Community Post

Central District gets $45,000 in street funds, smallest of any area in Seattle

John posted earlier about last night’s announcement of Neighborhood Street Fund projects that have been funded by the city.

Our neighborhood’s winning project will get $45,000 to make some pedestrian improvements on the west side of the Garfield campus:

  • Widen the sidewalk on the west side of 23rd, south of the intersection at Jefferson St.
  • Add a curb-bulb on the southwest corner of 23rd & E. Terrace, shortening the distance required to cross Terrace as you’re walking along 23rd
  • Realign the sidewalk to match the curve of 23rd at Terrace
  • Build a new planting strip along the adjusted sidewalk on each side of the intersection at Terrace

It appears to be a worthwhile project as far as pedestrian issues go. We’ve walked that path many times and wondered why the sidewalk design there provided such an awkward transition at Terrace.

But looking at the full list of funded projects around the city, it’s pretty clear that our area came out on the short end of the stick. The next-smallest project was $112,000 in West Seattle, and other north-end projects got upwards of $700,000 each.

It appears that part of the blame here rests with the city. The Garfield Superblock proposal (attached at left) included many more components than just upgraded sidewalks at Terrace and Jefferson. It also planned for upgraded pathways around the Medgar Evers pool, upgraded street lighting, and a raised crosswalk on Cherry in front of the old Mann school. That original project estimate of that work was $210,000, much larger than the $45,000 sub-project that was finally funded.

Other projects in the neighborhood were proposed but did not get funded, including the $280,000 of improvements to 13th & Union that we discussed earlier in the year.

But a large portion of blame lies with us, the residents of the Central District and surrounding neighborhoods. There’s plenty of pedestrian, cycling, and transit issues around the neighborhood that need fixing, but we seem to be lacking the community ideas and leadership to plan them, propose them, and get them funded.

An example of a large-scale project that worked is the late-90’s were the improvements to Union between 20th and 22nd. It added wider sidewalks, curb bulbs, bus-stop seating, and pedestrian-scale lighting that made the area a friendly spot for local businesses to set up shop. Since then the area has taken off, with Central Cinema, 2020 Cycles, Hollow Earth Radio, and Katy’s Cafe providing a lot of new street life that didn’t exist before the improvements.

We’ve got other neighborhood business districts that could use a similar kind of love, whether it’s Cherry Street between 23rd & MLK, Jackson Street, or still-too-fast parts of MLK.

Wondering what you can do to help us have better success next year? Brainstorm projects with your neighbors, get involved with your community council to organize around them, and follow through to get them approved in the city’s processes.

But organization and persistence is key. Otherwise we’ll continue to see dollars awarded to better-equipped neighborhoods, and things that need attention around here will continue to suffer.

0 thoughts on “Central District gets $45,000 in street funds, smallest of any area in Seattle

  1. We are fortunate in the CD to have a largely-established sidewalk grid (though obviously in need of many improvements, as Scott rightly points out). Some of the other projects also needed drainage work, which any pedestrian advocate will tell you drives costs through the roof.

    Having said that, yes, it continues to be very true that the Central neighborhoods don’t advocate for themselves as well as West and North Seattle.

    And Scott nails it. Organization and persistence are key.

  2. “those with a view make the rules”

    i had to remind this person that many areas of this neighborhood have very nice views.

    but agree with scott and john–we’re not as aggressive as the folks up north in advocating, and frankly the folks making the funding decisions tend to have stronger ties to areas north of the ship canal, thus we need to be even more vocal about our projects.

  3. I believe that particular example isn’t the best, as the annual Garden Tour raised funds that the city matched for the improvements you mention, so not quite apples to apples!

  4. Yup. Neighbor Lynn Thompson thought it up, wrote the first grant apps and got the ball rolling. (And then deserted us. We burnt out a lotta people in the ten years it took to complete the project.) I think eight garden tours raised monies and matching hours. THOUSANDS of hours were invested by local residents and some businesses. We had work parties to bust up the concrete and asphalt on the planting strips, improve the compacted soil and plant the plants. Charlie Ragen gave us the pavers at his cost, a $10,000 in-kind donation. We had them professionally installed for safety reasons.

    Grants from Seattle City Light, NW Insurance Council and the Dept of N’hoods gave us actual dollars. The repaving of part of E Union was done by SDOT at City expense. It was a glorious project. Imma take a nap now.

  5. True. Organizations with ongoing committees that focus on these needs and grants will likely be the most successful. Ongoing committees nurture the leadership and experience in various areas necessary to be successful. Too often our organizations have a few people who try to do it all and either burn out or simply lack the time and energy to do it all. Somethings get attention and others are still lacking.

  6. Am I just confused, or do we not really have a community council? On the Seattle Community Network page (, the “Central Area Neighborhood Association” is listed, but the link goes to the CD Garden Tour webpage (

    We need a real community council with a transportation committee (see Greenwood – to put wish lists together and advocate for this type of stuff.

    Of course, the response from folks will be, “then go ahead and start one!”… but alas, I don’t really have time or energy go actually start it. But I’d be happy to come to meetings if someone else did.

  7. The Squire Park Community Council serves the area from 23rd to 12th and from Jackson to Union. The next meeting is at CAMP Firehouse (Central Area Motivation Program)on Saturday, October 9 at 10:00 A.M.

    If you live in that area you should see the quarterly newsletter on your doorstep in the next week to ten days.

    The Community Council has quarterly meetings on the second Saturday of Jan., April, July and Oct. and board meetings every month on the First Tuesday. The next board meeting is at 7. P.M. on Tuesday Oct. 5 at 824 12th Ave. (S.U. Admissions and Alumni Bldg.)

    Anyone with street improvement ideas or projects is encouraged to come to the Community Council. Scott is right, community councils can help support a successful street fund application. But the strength of the community council depends on neighbors taking part.

  8. We can organize we can put together plans and we can lobby but the answer will always be no. It took 20 years to get a left hand turn from Boren to Jackson. Dollars would be allocated and then transfered at the last minute to a north of the ship canal projct, giving the apperance that dollars were being spent here. It took a personal intervention with a former SDOT manager to finaly get it done. We will always get the short end of the stick because the old guard still work for the city and their racist roots are entwined in government. They say no the the black area regardless of the new demographics. I tell you, SUE. Legal action is all they respect.

  9. OK that’s great, but what about the rest of the CD east of 23rd? There isn’t a community council for it, am I right?

  10. I believe the Garfield Community Council represents that area, but I’m not positive. I don’t know if it meets, either.

    The Central District Neighborhood Assoc (or Central Area Neighborhood Assoc) is a neighborhood group that got started about 30 years ago by residents around E Union St from 18th to MLK. It covers the area east of 23rd from E Union St to Cherry St. One of the reasons we don’t have regular meetings anymore is that no one came. Our volunteer webmaster moved to Vermont, so no more web. Most of the volunteers of the past have moved away.

    We do events, like planting and cleanup of the Union St Public Gardens (those planting strips we planted) and BBQ lunch after. We are the fiscal sponsor for Garden Central, the CD garden club. Hence the link to the garden tour website.

    We could use some volunteers. Divided up, the duties of a community group aren’t overwhelming. When it’s all on the shoulders of one or two, it’s too much.

  11. I don’t doubt that was true 20 years ago. But we got a crosswalk with a safety island built on MLK at Marion, and that wasn’t a difficult project from the perspective of “oh, we’re taking the money and giving it to the North End”. The difficulty there was that what we really wanted cost more than the fund we were applying to could spend, due to drainage issues (a common problem city-wide). Still, what’s there is a good start. There are dozens more projects like that around the neighborhood, but they do need bodies and time from the neighborhood to help make them happen.

  12. Yes.
    Regular meetings help structure volunteers and also give citizens a time to meet, exchange ideas and set priorities. You might also contact Ted Divina ([email protected]) for information on the Garfield Community Council as there does seem a renewed effort there. And then there is a CD art project related to the group that has been sponsoring the Garden tours that is going to begin meeting this Monday:
    Regular meetings for the art project will be
    held at the Lutheran Church, 22nd and Union, 7pm, the fourth Monday of each month, beginning
    September 27.