FOLLOWUP: Why SDOT halved Westwood walkways project after approving it

(New ‘preliminary design’ for walkways project, showing just the 26th SW walkway)

Tuesday’s SDOT announcement essentially halving a Neighborhood Street Fund project previously approved for the Westwood area raised some questions. We took them to SDOT.

To recap – the community-proposed, SDOT-approved Chief Sealth Walkway Improvements Project was to create two walkways along 26th and 25th. SDOT’s announcement said the department is dropping the 25th walkway because a development application is expected in the future and the developer would be expected to pay for something similar – though, the city acknowledged, it might be “several years.”

So our first question to SDOT was, with nothing showing publicly in city files, how did the city find out about this development plan and how much of a sure thing is it? This question, and our others, were answered by SDOT spokesperson Norm Mah:

During the summer and fall of 2016 while NSF applications were being developed through conceptual design (before final projects were selected), the design team reviewed active permits for future development around this site and found nothing, leading the team to propose the solution for a pathway on 25th Ave SW. However, the SDOT design team was contacted in the spring of 2017 by an architectural firm who shared preliminary plans for the adjacent parcel on the east side of 25th Ave SW. SDOT’s Street Use division then confirmed that the planned NSF project on 25th Ave SW would be required by code when this development moves forward.

In the interim, SDOT considered low-cost alternatives to improve this pathway for residents of this neighborhood, but any changes SDOT makes to this pathway now could result in the developer not being required to construct permanent improvements in the future. As stated in our outreach letter, we believe that the high likelihood of this development occurring meant that investing public funds at this location right now would not be the best use of public tax dollars.

One reader asked if there was precedent for this.

SDOT projects, including NSF projects, are frequently dropped or adjusted in response to future development. Fortunately, this entire project was not dropped and residents in this neighborhood and Chief Sealth students will still benefit from an improved pathway on 26th Ave SW.

With limited funds for improvements, we need to use public funds carefully to build projects that otherwise would not be constructed. These overlaps are typically found earlier in the project design phase because an active permit is filed.

Speaking of money, we also asked what would be done with the money that now will not be spent on this project. Mah says they don’t know yet:

At this point in the design process it is too early to know how much extra funds are available from the amount we budgeted for this project. We will know more in October and can provide the community with an update at that time.

So, we’ll be checking back. Meantime, the 26th SW walkway is planned for construction next year. (Here’s the original project proposal, as summarized by SDOT for the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council review process.)

P.S. The newly renamed Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition plans to talk about the project during its first fall meeting, next Tuesday (September 5th), 6:15 pm, at Southwest Library (9010 35th SW). The full meeting agenda is in our calendar listing.

7 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Why SDOT halved Westwood walkways project after approving it"

  • Melissa August 31, 2017 (12:16 pm)

    Hasn’t this whole process been riddled with problems from the start.  This project was not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd choice. It was not chosen because it was it was thought that Safe Routes to Schools would be a better funding source.  SDOT did not properly advertise the event so members of the community could not attend and express this.

    Now you are halving a project which should of come from another funding source?  

  • JRR August 31, 2017 (1:05 pm)

    I would still like a specific example of a public project being dropped before an actual deal had been made/signed on the dotted line. This still sounds speculative. I would like to know who this developer is and, if they have such a good idea, what are they waiting for? 

    We need public investment, not more private companies looking to make a buck off our slightly less expensive real estate.

    • WSB August 31, 2017 (1:24 pm)

      Contacting the site owner listed in King County Parcel Viewer is on my list. Land ownership is all public records online that don’t even require a disclosure request.

    • sam-c August 31, 2017 (2:04 pm)

      “What are they waiting for? “

      Maybe they are waiting in the LONG line of folks hoping to apply for a permit ! :)

  • Gene August 31, 2017 (1:55 pm)

     Wouldn’t bet on any accountability by SDOT as to where the $$ not spent on the 25th St SW will go( if indeed there will be $$ left- wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the 26th St SW half goes ” over budget)

    • Mikekey August 31, 2017 (2:02 pm)

      On the other hand, they could have spent the money on the second walkway and then had to tear it all up in the future.  But I agree, where WILL the leftover money go?

      • Nancy Folsom August 31, 2017 (3:41 pm)

        I believe that developers have to pay to relay any infrastructure they disturb. So, it’s not saving us any money.

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