Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold talks with her districts residents.
Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold talks with her district's residents. ASK

A large group of neighbors gathered at the Longfellow Creek P-Patch garden in West Seattle on Monday evening. Rather than spend the last sunny hour in the park or relax at home, residents made a point to attend Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Find It, Fix It walk in Roxhill and give him a guided walking tour to discuss issues affecting the community. Frustrations ranged from crime and drug use to illegal trash dumping and street lighting.

According to Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold, whose district includes West Seattle, Roxhill residents’ concerns are “quality of life” issues.

“One of the things we hear a lot about is the buses that go through Westwood. [26th Avenue Southwest is] one of the busiest transit zones in the city and the roads aren’t equipped for all that load going down the road. People’s houses shake and are getting damaged,” said Herbold.

One of those residents is Earl Lee, who has lived in a home facing 26th Avenue for 22 years. Lee said he sees the number of buses passing through the neighborhood is both a blessing and a curse. According to a King County Department of Transportation spokesperson, there are about 441 buses that go through the Roxhill residential area from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. during the week.

Lee, whose house faces 26th Avenue, said there is hardly a moment that buses aren’t roaring past his front door. According to him, vibrations from the buses are so strong that the wall around his front door is cracking.

Chris Stripinis, who lives on Southwest Roxbury Street and 32nd Avenue Southwest, said that his home also shakes because of constant bus traffic. He and his wife even bought an accelerometer, which measures the vibrations caused by vehicles accelerating, to see how bad the shaking really was. In a letter submitted to Council member Herbold in April, Stripinis described his findings as “earthquake-level vibrations.” Although the county DOT mandated that buses slow down to 15 mph along residential streets, not many bus drivers follow that rule, he said.

Roxhill residents’ concerns went beyond buses, too.

According to Fathi Karshie, that white SUV in the distance has been parked in that spot for several days. Other community members said they had seen mattresses and tents in the wooded area to the right.
According to Fathi Karshie, who lives in the buildings to the left, that white SUV in the distance belongs to someone who doesn't live in the neighborhood and has been parked in that spot for several days. Other community members said they had seen mattresses and tents in the wooded area to the right. ASK

A number of residents brought up trash and illegal dumping as persistent issues in the neighborhood. Carol Henry, who often gardens at the nearby Barton Street P-Patch, noted that some trash issues could be easily fixed by simply installing garbage cans beside bus stops, which would prevent litter from been blown into roadways and green spaces such as the community garden.

According to Fathi Karshie, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost 11 years, other trash issues aren’t so easy to resolve. Karshie lives in an apartment building near 25th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Trenton Street. At the dead-end on his block, he said he often sees people, some of whom he believes are transients, park their cars on the dead-end street. Aside from parking there for days at a time, people also illegally dump trash there, said Karshie. Police have responded to a handful of calls about the garbage, but dumps are still a constant issue, he said.

Some residents don’t feel safe asking those people to leave because “they can’t be reasoned with,” Karshie said. He also noted that he often found used condoms and needles behind his building. Karshie and other residents said that drug-use was another community problem. People voiced concerns about local high schoolers playing hooky to smoke pot in the park and their anger that some homeless people who camped in wooded areas often left behind dirty needles.

"We have people living in tents and that's a shame. But we don't want them here," one woman told the crowd when we paused at a popular illegal dump site, pictured above.

During the walk, some neighbors and participating city workers used grabbing tools to pick up trash as they wound through the neighborhood. Laura Jenkins, who coordinates the Find It, Fix It walks with the Department of Neighborhoods, said that she and other volunteers distributed five sharps containers to Roxhill residents. Because they came across used needles and other paraphernalia so often, residents “actually knew what to do with [the kits]” unlike participants on other walks, said Jenkins.

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