The City of Seattle, in partnership with the Office of Economic Development and Seattle Department of Transportation, released a detailed report about last August's Pike/Pine street closures in Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The report (available here) revealed that, despite mixed feelings about the late-night pedestrian zones, 66 percent of 272 survey respondents – a mix of business owners and residents – would like to see more street closures similar to the pilot project that closed the the two streets to cars on three Saturday nights last August.
There were a range of survey responses in the City's report:
“For the first time in a long time, it felt like our neighborhood again. Like this is where you moved, this is who we are, this is our space to ‘be’ ourselves. Using art to help shape the future and tone down the aggression and culture clash on the Hill is the best way to achieve a flourishing and peaceful neighborhood.”
“This isn’t creating a safer environment. I deal with a lack of respect for Capitol Hill daily from out of towners who only come out to get drunk. For the life of me I can’t figure out how closing down the streets is going to abate this type of visit.”
“It’s only applied late at night on weekends, catering only to drinking crowds. It should be done during the day on weekends too, for local residents and shoppers.”
“PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN…A car-free zone would be a unique and extremely positive thing for the neighborhood, lessen crime and fights, and encourage a community feeling.”
Although most people surveyed were in favor of creating pedestrian zones on weekend nights, SDOT ultimately ruled that they still need to convene neighborhood stakeholder groups to discuss the results before moving forward with another event this summer.
Thought David Meinert's warning about delays turning into cancellations sounded paranoid? Now they seem a bit more realistic.
However, according to Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce director Sienna Hansen, taking time to fully analyze the city's findings is simply necessary. Here's what she told Capitol Hill Seattle:
“That’s exactly what we had been calling for,” said [Hansen], who previously asked the city hold off on doing another street closure in 2016. “One of the things that we recommended is that we get all the diverse perspectives at the same table. We want to foster a conversation between critics and supporters."
While the report indicates that the city—SDOT and the Office of Economic Development in this case—is not shelving the project for good, the agencies are definitely pumping the brakes. “Further conversation is needed with leadership in Capitol Hill about what a pedestrian street concept can become in Pike/ Pine,” the report says.
For the pilot projects original financiers and organizers—the CHCC and the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict—the discussion-oriented course of action is the right one. ...
[Hansen] said the CHCC does not have the staff and financial resources to plan and orchestrate another street closure (the pilot was funded through a one-time grant). And the EcoDistrict, having planned for the city to take the reigns on the project, has not allocated any resources for a potential 2016 street closure.
“Obviously it’s very controversial. If there is a solution that people can agree on, potentially there might still be a window of time,” [EcoDistrict's Alex] Brennan said.
Brennan noted that while some may not want to see the street closure implemented again, the problems that inspired it still need to be addressed nonetheless. “Issues (in Pike/Pine) with sexual harassment, gay bashing, a lack of visibility for the queer community and the arts community, those issues aren’t going away,” he said.
(Emphasis is mine.)
For Meinert, those issues are exactly why the streets should become pedestrian zones again this summer. "We know from other cities that this idea lowers crime, builds community, and increases business," he wrote.
The Lost Lake Cafe and Comet Tavern owner's opinion isn't shared among all business owners in the Pike/Pine area. As noted in the info graphic, above, 44 percent of business owners did not want to close the streets again this summer. However, another 44 percent said they wouldn't be opposed to the pedestrian zones if they began at different hours.
"We spent a lot of time and money studying this already, and [two thirds] of the community polled support more street closures," he wrote in an e-mail.
The project received $30,000 of a $160,000 grant given to the neighborhood's Chamber of Commerce, CHS noted.
"We need to move ahead with closing the streets every weekend now, not waste more time and money on this because a couple of developers refused to participate in the process and now want to delay it more. Closing the streets on weekends to cars meets a ton of the city’s goals. Let’s not kill another great idea with process. We need leaders that will make this happen," Meinert concluded.