Repave California? Stoplight at 47th/Admiral? Community-proposed projects presented to Southwest District Council

January 2, 2013 11:20 pm
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 |   Southwest District Council | West Seattle news

(Story updated Thursday afternoon with documents for each road-project proposal)

(California Avenue section in need of repaving, per city-grant application)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

A new year brought new leadership for the Southwest District Council, as it met at a new time (earlier – 6:30 pm) in a new location (Southwest Teen Life Center).

New co-chairs Karl de Jong from the Admiral Neighborhood Association and Susan Ruppert from the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council presided over the biggest turnouts in a while, with more than 20 people on hand, including visitors making presentations about road projects proposed for city grant money – including repaving a stretch of California SW.

Read on for details of the proposals, which took up most of the meeting.

NEIGHBORHOOD STREET FUND PROJECT PROPOSALS: Five projects were presented for review, seeking the council’s endorsement as they seek a share of the Neighborhood Street Fund. Community proposals usually go through district councils – all volunteers representing local organizations – for review – on their way to official city-leadership consideration.

This time around, five projects were proposed in the Southwest District (one of two districts whose areas comprise West Seattle – the Delridge Neighborhoods District is the other). Here’s how they were presented:

*Morgan Community Association president Deb Barker – “a recently retired land-use planner passionate about West Seattle,” as she also described herself – spoke about two proposals, both of which, she noted, were made to SWDC before (in 2009 and 2012).

First one: “Safe Pedestrian Crossings in Morgan Junction (document here), focusing on three east-west corridors” in the neighborhood, with “fairly troubling conditions,” she explained: SW Graham from California to Fauntleroy, SW Morgan from 42nd up the hill to 35th, and SW Holden from California up the hill to 35th. “Each of these three roadways are pretty busy, with one or more hills … all have some kind of sight/distance challenge along some portion of the roadway,” she explained, with resulting dangers for pedestrians and cars, particularly “inconsistent pedestrian conditions.”

The application would seek a grant for improvements at key intersections – painted crosswalks or curb bulbs or curb ramps or pedestrian median refuges or pedestrian signals. “Not all portions of these roadways are unsafe – just a few select spots but we want to correct the conditions before there’s an accident,” she explained. There’s no estimated cost at this point, Barker said, in response to a question – that’s one of the specifics, she said, that would be worked out if the application gets further down the road than it has in the past.

Second one: “California Avenue Corridor Conditions” (document here). Barker said, “This could be the tale of many (local) streets” – in this case, it’s California between Graham and Holly, including the California/Fauntleroy intersection ‘which recently has become infamous with the RapidRide bus snarls, challenges …” The pavement is deteriorating: “The holes are bigger, the cracks are wider,” and the sidewalks are going downhill too, so to speak, explained Barker – “there are areas that are pretty darn challenging to walk along.” The MoCA-submitted applications proposes repaving the entire portion of California between those two streets – “just redo the whole darn thing.” Also, repair sidewalks, crosswalks, and related facilities. “The key to this application is knowing the really bad spots,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re taking care of this corridor and making it safe for pedestrians AND vehicles … so we want to correct any problems before an accident happens.”

Third one: “Morgan Junction Alley Improvement” (document here), presented by Thyra DeHaven (owner of The Wash Dog [WSB sponsor]). The alley runs behind TWD and neighboring Kokoras Greek Grill, as it spans the north-south distance between SW Graham and Fauntleroy Way SW; it’s unpaved north of the building that now includes Super Supplements, DeHaven explained, though it’s also used by about a dozen residences, most of which have parking spaces in back, some of which, she says, are not used because the alley is not paved and is in bad shape. She says businesspeople and residents have been working to try to fill the potholes with anything they can find – but whatever they do is undone by the trash trucks that come down the alley for three separate weekly pickups. Among other spillover problems in times of bad weather – dirt from the alley washes into the sewer system and clogs it up (“we had to have (a rooting plumber) come out,” she recalled, to unclog it). Then in the summer – “it turns into a dust bowl,” she explained. So they are looking to have the alley paved and speed bumps installed – “we are so desperate at this point in trying to deal with the issue that we would also take grading and graveling,” which might at least level out some of the potholes, she said.

Fourth one: Former Admiral Neighborhood Association president Katy Walum (new president David Whiting was also on hand but not part of the presentation) presented the proposal for a signal at 47th and Admiral Way (document here), where there is a crosswalk now and a flashing light, but that’s not enough, she said, because of the “limited level of visibility as you approach the crosswalk in either direction.” As Walum explained, ANA has long lobbied for this, even before the crash in 2006 that killed Tatsuo Nakata while he was using the crosswalk. “The pedestrian signal is the only way to improve safety at this intersection,” she said.

She quoted Don Wahl, Alki Mail and Dispatch owner, a witness the morning that Nakata was killed since his business is located right at that intersection, by reading a letter from Wahl, detailing the road’s history as a streetcar route, “never designed or intended for the use of motor cars,” which, Wahl wrote, use it as a “speedway,” with numerous intersections and near-misses. He wrote of a petition drive two years before Nakata’s death, with hundreds of signatures requesting a full signal – a request the city did not honor. Wahl’s letter also voiced concerns about more residents coming into the area now that Life Care Center of West Seattle across Admiral is closing; his letter mentioned a proposed apartment building (though we cannot find any development/remodeling proposal in online records, so far).

Walum says they’ve been working with SDOT, which agrees a signal is warranted, but says there is no money, so the signal sits on a list of 12 – at #12, with only two funded outright each year. It would cost somewhere between $125,000 and $500,000 “depending on the signalization features,” Walum says SDOT has informed her. “This is an intersection where a person has been killed,” Walum summed up, “and the only way we feel we can prevent another tragedy in the future is to install a signal.”

Fifth and final one: A brief presentation by Arbor Heights resident Aaron Utigard, seeking safer walking conditions along 35th SW between 100th and 104th (document here), where he said there are currently no pedestrian facilities; at 104th, while there’s a crossing guard and some facilities, he says the plan for Westside School (WSB sponsor) to buy and remodel the Hillcrest Presbyterian Church site (as first reported here last fall) “will increase the amount of elementary school children and parents walking along the road.” He pointed out that the new sidewalks between 98th and 100th used Bridging the Gap money (the same levy that funds the grants now being contended for).

Next step, now that the presentations have been made: A SWDC subcommittee will take the five proposals under advisement for review/ratings, to see what the council will support as moving along in the process, which includes formally submitting applications to the city by the end of this month.

Also discussed at tonight’s meeting:

CITY NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL: SWDC member Chas Redmond (delegate from the Morgan Community Association) just wrapped up three years as chair of the CNC – which he noted is officially authorized as a voice in city matters. The goal this year, he said, is to get people from all over the city to participate directly in some of the CNC’s committees – “spend 90 minutes once a month working directly with people who run the city.”

GATHERING OF NEIGHBORS: Pete Spalding from Pigeon Point (which is part of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council) visited the meeting to encourage all neighborhood groups to participate in this year’s Gathering of Neighbors – community associations and other groups too. A table will cost you $25, unless someone from your organization will do some volunteer work to make the event on 9 am-3 pm May 4th happen – that will lead to the fee being waived. The first half will involve a leadership workshop, as it did last year, followed by a three-hour resource fair, with group reps tabling, entertainment, and more. The theme will be “how our community deals with mental-health challenges in our neighborhoods,” Spalding said – timely for a variety of reasons, including the DESC Delridge Supporting Housing complex that’s coming to North Delridge.

THIS YEAR’S FESTIVALS: MoCA’s Redmond shared dates for three big events with which he’s involved – June 22nd 10-6 for the Morgan Junction Community Festival; the Alki Art Fair, July 20-21, 10 am-8 pm and 10 am-9 pm; Delridge Day, August 17th, 11 am-5 pm (actual running times are tentative, he said).

BOY SCOUTS’ VISIT: Three of tonight’s observers were identified as Boy Scouts from Troop 282, visiting the meeting as part of their work for a merit badge relating to community. Asked at meeting’s end what they thought, one said, “It was long” (drawing laughter). Another enjoyed seeing a wide range of opinions and the collaboration. And the third mentioned taking an interest in the 47th/Admiral stoplight proposal because he lives near there. Troop 282 members are working toward the Eagle Scout level, and one of their adult chaperones said they are always looking for projects – and organizations that would let them work with them.

NEXT MONTH: City Councilmember Tim Burgess is expected at the February meeting. That sparked a discussion about accommodating political candidates – since, while Burgess is scheduled to speak about council business, he also happens to be running for mayor. New co-chair de Jong’s suggestion was to have SWDC sponsor a candidates’ forum and invite everyone. Fauntleroy Community Association delegate Vlad Oustimovitch said forums are a great idea but seldom draw much attendance, so he favored the idea of candidates coming to the meetings and getting a short time to speak. No one volunteered outright to form a committee to work on the issue, so de Jong suggested bringing it up again next month.

(Next month’s Southwest District Council meeting will be at 6:30 pm Wednesday, February 6th, again at the SW Teen Life Center, 2801 SW Thistle.)

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