Improving Beacon Hill: your suggestions

Old laundromat, tagged with graffiti. Photo by Laura Hadden -- thanks!
Old laundromat on Beacon Avenue, tagged with graffiti. Photo by Laura Hadden -- thanks!
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.

7 thoughts on “Improving Beacon Hill: your suggestions”

  1. I wish that people cared about living and working here and realized that their actions or inactions impact other people.

    – People that park on the sidewalks
    – Fou Lee Market using the sidewalk as storage
    – People that speed through my neighbor as a short-cut from Columbian Ave to 15th

    I would disagree that this neighborhood is being gentrified.

    Gentrification is when more wealthy people move in to a less affluent neighborhood. I don’t think this is a “less affluent community”. This has always been a working class neighborhood and still is. Madrona or Columbia City would be much better examples of gentrification. Also, housing is still incredibly affordable – something that gentrification would have eliminated.

  2. Incredibly affordable? For who? The house I rent is “valued” at 450k (but I know it would take twice that to bring it up to date) I know I can’t afford to buy a house for that much. I am VERY working class and for me to be able to buy a house I’d have to move to a rural area. This area is becoming very gentrified sre you kidding? Who do you think is actually buying houses in the area? I don’t think I need to say anything…
    If you want to make this area cleaner, nicer and with more fancy retail/restaurants then my rent will go up and I will have to move far away. I don’t want that to happen.

  3. “Is it gentrification to want fewer chain link fences?” No, not exactly. But when you act to change your neighborhood, you are in a small way imposing your own culture/values onto the community. This is something we all do simply by living in our community. If I spend my restaurant dollars at Inay’s, for example, that means I’m not supporting the Baja Bistro or any of the other, older restaurants on the hill. I’m exerting a small amount of financial pressure for Filipino cuisine in our community.

    The problem is, change happens. I don’t feel guilty for adding an Anglo family to the neighborhood, nor do I think that the Chinese family who sold the house to me felt guilty for changing the hill’s ethnic makeup. The only way we can preserve a certain neighborhood culture is by forcing folks to conform to a plethora of community standards. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s what I moved into the city to avoid.

    Oh, and if anybody wants to foot the bill, I’ll be glad to replace my chain-link fence with something nicer. 😉

  4. JvA, that is affordable. I didn’t realize houses in your area were that inexpensive (relatively, at least). Up in our area of North Beacon houses seem to be in the $400,000s on Zillow with a few lower, a few higher. Our house has lost $60,000 in value on Zillow in the last year, though.

  5. John, I have an ugly fence at my house too. It’s not chain link, though… just old, old, ugly wood. Neighbors, I promise we will do something about it some day! I don’t like looking at it either!

  6. peace,

    I don’t know how the gentrification isn’t clear.. I’m just talking in terms of saltines. Not that I have a problem with saltines in general. I think that if someone moves here..specially White bourgeoisie, it’s gentrification in itself for them to not know the cultural history. Just by living here they already impose a change..isn’t it clear people think of Beacon as the new ‘hip’ up an coming? See that sign on North Beacon, ‘City living with an edge’..whats the edge? the dangerous people of color..haa… man.. It’s sad. That’s what White people represent here. I laugh wanting to cry at the fact that they couldn’t leave this place alone. The mostly asian and pacific islander population didn’t move here by complete free will.. That’s why I kind of despise the changes out here, they aren’t changes based on the community that wasn’t allowed to live else where. And that’s what I would love to have seen; more of the people of color creating community and raising up on their own. That would’ve been truly helpful to the youth. I bet a lot of the organizing now doesn’t involve internalized oppression..cause that’s not common ground the people moving in share..
    They prolly talk about the price of their houses or public schools being to dangerous ha haa.. ok thats a sterio type but there’s probably truth in it..

    I could go on for days..Fuck ballard! And wallingford! Anyone who wants that isn’t being conscious of the history..

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