West Seattle Blog... » Southwest District Council http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Sun, 25 Jan 2015 07:41:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Department of Neighborhoods leader faces West Seattle neighborhood leaders @ Southwest District Council http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/department-of-neighborhoods-leader-faces-west-seattle-neighborhood-leaders-southwest-district-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/department-of-neighborhoods-leader-faces-west-seattle-neighborhood-leaders-southwest-district-council/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 07:56:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297411

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s not the Department of Neighborhoods‘ job to get more people to apply for its matching-funds grants, its director told West Seattle neighborhood leaders Tuesday night.

But DoN director Bernie Matsuno acknowledged that a “conversation” is needed before her department tries again to make changes to the rules for who can seek the funds and the process for vetting them.

Her appearance before the Southwest District Council – with Delridge District Council members in attendance too – came shortly after a round of proposed changes was widely panned by leaders in both of West Seattle’s city-drawn “districts,” and subsequently shelved.

She faced questions about that as well as other issues, including her own status in city government, not yet reconfirmed by the full City Council despite Mayor Murray’s voiced intention a year ago to keep her on.

Her hour with the SWDC and visitors including leaders from most of West Seattle’s neighborhood councils began with a few updates, before the Q/A.

Matsuno began by saying her department will be moving out of the Municipal Tower and into the 4th floor of City Hall this August. “The space we are going to be moving into is the space currently housing the City Attorney’s Office, which is consolidating its operations … To be quite frank, I like the idea of moving into City Hall, it feels like we will be closer to the Mayor and Council, which is a good thing, and it will be easier to find us.” She clarified on a followup question that it’s the entire department except for the neighborhood district coordinators, who will remain at neighborhood centers (such as the one serving West Seattle, at 2801 SW Thistle, where the South Region coordinatorsYun Pitre, Jenny Frankl, and Kerry Wade – are based).

Matsuno also mentioned toplines of the 2015 budget, first outlined in a letter she said she had sent neighborhood leaders in September. Not as much of a budget boost as she had hoped, given the construction boom, she said, but for starters, the P-Patch Community Gardens program got an increase, enough to cover its water bill and maintain a database to help with many things from managing volunteer rosters to enabling people to sign up online. The Neighborhood Matching Funds, meantime, had been carrying a balance of $1.5 million in unspent money, Matsuno said, and the new budget moves that money to the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund, for 2014 and 2015 projects. Asked which projects that money is going to, Matsuno said she believes the affected projects already have gotten word.

The next PACE leadership academy will take applications sometime this spring, it was noted; two attendees, Amanda Kay Helmick and Tod Rodman, were in the last class. The word about this is usually shared via the district coordinators and District Councils, Matsuno said.

Asked by new SWDC co-chair David Whiting of the Admiral Neighborhood Association about the controversial Matching Fund recommendations that were strongly opposed by neighborhood leaders and shelved last month by DoN, Matsuno acknowledged that not only were people unhappy about the recommendations, they also had voiced concern about the makeup of the advisory committee involved in coming up with them. She said she didn’t think the proposals were all bad – such as increasing Small Sparks to $2,000 – but she said the thought was, “let’s just hold off and have a broader conversation before moving forward with change. … So in 2015, nothing has changed, with maybe the exception of application due dates.”

Kathy Nyland of the mayor’s office, seated next to Matsuno for a SWDC guest appearance, was asked for her thoughts on the proposed NMF changes, and she noted that West Seattle feedback to Mayor Murray’s office had proliferated as well. “Some of the changes could be good, but .. we heard people were concerned about the changes but more about the process, people didn’t know there was a conversation going on until the presentation at the tail end …some of these might be great ideas but they’re ideas worthy of a broader conversation,” so she said they wanted a more thorough process.

Matsuno added that if anyone is concerned the Neighborhood Matching Fund is going away, “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen – it’s so institutionalized in the city’s system … my feeling is, we will always have a Neighborhood Matching Fund in the city of Seattle.”

Some wanted to know more about the conversations that would ensue before potential changes came up again, and who would be involved in the process. Matsuno at this point tried to explain how the proposals had come about in the first place, saing it all dated back to a survey that went out to 300+ people after the last Large Project Fund cycle, “and in that survey we asked for feedback on what worked, what would people like to see, and would you be interested in serving on an Advisory Committee” about the NMF. About 50 people said yes, she said. The committee wasn’t “hand-picked” as some seemed to think, she said. Matsuno said she’s hoping they will continue to be involved. Nyland said they’re in agreement that more people should be involved, even people who don’t know anything about the Matching Fund. Matsuno affirmed later that they would be discussing bringing more people into the loop before considering changes again.

The questioning grew more pointed, focusing on whether Matsuno’s department was losing its connection to neighborhoods, and whether the issue of dwindling applications for the Matching Fund money was a symptom/result of that. “We can’t force people to apply,” Matsuno contended. While saying that DoN has tried to reach groups that “don’t know how to apply,” she acknowledged that effort might not have been “consistent” in lower-income neighborhoods, though ultimately she insisted the department “do(es) a pretty darn good job of trying to get as much money as possible out” to those neighborhoods.

But, she added a short time later, “I don’t think we’re ever going to have enough staff to be the outreach (arm of) the Neighborhood Matching Fund … I really think the place we can use a lot of help with the matching fund is places like this.” Neighborhood groups need to spread the word of the grants’ availability, she said, once again saying her department just doesn’t have the personnel to do that: “I would really like to go back to a time when we had nine neighborhood project managers and 13 district coordinators … I am really open to any ideas you all have about how we can get the word out more.”

A response came quickly from Junction Neighborhood Organization director RenĂ© Commons: Get active on social media, which is more “modern” than putting up posters about the funds. (Though Matsuno didn’t mention it in reply, her department does have some social-media presence – including accounts on Twitter at @seaneighborhood, and on Facebook.)

Another thorny issue came up – the issue of whether the DoN should have a representative at City Neighborhood Council meetings. Matsuno said she doesn’t have the staff to commit someone to regularly attend: “It was a decision I made that we couldn’t afford to do that any more.” She said she had inherited in 2011 a department that had been decimated, with key positions cut and the number of neighborhood-district coordinators reduced (here’s our fall 2010 report on Matsuno’s predecessor discussing those cuts with the SWDC).

Pete Spalding from Pigeon Point then asked about Matsuno’s status, not yet re-confirmed by the City Council a year after Mayor Murray took office, saying he wanted to keep her in charge of the department.

She pointed out that a council committee approved her re-appointment last spring, and then gave her recap of the resulting controversy that stalled it: “I will share with you why i have not gone to the full Council – staff members raised concerns about practices in the department, complaints of race and sex discrimination. The council was very concerned about the workplace environment in (the department). I was asked to have those two complaints be investigated and resolved, and then on top of that have an organizational assessment done at DON, rightly so when you have those kinds of complaints. The complaints have been investigated, the organizational assessment has been completed and shared with the Mayor’s Office. I wholeheartedly agreed they shouldn’t go forward with the confirmation if there is any question about (the environment in the department).”

But, she said, she had no idea of a timetable for a decision on whether her reappointment would go forward or not.

Next issue: Cindi Barker from Morgan Junction brought up the city’s lack of followup on Let’s Talk, West Seattle (as reported here last month), the June event that was declared to be a chance for the neighborhood and city government to have a conversation, with robust followup. (Though much of LTWS involved Department of Planning and Development-related issues, Matsuno’s department also was involved, and she was there for the event in June.)

Barker reminded Matsuno and Nyland that LTWS had emerged as a followup to the mayor’s April 2014 Neighborhood Summitenthusiastically attended by many WS reps – but in her view had turned out to be “a big, big failure,” with no one assigned to, or given time to, pursue responses to the questions and concerns that emerged at the event. Nyland said she didn’t consider it a failure. Barker countered that, “All it did was reveal the problems within the (city departments), and we are still sitting here with all the growth and chaos happening in development, and (DPD) has done nothing to respond to the list.” She said she was ready to call for the mayor himself to come here for a community meeting.

JuNO’s Commons interjected at this point that she had been trying for eight months to get the mayor’s attention, but had not replied to a single e-mail she had sent. She even had copied staffers, she said, to no avail. “We want him to come and visit our community.”

Nyland at that point said that a few weeks ago someone had approached her to bring up an e-mail from JuNO, sent all those months ago, and said she had told them to “find time on the calendar.”

So, Barker then asked, how do they make sure an invitation for the mayor to visit the District Council gets through?

Nyland first mentioned “a web form.” No one responds to that, several in the room countered. Well, Nyland said, “you can cc me and I’ll flag it. But I’ll ask for a little patience because …”

Barker then reminded Nyland six months had already been lost, in the case of “Let’s Talk, West Seattle.”

Nyland pleaded that she’s swamped and can barely clear her voicemail before dozens more messages come in.

Matsuno stepped in and brought up one much-mentioned request from the “Let’s Talk” event, the recurring question of how West Seattle, in danger of being cut off from the rest of the city in case of catastrophe, can attract a hospital. While the DoN can’t make that happen, it can offer the matching-fund grants for people who want to explore the idea.

Shortly thereafter, the conversation with the city reps ended. A few other items of discussion at the meeting:

FAUNTLEROY BOULEVARD PROJECT: Past SWDC co-chair Sharonn Meeks from Fairmount said she had talked with City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen – the only candidate for City Council District 1 who was NOT at this meeting (Meeks said he wanted to be, but had conflicts, and plans to attend next month) – regarding the Fauntleroy Boulevard project. Its design has been fully funded, but no construction money has been identified, and Meeks said she learned the potential price tag that’s being thrown around – reportedly $18 million. But, she continued, fully a third of that was described to her as the cost of undergrounding utilities, which might not be necessary for the “gateway” project to succeed. (In fact, the cross-section shown below, from the city website, features utility poles.)

“Rather than let it die on the vine, (undergrounding) is a piece we can accept, or not,” she suggested. Meeks also thought it would be a good idea for past Triangle Advisory Group members to re-engage as the project moves toward the search for funding. More followup to come.

GRAIN ELEVATOR ART? Though it’s on the other side of the bay, a proposal for art on the port-owned Pier 86 grain elevators was pitched – supporters are looking for a letter of support. They’re seeking a city Small and Simple Grant to fund their project. “Sounds like a great idea,” one attendee suggested toward the end, and so a letter of support will be forthcoming. (Whiting won applause for, as one person put it, successfully negotiating his first expression of council support.)

The Southwest District Council meets on first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm at the Senior Center of West Seattle. All welcome.

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Department of Neighborhoods director returning to West Seattle for Wednesday’s Southwest District Council meeting http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/department-of-neighborhoods-director-returning-to-west-seattle-for-wednesdays-southwest-district-council-meeting/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/department-of-neighborhoods-director-returning-to-west-seattle-for-wednesdays-southwest-district-council-meeting/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 01:21:40 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297171 The agenda’s out for the year’s first meeting of the Southwest District Council, and the headline guest is Bernie Matsuno, who is about to start her fifth year as director of the Department of Neighborhoods. SWDC members, who are from community councils and other key organizations around western West Seattle, might well have some pointed questions, given, for one, the recently scrapped recommendations to change how some city matching funds are handled. All are welcome at the meeting, 6:30 pm Wednesday (January 7th) at the Senior Center of West Seattle (Oregon/California). It will also be the first meeting for new co-chairs David Whiting (Admiral Neighborhood Association) and Eric Iwamoto (Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council).

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City scraps controversial proposals to change Neighborhood Matching Fund program, process http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/city-scraps-controversial-changes-to-neighborhood-matching-fund-program/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/city-scraps-controversial-changes-to-neighborhood-matching-fund-program/#comments Sat, 03 Jan 2015 07:11:56 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297001 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

We’ve learned that the city has scrapped proposed changes to the Neighborhood Matching Fund process – changes strongly opposed by West Seattle’s two District Councils.

This came to light after the Department of Neighborhoods sent out a news release today containing deadlines and other information about this year’s process and timelines for seeking the NMF grants. Noting that the announcement made no mention of the proposed changes, we asked DoN spokesperson Lois Maag to verify that they indeed were not being implemented; Maag confirmed that it’s “status quo” for this year, and said that council chairs had recently been sent word of that.

The proposals primarily involved who could apply for the grants and who from the neighborhoods would vet applications. They were presented (and criticized) at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council‘s October meeting (WSB coverage here) and the Southwest District Council‘s November meeting (WSB coverage here). The potential removal of District Councils from the application-vetting process was a particular sticking point.

We confirmed tonight with DNDC chair Mat McBride that DoN indeed had sent word the changes weren’t going forward. In her memo, department director Bernie Matsuno said in part:

… Over the past year, an NMF Advisory Committee deliberated and developed several proposals for the program. Due to the feedback received regarding these recommendations, we are not moving forward at this time. … We will continue engaging the community and having a more robust conversation about any possible improvements to the NMF program.

Meantime – if you are interested in finding out about this year’s grant opportunities, all the information is in the full news release made public today. One West Seattle-specific date – those interested in applying for a grant from the Large Project Fund (deadline May 4th) must attend a workshop, and the only one in West Seattle is set for Tuesday, March 10, 6 pm, High Point Community Center (6420 34th SW).

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New leaders for Southwest District Council, as year wraps up http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/new-leaders-for-southwest-district-council-as-year-wraps-up/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/new-leaders-for-southwest-district-council-as-year-wraps-up/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 01:26:18 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294108 Meet David Whiting and Eric Iwamoto, new co-chairs of the Southwest District Council:

Passing the torch was part of the short official agenda for last night’s monthly meeting of the SWDC, which includes reps from community councils and other key organizations around western West Seattle. Whiting is president of the Admiral Neighborhood Association and Iwamoto co-chairs the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council.

This past year’s co-chairs got a fond farewell – Sharonn Meeks of the Fairmount Community Association and Vlad Oustimovitch from the Fauntleroy Community Association.

The major item on the short agenda was a followup on proposed Neighborhood Matching Fund grant changes, which have drawn concerns from district councils around the city, especially because those groups would be removed from their role vetting applications for grants before they move to citywide review. (We covered last month’s discussion at the SWDC and, before that, to the Delridge District Council, as well as the letter written and sent by the latter.)

So far, no changes have been implemented, reported Neighborhood District Coordinator Yun Pitre, city liaison to the SWDC.

Members said they would like to book Department of Neighborhoods director Bernie Matsuno to come talk with them about this issue and others.

SEATTLE NERD REPS DISCUSS APPEAL RULING: Two days after the Hearing Examiner’s ruling on their challenge to an Avalon Way development (as reported here), Paul Haury and Chuck Burkhalter were at SWDC, and were asked to talk about it a bit. Asked how much the fight cost, their reply: $100,000. They said they went door-to-door in their neighborhood, 32nd SW north of the Avalon Way apartment row, to raise money, among other methods (selling T-shirts and sweatshirts, for example). Neighbors had been extensively involved since the first Southwest Design Review Board meeting two years ago (WSB coverage here).

“Hopefully the next neighborhood won’t have to go what we went through what we went through,” Haury says. “Our name was what it was about, all we wanted was reasonable development …” He stressed that the neighborhood didn’t want to stop development on the site, but instead sought something “reasonable.”

“We had so many (neighborhood) meetings about this – (thinking) hopefully we would win and hopefully this sets a path for other people … you have to do something and it was either let them walk on us or give it a try.” Haury recalled that the decision was so complex, that after reading it, he called their veteran lawyer, Peter Eglick, to say, “Did we win?”

They hope “the more people that know about this, the more people who will know (they can challenge a decision).”

Oustimovitch, who had been called as a witness during the appeal hearing (which we covered over three days in October) and had served as a fill-in DRB member during the original reviews, observed, “Winning was not a foregone conclusion at all .. it was like taking on Goliath there, two Goliaths.” (The neighborhood group faced off against the city Department of Planning and Development as well as the prospective developer, Northlake, represented by eminent land-use lawyer Rich Hill.)

P.S. We requested comment from DPD after the decision came in late Monday; as of right now, end of day Thursday, we’re still waiting.

SUBSTATION CLEANUP: As published here earlier this week, City Light was planning a cleanup at the former Dakota ex-substation, supposedly starting earlier that day. Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, which has been working to get the ex-substations saved as open space rather than sold off, protested. We checked the site today and saw no activity, so we’re checking to see if the cleanup work has been delayed or called off.

The SW District Council meets at 6:30 pm on first Wednesdays at the Senior Center of West Seattle, public welcome.

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Southwest District Council, report #2: More opposition to matching-fund changes; ‘Let’s Talk’ followup; new co-chairs http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/southwest-district-council-report-2-more-opposition-to-matching-fund-changes-lets-talk-followup-new-co-chairs/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/southwest-district-council-report-2-more-opposition-to-matching-fund-changes-lets-talk-followup-new-co-chairs/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 12:09:39 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=291315 They’re the biggest grants the city offers to neighborhood groups – and big proposed changes in the process and eligibility are leading to big pushback from neighborhood advocates, as evidenced again when the Southwest District Council met on Wednesday night. That tops our second report from the meeting (first one is here), which concluded with the election of new co-chairs for next year:

NEIGHBORHOOD MATCHING FUND: Minh Chau Le from the Department of Neighborhoods introduced Alki resident Jackie Ramels, currently on an advisory committee recommending changes to the NMF, mostly in its Large Projects Fund grants (up to $100,000).

Ramel mentioned her rough reception at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council last month, explaining she is a “citizen-activist” who didn’t have previous knowledge of the long-simmering tension between the district councils and the city, and felt she “got bombarded” at DNDC, not having realized the advisory committee involvement was a step into a minefield.

That said, she got part of the way into the explanation before the questions and declarations erupted again, as they had at DNDC. The idea of opening the LPF to “non-geographic-based applicants” was not popular, but even more opposition focused on the change in how applications are reviewed: Instead of going through the District Councils, which currently look at proposals and decide which to forward on for citywide review, applications would go directly to the Citywide Review Team.

Chas Redmond from Morgan Junction, long involved in the City Neighborhood Council, said “a recommendation to remove the District Councils from the process is not one that the District Councils will appreciate” because of a difficult history that ultimately resulted in “a nosedive” in applications for the Large Project Fund.

“I’m just here from the committee to tell you what our recommendations are,” Ramels said, adding that council members would have to subsequently take their concerns to the Department of Neighborhoods.

SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch subsequently explained what he said neighborhood groups consider to be “an accounting scam” in how the Large Project Fund money is handled/routed. Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights CC‘S Amanda Kay Helmick then spoke up, noting she also is the Delridge District Council’s rep to the City Neighborhood Council, and mentioning the letter that council has written to the city saying that the recommendations violate existing city policy. (We published the letter in this followup.)

Redmond suggested the committee should have known its work was “violating a trust.” Ramels took exception to that. It was suggested that the City Neighborhood Council should have been involved in the process, but Ramels said she was told CNC wouldn’t talk to the Department of Neighborhoods. Redmond said the friction went back to criticism from DoN director Bernie Matsuno of the CNC’s Neighborhood Matching Fund committee (with which he was involved). The inference from several was that Matsuno set up the advisory committee to bypass the CNC.

Breaking the tension, Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association asked if the new proposals have any delineation on what percentage of the Large Projects Fund should be spent on geographic proposals vs. nongeographic proposals. Basic answer seemed to be “no.” DON’s Chau Le noted that the Matching Fund’s smaller grants, already open to both types of groups, have in the past five years been awarded to 35 percent non-geographic, 65 percent geographic.

Morgan Junction’s Tod Rodman expressed concern that a large regional organization could come in and hijack the process, so even with the non-geographic proposals, they would want the rules to ensure that they are truly community groups: “The moneyed interests in the city often hijack the process,” he noted, with professional grant-writers and other resources that can enable them to craft the proposals in a manner destined not to lose.

Redmond said that all 13 neighborhood districts have a rep each on the citywide review team that would take over authority to review grants, but that means 13 people reviewing proposals instead of at least 39 (with previous reviews now held in district-council subcommittees). He said that reducing the number of reviewers would seem to be “going in the wrong direction” for a department that’s supposed to be about neighborhoods.

What’s the timeframe? DON was asked. Chau Le said they’re “wrapping up outreach” within a few weeks. Asked about a deadline for input, she didn’t have one, but offered: “How about the end of the year?” Rodman pointed out that doesn’t work because many groups don’t meet in December. A motion was passed, basically requesting more time for consideration of/work on the proposals, since they were crafted wthout District Council input. Delridge’s letter asked for the process to be extended to March. SWDC is asking to have until March 31st so that “the organization could address this issue among ourselves” (including the groups/organizations its members represent).

‘LET’S TALK WEST SEATTLE’ FOLLOWUP: Morgan Junction’s Cindi Barker recapped what has happened in the four months since the communitywide meeting with Department of Planning and Development reps. (Here’s our coverage.) All the promises about sharing the comments and other information have not yet been kept. Barker has been talking to the city about that, and said so far, several themes emerged as the information has been slowly parsed: So much change in neighborhoods, how can people affect change, and parking challenges. Barker said that it’s important group reps stress that getting deeply involved is the main way to affect change – not just “come to the bitch session” and then don’t participate further. She said the city also will try to figure out how to reach out to groups that weren’t present at the meeting, such as renters. Another issue brought up then and still out there: What about West Seattle’s lack of a hospital? That too will take work, Barker noted, so a group will have to be convened to talk about it. She also noted that the city reps who were involved did not seem to have been given the time to work on following it up so that it can result in a dialogue. West Seattle was meant to be the pilot for a “Let’s Talk” series around the city.

FUTURE LEADERSHIP: Co-chairs Vlad Oustimovitch and Sharonn Meeks (Fairmount Community Association) are stepping down as chairs; he is stepping back completely from his many years of intensive community involvement, while she says she’ll be “hanging around.” So that led to the big question: Who would come forward to succeed them? After some discussion, Eric Iwamoto from WWRHAH and David Whiting from the Admiral Neighborhood Association volunteered to be co-chairs next year.

Other quick notes:

WEST SEATTLE LAND USE COMMITTEE: November 25th, 6:30, at the Senior Center is the next meeting of this still-in-formation group intended as a forum for a communitywide perspective on development and land-use issues. All welcome.

SENIOR CENTER MEETING NEXT WEEK: Edwards reminded everyone of the meeting next week regarding the center’s future and whether to become a “program” of Senior Services, or to go independent. Two sessions on November 11th; here’s our previous announcement with details.

NEXT SOUTHWEST DISTRICT COUNCIL MEETING: The December meeting is usually more social than business; it might be a potluck. Plans are still being formulated. Generally, SWDC meets the first Wednesday of the month, 6:30 pm, Senior Center.

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Southwest District Council report #1: RapidRide Junction reroute? Yes, suggest attendees, but not the one the city’s proposing http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/southwest-district-council-report-1-rapidride-junction-reroute-yes-suggest-attendees-but-not-the-one-the-citys-proposing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/southwest-district-council-report-1-rapidride-junction-reroute-yes-suggest-attendees-but-not-the-one-the-citys-proposing/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 01:22:55 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=291195 Last night’s Southwest District Council meeting was all about change, both proposed and unavoidable. This first report focuses on one of the items in the former category: Attendees got a chance to comment on the proposed change in RapidRide C Line routing through the heart of The Junction (first reported here in August):

RAPIDRIDE C LINE CHANGE? Jonathan Dong of SDOT and Paul Roybal of Metro came to SWDC for a briefing on the proposed reroute and bus-stop relocation, also seeking feedback and comments. Even though it’s Metro, which is a county service, SDOT is – as noted in August – behind the proposal to move the route onto California between Edmunds and Alaska, rather than its current jog to the west.

Dong said it resulted from a study looking at efficiency on the C Line – “speed and reliability are very important for the city” – and that the proposed change would reduce the travel time by “about a minute per trip. … To accommodate that reroute, we propose to relocate from SW corner of Alaska Street to SE corner of Alaska,” working with Equity Residential, which has a new development going up at the latter corner.

Chas Redmond said he’s “terribly concerned” and would like to see a motion simulation, since, heading east on Alaska/California, traffic isn’t halted, but if you’re turning right on California, “even with signal prioritization, you’re backing up traffic.” Dong said the analysis determined “there is enough room” – with four parking spaces needing to be removed. Redmond points out that “dwell time” on California in Morgan Junction is “four or five minutes instead of 30 seconds as you guys said” because of the RapidRide stop on California north of Fauntleroy. He also said studies should show what would result with the increased RR frequency mentioned earlier today.

Abdy Farid from Junction Neighborhood Organization brought up the green-arrow-right at SW Alaska and the midblock crossing between Alaska and Edmunds. What’s the point of saving one minute? he asked, especially if there are delays elsewhere. Dong says calculations showed a 10-second wait for RapidRide at the midblock crossing.

Cindi Barker from Morgan Community Association said she could only see it working if the stop was further down Alaska – midblock between California and 42nd – since, as has been seen at California/Fauntleroy, the bus might need to spend longer at the stop, for loading wheelchair users, for example.

“You’ve broken up the whole bus zone if you do this,” said Marci Carpenter, “which will be a whole lot more difficult for elderly and disabled passengers. … I think you’d be making a HUGE tradeoff.”

“Saving 1 minute in The Junction is a noble cause,” added Amanda Kay Helmick from Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, “but … from The Junction to downtown you’re losing that savings,” merging onto the bridge, etc. She suggested it’s a “lot of expense” for that.

Diane Vincent from Admiral said that signal prioritization still hasn’t happened and she uses the bus and watches the delays. Dong says that prioritization is “scheduled to be activated this fall.”

Tod Rodman from Morgan Junction said, “In the aggregate, how much time would be saved?” Roybal answered, “96 trips a day,” and Rodman said the resulting math, calculating with 60 people in a bus, could be a “tremendous amount of time savings.”

SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch wondered if they had calculated what would happen if RapidRide used Fauntleroy Way instead, as he and others had supported instead of the California route. “I know that some of the initial thinking that it was good for retail to have the bus line there … but in urban design, where you want public transportation is a block or two off of where you have the nice spaces … 2nd Avenue is an example of buses not really enhancing the business (district), downtown.” He mentioned that West Seattle has always needed a circulator and somehow “RapidRide got mixed up with a circulator” but WS should have both. “To me right now, when I get on RR … I really hate going on California and meandering through stuff that isn’t taking me where I need to go.”

Co-chair Sharonn Meeks from Fairmount Community Association echoed the suggestion that the Fauntleroy routing would have been superior. Instead, now, with RR on Alaska, “you’ve turned a residential neighborhood into a bus zone .. you would save a substantial amoutn of time if you followed the arterial as it was designed to be used.” She said the 55 also has become “unreliable … it’s time for Metro to address the idea of not just incremental 1-minute changes but going forward with a RapidRide line on an arterial as it was designed, as it was proposed.” She says it’s time for the big review to do that, “to go back … and fix it.”

In response to a question from Jim Edwards, who represents the Senior Center on the SWDC, Dong said the study was done with 2013 synchronization – not the recently revised sequencing at California/Alaska. “That was done as an improvement for Route 128 so it could turn left and not get stuck in the queues.” In response to Edwards’ next question, Dong said “we are not planning to bump out” at the intersection.

Redmond asked Roybal: “If you make this change now, will the reader boards show other routes besides the C Line at the stop?” He says fixing that took a year and a half at the Junction station and he’d be worried that a move would lead to a similar problem.

Farid thought Equity Residential would be likely to oppose the plan because its building has a lobby on California near the corner (despite community concerns in the Design Review process).

Susan Melrose from the WS Junction Association notes that Dong was at the last WSJA meeting and merchants are concerned about disrupting the pedestrian zone and the midblock crosswalk: “We already have concerns .. and the presence of large buses would not make that easier in any way. … They also are concerned about another bus stop “further impeding on the public right of way on our sidewalks,” and, she added, “removal of parking is not desired.”

Dong subsequently said this was the “start of the outreach process,” which is to continue through December. He was invited to two groups that apparently hadn’t been on the SDOT radar, Junction Neighborhood Organization (meeting November 18th) and the West Seattle Transportation Coalition this month or next. Reps of both groups said they’d e-mail him: jonathan.dong@seattle.gov

COMING IN REPORT #2 LATER TONIGHT – the Neighborhood Matching Fund change proposal, and new leadership in the new year for SWDC

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Seattle’s transportation system is ‘fragile,’ new SDOT director acknowledges in first West Seattle appearance http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/seattles-transportation-system-is-fragile-new-sdot-director-acknowledges-in-first-west-seattle-appearance/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/seattles-transportation-system-is-fragile-new-sdot-director-acknowledges-in-first-west-seattle-appearance/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 05:23:32 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=284505 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“We’re back to it now,” as Southwest District Council co-chair Sharonn Meeks said, launching the SWDC’s first meeting since July. The marquee guest for last night’s meeting: New SDOT director Scott Kubly, about 15 minutes late because he “had a problem with the reliability of the transportation system.”

He noted he’s lived in Seattle all of six weeks, “so I’m very very new to the city” and “learning a lot about it … One of the things that has been really apparent from my first moment on the ground … is that we have a pretty fragile transportation system.” As an example, he mentioned recent incidents, including, locally, the Highway 99 offramp fuel spill. Regarding West Seattle, “there’s very very few ways to get over here,” he observed, “a really challenging geography to work with,” while also acknowledging “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist” (to figure that out).

“I’m sure you guys are going to hit me with a lot of hard questions,” he concluded his introduction, adding, “We all need streets to work for everyone.” First question was from Chas Redmond – who brought a handout to accompany his.

Redmond brings up the inbound RapidRide station at 35th/Avalon that has been dismantled because of the construction project on the west side of 35th.

(Photo from Redmond’s handout)
He pointed out safety and other issues, and that this is the second busiest transit station in the area, saying, “SDOT and Metro should have seen that this was going to be an indefinite huge impact for a large number of people with no warning. … My question for you is, do you find this acceptable?”

“No,” replied Kubly. He noted sidewalks are shut down because of large construction projects downtown and said, “If a 5-unit project can put up a pedestrian canopy, so can” a large project.

“Please fix this situation,” Redmond – who, like Kubly, is a former DC resident – implored him. The new director promised to look into it. (A few minutes later, attendee Diane Vincent recalls the Design Review meetings for the 35th/Avalon project and says that while the developer talked about moving the bus stop to open up a plaza area once the building is done, they didn’t mention the stop would be dismantled during construction.)

Adding to the issue of dealing with developers, Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association brought up the difficulty of maintaining promised alley access in the Alaska/California construction zone. “We would appreciate SDOT’s support in maintaining public rights-of-way,” she says.

Junction street congestion was the next issue mentioned, specifically a concern about the west side, Oregon/Glenn vicinity. Then, the bus lanes through The Junction – particularly on Alaska – came up. SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch brought up RapidRide’s failure to connect to a grid of buses, as more of a “trunk system.”

Next Avalon Way conditions, and an attendee saying they often hear “it’ll get taken care of,” but no followthrough: “I don’t understand how SDOT can see it and not do anything about it.”

Kubly countered that so far he’s impressed with SDOT’s prioritization process for repavings and construction projects, “based on what’s the condition of the pavement, what type of street is it … we tend to focus on heavy transit roads, buses are harder on roads than semis are.” But if someone at SDOT said they’ll do something, and nothing happened, that’s a point of concern, he finishes.

Overall, Kubly acknowledged it’s easy to see why people are frustrated if they’re not getting the service they expect. And he said he’s heard a lot of frustration with developers and thinks it would be wise of them to be “a little bit better neighbors. … If you’re making it impossible for people to get around the city, it’s not going to be long before people have really strong reactions.” (One attendee was heard to murmur something about those “reactions” already happening.)

Invariably, a question about bicycle-safety infrastructure came up, and the perception that “not everyone can get around on a bike.” Kubly pointed out that cities all over the country – not just Seattle – are putting in bicycle infrastructure, mentioning the bike-share program he helped launch in Chicago, and that his parents visited and used it, even though they hadn’t been on bikes in decades. Being in a dedicated lane and feeling safe was a big part of them deciding to ride, he added, saying that infrastructure is vital so that bicycle riding isn’t just for risk-averse “young men.” Protected bike lanes “make it safer for everyone,” not just the bicyclists, he said. He tells an anecdote about a bike lane put in on a street in another city in which he worked, along an 80-foot-wide street. “After the construction was done, and people were seeing that semis are going (more slowly) through our neighborhood, they thought it was a great project.” He thinks bicycle-infrastructure development has become a “lightning rod” for people’s frustration/concern/fear about all kinds of changes.

Co-chair Oustimovitch, who skates along Alki, brought up a concern about Seattle Parks making the trail/path there dangerous by “using it as its service lane” for motorized vehicles that would seem to be easily able to use the street instead.

David Whiting of the Admiral Neighborhood Association brings up the notorious five-way intersection by the low bridge and a tour of it (last year?) that was preceding a design charette to which he said he couldn’t get an invite. A firm was then contracted and – “we’ve heard nothing back” since that meeting February. Kubly says he’ll look into it.

Is anyone at SDOT in charge of West Seattle? Kubly was asked. No, he replies, but he is considering the idea of setting up regional teams.

“We really want you to succeed,” Redmond told him.

The night’s other guest, before Kubly’s arrival, was also from SDOT, speaking about a specific program:

SDOT PLAY STREETS: Jennifer Wieland, who manages SDOT’s “public space” program, came to SWDC to speak about “Play Streets,” one of dozens of programs under her purview. 27 percent of the city’s geography is public right-of-way – streets, planting strips, sidewalks, etc. – she noted as she began. “People want places for lots of different kinds of things … to sit and eat, gather and meeting friends, garden, special activities, and places to play. All of those requests from people fostered the development of this new public-space program at SDOT. … We are really about helping people seize opportunities to use the right-of-way … as a place, recognizing we still need to balance” all the other ways it’s used.

Seattle is not one of the “play streets” cities funded by a program championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, Wieland noted, but the city has launched one and will decide by next summer whether it’s one that works here, or not. “Play Streets are not just for little kids,” she declared.

Applying is free; it’s “100 percent community-led – SDOT is not identifying where there ‘should’ be Play Streets,” she said. Among the applications so far are many afternoons, evenings, weekend proposals. “We do not close the street entirely to traffic” for a Play Street, she says – barricades go up at each end, and volunteers/neighbors need to help make sure residents retain local access.

In West Seattle so far, there’s an application for a recurring one on 51st SW between Charlestown and Andover, twice a month. You get “simple, free signs” if you launch a recurring play street, she added, also saying they’ve had “almost no negative feedback on this program so far” – except for one case where a neighbor was upset about access to her house. To resolve that, according to Wieland, SDOT worked with her and the “play street host.”

“Play streets” are not marked with No Parking signs ahead of time because of the cost, but if a host thinks it’s important, they’ll work with them. Play Street information is communicated to the Fire Department and put into a system that other city departments can access, to know the location, dates, and times.

She mentioned the giant Scrabble tournament held in the street as part of this program, and other things that could be done – badminton, Bocce ball, and more.

NEXT MEETING: 6:30 pm October 1st, SWDC expects to hear from and talk with City Councilmember Sally Clark, who just this week announced plans to work on a “housing strategy” for the city.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON P.S. SDOT director Kubly is now booked for TWO more West Seattle appearances this month – WS Transportation Coalition next Tuesday (September 9th), 6:30 pm, Neighborhood House’s High Point Center; Delridge Neighborhoods District Council on Wednesday, September 17th, 7 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.

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New SDOT director booked for Southwest District Council meeting next week http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/new-sdot-director-booked-for-southwest-district-council-meeting-next-week/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/new-sdot-director-booked-for-southwest-district-council-meeting-next-week/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:47:12 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=283938 The full schedule of community-group meetings gets going again next month, and the first one has a high-profile guest: New SDOT director (pending confirmation) Scott Kubly is booked for Q/A at the Southwest District Council meeting next Wednesday (September 3rd). All are welcome to the 6:30 pm meeting at the Senior Center of West Seattle (California/Oregon in The Junction);

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2 notes from tonight’s Southwest District Council meeting http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/2-notes-from-tonights-southwest-district-council-meeting/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/2-notes-from-tonights-southwest-district-council-meeting/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 04:49:39 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=278130 As Southwest District Council co-chair Sharonn Meeks said toward the start of tonight’s SWDC meeting, its agenda didn’t have one central guest or topic because “we just need to talk.” Rather than rattle off a mega-list of bullet points from the ensuing talk, we’ll be following up on a few things for separate stories, and making note right now of two things:

LAND USE SUBCOMMITTEE: Other neighborhoods have land-use committees that often look at projects of note outside official government processes such as design reviews, and SWDC announced a few months back that it intended to get one going as a subcommittee. The first meeting is finally set – 6:30 pm Wednesday, August 27th. Location TBD, agenda TBD, but if you’re interested in West Seattle development and land use and want to be part of a citizen-led group looking at it, set the date aside.

PARK DISTRICT BALLOT-MEASURE FORUM: Admiral Neighborhood Association president David Whiting announced that ANA’s meeting next Tuesday will include guests from both sides of the August 5th ballot measure proposing creation of a Seattle Park District with permanent taxing authority, instead of sending levies/bond measures to voters every several years to raise extra money for parks. The ANA meeting is at 7 pm Tuesday (July 8th) at The Sanctuary at Admiral, 42nd/Lander. (The Delridge District Council had a forum on the proposal in May; we recorded video.)

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Quick calendar note: Southwest District Council meets tonight http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/quick-calendar-note-southwest-district-council-meets-tonight/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/quick-calendar-note-southwest-district-council-meets-tonight/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 17:30:27 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=278084 One calendar highlight for tonight – the Southwest District Council IS having a July meeting. The agenda includes a summary of the two recent city “conversation” meetings – Councilmember Mike O’Brien on June 4th (WSB report here) and “West Seattle: Let’s Talk” last Saturday (WSB report here) and a report on the district’s proposed Neighborhood Park and Street Fund projects, as well as an update on progress toward creation of a West Seattle Land Use Committee. All are welcome – 6:30 pm, Senior Center of West Seattle (upstairs at Oregon/California). To see what else is on the calendar today, go here.

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Save the date: Be ready to talk about land use/development on June 4th http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/save-the-date-be-ready-to-talk-about-land-usedevelopment-on-june-4th/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/save-the-date-be-ready-to-talk-about-land-usedevelopment-on-june-4th/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 05:56:58 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274128 Local community leaders have been working on more ways to convene discussions about one of our area’s hottest current topics, development. And while covering tonight’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting (full report to come separately), we got semi-early word of an event in the works, and wanted to let you know to save the date: On June 4th, DNDC will join the Southwest District Council on the SWDC’s regular meeting night, to host City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee (which this week alone has handled issues from small-lot development to microhousing). Some details are still being worked out, including the venue/time, but if you want to hear about and talk about where things stand and where they’re going, save the night of June 4th.

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Development reviews, school-safety projects, parade, podcast, more: What the Southwest District Council discussed and heard http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/development-reviews-school-safety-projects-parade-podcast-more-what-the-southwest-district-council-discussed-and-heard/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/development-reviews-school-safety-projects-parade-podcast-more-what-the-southwest-district-council-discussed-and-heard/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 17:30:59 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=272677

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Southwest District Council‘s increased focus on development/land-use issues was a key topic of its monthly meeting last night, along with the plan for neighborhood organizations to pursue a higher profile in this year’s West Seattle Grand Parade, and an SDOT briefing on Safe Routes to School-related projects in the council’s area of emphasis (western West Seattle). Wondering what might be coming to a school zone for you? Read on for full details, including a look at the city’s list:

First, the development discussion:

WEST SEATTLE LAND USE COMMITTEE & OTHER DEVELOPMENT DISCUSSION: SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch says it’s taking a bit longer to get the new West Seattle Land Use Committee up and running than they had hoped. They’re working to set a meeting date, and it will be set up as a peninsula-wide group, including participation from the SWDC’s eastern West Seattle counterparts on the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council. “There are a lot of land-use issues that are ongoing in West Seattle,” he said, so they are hopeful of getting it up and running soon. Tonight’s public-comment meeting about the 40-apartment, 5-parking-space 4439 41st SW project was mentioned (7 pm, Senior Center of West Seattle), as was the ongoing appeal over the 30-apartments, no-parking 6917 California SW (the Hearing Examiner session that was originally planned for this week has been postponed until May 20th). Part of the California SW project appeal is based on the fact that the project appears to be taking advantage of a loophole in the zoning code that has led to less oversight for higher density than lower density. One thing both projects have in common is that they’re in the Lowrise 2 zoning, of which Oustimovitch says there’s “a lot” in West Seattle. Cindi Barker, who’s been focused on land-use issues, says that the city is getting ready to release information on the “low-rise-code corrections.”

There’s a movement afoot to get back to what was mentioned in the 1990s neighborhood plans, for the Department of Neighborhoods to advocate for residents on land-use issues. It was suggested that the SWDC support funding to restore that function to the DoN. They plan to bring that up in the forthcoming budget process (which will bring a meeting to West Seattle next week). Design Review was implemented, Oustimovitch pointed out, to help with neighborhood development disputes, but it’s not what it used to be, either, he said, and now “there’s so much litigation, so many issues going on, that (the process) hasn’t been functional (for a long time).”

As Susan Melrose from the West Seattle Junction Association said, at least groups that are closely monitoring and projects provide an opportunity to “say no, to fight back.” Oustimovitch mentioned that one challenge is that there’s no funding – in a process with the Hearing Examiner, for example, the city is there with its own lawyers, the developer is there “all lawyered up,” and then there’s the appellant, aka the neighborhood group, often lawyerless. “It’s David and Goliath but sometimes David gets crunched,” he observed.

Before the discussion moved on, it was repeated that anyone interested in area development should show up at tonight’s 4439 41st SW meeting, even if they don’t have anything to say about the project, because there’s no decision on it from the city yet and that puts advocates in a unique position.

SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL: SDOT’s Brian Dougherty brought an update on the city’s Safe Routes to School projects in the SWDC jurisdiction.

He started by mentioning Wednesday morning’s Bike To School activities in West Seattle (WSB coverage here). He also mentioned that the speed cameras in school zones around the city are providing money for safety projects. In the Southwest District (basically western West Seattle), a list he provided (embedded above) mentions the SW Roxbury safety project, some work already under way in the Roxhill Elementary area, a curb bulb going in this summer at Fauntleroy/Myrtle for Gatewood Elementary, and some potential future projects including two in the Denny International Middle School/Chief Sealth International High School vicinity – at SW Kenyon, “there’s a muddy path that connects to the back side of Denny, we’re going to look at paving that potentially,” and at 25th/Thistle, possibly a marked crosswalk and other “enhanced pedestrian improvements” because of kids crossing to the bus stop.

When Dougherty asked about concerns, those raised included crosswalks at schools that might need repainting. Dougherty said 700 crosswalks around the city are slated for that work this year. He also mentioned the brightly colored post covers that have been going up on traffic-safety signs, and said that signals close to schools around the city are all being converted to include pedestrian countdowns. Meeting attendees also pointed out safety concerns at 42nd/Oregon, along with the traffic circle at 42nd/Genesee (near Holy Rosary, Seattle Lutheran, Hope Lutheran), with vegetation that might be too overgrown for safety’s sake.

As previously announced, Roxhill and Holy Family will be getting speed cameras. (Safe Routes to School is now getting funding from the speed cameras’ proceeds.)

HISTORICAL SURVEY GRANT: Chas Redmond said they were still awaiting word on possible 4 Culture funding for a historical survey of California Avenue (explained in this WSB story from January). SWDC co-chair Sharonn Meeks pointed out that a grant list had been made public and that SWDC’s project wasn’t on it; after the meeting, Redmond learned that the SWDC grant apparently IS a go, according to a different list. More details on the process to come.

WEST SEATTLE PARADE PARTICIPATION: Neighborhood groups are planning an entry in the West Seattle Grand Parade this July. David Whiting from the Admiral Neighborhood Association talked about it and said it seems like the bigger the entry the better, “like a nucleus of 25 people.” Cindi Barker from Morgan Community Association also had been advocating for participation. What kind of entry/ies, has yet to be determined. Whiting says Admiral, for example, will hand out flyers for the concert series that will be starting shortly thereafter. Talk ensued about how to get the various groups involved. Parade participation applications are coming, noted Jim Edwards, longtime parade co0coordinator who attends SWDC meetings as a rep of the Senior Center. An ad-hoc committee will be formed to plan a potential parade entry; that committee might apply for a grant. More logistics were discussed (the parade route is a mile and a half long).

WEST SEATTLE SUMMER FEST: WSJA’s Melrose said there’ll be an opportunity for local groups to be represented in a community area at Summer Fest, possibly in four-hour shifts. (Watch for info on that soon, here on WSB).

WEST SEATTLE COMMUNITY GARAGE SALE DAY: WSCGSD (here’s the map for Saturday) came up for brief informal discussion and Barker mentioned on behalf of West Seattle Be Prepared that they’re looking for emergency-type equipment.

VIDEO PODCAST: A new one has debuted with neighborhood information and West Seattleites’ involvement; Barker talked about it as a source of somewhere to talk about neighborhood information/education, citywide – she and Redmond participated in the early edition:

It’s called “Seattle Neighborhood Crier“; you can find it (and future editions) via this YouTube channel.

RELAY FOR LIFE OF WEST SEATTLE: A rep from this upcoming fundraiser (here’s our coverage of last year’s event) made a pitch to get more people involved. This year it’s June 27th-28th. They already have hundreds of people participating but hope for more, with a goal of raising tens of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. If you’re interested in participating, go here.

GRANT PITCH: David Toledo from the arts-based youth nonprofit Unified Outreach spoke to let SWDC know about a project that’s seeking a major city grant (the Southwest District Council reviews such projects). It’s a work-training project; he says there’s a problem with kids getting trained to do something but then not what to do with it afterward. He talked about the organization’s fashion-show event last year, helping kids figure out how to make money in that industry. Now they’re hoping for a grant to assist them with staging an animation festival, potentially at the Admiral Theater – with youth not just creating the animation but also voice over, promotion, “a full work-training” program “so when these kids come out they can actually go out in the field and get jobs.” It’s targeting ages 12-18. His nonprofit is based at Ginomai Arts Center in The Junction.

ACTORS NEEDED FOR WEST SEATTLE EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS HUB DRILL: The drill on May 17th will include a scenario of a lahar is wreaking havoc. West Seattle Be Prepared needs actors to portray roles in the drill. Interested? Contact information is on the WSBP website.

The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, at the Senior Center.

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Big-picture planning, project-by-project review, historic survey: Southwest District Council talks land use http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/big-picture-planning-project-by-project-review-historic-survey-southwest-district-council-talks-land-use/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/big-picture-planning-project-by-project-review-historic-survey-southwest-district-council-talks-land-use/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 03:30:24 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=269460

Much of the major development happening now is the result of zoning decisions made more than a decade ago. Changes, Mayor Murray suggested in his recent WSB interview and again at the Westside Awards breakfast last Thursday, are most likely to be made as a result of the Seattle 2035 comprehensive-plan-review process that’s just begun. While the first official West Seattle open house/meeting is Wednesday night, the Southwest District Council got a preview this past week. The SWDC also took further steps toward forming a West Seattle-wide Land Use Committee to seek early, public looks at major development proposals, as happens in other Seattle neighborhoods. Details ahead:

About 20 people showed up at the Senior Center of West Seattle – which has increasingly become a public-meeting hub for this area – on Wednesday night for the April meeting of the SWDC, made up of community councils and a few other major organizations in western West Seattle.

SEATTLE 2035: City rep Patrice Carroll came to speak about the Comprehensive Plan-update process that’s just getting kicked off. The plan was first created, she said, in 1994, then updated in 2004, and they try to update it every 7 to 10 years. What policies do we need to have in place, or to tweak, as the city grows? That’s part of the mission. The growth since adoption was as expected for households, below expected for jobs, she said in response to a question. “Over the next year we’re going to be looking at all these policies,” she said. “Right now it’s written for geeky policymakers, but we want to make it accessible to everyone.” None of the individual Neighborhood Plans will be changed as a result of this, she noted. “Any schedule for funds available to update our Urban Village Plan?” asked SWDC co-chair Sharonn Meeks from the Fairmount Community Association south of The Triangle. What about jobs? asked Chas Redmond from the Morgan Community Association, noting that transportation challenges would lessen if more people could work closer to home.

“We’re going to be looking very broadly at different patterns of development,” said Carroll, in the Environmental Impact Statement they’ll be developing. But, “All the urban villages will grow; areas outside the urban villages will grow,” so they’re looking for different variations. And, “are we looking at the right alternatives … before we get our consultants cranking?”

So let’s say an alternative is chosen. Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association asked, “What tools will the city use to guide growth?” pointing out that the Junction is already way past its growth/density estimates. (She) said the EIS is meant to answer questions such as, what is the implication of having all that growth?

Who are the consultants? asked Meeks. “Studio 3 MW,” said Carroll, saying that firm – whose website is here – emerged from a Request For Proposals process.

Other issues came up, such as our area’s lack of a hospital and other matters vital to preparedness.

Overall, Carroll said it would be likely the result might be a “hybrid” of the listed alternatives. She said you can expect more online questions soon, too (there’s a survey online right now, for starters).

What alternatives didn’t they consider? asked Morgan Community Association’s Deb Barker. They didn’t get aggressive with transit, so no envisioning so far of Ballard/West Seattle light rail. How does the plan tie in with Seattle Public Schools‘ growth and planning? someone else asked. It doesn’t, replied Carroll, but it has some general “human development” elements.

What about the road-maintenance backlog? asked Dennis Ross from Admiral. What’s envisioned includes transportation of “all modes,” Carroll replied.

Redmond suggested there should be a “winter daylight” consideration so that building activity happens more east-west than north-south and doesn’t block all the winter sun. That sort of thing was written into the code in New York a century ago – “light and air” – noted SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch.

As mentioned here, there’s a West Seattle open house 6-8 pm on Wednesday (April 9th) at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW); the meeting will be informal, with boards for comments, and no presentation likely. And Carroll said social-media and other channels are available for sending info and receiving feedback. How is that all received and taken into account? asked one attendee. “We have a big giant spreadsheet,” she replied.

LAND USE COMMITTEE: The SWDC declared last month that it would form one (as reported here). Now the question – how? Who? David Whiting from the Admiral Neighborhood Association reported back on his fact-finding trip to Queen Anne to see how their committee worked. Diane Vincent said she had been there as well. This type of committee has more freedom, though it may not have teeth. But it becomes a must-go, explained Deb Barker – “something you can use as an early vetting.”

On Queen Anne, it’s a Land Use Review Committee, but for here, it was suggested that a West Seattle Land Use Committee would be more appropriate. Delridge could be invited to participate too.

Whiting said it seemed like they should model it after something that had success elsewhere in the city.

This also could replace the non-public ad-hoc groups that have evolved for almost every major project (usually with the developers contacting various community reps and convening meetings). This one “should be completely transparent (and) the more people that show up the better.” Many of those present volunteered to help form it; they debated a meeting night, separate from the monthly first-Wednesday SWDC meeting – no decision was reached, so that’ll be made later. We’ll publish an update when there’s news of when the committee will launch.

HISTORIC STUDY OF CALIFORNIA: They’re awaiting word on a grant of up to $12,000 for the California Avenue properties survey (reported here in January); word is due within the next month.

NEIGHBORHOOD PARKS AND STREET FUND: Only three proposals were submitted so they all get to advance to the city review stage. Coordinator Jenny Frankl didn’t have them handy, though, so no briefing was available on exactly what they were.

The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays, 7 pm, at the Senior Center of WS (California/Oregon).

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Southwest District Council to turn its eyes toward development http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/southwest-district-council-to-turn-its-eyes-toward-development/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/southwest-district-council-to-turn-its-eyes-toward-development/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 07:56:11 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=266838 By Patrick Sand and Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

With new development proposals appearing in West Seattle almost daily, the Southwest District Council is ready to keep a closer watch on what’s going on.

At tonight’s meeting, the SWDC – made up of reps from councils and organizations around western West Seattle – took steps toward forming a Land Use Subcommittee.

It’s a tool used elsewhere in the city (Queen Anne, for example), often providing a more consistent way for projects to get an early unofficial community review; right now, it’s literally and figuratively all over the map – sometimes developers engage community councils or round up stakeholders, sometimes they don’t.

SWDC co-chair Vlad Oustimovitch observed that development is one of the most top-of-mind topics in the area right now, along with transportation and public safety, so this is a natural move. He’s hopeful its members also can reach out to other neighborhoods to figure out more ways of collaborating when faced with similar challenges. The subcommittee’s membership isn’t final yet; once it’s up and running, it will provide regular reports to the council.

Also at tonight’s meeting: A farewell from Ed Pottharst, one of the neighborhood-district coordinators who has served this area for three years.

Ed’s not leaving city service, though – not even leaving the Department of Neighborhoods; he says a job came open working with the matching funds that help so many neighborhoods make dreams come true, so he’s moving to that side at the end of the month. His successor is being sought.

Other notes:

*Co-chair Sharonn Meeks brought up the Fire Station 32 rebuild (here’s our newest report) and the suggestion that electricity service be undergrounded in the area as part of the project, lest downed power lines keep crews from responding in case of catastrophe. She plans to talk with the city.

*New Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske came to introduce himself.

*New West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Dennis came to introduce herself, and said the WSCoC would resume sending a representative to the SWDC meetings, which hadn’t happened regularly for a while.

The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, at the Senior Center of West Seattle.

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Pedestrian zoning (again), safety, more @ SW District Council http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/pedestrian-zoning-again-safety-more-sw-district-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/pedestrian-zoning-again-safety-more-sw-district-council/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 01:45:25 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=264126 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:

*Wider sidewalks
*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.


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