SDOT counted an average 925 riders per weekday through the industrial district in 2020. As a busy stretch for commuters, especially since the West Seattle Bridge's closure, and with a sizable homeless population, the mingling of pedestrians, bicyclists and large vehicles is ever-present.
"One of the primary issues is speed," Schwartz said. She pointed to the area's long blocks, wide streets, large vehicles and minimal crossings or protected bike lanes.
Several projects are planned for the neighborhood to improve safety. East Marginal Way was recently promised $20 million from the federal government to finish building a two-way protected bike lane between South Atlantic and South Spokane streets, in addition to other upgrades to the area. Construction is to begin later this year.
The city also has promised a continuous bike lane from Georgetown to downtown along either Airport Way South or Sixth Avenue South, although the project's progress was stalled in 2020.
But Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales, whose district includes the city's industrial district, as well as another deadly stretch, Rainier Avenue South, said she's growing frustrated with talk about improvements and wants more action.
"It just feels like it is clear that there are some roads in the city that are more dangerous, there are some parts of the city that have been underinvested in and we have to be serious about keeping Seattleites safe, and I don't think we are demonstrating any serious commitment to that," she said. She called for a council hearing on traffic deaths, which transportation chair and Councilmember Alex Pedersen has agreed to this summer.
"Orbst, the manager of Hirabayashi Place, isn't supposed to have favorite residents. But of Li, she said, "he was my favorite resident." When she took the job last year, he was the first to welcome her. A Chinese immigrant, Li spoke little English, but the intention behind his waves and gestures was clear enough.
"You can truly feel the sadness in the building since he passed," she said. "It really is a tragedy."
Linda Vonheim, the building's manager until late last year, moved the Lis into the building when it first opened in 2017. She, too, called them her favorites. On his way out the door for his daily rides or evening walks with his wife, he'd greet Vonheim with a hearty, "Hello, manager!"
"He was just a great man, one of the pillars of our community at Hirabayashi," she said. "If you needed help he would be right there. He would never say no to anybody."