If you live in Fremont, and are not a subscriber to FAWN (Fremont Aurora Wallingford Neighbors), you’re missing out on weekly reports that will clue you in on break-ins, drug activity, prostitution and other illegal happenings.
When I moved to Seattle from Baltimore 5 years ago, I chose to live in Fremont – first in an apartment on 35th St., then to my current townhouse about 5 minutes away, one block east of Aurora. My landlord advised me to get on the FAWN listserv and every week for the past 10 or so years, they’ve done a neighborhood walk.
I finally went on my first walk with them – my neighbors – on April 8. (This entry, though, is my first as a Fremont Universe blogger.) About 20 people showed up at the corner of Whitman and 40th – the usual place the group begins its dusk-time walk. But usually, there aren’t this many people. The draw: Mayor Mike McGinn, who biked to the spot from his Greenwood abode. With him – 2 of his aides from the Mayor’s Office and 2 state police officers. The Fremont Neighborhood Council and the co-owners of Marketime Foods on Fremont Ave. were also there.
We didn’t take a long walk in these brisk but dry conditions. We walked north on Aurora, noted empty lots, some lights out and some suspicious loitering going on across Aurora before going into the warmth of a meeting room at an apartment building off Aurora and 43rd.
“I view this as a significant corridor,” McGinn said, once we’d settled in. “It shares common characteristics: a zoning mix of non-residential and residential communities, offices and motels. But these corridors really present challenges. I want to hear from you.”
And he did.
The Mayor, himself a victim of robbery at gunpoint and a frequent rider of the Aurora Express bus route 358, listened to neighbors who told him about their first-hand experiences of trespassing, physical assault (dragged by car), drug use in stairwells, shoplifting, drug dealing in parking lots and trying to explain these things to their children.
“I have a great view of these things morning, noon and night,” said Danny Sullivan, who lives next to the The Fremont Inn (formerly The Thunderbird motel), one of several motels owned by Dean and Jill Inman, and where, neighbors say, the problems fester. He has a hard time explaining gunshots, bags of white powder and knives being pulled out to his 10-year-old daughter. “I knew what I was getting into, I knew this was not the most Bambi in the Woods neighborhood. The problem is, businesses are not being run responsibly.”
Others at the meeting reaffirmed Sullivan’s experiences, particularly in areas near the motels owned by the Inmans - the Wallingford Inn, Fremont Inn, Seattle Motor Inn and Italia and Isabella motels- which were the subject of 180 criminal charges for various tax violations. (The Seattle Motor Inn closed in December.)
One apartment owner told the Mayor about one of her tenants breaking her lease. Reading from the letter, she described how the tenant witnessed knife fights and slashed tires, thugs surrounding cars. The apartment owner talked about having SWAT teams and other SPD sealing off the building and the block at times, and having to mirror some of her tenants’ windows so they won’t have to see what’s going on in the motel next door.
Representatives from Marketime Foods complained of a steady flow of people coming from Aurora on a daily basis, people who engaged in shoplifting, drug dealing in the parking lot and panhandling in front of the business, which they said has the effect of driving customers away.
But, neighbors emphasize, this is not about singling out certain people.
“This is not about people being poor,” said one of my former colleagues at the Seattle P-I, environmental reporter Robert McClure (now with InvestigateWest). “This is about people being criminal.”
“This is a great neighborhood. We have a problem that is a specific blight,” said Linda Clifton, one of FAWN’s regular walkers, who got involved with the group after one of many stolen, abandoned cars rolled down a hill and totaled her car 8 years ago. “We appreciate what the city and the police have done so far. We’re just looking at the next step.”
To contact FAWN: firstname.lastname@example.org