Now that the rainy season has arrived full on, perhaps it’s timely to expose certain downtown buildings and their owners for a socially reprehensible offense to pedestrians. I am referring here to the growing prevalence of fake canopies.
Over the last year a number of older buildings around the downtown core have been retrofitted with projecting canopies constructed of glass and steel. Some are simple and serviceable, others are quite elegant. Some have been accomplished as a part of Metro Transit’s commendable efforts toward making downtown a better place to use transit. All of these improvements are welcome in a climate that demands cover over the sidewalk during the winter and sunlight in the summer.
However, the objectives of this general endeavor are apparently not universally shared. Whether done by individual merchants or property owners, we are seeing constructions of steel ribs and struts that extend out over the sidewalks but in fact contain no glass or other materials to provide actual cover. It’s quite the mean-spirited trick: What looks like cover is, in fact, open to the sky and, therefore, rainfall.
I have experienced at least three of these architectural cheats. One is over the entrance to Belltown Court on Second Avenue. Although a small canopy, I have seen more than one parent waiting to send a child off on a school bus while waiting under this false cover and getting soaked in the process.
More egregious is the one Third, just north of the Century Square building, which has recently had a handsome canopy added to its west- and south-facing sides. The offending canopy is actually a quite elaborate and costly structure but it offers no glass panels.
The third one I have experienced is at the American Apparel store on 6th Avenue. This structure is really a sign disguised as a canopy, which should not be allowed at all. Here is a prime street in the retail core with a national brand business thumbing its nose at shoppers. How completely rude is that?
I’m sure there are other examples, which I leave to respondents to point out.
I fear that perhaps the city’s land use code does not mention the requirement of glass (or other solid covering) in its definition of canopies – a loophole that should be corrected immediately. If glass is indeed a requirement, then these parties should be sent notices of a city code violation with the associated penalties.
Now, for those who will undoubtedly send me some sharp retorts about how transients or teenagers will gather under these projections and businesses would have to pay more for cleaning, security, blah, blah, blah — save your breath (or typing fingers). Throughout downtown there are scores of glass and steel canopies, generous in width, high enough not to block storefronts and low enough to offer shelter that are not havens for antisocial or criminal behavior. To not provide canopies in this climate and latitude along primary pedestrian streets is either being lazy or insulting.
Besides, why would we ever take the view that, because of a few miscreants, 95 percent of the population must suffer?