From tonight’s Southwest District Council meeting – the monthly gathering (usually at South Seattle Community College) of reps from major community groups and organizations around what the city calls the Southwest District (basically western West Seattle) – first three presentations summarized at 8:23 pm, the rest added at 9:13 pm:
WEST SEATTLE TRIANGLE – 85-FOOT ZONING? In advance of next Monday’s open-house community meeting, SWDC heard from city planners Susan McLain and Robert Scully, who have been working on the planning project outlining some possibilities for “how the streetscape environment could change over time,” as McLain put it – not as a freestanding project, but more, opportunities as some parts of the area are redeveloped. Scully talked about the evolving transportation picture in the area, and how bicycles and buses have to be accommodated as well as the cars and trucks for which it was originally designed. He also said the plan is in two phases – dealing with the area as it is now, with some improvements, and then a longer-term look.
They were asked about the long-discussed concept of turning Fauntleroy into a boulevard with a median; McLain noted that the road is so wide between Alaska and 35th that a boulevard could be created with the same number of travel lanes it has now. McLain said some have voiced fears that this planning process will spur change; she says instead it is more meant to acknowledge that there will be change, and to have some vision to go along with it. Will the zoning change? Right now, McLain noted, much of the area is “General Commercial 1,” but conversations with the citizens’ advisory group that met in recent months also included talk of changing to “neighborhood commercial” zoning – NC3, perhaps with an 85-foot height along SW Alaska between 38th and 41st – which she said would “encourage buildings to have windows and doors close to the sidewalk,” and to better use alleys, among other attributes.
The mention of that sort of height came as news to at least two advisory-group members who are also on the SWDC. One of them, Sharonn Meeks of the Fairmount Community Association, said the community groups have put a lot of time and effort into this process – when do they get something more from the city than plans? McLain didn’t have an answer, though she recalled there was talk of getting the Fauntleroy Way improvements into a future Capital Improvement Program for funding. She also said a plan like this would help pave the way for future proposals. Again, the place to find out more about the planning process is the open house next Monday night, 6-8 pm, Senior Center of West Seattle (California/Oregon).
CRIME PREVENTION: Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Benjamin Kinlow continued his farewell tour, leading up to his March 15th retirement, urging everyone to continue being involved with Block Watch and other efforts. That segued right into Deanie Schwarz from the West Seattle Blockwatch Captains Network, noting that over the year since WSBWCN was founded, things have evolved – they are taking on a role beyond what they envisioned when they started the group as a networking opportunity for BW captains. She says they’re collaborating with the city and others in ways that might bring technology more deeply into their efforts.
As for the future of crime prevention services from the city, Kinlow deferred to whatever SPD chooses to announce in the future. Schwarz said their group’s understanding is that there is a review under way, to be complete by mid-March. Kinlow said he’s glad to see WSBWCN because he’d hate to see 30 years of Block Watch-building “just dissolve away” – Schwarz said that they need more volunteer power. (Besides the website, you can reach WSBWCN through its Facebook group and phone number, too.)
ELLIOTT BAY SEAWALL: Project manager Stephanie Brown led the briefing on the process of replacing the existing seawall, which she says was built in the ’30s. They’re hoping to decide on a preferred alternative by April, and then start construction in 2013 – their draft environmental-impact statement should be published by the end of this year. You can review the options by checking out the “virtual open house” you will find online here. “It’s not just a local project, but regional and even national in nature,” she explained. “There’s lots of transportation corridors that depend on it being there” – including freight, ferries, cruise ships, and “tons and tons of utilities” that the seawall protects, including one line that transports power between Canada and California, and another that supplies all the electricity for the downtown Seattle area.
They’re taking comments through February 8th, and Brown says the options are more flexible than you might think – the seawall’s location could be moved, and it could be a step-down wall instead of a flat-faced wall, in some spots. Here are the options they’re considering. The 1st phase of the project will cost $280 million, Brown says, but so far it’s only funded through design – they’re trying to get the feds to foot about two-thirds of the bill. Interesting note: They have to finish the first phase of the project before the central Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down, since there’ll be some detouring underneath the existing AWV. (The seawall replacement had been bundled with the viaduct replacement until, as Brown reminded SWDC, the deep-bore tunnel became the preferred alternative, at which time it became a city responsibility instead.)
Those are the three formal presentations slated for the meeting; we will add notes on other forthcoming discussions from its final half-hour.
ADDED 9:07 PM: The effects of the Department of Neighborhoods‘ changes also were discussed – first, with a farewell cake for Stan Lock, who served as Southwest District Coordinator until recent cuts led the city to shuffle personnel and move him to a new team in the Central Area:
SWDC co-chair Susan Melrose said the cake was donated by Bakery Nouveau. Lock said he already misses West Seattle. With him at the meeting tonight were Ed Pottharst and Steve Louie, two members of what is now a four-member “South” coordinator team. Pottharst said that for starters, accountabilities will rotate on a quarterly basis, and he is working with the SWDC this quarter.
The Southwest District Council meets the first Wednesday of each month in the board room at South Seattle Community College.