Recently we asked you “what are some things you’d like to improve on Beacon Hill?” The ensuing discussion was lively, to say the least. In comparison to the recent discussion about things we love about Beacon Hill, the answers to this one were more diverse.
The answers could be broken down into two broad categories: Stuff We Want, and Stuff That Needs to Improve.
Please read on to see what people said.
Stuff We Want was pretty straightforward: a “bacon and egg type” breakfast place, a brew pub, East-West bus service and better bus service in general, more pizza delivery options, and “more of a neighborhood feel.”
In general, people seem to want a more walkable and self-contained Beacon Hill. P. M. Marcontell recently moved from the south edge of Mid-Beacon Hill back to Ballard, and says that the lack of walkability in that part of the Hill was a factor in choosing to move away:
“In our 7 years there, we wound up doing most of our shopping in West Seattle (time-wise, it was just as quick for us to go there as it was for us to haul ourselves up to Red Apple, and West Seattle had drugstores and 24 hour grocery stores). One of our big reasons for moving was so that we could remain a one-car family. For us, Mid-Beacon Hill had all the disadvantages of both city living and suburban living.”
Marcontell also noted the difficulty of east-west transit from the Hill:
“When I temped down at Boeing, I was maybe 3/4 of a mile from the plant, but taking the bus would have taken me more than an hour, because there’s no service from Beacon Ave to either Georgetown or to Columbia City.”
Anna would like to see “more frequent neighborhood socials or community-improvement events.” JvA, from Mid Beacon Hill, would like something more fundamental: “I’d be happy to go a year without a shooting within five blocks of my house.”
Stuff That Needs to Improve is where things really got interesting. The major area of complaint had to do with the actions of landlords, commercial buildings, and business owners in the neighborhood. Primarily, people seem to think that the commercial districts along Beacon need to be beautified, and need to include more retail. Hiller said, “There are some buildings along Beacon Avenue that appear to have been modernized in the ’70s and it would be nice to see their brick exteriors exposed again. This strip could be prettier than Wallingford or Ballard if anyone cared about signage, too.”
Chris told this tale:
“There seems to be a disproportionate number of commercial property owners in North Beacon Hill who really don’t care about the state of the neighborhood. My favorite story happened during a neighborhood walk several years ago. The graffiti had gotten pretty bad on the building on the NW corner of the Beacon/15th intersection. While standing on the corner, one of us called the posted number (one of the units was vacant) to let the owner know that the graffiti had gotten bad. After initially pretending not to speak English, the owner basically told us to take a hike and call the police about the graffiti if we wanted. And, DPD doesn’t have the stones to enforce the zoning rules for the other commercial (warehouse that is supposed to be retail) property on that block.”
Other things that irritated commenters were the “rent-a-shed company who parks their ‘billboard on wheels’ truck in the parking strips on Beacon and Columbian every other week,” stores that sell “single cans of that turbo-beer,” and non-businesses (or businesses without a storefront) taking up prime storefront space on Beacon Avenue.
City and Metro services (or lack of) were a frequent topic. P.M. Marcontell suggested that what we need is “an indication that the city actually cared what happened in the South End. In the time we were there, it felt like things kept getting rougher, and the city just turned a blind eye.” JvA dislikes the 36 bus route: “Too many people. Too many skipped stops. Too many drunks. Too much crack smoking and sexual harassment. I really hate this route.” And Steve asks “Could we please get SPU to clean out the storm drains at the intersection of Columbian and Beacon?”
Homeowners’ activities on the Hill also drew some folks’ ire. Unsurprisingly, neighbors don’t like neighbors with unkempt yards and abandoned cars, and people who park on the sidewalk. (That is, if you live in the part of the Hill that has sidewalks.) And JvA complained of neighbors that put up ugly chain-link fences.
This led to a sometimes-heated discussion about gentrification and the changing of Beacon Hill. Is it gentrification to want fewer chain link fences? Is it insensitivity to Beacon Hill’s history, and the historical racism and prejudice in Seattle that led to Beacon Hill being a mostly minority-populated neighborhood, to want coffee shops, brewpubs, and nice retail? Is it, well, wrong? Should being “prettier than Wallingford or Ballard” be a goal at all? Are the newer Beacon Hill residents changing Beacon Hill for the better or worse?
I don’t think there are easy answers to these questions. Please comment and tell us what you think.