RBG The CD — City Hall unveils new Central District community crosswalk

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A symbol of the Central District’s black history — and present — was formalized Saturday morning as SDOT replicated in a $7,500 paint job what the community did with spray cans and inspiration this summer.

Saturday, Mayor Ed Murray was on hand along with residents and members of RBG The CD to unveil a new community crosswalk in the Pan-African red, green, and black colors crossing MLK at Powell Barnett Park.

Angel Mitchell, whom in his brief address before the ceremonial first crossing Murray was first to thank for her work to make the community crosswalk happen, said the colors of the crosswalk are part of remembering the neighborhood’s past as the community works toward the future.

“The crosswalks symbolize the history of the Central District,” she said.

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“Unfortunately right now, there is a losing battle against gentrification, at this point. So, I feel like people should know the history of the Central District, and that’s what these crosswalks are aiming to do.”

The crossing first received an unauthorized paint job over the summer — “Red is for the blood that has been shed by the people. Black is the people. And the green is the land,” as one person in attendance Saturday put it — in a rogue effort around the Central District that echoed the $73,000 rainbow paint job Pike/Pine crosswalks received last June. Embracing the spirit — if not the aerosol methods — of the Powell Barnett crossing, the city has created a new community crosswalks program that “will allow unique crosswalks to be approved and installed through an established process, ensuring that they are safe, reflective of community values and can be maintained.”

Saturday, Murray said the Powell Barnett and RGBTheCD crosswalk would be the first of more across the city as Seattle continues “experimenting with crosswalks to help identify neighborhoods.” One of the locations lined up for an enhanced crosswalk, by the way, is at Melrose and Pike.

Murray also thanked 701 Coffee for being part of the ceremony. Facing increasing protest and criticism, the mayor and his Office of Economic Development moved forward last week with a $650,000 “business stabilization” fund to help 701 and other small businesses along 23rd Ave stay open during a lengthy SDOT construction project a few blocks away from Saturday’s ceremony.

But bigger issues were on the mayor’s mind Saturday.

“I also think it’s important that we’re doing this crosswalk today in the Central District given the very, very difficult time we’re living through in this country and in this city as we deal with issues of racism,” Murray said before joining the crowd to cross MLK.

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25 thoughts on “RBG The CD — City Hall unveils new Central District community crosswalk

  1. Nicely Done! So glad the city stepped up and validated the efforts by embracing this instead of blocking it as non-standard.

    • I didn’t see their application but if they used thermoplastic paint its not cheap but will last a very long time. If they ordered traffic quality paint, the cost of this special color is expensive as its non standard and the manufacture has to create a small batch, clear their lines for spraying etc. Those costs add up quickly.

      I too balk at the cost but this is one of those areas where you don’t want to cut costs if you want it to last.

  2. I would have gone for a black power fist in the center with broader bolder stripes, but it’s their neighborhood, or at least it was.

    • These crosswalks are great but how could you have this event and not have any mention of the 4 shootings at this park last summer? There were also 2 more shooting last year just one block away (the 100 block of 29th) related to activity at the park. Was this brought up at all?

      In the summer Powell Barnett park basically functions as Leschi Elementary summer camp, young kids everywhere. Powell Barnett also serves as summer camp the CD gangs the Deuce 8 and the Cherry Block (a Cherry Block member shot Justin Ferrari).

      Over the last several years there have been so many shooting at the park, including the guy that got shot in the chest last summer.

      It is really hard to fathom how we allow gangs to set up shop and shoot up a park full of kids… over and over again.

  3. … this paint job is a stupid idea as it significantly negatively pedestrian safety.

    The crosswalk’s main job is to highlight a pedestrian crossing so that they are safer to cross.

    The new black (seriously who paints safety markings BLACK?), dark green and dark red paint job, greatly lessens the visibility of the crosswalk and needlessly lowers the safety of that crossing.

    Does this crossing still comply with current traffic safety standards?

    Why not paint African stripes parallel to the crossing? Or hang striped flags from the streetlights?

    This is a bad idea and is being done for political correctness without being thought through.

    • Have you ever driven this way? You cannot miss this crosswalk. It’s very obvious even with these paint colors. Anybody who can’t see this crosswalk, I’m scared they’re driving.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing your concern and thoughts. This is a major crosswalk to a park. The only thing I noticed was the fact that the crosswalk is now less visible than before. Flashing lights will improve the intersection.

  4. These novelty crosswalks are “nice to haves” and cannot be justified in the midst of the homelessness crisis that our mayor and city council have continually been discussing in recent weeks. The city needs to learn to prioritize the budget and focus on what is important. It is true that $7,500 is a drop in the bucket that makes up the total city budget, but the cumulative wasteful spending could go a long way to helping real people.

    • I want to point out that SDOT funds cannot be spent to house the homeless.
      The comments about the mayor’s priorities, spending outside of cost of the paint are baseless.

      It is concerning how many people have not taken basic coursework in government though. I believe there would be less anger and apathy if everyone understood how the system works. You cannot change something you don’t understand at the most basic level such as this example.

  5. I think it’s nice that they put in rainbow striped crosswalks to signify how Capitol Hill used to be a gay neighborhood and this African crosswalk to signify how the CD used to be a black neighborhood.

  6. Maybe South Lake Union can have Amazon logos, the UW can have Chinese characters and Hangul. Aurora can have orange caps.

  7. SeattleCarol, I do understand the basics of government, and I also vote in every election, so I would not consider myself apathetic. If SDOT has designated money to waste on novelty projects, perhaps they need to ask for less on the next levy. Actually, one could argue that these projects are a misuse of SDOT dollars since they are about neighborhood historical identity and do nothing to enhance pedestrian safety beyond what a regular crosswalk would do.

    The city needs to be responsible in how they use our investment of tax dollars. By inflating the SDOT budget to include unnecessary projects, there is a chance of shrinking the available funds for other department budgets. At some point, voters may get tired of the continuous levy increases.

    • SDOT’s budget was $429 million in 2015, which I’m sure you know, so it’s hard to imagine why anyone would be concerned about a $7,500 “novelty” project that is symbolically important to a neighborhood typically forsaken by the city. Besides, one person’s idea of novelty is another person’s feeling better that the city gives a shit about the history of their neighborhood.

  8. Oh look.. yet another photo opp for this mayor… Meanwhile there are numerous tent villages popping up everywhere in the U District and Ballard… DO SOMETHING!

  9. The $7500 is the total price of the striping with color, but what does a plain crosswalk striping cost? The cost of the colors is really quite a bit less than the total cost of the striping. This is really a small amount of money for a decent bit of recognition.

  10. It’s nice till it fades away. At this point I can think of a dozen of places this city need to restripe, including painting turn arrows on streets which would make driving safer. I also know there are spots neighborhoods been asking for more 4 way STOPS or better warning pedestrian lights at busy intersections.

    I don’t know. I like the symbolism, but I’ll take safety over ‘feel good’. So my preference is fix the streets and sidewalks first. Make them safer.

    Maybe use funds for neighborhood improvement or arts for this kind of thing. Better yet, get Amazon, Mariners, Chase bank to sponsor these things.

  11. I put in the original application for improving this crosswalk. My intent was to create a safe crossing for the school kids (it’s an official school crossing) and to make it easier for kids and parents on the west side of MLK to access Powell Barnett Park. Safety and visibility is the primary focus. The raised crosswalk makes pedestrians taller in the view of the motorists and the raised pavement forces drivers to slow down. However, when it is dark and rainy, it’s not so visible for the motorists many of whom are distracted or simply in a hurry. This why it is imperative that more reflective white stripping should be added to both the sides and the top of the raised crosswalk. The job of protecting lives at this crossing needs is not finished.