 (8:26 pm)

    I am glad it was rejected. I’ve never liked closing  California ave for the farmers market on Sundays. It’s a busy street ! Having traffic reroute around it to a narrower street causes backups as well as pedestrians nearly being hit when they walk out into the road or disregard the traffic lights on their way to the market . One street closed to traffic doesn’t mean it’s okay to act like the surrounding roads are closed as well. Why not have the market in a school parking lot or in Lincoln park , much safer.

    • Jort June 14, 2021 (8:59 pm)

      Because streets don’t have to be just for cars? Who cares if it’s a busy street. It doesn’t have to be busy with cars. It can be busy with people instead. Stop driving. 

  • Al King June 14, 2021 (8:53 pm)

    REED. Proof is parking lots not being sold for more buildings. They could have done it years ago-why not? Proof is junction business not lobbying for permanent
    street closures.  They could have done that years ago-why not?   Proof is all the people that drive there to shop. Have you talked with anyone thats driven to the junction??

    • Reed June 15, 2021 (8:38 am)

      Al, take a read as to why bike and pedestrian traffic are good for business, as reported by the politically center-right Wall Street Journal:’m still waiting for you to show some credible data that this would be bad for business, other than some third hand he said she said.

  • Djet7carn June 14, 2021 (9:13 pm)

    Why not put the farmers market on the approach to the high bridge?  Nothing happening there until November. 

  • Galmegi June 14, 2021 (10:06 pm)

    I’m not upset one way or another, but if we’re looking at ideas, can I suggest Avalon at Luna Park? 

  • JW June 15, 2021 (6:57 am)

    How much more business do the shops do when the farmers market is open ? 

  • Carole June 15, 2021 (2:58 pm)

    Not everyone lives close enough, or is physically capable (age, injury, disability, etc.)  to the Junction to walk or ride there.  Let’s marginalize them further.  So yeah, cars.  I have not patronized the Junction as much since the paid parking started, primarily because I am not paying for a minimum of 2 hours when I need 30 minutes or less for shopping or food pick up.  And the curb spots dedicated to pick ups are always full; driving around in circles trying to find one open is wasteful and polluting.  I’ll pay the 2 hours for a sit down dinner, but not for a short run to Pharmaca or Bakery Nouveau or NW Art or a cone from Husky Deli, etc.  Until busses are safer post covid I’ll do without or drive to White Center/Burien or fields further south. Going east or north out of WS is already its own nightmare.  We don’t need to add more obstruction.

Sorry, comment time is over.