West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
What sounded like an impossible dream a few years ago is rolling down the road toward potential reality.
A planning effort, with state money and city assistance, is looking at whether 1.4 miles of Highway 99 that divide and pollute South Park neighborhoods could be removed, buried, boulevardized, or at least mitigated.
An event Saturday afternoon at Concord International Elementary School – barely a block west of 99 – was the onramp to the next phase of that work, under the Reconnect South Park banner: Developing a “community vision plan.” The open-house-style gathering in the school’s lunchroom offered information on possibilities as well as opportunities for feedback.
Maria Ramirez, project director, explained in brief remarks, “We know we have options; we don’t know where we’re going to end up. We have a year to come up with a vision.”
When put into numbers, what the highway did to South Park is stark – 22 of the neighborhood’s streets are dead ends because of it, Ramirez noted, and only two places to cross over it.
9:10 PM: If you’re heading to or from the South Park Bridge, be aware that the main intersection in downtown South Park – 14th Avenue South and South Cloverdale – is closed off right now, as is the bridge’s northbound side, by a big fire response. The fire is reported to be in the business building on the northeast corner of the intersection. The smoke is visible on the nearest traffic camera (which points toward the bridge’s south end), as shown in the screengrab above.
9:22 PM: SFD is still fighting the fire. Southbound traffic off the South Park Bridge is being detoured onto westbound Dallas.
9:25 PM: SFD says the fire’s under control.
9:40 PM: No injuries, per SFD. Meantime, southbound traffic on the bridge is now being held behind a bus, and the traffic camera shows cars turning around and heading back northbound.
9:45 PM: SFD has declared the fire “tapped” (out). Some of the units are being dismissed.
10:37 PM: 14th/Cloverdale is still blocked but south/westbound bridge traffic is flowing again and the camera shows some vehicles getting onto the north/eastbound side from Dallas.
10:53 PM: Officers just told dispatch they’re reopening SB 14th and one lane of NB 14th. The fire, meantime, is under investigation.
2:37 AM: As commenter David points out, SFD has summarized the fire response here, including the determination that the fire was accidental, “likely caused by faulty electrical.” The photo confirms it’s the building that’s home to the café Good Voyage.
For the first time since 2019, the streets of South Park were alive with the celebration of Latin American cultures and heritage known as Fiestas Patrias, as hundreds of people paraded through the heart of the neighborhood on Saturday. Many of them rode – not just vehicles, but horses:
The parade ended with dozens of high-stepping horses and riders:
Earlier, there was horsepower:
Low riders from the Eazy Duz It Car Club rolled – and bounced – down the parade route:
Two-wheeled participants, too .. from scooters:
… to BMX bicycles …
… to unicycles – these students came all the way from Whittier Elementary in Ballard:
Schools from closer by participated too – here’s our video of Chief Sealth International High School‘s Cheer Team and Band:
South Park’s own Duwamish Valley Youth Corps walked in the parade:
Several folklorico groups danced along the route:
Back-to-school time is also afterschool-activity time. Here’s an opportunity: West Seattle writer Julia Douthwaite Viglione is organizing another free “Write YOUR Story” series. She asked us to share this announcement:
Write YOUR Story now enrolling for Fall 2023!
Free writing workshop for people ages 8—12, on Tuesday evenings 6:30 pm —7:30 pm, in the Concord Elementary School cafeteria space! Concord International Elementary, 723 S. Concord St. (South Park).
A semester-long program of twelve (12) meetings from Tuesday September 26, 2023, to Tuesday December 12, 2023, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. By enrollment, limit: 12.
We will read two beautifully illustrated classics of world literature, vote on our favorite plot, then rewrite it and illustrate our story together. Every child receives a copy of our book at the end, in color and spiral bound!
Fall 2023 TRICKSTERS! Books we will read:
Gerald McDermott, Papagayo the Mischief Maker, about a parrot of the Amazon rain forest who helps the other jungle creatures learn to make noise without fear.
Charles Perrault, Puss in Boots, the story as it was originally told in the 1670s, in France, of a trickster cat and his lucky owner.
Write YOUR Story is a free program offered by West Seattle writers who love to share their passion for good stories and the creative process. Established in 2012 in South Bend, IN, “We read, we write, and we have a lot of fun.” jdouthwa.wixsite.com/writeyourstory1
To enroll, contact Ms. Julia, at email@example.com
Hope to see you this fall! — Julia Douthwaite Viglione, PhD, Shepherd Siegel, PhD, and the Write Your Story team
Before summer officially ends, another tradition will return for the first time in four years – the Fiestas Patrias parade in South Park. Sea-Mar Community Health Centers present the parade, and a weekend-long festival at Seattle Center, as a celebration of Latin American culture, and two weeks from today will bring the first parade since 2019. You can watch along 14th Avenue South (Henderson north to Cloverdale) or South Cloverdale Street (14th west to 8th, where the parade ends at the community center) starting at 11 am Saturday, September 16th.
Seattle’s only river is what today’s Duwamish River Festival is all about, so of course you can get out on the water as part of the festivities at Duwamish River People’s Park (8700 Dallas Avenue S. in South Park). But the rest of the festival is on land:
Agencies and vendors are there to talk with community members, and you have the chance to offer your opinion on a variety of topics and projects:
Want to know more about emergency preparedness? Talk with South Park “hub” captain Anne Churchill!
You can also enjoy entertainment (here’s the schedule) – Neon Brass Party was playing while we were there:
(added) So was Kavak:
We also found a festival participant you can truly look up to:
If you’re driving, your best bet is to catch the shuttle bus from the lot near the future South Park Plaza on the southwest end of the South Park Bridge, but you can walk from there too, or from the 14th/Cloverdale business hub – look for the signs. The festival is presented by the Duwamish River Community Coalition and continues until 5 pm.
Two weeks after performing in the West Seattle Grand Parade, the folkloric dance group Joyas Mestizas is on the schedule for this Saturday’s Duwamish River Festival – which includes not only performances but also art activities, vendors, kayaking, and more. For the second year, you’ll find the festival at its new home, Duwamish River People’s Park (8700 Dallas Avenue S. in South Park), noon-5 pm Saturday (August 5th). The Duwamish River Community Coalition coordinates the festival, celebrating Seattle’s only river and the ongoing cleanup work (on which you can comment while there). Here’s the schedule of events.
Summertime is internship time! West Seattle writer/educator Julia Douthwaite Viglione has an opportunity to share:
This summer a new course will be offered for kids at the South Park Community Center and you can help!
It’s called Write YOUR Story.
Opportunity for two unpaid internships, for 18- to 24-year-old people who seek to learn some aspects of teaching writing and working with children.
Help plan and co-teach “Write YOUR Story” at the South Park Comm. Center on Thursdays, 4:30-5:30 pm, from late June to early September, during summer session 2023 with local writer / professor, founder of WYS.
Volunteer; unpaid but rich in possibilities…
Prerequisites for application: High School juniors or graduates, detail-oriented. Applicants will submit a cover letter and a one-paragraph writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 6, 2023.
That’s Tuesday – so apply fast if interested!
Less than two months ago, the mayor proposed a billion-dollar renewal/expansion of the city Housing Levy. Some wondered what the money from the current one is being spent on. Here’s an example. The city has announced $147 million in grants for projects totaling 1,150 housing units, from sources including the current levy, as well as the “JumpStart” payroll tax and developers fees from the HALA-born Mandatory Housing Affordability program. The projects receiving grants are shown in this slide deck. None are in West Seattle. The nearest are two in South Park – a 78-unit complex that Sea Mar will build and 30 townhomes that Habitat for Humanity is planning.
On Earth Day – April 22nd – again this year, electric-vehicle drivers have the opportunity to help others learn about plugged-in driving, and people with questions about it have the chance to get answers. This year it’ll all be happening nearby, at the Duwamish River Community Hub on the southeast corner of downtown South Park’s main intersection, 14th Avenue S./S. Cloverdale. Organizers include the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association and Express CU – different EV models and even test drives will be offered, noon-3 pm on Saturday, April 22nd. If you’re an EV driver interested in participating, the link is on this page (as well as the link for RSVPs).
Stolen yesterday from in front of my house on S. Southern in South Park.
Black 1989 Toyota 4Runner
License plate AGD0036 (front)
Collector plate on rear … starts w/ CV
SPD incident # 23-87474
4:47 PM SATURDAY: The photo and report are from Jessica:
I’m the manager at Loretta’s in South Park. We are a bar which happens to have a great burger. We had a signature vintage airstream in the back of the bar for years, and had moved it off premises to another location, still in South Park. Last night 2/24 it was stolen from us … we deeply loved her and want her back. She can be recognized by the many stickers she has on her door.
The SPD incident number is 23-053690.
12:42 PM SUNDAY: We heard a brief police-radio mention about a found stolen Airstream, and confirmed with Jessica that this one has been found.
2:42 PM: Sandbags and concrete blocks are in place in South Park in preparation for the return of “king tides” the next few mornings, but the good news is a calm forecast – no prediction for the kind of stormy weather that added to the predicted high tides last month, when low atmospheric pressure accompanied heavy rain. Tomorrow’s forecast is partly sunny; Tuesday brings a “slight chance of rain”; Thursday is expected to be mostly cloudy. Nonetheless, Seattle Public Utilities says it’s done what it can, just in case, as outlined here. City reps said at a briefing earlier this month that 49 homes and businesses suffered “substantial” damage from flooding in December.
9:49 PM: In an update for media tonight, SPU reiterates that the forecast doesn’t suggest flooding. But its preparations so far total “an estimated 90,000 sandbags and barriers totaling 1.4 miles.” Its update also notes that housing assistance for those affected by last month’s flooding has been extended through February 28th.
Three weeks after the weather-enhanced “king tides” that swamped parts of South Park, winter’s final round of extra-high tides is days away. The city says it’s preparing “by placing protective barriers like sandbags and other barriers in low-lying areas of the community and along the Duwamish River (and) offering sandbags to homeowners and businesses to help protect homes and property.” The ties will peak Tuesday and Wednesday morning of next week (January 24-25) but won’t be higher than the December 27th tides unless again complicated by factors including a low-pressure system and heavy rainfall. Nonetheless, Seattle Public Utilities says it’s “sandbagging key locations along the river and in South Park” including a park at 760 S. Portland and an alley off S. Kenyon.
SPU’s update today says it’s “also developing community notification systems for potentially impactful high tides.” At a City Council committee briefing last week, city staffers said 49 homes and businesses had suffered “substantial damage” in last month’s flooding. As for non-governmental response, the Duwamish River Community Coalition was first in the zone, and its page – including links to other community groups directly assisting flood victims – is here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With more than four dozen South Park homes and businesses suffering “substantial damage” in flooding two weeks ago, a City Council committee convened a briefing Tuesday morning. They heard city departments recount what they’ve done since what one speaker described as an “absolutely extraordinary event.”
The City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee also wanted to know what’s being planned in case the Duwamish River has another disastrous spillover – particularly, what’s being done to prevent a potential repeat during winter’s final “king tides” in less than two weeks.
Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell led the multi-department delegation. Here’s the full slide deck that was shown, and you can watch the video starting 1 hour, 6 minutes in:
Key numbers: 49 homes and businesses “have substantial damage.” 14 agencies are involved in the response/recovery operation. In the city response, the Office of Emergency Management is helping with some on-scene work, but Seattle Public Utilities and Human Services are most involved. They’re working with King County to find “funding opportunities,” possibly from the state. But they repeatedly stressed the importance of the community-based organizations that are involved, especially the Duwamish River Community Coalition.
SPU deputy director Keri Burchard-Juarez said SPU had sandbags and an advance contract with Just Health Action. But forecasters did not predict that the river would overtop its banks so “we really weren’t prepared” for that. But it happened, and they worked to provide emergency housing for up to 15 families, as well as setting up a trailer and tents (as we reported last week), plus portable showers, toilets, and laundry facilities.
They’ve moved on to focus on cleanup, including inside people’s homes, and the focuses this week also include hazardous-materials mitigation. They had a community meeting with flood victims last weekend and will have another within a few weeks.
Regarding preparing for the next king tide – it’s predicted to be two feet lower than December 27th, but the wild card would be a low-pressure storm system causing a similar situation. SPU will implement an Incident Command Structure, will monitor weather very closely, will have an on-site presence. They’ve also observed several locations along river where it overtopped and will strategically place sandbags there, as well as trying to get a berm installed at one location, an under-construction pump station, 8th, Chicago. “Putting in as many precautions as possible.”
What happened “was absolutely extraordinary” and yet they’ve known something like this was coming, city reps acknowledged. They’ve been working for five years to develop a “resiliency district” for the Duwamish Valley, including South Park and Georgetown. They’ve been looking at property acquisition along the river. They know there will be “future investment needs.” SPU has already been working on a road improvement and drainage project. And they’ve worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a cost-benefit analysis for more potential work.
The Human Services Department talked about assistance for flood victims, including collaboration with the community organizations and check-ins “every 24 to 48 hours” with the affected people, plus ensuring they have housing and food.
When does the housing assistance expire? asked City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the committee. HSD told her it’s now been extended until at least the end of the month. The homes are being evaluated for safety – mold, asbestos, etc. She also wanted to know from SPU, how much more studying needed to be done before action is taken: “We don’t always have to do things sequentially, we can do them simultaneously.” SPU general manager Andrew Lee explained that his mention of a “feasibility study” to be done was not redundant with previous work such as the cost-benefit analysis. That analysis, he added, shows a “high benefit” from doing certain flood-control work, so this will evaluate the options more closely. Meantime, the city is meeting with the congressional delegation to talk about potential federal funding.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: This wasn’t part of the discussion, but you can still support the community groups who also are working with the flood victims – find links and info here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“We’re an environmental organization, not an emergency organization.”
Despite that observation, Duwamish River Community Coalition executive director Paulina López and staffers from her organization have been on the ground – and, at first, in the water – in the South Park flood zone, continuously, since the river overflowed its banks December 27th.
We talked with her at the Resource Center, the nerve center of recovery efforts in north South Park at midday Wednesday, where South Chicago Street [map] is lined with trailers and tents – temporary office space, hygiene facilities – and storage pods for residents who had to get belongings out of flooded homes.
We went to South Park to find out more about what sort of help is most needed now, and will be needed in the future.
Our first stop was the Duwamish River Community Hub, in the heart of “downtown” South Park at 14th Avenue South/South Cloverdale, the former pizza joint converted into a community space by the Port of Seattle. Right now it’s serving as a dropoff and storage spot for donations, as well as a place flood victims can go get some of those donated items, like food staples. But food is no longer on the “most needed” list as of today’s update.
Back at the Resource Center, both López and DRCC’s Robin Schwartz told us that some of the larger items will be needed later, when families are either able to move back into their homes or into someplace new. Even finding places for flood victims to stay is a challenge – the city has arranged for lodging through at least January 11th, but these are families who in many cases have jobs and students and who want to stay in or near the South Park area.
DRCC is working to transition some of this assistance over to other community/social-service organizations whose missions better synergize with it – such as Villa Comunitaria and Khmer Community of Seattle King County. What DRCC wants to prioritize for its part, López says, is health and safety. They have been pushing for Public Health – Seattle & King County to come out and survey the homes that flooded to assess whether they’re safe enough to be reoccupied. And she has her eye on the big long-term “systemic” needs of which this situation has been a painful reminder.
Even balancing the recovery work with ongoing life in the neighborhood is a challenge. While we were speaking with López, someone from a nearby business came over to say cars – ostensibly belonging to people involved with the recovery work – were blocking their gate, and she had to go try to spread the word about that. We continued the conversation with Schwartz, who not only is a DRCC staffer, but also a resident of one of the flooded neighborhoods, though she said her home only took in inches of water, compared to others whose basements were swamped by feet of it.
As the recovery operation continues, there’s a looming concern about the next “king tides,” less than three weeks away – the basic prediction is slightly higher than December 27th, but the river may stay within its banks in the absence of atmospheric conditions such as those that intensified last week’s tides, Still, the city – and the residents and businesses – have to be ready. (We’re following up with Seattle Public Utilities to find out about their plans.)
For now, here are ways you can help:
-The aforementioned “current needs” list, updated again today, is here
DRCC’s crowdfunding page THURSDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Financial donations are now directed to three community organizations – the two mentioned above and Cultivate South Park – find direct links on this page
-Two families have GoFundMe pages that were posted in this WSB comment thread
And if you’re offering help, patience is a plus too. Community organizations can get overwhelmed in situations like this, especially in the early going, but the needs will stretch on for weeks and even months, so if you reach out with an offer – maybe you have an appliance you could donate to someone who lost theirs in basement flooding – understand that you may not hear back immediately.
The cleanup continues in South Park, where dozens of homes and businesses were flooded by last week’s weather-enhanced king tide. The Duwamish River Community Coalition is coordinating support for the flood victims and – in addition to the fundraising we’ve mentioned before – has developed a list of what’s needed. You can see the list here; the requested items include specific clothing, houseware, and cleanup items, as well as bottles of water and bags of rice. That document also includes specifics on who to contact and where to go if you can help. They’ve also been accepting volunteer help – watch here for shifts to sign up for.
Our neighbors in South Park are cleaning up flooded homes and businesses along the Duwamish River after Tuesday’s weather-enhanced king tide. Commenters have been discussing how to help and we’re surfacing it here so you can help too. While the city is providing some help, community-based assistance is being coordinated by the Duwamish River Community Coalition, and they have two requests: Money to directly support flood-affected families (you can donate here). DRCC says that so far it’s placed 10 families in hotels and is working with others on specific needs. They’re also asking for volunteer help, too – watch for a link on the DRCC website.
3:50 PM: Thanks to Devlin Carey for the photos. While the weather-enhanced king-tide waters were mostly a point of curiosity in West Seattle, they caused more-serious trouble along the Duwamish River in. South Park, flooding streets and neighborhoods.
At the peak of it, emergency responders had to rescue people from what was described as “flooding/possible sinkhole” near 5th South and South Holden.
ADDED 8:14 PM: Speaking of responders, look what one crew faced, in this photo sent by a reader who works in South Park:
Tonight we also have an advisory from SDOT that road closures continue:
Due to flooding, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) closed streets north of S Kenyon Street from 8th Ave S to SR 99 in South Park until further notice. (Read SPU’s statement on today’s flooding in South Park.) SDOT will reopen the roads once crews verify that the area is safe to travel through. SDOT advises travelers to avoid unnecessary travel in this area. If you must travel, please slow down and avoid driving through flooded roads.
Back in 2016, after repeated problems with “brown water” in multiple West Seattle neighborhoods, Seattle Public Utilities carried out a major flush of local lines. Now they’re planning one for southeast West Seattle and South Park, in the areas outlined on this map:
That map is included in a letter SPU has just mailed to affected residents and businesses, saying the flush will start soon and continue into next year. Here’s what else the letter says:
SPU is performing this work to help maintain water quality and help reduce the occurrence of discolored water that can sometimes occur. Flushing won’t eliminate discolored water, but it will help decrease it.
What do customers need to do? SPU crews will perform the flushing at night by flowing water from fire hydrants. Residents and businesses do not need to take any action to prepare for this work. Customers will be able to use their water as usual. When crews are flushing nearby, customers may notice a slight reduction in their water pressure. They may also experience temporary discolored water, which should clear quickly once crews are done flushing the water main. Running the cold water for a few minutes can also help clear the discoloration.
Why does discolored water occur? Discolored water can happen when crews operate a fire hydrant, when there is a water main break or leak, or when the water in the pipes is forced to travel in a different direction than normal. When one of these events happens, sediment in the water and rust in the pipes get stirred up, causing the water to look discolored. Flushing the water mains will remove some of the sediment and rust that has been resting in the pipes. This will help reduce the level of discoloration and the time it takes for the water to clear when there’s a disturbance in the pipes.
Is the water safe? Yes. Every single day, SPU takes samples throughout the drinking water system that serves 1.5 million people. The water is tested for contaminants and is regulated by the Washington State Department of Health. Seattle’s water remains safe to drink.
See the full letter here.
5:51 PM: Thanks for all the tips. The big column of black smoke visible a short time ago is from a vehicle fire on Northbound Highway 99 in the 14th Avenue South vicinity in South Park. (Update) All NB lanes of 99 are closed at the scene. Adding a WSDOT camera image:
6:04 PM: WSDOT says (and the camera verifies) that they’ve opened one northbound lane.
6:16 PM: Both lanes are now open again. No injuries reported but we’re doublechecking with SFD.
1:17 PM: Until 5 pm, you can visit newly dedicated Duwamish River People’s Park and enjoy the Duwamish River Festival. The park is at 8700 Dallas Ave. S. in South Park [map] – we reported on the site when construction began two years ago.
Today’s event includes entertainment, games, educational booths, and food, as shown here. We’ll add more photos when we’re back at HQ.
P.S. If you drive there and can’t find a close parking spot, there is a shuttle from 8438 Dallas.
ADDED 2:59 PM: The festival has more than 55 booths, most from agencies and groups addressing environmental issues in the Duwamish Valley and ways you can help – native plants, for example:
Knowing and respecting the Duwamish River’s fish and wildlife is another topic:
You can find out more about the West Dumamish Wet Weather Storage Facility project featured here earlier this week, to be built in southeast West Seattle in about three years:
Community resilience is a topic too – Cindi Barker from West Seattle is at the booth where you can find out about Neighborhood Emergency Communication Hubs:
And of course the EPA is there to talk about the ongoing Duwamish River cleanup. New regional administrator Casey Sixkiller (last mentioned here when he was running for mayor last year) spoke briefly to festivalgoers – he’s at right in our photo below next to Paulina López, executive director of the Duwamish River Community Coalition – which is presenting today’s festival:
With them from left are Calvin Teraba, Christian Poulsen, and Fatima Hernandez. Sixkiller promised to “continue to work in partnership with this community” toward “a river that’s clean, healthy, open to everyone.”
ADDED: Thanks to Don Brubeck for this photo of some of the festival performers: