Before the AAMA
In the mid 1980s, Aurora Avenue had become a corridor of neglect and crime, sporting gang-generated graffiti, littered with thousands of posters and hosting a prominent number of prostitutes and drug dealers.
Merchants began to lose customers and many residents in the area began to feel unsafe.
The Aurora Avenue Merchants Association (AAMA) was formed to reverse this trend. Due to the efforts of the AAMA, in cooperation with residents, residential neighborhood groups, the Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct and many other City employees, much has changed.
What We Have Accomplished:
The effort began in 1986, when the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association started a prostitution watch network, putting signs on telephone poles, taking license numbers of “johns” and making it difficult for hookers along Aurora Avenue. Our cardboard signs warning that license numbers were being recorded had to be replaced every week because pimps and prostitutes tore them down. We progressed to paying for and placing metal signs. We continue to network and still take license numbers.
We work with motel owners and managers to help them spot a “bad customer.”
Motels along Aurora all work very hard to stop the use of their units for illegal drug or prostitution sales. The motels devised self-governing rules for preventing crime that are still being used today. We instituted a continuing program of notifying firms, agencies or individuals if any vehicle they owned was observed stopping on Aurora for a drug buy or to pick up a prostitute, informing them that merchants and residents along Aurora Avenue won’t stand for that type of behavior. We also began monitoring government policy regarding public safety, so that our concerns were heard by our City leaders.
Although our crime-cleanup efforts still focused on prostitution, we began to include in our networking calls reports of drug dealers and runners.
We formed a PIPE partnership with Bagley Elementary School. Over the years we have continued to work with the local schools to foster an awareness of businesses and job opportunities.This association was proud to receive 3rd place award in the “Neighborhoods USA” division honoring associations that were able to organize and protect and improve their neighborhoods.
We worked very hard to get the Drug Loitering Law passed and instituted a campaign to have No Loitering/No Trespassing signs posted to allow police access to private property. This year we also began working with the Greenwood Boys and Girls Club to assist them in reaching out to our neighborhood children.
We donated funds to Bagley PTA in support of revamping the play area for neighborhood children. We began our “clean telephone pole” campaign by writing to businesses who placed signs on poles and requesting them to refrain from doing so. We formed a sign-removal committee. This got local residents to take more pride in Aurora. Our sign-removal committee often found that by the time they arrived someone who cared had already removed the signs. We began to monitor the City’s comprehensive planning and alerting our members of regional as well as neighborhood concerns for businesses.
Through the membership dues of businesses along Aurora Avenue we were able to purchase and completely equip four bicycles for the North Precinct Bicycle Patrol. We have encouraged the visible presence of uniformed officers along Aurora. The Bicycle Patrol is a welcome addition whenever they appear. We mailed a residents’ issue of the Aurora Avenue News that reached approximately 7,500 residents along the Aurora Corridor. We received an enthusiastic response with many residents requesting to be permanent subscribers.
Although the Aurora Avenue News is oriented toward business needs, it also addresses concerns of residents and issues that affect the entire community. Working with the Seattle Engineering Department, we expedited the removal of segments of the median barrier down Aurora, facilitating left turns into businesses and side streets. This allowed many residents to drive directly to their homes and eased congestion along some parts of Aurora.
Using membership dues, the AAMA purchased and donated a video camera for the Seattle Police North Precinct.
The AAMA was active in supporting the ordinance to ban advertising flyers from power poles. We formed our own graffiti removal and litter clean-up committees. These committees, along with our ongoing sign-removal committee, contributed to a cleaner business area.
After experiencing an arson fire that totally destroyed all AAMA offices, we recovered to increase membership. We continued our efforts to assure our customers that businesses along Aurora Avenue truly care about our neighborhood and city.
The AAMA supported the Licton Springs Park renewal. Continuing our long-range programs of safety and cleanliness, businesses worked in close cooperation with the Seattle Police to pinpoint and eliminate criminal activity along Aurora Avenue. Joining with the North Precinct, the AAMA’s motel owners met to assure continued cooperation with police in eliminating criminal activities along Aurora Avenue. Our Boardmembers agreed to “district” Aurora so that each Boardmember is responsible for encouraging businesses owners in his or her “district” to clean up, remove graffiti and unsightly telephone pole signs, and to pinpoint and destroy problem areas.
Businesses mobilized to block the placing of HOV lanes along the entire Aurora Corridor from the Battery Street Tunnel to 145th Street. This plan, proposed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) roused our strong objections because it threatened to drastically limit customer access to businesses along Aurora. We brought to WSDOT officials’ attention an awareness that the vitality of Aurora is most important to the vitality of the entire region, not just Seattle. The HOV plan was delayed.
Businesses mobilized to convince the U.S. Postal Service that their plan to discontinue delivery of mail to individual businesses and to put “postal delivery boxes” on every other block was not viable. The plan was withdrawn. We continued to patrol our Corridor to convince criminals that Aurora is not the place to ply their trade! Unfortunately, this is always the first priority of the AAMA.
We continued to monitor prostitution and drug activities along our Aurora Corridor and worked with the authorities in Spokane to assist them in finding solutions to their drug and prostitution problems. We began taking pictures of criminals to assist police officers in removing them from our street. Board members continued patrol their “districts” so that problems could be called to the attention of the proper governmental authorities.
The AAMA contributed funds to purchase another four bicycles for the Police Bike Patrol so that law enforcement in the North Precinct could have all the tools needed to perform their job. We continued to monitor problem areas and worked with the North Precinct Citizen Advisory Council to assist with law enforcement. We also began to monitor WSDOT plans to “improve” Aurora (Highway 99) in the neighboring city of Shoreline so that we would be prepared to fight for our portion of Highway 99 and for maintaining conditions that invite prosperous business development to the benefit of all taxpayers in the Puget Sound Region.
The AAMA donated funds for two Swat Team rifles for the Seattle Police Department—one for use only in the North Precinct and one to be used where SPD leadership felt it was needed. We continued to monitor problem areas and worked with the North Precinct Citizen Advisory Council to be sure that crime remains under control. Our continual monitoring of WSDOT plans to “improve” Aurora (Highway 99) in the neighboring city of Shoreline convinced us that our portion of Aurora would be targeted for matching changes in the near future. We began to voice our concerns that Aurora Avenue is a prosperous business district that could be destroyed by ill-conceived changes to the street configuration.
While control of crime continued to be a focus, the AAMA devoted most of the year to a fighting to keep Aurora Avenue a business and residential neighborhood. A WSDOT and City of Seattle “study” to improve safety and mobility on Aurora Avenue revealed plans to limit business access by installing medians and imposing bus-only lanes. The City and WSDOT also concluded, despite vigorous opposition from the AAMA and individual merchants, that afternoon peak period removal of parking was warranted to increase bus speeds along Aurora. More than 100 businesses will be negatively affected by this change to Aurora.
The AAMA continues its fight to keep Aurora Avenue a safe and prosperous business and residential neighborhood. We will continue to oppose all actions by criminals that would threaten the safety of our employees and customers. We will continue to challenge all plans by governments that would decrease the viability of Aurora Avenue as a prosperous and vital business community.
In addition to our ongoing activities with regard to public safety and street beautification we have been embroiled in the planning process with the City of Seattle regarding the “Aurora North Transit, Pedestrian and Safety Improvement Project.” Our involvement in these activities are aimed and focused on protecting the economic vitality and safety of Aurora Avenue merchants, customers, employees and residential neighbors. We appealed the 2- DNS’s put forth by the City expressing our continuing concerns about drainage, access, and pedestrian safety.
In 2008 SDOT withdrew both DNS’s and indications are that if he project is again proposed the AAMA and SDOT will work together to make agreeable improvements to SR 99. A welcome change in attitude of Seattle
We continue to support our local police as well as our international, nation and local businesses.
We provide bicycles for police patrols and worked to relocate a police station to 130th and Aurora.