Alcohol Impact Area

Those of you who live near I-5 and 50th Street are likely painfully aware of how the city’s Alcohol Impact Area (AIA) boundaries have impacted Wallingford.

In 2006, the city voted to designate several areas around the city (most of Downtown, Belltown, the CD, the ID, Capitol Hill, and the University District) AIAs, where the sale of the type of cheap, high alcohol malt liquors favored by the alcoholic homeless would be illegal. The unfortunate side effect of this act was something known delicately as “dispersion”: the problem characters the ordinance was intended to inconvenience were merely inconvenienced: they now have to saunter over into adjoining neighborhoods (e.g., Wallingford) to get the Special 800 Reserve. Along the way, they urinate, accost, intimidate, trample and, in one particularly egregious cases, set ablaze.

Yes, set ablaze. After repeatedly trying to evict people from living in her garage, one homeowner found her car set on fire.

Now, an effort is underway to extend the AIA to Wallingford, including the 7-11 and 50th St Market. Lisa recently sent a letter to her neighbors, that read, in part:

Some residents have personally confronted some of these people, but to no avail; they keep coming back. Last Saturday, we had to call 911 to come have a bleeding and extremely drunk man retrieved by paramedics from Jack Shaw’s garage on Thackeray.

Some of us over on Thackeray have been dealing with the SPD and an officer named Travis Testerman (206 233-3984). He’s been as helpful as possible, but he can only do 50 much. […]

One of the things that has never made any sense in the U District AIA is that its western border stops at Latona. Why on earth wouldn’t it have been extended to 1st to include the 7-11 and the 50th Street Market […]?

Yesterday, I contacted a woman named Kimberlee Archie who is the Director of Planning Services for the Department of Neighborhoods and who is a go-to person regarding the problems this AIA is visiting upon our neighborhood. She started in this position after the AIA went into effect and, when we spoke yesterday, said she was unaware of any problems our neighborhood had been having[…] Now this is where we can all maybe get something done about getting the AIA area extended in our area to include the 7-11: Ms. Archie needs “testimony” from all of us affected and this can simply be an e-mail to her at [email protected] (or call 684-0463). This information needs to be gathered and hopefully an ordinance would be passed giving the stores one year to voluntarily comply with not selling the cheap, fortified alcohol and if the situation doesn’t improve, then the ordinance becomes mandatory.

She also suggests you contact City Councilman Tim Burgess ([email protected]), who is on the Public Safety Committee. Some neighbors have already started writing in, and Ms. Archie responded:

Thank you for sending detailed information about the negative impacts of chronic public inebriation in your neighborhood.  I was recently made aware of this issue on 50th, west of I-5, which, as you know is outside the boundaries of the North Alcohol Impact Area (AIA).

I am collecting additional testimony from your neighbors, connecting with officers from the North precinct and working with Neighborhood District Coordinators to more fully understand the issues and develop viable resolutions.

I understand your request is to expand the boundaries of the North AIA to encompass your neighborhood.  I will get back to you as quickly as possible with a response to your request.  Instituting AIA policy in a neighborhood is a serious matter that historically has taken significant effort on the part of the community as well as the City.  In the Pioneer Square, Central Core and North AIA designation process, requests were made for retailers to voluntarily restrict the sales of certain alcohol products before the City Council and Washington State Liquor Control Board legislated a formal AIA.

I realize the impacts to you and your neighbors are disturbing.  The City’s goal in utilizing the AIA is to improve the quality of life for community members.  We will begin the process to respond to the chronic public inebriation issues you and your neighbors are experiencing.

Yes, it will be a long time, but it will be a start.

We know that this is going to raise some hackles in the neighborhood: adding areas of Wallingford to the AIA sounds like pushing the bump in the rug (“let’s move them into someone else’s neighborhood, where we can’t see them”). Wallyhood believes that extending the AIA should be part of the larger system of providing aid to those in need and providing treatment for alcoholics, and we agree that those programs are woefully underfunded and that should be addressed. Full stop. At the same time, everyone is entitled to strive for a safe, clean neighborhood. If you’d like more information on the program and the effect is has had, read the Seattle Alcohol Impact Area Evaluation Executive Summary.

If you have stories or opinions to share, please send them to Kimberlee and Tim, and send along a copy to Lisa, who is spearheading the effort ([email protected]).

At the end of her letter, Lisa wrote “I’m afraid I’m not tech savvy enough to put together a list serve or blog or whatever, but know a lot of people are tired of this problem and eager to find a solution.”

We got your back.

  1. steelcase reserve said,

    I just sent my mail to Kimberlee and Tim, thanks Wallyhood! The problem will not go away but my assessment is the combination of the I-5 spare change / hangout zone along with the ready availability of fortified liquor at 7-11 / 50th Street has created the perfect environment for this problem to magnify. Moving the line to Wallingford Ave or further west will dramatically reduce this issue.

    Thu, August 27 at 2:21 pm
  2. Lisa said,

    Hey Wallyhood, thanks so much for highlighting this issue for all your readers. As I mentioned to someone earlier, I’m a little conflicted because of the great outpouring of stories from so many people, which helps the cause, but am really bummed the situation came to be in the first place. Hopefully Ms. Archie, who had previously been unaware of past complaints about all of this (she didn’t hold this position when the AIA was instituted), is now very aware! I’ve also told her we can supply her with photographs of people and “aftermath” which will bolster our testimony. I know it’s a case of crying over spilled milk, but , seriously, how on earth did someone ever come to the conclusion Latona was the best choice as the western boundary of the U District AIA when the lights of 7-11 and the 50th Street Market had to be making their presence known in the very near background? No one I’ve talked to has ever owned up to it. I’m betting we’ll get the boundary changed, but I hope it’s sooner than later. Thanks again! P.S. One of our neighbors also put together a blog you should check out at aianow.blogspot.com

    Thu, August 27 at 3:51 pm
  3. Aaron said,

    We now have a BLOG! Please visit us there and help us find a solution. Thanks Jordan and everyone.

    Thu, August 27 at 4:23 pm
  4. Jason said,

    The AIA should be roundly opposed because the only reason we have an increased homeless population in Wallingford is that the AIA pushed the people here. It has nothing to do with public safety, except for giving residents of a neighborhood the illusion of progress. Our whining will just result in unhappiness in Fremont & Ballard.

    If the city actually offered something to go with the AIA, I’d be all for it. Instead they keep shoving the problem around the city & pretending we won’t notice how inept the AIA is to do anyone any good. The summary linked above even admits that the number of alcohol offenses have actually *increased* in some of the designated areas. Banning fortified liquor doesn’t do a damn thing to make our neighborhood, or city, better.

    I will be adding my voice, but to oppose the extension of the AIA to anywhere else in the city. It’s a joke & it’s past time we asked the city to spend their limited resources on better services instead of trying to partake of bad policy.

    Thu, August 27 at 9:48 pm
  5. N2 said,

    Has anyone approached the owners of 7-11 and 50th St Market about voluntarily ceasing high alcohol malt liquor sales?

    Fri, August 28 at 9:50 am
  6. steelcase reserve said,

    do i have NIMBY guilt about pushing the problem further out? maybe a little but I recommend the homeless drunks hang out at Jason’s place. Let us know where you are living Jason and we’ll point them your way. Maybe you can wave your magic wand and solve the problem.

    The fact that the drunks moved here proves that a handy source of cheap, fortified liquor is all they need to set up shop and hence banning said substance will immediately improve the situation. Will the problems of homelessness and chronic inebriation be resolved? No. Good luck with that one.

    Fri, August 28 at 1:38 pm
  7. DOUG. said,

    When are we getting our liquor store back?

    Fri, August 28 at 2:07 pm
  8. jonathan said,

    I’m reluctant to see a “pass the trash” approach to social issues, too. By this approach, the AIA borders will keep creeping until the region is one big AIA. That said, my 3 yo daughter was freaked out a very drunk guy outside Walgreen’s one morning last week. I called the detox van, but it hadn’t come when a swung by a while later. Frustrating that the systems to help are bogged down…

    Getting the boundary changed would be a major deal, with a 6-mo or longer testing period to see if local retailers would do it voluntarily. Retailers who are now picking up business could be pressured to do the right thing, and be rewarded with a big plug on Wallyhood, etc.. One other suggestion would be updating the list of banned products (http://www.seattle.gov/BAN/public_safety_AIA.htm). You can find that Joose crap all over the place in the U District and Pioneer Square.

    Fri, August 28 at 5:00 pm
  9. Bruno said,

    I’m with Jason, sweeping it under the rug helps no one…

    Fri, August 28 at 6:55 pm
  10. Jason said,

    “Maybe you can wave your magic wand and solve the problem.”

    Now that you’ve set up and knocked down a strawman effectively, I’ll reiterate my point. Using the AIA *is* the ‘magic wand’ solution for individual neighborhoods. Whether or not I personally get to witness drunken acts (and with the number of UW students living in Wallingford that isn’t too difficult) has very little to do with why people want to continue to waste their tax dollars on bad policy. Enabling (admittedly, well-meaning) city bureaucrats is as bad as enabling the drunks since the latter largely remain unaffected by the former.

    Sat, August 29 at 5:05 pm
  11. Lisa said,

    Hi All and forgive the blabbiness of this post!

    One of my neighbors here on Thackeray doesn’t have e-mail, but dropped a letter off at my house a few days ago in response to the AIA flyer she had gotten at her house. She has lived in our neighborhood for 43 years and would also like to see the AIA area extended to at least 1st NE. She made a suggestion that I think we be great if we could swing it: to get everyone together and have a meeting, sort of a live forum to discuss where everyone stands on this issue and how we might proceed. The suggestion of meeting over at Good Shepherd Center sounds great; it’s close and there’s plenty of room to spread out a beach towel to sit on or maybe the picnic shelter would be available. Maybe after work around 6:30 or so? Earlier, later? Any particular days better than others for most folks?
    From some of the comments I’m reading on Wallyhood and on this blog, there seem to be a few folks who are against pushing the western border of the AIA further west to encompass the 7-11 and the 50th Street Market because that will only push the homeless alcoholics further into another neighborhood, thereby making it someone else’s problem. I’m hopeful that wouldn’t happen because the fortified alcohol wouldn’t be available anywhere nearby so I don’t see it getting pushed into Fremont and Greenlake. Aaron made an interesting suggestion:

    “In a preemptive effort to solve at least some of the problem, without depending entirely on the untimely bureaucracy inherent in a request to the city, I would like to propose that we write a coherent statement and request to the problem establishments. This letter should represent what reasonable changes we can imagine which would improve the current “chronic public inebriation” problem.

    I have formed somewhat of a friendly relationship with the new owners of the 50th Street Market (mostly prior to their recent opening) and would be willing to hand deliver the statement to them and discuss the matter face to face. I would also be willing to forward the letter onto whatever local or corporate entity that controls the 7-11.”

    This is certainly something that might be best discussed at a meeting with everyone’s immediate input. I’m concerned that if we are asking these people to stop selling something that makes them income and we aren’t offering them anything in return as a way to recoup that lost income, that it won’t be received well. As it is, it sounds like most people I’ve talked to only buy a newspaper, soft drinks or milk at the Market. Personally, I was hoping that when the 50th Street Market was re-opening that it would have received a bit of a facelift and been reborn as something like Marketime Foods over on Fremont Avenue in Fremont. I was over there today and had an interesting conversation with one of their employees who runs the liquor section. He told me they voluntarily signed a neighborhood agreement five years ago that said they wouldn’t sell fortified alcohol. They didn’t want the customers and the behavior that would have encouraged and it has worked well for them and the neighborhood, but they also have a pretty strong customer base due to the quality products they sell. I’ve left a note for the owner to give me a call when he’s back in town next week so I can find out more.
    My neighbor who left me the letter also made another good point: Find out what the needs of the “homeless” people are. Yesterday morning I was trimming the bushes on top of my retaining wall in hopes of discouraging the “piggy bank” that has cropped up there in past weeks. Someone is leaving piles of pennies there, in addition to personal belongings (another “storage locker” in my yard) a VCR and more Steel Reserve cans. As I was trimming, a trio of Native Americans were walking by and stopped to talk. I introduced myself to Reno, his wife Arlene and her aunt, Mynah. Turns out they’ve been contributing to the pile in case someone needs money for purchasing beer at the 7-11. I asked them not to do that anymore because I didn’t want to be the 50th Street ATM/Steel Reserve dumping ground. They seemed cool with that (although there were more up there today) and we went on to talk about their lives. They said they live down near 50th and the freeway (Ju is pretty sure they, among others, are camping in the grassy portion of the onramp at 50th and I-5) and that they just like to drink but that they don’t do IV drugs (“Those people are more on 45th”) and they don’t toss their beer cans around, in fact, they clean up after others so people won’t get mad at them. So one of their needs is obviously a place to live. What about getting sober? Is that a “need”? I personally don’t think it’s my business to tell someone to stop drinking; I just don’t want the “collateral damage” of that personal choice to affect me the way it has been. Any other ideas on what their needs could be? And how they might be addressed? I’ve done some work with people at Daybreak Star so I will see if there are any outreach programs “our” people could access. As far as the white dudes go (like the bleeding, blasted guy from last weekend), some of them seem older and might be veterans, so maybe there are some avenues there. I hate to sound like a Pollyanna, but it would be great if this could be a win-win-win situation somehow. Anyway, please ponder the idea of a community meeting over at Good Shepherd and let’s see if we can make it happen while the weather is still nice and it would still be light outside. Thanks, Lisa

    Sun, August 30 at 10:15 pm
  12. Lisa said,

    Hey Everyone,
    Aaron has put together a sign-up “sheet” through a link on aianow.blogspot.com so that everyone can check off some possible days and times that would work best for a meeting over at Good Shepherd Center. Please check it out and pass the word along. Thanks, Lisa

    Mon, August 31 at 8:14 pm

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