Ross: When will Disneyland return to Seattle?
I saw the Seattle Times piece about the tension between downtown Seattle’s street people and everybody else who lives there. It’s true – the few times I’ve been downtown since the office exodus of 2020, it has felt lonely and a little threatening.
But I also remember that not so long ago everybody thought it was too busy. Too vibrant! Amazon was bringing in too many young, well-paid people – remember that?
This seems to be the dilemma of every downtown. It’s either too vibrant or a wasteland of desperation.
I drove through Seattle on I-5 over the weekend, and the graffiti and tent garbage along the freeway was disgusting. But then I remember the times I visited Paris arriving by train – same thing. Graffiti and garbage. One evening I was walking past the Madeleine – a beautiful Greek-style Catholic church – and a prostitute tried to pick me up. Was my wedding ring not obvious enough?
When I lived in Atlanta in the 70s, it was the murder capital of America. The mayor held a news conference one day where his only statement was to beg people not to shoot each other.
Before that, as a teenager making regular visits to big, bad New York City, I knew there were places I shouldn’t go. Dad told me always straddle your suitcase at the bus station so it doesn’t get snatched. This is what cities are like.
I think Seattle’s problem is that for a few years it was like Disneyland – all that tech money stretching the skyline and hiding the people who couldn’t afford to participate. Then the pandemic pulled back the curtain.
But those people have always been here. The open-air drug market at Third and Pike? It was a drug market 42 years ago when I took a bus there every day. I was young and invulnerable, and I could outrun any attacker, so no big deal. Now I’m old and very vulnerable and can’t outrun anybody so – yeah, I avoid it. But big cities have places like that.
I think Seattle does need a tidiness czar to insist on nightly street cleanups, and it needs visible downtown beat cops, and it needs those invulnerable young people to come back. But being a big city, it’s going to have spots where you don’t want to go. And if it gets to be too much? Hey, in two years you can hop on Link light rail and be in Bellevue in 15 minutes.
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