Safe Communities Meeting this Thursday

October 16, 2012  |  Call to Action, Complaining, Drugs, PI, Residents, Violence  |  1 Comment

EVENT: Safe Communities Meeting – West Precinct

DATE: October 18th from 7 – 9 PM

LOCATION: Belltown Community Center — 415 Bell Street

image from my police ride along

You are invited to participate in a community conversation hosted by the West Precinct regarding your safety concerns.

Per The Mayor’s Website: 
The Mayor’s Office and the Seattle Police Department are working together on the Safe Communities Outreach Mission. Part of the SPD 20/20 Plan, Safe Communities seeks to ensure the City is meeting our goal of reducing crime and creating the safest possible neighborhoods. We will do that by bringing residents and officers together in living rooms, cafes, barber shops and community centers across Seattle to develop a list of priorities to address community concerns.  Those priorities will then guide the actions the City, SPD, and the neighborhoods will take together to protect public safety. We are committed to building safe communities.

We’re looking forward to hearing your ideas and developing an action plan with you.

You may register by visiting: http://www.seattle.gov/safe

View Chart: http://www.seattle.gov/safe/images/SafeCommunities_CHART.pdf

Kicking Off Safe Communities:http://mayormcginn.seattle.gov/kicking-off-safe-communities

Pioneer Square’s problems with public urination

March 16, 2012  |  Complaining, News, PI  |  No Comments

Yesterday, the SLOG wrote a post titled “Pissing Contest: Pioneer Square Residents Tackle the Neighborhood’s Smelliest Problem, Head On.” It talks about the difference in standards that people (and police) have for our neighborhood, in comparison to other neighborhoods. And that the problem isn’t only with the low-income individuals, but also with the sports fans who frequent Pioneer Square:

“There’s been a perception that the problem is only with low-income people but the larger issue is with people who don’t live here,” explains Anne Fennessy, a public affairs consultant who’s lived in Pioneer Square on and off for the last 15 years. “I’ve seen men in business suits, people of all socio-economic circumstances, doing bad things in the square. The bottom line is, people don’t know where to go and they think [public urination] is tolerated. So we, as a neighborhood, have to say that’s not okay.”

At the very end of the post, came my favorite line:

Living downtown, you have to love people but you don’t have to lower your standards on what’s acceptable,” Fennessy says. “We always ask police and fire department people, ‘Would you accept this in Wallingford?’ and they say, ‘no!’ Then why is it acceptable here?”

Click here to read the full article.

Pioneer Square’s Open-Air Drug Market at Fortson Square

January 13, 2012  |  Call to Action, Complaining, Drugs, PI, Violence  |  2 comments

What needs to happen for Fortson Square to finally become a safe, welcoming place to be?

On New Year’s Day, two Pioneer Square residents were brutally attacked after confronting drug dealers blocking the entrance to their apartment building adjacent to Fortson Square (2nd Ave + Yesler). Multiple calls to police regarding the drug activity were unanswered, which, unfortunately, is understandable, given that it was New Year’s Eve and — what’s new? There’s always drug deals happening in Fortson Square.

Regardless, what happened in the square that morning, and what basically what happens every single day, is not acceptable. I live next door to where the attack happened, in an apartment building above the Chief Seattle Club (CSC) and the Lazarus Day Center. Although we have never had problems with the CSC, we routinely have problems with the men who utilize the services of the Lazarus Day Center, and the drug dealers who prey on them.

There is a Seattle PI article from three years ago that talked about the very problems caused by the Lazarus Day Center and the men who loiter on the corner of 2nd & Yesler. The sad part is that everything in that article is still true today:

He thought the brand new studio apartment a couple of floors up was a bargain for $900 a month, but it’s no longer worth dodging the drug sellers and buyers outside the front door each time he goes to walk his dog.

“It’s the same people on the same corner every day,” he said, standing inside the building’s glass entry watching drug deals made and crack pipes passed around right outside the window.

And don’t forget about the article in 2006 where Harbor Loft residents put up a banner facing Fortson Square, welcoming people to the local open-air drug market:

A group of residents is meeting with the mayor’s office this week to talk about the issues faced in Fortson Square in particular. They have also set up an internal website to share information and resources with one another and are determined to make a difference. In a letter to the Mayor by one of the residents who was attacked, he stated:

This is not how anyone should have to live and I am sick of being told it is our fault for living in a bad neighborhood! Pioneer Square could be a great neighborhood with vision, leadership and support. There are lots of great people working really hard down here to make this place a wonderful place to live and work, but I don’t think we are getting the support we need from the city. I fear for Pioneer Square as rising unemployment brings more people of need at higher risk into the missions, in a neighborhood already ripe with increasing storefront closures. We could see a larger pool of poor and underemployed people becoming victimized by the drug dealers whom act with impunity on our streets.

We know that the police get it — they’re constantly watching that corner, and even made 27 significant arrests of the most problematic drug dealers. But what more can they do? You take one off the street, and two more pop up in their place.

And now, after years and years of drug dealers on this corner, two residents were actually attacked. Is this what it takes for change to happen? What will it take for other residents to get involved? Or for the Mayor’s office to finally listen?

First Hill Streetcar may not come into Pioneer Square

September 16, 2011  |  Announcement, Call to Action, Complaining, PI, Politics  |  No Comments

Although I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started hearing rumors that the First Hill Streetcar may not come into our neighborhood as planned, I still couldn’t really believe it as I talked with city staff to verify that it will possibly now stop at 5th and Jackson, instead of coming into Pioneer Square.

David Hiller of the Mayor’s office has been calling a few Pioneer Square stakeholders to let them know about the situation they are currently in. Part of their contractual obligations with Sound Transit included a scheduled streetcar coming by a stop every 10 minutes (called headway). Right now, it is timed for about 12 minutes, which is apparently most easily solved by stopping at 5th & Jackson. Although that is where the streetcar originally planned to stop, the neighborhood celebrated when the decision was made to bring it down Jackson and to loop back up Main Street.

In a blog post back in February of 2010, I included a list of benefits to the neighborhood from having the streetcar come through, including the following:

  • 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

Hiller says that there are a number of factors that lead into this decision, including the lack of funding to purchase more than 4 streetcars. When meeting with Sound Transit to discuss the issue of potentially being unable to meet the 10 minute headway requirement, Sound Transit expressed a desire to find other alternatives so that the 10 min mark would still be met, even if it meant that the streetcar would no longer come through Pioneer Square.

The city is waiting to hear back on actual costs for the streetcars, and will know by mid-October what will happen. According to Hiller, however, they are very short on options. And although he says there is nothing that the community could do to affect the decision, I still urge you to write to the following people, to show them how important the streetcar is to this neighborhood, and that we’re tired of the city breaking its promises (i.e. waterfront streetcar):

Mayor Michael McGinn’s staff person, David Hiller, david.hiller@seattle.gov

County Executive Dow Constantine, Dow.Constantine@kingcounty.gov

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, joe.mcdermott@kingcounty.gov

Masins to close its Pioneer Square furniture store after 6 decades

September 1, 2011  |  Business, Complaining, PI  |  No Comments

From Crosscut:

Masins, a fine furniture store in Pioneer Square since 1946, has put its building up for lease and plans to close its store, says President Bob Masin.

Masin gave three reasons for pulling out of Pioneer Square, where the store occupies four stories at 220 Second Ave. S., one block east of Occidental Park. “Parking is very difficult,” he said, which is an important factor for a store drawing from a wide region. A second factor is the stadiums, which can flood the area with people seeking parking places, even more so with the huge crowds for the Sounders FC. “Pioneer Square is great for dot-coms and weekday businesses,” he said, “but the problems come on after hours and weekends,” when his store does much of its business and must compete with crowds or with a feeling of emptiness. The third factor is “safety issues,” on which Masin, as a strong supporter of Pioneer Square, did not want to elaborate.

Does SDOT really want to know what Pioneer Square thinks about parking?

August 10, 2011  |  Complaining, PI, Politics, Violence  |  No Comments

[Yes, I marked this post as "politics" and "violence"]

Sign posted by Fenix Tattoo owner in Pioneer Square

From the SDOT Parking Group:

Parking. Whether it’s on the street or in a garage, it’s something that many people do on a regular basis. While people certainly don’t drive for the sole purpose of parking, the act of finding a spot is inevitable. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) wants to hear about your experiences.

SDOT manages the on-street parking network – all those pay stations, meters, and related signs. Right now, they’re working on a project that outlines different strategies to make paid street parking in downtown and neighborhood business districts more available. The technical term is performance-based parking pricing. Other cities like San
Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. are testing out new strategies too.

SDOT would like to get a better sense for business owner needs, understand the customer parking experience, and look for ways to make it better. Take a survey! You can find the survey here – it should take about 10-15 minutes to complete.

Thanks!

But seriously — take the time to voice your opinions on this one. With the help of a few city council members, we were able to stop the hours from going to 8pm — let’s see if we can be heard on other issues.

SCL: Did you really need to take two blocks for your 10 foot construction project?

June 1, 2011  |  Complaining, PI  |  No Comments

I have called and complained, and not heard back about why Seattle City Light has blocked off two blocks of parking for a small road project.

There are signs lining 2nd Ave Ext S between Yesler and Washington, and Washington Avenue, just north of 2nd that have restricted parking at all hours, and threatened that cars will be towed at owners expense if they park there.

And yet, this is what they often look like (at least after 5pm, on the weekend, and holidays):

This was the view over Memorial Day weekend — empty. The view was the same during a Mariners game — no one could park here. Why? Because of this project, happening on the corner of 2nd and Washington:

Remember all of the posts on parking? (here, here, and here) And how we feel our neighborhood isn’t being treated fairly?

The trail to even find out if they were approved to block of this parking was a long one: I first called OED to facilitate (never called back), then I called Seattle City Light, after looking up on SDOT’s website that it was their project. They said it wasn’t theirs. So I called SDOT, who said it was SCL’s project, and I was sent back to SCL. Who again said they couldn’t find it. So then I called SDOT’s street use inspector who makes sure street use people follow the rules. He sent me to SDOT’s traffic control, who approves parking plans.

Finally the right place. She said that it was indeed a Seattle City Light project and that their permit only included removing parking on Washington Avenue. They are not, in fact, permitted to remove parking on 2nd Ave Ext S. Furthermore, even if they WERE permitted, they have to post hours of use (i.e. only 8am – 5pm) and definitely not over a holiday weekend.

I have secondary calls into SCL (who are still “investigating” whether or not they’re doing work there), and have let the street use inspector know that they are not following the rules as approved through SDOT’s permitting process.

The project is scheduled to continue through June 18th.

UPDATE

SCL followed up with me late last week that they stopped by the site, and confirmed that the “No parking” signs should not have been there and have removed them on both 2nd Ave Ext S and Washington Ave.

For future reference — here are the numbers YOU can start calling if you run into this problem:

SDOT: Rick Sheridan, 206-684-8540
SDOT’s Street Use Inspector (Downtown): Ken Ewalt, 206-684-4995
SDOT’s Traffic Control: Marilyn Vancill, 206-684-5111

Can we do anything about the parking changes?

March 9, 2011  |  Complaining, PI, Politics  |  No Comments

Yesterday, representatives from SDOT, OED, DPD, and City Council sat down with 13 Pioneer Square business owners and 4 residents to talk about one of the newest issues facing our neighborhood: Parking.

Ali from Cherry Street Coffee, Brandi from The Central Saloon, and Sedat from Cafe Paloma listen to concerns by other business members

After reviewing the process that SDOT went through for data collection and setting the rates in our neighborhood, it was opened up for questions from the group. One by one, each person had their chance to state their concerns and attempt to get their questions answered.

Although the questions varied, the concerns were pretty much the same:

From business owners:

  • our businesses are struggling
  • we have more empty storefronts than we can count
  • we have shoppers who say they can’t browse for very long because their parking is expiring
  • our business is nonexistent on game days
  • the only people they’re penalizing by increasing the paid parking hours until 8pm are residents coming home from work, and business owners closing up for the day; the square is empty after 6pm.
  • the city isn’t doing anything to counter the changes in parking or offer incentives for new businesses
  • businesses should have been notified earlier about the changes and there should have been more discussion
  • we’re being treated the same as the downtown/retail core when it’s clear that we’re a collection of mom and pop stores
  • the city’s claims that increasing rates and hours will create more turnover and bring in more business are a joke

From residents:

  • most buildings don’t include parking, so increasing the hours to 8pm makes the neighborhood unlivable for many
  • why won’t the city allow RPZ (resident zoned parking) in Pioneer Square?

And other concerns shared by all:

  • the city didn’t do enough to get the right data (including quantifying it) before moving forward with these changes
  • when the city decided to raise the rates and include the hours, they didn’t take into account the fact that we’re losing parking on 1st Ave due to viaduct construction and will soon be losing even more parking under the viaduct
  • why is the city pretending that this is only data driven and not revenue driven?
  • given all the projects “around” the neighborhood, the large number of human services, the high vacancy rate in retail, and the economy WHY wasn’t our neighborhood given special consideration.
  • if the City really wants Pioneer Square to be a viable neighborhood + commercial district they need to find other ways to support it through these changes.

And the main concern: What, if anything, can we do to stop these changes from happening?

Answered by SDOT, and representatives for Tom Rasmussen and Tim Burgess, the message was received loud and clear: we hear your concerns, but there’s pretty much nothing you can do. The rates will go up in Pioneer Square in the next week or so, and the hours will increase to 8pm in the Spring. The one option was to try and lobby city council and the mayor. Otherwise, their plan is to move forward and then conduct another survey in the springtime to see how the changes have affected the neighborhood.

Business owners, however, say that by the time they reevaluate the parking changes – it will be too late for many of them. So, we’ve received the message loud and clear – how long will it take before the city receives the message?

City Council + Mayor Contact Info:
Richard Conlin – 206 684-8805, richard.conlin@seattle.gov
Sally Bagshaw – 206 684-8801, sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov
Tim Burgess – 206 684-8806, tim.burgess@seattle.gov
Sally Clark – 206 684-8802, sally.clark@seattle.gov
Jean Godden – 206 684-8807, jean.godden@seattle.gov
Bruce Harrell – 206 684-8804, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov
Nick Licata – 206 684-8803, nick.licata@seattle.gov

Mayor McGinn – 206 684-4000, mike.mcginn@seattle.gov

Waterfront buses to be unwrapped; do we care?

February 2, 2011  |  Announcement, Call to Action, Complaining, PI, Politics  |  No Comments

A few weeks ago, Metro announced route changes, including changes to the waterfront bus (route 99), which will now run on a loop that goes south on the Waterfront, and north on 1st Avenue.

They also noted the following:

Buses will no longer be “wrapped” to look like the old waterfront streetcars.

The positive: The route changes will serve the downtown even better, moving tourists from the Waterfront, through Pioneer Square, the ID, and into downtown by way of 1st Avenue.

The negative: We are potentially losing the last sliver of hope that the trolley will come back. Metro wrapped the buses to offset our loss, just until we could get the trolley back, and now they want to unwrap them as not to confuse tourists on 1st Ave.

To give some history – the streetcar was implemented in 1982 as a tourist amenity. Riders could hop on and off as they chose, making it a great way to experience the waterfront and Pioneer Square/CID. In 2000, the streetcar carried approximately 450,000 passengers.

It was shut down in 2005 when Metro was unable to find a new location for the streetcar maintenance facility (removed for the Waterfront Sculpture Park  project). Although Metro claimed that it would come back, the development by Urban Visions/Greg Smith never materialized, and our neighborhoods are left with nothing but empty promises.

Websites have popped up in the last few years, trying to speak out for the return of the streetcar, including Save the Waterfront Streetcar, Facebook page – Save the Waterfront Streetcar (again), as well as recent discussions on the Seattle Transit Blog. I didn’t live in Seattle while it was running, but this video helps me visualize how great it was, and how perfectly it tied into our historic neighborhood.

I talked to Sarah Driggs at Metro, who says that they tried to get public feedback by sending out postcards [seen here] to over 10,000 residents and businesses, as well as attending a few meetings. All in all, she says, they only received 6 – 7 comments. But is it because we don’t care? Or is it because not enough people know about it?

An estimated 5 buses currently run on route 99, and Metro isn’t sure what percentages are made up of tourists and residents. It seems to me that tourists would be more willing to get on a quaint, different looking bus than any of the regular metro buses that run through downtown. Being wrapped also makes it clear that it’s the bus that runs on the Waterfront.

As the changes are proposed to take place this Saturday, it’s not clear whether or not it’s futile, but if you have feedback, and want to keep those buses wrapped, please comment here, or contact Sarah Driggs at 206-263-5277 or Sarah.Driggs@kingcounty.gov.

And while you think about speaking out for the wrapped buses, take a look at these photos of the trolley taken by Rebecca Nelson, former resident, current writer/editor of the Ravenna Blog, and remember how awesome they were. And how awesome snow is.

Pioneer Square hit hardest by parking changes

January 19, 2011  |  Announcement, Complaining, PI  |  No Comments

SDOT announced citywide changes to parking, but it seems like Pioneer Square is getting the worst of it. Sure, other neighborhoods are facing the same increases in rates and hours, but if we needed to, I’d be willing to pit our neighborhood against any of the others to see who is hurt worse.

Identified as a neighborhood with “peak occupancy” and an “active nightlife and high evening parking demand,” Pioneer Square is faced with on-street parking increases to $4/hour, as well as having our paid parking extended until 8 p.m.

City crews will begin implementing the new rates as of February 1, rolling them out neighborhood by neighborhood through March 30. The evening hours will roll out April and stay in effect through September.

Over the past months, SDOT collected “data” that reveals:

  1. On-street peak occupancy is highest in the neighborhoods of First Hill (100 percent), the Commercial Core (97 percent) and Pioneer Square (91 percent)

I have a call in to SDOT to make sure I’m understanding their numbers correctly, but if you actually look at the parking analysis that they did, the numbers stated don’t support the peak occupancy of 91%. That’s most definitely true [or worse]… during a football game, but the rest of the “unadjusted” occupancy percentages in the report are only between 57% and 66%. Only when they decided to adjust the rates did the 91% figure pop up.

[SDOT has posted maps from their analysis of Pioneer Square with details on occupancy during different hours of the day.]

As a resident, I have a few reactions to this:

  1. There couldn’t be a worse time to make these changes in Pioneer Square. This is going to hurt new residents thinking about moving in, current residents thinking about whether they should stay or not, and street level businesses who are trying their best to make it in a tough economic time. All this does is give more plausibility to everyone who has been saying that the city does nothing for our neighborhood.
  2. SDOT states the following objective: to “support neighborhood business districts by making on-street parking available and by encouraging economic development.” Instead, they are making it so that people will definitely no longer come to Pioneer Square to shop or eat. They’ll wait until after 8pm when parking is free and… oh wait, all of the restaurants and businesses are closed.
  3. In Pioneer Square, average physical occupancy (a car parked in a spot) was listed as 60%. Average paid occupancy for that spot? Only 39%. Do they really think these numbers are going to get better with rate and hour increases?
  4. We do not have an evening crowd. We have a nightlife crowd (which is definitely after 8pm). In fact, if you look at their parking analysis again, it states that Pioneer Square has only 57% occupancy in the hours between 6pm – 8pm.

It seems that the final numbers that they are reporting are not the same as the numbers found during the actual study. [deep breath] I am personally infuriated as I write this that the city didn’t take the struggles of our neighborhood into more consideration before including us in the “highest rates,” “longest hours” category.

Although there is nothing we can do about it now, these rates are supposedly only in effect for 2011, and will be looked at again this summer when determining rates for next year.

Although it doesn’t ameliorate these changes, an alternative action is to request that the city give us residential zoned parking spaces like they do in First Hill and other neighborhoods. The $40 – $50 charge a year can at least counteract some of the negative changes coming in the next month.

A second alternative can be found in this question… so at least for those of us who know our way around the city, we can pay for parking in another neighborhood, like Belltown (whose rates are dropping from $2.50 to $2), before driving to Pioneer Square to park.