At Thursday night’s Capitol Hill Community Council meeting, the agenda said City Council member Sally Clark was scheduled to address “Pike/Pine Walkability Improvements,” and would focus on “future pedestrian improvements” for the area. Turns out, one way to improve walking in Pike/Pine is to put a beer can in your hand. Here’s the lowdown from another wild and woolly session of the Community Council.
“If it turns into drunk-fest in the streets, this is no good,” said Clark of an idea she floated Thursday night to block off the streets of Pike/Pine on weekend nights.
Clark said the idea is inspired by the Austin, Texas bar scene. On 6th Street in Austin, the city blocks off popular downtown streets for bar foot traffic starting at 11 PM and going through last call. 6th Street is notorious for its street parties, but it also plays a successful part in the city’s economy, Clark said.
“Do we have the conditions, or desire to, shut down the street on Broadway or Pike and Pine? I have no idea. I’m not sure if this idea will go any place, or if it’s interesting at all,” said Clark. “Would it bring more vibrancy or energy to the neighborhood, or would it be more trouble than it’s worth?”
Clark is exploring the idea of setting up police barricades down the Pike/Pine corridor, blocking cars from entering and allowing people to move freely down the streets.
It’s extremely early in the discussion and, at this point, the conversation is mostly about discussing possibilities, not making policies. Clark said she is gleaning interest from nightclub and bar owners across the city — and looking for help from the businesses to pay for it. She said she is talking to Dave Meinert and will have coffee with the owner of Neumos next week to determine if he would be willing to cooperate and participate in street cleanup before the idea moves forward. Meinert, of course, is busy next week planning the final elements of his own giant street party, the Capitol Hill Block Party which kicks off next weekend. We’ve covered some of the community issues surrounding that annual event here.
Clark said, especially with the current budget conditions at City Hall, it’s difficult to promise any more security or cleanup crews, and buses might have to be rerouted.
Some in attendance at the Community Council session expressed concern over the amount of trash that already exists in Pike/Pine and questioned the commitment of the local bar owners to keeping the streets clean. Another concern was the potential for unruly partying in their neighborhoods creating an unwelcoming atmosphere for those who live in the area. They wanted to know about fire and police access and taxi availability.
“We don’t want to allow people to be jackasses,” said Clark. “Some people are interested in the music, and others are just there to get hammered. We don’t want to have the character of the neighborhood change at different times of the day.”
Clark said one possible location would be “the retail district” down Pike, from 12th Ave. all the way down to Boren, either the whole thing or sections of it. An alternative idea is shutting down 10th or 11th Ave. between the two, while keeping Pike/Pine open to traffic. What would go in the streets? Maybe a street vendor food court, or live music.
The discussion comes as the mayor begins pushing his 8-point Seattle Nightlife Initiative plan which could lead to staggered closing times at bars across the city, increases in late-night public transit options and an improved police presence at nightlife hot spots. While Clark and Mike McGinn’s plans aren’t directly related, one thing is clear: The city’s nightlife industry has a growing influence as the economy saps strength from the more traditional power brokers in the Emerald City.
The CHCC will discuss the Seattle Nightlife Initiative at their next meeting, August 15 at 7 PM. Representatives from departments across City Hall plus local business owners will present their ideas related to the proposals. Following Clark’s brainstorm, it will be interesting to find out if a year-round Pike/Pine block party is one of them.