‘Impound Notice’ — City targets Capitol Hill neighborhood bench

Image of the bench in use courtesy tipster Ariel

First they came for the rogue illegal “PHOTO ENFORCED” stop sign. Now, just blocks away, the Seattle Department of Transportation is set to crack down on a rogue community bench.

There has been a bench for decades, neighbors say, near the strange but kind of wonderful cluster of trees and bushes where E Mercer dead ends before beginning again on the other side of 17th Ave E. Last week, neighborhood tipster Ariel alerts, SDOT slapped an impound notice on the bench which sits on the sidewalk within the City of Seattle’s right of way.

“SDOT has received multiple complaints expressing concerns regarding this bench and has been unable to identify an owner responsible,” the notice reads.


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The bench is popular with neighborhood smokers and, yes, CHS has seen a few people who appear to be homeless sitting on the bench from time to time. It’s also popular with kids, squirrels, crows, the occasional Pomeranian, and, we suspect, more.

CHS has reached out to SDOT to learn more about the impoundment notice and what options neighbors might have for keeping the bench in place.

According to the notice, the owner may claim the bench within 60 days and will be responsible for any fees associated with “impounding, transporting, and storing” the property. It doesn’t address additional issues around permitting a neighborhood bench in the public right of way.

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30 thoughts on “‘Impound Notice’ — City targets Capitol Hill neighborhood bench

  1. That’s in a nice little grotto. Who would complain about a bench? My guess would be that it was somehow linked to the low-key 1960s apartment complex next to it.

  2. Really? If this is the silly things the city dollars are being spent on, I think its time for someone at the SDOT to be terminated. We don’t have anything more important to focus on, REALLY? This city has become crazy town…..

    • Playing Devil’s Advocate here, but somebody in the neighborhood reported the bench. Once that happens, SDOT has an obligation to now deal with an unofficial, unapproved bench for liability reasons.

      I can almost guarantee SDOT knew about the bench in an unofficial capacity, at which point they could claim plausible deniability.

      Now they could have definitely reached out to the community to replace the bench with an approved design, but my guess is they now need to move fast to get rid of the bench, again for liability reasons.

      I think the anger would be better directed at the neighbors that reported it, likely because they didn’t like smokers or homeless people using it.

  3. Is it on the public right-of-way? My recollection was that the right-of-way only covered the street and to the far edge of the sidewalk. From the StreetView, it looks like the bench is past the right-of-way. Maybe it makes no practical difference if that is public land or the land owner doesn’t care.

  4. Would be glad to see it go, it’s very dirty, people leave trash arround it, and dodgy looking folks who don’t live in the neighborhood loiter around if.

    • SDOT is acting on complaints, which given YJ’s comments, likely came from neighbors. Don’t bitch at SDOT or the city on this one. Direct your irritation at the complainers.

    • And here we have it. The type of person who would call and complain about a bench. The truth comes out . . . “dodgy folks” loiter around it. God forbid anyone but a rich person be in the neighborhood.

      • Lol, right?! God forbid someone who lives there day in and day out gets annoyed by the trash, discarded needles, and used condoms that gets dumped next to this thing, what jerks I tell ya!

    • Does that mean that if I complain about people leaving trash and loitering around parked cars in Capitol Hill that SDOT will remove all the PRIVATE vehicles taking up valuable PUBLIC space?

      • Ugh, what a ridiculous comment. But to humor you, yes, if the car is parked there for more than 72 hrs you can call 206-684-8763 and request that it be towed/impounded.

  5. There’s a relationship between wealth and poverty. People like you love to blame the people at the bottom instead of the people at the top who are the real cause of the problems we face as a society. It’s weak minded and lazy to blame the least advantaged people. Go back to Next Door. They love to hate on poor people over there. Oh wait, you already pontificate on there to a nauseating degree.

    • Mimi… there is no correlation between wealth and being able to carry your garbage until you get to a garbage can…
      And if people sit there and smoke (also not an activity restricted to poor people) and it were near my apartment, I’d absolutely want the thing gone.

  6. Not surprised that SDOT is interested in a bench rather than doing anything about the construction violations of illegal parking, illegal road & sidewalk closures, construction equipment and debris in the roads. Good job SDOT, ignore the rich and go after a bench…So brave!

  7. Thank you Jseattle. I appreciate being able to comment. I have lived in my home on 17th Ave East for over 50 years. I think the bench may have actually been placed there by SDOT when they created the green space that closed off East Mercer from 17th Ave East. It was so long ago they may have forgotten. This closure was done as part of a traffic diversion effort that also closed off 17th Ave at Republican and created the traffic circles and several other “dead ends”. At the time it was all controversial; I even had a taxi driver tell me he would never come to our Capitol Hill neighborhood again because of them. The bench is old but was nice wood and it was firmly set into a concrete base. It does not protrude onto the sidewalk, I would like to see it replaced.
    I often rest there when picking up my grandchildren from St Joseph’s. I have seen pleasant people sitting there smoking , I have never noticed garbage or problems.

    • As a neighbor of yours, I concur with everything you said. I would also like to see it replaced instead of removed.

      I can’t help but think a complaint was filed with the city based on the types of folks who use the bench by someone on the block who doesn’t want those folks around. This is such a ludicrous waste of time and money that I can’t imagine SDOT just posted the impound notice on their own out of the blue.

    • I am with Roberta. I believe this was installed at the time the street was closed. Roberta and I have lived just 2 blocks from here for 50 years – down the street in an apartment for 4 years before that. On a quick look The metal frame for this bench appears to be sound. only the wood slats need replacing. The bench being heavy metal and imbedded in concrete clearly has the look of commercial grade material that would have been placed by the people creating the mini park street stop. To the best of my recollection it dates from that time. I think it would be a shame to lose it. It is a great place to take a break on a walk and it is a nice spot for surrounding apartment people to have a smoke.

  8. I have lived in the neighborhood for thirty years, and I used to live in an apartment two doors down from this pleasant spot. The bench seems to have been installed in conjunction with the installation of the sidewalk, so I always assumed the city put it there. I remember Tom and his pig very well. He was my neighbor. I live a few blocks away now and walk past this bench regularly. It may be true that somebody has seen needles or trash there at some time, but I’ve never seen anything like that. Just a pleasant old bench that many people in the neighborhood enjoy. I think it would be really mean-spirited to take it away.

  9. I do remember Tom and his huge potbellied pig. They were such a great addition to the neighborhood. I always assumed the bench was placed there by the city. I only see neighbors sitting there smoking occasionally, but I live a few blocks away and don’t really keep tabs on it. SDOT should have better things to do with their time, but I imagine someone complained and thus the action was taken. It’s all so-o-o-o Seattle.

  10. Moved to Jet City back in ’91 (19th/Republican) walked everywhere and always remember that bench being there. It has loads of character (mossy green/brown blends perfectly in its space) as it should considering all it’s seen. A few tight-**** gargle up their bile and off it goes to landfill. America writ large.

  11. That bench has been there since I was a kid and I’m middle aged now. Much better use of SDOT’s time than the axle breaking pot holes all over the city. >:(

  12. I sent an email to the address on the impound notice (publicspace@seattle.gov) asking the city not to take the bench away from all of us just because somebody complained about it.

    • Thank you Lola,
      I left a message to the phone number listed. The notice on the bench says it will be impounded because it was installed without a permit and it obstructs the sidewalk. This is crazy since the city installed it when the green space was planted. They don’t permit themselves. They probably did it to appease people upset because of the traffic diversions.

      • I received a response from the city:

        Thank you very much for letting us know at SDOT your concerns regarding the bench.

        To be clear, we at SDOT value and encourage the placement and use of pedestrian furniture in the Public right-of-way. However, after receiving multiple complaints regarding safety and not being able to clearly identify the party responsible for its maintenance and upkeep, we posted the Impound Notice.

        Your comments and interest in the future of the bench have gotten the attention of decision-makers in the SDOT organization, so we are hopeful for a positive outcome in resolving this issue.

        Thank you very much for voicing your concerns and taking action on behalf of your community.

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