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Supporting safe streets advocacy — now, and beyond COVID-19

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Dear Friends and Supporters of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways,

Clearly, this is a difficult period for us all.

During this COVID-19 crisis, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is continuing to build campaigns and policies for a later time of greater mobility, while focusing on some of the immediate needs of our communities, can we count on you to help us continue this work?

 

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In this period of quarantine, more people than ever are out and about walking in their neighborhood streets — grabbing some reprieve for fresh air and exercise (at a safe social distance). And in this harrowing and unusual time, we’re seeing that streets that are designed for people are critical now, and will definitely be on the other end of this, when we’re able to move freely again between the activities of our daily lives.

The need for walking- and biking-friendly streets continues — now and beyond the pandemic. And in order for our local walking and biking movements to succeed, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways must grow. As Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog puts it, “SNG is doing the lion’s share of safe streets organizing both inside City Hall and through volunteer-powered grassroots groups in every corner of the city.”

From energizing and organizing grassroots advocates, to savvy policy analysis, coalition-building, and strategic campaign design, we have a proven model that gets results. We strongly believe that the most effective way to make change in Seattle is to empower everyday people with knowledge, guidance and support to champion the needs of their communities. Our organizing model is put to the test in today’s context of quarantining. We’ve altered our community outreach and support to feature online tools and training, leadership development, and mutual aid.

Please consider a gift today to keep our critical safe streets advocacy moving forward.

We kicked off 2020 with an ambitious slate of priorities this year, directed by the 16 active neighborhood groups in our citywide network. We’re still moving forward on many of these campaigns, but of necessity, we are already needing to reorient our programming.

Our work has always prioritized the communities most impacted by unsafe conditions for walking, biking, and rolling — and we know that these dangers persist, even with fewer cars and trucks on the streets. We will continue to push for much-needed walking and biking infrastructure in Seattle’s South End neighborhoods, as well as improved crossings and intersections citywide. We are also doubling down on implementing our Racial Equity Action Plan — a critical next step of which includes developing neighborhood-by-neighborhood action plans.

Collectively, we’re in a time of great uncertainty — for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. We don’t know what’s on the other side of these dual public health and economic crises. At Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, we will be doing what is within our means to support those who are most impacted by these calamities, while also building for a future beyond the pandemic.

For a brief window here, the streets and sidewalks of the city have become enlivened with more families than ever taking daily walks together, parents biking with kids on quieter neighborhood streets. There’s a glimmer in this, of what Seattle’s streets could be like — a different future that we can build towards right now, where our public streets are designed for people. Safe, functional, enjoyable streets for everyone — at any age, from any background, and for all abilities.

This is the bold vision that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways continues to work for. Join us in helping Seattle rebound from this crisis as a greener, more equitable, and thriving city with your generous contribution today.

Thank you for all that you do to take care of each other and support community life in Seattle!

— Susan Gleason, Development & Communications Director

Funding for Stay Healthy Streets and Cafe Streets!

Great news! Seattle City Council just proposed $2.5 million to make Stay Healthy Streets permanent, as well as $300,000 to fund Cafe Streets through 2022! Act now to:
  • Thank Seattle City Councilmembers for funding Stay Healthy Streets and Cafe Streets to help ensure that the funding isn’t removed.
  • Ask them to support Councilmember Herbold’s amendment to use future funding to make Keep Moving Streets permanent on Alki Point, Green Lake, and Lake Washington Boulevard. 
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A family with helmets smiles at the camera standing on a Stay Healthy Street next to bikes and an A-frame sign that says
Stay Healthy Streets

Thanks to popular demand last summer, Mayor Durkan committed to making 20 miles of the pilot Stay Healthy Streets program permanent, starting with streets in Greenwood (1st Ave NW) and Lake City. The City began community engagement to design the final look and feel of the streets, but hadn’t found funding — until now!

 

People bustling around Island Soul's Cafe Street in Columbia City.

 

Cafe Streets

In May, City Council unanimously passed an extension of permits for Cafe Streets through May of 2022, which this new proposal would fund. We will be working hard to make this successful program permanent.

A mixed race family smiles for the camera with their dog in front of a boulevard full of people walking and biking next to a lake.
Keep Moving Streets
Unfortunately, this funding won’t cover improvements to Seattle’s three Keep Moving Streets at Lake Washington Boulevard, Alki Point, and Green Lake. But Councilmember Herbold just introduced an amendment to use future funding to make Keep Moving Streets permanent and conduct community engagement. We’re hopeful that with continued advocacy from people like you we can find additional funding to make sure these fantastic public spaces don’t disappear. Ask Council to support Councilmember Herbold’s amendment now!
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Act now to thank Seattle City Councilmembers for funding Stay Healthy Streets and Cafe Streets, and ask them to support Councilmember Herbold’s amendment to find funding for Keep Moving Streets.

Thank you for your continued advocacy!

 

Clara Cantor
She/her

Community Organizer
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
Website – Twitter – Facebook

 

What’s Next for Stay Healthy Streets?

In the last year, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people outside—walking, skateboarding, biking, and rolling down the streets—and engaging with their neighborhoods in a big way. What’s next for the City’s temporary street programs?

 

Click to watch this video about the Stay Healthy Streets Program in 2020:

 

Background

In the spring of 2020, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways pushed the idea of Open Streets as one of our 8 Solutions for Safe Social Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. These streets are closed to vehicle through-traffic, and OPEN to people walking, rolling, and biking in the street (local access, deliveries, and emergency services are still allowed).

Thanks to the outspoken support of neighborhood advocates like you, the City introduced Stay Healthy Streets a few miles at a time until we had over 25 miles in 13 locations around the city, as well as two sister programs: Keep Moving Streets (recreation space near parks) and Stay Healthy Blocks (neighbor-run DIY Stay Healthy Streets). And they have been a HUGE hit! Communities have rallied around their local open streets, and are eager to make them permanent. For instance, SDOT surveyed people near the 1st Ave Stay Healthy Street in Greenwood and found that over 80% supported making it permanent, which is incredible given that any changes to streets tend to be controversial.

So what’s next for these beloved streets? 

 

 

Stay Healthy Streets

Thanks to popular demand last summer, Mayor Durkan committed to making 20 miles of the pilot Stay Healthy Streets program permanent, starting with streets in Greenwood (1st Ave NW) and Lake City. Now, the City is thinking through how to fulfill this promise to fund and construct permanent improvements. 

Most of the Stay Healthy Streets created so far have been on existing Neighborhood Greenways. All of these Neighborhood Greenways already went through a public engagement process and were prioritized for people walking and biking, and de-prioritized for people drivingwith the use of stop signs, speed humps, and signs. Stay Healthy Streets, for the most part, just clarified and reinforced the original intent of neighborhood greenways, by placing signs that say “Street Closed” to indicate they are for local access only for cars, and that people are allowed to walk in the street.

 

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Should Stay Healthy Streets be made permanent? YES.

We believe that Stay Healthy Streets should be the new default standard for Neighborhood Greenways. The physical barriers and placemaking being promised are reminiscent of the promises made when the City introduced Neighborhood Greenways. But many Neighborhood Greenways in Seattle are differentiated from other streets only by small signs and speed humps, and are not functioning in the way they were intended.

Stay Healthy Streets should include community placemaking and clear signage for people walking and biking on the street, and people looking for the street, and both signage and physical barriers for drivers trying to avoid the street—with simple, clear branding that’s easy to understand and makes sense with other Seattle programs and infrastructure. 

In addition to the community engagement process SDOT has already launched, we believe partnerships with the Department of Neighborhoods and community organizations to host festival streets, farmers markets, neighborhood block parties, and other gatherings will turn these street spaces into the community places we’ve all envisioned.

 

A montage of images of people walking on the street, a street park, and a boy waving while riding a bike.

 

What about where Neighborhood Greenways / Stay Healthy Streets aren’t working?

Sometimes, Neighborhood Greenways and Stay Healthy Streets haven’t reached their true potential because too much car traffic remains on the street. In those cases, the City should improve the street through diverters and other traffic-calming measures. But in other cases, the underlying Neighborhood Greenways, and hence the additional Stay Healthy Streets, aren’t successful due to the route being too inconvenient, hard to follow, or hilly compared to other alternatives, which results in comparatively fewer people using the routes. In these cases, we need to ask people what they want and find alternative ways to meet community needs

We can act quickly to put it in as a pilot, get feedback, then move to full implementation if it’s well-liked. Do people need better routes for transportation? Protected bike routes, sidewalks, and bus lanes can do that. More space for recreation? The Keep Moving Streets program increases public park space. Spaces for community gathering? Cafe Streets, pedestrian streets, and play streets. Improved traffic calming? Fund the Home Zone program adequately to allow neighbors to create systemic traffic calming for a whole neighborhood.

 

A tweet by Dongho Chang with a photo of people and tents crowding a street. It reads: Stay Healthy Streets are people and community streets."

 

Should this program expand? YES! 

These streets should be everywhere. We originally envisioned 130 miles of Stay Healthy Streets that could be rapidly implemented during the pandemic, but the potential is even greater. They should be in every neighborhood and accessible to everyone, as much a part of every neighborhood’s fabric as the local community center, plaza, or park space. These streets can connect people to transit stations, schools, parks, grocery stores, and jobs. And the streets can also be destinations themselvesplaces to play, meet your neighbors, and build community. 

Stay Healthy Streets are most valuable in Seattle’s densest neighborhoods with the least access to outdoor public spaces, and this can only be achieved by expanding outside of the existing network of Neighborhood Greenways, that are mostly in low density neighborhoods. Let’s create Stay Healthy Streets in dense, rapidly growing neighborhoods like the U-District, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Downtown, and south Ballard. We should also add Stay Healthy Streets in neighborhoods that have less access to traditional parks like in South Park and Lake City.

 

A tweet reads: "I highly recommend getting a Stay Healthy Block permit and renting a donut truck for a kiddo pandemic birthday party." with two photos.

Stay Healthy Blocks

Last year, instead of rapidly expanding the Stay Healthy Street program to more streets like Oakland and other cities, SDOT decided to go with a DIY Stay Healthy Blocks approach that  allowed neighbors to build their own mini Stay Healthy Streets. It was incredibly exciting in theory, but was hindered by overwhelming permit restrictions that made it inequitable and overly burdensome. Instead of working to improve the program, the City rolled it into SDOT’s existing Play Street program. As a result, Stay Healthy Blocks can continue only as single-day permits, likely focused around holidays and festivals. We would like to see a path forward for neighbor-initiated open streets of some kind, and are eager to work with SDOT to expand this program in a way that could be open to all.

 

A collage of photos of families walking, biking, and riding scooters on Lake Washington Boulevard.

Keep Moving Streets

Keep Moving Streets are collaborations between SDOT and the Seattle Parks Department that create more public park space for recreation and play.

 

People walking and biking in the middle of the street in front of a beautiful view of water and mountains at dusk..

 

Alki Point

Thanks to continual neighborhood advocacy, SDOT announced last week that the Alki Point Keep Moving Street is officially extended for at least a year, through spring 2022! In the meantime, SDOT is seeking funding for permanent infrastructure and conducting public outreach.

 

A rendering of Aurora Ave with one lane protected by concrete barriers for people walking and biking around Green Lake.

 

Green Lake

SDOT has announced that the Green Lake Keep Moving Street will continue, and local advocates are working to extend it around the west side of Green Lake on Aurora. Sign the petition here.

A film still of a woman with curly hair and a blue shirt holds a microphone up to a man with dark skin. Behind them, a person rides by on a bike in front of a lakeshore.

 

Lake Washington Boulevard

SDOT just announced that they will re-open the Lake Washington Boulevard Keep Moving Street this summer, and we are thrilled! Lake Washington Blvd has been periodically opened to people walking, biking, rolling, running, and skating during the pandemic—and it has been a HUGE hit. Our local group, Rainier Valley Greenways–Safe Streets, is leading the way to solicit community feedback and rally support, and to encourage the city to conduct responsive and equitable community engagement. Click here to see the latest and sign the petition to reopen the full three miles of Lake Washington Boulevard to people again this year. 

 

Thank you to everyone who advocated for, and got outside to enjoy, these amazing street spaces in the last year! Let’s keep a good thing going!

 

Clara Cantor
She/her

Community Organizer
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
Website – Twitter – Facebook

Don’t Miss: MLK Jr Day panel featuring Whose Streets? Our Streets! (WSOS) workgroup

Please join us for a not-to-be-missed panel, Strategies for Community Healing, featuring the Whose Streets? Our Streets! (WSOS) Workgroup:

 

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Saturday, January 16, 2:00-3:15p

On Zoom, free to attend. Register here for the link.

 

In this panel discussion, one of a dozen powerful workshops being offered this week by the MLK Jr Organizing Coalition in its 39th Annual MLK Jr Day celebration, activists will describe their innovative efforts to create new paradigms for BIPOC communities, especially Black communities, to thrive in Seattle.
As part of the panel, local organizers Phyllis Porter and Peaches Thomas of the Whose Streets? Our Streets! (WSOS) workgroup will introduce the WSOS slate of recommendations for how our streets can be safe, thriving places without the use of armed police. The majority-BIPOC workgroup’s recommendations were developed by using a pro-equity and anti-racist framework to review laws and policies governing the use of streets.

WSOS is honored to join the following groups on the Strategies for Community Healing panel:

  • The Africatown Community Land Trust, formed to acquire, steward and develop land assets necessary for the Black/African diaspora community to grow in the Central District
  • CACE21 – Wa Na Wari, which creates space for Black ownership, Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection in the Central District;
  • Nurturing Roots, focusing on sharing the truth about systematic oppression with an emphasis on food and environmental justice,
    The panel discussion will be followed by Q and A.

 

ABOUT WHOSE STREETS, OUR STREETS

Whose Streets? Our Streets! (WSOS) is a Seattle-based, majority-BIPOC workgroup. Group members are dedicated to reviewing and recommending changes to street use design, laws, and policies in order to better meet the needs and support the lives of all street users, especially the BIPOC community.

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For more information about the work of Whose Streets? Our Streets!, see this recent interview with two WSOS organizers, Phyllis Porter and Yes Segura:

Screenshot Whose Streets Our Streets --Streets For People 2020

 

ABOUT THE SEATTLE MLK JR  ORGANIZING COALITION

Seattle’s MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition has mobilized for social justice every year for almost four decades, and this year is no exception. The Coalition comprises grassroots, labor, business, people of color, and progressive community organizations and volunteers from throughout the Puget Sound region.

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How to Log in to Streets For People

Date & Time: TODAY, Thursday, November 19th, 6:00pm – 7:15pm

Event Info: Check out the Event ProgramBackground Info, or Join the Event Here

Check this guide for tips and tech support for the Remo platform.

  • We STRONGLY recommend logging in using a computer rather than a tablet or mobile device.
  • Remo works best in the Chrome browser. Other browsers may have issues.
  • Making sure your video and microphone are on so you’re able to mix and mingle at one of the many small group tables!

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Join us for an inspiring evening of community, celebration, and connection.

This year we’ll join together online, and celebrate the street spaces that have helped our families, communities, and local restaurants make it through a challenging year.

Help us pay tribute to the amazing grassroots activism that brought us Stay Healthy StreetsCafe Streets, and Whose Streets? Our Streets! projects this year.

We’ll feature community voices, fantastic videos, safe streets trivia prizes, opportunities to visit with friends — and make new connections — plus so much more.

We’ll celebrate the mission of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways that lets us re-imagine our public spaces in a way that puts people first. All of our fundraising this night will go directly towards keeping this critical work moving forward. You can donate now using our secure donation link seattlegreenways.org/donate

This special event is made possible with the support of our incredible sponsors and community partners — thank you, we simply could not have put this together without you.

Community Hero Sponsor:

Open Streets Sponsors:

People Streets Sponsors:

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Supporting Sponsors:

Grassroots Sponsors:

Can’t wait to see you there! JOIN THE EVENT HERE

 

If you can’t make the Streets for People event but would like to to make a gift to keep SNG going strong in 2021, please visit our secure donation page. To stay in touch with our work, please sign up for our newsletter, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, or consider getting involved!

Streets For People – SNG’s 2nd Annual Community Celebration & Fundraiser!

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It’s our 2nd Annual Community Celebration and Fundraiser for

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways  

 

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

6:00 – 7:15pm

And you’re invited!

 

 

Join us for an inspiring evening of community, celebration, and connection.

This year we’ll join together online, and celebrate the street spaces that have helped our families, communities, and local restaurants make it through a challenging year.

Help us pay tribute to the amazing grassroots activism that brought us Stay Healthy StreetsCafe Streets, Whose Streets Our Streets, and Fix Rainier Ave, projects this year. We’ll feature community voices, fantastic videos, safe streets trivia prizes, opportunities to visit with friends and make new connections, and so much more. We’re also excited to reveal that City Councilmember Tammy Morales will give remarks. 

We’ll celebrate the mission of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways that lets us re-imagine our public spaces in a way that puts people first. All of our fundraising this night will go directly towards keeping this critical work moving forward.

TICKETS: Click here!

FACEBOOK: Share the word with your friends!

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*** EVENT SPONSORS ***

 

This special event is made possible with the generous support of our incredible sponsors and community partners — thank you, we simply could not have put this together without you!

 

Community Hero Sponsor:

Open Streets Sponsors:

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People Streets Sponsors:

 

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Supporting Sponsors:

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Grassroots Sponsors:

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Whose Streets? Our Streets!

  • Traffic Stops Must Stop Leading to Black Deaths

 

About WSOS

For over a century, the laws and policies that govern how we use streets in Seattle, WA, have largely been written, enforced, and adjudicated by white people.  Whose Streets? Our Streets! (WSOS) is a majority-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) group, convened in July 2020 by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, dedicated to reviewing and revising laws and policies to better meet the needs and support the lives of all street users — in particular, the BIPOC community who have historically been excluded from the full and free use of this shared public space.

WSOS uses a pro-equity, anti-racist framework to review laws and policies governing the use of streets and also develop a vision of, and recommendations for, how our streets can be safe, thriving places without the use of armed police.

This includes recommendations to cease involvement of the police in traffic enforcement, prioritize non-punitive methods for making streets safer, abolish enforcement of actions that don’t harm other people, invest in communities of color, and to trust, support, and invest in the owners and experts of those communities.

 

Recommendations

Our values, principles, and recommendations can be found here.

 

Who We Are

 

Founders:

Royal Alley-Barnes. Executive Director, Center on Contemporary Art.
Juan Jose Bocanegra. MEChA. El Centro de la Raza. La Raza Unida Party. American Indian Movement.
Clara Cantor. Community Organizer, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.
Alex Lew. Transportation Planner, Sound Transit.
Ayan Musse. Anti-racist community organizer. Decriminalize Seattle. Seattle People’s Party. The People’s Institute Northwest.
Phyllis Porter. Black Girls Do Bike. Rainier Riders. Rainier Valley Greenways-Safe Streets. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Board of Directors.
Yes Segura. Founder of Smash the Box. Urban Planner, Designer, Cartographer
KL Shannon. Community Organizer, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Seattle People’s Party. Jobs With Justice. Mothers for Police Accountability. Defender Association’s Racial Disparity Project. Seattle MLK Coalition.
Peaches Thomas. Community Organizer, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets.

 

Organizational mentions for affiliation purposes only

 

Contact 

KL Shannon (Chair) – [email protected]

 

Stay Healthy Streets

Watch this video for how this program is going:

stay healthy streets video screenshot

 

Have you been out to enjoy one of the City of Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets?

People walk and bike down the middle of a street in front of an A-frame sign that says
These streets are closed to vehicle through-traffic, but are OPEN to people walking, rolling, and biking in the street. Local access, deliveries, and emergency services are still allowed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stay Healthy Streets give people extra space to recreate outside and get where they need to go while allowing each other to maintain physical distance.

Do you use a Stay Healthy Street? Take This Survey!

TAKE THIS SURVEY, and tell SDOT how you feel about the Stay Healthy Streets and whether you’d like them to be permanent. Survey closes July 15.

Report issues with a Stay Healthy Street

Report missing or misplaced signage or cones to the City of Seattle by emailing [email protected] or calling the regular street maintenance reporting line at 206-684-7623 (ROAD). You can also report through the FinditFixit App. You can also share experiences and suggestions, but please refrain from community policing the behavior of other people using the street.

Explore More Stay Healthy Streets

Check out this map to view all of Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets, and get outside to enjoy the one nearest you! If you’re snapping a selfie, use the hashtag #StayHealthyStreets and we’ll share it on Twitter or Instagram.

A family bikes around a traffic circle on a local Stay Healthy Street.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways pushed the idea of Stay Healthy Streets in Seattle as one of our 8 Solutions for Safe Social Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the outspoken support of neighborhood advocates like you, the City introduced Stay Healthy Streets a few miles at a time throughout April and May. We now have over 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets in 13 locations around the city, and we continue to advocate for their continuation and expansion.

Updates on the Stay Healthy Streets Program:

We Stand in Support of BLM Protesters and Decry Any Use of Cars as Weapons

We are horrified at the tragic event that led to Summer Taylor’s death, and Diaz Love’s serious injuries, in the early hours of Saturday, July 4th—a driver, rushing at high speed, entered the WSP-closed Interstate 5 through an offramp, swerved around clear barricades, and plowed straight into the Black Femme March.

We don’t have all the facts, but we express our strong solidarity with those peacefully protesting for positive change. Here are the ways we’re standing in support:

  1. Organizers ask any of us who have the means to please contribute to Diaz Love’s GoFundMe site, as more than 2,500 people already have.
  2. We ask that allegations by the BLM Women’s March organizers—that the driver did not act alone and that multiple individuals not connected to BLM were filming it as it occurred—be investigated; and that inquiries be made into other accounts of driver-based harassment and threats targeting BLM protestors.
  3. As part of our commitment to racial justice, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is looking at how the urgent calls for police accountability and defunding police intersect with our core issues of safe and healthy streets. To that end, we are partnering with a diverse team of community members with expertise in transportation, mobility justice, restorative justice, criminal justice, public health and safety, and public policy, to dig deep into Seattle’s system of traffic enforcement. Check here for more about the newly launched Re-Imagining Traffic Enforcement working group.
  4. No one should ever intentionally use a motor vehicle as a weapon. At SNG, we’ve heard repeatedly that people in Seattle have felt threatened by drivers doing just that—using their vehicles to intimidate and frighten people walking, riding bikes, and protesting for justice—on countless occasions. And there are the many established accounts, from the 2017 murder-by-driver in Charlottesville, VA to the very recent driver-attack on Capitol Hill. The New York Times just reported that vehicle/driver attacks on protesters are on the rise (“There have been at least 66 car attacks nationwide since George Floyd was killed”). We abhor this assault on the right to peacefully assemble, and on the basic human right to be, and move safely, through one’s daily activities in public space. If you personally have felt threatened by drivers on Seattle’s streets, could you let us know about it?

 

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Cafe Streets for Seattle

Exciting news for local businesses and street advocates: Last Friday, the City of Seattle announced that they will waive fees for sidewalk permits, offering free 6-month permits for outdoor cafes and streateries!

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Existing Seattle streatery in Toronto, CA. Photo: @QAGreenways

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has been pushing for an expanded and more streamlined Cafe Streets program as a part of our 8-point plan for healthy streets during COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. We drafted this plan in response to the pandemic after gathering community input on needs and possible solutions. People across Seattle rallied in support and Seattle has already made tangible progress on many of the demands.

King County has now entered Phase 2. Many small businesses, however, are still struggling to survive while physical distancing rules are in effect and indoor capacity is limited. The push for cafe streets is more urgent than ever.

 

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Parking Lane Streatery in Boston. Photo: Kristina Rex

Around the world, many cities have opened parking spaces, extended seating into places with ample sidewalk space, and even used entire streets or street lanes for restaurants and retailers to stretch out and operate safely. USA Today reports, “As the U.S. reopens and summer approaches, cities from Tampa, Florida, to Las Vegas to Portland, Maine, are opening sidewalks and closing streets to create large al fresco or plein air dining rooms.” Here in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Edmonds, Redmond, Port Townsend, and other cities moved quickly to support small businesses by creating street plazas. Seattle, a city famous for its food and coffee, needs to join the parade.

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Parking spot streatery in New York City. Photo: Streetfilms

Cafe Streets have already gained support locally from small-business owners across Seattle who are eager to find ways to serve their customers safely and protect their employees. Bob Donegan, who runs Ivar’s and Kidd Valley restaurants, reports dramatic benefits from the al fresco seating at his restaurants, most dramatically at the Mukilteo Ivar’s by the ferry dock. One recent day, Donegan reports, the shoreside Ivar’s served double the usual number of entrées to people who purchased meals at the take-out window and dined in fresh air at a nearby park. 

Katherine Anderson, who runs the stylish London Plane restaurant on Occidental Ave. S. in Pioneer Square, has long envisioned her restaurant/bakery/flower shop spilling out into the car-free street. To date, city restrictions on outdoor tables made that impossible. Small-business owners like Katherine, Bob and many others around the city are excited by cafe streets as an important first step that will help businesses reopen safely. Ultimately, this will prevent more businesses from having to close permanently.

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Parking lane streatery in New York City. Photo: Streetfilms

In response to neighborhood business owners and local advocates, the City of Seattle announced that they will waive fees for temporary (6-month) sidewalk permits, offering “free temporary permits for outdoor cafes, retail merchandise displays, food trucks and vending carts that are valid for up to 6 months.” Check the City of Seattle information page for permit details and applications. Interested business owners may apply for permits to expand into the sidewalk (while maintaining space for pedestrians) or parking lane (excluding loading zones and ADA parking). We are thrilled. 

Thank you to the Mayor and City Council and especially to advocates like you who rallied support, sent emails to your elected leaders, and helped your local small-business districts survive this challenging time.

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Parking lane streatery in New York City. Photo: Streetfilms

But more can be done. 

Expanding businesses into sidewalk space and unused parking spots is a great first step but Seattle must go further. Businesses that don’t have wide, plaza-like sidewalks are unable to create sidewalk seating without obstructing pedestrians, especially those who have reduced vision or use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. And while temporary permits for unused parking spaces are a great first step, the permit excludes arterial streets with fast-moving car traffic where many of our business districts are located. As an example, business owners and neighborhood advocates in Belltown are outspoken about needing outdoor space for businesses along Second Ave, which is not currently allowed.

Cafe Streets for Seattle- A Way to Help Local Restaurants Survive from Pangeality Productions on Vimeo.

By proactively finding collective solutions for small businesses, Seattle can streamline both the process and the result. Owners that are already overwhelmed and stressed can work together instead of applying individually. And business districts could create street plazas with shared seating or vending spaces that are safe and predictable for everyone.

Brooklyn New York. All minority owned businesses

Brooklyn, New York. Open cafe street surrounded by all POC-owned businesses.

Ultimately, what works in Ballard or Othello will be different from what works in South Park or the U District. Each neighborhood should be given the tools and support to implement what will help sustain their community’s needs. Ballard-area Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss has already proposed opening Ballard Avenue (a restaurant mecca) so restaurants can take advantage of warm weather for outdoor dining.

We urge the city to expand this program to grant permits for larger street plazas, allow cafe seating on some arterials through business districts, and work to support individual small-business district requests and needs. These changes are crucial to help our neighborhood business districts safely thrive this summer and beyond. And who knows — Seattleites may fall in love with these new spaces, ushering in an era where friends meet for tacos in cozy outdoor spaces, even in the rainy season.

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