(WSB photo – SPD car on Alki Avenue early this evening)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With a deadly shooting and the chaotic “kickback” throng, it’s been a summer to remember – or eventually try to forget – on Alki.
But those weren’t the incidents that took up most of Thursday night’s Alki Community Council meeting. Attendees at the online meeting wanted to talk about what they say they hear and see daily/nightly – racing, drinking, fighting, noise. They also were resolute about not just complaining, but taking action.
Guests at the ACC meeting included a lieutenant, sergeant, and officer from the Southwest Precinct, and a manager from Seattle Parks. The SPD contingent talked about the staffing challenges they’ve outlined at countless community meetings; the Southwest Precinct remains down about a third, because of departmentwide attrition.
But they also talked about what is in their scope. The officer said he spends hours at the start of his shift parked along Alki Avenue SW near Duwamish Head, watching for traffic violators, he said: “I know the issues and I want them to be addressed.” Residents said they’ve noticed that, but it’s usually too early: “Who’s there when they’re going 80 miles an hour?” Later at night, police explained, things get busy – one resource-intensive call somewhere in West Seattle or South Park will take away most of the available officers.
One resident said he understood, police can’t solve the problems alone. “We’ve got to work as a community to get this done.” He and others spoke of surveying residents and businesses to get consensus on the priority problems/issues and then decide what it would take to solve them.
That might be difficult suggested another attendee, who reported contacting SDOT about traffic calming strategies such as speed humps, but being told there’s no funding for that, so the neighbors should apply for grants or a program like the currently shelved Your Voice, Your Choi8ce,
Yet another said she was aware of the police staffing shortage and so wasn’t reporting incidents any more. The SPD contingent begged her to reconsider, saying they need incidents to be reported so they can see trends and strategize: “If we don’t know it’s happening, we can’t address it.” And if they don’t have data to show what’s happening, they can’t make the case that “we need more cops.”
Regarding the personnel shortage, an attendee asked, “Do you have a funding problem or a recruiting problem?” Both, they said.
In the meantime, they’re working with Parks nightly at the (now earlier) closing time, the origin of which was explained by the next guest, Joey Furuto, director of the Parks and Environment Division. He said Parks and SPD were having a meeting and discussing how it didn’t seem to make sense to call for extinguishing beach fires at 9:30 pm while the park remained open two hours beyond that, so they decided to try an earlier closing time. It’s currently set to end in mid-September but if it’s successful in reducing park trouble, “we may stick with it.” The challenge remains keeping people from coming back to Alki after the 10 pm closure, since, unlike Golden Gardens (the Ballard beach park, which also has an earlier closing time), it’s “porous.”
One other difference between Alki and Golden Gardens: The proximity of residences. That keeps Parks from deploying some trouble-dampening strategies Furuto said they’re using at GG, such as portable lights to illuminate the beach. (One resident had asked about a streetlight removal further east, wondering why they couldn’t get city info about why it was removed and when it would be replaced.)
Furuto also explained the placement of the Alki fire rings, saying they decided to cluster them closer to the beachside parking spots that are reserved for police. And he mentioned the new strategy of using portable illuminated signage to remind people about the 9:30 pm no-fires deadline. One beach problem he said was not likely to be tackled in a big way this year, since police have other priorities: Illegal food vendors. He said Alki has anywhere from 7 to 10 at any given time, mostly in tents on the beach.
That brought it all back to how the community could “holistically” take on problems large and small. Attendees who’ve been participating in neighborhood discussions said everyone needs to “come together (as) a neighborhood force asking for change.” They cited the campaign to make the Alki Point Keep Moving (Stay Healthy) Street permanent, pointing to its 1,000+ online petition signatures and saying that’s helped them get some attention from the city. But the problems have to be quantified, they noted – everyone complains about the same things, but “nobody’s tracking (them).” So that survey idea is likely what they’ll try first before organizing further; we invited them to share it here when they’re ready.
NEXT MEETING: The Alki Community Council meets at 7 pm third Thursdays, online.
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