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.