The Worst Blocks in White Center

I generally try not to dwell on the issue of crime in White Center because, on the whole, I think WC gets an undeserved bad rep on this issue.  The place has really cleaned up and there are now some very clean stretches where even petty vagrancy will not be found.  Such, however, is not the case for the three blocks of 15th Avenue SW just south or Roxbury.  Here you will find what White Center used to look like 15 years ago.  Vagrants, thugs, drug dealers and chronic alcoholics own these blocks.  On any given night (or day) you will see roving bands of miscreants plying their wares.  Whether it be the sale of black tar heroin, public drunkenness or just vagrants looking to rifle any car window left open.  I know the Sheriff’s Department considers this a high crime zone, as I have both talked to them and seen them on patrol.   More, however, needs to be done.

Looking south on 15th Ave. SW - DSHS Building to Left (google map)

Looking south on 15th Ave. SW - DSHS Building to Left (google map)

The area suffers these problems because of some structural issues relating to lack of citizen surveillance.  The DSHS building that occupies the block just south of Bartells’ is an architectural crime against humanity.  The designers of the DSHS building (formerly a Safeways) should be indicted in the Criminal Cout at the Hague.  It seems no effort was spared to make this into an insult to the community.   The entrance to the building faces the parking lot and has no sight of anything on the street.  The back walls all face towards the community creating an architectural dead zone; precisely what you don’t want when trying to integrate into a neighborhood (and create public safety).   The hidden spaces created by the building provide sleeping spaces for the homeless and the vagrants.   And the dead zone allows all manner of activity to go undetected.

Looking further south on 15th Ave. SW

Looking further south on 15th Ave. SW

Few of the business in this area have street level views (shops that front sidewalks).  As such, the shop owners, even if they were inclined to keep on eye on matters, cannot see what is going on.  It does not help that many of the businesses are run by first generation immigrants, who have some level of distrust for the police.  As well, many are not accustomed to the concept of community policing.  All this adds up to a three block free-for-all for criminals and miscreants.   I will be adding pictures of some of these folks, including at least one who is registered sex offender, obviously using his “homeless” status to keep from registering.

Suffice it to say, that until this last stretch of bad seeds is cleaned up, White Center will continue labor under the unfortunate appellation of Rat City.

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12 Responses to “The Worst Blocks in White Center”

  1. Whoa… I haven’t actually seen the dealing going on, but that is a really good description of the area AND the problems. I used to give spare change to some of the chronics when I visit one day a week, but stopped about a month ago when a couple of them started following me… [shiver].


    Spot on, Ricardo.

  2. seattlegirl Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I think the way neighborhoods are set up (architecture, visibility, all the stuff you wrote about) is very important and around White Center, well, we all know there is a serious lack of good architecture. (Couldn’t they rebuild the Albertson’s??? Seriously. It’s just depressing and old.) When I moved to the area, everyone told me to steer clear of Westwood Village because it was run down and “scary” people hung out there (this was right before the remodel). Now look at how great it is–independent places like Eats took a chance and along with some chains, it’s a great place. White Center needs a few more places (like Full Tilt and Cafe Rozella, or even a few chains never hurt anyone) to take a chance and slowly turn things around. Another good example is Columbia City–I grew up near there in the 70s and 80s and it wasn’t a very safe neighborhood, but now it’s amazing and there are a ton of independent places thriving there. I think WC could be a great walking neighborhood if it was laid out better and had more places that catered to families. I know there are people in the area who care about seeing the neighborhood improve and “clean up” a bit. That doesn’t mean kicking out anyone who isn’t white, etc either. It’s so culturally diverse (which is one of the reasons I decided to live here), it could be a really awesome place to live (I’d rather have a Pho place than a McDonalds any day!) So the next question is, how do we get there???

  3. soclwrkrinmotn Says:

    As someone who works in that monstrosity, and works odd hours, I have to say you are right on. I often come in while dark, and leave while dark…I find myself walking co-workers to their cars, for this reason. And after hours, who’s policing? Only KCSD, who already is over-extended.

    I think some of that will be address (the dead zones) when that bottom office gets filled, if ever, but until then…

    yeah, it is an insult to the community. Good god, who got paid for designing it? Still smacks of Safeway inside, too…or the Delridge condo developers.

  4. What has happened to the old Safeway Building and the area around it are a travesty to the community. Amazingly, Prium, the entity that owns the “architectural crime against humanity” (thank you, Ricardo), is proud of its achievement. I did some research in 2007 and found this happy spin on the situation:

    “Prium was instrumental in working with DSHS on its office space needs in the White Center/Seattle community by purchasing and renovated a former Safeway building in White Center. The renovation to the White Center/Boulevard Park Community Building was a broad community partnership that involved DSHS, Prium, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and local government, business, faith-based, educational, non-profit and community groups….While DSHS and other state divisions occupy the building’s second floor, community-based organizations that serve families and retail businesses occupy the first floor.”

    Two years later, the part about the first floor is still not true. As far as filling the dead zones in the building, I was told years ago that the rents were more than double average rents in the area. How does that make sense?

    Given that it had some involvement in this transition, I’d like to know what CDA has to say about what has transpired.

    As if we needed something else to worry about, consider the fact that Prium also owns the property kitty corner from the DSHS building on 14th. Wonder what’s coming next…..

  5. Thank you Liz for posting the facts about the entities that helped create this space that no one can seem to afford to lease. That’s exactly why the spaces have been for lease on the lower level since the building was designed and built. It’s important to know who contributed to the lack of sensitivity in design and contribution to the mayhem on our community streets. You would think they might have done a little research on “designing out crime”, it’s an old theory that’s been around and it works. Speaking of the other property – I hope the entities involved use better judgement with a little more sensitivity towards our community.

  6. As a new member of the Highland Park/White Center community, I am drawn to these blocks for the good shops–Bartell, La Carniceria, the Mexican chicken place, the Samway for its ecletic mix of Latino and Asian foods and produce, the corn roaster on the corner. But HECK YEAH there are some scary peeps there! After dark it just gets worse! I’ve traveled in Latin America and India, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, and know how to handle myself in places that other people might find scary, but even I’m starting to get creeped out down there!

    White Center has so much potential, I hope we get a critical mass going of people who can help clean up the place. I’m onboard!

  7. meaninglessbark Says:

    It’s not immigrant shop owner fear of the police that leads to their lack of involvement in the neighborhood, they just don’t care. And their customers don’t care either.

    The apathy is pretty obvious from the way the exterior of most the businesses is kept. Huge piles of garbage from the businesses, large amounts of litter on the sidewalks and in the parking lots, and the White Center street garbage cans are generally overflowing. (Are these still unfunded for pickup?)

    Many of the businesses use the sidewalks for additional parking sometimes forcing pedestrians into the street in order to walk past.

    It certainly seems that there is a complete disinterest in the neighborhood.

    As far as architectural assault…The only businesses that have made any attempt at making their building visually pleasant are the Mexican butcher and restaurant with their murals (and those are usually obscured by vehicles). One could maybe count the metallic copper paint job on the law office.

    All of the businesses in this area are blank, functional architecture. What varies is the amount of garbage that’s piled up around each business.

    The businesses mostly don’t care, the customers don’t care, law enforcement doesn’t care…It’s no wonder the area attracts the lowlifes.

  8. Actually the police do care and so do select customers. If the Mexican butcher would stop feeding some of those scary people as you call them they wouldn’t stay there hanging around harrasing everyone. If the small store/take out food place would quite selling them single cans of beer and giving money to them because they feel sorry for them they wouldn’t be on that street period. That’s what missions are for.
    Have you ever talked to any of those scary people? I have. The butcher hires some of them to clean the back of his store in the alley. Then they go over to the small store, by beer, drink it in the alley, or on the side walk, or in the vacvant alley.
    No law being broke there. The law is broke after their paid and go buy their beer by public drinking and that’s a ticket. Don’t point fingers at police when enablers are there contributing to the mayhem by keeping those scary people around there.

  9. Been living in the WC for 20 years and I noticed when High Point Projects were torn down that drove all the people over to WC. Back in the day WC was mostly Asians, Mexican and White Folks. Now you look around it looks like a third world county crashed into a ghetto! Evem the Pioneer Square Bums hang out here now. How the hell did they get here? And how do we get them out of here?

  10. Well the pioneer crew comes here by bus. Originally most stay in crack roe “aka” bear motel or near by it. However, they get so much money up here by supporters that they keep coming back. Some even stay 2 or 3 days and they say they sleep in abandon cars or select drugie homes that take them in like – at coronado springs. They really like Saturday nights and say that’s when they make the most money because of the large crowd club e brings in, there they target the individuals frequenting the club as well as all they can along 16th Ave.
    It’s a cycle and like I said, if individuals would quit supporting them which isn’t helping them anyways, they would leave and find alternate spaces to feed their habits.

    Solution to rid WC of panhandlers: Don’t give them money, food, or tabacco.
    Written distributions of shelters, drug programs, food banks, and every other type of resource available has all ready been given to them!

  11. I am bothered by the implicit racism of some of these comments. The business owners have their hands full just trying to maintain their businesses. As for the vagrants, at least the chronic alchoholics, most happen to be Caucasian and have in the area for years. Blaming Club Evolucion for the drug problem is sheer nonsense. The club operates twice a week and is not located at the blocks at issue. Most of the miscreants can be found ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT on 15th Ave. SW – south of Roxbury. Most congregate around the liquor store and the DHS building. But they do roam around the neighborhood, including the laundromat and the empty lots in the area. I think a combination of community action and aggressive policing would help greatly. Chances are good that many of the miscreants have outstanding warrants and if targeted would either be locked up or move on. As well, a liquor control zone, such as exists in Pioneer Square would also be of assistance.

  12. No Body is blaming anyone. Statements are being made that were made directly to me by numerous vagrants about how they get their money and where. Go ask them for yourself.

    Twisting the intent of answering questions people ask on this blog by adding a racial spin into it is not cool as this is NOT the case.

    The actual fact of answering questions people ask on this blog with verbal testimony from some of the vagrants is the sole intent.

    The point was – they know when the most people will be in town and they take full advantage of trying to target the mass of people when club e is open so they can make more money period.

    Actually your right, they do roam around the neighborhood and sometimes you can find them behind taco bell on 107th in the alley around 7 a.m. on weekends, coranado springs evening and night time, and some even up into Top Hat.

    I went to school with some of them and they have no problem talking to me about their lives and how they are doing.

    I wouldn’t know about who has what warrants and I am not going to judge their standing within the law. No one has expressed being wanted. I see police checking them all the time and they seem to be warrant free or they would be taking a trip to jail.

    The NHUAC is working with County and community residents to adopt wc as an alcohol impact area “AIA”. Additionally, Seattle SW weed and seed is jointly working on the same thing.