Whose streets?
Whose streets? SDOT

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that you built a giant concrete wall around your home, blocking multiple lanes of traffic and sidewalks and a bike lane. And then, after admiring it for about a year, you decided that you’d like to have it removed, please. What would it cost to hire someone to take it away?

Just a hair over fourteen thousand dollars, apparently, according to documents released by the Seattle Department of Transportation in response to a public records request from The Stranger. That’s how much it costs in labor and vehicle expenses to remove the barrier from around the East Precinct last month, close to one year after the police bravely barricaded themselves in against their neighbors.

The SDOT documents shed some light on the process of removing the jersey barriers and steel attachments, a project that took about two weeks and involved a team of numerous supervisors, engineers, and laborers. All told, it took 230 hours of labor to take down the wall—so if you were wondering why it took so long to get a pothole filled in early April, well, wonder no longer.

Just being neighborly.
Just being neighborly. PHOTO BY DAVID RYDER/GETTY IMAGES

The removal of the East Precinct's concrete wall began on March 31, with Concrete Manager Ken Ewalt and two supervisors surveying the site. A few days later, five workers arrived to dismantle the interior panels and steel attachments, which took several days. A week after the initial site visit, seven people started working on dismantling the jersey barriers and sending them to the Magnolia Bridge. (Alas, not to protect bike lanes.) By April 9, work was complete.

The final bill to Seattle taxpayers: $14,070.44, and that’s just for removing the barrier. Costs for the initial construction of the wall aren’t included in the recent document dump. SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson confirmed that SPD asked SDOT to perform the removal work, and will reimburse SDOT for all costs.

Of course, the East Precinct still isn’t accessible to the public — there’s now a new barrier in place around the police fortress, a black fence around the blocked windows. Still not particularly friendly, but at least it’s less likely to contribute to cops hitting cyclists with their cars.

A quick side note about the docs we obtained from SDOT: In general, the transportation department’s internal weekly reports concern pothole filling, landscaping, and sprucing up sidewalks. That they were called upon to erect and then dismantle a custom barrier in the middle of the street sure does stand out from the normal day-to-day of the department. SPD placed SDOT in an awkward situation here.

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In one weekly recap of SDOT work, a few pages down from a report on the East Precinct, there’s a notation in the margins about some unrelated pavement sealing at 35th Ave West and West McCord Place. “Is this really slurry seal?” writes an incident response manager in a comment. “Or a typo?”

“It’s for reals!!!” responds a pavement engineering manager. “No typos! Preventative Maintenance triggered the ramps and now they’ve been completed!”

I don’t know these people myself, but if I had to guess, I have a hunch that they’d rather write excited notes to each other about asphalt sealing projects or sidewalk ramps than get dragged into the political contortions of the police department. Hopefully now they can get back to doing what they do best.