By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“That was amazing,” exclaimed one attendee at the end of what was probably the busiest community-council meeting this month. In the basement at The Kenney (WSB sponsor), one room away from bingo, spanning 2 hours and 20 minutes on Wednesday night, it was the quarterly meeting of the Morgan Community Association, with sixteen items on the original agenda – not counting what president Deb Barker had said she was “adding and subtracting” in the minutes before the meeting.
Hottest of the 13 topics we’re recapping is one of interest even if you DON’T live or work in Morgan – yet another city zoning initiative, one that arrived with preliminary recommendations even before the “public engagement” phase had begun:
(Click image to see full-size citywide map)
PEDESTRIAN ZONE MAPPING PROJECT: The briefing was provided by city Department of Planning and Development rep Aly Pennucci. She says this zoning overlay, if ultimately approved and implemented, would “add some requirements for new development” – including that the ground level of buildings in designated “pedestrian zones” would include commercial activity. She says the project has “started and stopped a few times over the years.” In 2012, the City Council decided about 60 areas around the city could potentially be part of this zoning – they’re shown in the map excerpted above (see the full citywide map here), and here’s the list of proposed West Seattle zones – each name links to a city doc that, if you scroll down, shows a specific map of that area (the titles are exactly as designated by the city):
Delridge Way SW between SW Brandon St. and SW Juneau St.
Westwood Park (Delridge Way SW at SW Roxbury St.)
35th Ave. SW at SW Morgan St.
35th Ave. SW at SW Holden St.
35th Ave. SW at SW Barton St.
35th Ave. SW and SW Roxbury St.
Harbor Ave. SW – N of Fairmount Ave. SW
In some areas, this zoning could potentially further reduce parking requirements, Pennucci noted – doubling the amount of commercial space exempt from the requirement (from 2,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet). She said this process also would formalize some of the emergency rules passed last fall after low-density commercial projects were proposed in high-density zones (specifically the potential CVS pharmacies here in West Seattle and a few other neighborhoods). She said it’s now time for community input – since what she called the “very preliminary recommendation” is out there. If an area disagrees with a recommendation to be included, the city wants to hear why, she said. Home page for the project is here; you can answer an online survey here.
The city’s assessment of Morgan Junction had holes poked into it from the start – no, it is NOT low auto/pedestrian-conflict zone, no, it is NOT a sidewalks-in-good-shape zone, pointed out Barker and MoCA vice president Chas Redmond. There are physical limitations to the space, Redmond pointed out, calling the zoning proposal “an attempt by DPD to put something into place that is not needed.”
“This is good feedback,” Pennucci responded, even as she continued to hear strong words of concern and criticism. One person finally observed that overall, “we have a lot of anger at DPD” – which Pennucci did not dispute, semi-laughing, “I feel it!” – so, she was told, some time should be taken to look more calmly at this before the city plows forward with it.
Then there was the point that this happened to be the first city presentation to a West Seattle neighborhood group, while nine proposed zones are on the “preliminary recommendation” map. This was noted by meeting attendee Dave Montoure, asking when the city would be presenting to the West Seattle Junction Association and West Seattle Chamber of Commerce (both groups he has chaired). Bennucci replied she can be there by request, saying Morgan just put in an early request.
Before she wrapped up, Redmond speaks up again and says Morgan is already pedestrian-friendly, but some parts of this recommendation would go unnecessarily far: Until we “get rid of internal-combustion vehicles, we’re not going to get rid of the Shell station” (on California a block south of Fauntleroy), for example. And with increasing fury, he took issue with the fact that DPD had come forward with a “preliminary recommendation” before any community conversation.
Climbing out of the hot seat, Pennucci said final recommendations are supposed to be presented to Mayor Murray by late summer/early fall.
Now, highlights rom the rest of the MoCA agenda – shorter recaps ahead, starting with more development-related info:
CALIFORNIA/FAUNTLEROY INTERSECTION: Barker presented a followup on the preceding meeting’s discussion with SDOT’s Mike Ward, who couldn’t come tonight, and specifically on whether the “level of service” at California/Fauntleroy had declined since RapidRide launched more than a year ago. Stats show there were 13 collisions last year in the general intersection area involving pedestrians/bicyclists, up from 9 in 2012, 8 in 2011, 10 in 2010. The intersection, Redmond picked up, is at “Level D” now, one step above failing, he said, while adding that SDOT is still not providing traffic-count information for the intersection. They will investigate the feasibility of a right-turn-only lane on northbound California at Fauntleroy, Redmond said. MoCA overall is still frustrated with not getting all the information they’ve requested, but they vow not to let up.
ROAD WORK AHEAD: As reported here last Monday, SDOT’s work list for the year includes repaving on California between Fauntleroy and Holly. Barker mentioned that it’s happening because of a Neighborhood Project Fund $90,000 allocation, and the timing will be vital because if that stretch is used in the “haul route” for the excavation at the Lowman Beach/Murray CSO project, the repaving shouldn’t happen until after that is done. Speaking of which …
MURRAY CSO UPDATE: King County Wastewater Treatment presented the latest on the million-gallon-storage-tank plan for what had been a residential block across from Lowman Beach Park. Recent changes at the site were recapped – construction trailers in the northeastern corner of Lowman, fencing around the Murray Pump Station which “will be there for the duration of the project,” but it was reiterated, “There will always be access to Lowman Beach Park.” The western sidewalk at Lowman will always remain open.
What’s happening now: Final permits, some pre-construction survey work on-site, checking conditions such as settlement (which can be an issue on a site like this with a “high level of groundwater,” he said). “The biggest major activity you’ll see on the site is installing the soil nail walls … on the eastern side, Lincoln Park Way, stabilizing that hillside with 15-to-30-foot steel rods, likely starting mid-to-late February. It will be followed by excavation for the tank itself.
Some specific issues: Workers will park in available on-street parking nearby, but will try to limit the impact in ways such as carpooling. The haul route is not yet finalized. The heavy-duty hauling will last into the third quarter of this year, the project team said. Then of course there will still be truck traffic for concrete, etc. Work hours will be 7 am-6 pm, and “higher noise levels” can’t begin until 8 am.
Last weekend’s power outage was brought up and it was noted that the noisy portable generator might be needed now and then for scheduled intermittent power interruption during construction.
WEST SEATTLE-WIDE LAND USE COMMITTEE? Other neighborhoods have them – so maybe West Seattle should start one too, looking at peninsula-wide issues, inviting in development applicants, as Barker explained, to talk about projects – in a non-binding way, but at least “not feeling like things are running amok and wondering who’s in charge.” If you’re interested, you can contact Barker and/or Redmond via the contact info listed on the MoCA website.
DEVELOPMENT UPDATES: The microhousing proposal at 5949 California SW has its permits, but has yet to start construction, Barker notes, adding that no public process was required. 6917 California, also no-parking but NOT a microhousing project, is “on hold” at the moment because the city is requiring studies including one related to parking.
TOWNHOUSE PROJECT BY CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE: Developer Joe Paar, architect David Neiman, and church pastor Terry Mattson brought a quick update on the six-townhouse 5911 42nd SW project we first reported in September.
“This is a project we requires that we go through a Comp Plan Amendment [rezoning] to do it, and that requires the endorsement of the community,” Neiman noted. He said they had a formal neighborhood meeting last month to present the plan: “In general, we got a lot of support about the project -folks understood that project was essential to saving the church and protecting it as a neighborhood institution … They were glad it would save the exceptional trees on the site, and that we would preserve the open space as a park, and that the parking ratio is 2 spaces for each home … much more generous than what would be required … and that it’s aiming for an aesthetic and scale of single-family homes.”
Concerns he mentioned included: Regrading on the site, building close to the trees, building in what’s been a “park” and whether it would feel like a community asset or like the homes’ front yard, would the townhouses be owned or rented (answer: owned). Neiman says their plan has been approved by an arborist who says “it is possible to build that close” to the trees. The homes are “a three-story stack,” two living floors over garage, but the garage level will be “buried” by the six feet of fill they’re planning. Timeline: In February/March, they plan “show and tell” meetings with neighbors and also with MoCA, so that by MoCA’s April meeting they can seek the group’s endorsement. May is the annual period of submitting for a Comp Plan amendment to pave the way for their rezoning proposal, so their goal is to have community support by then. It is then pointed out that this might not be just a “spot rezone” – this might also then wind up rezoning more nearby properties. (Watch the project via the city DPD’s website.)
LETTER RE: 4755 FAUNTLEROY: Following up on a previous meeting’s discussion, Barker discussed a letter that the board has sent supporting “better design” for the 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW project, after declining to sign on to a letter supporting the Getting It Right for West Seattle campaign.
BETTER BIKE RACKS: Tod Rodman says MoCA is working for nicer-looking, more-usable bicycle racks for Morgan Junction. They’ve taken an informal survey – “We’ve got plenty of bike racks now, but nobody’s using them” – and plan to talk with SDOT about the possibilities. One attendee suggested that sidewalk repair might be needed before upgraded bicycle racks could be installed.
WEBSITE UPDATE: Redmond says the morganjunction.org website has been upgraded so that more items can be, and are being, posted, and you can comment there too.
FRIENDS OF MORGAN JUNCTION PARKS, YEAR ONE: Barry White recapped FoMJP’s first year, saying the work of volunteers has made a huge difference over that time. “If you’d seen the enormous pile of weeds we’d produced coming out of the ground, you’d be impressed,” he said, noting that – among major accomplishments – the horsetail “is under control.” In fall, the group branched out into properties including the “triangle” property next to West Seattle Thriftway (WSB sponsor), where 20 volunteers from Peace Lutheran Church joined in. FoMJP is hoping to “add some foundational plantings” this year, particularly to that site, underneath the crossroads sign. SDOT might even provide the plants if FoMJP provides design and labor, White said, adding that the group is hoping to put in some storage facilities, hoping to obtain a small city grant; the storage could also be used for emergency preparedness. Down the road, they’re hoping for more trees and shrubbery for Morgan Junction Park. Find out more about FoMJP via its Facebook page.
MORGAN COMMUNITY FESTIVAL DATE: Saturday, June 21 – be there! (And yes, Barker said, Bubbleman will be back.) Lots of volunteers are needed. Musical applications too – firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRECINCT ADVISORY GROUP LIAISON NEEDED: MoCA still needs a rep for the Southwest Precinct Advisory Group, as a liaison between the neighborhood group and local police, not just for “involvement” but also for “community appraisal,” as Eldon Olson put it, providing “feedback in and around the reforms taking place in and around the Police Department.” The group has been meeting in the evening on the second Thursday of the month, 10 months of the year.
Morgan Community Association meets every three months – agendas and much more can be found any time on the MoCA website at morganjunction.org.