Shabby road conditions top priority for Bitter Lake residents

The increasingly degenerate road conditions of Linden Avenue North was the focus of a meeting of the city's Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee, held at the Bitter Lake Community Center last Thursday, April 19.

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark, chair of the committee, led the meeting. The meeting was an opportunity for local residents and elected officials to voice concerns on issues pertaining to neighborhood safety and development.

Among the presentations was a proposed $5.5 million renovation to the 0.8-mile-long section of Linden Avenue North between North 130th and 145th streets.

The proposition, which previously has been denied approval by the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities and the Department of Neighborhoods because of its high price tag, continued to be pushed by local activists.

The plan includes re-pavement of the proposed section of Linden Avenue, along with installation of curbed sidewalks, landscaping, speed limit signs, road dividers and pedestrian crosswalks.


Supporters of the project were quick to explain that these proposals are not simply acts of vanity.

Ruth Sinton, a member of the Bitter Lake Neighborhood Planning Committee, said that due to the poor condition of the area, groups of vagrants have begun to establish themselves along Linden Avenue.

"It's a nightmare. We've got to do something. There are people in motor homes just living on the street," Sinton said. "Homeless [people] are sleeping in the bushes. And where do they go to the bathroom?"

She also expressed concern about increasing levels of prostitution and drug-related activity in the area.

Local resident Harry Olman said these problems could be avoided with simple care and maintenance of the area. "I wonder if [Linden Avenue] has even been paved since 1949?" he asked.

Community members also expressed disapproval at the inadequate level of mobility and safety measures provided to the growing number of families and elderly individuals in the area.

"We feel we've been trapped," says Richard Dykstrahuis, a member of the Committee to Improve Linden Avenue North. "A curb to us is a mark of civilization. If you see a curb with a gutter, you know you're not on Linden Avenue North."

Michael McGinn, founder of the Seattle Great City Initiative, explains that fixing Linden Avenue North will positively affect the Greater Seattle region, as well.

Citing studies pertaining to land use in Seattle and its relation to vehicle emissions, McGinn believes an increased use of sidewalks and public transportation could help lower dependence on vehicles in the area by 26 percent.

In response to the many concerns expressed at the meeting, council member Clark suggested the division of the project into smaller, more affordable segments. However, her proposition was not well-received. Attendees felt that their requests should be addressed fully, in one, all-inclusive project.

Dale Johnson, a member of the Broadview Community Council, said, "It takes voices speaking loudly, consistently, but politely, to make this a priority."

Clark explained that while she was previously aware of the issues surrounding the Bitter Lake area, renovations remain low on the city's priority list. "Seattle Public Utilities hasn't had a huge number of funds recently," she said.


Among other issues discussed was a proposed Nightlife Premises Advisory Board that would create an advisory committee to work with night clubs and citizens in the area. The hope is that this committee would handle disagreements and regulations between these two bodies.

While the original proposal would only institute an advisory board, drawing from the San Francisco Entertainment Commission as its model, City Council staff members are attempting to push the committee into a more regulatory realm. They feel that with the increased control a regulatory body provides, vs. that of an advisory role, the committee will be perceived as more legitimate, Clark said.

The adoption of this board will be discussed in future meetings.

Meetings of the Seattle City Council's Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee take place in the community the first and third Thursdays of every month and are open to the public.

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