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People Power

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.” –Margaret Mead

The story of the peoples’ successful effort to preserve Pike Place Market was 50 years ago and the fight was celebrated again this past fall. It reminded me of Margaret Mead’s words and successful fights elsewhere. Baltimore was able to save its Lexington Market with the best crab cakes ever! It has been in existence since 1782. This is NOT changing the world, but it’s a start. It does mean that a group of citizens can take on a project to enhance their community and succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds.

It isn’t always successful; witness the failure to save the Crystal Palace Market in San Francisco. The aim was to spruce up that part of Market St., but it only resulted in the loss of an iconic market with the Anchor Steam Brewery, an oyster bar, freshly ground peanut butter and a whole range of unique products. It was an adventure prowling the aisles, not knowing what delight might be around the next corner. And the last time I was in San Francisco, that end of Market St. still looked shabby. Where was the “new, improved” Market St.?

I thought of the String of Pearls here in Leschi. These street ends were taken over as private property by adjacent homeowners until a group of residents argued that this was public property and belonged to SDOT. They took it from local public hearings all the way to the State Supreme Court where they won! This group was led by Karen Daubert who continues to lead the Friends of Street Ends today with these small parks popping up around the city, offering access to the water and providing a place for quiet meditation. Monthly local work parties keep these small parks dedicated to native plants. This group seems to be on the verge if extending their stewardship to the public stairways which are often in great need of maintenance. This is a task that the Leschi Community Council Board took on some years ago, partnering with the Madrona CC on their first endeavor. It was good publicity for residents to see their Board at work! Many residents joined us, even with their children as there are always smaller tasks involved. But unfortunately, Boards are subject to change as folks serve their terms and cannot run again. The effort waned; not everyone has weekends available and some of us aged out. We are encouraging the street end volunteers to pursue this endeavor as well!

Another example of people power is the Leschi Natural Area. A dedicated group of residents have shepherded this lovely scenic park from its previous persona as a private yard to a public park with native plants. It is a striking place to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the north end of the lake southward to Renton…enjoying the displays of many cities without leaving Leschi.

We have another opportunity here in Leschi for residents to create something beautiful to memorialize Steve Shulman, the owner of Leschi Market and the unofficial “mayor” of Leschi who passed away at the beginning of the pandemic. The proposed picnic area will be a citizen effort led by John Barber. There will be plans to review, permits to obtain and money to raise, but the result will be an enduring remembrance of Steve and a popular gathering place for the community. Anyone who wishes to participate in this project needs to get in touch with John Barber ( or call 206-324-1548.)

~Diane Snell


Op-Ed piece from reader: