If you still haven’t seen a presentation about the city’s pedestrian retail zoning project, you haven’t been to a neighborhood meeting in West Seattle lately.
TonightNext month, Aly Pennucci (right) from the city Department of Planning and Development speaks about it again, this time at the Admiral Neighborhood Association‘s meeting (7 pm March 11th, Admiral Congregational Church). Last night, she was scheduled to talk with the North Delridge Neighborhood Council. Before that, three other meetings – including last week’s Southwest District Council presentation, which tops this report on that meeting.
This potential zoning change for some neighborhood business districts would come with changes, as she explained – auto-related businesses wouldn’t be allowed; parking might be reduced; curb cuts would be minimized … What might be required in existing pedestrian zones as well as new ones:
*Overhead weather protection
*Finalizing minimum floor-area-requirement rules implemented last year as emergency rules
*Arts facilities – should they be allowed in all pedestrian zones?
The 50-plus areas are not yet pedestrian zones nor subject to the rules governing them – they were designated study zones. The areas in purple on the map currently are “interim” pedestrian zones – subject to “80 percent of street level must be commercial” but no further rules about what TYPE of commercial – which this might change.
She reiterated that the preliminary recommendations “are meant to start a conversation.” They’re hoping to forward formal recommendations by end of summer, early fall, Pennucci said, after sending proposed formal recommendations around in late spring.
SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch (photo below) asked if pedestrian zoning would change density. No, Pennucci replied. The floor-area-ratio requirement is the closest thing – it’s meant to prevent sites from being underutilized, with, for example, a single-story building. But that’s only for urban village/urban area development, she explained. The documentation being circulated right now isn’t necessarily clear about that, suggested SWDC member Cindi Barker. Also clarified after a question from co-chair Sharonn Meeks (also in photo below): This would be looking at adding pedestrian zones AND adding requirements for existing ones.
“That’s why we want to hear from people and businesses who are in existing pedestrian zones (too),” said Pennucci. It wouldn’t be retroactive, but would be “associated with new development.” And it wouldn’t affect projects that are already “vested” – making their way through the system already. Would it change the setbacks for commercial development, if “wider sidewalks” were required? Pennucci said there are no specifics on that yet.
Chas Redmond wondered about the boundaries, why pedestrian zoning in The Junction, for example, wouldn’t be extended. Pennucci said extension isn’t really in the scope of this project. The discussion turned to whether it might be natural in the future to meld, perhaps, the Admiral and Junction areas. Oustimovitch then asked about some non-intuitive areas such as the Admiral and Junction areas perhaps eventually melding. And he wondered about what’s on the map as Zone 55 – a section of Harbor Avenue. That’s under the jurisdiction of the Alki Community Council, whose president Tony Fragada asked Pennucci to come talk to them about it.
She said that these proposed changes are not meant to transform areas into immediately bustling neighborhood zones – “we’re trying to both promote and protect …” And in fact, she said they had only “anecdotal” research on how fast areas that get this kind of help, develop. But it was meant to provide flexibility, she said.
A Seattle Housing Authority rep at the meeting observed that shortage of parking was leading to trouble for businesses in some of these types of zones.
Why are live-work units being prohibited in these zones? They’re not being used in a way that “contributes to a pedestrian oriented environment,” often just being used for home offices.
Barker pointed out that live-works in Morgan had perfumeries, a “yoga place”…
Meeks asked again, why is much of California left out?
Pennucci said the online survey deadline of February 27th is probably not going to work because they have meetings in March. (But take the survey ASAP!)
NEIGHBORHOOD SAFETY: Jim Curtin from SDOT came to talk about Neighbors for Road Safety, “one of the tools we have to achieve the goals set forth in our Road Safety Action Plan … really aimed at community councils, block watch captains, programs like that.”
Neighborhoods interested in participating can get custom analyses of the problems in their neighborhood including prioritization – “and data is a really really good way to prioritize; there’s no way around the data.” Once priorities are listed – starting with a “custom collision analysis” – then solutions can be figured out and funding can be found.
Some solutions, recommendations, and advice are “straightforward” but others are customized for our area. Curtin said it’s a way to “on a deeper level, address the issues that are occurring on our streets.” He said he was just here to pitch it in hopes that the various neighborhood reps comprising SWDC would take it back to their groups and see about getting involved.
Redmond asked about road striping and whether there’s a type of paint that works better in our visibility/weather conditions. Curtin said yes, they’ve been experimenting in recent years – “and we figured out that a new type of paint, MMA, (is) much more durable, longer-lasting type of paint, has glass beads embedded in it, and we’ve started to use it now, especially on our principal arterial corridors.”
Meeks asked how the program is funded. From the Road Safety Initiative, said Curtin, and “this has been part of my job for a very very long time.”
The program is a little more than a year old. So, have we seen any progress? asked Redmond, regarding young men, who are at highest risk of involvement of serious collisions? “We’ve made some significant strides in reaching out to them via social media,” said Curtin. “In one week we were able to reach more than 200,000 people in Seattle with humorous messages that have really important information.”
Are speed humps effective? asked Fragada. “Definitely,” said Curtin. “They bring speeds down.” And yes, some drivers insist on “flooring it” once they’re over them, “which is a concern of ours.”
At least sign up for the e-mail list, Curtin urged as he wrapped up his pitch.
CITY NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL: Redmond said there was discussion of the topic of how the number of city-created “districts” – 13, including two for West Seattle, Southwest and Delridge Neighborhoods – would be affected by the newly created-by-ballot-measure seven City Council districts. Delridge had voted not to support further reduction of the number of districts, and Southwest had previously said they’d back whatever Delridge thought, so West Seattle’s two district councils are opposed to a potential reduction.
DEVELOPMENT: Per Barker, low-rise changes will be drafted and likely presented in April. The microhousing appeal was denied and so is likely now a “live concern.” Rules regarding wall signage are in play, including fabric signs possibly being allowed as permanent, as part of a project called “Coordinated Street Furniture” to allow advertising on benches, for example. This could all come to a final vote in March. Other projects emerged when DPD‘s 2014 work plan did – including a review of the Design Review program, and Transit Oriented Development. “Please pay attention to this stuff for your neighborhoods!” exhorted Barker.
CALIFORNIA AVENUE SURVEY: Also from Redmond: He and other reps visited 4Culture and the Department of Neighborhoods in hopes of grant funding for the initial survey (see our previous report here), which would be the 3 or 4 blocks around The Junction, front and back, north and south. One glitch: Not having a separate nonprofit to front it. They are hoping the Southwest Seattle Historical Society will be their financial sponsor to submitting a grant request. Then they would have to get qualified historic surveyors. We’re “pretty close,” said Redmond – but the results are unknown. The first initial survey would show whether there’s the potential for a historic district, or just a couple buildings worth looking at saving.
NEXT MONTH: New West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Dennis has been invited to next month’s meeting. The SWDC meets at 6:30 pm on first Wednesdays (most months) at the Senior Center of West Seattle.