Miscellaneous Posts

The Case of the Missing Neighborhood (posted August 28, 2012)

If I was going to make a movie about what has happened to my neighbors and my Puget Sound neighborhood in West Seattle, I would call it The Four Stooges in The Case of the Missing Neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know who the Three Stooges were, they were Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe, famous during most of the mid-20th century for very slapstick and physical comedy. Their short movies often parodied and criticized the rich and the powerful. One of my favorites was their 1938 Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb, reworked in 1952 as A Missed Fortune.

Not unlike the Four Stooges in my movie, the Three Stooges were known for habitually blaming each other or some current situation for their constant screw-ups. They were fond of saying things like “It’s all your fault puddin’ head,” “Don’t worry, we always get it right the second time,” “I beg your pardon, do you have any idea of what we are doin’?,” “I wouldn’t say yes, but I couldn’t say no,” “We must lend our neighbors a helping hand! We must lend them two helping hands, and help ourselves to our neighbors!,” and “I’m positive about the negative, but a little negative about the positive.”

My movie goes like this. Once upon a time, there was a very unique neighborhood. It was only a couple of blocks long. Each building and all the renters, for dozens of years, were a mix of educated, funky, entertaining, loving, responsible and neighborly, beach-types. Kind of a Fremont by the sea. They got to watch sunset after wondrous sunset out of their west-facing windows, and be entertained by the sights and sounds of giggling kids, fetching dogs, partying families, euphoric kite-flyers, athletic windsurfers, extreme kite boarders, fit tennis players, crazy bicyclists, motivated runners, variegated walkers, and the occasional outdoor wedding. The words “Another day in paradise” would often slip out of their mouths as they greeted each other. The other joke used to be “if you want to rent one of these 7000 Beach Drive SW units, you’ll have to wait for a current renter to die.”

But, then, in the years soon after the creation of the Clean Water Act and the rising dictatorship of the Washington State Department of Ecology, a dark cloud drifted over this renter’s paradise, with threats of destruction for the “greater good.” The neighborhood contained only a few unsheepable types — you know the types who were always trying to be rational in the face of rampant irrationality. They sat on committees, did a lot of homework, and advocated for a different solution to Ecology’s and King County’s demands, but, in the end, they were betrayed, since the very thing they voted as “off limits” and “out of bounds” is taking place — the complete destruction of a renter’s paradise directly east of a West Seattle Eden called Lowman Beach Park. Not unlike how certain governments “disappear” people, this government is “disappearing” an entire neighborhood.

My movie would clearly show the lack of leadership, coordination, and community sensitivity in this tale of the missing neighborhood by the four main characters, the Four Stooges — Mikey, Dow, Tommy, and Curly Joe. You likely know them as Mike McGinn, Dow Constantine, Tom Rasmussen, and Joe McDermott. Highly influential, but totally unresponsive elected officials to the plight of the missing neighborhood, and decidedly not interested. How do I know this? I have written to them all. I have flunked them all in my report card at http://www.WhatNowWestSeattle.com. The only one of the Four Stooges to even make a public statement about the destruction of this renter’s paradise has been Dour Dow — “As a life-long West Seattleite, I am keenly aware of the importance of every home, whether rental or owner-occupied, to the identity and stability of our community,” said the Executive. “However, the alternatives all have impacts of their own.” If you can’t decipher the politically-correct double-talk in that statement, send me an email — I’ll explain it.

Just in case you may not know what a “stooge” is, here’s the definition: “a yes-person” (A person who serves merely to support or assist others, particularly in doing unpleasant work.)

In a democracy, there have to be checks and balances and leadership. Without them, the majority or the rich will always rule, to the detriment of the less powerful or the minority. In this case, the disappearance of a treasured set of residences and neighbors can be clearly attributed to the actions of a powerful lobby loosely known as the Fauntleroy Community Association. They and their cohorts were able to subvert the Community Advisory Committee’s (CAG) recommendations based on their numbers and connections and, by such force, gave King County the excuse to betray the CAG and “disappear” an entire unique and treasured neighborhood. And, the Four Stooges? They are doing what stooges do best — saying “yes.”

Lessons to be learned. 1. Clearly, none of the state, the county, or the city, are here to protect the weak and the small treasured neighborhoods. 2. Seattleites are generally compliant to a fault — they seem to be too happy to care (to get angry enough about government hurts and abuses). 3. If you want something different, more respectful of community needs and desires, you better fight for it, and fight for it hard.

* * * * * * * * *

Ron Sterling, M.D. is a psychiatrist, author, and renter in the 7000 block of Beach Drive SW and has been advocating for the neighborhood and Lowman Beach Park since 2004.

If you feel the content or wording of this opinion piece seems disrespectful of certain elected officials, please keep in mind that respect is something you earn, and respect is a two-way street. Give respect and you will generally get respect. This neighborhood has been given nothing but disdain and pain.

My Response to Three Comments Posted at West Seattle Herald May 17 (revised May 19), 2012 Article

The comments below are in response to the three comments that have been posted so far (5/21/12; 7 a.m.) at the bottom of the article Residents split on recreational access and safety concerns as Murray CSO storage project moves on. I am posting the comments I submitted there this morning just in case they don’t get posted at the article.

(1) If I am slapping someone in the face, and that someone is defined as “those who have worked so hard,” then, I suppose, I am slapping myself in the face. I have been involved in this King County attempt to industrialize this neighborhood almost from the day I moved here in late 2004. Check http://www.ronsterling.com/protectlowmanpark.htm if you care to find out about “how hard I have worked.” With respect to my 2005 initiatives — they kept King County from what would have been further industrialization of Lowman Beach Park itself. (Thank you, Ron) From the get-go, I became a very active member of the Community Advisory Group that spent the whole summer and fall of 2010 “advising” King County with respect to the location of the CSO tank facility. I have my street creds on this, so don’t try to imply I am just a “ranter.”

(2) I not only chose NOT to join the current Design Advisory Committee (DAG) because it was clear to me from the more than 60 hours of exposure to the King County “advisory” process during the last half of 2010 that it was, almost without any doubt, a process geared to steer members, not actually try to do what the members wanted (you know, give a little in return for what the neighborhood would be “tolerating”), I clearly announced my intent to all that I would work on any further issues related to design, redesign of the nieghborhood, etc., as an “outsider” because I could not swallow the King County “process,” which, until proven otherwise, is mostly window-dressing (you know, look like you are working with the community, “but don’t expect much, and we won’t promise anything”). So, I am doing MY job.

I intensively followed the DAG proceedings since they began, and decided to attend those meetings since February 2012 to voice my concerns. My concerns were clearly not taken seriously. In addition, I clearly announced at those three different meetings that I would be opposing certain apparent DAG recommendations in any way that would be allowed in a democracy, especially at any public hearings for permits, etc.

If you don’t like how I am proceeding, debate the issues, not the technique. Obviously, I am using guerrilla tactics to get the word out and to make sure an actual “broad” group of residents and users of the Lowman Beach recreational area get clear notice of what is going on. Gordon’s contention in this article that a broad spectrum of residents and users of the Lowman Beach recreational area have been involved in DAG is almost laughable, if it weren’t so seriously wrong. You can view the members of the group at the King County website for this project. They are listed in attendance notes in the minutes of the meeting.

One of the major problems with Marsano’s and Gordon’s contentions are that they actually claim to have gathered substantial valid data as to what the residents and users of the Lowman Beach recreational area want. If they are basing that claim on what is a very small and very selected sample subgroup that King County is using in the DAG process, they got some ‘splaining to do. At the very least, that is a stretch. And, that is why I have established a website where a much larger, more representative sample can make themselves known.

The most incredible statements by Marsano and Gordon regarding their plan to dramatically narrow the street is such double-talk that I don’t know where to begin. Someone might say “it is like trying to make a pig look good by putting make-up on it.” Honestly, is there anyone who believes that narrowing the street without a corresponding widening of the sidewalks will not create disincentives for using the Lowman Beach recreational area for those purposes (you know, walking, running, bicycling, etc.)?

Is there anyone who wonders why the so-called residential street was built as wide as it was in the first place? Is there anyone who believes that the stretch of land between the north and south end of Lowman Beach Park and parallel to it on the newly industrialized east side of the street is actually residential? Sure, it is zoned residential, but that is no excuse. It defies logic to call something residential because it is zoned residential. It is now a public access, industrial zone. It was a true residential public access zone before, you know, when there were homes on the east side of the street. Guess what? It had a wide road then. There is no reason in the world to not preserve the total “wideness” of that surface now, either with current street width or a narrower street plus dramatically increased sidewalk width.

Finally, the idea that SDOT knows what this neighborhood needs or that they would even care, is ludicrous. I have talked with them. They don’t care. They clearly do the minimum of creative thinking and stick to the “party line.” As for Parks, they are at the table, but that is about it. SPU has not been actively involved in the process from a redesign standpoint. The gold standard for quality properties is underground utilities — although this has been mentioned, no one is actually trying to make this happen with real effort and real money. At a minimum, the neighborhood deserves it in return for the “torture” inflicted upon it by such King County industrialization.

Finally, honestly, Gordon, if you don’t want publicly posted critical analysis, don’t participate in public processes.

To view the original article, please visit Residents split on recreational access and safety concerns as Murray CSO storage project moves on.

My Response to West Seattle Herald May 17, 2012 Article

Dear Tyson:

How anonymous can I be, when all you have to do is search whois database to find the owner of whatnowwestseattle.com, who, of all things, lives right there on the southeast corner of Lowman Beach Park — the West Seattle Ducky Reserve. Right on the street with good views of all street traffic of all types and all users of Lowman Beach Park. I have the best data on it all.

One always hopes that journalists will go deeper than just the surface of the water when researching a piece, but, then, hope is not what it is cracked up to be, eh?

So, would you like my comments on your piece and what was said in that piece by so-called “avid kayakers and bikers.” Etc.?

You could have cited the stats at the polls conducted so far at the site. They are available by clicking on “View Results” for each poll.

I won’t write much to you at this point, because I am not sure you are interested, since you didn’t even do the minimum of research to find me. However, I will say that the most eggregious and erroneous statments made by Marsano and Gordon relate to the dramatic narrowing of the street which they claim will produce what they euphemistically and unscientifically call “traffic calming.”

No data has been collected or cited by either of those parties or by King County, or SDOT, as to the frequency of so-called “misguided” drivers who “need to be guided up the hill up Lincoln Park Way SW, towards the ferry terminal” (paraphrase). No research at all. I can tell you who has the best data on that and many other concerns related to “traffic safety and road access.” That would be me. I live right there. My windows look out on the exact street section we are talking about. I know how many people are “lost” that contribute to the so-called need for “traffic calming.” Next to zero. There are two Dead End signs at the north end of the block, which, by the way, I got installed, since they once had no signs, and then later, only one sign — the two signs did the trick.

The so-called “traffic calming” arguments being offered by King County and Gordon are disingenuous and entirely wrong. The disingenuousness with respect to Gordon is that he has never been seen on the street fronting Lowman Beach Park off-loading a kayak or bicycling through it. If he ever has in the last five years, I would be surprised. He has waterfront property and has no need to use the park for access to the Sound for kayaking (by the way, no such access is available in Lincoln Park without a major transport of the kayak to the beach). I will let you in on a little secret — the most frequent use I witness of Lowman Beach Park by neighbors south of 7035 Beach Drive SW is for toileting their dogs, and that is about it. (You know, wouldn’t want to yellow the grass in their own yard, I suppose….)

The need is to maintain the road at the current width, or if it is narrowed as drastically as Gordon and Marsano want, there should be two 12 foot-wide sidewalks paralleling it. The idea that a one lane road running through the middle of parking on each side of it is going to improve and expand access for runners, walkers, recreational equipment off-loading, and bicyclists is, on its face, illogical and ludicrous. Just think about it for a second. Would you want to run down the middle of the street with your double-wide baby stroller because there is NO room on the current six foot wide sidewalk for you (not to mention, it is in huge disrepair with metal screens, telephone poles, and other obstacles) WHEN the thusly-narrowed street would barely be wide enough for you and your dog, for instance, much less a car and you and your dog. Such a plan is ridiculous on its face.

For bicyclists, the idea of being forced into a one-lane road to be shared with bicyclists going in the opposite direction AND cars going in either direction, is unsafe on its face. People open car doors, without looking, into the path of oncoming bicyclists all the time and if you narrow bicyclist traffic and the clearance between them and the parked vehicles, you can count on problems. Count on it.

By narrowing the street, the current ability to turn around up-street or mid-street and exit the north end of the street will be gone. That means that to leave after you have parked, in most instances, you will need to travel to the south end of the street to turn around. Talk about increasing traffic and increasing turn-arounds, in addition to forcing drivers to back into pedestrian and bicycle traffic? Uh,huh…. Wrong headed to the maximum.

In fact, it is all so wrong-headed that the only conclusion I can come to about such plans is that they are barely-disguised attempts to convert a long-standing recreational use of the street fronting Lowman Beach Park to something that effectively moves the neighborhood towards a more-or-less gated community. Ever wonder why the street was built that wide in the first place? I didn’t see any research on that crucial question by you, at all.

Need I say more? (I probably will, especially with respect to the “green arguments” Marsano and Gordon make regarding “impermeable surfaces” and “capturing runoff.”)

Take care, and better reporting next time around.

Ron Sterling, M.D.

How 3,500 Signatures Failed to Get a Formal Response 

Click here to read the article entitled Lowman Beach Park neighbors protest Murray Pump Station plan. Amazingly, Pam Elardo, Director of KCWTD, is quoted as saying “Most people from CAG were very pleased when we announced the plan in December” [to use eminent domain to purchase and destroy private residences to make way for an underground tank and above-ground structures immediately east of Lowman Beach Park]. Nothing could be further from the truth. How Pam sleeps well when characterizing the CAG’s “satisfaction” in such an eggregiously incorrect manner, is beyond my understanding.


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