Guns’N’Roses lied

Seattle’s main “Jungle” flanks Beacon Hill all the way to Georgetown. It’s bordered on the west by I-5 and spidery railroads, to the north by 1-90, and it runs, ducks and tapers south down through Beacon Ave all the way to Georgetown. The reason for its existence has always been twofold: first, it dampened out the storm and drang of the railways for residential streets and now it does the same for I-5.

Second, it’s a scrap of slanted woods whose grade is so steep, it’s forgotten by even the shrewdest of developers (at least until the CD is bursting at the seams with techies, and they must naturally flow southward).

It’s forgotten because you can’t build on it.


Image: KING 5 News

Well, but you can.

The Jungle is one of many, even in the Seattle area. Jungles are wooded spaces where people without homes can live in ones they’ve made themselves.

Jungles are generally sneered at, or feared at, by the be-home-ed folk outside, who hear intermittent telegraphs from within—someone dead, someone raped, someone stabbed within an inch of their life and if they hadn’t heard the moans—but, of course, it’s more complicated than that. In a jungle, people commune, too. They share food and stories and spit and latrines. It’s a way of life with as many facets as there are people, in there.

Our Jungle: burgeoning in the 1930’s, like the associated Hooverville. Union folk, itinerant workers, and the disenfranchised colonized the place, as some still do today. Rien de nouveau for more than half a century, and then, in the 1990s, Washington State began to dismantle the community. People watched as their personal homes, their food and sleeping pads and trash were snapped up by giant mechanical claws, or bulldozed into oblivion.

What the government planned to do with the land was anyone’s guess at the time, but they renamed it a greenbelt and sewed a bike path through it, open as of 2011. People in the Jungle are continuously rebuilding, leveled, and building again. They are individuals stuck in attrition with no real endpoint. Our Jungle is one of many.

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