What’s the beach plan for this summer? Alki Community Council convenes city reps to discuss what they’ll do

(WSB photo: SPD mobile precinct at Alki Beach Friday afternoon)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

At Thursday night’s Alki Community Council meeting, focused on city agencies’ plans for safety and cleanliness at the beach this summer, one attendee observed that past “pilots” for early closing times followed shootings.

“Maybe we can do this in advance of a shooting this year,” she said, with hope.

Maybe – but the closing-time decision has not yet been finalized, according to Katie Howard, one of the parks officials in attendance. Howard said the department is “still working out the details” and hopes they’ll have something to announce “within the next couple weeks … nothing is off the table right now.”

The meeting explored what’s planned for Alki Beach Park this spring/summer from several agencies’ perspective. One repeatedly mentioned theme: The city’s projected budget gap, and how that might affect staffing and services this summer; Howard said that will factor into the closing-time decision.

One new element: Seattle Park Rangers, with two representatives at the meeting.

Last year, the city had two rangers, and they were restricted to working at downtown parks. This year, they’ll have about 30 – though half of them are still at the academy until next month, at which time they’ll “go right into field training.”

The new hires were proposed by the mayor and approved by the old City Council last year, although it was cautioned that it’s still a low number considering the city has 500 parks, community centers, pools, and other facilities. They’re “working on a deployment strategy right now,” to kick in on June 5. Ranger staffing around the city is likely to be two shifts a day, seven days a week, spanning 6 am to 10:30 pm. With 500+ parks, will they really be at Alki? Reply: It’s a “hot spot,” but keep in mind that “if it’s sunny at Alki, it’s sunny at Seward, and we’re going to be pulled in a lot of directions.”

Park rangers are uniformed but not armed, and will be equipped with e-bikes. They’re “not police officers,” it was stressed – “we like to see them as park ambassadors” whose aim is to get “voluntary compliance” with rules and policies. (But if they don’t, they’re empowered to issue citations. And they’ll be linked with the SPD dispatch system in case they have to call for backup.) For non-urgent issues, you can call or email to request a park-ranger response – (206) 684-7250 – but Howard stressed, “if ever in doubt, call 911 first!”

Another attendee asked about vendors without permits; ACC president Charlotte Starck expressed concern that they hurt mom-and-pop year-round beach businesses, but she hasn’t been able to get clear information on how permit requirements are enforced. Parks staff said that people selling on Parks property need permits, and the increase in ranger staffing means they’ll be “engaging vendors” more frequently and citing those who don’t have permits. However, they added, if the seller is on the street, that permit would come from SDOT. How can residents or beachgoers find out who does have permits? an attendee asked. Reply: That list is public record; also, vendors with permits are supposed to have a “medallion” they can show to prove it.

Police will be at the beach too, promised Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Nate Shopay and Community Liaison Officer German Barreto. They’ll be working with rangers – likely starting in May – and Parks staff to close down beach fires (whatever time is set for that), for one. What about guns in the park? Last meeting included a discussion of whether the park could post “no guns allowed” signage, and one attendee brought that up again. Parks staff said it’s been determined that’s not possible “because Washington is an ‘open carry’ state,” so such signage would be unconstitutional, unless state legislators change the law. Lt. Shopay added that police will respond to gun calls, regardless of signage.

An attendee expressed appreciation for the SPD mobile precinct, saying it’s “absolutely great to have out there” at the beach. It was there for a while earlier in the day, Officer Barreto said. (And as shown in our photo above, it was there today as well.) In addition to parking the mobile precinct at the heart of the beach, Lt. Shopay said they plan to have police at Don Armeni Boat Ramp – a hot spot for driver gatherings – when they can, He noted, “We had a lot of success last year” when they were able to be there proactively, but added that 911 calls may pull them away. Another attendee observed that the mobile precinct itself won’t necessarily prevent crime, pointing out that it was at Alki the day of last year’s deadly shooting of Davonte Sanchez near Whale Tail Park.

Other ongoing problems mentioned by attendees included street racing, stunt driving, and cars without license plates. Police advised calling 911 if you think you’re seeing illegal activity starting up – officers have more success in intervening early. (And as we’re writing this story, we’re hearing a dispatch to Alki Avenue for a large number of cars reported to be racing and stunt-driving.)

PARK MAINTENANCE: Turning to a different topic, Parks’ crew chief Jessie Bonn joined the discussion of maintenance issues at Alki such as trash-emptying. Erik Bell of A Cleaner Alki, the cleanup leader who is also a member of ACC’s board, said the beach was an “absolute disaster” in mornings before Parks started evening trash pickups. If those aren’t possible, he suggested, add more trash cans. Bonn said they’ll have evening coverage but it “might not be as deep” as the past. Of the 85 parks in his region, Alki is the “most important,” he said, explaining that his crew is at half staff right now – down to nine people – and dealing with the city hiring freeze. “We’re going to do absolutely as much as we can.” More trash cans will be added in the weeks ahead; they’ve been at “winter levels.”
Howard said they’re hoping to get Alki excepted from reductions, and hope to keep historic levels of service such as three restroom cleanings a day. Can they add porta-potties? asked Starck. Howard said the budget crunch might prevent that – “it might be porta-potties vs. having staff on board.”

How can people help? “Be patient,” said Bonn. If you see problems, report via Find It Fix It, but “we don’t need reports about trash – we’re coming to get it, we know it’s there – what we do need is reports such as graffiti, broken fixtured.”

ALKI PLAYGROUND/WHALE TAIL PARK: Rhys Harrington, the Parks point person on the Alki Playground renovations that will be part of the elementary-school rebuild, said they’re planning a June 20 meeting to talk about designs – and they’re talking about having the meeting at nearby Whale Tail Park, which is not scheduled for upgrades, but does have “a lot of maintenance” planned. They hope to get Rec ‘N The Streets to bring “lawn games” to the event would be up to community members, however, to add other elements, such as food trucks. If you’re interested in helping to plan this, contact the ACC.

WHAT’S NEXT? The ACC meets most months on third Thursdays, 7 pm at Alki UCC. Watch alkicommunitycouncil.org between meetings for updates.

8 Replies to "What's the beach plan for this summer? Alki Community Council convenes city reps to discuss what they'll do"

  • Seattlite April 20, 2024 (7:06 am)

    Discipline is needed at Alki, because the undisciplined keep Alki from being a fun and safe place for families, teens.  Just like in a family unit, the adult parents are disciplinarians.  On the streets, the adults are law enforcement disciplinarians for the unruly.  Unfortunately, too many undisciplined people at Alki during the past summers has made Alki, at times, dangerous.   Unruliness affects Alki residents and Alki visitors.  All of the proof of past problems at Alki are on record so the decision should be extremely easy that Alki needs more discipline.   Back in the day, I am 76, Alki was a safe, fun, family-oriented beach area that gave much happiness to many people.

    • Bbron April 21, 2024 (2:32 pm)

      nah get outta here with supporting the idea that the state is the public’s parent and the public is to be infantilized under it. back in your day the state was empowered to explicitly carry out violence on marginalized and non-white groups, so we should probably keep away from trying to bring that back or catch ourselves looking back fondly on those times.

  • DLH April 20, 2024 (9:54 am)

    The idea of Park Rangers is great … but did someone at the city level not realize how understaffed this team would be? This is a classic example of the city spending money on things because they sound good, but not paying attention to actual impact. How would you like to be one of 28 Park Rangers responsible for safety in 500+ Seattle parks? Seriously. It sounds impossible. Why not pick the 10  (or so) parks with the greatest need due to heavy use or illegal activities (or whatever) and deploy the rangers in just those locations. Make a difference. Achieve some success. Then build the program over time to extend to more parks (as the city overcomes its budget deficit). To disperse so few Rangers over such a broad area makes no practical sense to me. What am I missing??

    • HFL April 23, 2024 (10:26 am)

      My understanding is that there won’t be an attempt to monitor all 500; no reason to. They will be scattered regionally, not park by park. A huge chunk of those 500 parks have little to no visitation and are not even on the table here for Ranger duty.

  • Kathy April 20, 2024 (10:33 am)

    Did they say when the Alki Playground/Whale Tail restrooms will be functional again?

    • WSB April 20, 2024 (11:16 am)

      No one asked.

    • Luke April 20, 2024 (12:16 pm)

      Seriously. Had my 3 yo just “go in nature “ next to a tree yesterday because those bathrooms are forever closed.

  • Anne April 20, 2024 (3:25 pm)

    Staffing over porta potties please. 

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