Pioneer Square merchants: 'We've got people defecating all around us'

SEATTLE - Merchants say crime concerns are driving visitors out of Seattle's historic Pioneer Square, while others move in who want to drink, do drugs and use the streets as an open-air bathroom.

Those business owners say the city's response to their concerns doesn't go far enough.

One of those concerned merchants is Mike Klotz, who opened his deli in Pioneer Square four years ago. Klotz says he was excited to be part of such a historic area in those heady early days.

"It's the heart and soul of this city," he says.

But now, Klotz says the neighborhood he loves is getting turned upside down by people who have no respect for others. He says the lack of civility is killing business for local merchants - and giving Seattle a bad image internationally.

"The tourists are uncomfortable," he says. "They walk into that park down there and they are literally aghast at what's happening."

A coalition of business groups known as Alliance for Pioneer Square met Thursday morning to talk about the city's response to a range of problems - including a complete lack of public toilets.

"We've got people defecating in all forms and fashions all around us," says Steve Baumann of Swannies Sports Bar.

As a KOMO News crew was in Occidental Park on Thursday, they saw people drinking in public - and parks staff said one woman had just relieved herself outdoors as visitors passed by.

There are also the homeless who appear to pass the whole day there, and merchants say it makes visitors uncomfortable.

"Our business has gone down about 70 percent in regards to that during the day, and about 25 percent at night ... being that people are not coming in," says Baumann.

Some people at Thursday morning's meeting were upset that Mayor Mike McGinn didn't accept their invitation, but a representative from his office was on hand.

City leaders say a public toilet will be installed soon, and they've already beefed up police presence and hired new rangers to patrol the park.

Business owners say it's a start.

"I need to have less sound bites from the city and more action from the city," says Klotz.

As for the bathroom issue, a "Portland Loo" is due to be installed this fall, but not everyone thinks the corner of First Avenue and Yesler Way is the best location in the neighborhood.