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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kick Cars, Not People, Off the Streets

Posted by on Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Remember council member Sally Clark's really great proposal to close down a city street one night a week (or month) to vehicle traffic—say Pike Street or 10th Avenue—and transform it into a pedestrian-only hub where shopping and walking and music could take place? The kind of hub that's proven so popular in Austin, TX, and all over communist Europe?

"Closing the street gives the area a true pedestrian-focused entertainment identity," Clark wrote last July in her secret diary. "It’s great for the club businesses and for the patrons."

You might not remember the proposal because it never went anywhere. When Clark was at Stranger HQ last week (taking advantage of our impressive Roman-revival soaking tubs) I asked her why.

"I’d absolutely spearhead this but there has to be a business group that takes it on," Clark said. "I tried to get a few business groups interested last year but didn't get very far. We already have an inter-departmental team working on logistics like Metro and trash and police walking through the area. But, you know, without there being a community component, someone saying, 'We’d like to take this on,' there are more pressing things for me to do."

If only business leaders from Pioneer Square, Belltown, Capitol Hill, the International District, downtown, Rainier Valley, the University District, SODO, or White Center—all of whom are lobbying the city council for more police officers and civility laws—were forward-thinking enough to take this project on.

After all, these business groups say, anecdotally, that drug markets and vandalists and "crowd[s] of inebriated loiterers" and general "street disorder" have overrun Seattle, and street-closure programs (ciclovias, which shut down streets on weekends to vehicle traffic) have helped activate neighborhoods and reduce crime everywhere from Colombia to Missouri.

More eyes on the street improves public safety—or at the very least, the perception of public safety, which is really what these business interests are complaining about. And giving Seattleites a reason to visit your neighborhood would be much more fun and constructive than lobbying for broad, repressive new police powers, right?


Comments (14) RSS

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Cui Bono 1
Inebriated loiterers? No way, those are libertarian-minded folks expressing their indignation for the state government's monopoly of liquor, they'll ALL go away once Costco and the supermarket chains come to the rescue!
It's nice to know "do-nothing, utterly-baffled-at-the-prospect-of-actually-accomplishing-something" government exists at the federal, state, AND local level.
Posted by Cui Bono on October 5, 2011 at 4:09 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 2
hell, they need to OPEN Occidental to vehicle traffic 24/7.

there's 2 streets in Seattle that this could work on: Pike from B'way to 12th and Ballard Ave. that's it.
Posted by Max Solomon on October 5, 2011 at 4:16 PM · Report this
kitschnsync 3
"Crowd[s] of inebriated loiterers" and general "street disorder" describes 6th Street in Austin to a T.

I'm all for Seattle shutting down streets in entertainment districts, but let's not delude ourselves about what that will mean. It's not going to be a bunch of genteel folks sipping tea in the streets.

Of course, since Sally Clark is "spearheading" this, we can be sure it will never go anywhere.
Posted by kitschnsync on October 5, 2011 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
@1 for the ROFLMFAO win.

Psst, want to buy a "free" Tunnel?
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 5, 2011 at 5:12 PM · Report this
When Chicago closed part of State Street to vehicles, it almost killed the night life in the loop. Doing it once in a while with planned events taking place could be doable, if the events were set up right.
Posted by BakerB on October 5, 2011 at 5:17 PM · Report this
Right, because Stranger writers (and most of its readers) know SO MUCH MORE about running a business than all of those evil car-lovers who, um, run businesses....
Posted by Mr. X on October 5, 2011 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Fnarf 7
"Giving Seattleites a reason to visit your neighborhood" means giving them the means to do so, which in Seattle means giving them a place to park. The kind of thing you are advocating works for neighborhood people, like a block party (not The Block Party, which is misnamed). It's not a bad idea, but it's not going to bring people to your neighborhood; it's probably going to keep them away (which again doesn't make it bad idea, once a month or so).

On the other hand, they did this on Greenwood Avenue a while back and it was HORRIBLE -- a festival of aging boomers would-be hippies, rich enough to live in Phinney Ridge, walking around in Panama hats and purple tie-dye. Truly frightening. Admittedly, that's not an inherent feature of street closures but of the demographic of the neighborhood. Your mileage may vary.
Posted by Fnarf on October 5, 2011 at 5:42 PM · Report this
"The kind of hub that's proven so popular in Austin, TX, and all over communist Europe?"

Yeah, and those Stalinistic state liquor stores aren't so bad either. I've been to a Russian state store myself, and our state liquor stores are way more aesthetically pleasing. So the Stranger supports Communist pedestrian only areas, (which I like) but not Communist state liquor stores. Sheesh. Tow the party line, damnit!
Posted by Smell on October 5, 2011 at 7:35 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 9
Fnarf dear, I was at that event. They're called "Summer Streets", and they do them all over town. I was working a display for City Light. Did we perchance see each other?

Although, I must say, I think they are rather pleasant events. And I hate the outdoors.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on October 5, 2011 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Quincy 10
What am I supposed to do out there in the middle of the street? I think this is a dumb idea. Driving (or even walking) by either end, people will think there was a water main break or some kind of emergency something. It just looks awful. Vehicle traffic, particularly when it is forced to move slowly (though, sadly, there are far too few areas where this is true) makes a street appear more vibrant.
Posted by Quincy on October 5, 2011 at 10:21 PM · Report this
They can start with Pike Place (with exceptions for market loading/unloading). There's no reason for anyone else to drive through that street... why would anyone want to?
Posted by madcap on October 6, 2011 at 1:18 AM · Report this
@5--Chicago closed State Street to cars, but in a brilliant move, left all the bus routes on State--which is a major transit point (think Third Ave.). So it didn't seem different at all to pedestrians--still full of vehicles. And nightlife was already dead in the Loop; that was the reason to bring in the unfortunate diesel-scented "pedestrian mall."

@2--good choices. This sort of closure makes sense only if there is already lively foot traffic on both sides of the street.
Posted by fruitbat on October 6, 2011 at 8:00 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 13

I can get behind that. But otherwise I agree with Fnarf.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 6, 2011 at 11:57 AM · Report this
The thing is... Sally Clark is endorsed by the police guild, she is now paid to represent police interests. I am glad she has an opponent this time that is calling for police accountability reform. Vote for Dian Ferguson. Enough of police voices on the council. Who represents the taxpayers?! An absolute power where each member makes on average 100K and has more legal protections than the president doesn't really need so much representation on the council.
Posted by mikey on October 17, 2011 at 2:11 AM · Report this

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