Highlights from last night’s Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting: WSDOT reps made a guest appearance as part of their tour of neighborhood groups to share “what’s next” re: the tunnel proposed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s so-called “mile in the middle” Central Waterfront section. Also, a recap of last week’s California Place Park “design workshop” meeting featured a few tense moments, with both supporters and opponents of park change in the room. Details on both, and one other note, ahead:
VIADUCT/TUNNEL UPDATE: The WSDOT reps say they’re in the final stages of making a map that will explain the West Seattle pathways into downtown, if the current plan (announced four weeks ago today) goes through. That plan would call for the tunnel to be open by 2015 (the actual tunnel-boring would take less than a year and a half of the four-year construction period), and for The Viaduct to stay open for almost the entire construction period — following demolition, construction of the “waterfront promenade” is envisioned to start around 2017.
They mentioned the Battery Street Tunnel is likely going to be closed and decommissioned as part of the new plan, because the currently envisioned tunnel route bypasses it. Taking the BST out of operation saves some money that previously had been slated to be spent on upgrading its safety systems.
One hot money topic right now – Will the Legislature authorize a King County “motor vehicle excise tax” to raise money for additional transit? The presentation given to the Admiral group suggested the tax would cost the average car owner $100 (assuming your car is worth $10K). One honest assessment of the tax’s chances: “It’s a moving target right now.” (If you want to let your state legislators know what you think about it, their contact information is linked from here.)
Asked about the Spokane Street Viaduct – which, they reminded, is a city project, not a state project – they mentioned the contract for its first major component, the eastbound 4th Avenue offramp, has just been “let,” and that it’s still $30 million short of total funding for the project, but it’s hoped that will be made up by federal “stimulus funding.”
CALIFORNIA PLACE PARK: One week after the contentious “design workshop” meeting, leading supporters and opponents of potential changes to this small park were in the same room again. Matthew Slye recapped the meeting on behalf of Friends and Neighbors of North Admiral (FANNA), the group that obtained a $15,000 city Department of Neighborhoods matching-fund grant to design possible park improvements.
Slye was asked if plans had been made for the format of the next design workshop, 10:30 am March 7 at Alki Community Center, to attempt to avoid the disruptions of what happened last week. He said the format has not yet been worked out. He also was asked why the postcard announcing the design workshops was sent by the Parks Department, if the project is not under Parks’ umbrella at this point; he said the 2,500 postcards that were mailed were a “gift” from that department.
One attendee suggested that someone other than landscape architect Karen Kiest lead/facilitate the next meeting, suggesting she was not prepared to handle the disruptions and get the meeting back on track, nor to deal with the sentiment that “people went there thinking they were going to be heard, and there was nobody from (the Parks Department) to hear them.”
Jan Bailey, who has led the campaign against park changes, repeated her contention that park neighbors had not been notified early in the process, which FANNA has disputed. Slye noted that matching-funds grants are open to any applicants and do not require a public outreach or comment process.
Bailey said she is upset that the three-meeting design process will end with some sort of proposed design for park changes: “For people who want no change to the park, that is not a choice” — it will be one of the alternatives considered at the next meeting, but by the third meeting, there will be some sort of design.
“We’re not going to pay (Kiest) to draw ‘nothing’,” Slye agreed. “You don’t need a drawing for ‘no change,’ that’s what is there now.” But right now, he added, “there is no design .. this talk of a playground, and trees being cut down, is misinformation.”
ANA vice president Jim Del Ciello, leading the meeting in the absence of president Mark Wainwright, pointed out that in the end “you’re all neighbors and you’re going to have to get along,” before the discussion closed.
PREPAREDNESS AND PARKS: The ANA also heard from Aaron Bert, who recently joined the Parks Department to handle emergency management – in particular, how the city’s parkland and Parks-operated buildings will be called into action if and when major disaster strikes. (The resources of the department total more than 6,000 acres, 1,000 staff members, and 150 buildings, by the way.)
Bert explained that a “vulnerability analysis” is beginning right now to figure out which community centers need work to be able to serve as sites for shelter and help; its findings will lead to a plan that could result in some work being done at centers that are deemed vital for preparedness purposes. In the short run, if there is a disaster, the centers would each be evaluated for “habitability,” and then opened to the community providing no major problems rendered them unsafe.
For Hiawatha Community Center, he agreed to work with ANA to see about storing their community emergency bag – something that many neighborhoods around West Seattle have been putting together, as part of an effort coordinated by Cindi Barker (as we first reported last year) – at the center. Bert also urged families to have their own disaster bag/kits ready, someplace they can be grabbed and taken along if you’re suddenly on the run.
The Admiral Neighborhood Association meets the second Tuesday of each month, 7 pm in the basement meeting room of Admiral Congregational Church, and all are welcome.