Archive for February, 2010
I have to be honest — when I initially saw this advertised, my first reaction was negative. Over the past 8 months, I have heard a lot of feedback from Pioneer Square residents that they are tired of church organizations and people with good intentions coming to our neighborhood to feed the homeless. Oftentimes, they leave our parks full of trash, and when confronted about picking it up, they get angry and don’t feel like it’s their responsibility. It also brings more and more homeless to our neighborhood — people ask why they don’t advertise that they’ll feed them in their neighborhood.
After talking to the Marketing + Communications Director for the Bread of Life, however, their event is different.
“The Bread of Life’s intent is not to be a band-aid,” she said. “When someone comes here for a meal, they realize that there is a transitional opportunity and there is a program and a way to step out of this cycle of homelessness. When we are in the park, we are also marketing that opportunity to the people on the streets.”
The have done this three times already– usually the third Saturday of the month, and plan to keep up the program. In January, a homeless person talked to someone in BOLM’s Life Change program about how he changed his life. He later came down and signed up for their program. They also see it as a way for the men in their Life Change program to give back.
They send out runners to the train station, occidental park, places they know there are homeless — telling them where the food is, with the goal of spreading the word about getting off the streets and changing their lives.
In that way, they are different than many of the other groups that come to our neighborhood. Plus, they have their own trash receptacles and make sure to clean up after each event.
When: Saturday, February 27th from 1 – 4pm (volunteers meet at 12:45 for a safety/info briefing)
Where: Meet at the Bread of Life Mission (1st + Main)
One group will set up by the courthouse park, and a second team will go out in a van to a few spots in Seattle where homeless usually gather (under an overpass or by the West Seattle Bridge, I-5 and Pike Place Market)
Guest Post by Don Blakeney
Billed as a contemporary lifestyle clothing boutique, Deli comes to Pioneer Square amongst a wave of new extraordinary retailers. Located on Yesler at the southern end of Western, Deli sneaks under the radar for travelers taking in the sites or visitors catching the Underground Tour.
Embracing the historic “more than meets the eye” nature of the neighborhood, Deli is a cutting edge men’s clothing store that has been set up to look like a historic deli; along the lines of something one might have seen 60 years ago in the neighborhood. Drawing on his interest in fashion and his experience with his family’s deli business in Sea-Tac, owner Max Heigh has set up what looks like a functional deli–using refrigerator cases and baking racks to display everything in his store from sweaters, to bow ties.
A long time fan of the neighborhood, when asked why he chose this location for his business, Max said “I wanted to be in a place that is Seattle–and that’s Pioneer Square. I wanted to attract people to the area and wanted to offer them something different.”
Deli has been doing just that–since they opened in May, they have thrown a number of launch events to celebrate the introduction of new lines and partnerships with local artists who have designed a line of t-shirts called the DELI Artists Series. Most recently, they have taken this concept to the next level and have opened a pop-up shop in what they are calling the “Freezer“–a hidden space in the back of their store, separated by a plastic curtain and adorned with meat hooks (to hang merchandise of course) and beef/pork wallpaper.
This week they launched a new line for B:Son designer Brandon Scott, exclusively in the “Freezer” (click here to see pictures). In the rest of Deli, you can find local designers, as well as fashions from LA and New York.
Deli and the Freezer are not the only double takes that have come into the neighborhood recently.
Gems is a stylish shoe store on Western that recently decided to try something similar. Last fall the store tucked itself away behind a brightly-colored pop-up candy shop. Newcomers are initially lured in by the confectionery-inspired red w/ white walls and large bins of colorful candy, and for returning customers, it continues to be a fun quirk.
However, it is not until they spend a few moments inside, that they realize there is more to the store than just sweets. A large portion of the back wall moves to reveal the hidden shoe store. Owner John Mooney says he wanted to try something new and engage people’s imagination. He says some people come in and enjoy the experience without ever realizing there is a shoe store component. Now the store has new neighborhood regulars that stop by for only the candy and to chat with John.
Finally, there is Tether Design Gallery, a branding/creative/advertising firm in Pioneer Square that has recently decided to get into the retail game by taking over the gallery space below their offices on Occidental at Jackson.
Part vintage items, part locally designed products, part artwork, the Tether Gallery is a fun retail lab for the creative thinkers upstairs, and a great addition to the neighborhood. They are also a growing staple of the First Thursday Art Walk and continue to act as a growing showcase for local artists.
With the addition of these ‘more than meets the eye’ retailers, we are left to ponder what else is going on in the neighborhood that we might be missing!
For more information:
Location: 615 Western Avenue, just north of Yesler
Store Hours: 11a-6p Tuesday – Saturday. John says Sundays and Mondays are for “chillin”
Phone: (206) 624-4367
1. 1 in 4 Seattle residents named downtown as the number one neighborhood where they don’t feel safe. Nearly 40% of downtown residents worry about going out in the evenings because of that same fear.
Surprise! Many of you probably thought it would be Pioneer Square, but I don’t know how many times I have to keep telling you that we’re just as safe as our other friendly neighborhoods (which, I admit, isn’t perceived as very safe, despite low crime numbers).
Tim Burgess tried to spin that concern around to talk about his issue of aggressive panhandling. In a survey by DSA last year, 66% of the respondents said they felt that aggressive solicitation was out of control and the city wasn’t doing enough.
Those are not the top 2 concerns, however. In a Publicola article yesterday, they report that 75% of the respondents were most concerned about drug dealing and 69% were concerned about dangerous drunken behavior (both ranking higher than panhandling.. although they are all serious problems)
2. We need to add more police officers and police beats to our Seattle neighborhoods.
As part of the aggressive panhandling proposal Burgess is making to City Council, he is suggesting that they fund adding more police officers to the streets (21 in 2011 and 21 in 2012). Click here to see the article in the Seattle Times.
Dan Satterburg, KC Prosecuting Attorney added that a visible police presence is very important – it makes tourists, residents, and the work force feel safe.
3. We need to be proactive regarding open air drug markets
“It’s not just about arresting people – by the time they get to my office or Pete’s office (Seattle City Attorney), the damage has already been done to the city’s reputation of being unsafe,” said Satterburg.
There are some interesting programs that the city is working on right now, including the “drug market initiative.” The pilot neighborhood for this was 23rd & Union, where residents have felt unsafe for decades. SPD spent months doing undercover buys and videotaping drug deals. They then sent a letter to 18 of these individuals, requesting that they and a guardian (parent, teach, coach, youth leader) come to a meeting.
At the meeting, they were told that they either stop what they’re doing, or they will file the case against them and send them to prison. “The impact wasn’t necessarily on the individual,” Satterburg said. “It was on the neighborhood.”
“If you do it only once, it will dissipate, so it needs to continue as a strategy and to occur in other neighborhoods.”
4. We need to be proactive regarding the youth in our communities and schools
After Kate Joncas of DSA asked a question about what to do regarding youth issues (i.e. like Westlake who had one group of youth last summer that intimidated everyone else out), and if creating a community center downtown would help, you could have heard a pin drop.
Burgess did make a good point, however, when he said that “usually the young people that are at Westlake park, for example, or causing problems on the street, are typically not the kids who are going to our community centers or involved in our sports programs.” He continued saying “it’s very complicated. I don’t have a good answer.”
Satterbug added that 3 out of 4 prison inmates in the state dropped out of high school, so it’s a big red flag. They are doing a similar proactive program to the drug issue of inviting students in who miss too many classes (with a guardian) and talk about why they are unable to make it to class and work to make accommodations so that they will attend.
“We’re making an effort because we know how important it is.”
5. Fantastic walking cities don’t combine their “showcase area” with where they provide social services
Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney, made a statement that I applaud whole-heartedly:
“When you go to any great city, fantastic walking cities invite you to get out and just explore on their streets. In none of those cities is the showcase area also the area where we provide social services. In those cities, those services are somewhere else. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same complicated problems that we have in Seattle, here, we just tend to overlap the two.”
Thank you for saying out loud what I’ve been trying to write for months (without being jumped all over). And just to be clear: it’s not opposing social/human services. It’s opposing where they’re located and how concentrated they are. Although someone mentioned after the forum that every neighborhood feels like they have too many social services. There just needs to be a balance.
6. There needs to be a middle ground between night life businesses that want to stay in business, and residents that want to sleep
Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, said that they are crafting a comprehensive framework for regulating the nightlife industry to make sure that it’s both vibrant and safe. They are also looking at staggering last call, something that will really help the police department.
Satterburg added that “the problem is not what happens inside the club, it’s the closing time, in the parking lot when the bartender says you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here, and that’s where we need a visible police presence – robberies, assaults, gangs that come in to find a drunken, vulnerable person, ridiculous gun fights over insults – all of that will dissipate if there’s a visible police presence.”
The city is also looking at staggering last call, something that will really help the police department. There is evidence in other cities, like Birmingham, Alabama, where they let the market establish when and where bars will close, and that has worked very effectively.
7. The creation of a 24/7 shelter with onsite services = housing
There are concerns about 24 hour shelters and new day centers to address a lot of the problems the city is facing with homelessness.
“The cost of opening an emergency shelter versus the cost of creating housing… it really makes sense to invest in housing,” Bill Block said. “We have managed to stabilize thousands of lives for people. Recognize that this works and continue those investments.”
After that statement, Burgess added that “it’s increasinbly apparent to me that we need another [day center]. People come out of shelters, and don’t have a place to go, so they go to the library or on to the streets. Most often, not causing problems for us, but they do need a place to go.”
8. The easiest way to stop aggressive panhandling? Just stop giving them money
Block said that he’s met with cities across the nation to talk about how they deal with aggressive panhandling and “the only thing that actually seems to work is to have people stop giving.”
Instead, he said, people should give money to the social service agencies, or to the real change vendors. “All the laws in the world don’t have nearly the effect of giving to social services agencies rather than the person on the street.”
9. A clean, safe environment is conducive to a vibrant tourist industry and vibrant residential downtown: Remember 3-1-1
Holmes’ parting advice on the one thing you can do to make a difference is to call 3-1-1 to report broken windows, illegal graffiti – any non-emergency situation that will make a different in your neighborhood.
He says that we should insist on a clean, safe environment where you live and work.
10. Stay engaged
Each panel member listed one piece of advice for how individuals can make a difference.
In addition to requesting that we stay engaged, Burgess added another way we can help, which drew laughter from the crowd. “Let the other council members know that you support my initiative.”
Holmes hit the nail on the head, however, when he said that “underlying all of these discussions is a resource question – if you really want to address these problems, address the fundamental funding problem in the state.”
Satterburg finished it off by adding that “there is no substitute for professional law enforcement. We’d all love to build housing rather than hire police officers, but we don’t have to do one or the other, we can do both.”
Go to DSA’s website to add your thoughts/opinions – make your voice heard, and stay engaged.
To watch video of the entire forum, click here.
There was an article in the DJC regarding waterfront plans last Friday that discusses the city’s desire to speed up the process of redesigning the waterfront.
“If all goes as planned [they] could issues an RFQ for design work this spring and hire a team in the fall.”
Seattle Planning Director Marshall Foster said that “the waterfront design needs to happen more quickly because of McGinn’s effort to put a $241 million property tax measure on the May ballot to fund a seawall replacement.”
In regards to the seawall design, the city is asking for three approaches to create a shoreline system that balances public safety and stability, public access, and nearshore ecology. The city would like to see the following:
- A traditional approach
- A “soft” approach (like the Olympic Sculpture Park)
- A combination of traditional + soft
There are four community meetings coming up next month where members of the Committee for Central Waterfront Partnerships, and city staff will talk more about the following:
- What makes Seattle’s waterfront unique?
- What tools will we need to create a great central waterfront?
- How will we keep it active and inviting for generations to come?
- How can public and private partners wisely set the stage for future success?
For more information, here is a link to DPD’s Central Waterfront site.
Miller Community Center
330 19th Ave E
Thursday, March 4, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Northgate Community Center
10510 5th Ave NE
Saturday, March 6, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
High Point Community Center
6920 34th Ave SW
Saturday, March 13, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Van Asselt Community Center
2820 South Myrtle Street
Saturday, March 20, 2:30 –4:00 p.m.
Guest Post by Kate Howe, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture
[Editor's Note: Pioneer Square was featured in a lot of the presentation, which is great news. A copy of the presentation, which features a streetcar coming down 1st avenue next to J&M Cafe, should be posted here tomorrow -- stay tuned. To read other coverage of the talk, see the International Sustainability Institute's Press link]
Much of our combined city planning energy has been focused on traffic; how to plan for it, how to make space for it, and how to keep people from getting in its way.
However, the methodologies championed by Danish urban expert Jan Gehl and his team at Gehl Architects are finally giving neighborhoods and community advocates the facts they need to compete in a world dominated by traffic demand models, population forecasting, and abstract regulations that do not value public realm.
As of today, Copenhagen is the ONLY city in the world with a Department of Public Life. This is not a Traffic Department, or a Building Department, but a city agency that is consistently engaged with the everyday users of a city, its pedestrians, its residents and its commuters.
For our struggles in Seattle, Gehl Architect’s Founding Partner, Helle Soholt presented last night a first glimpse into our own Public Life Study (due out in full in March). It confirms what many of us who work downtown already know:
- that the office core is lifeless throughout the day
- that one has to walk to the edges, or the Pike Place market to find a nice place to sit and have lunch
- that you don’t linger unless you are waiting for a bus.
They know this because they had 43 graduate students at the University of Washington standing at street corners through out the downtown counting people. They did this in all seasons, days, nights and weekends. Observing and marking down what people are doing; i.e. are they sitting, standing, for how long?, walking, talking, shopping? The Study will also show how these activities rank up versus other cities of our size such as Melbourne and Sydney Australia. (Hint, not so good)
While I could go on to discuss Gehl’s projects and this Study at length, you can instead watch nearly the whole presentation here. (You can also watch the introduction to the presentation by Todd Vogel, Sally Clark and Mayor McGinn by clicking here.)
But overall, my conclusion is simply that the time has arrived! I hope that we can learn to pay attention to the map Gehl Architects has begun to provide. As Helle noted:
- “We need to give something to the city in order to get something from the city.”
- “Every person in the city is a part of the city’s culture.”
- “Most importantly the function of public space is that it is democratic, open and accessible to all.”
In sum, their five recommendations for Seattle:
1. Connect between Pike Place Market, the Waterfront and Westlake Center
These are the areas with the most active life now, how can we pull some of the activity from Pike Place towards the rest of our downtown? What can we do about the parking lots and junky urban design here? What are we saying at eye level invitations to the waterfront?
2. Complete the Bicycle Network
While pictures of Copenhagen’s famous cycle tracks are sure to make any cyclist drool, the recent changes in New York City are a great US precedent. Give us a safe – separated cycle track downtown so that even grannies feel like taking their bikes out. Please, and thank you.
3. Prioritize a First Avenue Pilot Project
Gehl Architect’s study shows First Avenue as the primary connector between languishing Pioneer Square and the Pike Place Market, by far our most vital walking environment downtown. They suggest we treat it that way. While retail owners may be nervous about losing traffic volumes and parking spaces, more hard data continues to show (such as in the recent PLANYC) increased walking traffic can be correlated with more retail sales. And we have a LOT of room for growth on First Avenue if we designed it for better connections and walkability.
4. Green our Alleys
Our streets are broad in Seattle, with one way fast moving traffic. Like Melbourne we have an opportunity to green our narrower and intimate alleys, remove the dumpsters and make new smaller scaled streets and places. These can be the places to stay. They also recommend simply greening the east-west connectors with sitting benches and places, street trees to make the incredible topography less challenging.
5. Make new facades where none exist
Hallelujah. Helle mentioned, first that we have something like 75,000 parking spaces in the downtown; we can sacrifice a few at the street level to make new storefronts and facades. What is the city doing to make this happen?
[The following is a letter from PSCA -- if you want to get involved and help Pioneer Square have a better future, please follow one of the action items listed at the bottom. It will take 10 minutes at the most and will be a really good thing for the neighborhood.]
Dear Pioneer Square Stakeholders, Business Owners, Residents and Friends:
As you know, much is taking place that will greatly impact the future of Pioneer Square, including South End Construction, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program, and the plans for the North Lot. Many of these issues will be a couple of years off, but one immediate issue we need your input on is the First Hill Streetcar Line. Please take a few minutes and let our city council know how important it is to bring the First Hill Streetcar into Pioneer Square.
Please help us convey the need for greater transit connections in the City of Seattle.
The First Hill Streetcar Line was included in the November 2008 voter-approved Sound Transit 2 (ST2) mass transit system. The development of the First Hill Streetcar Line creates a new multi-modal connection for transit riders via the Sounder commuter rail and Link light rail, as well as enhances connection to public transit sysems including Metro buses and Sound Transit commuter buses.
The City of Seattle, Department of Transportation (SDOT) plans to begin construction in Fall of 2011. More information about the project at: http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/.
How Does this affect Pioneer Square?
SDOT is currently analyzing several route alternatives for the First Hill line. A full overview of all the alternatives and additional information is available at: http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/firsthill.asp.
The portion of the project that impacts our neighborhood is the South Terminus Turnback Loop. The project is fully funded, but will choose one of two alternatives: a Weller Street Loop or a Pioneer Square Loop. (image below is what we’re pushing for)
This project is designed to connect several of Seattle’s most established neighborhoods including Capitol Hill, First Hill, Yesler Terrace, Chinatown/International District, and with the approval of the loop, Pioneer Square. We need your voice so that historic Pioneer Square is not left unconnected.
Benefits to the neighborhood of choosing the Pioneer Square Loop alternative:
- Will be completed before the viaduct removal begins making our neighborhood more accessible during construction
- New connection helps with economic development in the neighborhood
- Adds to the marketing draw for residential and office development alike
- Allows commuters to safely navigate the intersection at 4th and Jackson
- Brings users closer to the Waterfront, creating a more walkable area
- Project is fully funded by the ST2 mass transit system
- Elegant transportation connection to the east from a convenient location in our Pioneer Square neighborhood
- Creates another leg to the transportation hub at King Street Station
- Helps eliminate the need for parking, especially during stadium events
- Environmentally beneficial as it should reduce the need for vehicles for many uses
- Crosses the ‘gateway’ into Pioneer Square
You can give your feedback to Seattle City Council members several different ways:
- Come to the City Council Transportation Committee:
- Join us Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 9:30am
- Council Chambers, Seattle City Hall, Floor 2, 600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle
- The public comment period is first thing, so please send me an email and join us to communicate the need for the Pioneer Square Loop on the First Hill streetcar line.
- Fill out the comment page on the website:
- Send an email (or mail a letter):
- Open a new e-mail message and insert “First Hill Streetcar and the Pioneer Square Loop”
- Address your letters or emails to the Seattle City Council, but send copies to each individual council member (both current and newly elected).
- Email to: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com. Also copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Or Send to: City Council Mailing Address: Seattle City Council, P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025
- In your message, it is important to convey the positive impacts of choosing the Pioneer Square Loop for this project. If you are a small business owners, include how this can impact your business. Your advocacy matters!
Your voice is important and we need your input on this issue.
If this is the first time you’re seeing this, you’re probably too late. But it’s still exciting and the awards will be announced next Thursday at the First Thursday Alley Party (which is always a blast) in Nord Alley, Pioneer Square.
Seattle’s alleys offer intimate, small-scale spaces that, properly staged, invite people to walk and promise a host of sustainability benefits. Introducing greenery to Seattle’s forgotten spaces can create a small ecological system of its own by filtering city runoff before it hits the Puget Sound.
How green is your alley? The City of Seattle, Great City, the International Sustainability Institute, People for Puget Sound, and the AIA Seattle are sponsoring a contest on how to green our alleys. An all-star cast of designers, planners, residents and other alley-lovers will judge the entries for their originality, cost-effectiveness and practical implementation. Join us in a unique design competition to green Seattle’s alleys!
Here is a link to a PDF document containing project info, submission requirements and maps of the project area: Green_Alleys_info.pdf (836 KB)
Check out Great City’s website for more information!
Week of January 11: Release schedule, regulations, and base information on Yahoo Groups
February 22: Entries due to ISI offices by 5 pm PST (314 1st Avenue South, 206-381-1630)
February 24: Judging panel reviews and selects winners
March 4: First Thursday Alley party, all entries displayed and winners announced in the Nord Alley
Alleys are a key resource in Seattle. Traditionally restricted to service uses, the Clear Alleys Program has opened up opportunities to use alleys in different ways. This design competition is focused on potential new uses that in combination could add functionality to our transportation and ecological systems as well as improving the aesthetic and community-building elements of our City. Below are some guiding principles to help you in your design of Seattle’s best Green Alley:
Green alleys should:
- Welcome pedestrians, both as walkways and places to visit
- Incorporate green stormwater infrastructure in both functional and aesthetic aspects
- Encourage building design to provide doors, windows, and other elements that support non-service uses
- Continue to provide access for service vehicles
- Design innovation and quality: 40%
- Thoughtful integration of green stormwater infrastructure: 20%
- Response to culture, community, and context: 20%
- Transferability of ideas and approach to other alleys: 20%
Seattle’s downtown retail core needs ‘new spark’ (Seattle Times)
Interesting article on the state of downtown’s retail and prospects for the future. “With the total number of places to shop in the retail core down 10 percent last year, what it now needs are property owners willing to make upgrades that attract new stores, and streets so enjoyable that people don’t mind paying to park, Joncas said in an interview this week.”
Transit security gets boost after beating in tunnel (Seattle Times)
After the shocking video tape of the beating of a 15-year-old girl, which made me feel much less safe in the tunnels, Seattle police officers are adding patrols at the five different tunnel entrances, including the Pioneer Square tunnel. You’ll see them around until a political move is made to make people not be so outraged and/or feel so unsafe.
What’s Obama got against historic preservation? (Crosscut/Mossback)
The Great Recession and federal and state budget cuts are creating hurdles for heritage advocates who see historic preservation and urban revitalization as a way out of the economic doldrums. Obama’s budget is a major setback because it slashes cherished programs.
Cantwell Plan for Small Banks and Businesses (NPR)
Senator Cantwell wants to take “rescue funds that have been repaid by big banks and dedicat[e] them to community banks that focus on local employers.”
Smoking Banned in City Parks (PubliCola)
“Against the recommendation of the city’s parks board, city Parks superintendent Tim Gallagher issued a new rule that bans smoking, chewing tobacco, and any other tobacco use in all city parks.” (sigh) Just another thing that won’t be enforced and criminalizes behavior.
DELI unveils B:Scott, a pop up store (Facebook)
On Saturday, 2/20, Deli unveiled the opening of a 3 month installation inside of their “growing store.” DELI is hosting the entire official collection of former B:Son designer Brandon Scott’s anticipated label B:Scott.
Sneak peek aboard West Seattle’s new Water Taxi, the Rachel Marie (West Seattle Blog)
New water taxi service starting April 5, which will run from West Seattle to Downtown Seattle (it will arrive at Pier 50 — Pioneer Square’s waterfront).
SIFE Club seeks SU mission through education in entrepreneurship (Spectator Blog)
Students from Seattle U’s SIFE club came to the Union Gospel Mission last Friday to teach them interview tactics, give advice for finding jobs, and to hand out donated professional clothing. This is precisely what we need people to come to Pioneer Square to do — teach skills for the homeless in our city to find jobs and help themselves (as opposed to the ones who come to our neighborhood to hand out food and typically leave a mess in their wake).
Art show inspired by ‘accidents’ (My Ballard)
“Essential Gestures,” is a new exhibition on view now at CoCa Ballard Gallery (6413 Seaview Ave NW) until March 7. For more information, visit CocaSeattle.org. Vrijmoet also welcomes visitors at her studio in Pioneer Square at 306 S Washington St., located in the TK Building.
Seattle City Council – 2010 City Priorities (Seattle Community Council Federation)
Seattle City Council is meeting today at 2pm in Council Chambers (2nd floor City Hall) and has invited the public to join their announcement of what the council feels Seattle’s set of priorities should be for moving forward. Public comments will be taken on all items. John Barber of the Parks Board encourages questions that they should address, such as “What are the measures of livable, sustainable communities?”
BIG Chess being played in Occidental Park (twitpic)
You can always see upcoming events on the calendar here.
As a reminder, the last meeting to add input on what the city should look for in a new police chief is this Friday. (here’s the post talking about it)
I’ve just finished watching Steven Leavitt, the author of Freakonomics, present data at a 2007 TED conference on the finances of drug dealing. The title of his presentation is “Why do crack dealers still live with their moms?”
He worked with someone who had an inside track to not only the relationships between gang members, but also their financial records. The people on the street, aka the “foot soldiers,” made about $3.50/hr. In addition, being in this gang had an annual death rate of 7%. If you stayed in the gang for four years, you had over a 25% of being killed.
In comparison, he jokingly listed the annual death rate of inmates on death row, which is only 2%.
So, why would anyone stand on a street corner dealing drugs when they only make $3.50/hr and have a 25% chance of being killed?
- They were fooled by history. It used to be that being a member of a gang was a right of passage — the young people controlled the gangs and as they got older, they thought they would drop out of the gang. The young ones became very very wealthy and then assumed that the next generation would take over and get the wealth (just like the internet boom). But what actually happened is that they never passed on any of the wealth and the “foot solders” became stuck at the $3.50/hr.
- The gang leaders were very good at marketing and trickery. They drove fancy cars, and wore expensive jewelry. What the inside man found out was that they only rented those cars because they couldn’t afford to buy them, and they wore gold plated jewelry instead of actual gold jewelry. So they would trick the young ones to get them involved. For example, they would give a young 14 year old $100 and tell them they could make that selling drugs for them. It wasn’t his money, until he spent it, and then he would be indebted to the gang and become part of a dangerous statistic. (although to be fair, most of the drug dealers/users on our block are no spring chickens)
The last reason that he failed to mention is that often times, they become addicted themselves and keep selling the drugs to have enough money to take care of their own addiction. Down on our corner, that’s definitely the case — some of them are the drug leaders that I can tell don’t use, and the others are obviously using and just dealing “on the side.”
Levitt said that “selling drugs in a gang is possibly the worst job in America.” I think the second worst job just may be the cops that have to continually arrest them and see them out on the streets time and time again. I ran into a cop at the West Precinct the other day who said that he worked the “Pioneer Square beat” for about 7 years but became so burned out, he requested a different location.
So, what’s the solution — Do you take some people’s suggestion and add another day center for them to go to? I would counter that they wouldn’t go even if it were available. Many day centers are (supposed) to ban drug use and selling inside of the center, so why would they go there?
Levitt counters that under an economic principle of Game Theory — that every two person gang has a Nash equilibrium. Applying that principle to a gang member’s world, if you were to go shoot your gun in the air in another gang’s territory, everyone’s going to be too afraid to buy drugs there and they’re going to come to your neighborhood to buy.
One gang member responded that “If we start shooting around there [the other gang's territory], nobody, and I mean you dig it, nobody gonna step on their turf. But we gotta be careful, ’cause they can shoot around here too and then we all f****d.”
Obviously the answer is not for me to go down on the street and start shooting a gun in the air, although I’ve been tempted at five in the morning when the pigeons are having a party on our deck. I know that change takes time, but sometimes I get impatient. I know that Pioneer Square has so much promise and I sincerely enjoy walking around my neighborhood.
For now, I’ll keep calling 911 every evening as I come home, and hold out hope that programs such as 1811 Eastlake will continue to receive funding and that people might learn something from Vancouver’s handling of drug addiction.
p.s. If you haven’t read the book Understanding Addiction, I highly recommend it. It definitely gives more insight to drug use/problems, and as he says “once you understand the what, you will figure out the why.”
If you’re wondering what reason this might be (because there are so many I could list: reference), it’s because of all of the boundaries we have in our neighborhood. I’m sure that most of you that just have one boundary are feeling pretty jealous right about now.
Check it out:
In case you can’t read the key:
Red Historic District
Blue Business Improvement Area
Green Urban Village
Yellow Metropolitan Improvement District (For more info on the MID, click here.)
Just to clarify why this might be a problem:
The businesses within the BIA incur an additional tax that other Pioneer Square businesses aren’t subject to (although they can sign up if they’re interested). The ordinance is for retail level sales and then a percentage of sq ft for upper level businesses). The money from this tax is supposed to pay for programs to be implemented that would support the community. One of the problems is that it’s difficult to implement a program just within the BIA, and not on the surrounding blocks, which are still considered part of the Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Here’s an example at how it can be confusing to people: the holiday program only included businesses within the BIA; some businesses were frustrated that they couldn’t be a part of the program. People trying to shop down in Pioneer Square were confused which businesses were actually included in the program when they assumed all Pioneer Square businesses would be.
Right now, programs are only able to be implemented outside of the BIA if they receive additional funding, which is only gained through fundraising (which isn’t too easy to get nowadays). The lamppost banners were only allowed to be installed throughout what people consider “Pioneer Square” because they received private funding from ING.
PSCA also can’t receive money (aka employee salaries) from just the BIA because they operate programs and work to better the neighborhood outside of the small area. And see the note above regarding fundraising.
The city needs to reevaluate what area should actually be included in the BIA so that the rest of the neighborhood can benefit from all of the programs that the BIA tax contributes to. Although it’s not beneficial to include blocks that only include parking, it would only seem logical to me to have the boundary fit what people consider “Pioneer Square.”
Until then, you may continue being jealous of all of the colors of the maps that our neighborhood contains.