My dad, Dac*, started this series of posts three years ago. Now that he’s retired, I have decided to come out of the shadows to continue his good work and share with you what I see today walking the downtown alleys. And I’m afraid it’s not pretty. If the Mayor and City Council don’t “see the light” and make some meaningful improvements to Alley Code, you’re going to see some real “cat fights” in these alleys (See what we need and why we need it at the end of this post). --*Downtown Alley Cat
Look at the mess I found in the alley behind the new Helios Apartments. I can hardly even walk through here. And the language the man in the U-Haul was using was really “catty” as he threatened the person in the tan car. The guy in the blue car just parked and walked away, since he couldn’t get to his parking garage entrance on the other side of the moving van.
It wasn’t difficult to find the root causes of this mess.
1. The alley is too narrow for two trucks to pass; and a car can’t even pass a truck if the dumpsters I love so much are out in the alley for trash pickup.
2. There is only a single undersized loading berth, perpendicular to the alley, that even the building security staff admits is practically useless…and all loading/unloading has to be done in the alley.
How did the Downtown Design Review Board, the supervisors at SDCI and SDOT ever approve this non-functional design for this almost new building in the first place? Is there no one willing to stand up for what is right and necessary?
I wish I could tell you that this is not a common occurrence, but I can’t. I see “alley rage” more and more as I walk the downtown alleys of Seattle. Someone is going to get seriously hurt one of these days if this doesn’t stop.
In fact it will only get worse and worse if more and more mega towers are built in close proximity to one another all over downtown…with undersized loading areas like this one, and all parking entrances forced into the alleys to compete with deliveries, move-in move-outs, trash dumpsters, and sanitation trucks for alley space. It’s like the City thinks there is some huge manhole in the alley where all this traffic can go and disappear. I can’t understand these humans.
If you are as concerned as me, please voice your displeasure by writing Mayor Durkan and downtown district Councilmember Bagshaw and ask them to expedite the passage of a downtown alley code amendment before they allow irreparable generational damage to downtown. Here’s what we need and why we need it:
PROPOSED DOWNTOWN ALLEY CODE AMENDMENT
Here’s what we need on all new construction:
1. Require sufficient alley setbacks [5’ vs. existing 2’], so that trucks can pass one another comfortably.
2. Require sufficient loading berth numbers, width, and depth, and with an angle so that it can be demonstrated that SU-30 trucks can back in and out of berths easily; and stay completely out of the right-of-way while loading and unloading [no exceptions for residential].
3. Require garbage dumpster to be stored out of alley right-of-way.
Here’s why we need it:
1. Climate friendly, because it will keep traffic moving, not idling, and provide more daylight and air to deep and narrow spaces between towers.
2. Safer, because it will improve pedestrian conditions in alleys and at alley intersections with streets.
3. SDOT supports call for clear alley ROW. [excerpt from SDOT letter on #3025502: “The project may not use the public alley right-of-way to meet the code requirements on the development of private property”].
4. Definitely a step towards a long-term alley solution, not just a short-term fix. As older buildings are demolished and redeveloped, they will have to comply, providing the long-term alley fix we need.
5. UW/SDOT studies [Final Fifty Feet and Alleys] validates need for it.
6. Alleys behind relatively new buildings built to code do NOT work [ex. Escala, Helios, Charter Hotel].
7. Unfairness of public being burdened by delay, frustration, extra cost and diminished safety from new development’s inadequate loading facilities, in addition to having to incur tremendous legal expenses and volunteer time to get SDCI to do a better job reviewing projects and requiring functional design.
As they taught us at Kitty Klass, the definition of insanity is making the same mistake over and over. Let’s do it right this time!