(It’s been several years since we discussed the impact of the U-District’s Alcohol Impact Area designation on Wallingford. As a refresher, in 2006 the city declared the University District an AIA, which meant that stores in that area are forbidden from selling 29 different types of fortified wine, beer and malt beverages favored by alcoholics for their high alcohol-to-cost ratio (e.g., Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Night Train Express). Unfortunately, this has meant that those spending their time in the U-District (or around the highway ramps at 45th St and 50th St) need only stumble towards the 7-Eleven or the 50th Street Market in Wallingford to sate their thirst.
Lisa De Alva has been seeking to raise awareness of the impact of this situation on she and her neighbors in Wallingford, and petitioning the city to extend the boundaries of the AIA to include Wallingford.)
My name is Lisa De Alva and I moved to Wallingford in 1997, when I bought a house near 50th and Thackeray. I and my housemates enjoyed living in such a friendly, walkable and safe neighborhood. The tenor of the area began to change several years later when neighbors began to report some property crimes: a car was stolen from in front of a home on Thackeray and we discovered 47th between Thackeray and Latona was a “parking spot” for working girls to ply their trade. We also started having some issues with the occasional drunks using our properties for hangout spots after having frequented the 7-Elevent or the 50th Street Market. We were all instructed to call 911 whenever this would happen, which we did, but two guys took exception to that and set my car on fire. This was observed at around 5 a.m. one October morning as my neighbor across the street was heading to work. What on earth had changed?
The situation got even worse in 2006 when the city implemented an Alcohol Impact Area in the U-District, in order to prevent the chronic public inebriation that was present in that area and in an effort to clean up the Ave in particular. Unfortunately, the AIA’s boundaries were 60th/Ravenna to the north, 15th to the east, Northlake/Pacific to the south and Latona to the west. I have never been able to find anyone to take responsibility for these designations, but it slays me that the western boundary borders an elementary school and is a mere two blocks from the 7-Elevent and the 50th Street Market! What has happened in the intervening years is that the U-District’s street drunk problem became ours. We have had a veritable “drunk highway” up 50th from the freeway where the street drunks panhandle at the exit, then take their profits and spend them at these two markets.
We started trying to get something done about this in 2008/2009, but to no effect. A very pleasant surprise occurred in 2010 when Mr. Henry Ong of the 7-Eleven agreed to stop selling fortified alcohol if the 50th Street Market would also stop. Conversations with the Changs, the newest owners of the 50th Street Market, didn’t get any results. Representatives of the City (including Tim Burgess) came and walked the neighborhood to observe what was happening. We were told to coordinate with a Tim Durkan who was the Lake Union District Coordinator for the city. He was very sympathetic, but couldn’t do anything. We tried enacting a Good Neighbor Agreement, but that was a non-starter, too. We polled the neighborhood to find out what sorts of grocery items everyone would purchase on a regular basis if they were available at the 50th Street Market and presented the list to the owners, but apparently the fortified alcohol, statues of cobras and “Scarface” posters make them more profit. Frustration was mounting and we were all getting tired of the situation. You can only clean up vomit, feces, urine, blood, trash, used syringes and booze cans for so long. And when these people take up residence on your stairs or physically attack each other or shoot-up drugs or pass out in your yard or intimidate you so that you are afraid to enter your own property, enough is enough.
I’ve been having trouble trying to find out who we could appeal to to get the western boundary of the U-District AIA moved further west, beyond the retailers of the fortified alcohol, but whether it was the Washington State Liquor Control Board or if it’s the city was still a bit of a mystery. Each entity refers to the other in this matter.
A few weeks ago, I went down to the mayor’s office to try and get someone, ANYONE, to help. I kept getting brushed off by the receptionist, so I got louder and upped the volume until someone came out to shut me up. Within five minutes, Mr. Darryl Smith, Deputy Mayor of Community, appeared with an assistant in tow. I explained our situation and he said he was aware there was a lot of unhappiness with several current AIA situations and he promised to look into it and get back to me.
I received an e-mail shortly thereafter from Mr. Smith’s executive assistant, Julie Salinas, in which she said they were working on gathering information on how we could get the western boundary of the AIA expanded. I next heard about six weeks later in which she attached some information that indicated the Liquor Control Board sets the boundaries and must approve the ordinance to expand and that the Seattle City Council needs to approve the ordinance to expand.
First, the LCB would need evidence presented to demonstrate why the boundary needs to be expanded. Then, I made the acquaintance of Lisa Uemoto through an SPD officer and also through a LCB officer. Ms. Uemoto used to be involved in with neighborhood business and AIA-related issues and she sent me a couple attachments with good information about the AIA. She also told me now is a good time to deal with this as Beacon Hill is inthe process of adding yet another AIA and that Lake City was being proactive about this, as well. As luck would have it, a news article from the P.I. on April 3rdn detailed Lake City’s actions regarding their public inebriate problem and Darryl Smith even made an appearance at a public gathering there in support.
Neighbors in my part of Wallingford have been documenting this problem for the last several years , but we haven’t really gotten any action yet. I was curious how other parts of Wallingford were dealing with this situation and what their input might be regarding an expansion of the Western boundary. Also, with the new liquor law going into effect, how do you think that will affect us all?
(In addition to sharing your thoughts and ideas on how to address this in the comment section, Lisa also offered the following addresses should you wish to send a statement to the city with your opinion:
- City Council: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
- Justin Nordhorn, Chief of the Enforcement Division of the Liquor Control Board: [email protected]
- Darryl Smith, Deputy Mayor of Community: [email protected]