West Seattle Blog... » Southwest District Council http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 07 Oct 2015 07:16:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 What’s next for Terminal 5? Find out @ Southwest District Council http://westseattleblog.com/2015/10/whats-next-for-terminal-5-find-out-southwest-district-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/10/whats-next-for-terminal-5-find-out-southwest-district-council/#comments Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:08:56 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=324931

(Empty Terminal 5 as seen during the port’s community tour last month; photo by Karen Berge)

Now that Shell has suspended its offshore-drilling plans for Alaska, what’s in the future for Terminal 5 in West Seattle, which was planned to be the Shell fleet’s offseason homeport? Will the turn of events affect the Port of Seattle‘s T-5 modernization plan? Find out firsthand at next Wednesday’s Southwest District Council meeting, where a port rep is on the agenda to brief the SWDC. The agenda also includes a discussion of Seattle Proposition 1 – the $930 million “Move Seattle” levy on the November ballot – and a presentation about the West Seattle Timebank. All are welcome at the meeting; SWDC members are reps of community councils and organizations around western West Seattle. The meeting’s at 6:30 pm Wednesday (October 7th) at the Sisson Building (home of the Senior Center of West Seattle), southeast corner of California SW & SW Oregon in The Junction.

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@ Southwest District Council: Terminal 5 comment deadline nears, as does an Admiral Way Safety Project update http://westseattleblog.com/2015/09/southwest-district-council-terminal-5-comment-deadline-nears-as-does-an-admiral-way-safety-project-update/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/09/southwest-district-council-terminal-5-comment-deadline-nears-as-does-an-admiral-way-safety-project-update/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2015 21:47:30 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=321683 Summer’s ending, and community/district councils are resuming their regular meeting schedules. That means our coverage is back in gear too. No substitute to being at your nearest community meeting yourself – but we’ll do our best to keep you up to date otherwise. Here’s what happened at last night’s Southwest District Council meeting (besides the two notes we’ve already published, regarding the Junction Plaza Park art project and Port of Seattle boat tour):

NEW ADMIRAL WAY SAFETY PROJECT PROPOSAL: SWDC co-chair David Whiting, president of the Admiral Neighborhood Association, announced that SDOT will be at next week’s ANA meeting with an update on revisions to the SW Admiral Way Safety Project, first outlined at ANA’s April meeting (WSB coverage here). While SDOT does plan a standalone meeting this month, Whiting said, this will be the first chance for the community to take a look at changes made (as SDOT director Scott Kubly hinted at in July) after vigorous community feedback earlier this year, as well as new parking/traffic studies by SDOT. ANA meets at The Sanctuary at Admiral (42nd SW & SW Lander), 7 pm Tuesday (September 8th).

TERMINAL 5 COMMENT DEADLINE TOMORROW: Friday’s the last day you can comment on the Port of Seattle‘s proposal for the shut-down-last-year cargo terminal on the east side of West Seattle, pointed out Jim Wojciechowski from the group of neighbors who put up the “Yes! Environmental Impact Statement” signs around the area.

(Port of Seattle graphic/photo)

“They’re not calling it an expansion, but it’s an expansion.” As we reported last month, a new comment period was opened because the city system lost a month’s worth of comments submitted via an online form.

Wojciechowski recapped that the port project would involve, among other things, thousands of pilings and 12 new cranes bigger than the ones you see now. He says Terminal 18 to the east on Harbor Island would be perfect for the big-ship handling, but the port is insistent on using Terminal 5. “What we’re asking them to do is do it right, but they’re giving no indication of any concessions to the neighborhood – they just are going to do what they want to do.”

When you read the SEPA Checklist, and you get to the “long-term effects,” he said, you see “unknown, unknown.” He suggested it’s a “game they’re playing” because they just want to get the permits for construction, and then they can “run free because they have a master use permit as a cargo terminal and can use the 1994 Environmental Impact Statement that says they’re a cargo terminal.” That alone was a 1200-page report, he noted, dropping a stack of papers on the table. But he says the analysis would be different now based on the larger ships – “three times as large as what you’re used to seeing down there.”

Also; “They’re going to dig 30,000 cubic yards out of the Duwamish – maybe they’re doing it right, maybe they’re not, but without an EIS, we’ll never know.” He explained how the port got to make its own “Determination of Non-Significance” – they issued a preliminary one, he said, but never a final one.

He says the Department of Planning and Development is the last gatekeeper between citizens and the Port on this one. “What they’re really doing is sequencing the permitting,” he said, contending it’s “disingenuous when they say they’ll look at it later.”

Concerns include what appears to be a plan without a provision for shore power – unless the eventual tenant requests it; the neighbors think that the shippers should be required to use it. Without shore power, the large ships will have a “vibration” that will “pierce” the nearby houses, Wojciechowski said. The 1994 EIS addressed engine noise contending that it wouldn’t even be noticed, and he said that’s not true – the background noise like the bridge goes away at night and the ship noise/vibration comes through.

Another neighbor pointed out that requiring ships to use shore power while in port would be a major move for the port’s claim to being green. Yet another neighbor interjected there should be an inventory of emission sources related to the port.

Traffic effects were also noted by Wojciechowski, saying that with such high-volume ships, “You can anticipate a lot of trucks coming in,” and that, he said, could worsen traffic. “When Terminal 5 reopens in 2019 with the ships – right now, there are no trucks coming out of there, and you are already jammed … what we’re trying to do is avoid coming back here in 2019 and saying, ‘What just happened?’” He also voiced concern that the Port could be trying to move more of its business to Terminal 5 and clear away some of the waterfront closer to downtown.

For comments, e-mail PRC@seattle.gov through Friday, “Terminal 5 Cargo Wharf Rehabilitation and Berth Deepening,” and note that you’re referring to project #3019071. (That’s also the number you can enter on this city lookup page to find documents related to the project, including comments that already have been received.)

Quick notes and updates:

NEW DEPARTMENT OF NEIGHBORHOODS DIRECTOR: Kathy Nyland sat in on the meeting, which was staffed by district coordinator Kerry Wade as usual.

OFFICER ELECTIONS AHEAD: Whiting says he’s willing to remain co-chair in 2016 if re-elected.

FAUNTLEROY FERRY TRAFFIC: Vicki Schmitz Block from the Fauntleroy Community Association mentioned the legislature restoring the police officer for the Fauntleroy ferry dock. And, she said, the service has already re-started, no waiting for new budget cycle at the start of next year.

DON ARMENI PARKING: Paul Hage, who’s tracking this (backstory here), said he visited the boat-ramp parking lot more than a dozen times recently on weekdays with an average of 12 trailers parked there each time, filling about a seventh of the 83 spaces. The highest was 19, the lowest 6, all on summer weekdays, he said.

AMATEUR RADIO TRAINING: Jim Edwards announced that the West Seattle Amateur Radio Club will have a class coming up, likely in mid-November.

WEST SEATTLE BIG BAND BENEFIT: Edwards, who represents the Senior Center on SWDC, also announced the upcoming West Seattle Big Band (which he directs) benefit for the center, 6 pm dinner, 7 pm music (Sinatra!), on September 18th. More info here.

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

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@ Southwest District Council: Don Armeni parking; Admiral project http://westseattleblog.com/2015/05/southwest-district-council-don-armeni-parking-admiral-project/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/05/southwest-district-council-don-armeni-parking-admiral-project/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 14:30:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=309897 Transportation issues were at centerstage during this month’s Southwest District Council meeting, which had a few agenda changes from what had been announced in advance.

DON ARMENI BOAT RAMP PARKING: SWDC heard first from Paul Hage, who is opposed to the new non-boater-parking crackdown at Don Armeni. We reported on this in April; the city insists it’s not a change in policy, but rather, stepped-up enforcement.

Hage read a 3 1/2-page statement including research that he says shows that while the car-parking spaces in the area, on the street and at both ends of Don Armeni, are taken up during the day, the spaces for boaters are 79 percent empty during all but the busy heart-of-summer months.

Hage told the SWDC that he wants a more-equitable policy with some room for non-boaters to use the parking during the times it’s not maxed out.

Seattle Police had reps at the meeting – Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith and Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores. Lt. Smith said they were there to discuss enforcement, not policy. Officer Flores said they have issued some citations but mostly have been talking to drivers and giving them warnings; many drivers told them the old signs were unclear and had led them to believe it was OK to park anywhere in the lot. Lt. Smith said the new signs are assisting them in dealing with the large number of cars that gather at Don Armeni at night and on the weekend, and said enforcement efforts are under way for speeding, racing, and drinking, not just parking. Also, regarding the use of the small in-park sections where non-boater cars are allowed, they now are signed for two hours maximum, the police said.

Discussion among SWDC members included Alki Community Council president Tony Fragada noting that ACC had taken the issue of Don Armeni lot gatherings to various agencies before, and Fauntleroy Community Association‘s Vicki Schmitz-Block pointing out that this is a Parks issue, so a Parks rep should come to the council and talk about it.

ADMIRAL PROPOSAL: Emily Ehlers showed SWDC what she had shown the Admiral Neighborhood Association a few weeks earlier (WSB coverage here) regarding changes SDOT is proposing for Admiral Way west of California SW. Next step is an open house for the community at Alki Elementary, 6-7:30 pm on May 21st.

As community members had pointed out during the ANA meeting, one major flaw with the city’s proposal so far is its stats on parking usage along the stretch, since, as was admitted during that previous presentation, the survey was taken in winter. SWDC’s Jim Edwards suggested to Ehlers that SDOT visit on the day of the Seafair Pirates Landing – June 27th – and Ehlers said she wasn’t familiar with the event.

At that point, issue was taken with whether or not this was a done deal. SWDC co-chair David Whiting, president of ANA, said SDOT had assured him earlier that bicycle changes were not in the works for this stretch. Ehlers said people involved in various projects aren’t always in communication with each other. But the plan is not set in stone, she insisted, and could change based on results of the summer parking survey. Skepticism remained.

Speaking of safety – there was a question about whether road cracks west of California would be getting fixed. Ehlers said the current Admiral-fixing plans are for east of California but she’d take the voiced concerns back.

SSC ARBORETUM: Two reps from the Arboretum at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) invited SWDC to have its next meeting there and take a tour. The invitation was accepted – so take note that the June SWDC meeting, first Wednesday in June, will be there.

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Too few sidewalks? Where’s Fauntleroy Boulevard? And other questions in Transportation Levy Q & A @ SW District Council http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/too-few-sidewalks-wheres-fauntleroy-boulevard-and-other-questions-in-transportation-levy-q-a-sw-district-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/too-few-sidewalks-wheres-fauntleroy-boulevard-and-other-questions-in-transportation-levy-q-a-sw-district-council/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 06:59:35 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=305873 Two SDOT spotlights filled most of the Southwest District Council‘s April meeting, including SDOT director Scott Kubly‘s third visit to West Seattle in five weeknights, reviewing toplines of and answering questions – many questions! – about the draft Transportation Levy to Move Seattle. The other SDOT presentation recapped this year’s Arbor Heights microsurfacing plan.

SDOT, PART 1 – THE LEVY: Kubly went over the $900 million/9-year levy’s basics again – you can find them here – including the keywords “safe, affordable, interconnected, vibrant,” and the reminder that transportation is the second-biggest thing you spend money on. Big cost for the city too, he mentioned, including the reiteration that repairs are much cheaper than replacements. From the city website, you can see:
*The list of corridor-safety projects (35th SW & SW Roxbury in WS), streets set for repaving (35th SW, Avalon, SW Roxbury), and seismic-retrofit projects for both Admiral Way Bridges as well as the pedestrian bridges on Delridge and at Fauntleroy/Andover.

Yes, there are some new sidewalks, he said, but to put sidewalks everywhere in the city that doesn’t have them would cost $2.5 billion.

The slide deck mentioned the city is not the sole funder for the long-shelved Lander Street Overpass in SODO but stresses that they want to get it done. He brought this into the possibility of emergency rerouting “if we have an incident.”

Continuing the pitch, Kubly said accountability is key here – if they say they’re going to X miles of X types of facilities, you can measure that.

Timeline: Public engagement this month, mayor’s final proposal in May-June (sent to the City Council), potential council action in mid-summer, and then it’s off to King County to make it onto the fall ballot.

Questions: The Junction Neighborhood Organization‘s SWDC rep Ellen West asked about the Fauntleroy Boulevard project – now 60 percent designed – which is not listed for funding in the levy. (It *was* featured in the mayor’s pre-levy “vision” announcement earlier in March.)

Kubly didn’t explain why it wasn’t on the list but said it’s important to hear from communities what they want to see in the levy. “If Fauntleroy’s a priority, let city councilmembers know.”

Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association said they’d like to see it in the Capital Improvement Plan in next year’s budget as opposed to, as SWDC co-chair David Whiting of the Admiral Neighborhood Association chimed in, “putting it into a levy that might or might not pass.” Kubly then said it would be dire if the levy doesn’t pass, since a quarter of SDOT’s budget currently comes from levy (the expiring Bridging the Gap) funds.

District 1 City Council candidate Lisa Herbold, from the audience, asked for clarification on whether this sort of thing could be mentioned at this phase to influence the mayor’s draft, rather than waiting for the next revision and then the councilmembers’ review; Kubly said, well, certainly, take the survey, send e-mail.

Tod Rodman from the Morgan Community Association said Fauntleroy Boulevard seemed too important to just put it into the levy, and he wondered if it could be bond-funded.

Overall, City Council candidate Phillip Tavel wondered from the audience how feedback would be shown to the public as this process of shaping the levy continues. Kubly said the thing they’ve heard the most about is sidewalks – and also, “Folks are really interested in access to light rail.” (We noted that in our coverage of the levy-specific West Seattle meeting he had led one night earlier.)

An attendee said he thought the city needed more room for cars – on roads, and parking – as driverless cars and other types of future tech become reality. Kubly said he’s seeing the opposite, and that cars tend to spend more than 90 percent of the time parked. The attendee pressed, saying that he worried the city would need to spend money “undoing” what they’re doing now. Kubly countered that he didn’t think that would be necessary.

City Council candidate Tom Koch asked from the audience what percent of the levy is capital expenditures. Kubly’s reply: “All of it is capital,” he replied. Koch brought up his key campaign point – development impact fees – and wanted to make sure that if they became reality eventually, they could be applied to the projects/priorities in the levy. Kubly said they’re looking at that, but about two-thirds of what’s in the levy now would be ineligible for impact fees, because impact fees are meant to be applied to effects of growth, not covering existing deficiencies.

SWDC’s Vicki Schmitz-Block said the laws about that could be changed. Then she brought up bicycle facilities listed in the levy and said she’d like to see bicyclists charged a fee; Kubly pointed out that this levy is a property tax, so it affects people regardless of their chosen transportation mode.

Back to impact fees, Herbold noted that the study requested by current councilmembers is due soon; as a result of that, Kubly pointed out, we won’t know until early next year whether the idea could proceed. Koch asked what happens to SDOT’s budget if the levy doesn’t pass; Kubly said the department is building a budget taking that possibility into consideration

Prefacing with a caveat that she was asking as a private citizen, not an organization representative, Melrose asked if the Port “pays its full contribution” for the impacts of its freight transport and other aspects. Kubly said he would look into that. A side discussion went on for a few minutes about Port impacts and the Port/City relationship.

Then Diane Vincent brought up from the audience the fact that the population is getting older and “it’s really absurd to expect senior citizens to get out of their cars, stand on crowded buses, ride their bikes, walk on broken sidewalks …” Kubly countered that the plan does include something for everyone and said that projects like 35th SW will “make it safer for everybody to cross the street.” He focused on pedestrian safety. Vincent reiterated, she’s heard the mayor saying they hope to get more people out of their cars, and she notes that’s not feasible for many, especially seniors. Kubly said, “I think what he’s saying is that it’s not really about getting people out of their cars, it’s about giving people choices, so that if they want to [use a different transportation mode], they can.” He acknowledged that some people have no choice. “But there’s also a lot of people who don’t ‘have to’ if they have good alternatives – the fact that I’m walking to work means there’s one less car on the road, makes room for somebody who needs (that space) to get around … We’re trying to create a multi-modal system that works for everybody.”

Schmitz-Block challenged Kubly yet again, saying that between The Junction and Morgan Junction “there used to be 14 bus stops, and now there are three” (that happened with the switchover to RapidRide). Kathy Dunn from West Seattle Bike Connections said that neighborhoods are being neglected in the bicycle part of the plan – for example, bike-sharing would be great at some spots here.

Ray Krueger from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition said he had attended the previous night’s open house and was surprised that about a third of those in attendance were SDOT employees. He also put in a plug for the Fauntleroy Boulevard plan, and mentioned that the mayor’s original plan mentioned a “Fauntleroy Transit Station” – Kubly said that was apparently a mistake and meant to be a reference to the 35th/Avalon transit station.

Regarding Krueger’s concern about the low turnout, Kubly asked what it would take to get people out to an event. The meeting at Roosevelt, for example, had “a lot of people.” Kerry Wade, neighborhood district coordinator, said for one, there wasn’t much turnaround time between the announcement and the meeting. She also pointed out there’s lots of online information available about the levy.

Whatever you think about the draft levy – fine as it is, missing something, contains something it shouldn’t, etc. – take the city’s survey ASAP: moveseattlesurvey.com – and/or get your feedback in by deploying these options.

SDOT, PART 2 – MICROSURFACING: Art Brochet from SDOT’s Capital Structures program spoke about this year’s plan for microsurfacing – the 21st century successor to chip-sealing, as he explained. Here’s the SDOT project page for this year’s Arbor Heights microsurfacing plan, including this map (click it to see full-size version as a PDF):

Brochet said he’s hoping to speak to people in Arbor Heights soon about the project, which is expected to happen between late July and early September; a contractor has not yet been chosen. Flyers and door hangers will go out later this month to those living near the streets that are scheduled for microsurfacing, and then another round of notices will come out about three weeks before the work, with one last warning about 48 hours in advance. Homeowners will be asked in May about trimming trees that hang out 11-12 feet over the road. SW District Council co-chair Eric Iwamoto, who is the rep from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, said it was done in his neighborhood last time around and went well. Brochet said that’s good to hear because they still have some challenges in planning the long stretch of SW Arroyo Beach.

ADMIRAL BIKE LANES? MEETINGS AHEAD: While the SWDC agenda had said Brochet’s appearance would include information on Admiral Way bike lanes, he said that’ll be at next month’s meeting (May 6th). You can find out before then – Whiting said a presentation is booked for the ANA on April 14th. Brochet then added that a community-wide open house is expected in June.

ANNOUNCEMENTS/DISCUSSION: There was a brief postmortem discussion of Mayor Murray’s visit the preceding Saturday to The Junction/Triangle for a walking tour and coffee chat (WSB coverage here and here). And the council bid farewell to neighborhood district coordinator Yun Pitre, who is moving on to another district.

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

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@ Southwest District Council: Fauntleroy Boulevard; port-tour invitation; more http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/southwest-district-council-fauntleroy-boulevard-port-tour-invitation-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/southwest-district-council-fauntleroy-boulevard-port-tour-invitation-more/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 05:49:49 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=300183 From this month’s Southwest District Council meeting, another discussion about whether to design the Fauntleroy Boulevard project with underground power; more details on the Port of Seattle‘s upcoming community boat tour (and how you can get on the list for it), and other toplines:

It was the first meeting presided over by both new co-chairs, David Whiting (Admiral Neighborhood Association president) and Eric Iwamoto (from Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council).

COUNCILMEMBER TOM RASMUSSEN: In his first SWDC meeting since he announced he won’t be running this fall – ending his council service at 12 years – he got a round of applause.

First topic – the ongoing question of whether to underground the power when the Fauntleroy Boulevard project is built, or not? Rasmussen said he had done “informal polling” and it was in favor of undergrounding, though that raises the project’s estimated cost from $11 million to “about $17 million” (none of which has been allocated yet – it’s funded for design but not construction, so far). He also said the project was viewed favorably by various city agencies. First he’ll be meeting with Seattle City Light to talk about the costs and whether they can be shared. Overall, Fauntleroy Boulevard “is more than a beautification project,” he said, suggesting the undergrounding would help with pedestrian safety as more people walk in the area, and noting that it’s been part of the West Seattle plan since 1999. The undergrounding decision has to be made now, he says, before design is finished, rather than going back later and trying to make changes in the plan.

Vicki Schmitz-Block, new SWDC rep for the Fauntleroy Community Association, said it’s unfortunate that the undergrounding move wasn’t made decades ago. Rasmussen said community support would be vital since there’s a lot of competition for money. Fairmount’s Sharonn Meeks wondered when citizen “outreach to the council” would be important to step up the pressure for funding the project; Rasmussen advised, “Never miss an opportunity” to make a pitch for it.

He went on to talk about the recent urban-villages presentation at City Hall (video has finally been added to the online recap), attended by some SWDC members. The Junction was listed in that presentation as #3 in city-investment dollars among the UVs featured in former Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck‘s study (which looked at two of the four WS urban villages – The Junction and Westwood-Highland Park – as well as a selection of others citywide).

Switching gears to the recently approved transit-funding measure, Rasmussen said some of its money would “significantly benefit” this area, especially the C Line and 120, he said. But buses get stuck in traffic, he noted, and that’s part of the reasoning behind the forthcoming West Seattle Bridge Corridor Management Task Force. “Almost everything that moves goes through this corridor,” he said, from ships to cars to trucks and beyond, so reducing congestion would be good for all. He mentioned one proposal that came up in the recent round of answers to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s 2015 priorities – a possible dedicated lane from Avalon to the bridge. And he mentioned the Lander St. Overpass (which also is on the WSTC list of priorities), and that the city is working to get partial state funding for it.

The corridor effort now has a dedicated SDOT employee, Tony Mazzella, said Councilmember Rasmussen.

In other updates, he said the contract for the 47th/Admiral intersection signal has been delayed a bit again and is now likely to be awarded by mid-March, meaning the signal won’t be activated before summer.

Some of the problems brought up to him during conversation after that included the sign clutter on sidewalks – the rules say you can have A-boards near your business, but some commercial concerns, primarily apartment complexes, are putting signage on corners blocks away, apparently with the help of services that go to neighborhoods and are paid by the companies to set out the signs.

NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICT: A series of meetings are planned about this new initiative, including one in West Seattle, said Cindi Barker from Morgan Junction. Councilmember Rasmussen talked about it during his part of the program, too, as he had at the recent xx meeting, using other parts of town as an example, particularly the Pike-Pine overlay. He offered to lead SWDC members on a walking tour of Pike-Pine to show them how it’s going in that area, which he described as “a construction zone.” (Here’s our coverage of a council discussion of the “conservation districts” last fall.)

PORT OF SEATTLE COMMUNITY BOAT TOUR: Port of Seattle reps came to the meeting to officially invite you to a free tour. Details so far: Board the boat at 9:30 am April 25th at Pier 66 downtown, two-hour tour 10-noon. The tour will go along the east and west waterways, Harbor Island, around Terminal 5, then “a little bit into the Duwamish River,” and off to Pier 91. It’s free and families are invited – 4 per family so they can accommodate more – refreshments and games on board, “part fun, part educational.” If you know you want to be on the list when registration opens in March, e-mail portregistration@portseattle.org ASAP. “Is it a sightseeing tour or will it be an opportunity for discussion?” asked Deb Barker from Morgan Junction. The port’s Sally del Fierro replied that one deck is intended to be family-friendly and one for “folks who want to listen to narration,” for the first hour, while the second hour will feature informational tables. Capacity is 400. If they book up and have a ton of overflow, they might plan another event.

WEST SEATTLE LAND USE COMMITTEE: Tod Rodman mentioned that the next meeting will include a guest talking about the Seattle In Progress app (featured here in November – final item).

NEXT MONTH’S MEETING: Councilmember Sally Clark is confirmed. There was also a suggestion that discussion might be planned around the city’s upcoming initiative to “improve” the Design Review process, according to Cindi Barker. The SWDC meets first Wednesdays, so the meeting will be March 4, 6:30 pm, Senior Center of West Seattle.

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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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