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How city council is preparing Seattle for the next snowstorm

Erik Balderas shovels snow at Ballard’s Top after a large snowstorm blanketed Seattle February 9, 2019. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Whose responsible for Seattle sidewalk snow and ice clean-up in Seattle? You are.

And the city council wants be sure you know it before winter hits. Owners or residents of property next to sidewalks to clear them of snow and ice in a “timely manner,” and if possible keep it from becoming a public safety hazard.

Predictions of November snow in Western Washington?

Not everyone does that and some may not be aware, likely because it’s a law that doesn’t have much in the way of enforcement. No enforcement means minimal clean-up, leaving some in dire situations when the snow hits.

“One major problem I experienced during last February’s snowstorm was being unable to use sidewalks for days because all of the snow was on the sidewalk,” a man in a wheelchair explained to the City Council before it passed a resolution this week asking SDOT to launch a public awareness campaign before winter.

“When it snows and there’s uncleaned sidewalks you just don’t go out,” another man told the council.

“There’s a Bank of America beside me and they shovel their sidewalk and that’ as far as I went, for days, and days, and days,” he added.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien said those stories show there’s a need to act quickly.

“The experience that so many folks had during the snowstorm – we don’t get those every year – which I think speaks to some of the challenges, that we’re not as prepared as we need to be,” O’Brien said, stressing the need for new enforcement policy.

“Our current requirement is that the property owner shovel snow … there’s really no enforcement of that. We have a policy that sounds good on paper, but at the end of the day results in kind of a mish-mash of what happens in a snow or ice event,” O’Brien added.

Lisa Herbold actually sponsored the resolution, which also asks SDOT for an enforcement plan by January and look at requiring commercial property to clear snow within 12 hours of a storm. It also requests some policy options for the council to fix the more than $150,000 worth of sidewalk maintenance needs across the city.

“We’re looking to be much more effective and responsive in addressing this problem and responsive to our communities who really rely on our sidewalks to assist in mobility and just get around,” Herbold said.

The City Council’s action on sidewalks, comes on the heels of action by the King County Council in August to provide free Metro transit rides during snow emergencies.

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