Public vs. Private: A look at the heated dispute over access to Alki Point

Wildlife enthusiasts and residents in West Seattle are embroiled in a heated dispute over access to a stretch of Alki Beach. 

A petition to restore "Alki Point for All" has garnered hundreds of signatures.

Supporters argue that by blocking off a large swathe of Beach Drive SW to parking and passers-through, the Seattle Department of Transportation has restricted access to a popular spot for whale watchers, seal spotters and tourist groups visiting from around the world. 

Donna Sandstrom is one of the leaders of this grassroot movement. As founder and executive director of The Whale Trail, Sandstrom frequently visits the tidelands near Constellation Park.

"This place is special to so many people for so many reasons and one of the only ways you can get here is by car," argued Sandstrom. "Parking is tough, especially in the summer or on special events."

Both Sandstrom and signees on the petition are particularly outraged over how the closure benefits wealthy beachfront property owners. By eliminating street parking, they have unobstructed access to the stretch of public shoreline.

"When they bought this home, what they were buying was property that butted a city park. The park belongs to the whole public," said Sandstrom. "This isn’t a private, gated community-- this is for everybody."

Lynn Drake, who lives around the corner, offers a different perspective: one centered on public safety. Defending the restrictions, Drake pointed out that the open stretch of blacktop often attracts unwanted activities, such as street racing.

"It's a huge magnet because it's a beautiful view over there, but when cars gather, it can be super dangerous," Drake said. "There were a lot of street shows or sideshows. You could hear it every night, you could hear the roar."

Drake argues when the road closure signs went up during the pandemic, they cut out that illegal activity. She also says with fewer cars around, bikers, walkers and rollers could enjoy the space more.

"It's just gotten to be too much. We’re losing our space, we’re flooded with cars and I think we need to take some of that space back," Drake contends.