News and Culture in Seattle's Chinatown and International District
The Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) plans to implement a program that will rid the neighborhood’s alleys of trash in hopes of converting the spaces into popular business centers.
Behind the Imperial House, an apartment complex on Main Street, sit 10 or more dumpsters. One of several “dumpster paloozas” in the area, the location has attracted a multitude of illegal dumpings from people both inside and outside of the International District. Overflowing with trash, each dumpster is garnished with a sticker: “Dumping of trash, scavenging and vandalism are illegal and WILL BE PROSECUTED.”
Such signs have done little to ease the neighborhood’s sanitation problem.
“This neighborhood has been a dumping ground for a long time,” said CIDBIA Executive Director Don Blakeney.
To combat this, the CIDBIA plans to implement a mandatory “clear alley program” that will force residents and business owners to keep their trash inside their homes or place of work until a designated pick-up time. He hopes that the program will restore waste-ridden alleys, like Canton Alley, to their former glory as business hubs and focal points within the district.
According to Blakeney, the sanitation problem is largely caused by the fact that many businesses and residents have no where to legally put their trash. Those who do often neglect to lock their dumpsters. As a result, people leave their trash in and around the alleys’ dumpsters–tossing it from their apartments onto the mounds of garbage below or toting their load from blocks away–and the alleys become unusable.
For a neighborhood with over 80 restaurants producing considerable amounts of waste daily, the build up is quite a concern.
In the past, the neighborhood enacted measures to discourage people and businesses from dumping illegally, but many have been inadequate. A shared dumpster program led to a free-rider system in which some businesses paid to legally dispose of their trash while others benefitted from the same dumpsters without contributing a penny to the cost.
A CIDBIA employee also attributed the dumpings to a lack of sanitation education amongst the neighborhood’s elderly population.
At the Imperial House, much of the trash is left by outsiders driving through. A large number of “orphan bags”–small grocery bags filled with trash–as well as items indicative of other Seattle districts suggest that people living and working within the district are not the only ones illegally discarding their waste in the alleys. CIDBIA once found mail addressed to Renton when examining the waste.
Currently, CleanScapes, a Seattle maintenance company and waste collector, picks up litter in the International District, as well as several other city neighborhoods, four days a week. CleanScapes also responds to requests for emergency cleanings within 24 hours.
In terms of human waste, urinating in the streets is a “fact of urban life.” While such actions affect the district, human waste is not a pressing issue. Public restrooms, when unmanned, attracted drug dealing and prostitution, which was ultimately more problematic than public urination.