March 25, 2009
The price tag: nearly $15,000 for a 60-foot strip of asphalt.
Seattle officials admit Barajas is an unintended target of a year-old city ordinance meant to force developers to provide infrastructure improvements in the city's 22 designated urban villages. Although the ordinance was directed at developers and not a private homeowner tearing down an existing house to build anew — and the sidewalk likely will be the only one on Barajas' street for years, if not decades — they say there's nothing they can do to waive the requirement.
"This is sort of a rare instance," said Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the city's Department of Planning and Development. "... It may feel like a sidewalk to nowhere, but others will come."
That may be so, but spending thousands of dollars on a sidewalk — one unlikely to have much impact on pedestrian safety — is "like throwing away money," Barajas said.
Given the slow pace of development in his neighborhood, Barajas' sidewalk may have to be replaced by the time others come to the block.
Barajas, a janitor for King County Metro since 1990, and his wife, Maria, a housekeeper at a downtown hotel, have saved for 12 years to afford the down payment on their $250,000 construction loan.
"I just want something to live comfortable after I retire," said Barajas, 61, adding that the new house will be his teenage daughter's inheritance.
The financial sting of building a sidewalk is all the more painful because Barajas wouldn't need one if he lived on the west side of 32nd Avenue South, instead of the east side. That's because the western boundary of the MLK at Holly Street urban village is the center line of Barajas' narrow residential street.
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