Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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Bridge Over Less Troubled Waters

The 80-year-old South Park Bridge, a disaster waiting to happen, closed before it collapsed June 30, leaving South Park, Seattle’s only riverfront community, without a direct link to neighboring Georgetown and to most of the city’s main North-South arteries. And, while it looks as if money has at last been identified for a new bridge, it will take two or three years, at a minimum, to design and build a new structure.

Seattle City Council at Loretta's in South Park

Seattle City Councilmembers and South Park community leaders talk about issues over lunch at Loretta's.

Meanwhile, the South Park community is more difficult to reach.  Residents with jobs and business are facing longer, more difficult commutes. Small businesses are suffering from loss of customers that they drew from the surrounding industrial area. And the community is left to deal with its unasked-for and unwelcome isolation.

A dozen of us – legislative staff, three city councilmembers and legislative assistants – set off Friday to find out what’s been happening in South Park since that fateful day in June when more than a thousand residents gathered for the South Park Wake to mourn the passing of the bridge.

Our modus operandi was to find a local restaurant that could use our business and, timing our arrival until after the lunch hour, settle down to a late lunch and talk with anyone who wanted to stop by about life in South Park, post bridge closure.

For our visit, we picked an historic South Park eatery: Loretta’s Northwesterner on 14th Avenue South. It’s open 11 a.m. to midnight on weeknights, later on Fridays and Saturdays. Originally it was known as “Lady Lou’s, home of hamburger deluxe, established in 1937.” The menu boasts a variety of hamburgers and sides, fries, fish-and-chips and an even larger array of beverages – soft and not-so-soft. A disclaimer on the menu reads: “Attention diners. Although Loretta’s is happy to provide table service, during businer hours it is not always possible to attend to all your needs. Please feel free to order at the bar.”

While waiting for my $3 Tavern Burger, I watched Councilmembers Sally Clark and Sally Bagshaw play a brisk game of ping-pong. They were pretty evenly matched, although Councilmember Clark did manage to subsequently dispatch one of the legislatives aides.

Councilmembers Bagshaw and Clark playing a friendly game of ping pong at Loretta's in South Park

Councilmembers Bagshaw and Clark playing a friendly game of ping pong at Loretta's in South Park

Arriving along with the burger were some of the community leaders Dagmar Cronn, Paulina Lopez and Andres Mantilla, who have been working on the South Park Action Agenda.

Dagmar is co-chair of the South Park Bridge Coalition. Paulina serves on Seattle’s Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board and has been assisting Dagmar with some of the community’s outreach to residents for whom English is a second language. They’ve been working on a website which features news about community events such as the South Park Outdoor Cinema (would you believe this week’s “Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Wererabbit?”)

Dagmar and Paulina reported on some of the better things that have been happening since the bridge closure.  United Way stepped up with extra assistance for the local food bank, the city has sent planners to assist residents with local projects and the Department of Neighborhoods found funding to get the River City Skatepark underway. Mew basketball courts were opened July 23. And now residents are talking about the possibility of using Parks Levy funds for a dog park.

In fact, although the community has had to deal with many transportation and economic problems since the bridge closure, there are some silver linings. The community has grown closer.  And, oddly enough, a few of the residents who, noticing the absence of traffic on the streets, say, “A new bridge? Now I’m not so sure….”


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Comment from Mike @ Megamind
Time November 1, 2010 at 6:20 pm

It is not only great to see how people can adapt when the need arises, but also how quickly people can make the best of a bad situation.

Thanks for a great post.