What’s up with Garfield St? Proposal to close communal gap between Garfield Street and Pacific Lutheran University for a coherent community.

Coming to Terms with the Lute Dome (Background)

Conveniently parallel to the small private, Pacific Lutheran University, many would think that students of PLU would be taking advantage of the charming local coffee shop run by the smiling, whimsical Ed Cedras. Or perhaps casually taking an after- class stroll down to the Hobby Shop to snag a craft for the weekend with a roommate. These were things that I thought when I first arrived for my spring semester at PLU in Harstad Hall (which on the map above you can see is directly across from Garfield.) As a small town Alaskan girl and newcomer to this city-like community, I couldn’t have been more excited to find out that there were great people, coffee, music and yes even a place to smoke my cigarette was just a step outside of my residence hall. However just after days of being on campus I was surprised to hear multiple students whispered of the unsafe surroundings of Garfield St. and the “sketchy” atmosphere and people that populate it. It came to my attention that there was even a well-known name for this population of students that didn’t dare branch out into the Garfield/Parkland community, appropriately named–The Lute Dome. These students and yes, even faculty find solace within a comfortable and “safe” environment.

As a fairly new student at Pacific Lutheran University, I have quickly been exposed to the negative Lute population’s opinion of Garfield St and this Lute Dome. It seemed that my perception of this small street situated comfortably between the bustling street of Pacific Avenue at the intersection of C St, sandwiched between Pacific Ave S. was the exact opposite of the public’s. I see a street reeking with potential; sprinkled with eccentric characters and residents at every crack in the sidewalk. The way that I would describe Garfield to a fellow student or curious Professor would be the painting of a humble and misunderstood strip of cement littered with local businesses and local Parkland residents. So why is it that my peers, classmates, and professors seem to be so intimidated by the idea of Garfield Street? For my quest to find a way to harvest Garfield’s potential and prove it’s worth to PLU and it’s Lutes; I first needed some basic background information from those around me.

It wasn’t a challenge to gather information about Garfield St by initiating, participating and listening to multiple conversations surrounding the controversy. Not so surprisingly, a plethora of people, business owners and even the youth that are frequently on the streets of Parkland have a lot to say about the divide between PLU and the community. While conducting a series of “Garfield St” based discussions or interviews, I found myself running into the common theme of being wary of the “people who hang out there” and how they’re just “up to no good.” Better put, these people don’t reflect Garfield in a positive manner and have even been seen as a threat. These “people who hang out” is a group of approximately ten to twelve young adults. On a daily basis these kids flock to Garfield St. use the location as a place to congregate. As an avid smoker, I’m on and off of Garfield St on the daily and have a good idea of when and where this posse is, and what they’re up to. After being a frequent visitor to the street, I quickly found myself getting to know these youth and their history. I also discovered that I had formed a sort of bond with these people, my peers, and cared about their well-being and health. (We’ll get to potential programs and community improvement activities I hope to implement later.) Given, this group is either looking for an escape from home, are actually homeless or are lacking the skills to get to the place they want to be in their life. From personal experiences with Garfield inhibitors through simply engaging in conversation and showing them that I see them. During the process of getting to know these people, I’ve learned that a popular term that this group has been dubbed and referred to as is, “the hoodrats.” 

 Most of these kids are black or another “minority ethnicity” with either an unhealthy past trailing behind them that they’re trying to leave behind or a current situation that simply isn’t beneficial for their health and success. My definition above is simplified but in the field of community health and social work usually these characters are identified as “urban youth at risk” according to UN-HABITAT and many other related organizations. In my “findings” I discovered that these kids aren’t looking for trouble or to intimidate/threaten anyone; they simply need somewhere to go. One of my favorite lines that ___ told me was that he’s just trying to make it to the top, and this stagnant period is “only temporary.” In another one of my conversations with ___  I brought up the question that I’m sure everyone wanted to know the answer to.  Why were they all swarming towards Garfield and surrounding blocks? He responded with the following explanation;

“It’s safe, you feel me? You see ___ over there?” He points to one of the kids in the group with a heavy hood and dreads, “That nigga right there lives in tha hood. He comes here because he don’t have to constantly look over his shoulder. You can see it in his eyes. That’s why he always be wearing that hood n’ shit.” 

This comment about Garfield being a safer alternative compared to what most of these kids are accustomed to, I would assume is a shock to many that remain within the “Lute Dome” it even shocked myself. For those that have made assumptions about Garfield St. through information on reported petty crimes in the news and police blotter is one thing. However; passing judgments on people without truly gaining a well-rounded understanding is lacking a factual backing and is two, unethical.

*Keep in mind that this group of UYAR are not the only reason that people find Garfield threatening, nor am I implying they are, these assumptions are based on personal interviews.*

An additional reason, which is not necessarily as verbally expressed, is that Garfield is starting to crumble. It appears old and neglected and in desperate need of updating and maintenance on the shops and apartments located above the Garfield strip. As you can in the image below, this hunk of brick isn’t the most appealing to the eye. Click on the hyperlink to be directed to a street view of Garfield on Google Maps for a better understanding of the setting. Interactive Street View of Garfield St.


Garfield St.

Garfield St.

Innumerable amounts of my fellow students voiced their nervousness and discomfort when having to walk the street down to the PLU bookstore ironically titled Garfield Book Company or the locally favored pizza place, Farrelli’s. I found it hard to empathize with what seemed as a close-minded because to me, they have yet to immerse themselves into the community and the possibility of Garfield St. being a dangerous place. However, I do want to acknowledge that Parkland is still a heavily populated city with a large percentage of low-income housing (poverty) and petty crime. Below is a map depicting the crimes that have occurred on Garfield and surrounding streets since I arrived at PLU in February. (There is only one documentation of a series of vehicle thefts in the past 3 months.) *Note that this website could not be accurate.

Documented "crime" from Feb 2015-May 2015

Documented “crime” from Feb 2015-May 2015

Which yes, the concern of safety that many PLU students have is understandable. I do recognize the data that Parkland has a high rate of  total crime (in fact on the highest) in comparison to national rates. However, violent crimes is reported to be the lowest crime in Parkland. This data is also reflecting Parkland, Washington as a whole and often times smaller, suburban areas such as our favorite Garfield St is automatically considered a high-risk and unpredictable location. The attached link is to the Tacoma Crime website: Tacoma Crime (Data & Information)

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 8.13.50 PM


Going into my second set of interviews, I focused on outside perspectives of why exactly student’s were hesitant to engage in the community of Parkland and specifically Garfield Street if there are low amount of crimes being committed on and around Garfield St. I then went on to solicit professional opinions of what programs or activities could potentially be implemented to integrate these separate cultures (Garfield & PLU.) Or rather, create a more inviting atmosphere on Garfield St so that the “Lute Dome” could expand Well, according to two local Lute Alumni community health nurses, it all has to do with cultural differences and the inability or choice to expand one’s comfort zone.  Sarah Skoh Field and her business partner Mindy-Hunting Fraiser both have a four years of studying community health and nursing, both with the same goal; to improve their community of Parkland. Field and Fraiser hope to soon be creating a wave of change with their freshly purchased lot, which is gradually becoming a non-profit community health center, located smack dab on Garfield St. This idea of there being a vastly large cultural gap between Parkland and the PLU culture due to cultural differences is a valid one.

Fielding brought up an interesting concept known as the “citizen and security” phenomenon, which is when a person is simply fearful of the place they live. (Hopefully we can do something about that.) Fraiser then stated that “it’s sad” when humans are thrown into a new environment with completely different surroundings and expectations. “If only we could get those kids out here, it could even help them feel and be more healthy and positive in their own lives.” Why wouldn’t we want our PLU Lutes (and locals) to feel more safe, at peace, and healthy?

So why should we care?

Simple, PLU is well known for taking education to the next level by applying it in a global context and also by admitting international students each semester. There is approximately 5% of PLU’s student body is international (from twenty-six different countries) and a 76% of Washington state residents. The remaining total of 19% accounts for out-of-state students. The PLU quick facts page accounts for a total of 3,462 students with around 350 grad students. What do college graduates do after college? They go out into the world and apply the values, lessons and intellect that they have received from their university.

While PLU has many great programs, such as the “It’s on Us” campaign dedicated to eradicating against sexual assault and date rape; to mottos like the famous, “Words can hurt” to simple services to our earth; like our dedication to recycling and reusing.  Many of these Washington state students are either commute to campus or originate from a different part of Washington and live on campus. That influx of students from all over the globe means countless cultures and backgrounds to be appreciated and learned from. If PLU were to encourage and normalize seeing themselves as an equal and essential part of the community, the most basic and simplistic seeds of empathy, love and genuine kindness can be planted, thus sprouting into a completely new type of global culture. These graduates and future graduates (if they were to expand their comfort zones a touch) could truly not only spread the beauty of the PLU mission statement through their work and lives but it could be intensified through open-mindedness and a depletion of judgement.  I fully believe that the integration of students and residents of the Parkland area, as well as the expansion/depletion of the omnipresent Lute Dome, could benefit the local community indefinitely. (And one day, the world.)The power of the future is in the hands of the millennials today. The amount of influence on the world we live in is insurmountable, we just have to come together (in this proposal, much smaller in scale.)


So, what HAS & IS happening currently?

Currently, PLU is involved in many foreign places across the globe on mission trips, exemplifying the universities Lutheran background and core values. A positive and prime example of PLU opening up an opportunity for a student to explore Parkland is the story of Monkah. She told PLU’s newspaper, Lute Times, that her understanding of Parkland was influenced by a handful of negative stereotypes about the community and even that “it was not safe.” (Lute Times, 2012)  This student’s perspective and expectations shifted when she became involved in a Center for Community Engagement and Service program called Big Buddies. Big Buddies is one of CCES’s programs that integrates PLU into the communities of Parkland and Tacoma by allowing Lutes to go to the local middle school and world with students in after-school tutoring and mentoring programs. This program (BB) is facilitated and ran by CCES along with other programs such as active involvement in the  local Habitat for Humanity chapter and the Trinity Lutheran’s community garden. CCES is also widely known and recognized for it’s vibrant and historical Parkland mural. This was created in hopes that the community could work with students at PLU (and vice versa) to create art. Below I’ll attach a link to the short time lapse/video of the process:


The “final” design. Each letter contains a symbolic representation of Parkland’s history.

Parkland Community Mural Project Video

Here’s a screenshot of their “volunteer opportunities.”

CCES Projects & Opportunties

CCES Projects & Opportunties

More about CCES (Community Center for Engagement Services)

So, what’s next?

While the CCES and PLU’s efforts to “connect with the community” are noteworthy, I feel as though they are inadequate in comparison to the potentially great things that a collective group of empowered Lutes could do.

Potential community projects:

  1. The resurrection of the Garfield St. fair. What brings a community together like food and music?
  2. The implementation of the Mountain Climbers program this fall. This is a program that Skoh, Mindy and I will be hosting. **It’s a GED and I.D. program for the quote, hoodrats. The goal is to motivate change and assist in the process of meeting goals. PLU student tutors and other locals are already volunteering their time!
  3. Cigarette Butt clean-up days. A lot of people smoke, but a lot of people don’t and don’t appreciate the litter. Having a competition to see which group could pick up the most cigarette butts sounds like fun! (Groups would be both Lute and locals)
  4. Simply engaging in the local economy, if possible. I.e. Buy a real coffee from NPCC (North Pacific Coffee & Roasting Co.) instead of the horrendous campus coffee.
  5. Local business scavenger hunt
  6. *Ultimately these sample projects are working towards reaching the goal of formulating genuine relationships with locals or even with the area and oneself. Being able to connect with someone outside of the norm, can truly open up doors for change and wisdom.

Now I’m not saying that an instant “attack” in the words of the activist Jane Jacobs on the jaded Lute Dome is necessary now. However, starting small and working towards extending PLU’s services and love outwards while also inviting the community into “our world” could be the start of a healthy, safe communal harmony.  Involvement within Parkland and Garfield, in particular, will change many students minds about what they thought it was like as long as they’re willing to engage and not evade. While currently, PLU is actively involved in global service and exploration; I propose that we work towards a more engaged focus in service and the understanding of  local importance and culture, if not more so than outside the bounds of Parkland. Hypothetically, with Lutes becoming more engaged and empowered to go out into the community and are willing to break out of their comfort zone and the thick atmosphere of the  “Lute Dome,” not only are we bringing an awareness to a gap that separates us but we as students, faculty, and residents are taking charge of our home and health. Just because there’s a campus to live on does not mean that one cannot branch off and live. In conclusion, every student that has had the pleasure to be accepted to PLU was accepted for simple reasons. Those being, a genuine love for vocation, service, and our fellow humans and mother earth. Paired with a drive to learn, empathy and open hearts. So are you ready to take charge of our community?



Wanna know more about what makes a community happy and healthy? CLICK THE LINK BELOW

The Community Tool Box

Do you want to be trained to be a community health worker? CLINK THE LINK BELOW

Registration and more information



Works Cited

“Big Buddies – Stepping Out of the Lute Dome.” LUTE Times. 4 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.

“Section 3. C. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/overview/models-for-community-health-and-development/healthy-cities-healthy-communities/main>.

Jacobs, Jane. Preface. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. N.p.Print.

“Parkland, Washington (WA) Poverty Rate Data Information about Poor and Low-Income Residents.” Parkland, Washington (WA) Poverty Rate Data. Advameg, Inc., 2015. Web. 05 May 2015.

Sarah Skoh Field. Personal & Informational Interview. 21 May 2015

Mindy Hunting-Frazier. Personal & Informational Interview.  21 May 2015

Anonymous Interviews. May-April 2015

“About CCES.” Pacific Lutheran University. Pacific Lutheran University, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015.

Digital image. Tacoma Crime. 1 Jan. 2015. Web.

“Revitalization Efforts Continue on Garfield Street in Parkland.” The Suburban Times 25 Sept. 2013. Blogspot. Web. 20 May 2015.

“Health Communities By Design.” Health Impacts. N.p., 2007. Web. 2015. “Ammadeo, Barbui, Perini, Biggeri, and Tansella.”Avoidable Mortality of Psychiatric Patients in an Area with a Community-based System of Mental Health Care.” 115.7 (2007) 320-25. Web.