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City wants solution for closed Lowell Elementary ‘S Path’ by end of month

City of Seattle officials said Thursday night they intend to have a plan pounded out with Seattle Public Schools by the end of November for what happens next to the “S Path,” the curving public sidewalk between Federal and 11th Ave E that has been fenced off since the start of adjacent Lowell Elementary’s school year.

“We don’t take the situation we have at the path lightly,” Genesee Adkins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation, said Thursday at the second of two community meetings to discuss solutions for the path that was closed following complaints about discarded drug needles, and garbage and human waste along the leafy path next to the school.

No district officials from Seattle Public Schools attended Thursday night’s meeting.

Adkins said her department is considering a wide spectrum of responses including taking down the chain link fence if a satisfactory compromise can’t be reached with the school district. The fence was recently bolstered with a safer, more stable — but still temporary, SDOT says — installation. Like any property owner, Seattle Public Schools is responsible for maintenance along the path that is in the public right of way.

Another possibility, Adkins said Thursday night, is a vacation of the city property that would put the path in the school district’s hands and could end public access to the route. A vacation process would be complicated by public utilities including water, sewer, and drainage underneath the path. It would also require Seattle City Council approval and schools would not only have to pay for the property but also provide a “public benefit” such as opening its playground to the public.

More “middle ground” ideas, Adkins said, include an agreement to only close the path during school hours, installing a “pivot gate” that limits possible student access, or better lighting. She said a public safety analysis is also being considered that could end up in a solution that keeps a straightened version of the S Path open.

SDOT officials haven’t committed to a budget for the plan but said any costs would be “shared in some measure” with Seattle Public Schools.

Lowell Elementary serves children from across Central Seattle and is home to the district’s program for medically fragile students. Parents said they have been cleaning up garbage and dangerous needles from addicts and homeless campers for months. Adkins agreed Thursday night that the situation had reached an “acute” level and the closure was the only prudent course of action to take while longer term solutions were addressed.

Earlier in October, the first community meeting to talk about the closure featured a more contentious environment but even with the acrimony, some good ideas were raised for creative ways to solve the problems around the path.

Thursday’s meeting was a calmer affair, attended by around 20 neighbors and Lowell parents as well as a gaggle of City Hall representatives.

You can also add your feedback to SDOT officials working on the closure via

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16 thoughts on “City wants solution for closed Lowell Elementary ‘S Path’ by end of month

  1. Seems like shady people will always find a spot to do shady business, so all you can do is try to keep things clean. So, open it up and maybe have someone check and clean it daily.

  2. As a neighbor, I remain committed to working with the PTA on any solution that keeps the path open to the law abiding public, and am willing to consider concessions that could involve closure when school children are present.

    The important (and legitimate) concern of the PTA, I believe is to keep the *school children* off of the S-Path, if that is where they believe the danger to come from. During school hours, that means the children should only be on the paved 15-20 foot wide path that connects the school to the play field. Because that part of the path is paved and straight, any needles or any thing else will be highly visible, and can be removed before they are there. And then if need be, increase the height of the fence in between the S-Path and both the school and the Play Field.

    And if there is a recess or PE class in progress, open the passage from School to play field, and if not, open the passage from 11th to the S-Path.

  3. Yeah, let’s arrest people for being homeless, mentally ill, addicted to drugs. Makes perfect fucking sense, what could go wrong???

    • Thank you @Joe

      While I agree that the children should be kept safe, “criminalizing homelessness” is not going to solve anything. I do see that most of the “Lock up the homeless” crowd appear to be ashamed to use identifying information in their comments… so I guess that’s a plus…

    • I agree that arresting the homeless is not a reasonable way to go, but I can understand the deep frustration of those (me included) who feel that the homeless are over-running our fair city and degrading our quality of life. I don’t know what the answer is….no one does….but I think we need to stop doing things that are attracting homeless from around the country. A little more “tough love” and a little less enabling.

    • There is such a massive difference between arresting people leaving needles laying around vs criminalizing all the homeless. A lot of them are down on their luck, and deserve our help. A small percentage do not. That small percentage is why this path was closed.

    • Xander, I agree. But how are you going to find/arrest those who are discarding needles (as well as massive amounts of litter, human waste, etc.) on our streets? By the time these things are noticed, they are long gone. The police will only arrest someone if they actually see the crime being done.

  4. Sometimes common sense needs to prevail over bureaucracy. Shut it down; let someone sue to open it and then deal with it. Who is going to sue? Is this someone’s cross to die on? No.

  5. When needle exchanges first appeared, we all noticed that discarded needles no longer littered the streets. As first implemented they were indeed needle exchanges – you had to hand in one to get one.
    I presume that must have changed now. Should we reinstate the policy, or is there some advantage in not having a policy that gets needles off the streets?

    • Additionally, if the taking is approved:

      “…regarding the necessity of such a tranaction and than enact an ordinance finding that the transaction is necessary because there is no reasonable and practical alternative and the City shall at the same time or before receive in exchange land or a facility of equivalent or better size, value, location and usefulness in the vicinity, serving the same community and the same park purposes.”

      This seems to eliminate the suggestion that “opening the playground during non-school hours” is in any way a valid trade in value, since that would not be serving the same purpose as the passage-way between 11th and Federal.