For ‘hoods, curbside storage could be a smart solution

BOTHELL — City officials say curbside storage is cheaper and better for the environment than bigger rail containers.

The Seattle Department of Transportation wants to build curbside facilities near streetcar tracks as the city debates new rules on who can bring furniture to sidewalks or block sidewalks with banners.

CDOT’s Outdoor Network Contracting should “have ideas that reflect the current realities of the Livable City initiative and eliminate the realities that are out of his hand,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said at the meeting on Wednesday, where CDOT presented a draft of the guidelines, per KING 5.

Streetcar advocates are pushing for more public space for people to mingle on sidewalks. They want bus and rail boards removed to establish a bigger, stable public space for people to gather.

While curbside storage may seem like the perfect solution — with its place-holding bins and small steps, there’s no denying it’s a modern design. People already put items away here instead of putting them outside, so perhaps it would be a better idea than building something new.

But according to the Sound Transit draft policy for “Dress” on Livable City Resilience, this sort of move shouldn’t be the default: “The safety and security of the pedestrians and traffic must be the primary priority.”

Placing homeless people around City Hall as a gesture of solidarity with other marginalized groups has long come under fire. But just because you’re hungry or in need doesn’t mean that’s enough to settle the score.

Some U-shaped curbsides are lined with trashcans, but I’ve never seen a very large amount of trash on them. In fact, they’re like a great-looking but noisy neighborhood open space: often underutilized, but still a home base of sorts for people who need a bit of help.

But it’s also clear that Seattle’s homeless population is still growing, and that even with curbside storage, there could still be cases where people are causing chaos by forcing their material into the streets and onto the sidewalks.

CDOT is working on a draft for how to create sturdier structures so the streetcar tracks remain accessible but also don’t rely on curbsides for parking spaces. They’re also working with other organizations that could be a good fit for the buildings — which they’ve already looked into.

“Frankly, this is much more than just a bus rack. We think of it more as a retail corridor,” Eric Carcamo, a lead designer with CDOT’s Outdoor Network Contracting, said in an interview after the meeting. He said the district around the Capitol Hill station has potential for businesses and a food truck destination.

There’s just one problem. The ST Avenue elevated street could eventually be removed to make way for a new streetcar line, leaving a lot of exposed concrete, asphalt and road.

This is where these new guidelines could help, said CDOT’s Facilities Special Projects Lead, Cristina Beatriz Marrufo.

And the bus and rail network contractors could possibly get government stimulus money to finish the work ahead of ST Avenue’s removal.

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