West Seattle, Washington
Two West Seattle RV-encampment sites continue to be the subject of much discussion at community meetings – usually with local police commanders who aren’t the final decisionmakers on city action. So as promised, we sought official updates from the city’s homelessness-response spokesperson, Linda Robson. Here’s what we heard back:
2ND/MICHIGAN: This is the state-owned site by the 1st Avenue South Bridge where, according to Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Dorothy Kim, more than 100 stolen vehicles have been recovered and actual residents are estimated only in single digits. She also told the SWP Crime Prevention Council that a sweep had been scheduled – and then suddenly scrapped. According to Robson:
The site you note is part of a large area that is WSDOT jurisdiction. The encampment response will require the coordination of multiple jurisdictions and City departments, including WSDOT and KCRHA, so naturally scheduling can get a bit complicated, and we expect that clean-up will take several days. The Unified Care Team is actively working with WSDOT on scheduling in the coming weeks and months.
We also asked about Harbor Avenue, where scattered groupings total about a dozen RVs/trailers, plus other vehicles as well as several tents and canopies. Robson’s reply:
The City’s Unified Care Team has been monitoring conditions along Harbor Ave SW, recognizing the need to ensure a coordinated approach in addressing multiple encampment sites along a significant stretch of Harbor Avenue. Based on this approach and available resource capacity, we expect these sites to be resolved in Quarter 1, 2023. In the meantime, the UCT is conducting regular trash removal and cleaning in the area.
Harbor Avenue was a central topic at a meeting six weeks ago. After receiving. Robson’s replies, we also checked with one of the city officials who participated in that meeting, Councilmember Lisa Herbold. She said she hasn’t received any date specifics either, and is working to get clarification on the current prioritization process.
Daystar Retirement Village (2615 SW Barton; WSB sponsor) has announced its first AARP-presented class in three-plus years, and it’s open to the community (age 55+). It’s a daylong safe-driving class, 9 am-5:30 pm Saturday, January 28th, in the Hearthside Building Activity Room at Daystar. The class teaches:
-Important facts about the effects of medication on driving.
-How to reduce driver distractions.
-How to maintain the proper following distance behind another car.
-Proper use of safety belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes and new technology found in cars today.
-Techniques for handling left turns, right-of-way, and roundabouts.
-Age-related physical changes and how to adjust your driving to compensate.
If you’re an AARP member, it’s $23.95; if not, $29.95. AARP says completing the class might make you eligible for an auto-insurance discount. You can sign up to take the class by calling Daystar at 206-937-6122.
The photo is from Jordan, who was surprised to see that river otter crossing Fauntleroy Way by the ferry dock around midnight a few nights ago, “heading toward the ravine that runs though the neighborhood there. Concerned about him getting hit and also wondering if otters have been seen in these parts of West Seattle Was a very special moment when I realized it wasn’t a cat but a massive otter… it looked much bigger then a typical river otter!” Short answer – yes, you might see them in any area of West Seattle that’s not too far from water, and in fact, our last “otters crossing” reminder a year-plus ago was from the Lincoln Park area, months after one reported in Solstice Park. They cross roads to get to inland dens – and once in a while they just get lost, like the two orphaned otters who went all the way up to Hiawatha via Fairmount in 2018.
Updates on two West Seattle encampments:
SW MARGINAL PLACE SWEPT: Thanks to those who sent tips that the SW Marginal Place RV encampment [map] has been swept again. The cul-de-sac by the bridge was swept in August, but RVs and associated vehicles eventually showed up again. At tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, Southwest Precinct operations Lt. Dorothy Kim confirmed that the encampment was swept today. The street also has been at least temporarily blocked off as closed – it’s always been a route betweem the bridge-side path and West Marginal Way, but now that the low bridge is closed to riders (among others), the street is a major link in the bike route.
2ND/MICHIGAN: Also at the WSCPC meeting, Lt. Kim was asked about the notorious encampment next to the 1st Avenue South Bridge – best known for stolen cars (she said tonight that police have recovered more than 100 there). At the November WSCPC meeting (WSB coverage here), she had said dates were set for a cleanup of that site. Tonight, when the topic came up, she said police were frustrated because the cleanup plan “fell through.” Both she and City Attorney’s Office precinct liaison Joe Everett talked about the situation. (Added: Here’s our video)
Everett said that dates had been worked out at a meeting with city and state reps – it’s state-owned land – in early December. All are well aware that it’s a “huge drain on SPD resources” as well as a major problem for nearby businesses. But as the dates got closer, something caused it to be called off – possibly concerns from the mayor’s office, possibly logistics, possibly because of a “request from WSDOT to share resources,” whatever the case, it didn’t happen, and “two bureaucracies trying to work together” didn’t make things any easier – “there’s a lot of coordination that needs to happen.” But they’re now “trying to put it together again.” We’ll be following up on this tomorrow.
We photographed that crew working today at 35th/Avalon, and already had an inquiry out to SDOT after a tip Monday from Jon. Today, SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson gave us this outline of what’s changing there – and nearby:
Our traffic signals crews are currently working to replace signal-control equipment and make operational improvements at three nearby intersections. If all goes well, we expect the work at all three signals will likely be completed by the end of the day:
35th Ave SW & SW Avalon Way: We are replacing signal-control equipment and adding a northbound right-turn arrow at 35th Ave SW and SW Avalon Way. This improvement was requested by King County Metro to help with transit operations.
35th Ave SW & Fauntleroy Way SW: We are replacing signal-control equipment and adding a leading pedestrian interval (also sometimes called a pedestrian-first walk signal) to the intersection of 35th Ave SW and Fauntleroy Way SW. This is a safety improvement that gives people walking across the street a few seconds head start before cars get a green light, making pedestrians more visible to people driving. Citywide collision data indicates there has been a 50% drop in pedestrian turning collisions at the intersections where we’ve added this safety feature.
SW Avalon Way & Fauntleroy Way SW: We are replacing signal-control equipment, but there will not be a noticeable change to the way the signal operates from the public’s perspective.
Note: We already added leading pedestrian intervals to the other two intersections a few months ago. We have also recently readjusted the signal timing to give pedestrians more time to cross the street at all three locations.
11:16 AM: Thanks to Greg for the photo and tip. He says that growing sinkhole is in the street where 59th SW and 60th SW meet in south Alki [map]. He says it was just a “pothole” yesterday but “overnight things changed.” We’re checking with SDOT to see the plan for addressing it.
2:14 PM: SDOT tells us it’s working with Seattle Public Utilities on this: “SDOT is planning to install a steel plate over the hole today to replace the current barricades while SPU works on a long-term repair plan.” Whether that means it’s a leak, break, drainage problem, or something else, they didn’t say, and we’ve asked that on followup.
3:40 PM: SPU says it’s a sewer-pipe problem.
Last Wednesday night, that tree fell onto 35th SW between Avalon and Snoqualmie, taking down utility wires/cables and closing the street for 10 hours. The tree was on West Seattle Stadium property, so the next day we asked Seattle Parks about its inspection history and what would be done to check out the trees alongside it:
We received the information today. Here’s what Parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin told us about the tree that fell: “Based on our records, the trees were last inspected in 2017.” She also told us that Parks staffers inspected the site the day after the fall – last Thursday – “and also inspected the adjacent row of trees along the northwest stretch of West Seattle Stadium, to ensure that there was no other conditions of immediate concern.” Though 35th is a busy street and the tree fell in the heart of PM-commute time, it did not hit anyone or any vehicles.
A Denny student reported a suspicious vehicle following them as they walked to school this morning. The vehicle drove away when the student took out their cell phone. The student reported the incident when they arrived at school. Denny staff immediately contacted the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Safety and Security team.
SPD officers were dispatched to the school and patrolled the area near our school throughout the day. An additional member of the SPS Safety and Security team was stationed outside the school in the area where the vehicle was last seen. He will be stationed there again on Thursday.
I am proud of how the student and our school community responded. Our school and district safety protocols were followed. Our school and district staff remain steadfast in our commitment to fostering the well-being of every student.
You can help your student(s) stay safe by talking to them about personal safety:
• Reporting incidents as soon as they happen,
• Being aware of surroundings,
• Not talking to strangers or going anywhere with them,
• Walking to school or activities in pairs or groups.
The alert, signed by Denny principal Jeff Lam and Sealth principal Ray Garcia-Morales, did not include a description of the car, nor the specific area(s) in which the student was followed. We’re trying to obtain those additional details.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Would an RPZ be a better tool to discourage RV encampments on Harbor Avenue?
Creation of a new Restricted Parking Zone is one of the steps that residents of Harbor and Alki Avenues tried last night to get a panel of city officials to commit to taking. More than 60 people gathered in the sanctuary of Admiral Church for a promised progress report on concerns that local advocates had taken to the city in recent months. Chief among them: The return of RVs a few months after the August sweep.
But that’s just part of the 19-item wish list that they’ve been pursuing, titled “Top Priorities to Tackle Crime, RVs and Encampments, and Dangerous Streets” – see it here. Part of the purpose of last night’s meeting was to get updates. Here’s who was on the city panel:
When SDOT announced nine days ago that more speed humps would be added to part of Harbor and Alki Avenues, the agency also said it would install a raised center divider in the area, to deter people from trying to pass on the curve. Driving the waterfront street today for the first time in a few days, we noticed the divider has been installed. As our photos show, they have a feature that other sections of raised center divider in West Seattle – sections of Fauntleroy and Delridge, for example – don’t have: Posts atop the divider.
As promised by SDOT, which described the location as “between California Place and Luna Park,” the divider has gaps to allow turning to/from driveways. The speed humps and dividers follow years of community complaints about reckless and stunt driving in the area.
If you have something to say about the city’s “early design” proposals for the Alki Point “Healthy Street” – Beach Drive and Alki Avenue north of 63rd SW – the deadline is tomorrow (Friday) night. The city’s reminder summarizes: “We need your feedback on the design and project elements, including signs, landscaping, travel lanes, and traffic-calming tools like traffic circles and curb bulbs. While people can still drive on the Alki Point Healthy Street, the design has elements to discourage cut-through traffic and help keep the street safer for all users. This includes adding traffic circles, speed humps, bike lane markings, painted curb bulbs, vehicle turn-around areas, and crosswalk improvements. We’re also prioritizing ADA parking and loading zone areas for people kayaking, paddleboarding, and doing other water activities.” If you haven’t already seen the design proposals (WSB coverage here), go to this page. To comment by midnight tomorrow night, there’s an online form, or you can email AlkiKeepMovingStreet@seattle.gov or leave voicemail at 206-727-3565. The city announced in October that the “Healthy Street” status was permanent.
First Metro had to deal with a staffing shortage. Now it has to deal with a temporary equipment shortage. We learned about this after a tip from Ian, who reported the driver on his RapidRide C Line trip late today made an announcement about a safety concern taking some buses out of service. We asked Metro about it, and they subsequently published this post, which explains:
… After two Metro operators identified a manufacturing issue in the steering system in some vehicles, Metro proactively removed 126 buses from service out of its 1,500-vehicle fleet. The identified problem did not lead to any accidents or injuries. Metro inspected all its buses to ensure all vehicles in service continue to perform safely and within specifications. We apologize and ask for your patience as some bus trips are being canceled and we adjust plans to keep you moving. …
The agency is coordinating with New Flyer, the manufacturer of the affected buses, who has already been on site to work toward resolving the issue. There is not yet a timeline for when the work will be completed and supply chain challenges may introduce delays. The defect does not extend to all New Flyer buses and many remain in service.
Metro advises using its planning tools to see how this might affect your trips.
Back in August 2021, the city announced it was considering removing the Delridge/Oregon pedestrian overpass instead of reinforcing it to make it more earthquake-resistant. Feedback opportunities ensued. Today, the final decision was announced – the bridge will stay, and will get a seismic retrofit. The announcement came in the newest email update on preparations for next year’s RapidRide H Line launch:
We will seismically retrofit the Delridge Pedestrian Bridge. Construction will begin in 2024.
The Delridge Pedestrian Bridge is a high priority for a seismic retrofit, which will make the bridge safer in events like earthquakes. Over the past year, we’ve been exploring whether we should remove the bridge or seismically retrofit it.
After we installed a community-requested crosswalk and walk signal as part of the Delridge Way SW – RapidRide H Line project at SW Oregon St, we considered if making the pedestrian bridge earthquake-safe and continuing ongoing maintenance was still the right approach.
Removing the bridge would save current and future costs. With the new signal and crosswalk offering a new way to get across the street, we thought community members might find the pedestrian bridge to be unnecessary.
However, Seattle’s older bridges continue to be used and often have interesting characteristics their neighbors have come to love.
Both options would improve safety in the event of an earthquake.
Beginning in summer 2021, we asked Delridge neighbors whether the bridge should be removed or kept and seismically retrofitted. We heard loud and clear that the Delridge community would like to keep the bridge. Read more here.
Most people wanted us to keep the bridge and many people currently use the bridge. The bridge serves as a community asset, particularly for people who live or work at the Cooper School Artist Lofts/Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and want to access the Delridge Playfield, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, and Southwest Youth and Family Services building.
The Levy to Move Seattle funds our bridge seismic retrofit program and we expect to begin construction on the Delridge Pedestrian Bridge retrofit in 2024. Thank you to everyone who shared feedback and helped inform the plan.
Last year when we asked, SDOT estimated the retrofit cost as at least $4 million, The city already has retrofitted the area’s other pedestrian bridge, the SW Andover bridge over the southwest end of the West Seattle Bridge.
On Friday night, we reported on a sudden SDOT announcement that more speed humps were planned for Alki/Harbor Avenues, as well as a section of raised center divider. Thanks to a tip this morning from Carolyn, we learned that the crews are already out today doing some of the work – as of our check about an hour ago, they had outlined six locations for speed humps, and were also restriping the angled parking at Duwamish Head:
Here’s where we saw the six sets of speed-hump markings, all on Harbor Avenue SW except for the last one:
-Just east of Seacrest
-Just east of Don Armeni
-2 sets alongside Don Armeni itself
-Just west of Don Armeni
While we were out photographing those, SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson replied to our Friday followup question about the location of the raised center divider: “The raised center divider will be in the curved part of the road between SW California Place and Luna Park. There will be multiple segments with gaps to allow cars to turn in and out of driveways.” He also said that the restriping of the Duwamish Head parking is part of “refreshing” painted markings in various locations; he added that the crews will be ” making some small repairs to the sidewalk where it has been damaged by tree roots slightly east of Luna Park.”
For many years, Harbor Avenue/Alki Avenue residents have been asking that action be taken to deter reckless driving. In September, two sets of speed bumps were installed in the Alki business district. Tonight, SDOT tells us that more are on the way to the east Alki area. We got the news this evening from SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson:
We are planning to build safety enhancements along Harbor Ave SW and Alki Ave SW between the West Seattle Water Taxi and Luna Park in response to reckless and illegal driving incidents. We have received several requests from neighbors asking for safety improvements such as speed humps to help address this problem.
We will install about a half dozen sets of speed humps, as well as a raised center divider to prevent people from illegally driving the wrong direction to pass other cars. … We will prioritize completing this work as soon as we can. The work requires a few days of dry weather, so we will be watching the forecast closely and ready to mobilize our crews quickly if there is a break in the rain and snow. If the current forecast holds, there may potentially be an opportunity to complete this work within the next week.
Bergerson said they’re also talking with Parks about added speed humps in the Don Armeni parking lot (which already has some bumps). We’ll be following up Monday for more details, particularly where the “raised center divider” is planned.
The City Council took its final budget vote today, and money for added Seattle Fire resources in our area made the final cut. Shortly after the West Seattle Bridge closure in 2020, SFD took Ladder 13 and Medic 26 out of its reserves and stationed them – along with the personnel to staff them – in West Seattle and South Park, respectively. That doubled our area’s allocation of each of those types of units; previously, if a big call, or pverlapping calls, required more than 1 ladder truck or medic unit to respond to this area, the second one had to come from another part of the city. The council news release about today’s budget vote says the two units responded to more than 2,000 calls last year alone, The argument for keeping them beyond the reopening of the bridge was improving response times for the southernmost areas of the city – without the added medic unit based at Station 26 in South Park, medic response times could triple, and without the added ladder truck based at Station 37 in Sunrise Heights, response times to southernmost West Seattle could double.
Mayor Bruce Harrell‘s budget proposal did not include money for keeping the units here; West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold pushed to add it, and got her amendment all the way through the budget review process. It allots $4.7 million in 2023 and $5.6 million in 2024 for the personnel and equipment costs. The documents say extra spending would be needed after that because Ladder 13 and Medic 26 were summoned into service “beyond their replacement age” – the medic unit will be replaced in late 2024, the truck a year later. The budget has one more step for final approval – the mayor can sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. His post-vote statement suggests he’s OK with it.
While asking SDOT some other questions, we inquired today about the most-recent checks of the westbound West Seattle Bridge where it meets the ramp from southbound Highway 99, scene of multiple crashes a few weeks back, and other reports of loss of some vehicle control at that spot. SDOT had said that it would use lane closures last week to investigate further. So we asked what, if anything, they found. Spokesperson Mariam Ali replied, “We did a closer look when we did night work last week. Everything looks in good shape. We will continue to monitor the area after each request.” (Here’s our report on their first “closer look” in October.) So if you have trouble in that spot, be sure to report it to SDOT, even if a crash doesn’t result – here’s how.
12:09 PM: Thanks to Jake and E, who both sent tips and photos after SDOT crews showed up this morning to convert 40th/Edmunds and 41st/Edmunds into 4-way-stop intersections. E, whose photos are above and below, wrote, “As a pedestrian who has almost been run down by the range of distracted-to-malicious drivers, I am ecstatic that SDOT is painting zebra stripes and installing 4-way stop signs along Edmunds this morning.”
Both noted that some drivers seem not to have noticed the new signage yet. West of these new installations, 42nd/Edmunds is a 4-way, and California/Edmunds is signalized.
ADDED 6:10 PM: We went through the area late this afternoon and noted that crosswalks are painted on all four sides of both of these intersections.
Two West Seattle Bridge notes:
WESTBOUND TROUBLE SPOT: After yet another crash Thursday night where the westbound West Seattle Bridge meets the ramp from southbound Highway 99, we inquired again with SDOT, which had told us after the first four crashes that it couldn’t figure out any particular problem there. In the meantime, we received this dash-cam video today from a reader who reported being involved in Thursday night collision – you’ll see it about :30 in:
Also, in a comment on last week’s crash report, a reader posted this link to a compilation of traffic-cam video from the prior recent incidents. Meantime, here’s the reply sent by SDOT today in response to our Friday inquiry:
We continue to monitor the area after each request. We have not found any construction related issues as we have not worked there since the opening of the bridge in September. Given the number of crashes to date, those vehicles could be leaving oil and other fluids on the roadway. We will take a closer look at this on nights this week as we will be doing work on the West Seattle Bridge. While we do that work we will take a closer look at the trouble spot again and will try to get a sweeper if available, to pass over the area.
(As we were writing this, an SPD dispatcher told officers they’d received a call about a new problem at that same spot, but we watched the live video camera as SDOT’s control center scanned the area looking for evidence of a crashed or stalled car, and none was found.)
OVERNIGHT WORK: Regarding the aforementioned work, here’s that SDOT announcement:
We will be conducting overnight closures of westbound lanes on the West Seattle Bridge Tuesday, November 8 through Thursday, November 10 to complete sign installation and adjustment work.
11:00 p.m. Tuesday – 5:00 a.m. Wednesday: Right hand lane and off-ramp to Harbor Island closed for westbound travelers on the Spokane St Viaduct approaching the West Seattle bridge.
11:00 p.m. Wednesday – 5:00 a.m. Thursday: All westbound travel lanes on the Spokane St Viaduct approaching the West Seattle bridge closed. Access to westbound lanes on the West Seattle Bridge from southbound SR-99 will be maintained during this period.
11:00 p.m. Thursday – 5:00 a.m. Friday: All westbound travel lanes on the Spokane St Viaduct approaching the West Seattle bridge closed. Access to westbound lanes on the West Seattle Bridge from southbound SR-99 will be maintained during this period.
A signed detour route, directing travelers across the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge) will be in place during the closure. Once work is complete, all westbound travel lanes on the bridge will be restored.
Thanks for the tip. A reader texted to let us know that multiple city crews and tow trucks were out at the RV encampment east of the West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way intersection. We went by for photos and saw crews along both Highland Park Way (above) and 2nd Avenue SW (below).
We hadn’t asked the city about this site lately, but we have an inquiry out now. Some of the previously swept encampment sites have seen RVs return – such as West Marginal Place and Harbor Avenue SW – but not those where the former parking area is now obstructed (such as the bike lane along Andover/28th/Yancy and ecoblocks along 1st Avenue South north of Cloverdale).
If you haven’t responded to this year’s Seattle Public Safety Survey – academically administered, with results summarized for SPD – we’re reminding you that it’s open now. This is the 8th annual survey; it’s not a quick survey, but rather a thorough questionnaire asking you about everything from your opinion of Seattle Police to what kinds of crime, disorder, and even traffic issues are problematic and/or feared in your neighborhood. It’s available in 11 languages. Seattle University, which is administering the survey again this year, adds, “A report on the survey results will be provided to the Seattle Police Department to help them better understand your neighborhood’s safety and security concerns and community-police dialogues will be held in May-August 2023 to provide opportunity for police-community engagement about the results.” This is linked to the SPD Microcommunity Policing Plans, which you can see here. To respond to the survey, start here. The survey’s open until the end of this month.
Thanks to Christine for the photo! She reports that crosswalk at Hanford and Walnut [map] was installed today: “Honestly, this is a miracle. There is now a painted crosswalk and sign at Hanford and Walnut Ave SW. Hanford is a road that people speed on constantly, sometimes going 60 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.” This is just south of West Seattle High School.
10:53 AM: The report and photo are from Ian:
FYI for riders: Someone scattered a bunch of screws along the bike path/sidewalk between T-18 and Marginal. I kicked as many as I could aside but just kept finding more and more…
Ian reported this to the city via Find It Fix It. We also advised contacting SDOT directly by phone – 206-684-ROAD – as it’s an immediate safety hazard.
5:07 PM: Just after noon, Grant Slatton tweeted this photo and update (and has given us permission to repost):
I am down here now dragging around a giant magnet. Also found some on the low bridge bike path.