How happy are you with the Seattle Pilot Parklet Program thus far?
At the last East Precinct Advisory Council meeting, one of the parklets scheduled to be built in the coming months was a topic of contention. Neighbors argue that the near-by location in front of Cortona Café at 2425 East Union Street is unfit for a parklet and that the Seattle Department of Transportation’s parklet program director is ignoring their concerns.
“We were told at first that the parklets would be between a one- and a five-percent grade; if it was over five percent it wouldn’t be a good idea to put a parklet in,” Ian Eisenberg, a businessman at 23rd and East Union, said. “We don’t feel that it’s a good fit there because of public safety and people crossing.”
In front of Cortona Café, the slope is eight percent. It’s steep, it’s wide, and drivers speed down it – never mind that pedestrians are often crossing the intersection to get to the bus stop at the other end.
Johanna Cullen, who was also in attendance, said, “I don’t know that I’m opposed to the parklets, but they have to be designed so that they help increase the visibility of pedestrians rather than take up this space.”
The community was considering talking to SDOT about having curb bulbs installed at that location, and felt that a parklet would have the opposite effect.
SDOT Traffic Safety Coordinator Jim Curtin was in attendance and said that Jennifer Wieland, the Public Space Program Manager and front person for the parklet program was the woman to speak with. Eisenberg, however, said that he had already spoken with Wieland and that his concerns fell on “deaf ears,” which he believe is because Wieland’s job is predicated on the success of Seattle parklets. (The Capitol Hill Times tried to reach Wieland, but she did not respond to our contacts.)
“The business in front of the parklet likes the idea because it’s in front of their business. The rest of the neighborhood doesn’t know what to do; we don’t know how to organize or comment,” Eisenberg said. “When I first called Jennifer she told me about all of the community outreach and about how excited the community is about it. Johanna and I are as involved in the community as anybody – there was zero community outreach.”
That was seconded by another attendee, who added that in a business community, they didn’t want to lose parking.
“The idea behind the parklets is to really activate the right-of-way and get more people out there. Safety, in many ways, improves when more people are on the street, walking or biking. Drivers become more accustomed to seeing people walking or biking and they adjust their behaviors,” Curtain said, promising that he would take these concerns directly to Wieland and perhaps her superior.