Downtown Seattle businesses, residents say the city needs new safety strategy

SEATTLE — Many say the danger downtown is nothing new and is getting only worse, especially at 3rd Avenue and Pine Street.

Now business owners are fed up because they say they have been here before, trying to run a business in parts of the city that are no longer safe.

“We had a bullet come through this window,” said Ali Ghambari. He spoke inside one of the 10 Cherry Street Coffee Houses he has sprinkled across the city of Seattle. And he easily showed us where two of his businesses have been struck by gunfire.

“We had a bullet through that window,” said Ghambari. “And then cross the street, we had a bullet that goes through the window. And if you go over, there is a bullet hole on the building, too. So it was like at 2 in the morning, 1:30 in the morning.”

That was long after he had closed his doors. But the convenience store across the street was open.

“It’s hard to say everybody can’t do business,” said Ghambari. “But some businesses bring the wrong crowd. And at this point, our biggest challenge is that.”

Ghambari came to deliver that message at this rally in Westlake Park organized by the Downtown Seattle Association. It was in response to the horrific shooting just a block east at 3rd Avenue and Pine Street.

Ghambari says the kind of lawlessness that led to this demands a new approach from the city and the state.

“They have to, instead of being politically correct, they need to be community right,” said Ghambari. “And community need action now.”

But this gaggle of teenagers from the Northwest School, a college preparatory school in Seattle’s downtown, worries that the city is looking for scapegoats.

“Instead of focusing on what is happening on 3rd and Pine, what we need to do is figure out resources to help the people that are there,” said Athena Blanton, 17. “The people that are not only the perpetrators of crime but the people that are affected by it, the people that are there every day.”

Those teens got the ear of Andrew Lewis, a newly elected member of the Seattle City Council. He says he will meet with them as the city wrestles with this issue that has bedeviled its leaders for years.