From a crime-trends update to a thorough Downtown Waterfront/Seawall briefing to updates on two city-led environmental projects (and how you can get involved with them), it was another info-packed Southwest District Council meeting last night:
CRIME TRENDS UPDATE: Southwest Precinct operations Lt. Pierre Davis said, “We’re reaping the rewards (of recent arrests) right now” – saying burglaries, car prowls, auto thefts are down. Even strongarm robberies, though other parts of the city are way up. West Seattle, said Lt. Davis, has had five in the past two months. He urges anyone interested to contact SPD to come out for Block Watch or other neighborhood presentations, CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) evaluations, etc. They want to really stress this before summer arrives along with criminals trying “more inventive things” … to “see if we can keep our bad guys in, and for individuals who want to be bad, give them the proper reward for their work.”
Morgan Community Association‘s Chas Redmond asked Lt. Davis what will happen if White Center and other adjacent areas vote in November to be annexed by Burien (that city’s council decided earlier this week to seek that vote); he said it’s too soon to say, though Seattle has a good relationship with Burien PD and other neighboring departments. He also was asked about issues including when to call police about someone “loitering in the bushes” – contact your Community Police Team officer if it is not a “happening now” issue – and parking enforcement, with people in the Triangle/Fairmount area parking in ways causing safety and visibility problems. “If it’s something that can be enforced, we’ll enforce it,” Lt. Davis promised.
Now, the non-West Seattle-specific briefings:
SEATTLE WATERFRONT/SEAWALL: Planning continues on what is hoped ultimately to be a waterfront “that people want to go to,” Steve Pearce – central waterfront project manager for SDOT – told the SWDC. Cost estimate, finance plan, and strategic plan are part of what’s coming up as the city works on its waterfront vision/plan – including the seawall replacement – now that the Alaskan Way Viaduct is coming down. Waterfront design is to be done by the end of 2015, as the deep-bored tunnel opens for traffic if all goes as scheduled, enabling demolition of what’s left of the Viaduct. The seawall – replacing the “untreated timber structure under Alaskan Way” – is to be done by then, though, the SWDC was told – phase 1, at least, with phase 2 to follow after 2020. It’s hoped that the replacement will improve fish habitat, with improvements including a “light-penetrating surface” in the sidewalk. (“It would be nice to catch fish off the waterfront again,” observed SWDC co-chair Tony Fragada, president of the Alki Community Council.)
Overall, a Central Waterfront Committee that looks at related issues, including possibly some kind of entity that would actually “maintain and program the waterfront,” according to Pearce. The area they’re looking at covers 26 blocks. The renderings shown are very different from what you see along the downtown waterfront today – with pedestrian and seating areas in abundance rather than the current fairly narrow strip of sidewalk abutting the street.
(See the entire presentation here – warning, sizable PDF.)
“Possibilities” under discussion include grandstand seating or a roller rink at Pier 62/63, maybe a swimming pool on a barge that could be brought in for the summer, and a plaza by the Seattle Aquarium, plus a “major new public space” crossing from Victor Steinbrueck Park north of Pike Place Market all the way down to the waterfront.
(New waterfront condos were part of the rendering too.) Separate from all the envisioned amenities is the street design, showing where traffic flow would split up around Pike Street, onto a new north-south street heading north from there. And there will be some novel means of pedestrian flow too – perhaps even escalators in spots where people need to get up or down a steep incline.
The waterfront will include a “very high-quality bicycle facility [path],” too, Pearce promised.
He showed what happens if you don’t continue into the tunnel, coming from the south – heading onto Alaskan Way or onto First Avenue South, to get into downtown, once the Viaduct and its midtown ramps are gone. Transit is still reviewing how it’s getting into downtown, he noted (as has been discussed in a low-key way at some of Metro’s recent public meetings). How busy will the roads be? 35,000 trips a day are envisioned starting south of Colman Dock, four times the current volume, in 2030 – NOT taking into account the possibility of higher volumes with a tolled tunnel. Waterfront Alaskan Way is being designed, as a result, with two lanes each way.
The southernmost section, from King to Yesler, he acknowledged, is “the hardest to explain” because the street is being “used different ways at different times to achieve our goals.” It will have “flex lanes” in which parking/loading will be allowed at “off-peak times” (9 am-3 pm, weekends, most likely) and the configuration will change at other times – northbound in afternoon/evening peak, for example, two lanes will be reserved for ferry traffic, two fo rthrough travel, no parking. In morning peak, the same direction would include one ferry lane, two through lanes, and one transit lane, no parking lanes. Overhead signs are most likely what will show people which lane is which – unless “more elegant” solutions arise before all this is built, he allowed. That section of the waterfront might take two cycles for a pedestrian to cross if they’re moving a little slower than average, so the median will be made a safe place to wait between cycles.
During seawall construction, there will be at least three travel lanes under the Alaskan Way Viaduct, in case you’re wondering (Redmond was). “We intend that Alaskan Way (will be) always open for traffic” during the seawall project, he declared.
What about funding? asked Junction Association rep Susan Melrose. The plan isn’t final, Steve said, but part of it – more than $200 million – is expected to come from a Local Improvement District that will be set up to charge property owners who stand to benefit from all this. That won’t quite cover the almost $300 million estimate, he said, for the street part of the project alone, but the state is covering a share too, so the “transportation portion” is covered, he said. They’re also hoping for philanthropy – “significant nonprofit donations” are hoped for. The seawall, though, will likely be funded by a citywide ballot measure, he suggested, adding that the project already is up to 35 percent design.
Find out more at waterfrontseattle.org.
CITY CLIMATE ACTION PLAN: This was the subject of the night’s second briefing, by city rep Sara Wysocki, talking about the city’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. She said the city’s not going to be overtly Big Brother in this area – “we’re not going to tell you what you can buy and what you can eat” – but will work on making information available. Technical Advisory Groups have been set up to “analyze and recommend” strategies for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. These groups will brief City Council on April 23rd for the first time in this process – not on detailed plans, but on the “bones of the plan,” said Wysocki.
A “Green Ribbon Commission” also is to be convened – made up of “civic, business, environmental, and social-equity leaders” – to review proposed strategies so that they are not in conflict with “job creation, affordable housing, public health, and social equity.” Public comment will be solicited once the April 23rd briefing happens. And Wysocki says she’d be happy to go speak with any community group interested in more dialogue on the topic. The draft plan is to come out in October, with the public-comment period on that open through December. Meantime, they’re also looking for proposals for community climate-action projects, with contracts to be awarded for up to $7,000. “These don’t have to be very big projects,” Wysocki said – maybe your street, your book club, your PTA, “your definition of community.” There’s more info on this at seattlecan.org.
COMMUNITY POWER WORKS: Briefing #3 was by Jessica Farmer, talking about this program we’ve already covered here on WSB, as Community Power Works signed on as a sponsor to get the word out about this city-run energy-efficiency-upgrade project. Through the program, you can pay $95 for a home energy assessment that would usually cost $400. And they’ll work with you to figure out ways to “identify upgrade opportunities and incentives,” averaging $2,000 in value. They’re hoping to have 2,000 home upgrades done within the next 14 months, helping homeowners “achieve 15% energy savings” – so far, though, she says savings are averaging almost twice that. P.S. Need a new heating system? She says “extra incentives” are available for “switching to high-efficiency heating.” There’s a small-business program as part of CPW too, for restaurants and small-to-medium-size grocery and convenience stores, and those assessments are free of charge. Followup questions from SWDC members included whether there are incentives for solar; not under this project, Farmer said, but they work with Seattle City Light which does.
TOTEM POLE: Carol Vincent from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society says their totem pole is finally going up next month, no date set yet, though, as restoration work has not been completed.
EVENTS COMING UP: April 21 Gathering of Neighbors … June 23 Morgan Junction Community Festival … and before then, the next meeting of the SW District Council, on May 2nd.