Touring the Junction/Triangle ‘walkshed’: Proliferation of plans

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Seattle Comprehensive Plan

West Seattle Junction Hub Neighborhood Plan

West Seattle Triangle Streetscape Concept Plan ..

Seattle Transit Master Plan

Seattle Bicycle Master Plan

Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan

Seattle Right of Way Improvements Manual

Seattle Pedestrian Retail Areas plan

Fauntleroy Boulevard plan

One thing was clear during last Saturday’s “walkshed” tour of the Junction/Triangle area, with Seattle Planning Commission reps listening to local community reps: There’s no shortage of plans and documents covering the area, but there’s a shortage of understanding in how they interact, interface, intersect, and what they mean.

The tour itself was linked to the Planning Commission’s ongoing work on the city Comprehensive Plan update, dubbed Seattle 2035. The next big milestone for that is the environmental-impact statement, expected to be out early next year. And this is no bureaucratic bit of wonkiness to ignore: As was pointed out at the start of Saturday’s event, this type of discussion preceded the 1990s-generated plan for “urban villages” including The Junction/Triangle – much of which is only now coming to pass, as was underscored by the current, future, and recent development sites passed (and often discussed) along the way.

But the topic wasn’t just the dense heart of the Junction/Triangle, but also its single-family zones – like a stretch of 40th south of Edmunds and the major project sites bordering it on the north.

For backstory on the tour, see our coverage of last month’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting (which included a slide deck setting the stage). To see what happened during the tour – read on:

First, Jeanne Krikawa (above, 3rd from left) and Luis Borrero (above, left), the West Seattle-residing Planning Commissioners who had come to JuNO in September to explain their work and deliver the invitation, were there for the tour. So was Jesseca Brand, the commission policy analyst who had accompanied them to JuNO. Two of the commission’s highest-ranking people introduced themselves as well – executive director Vanessa Murdock, and commission co-chair Amalia Leighton. A future commissioner, too.

Many of those – but not all – who came to join them were familiar faces from neighborhood groups, not just in The Junction, but elsewhere in West Seattle – Admiral, Morgan, Fairmount, Genesee – as well as cross-neighborhood groups such as West Seattle Transportation Coalition and Seattle Green Spaces Coalition. There was some business representation – Frances Smersh from Click! Design That Fits (WSB sponsor) in The Junction. And a regionally known pedestrian advocate – author Cathy Jaramillo from Seattle Stairway Walks.

As the group gathered at Junction Plaza Park at mid-morning Saturday, Leighton explained the importance of looking back as well as ahead – “where did we miss the mark” to “what do we want for the next 20 years?”

Krikawa stressed that they hoped to hear thoughts and ideas: “This isn’t about us talking ‘to’ you.”

Specifically to the point of the Junction “walkshed,” Leighton said they hoped to “understand what YOU think is important regarding walkability.” Ultimately, the work might lead to some kind of algorithm, but it couldn’t be created without input on topography, pedestrian structures (sidewalks, ramps, etc.), waiting times. intersection visibility.

It didn’t take long for talk to turn to some of the plans and designations, even as eyes were cast ahead to that upcoming comprehensive-plan update. Admiral Neighborhood Association president David Whiting mentioned the Pedestrian Retail Areas project that has brought a city rep to almost every neighborhood council on the peninsula in recent months. Leighton tried to say that was about zoning, while this was about transportation – possibly designating the Junction as a “Transit Community” – Whiting said the pedestrian-zone project had a lot to do with transportation and how it would be available and functional in neighborhoods.

Borrero expressed concern about pedestrian-zone boundaries, calling the lack of continuity in some spots “absurd.” The group soon had walked west to Walk-All-Ways at California/Alaska and down the west side of California south of Alaska, pausing outside Puerto Vallarta. Krikawa pointed out how the group – more than two dozen – had had to “funnel” along the sidewalk. On the positive side, she pointed to the raised crosswalk at midblock (there will be a midblock passage on the other side after construction of 4730 California is complete).

The group crossed California at Edmunds and headed east to 42nd SW, where the view proved instructive. On the west side of the street, which continues to redevelop, with Mural completed five years ago and the east building of the Equity Residential project under way, the sidewalk is wider, and there is street-level interest with businesses such as Wallflower Custom Framing (WSB sponsor) and Fresh Bistro.

Look on the east side, with Jefferson Square and Safeway, and you see a narrower sidewalk and the blank wall alongside Safeway and its parking lot, until you get past the entrance to its lower-level lot.

From the 42nd/Edmunds corner and eastbound down Edmunds, tour attendees called the Planning Commission reps’ attention to the new and future development – especially the Alliance Realty project at 40th/Edmunds, and The Whittaker to the east – that likely will turn Edmunds into a much-busier arterial. JuNO’s Commons mentioned the park site that the city has “landbanked” north of the Alliance project. Transitionally, someone else pointed out, it will be temporary home to Fire Station 32, which itself is being rebuilt at its 38th/Alaska site in The Triangle.

Transition was a keyword for the walk – and for the ongoing state of The Junction and Triangle.

The group turned southward and walked down 40th into what is mostly a neighborhood of single-family houses (after the southeast 40th/Edmunds corner, which is proposed for commercial development at the old site of Bella Mente preschool, which moved to Morgan Junction).

So many different types of housing and zoning in such a relatively small area – a “patchwork,” as one person described it – so, how to address their diverse transportation needs? some wondered. Looking at the area in the cup-half-full spirit: A place where families could and do live; family-size apartments are in short supply, it was noted.

Looking east, Click! co-proprietor Smersh voiced hopes the Junction and Triangle will “converse.”

Several participants were part of the process that resulted in a plan for The Triangle, primarily involving streetscapes – Sharonn Meeks from the Fairmount Community Association (south of The Triangle), Josh Sutton from the West Seattle Y (WSB sponsor). The tour headed into The Triangle next. Meeks mentioned newly reopened Fairmount Park Elementary, the closest school, a few blocks south on Fauntleroy, and the stairway some students use at Edmunds to come down from her neighborhood above. The challenges posed by stairways and sidewalks in disrepair became a topic; Leighton wondered how many were aware that sidewalk maintenance is generally the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. The city’s Find It Fix It app got a mention here.

“Transition” was again the prevalent atmosphere as the group turned to Fauntleroy and walked north to Alaska, past The Whittaker’s site – where major demolition has continued in the days since the tour – with Spruce (the former “Hole”) in view to the north, and the proposed CVS drugstore site on the east side of Fauntleroy. (Since that first surfaced in July, in case you wondered, no new documents or other activity has come up publicly, but the CVS projects in other parts of Seattle and in Burien have been proceeding.)

At the Fauntleroy/Alaska RapidRide stop, JuNO’s Commons (at right in photo above) pointed out the cars zooming by: “This is a freeway.” She offered a vision for a transit center instead of a drugstore, with businesses where people could stop to shop and dine – maybe a public market, food trucks. “Missed opportunity,” she says.

The tour was now solidly in The Triangle, continuing east past Les Schwab – another of the converted ex-Huling properties, as is Trader Joe’s to the north – to 38th, crossing by Link, another newer development, apartments over a child-care center, restaurant, fitness studio. The group was headed to 37th/Snoqualmie for a look at the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor), getting ready for an expansion project.

Y executive Sutton spoke, saying almost as much about his facility’s surroundings as about the Y itself. To the south, SK Center – a food-processing business – has long been up for sale, he pointed out. To the north and south, he referred to properties owned by the Sweeney family – Alki Lumber, the renovated motel. (Asked their thoughts about the lumber yard’s relationship to everything around it in the transitional Triangle, many agreed it’s important to have a local business playing a role like that – it’s the last of its kind, where the area used to have more: “We need a local place for lumber.”)

Back to the Y’s plan – Snoqualmie is in the new Triangle Plan as a “festival street,” Sutton noted, and yet sometimes when they deal with the city, that seems to be forgotten, so they “have to keep reminding” city departments about the vision spelled out in that plan.

What about bicycle infrastructure? The Fauntleroy Green Boulevard being designed for Fauntleroy Way, barely a block north, is expected to have protected lanes. That brought up the subject of what seemed to be conflicts with the city’s Bicycle Master Plan: “Do the overlays talk to each other?” One Planning Commission rep then brought up the city’s Right Of Way Improvement Manual. Commissioner Krikawa observed that the “relationship between all these plans” was difficult to ferret out.

Yes, plans exist, but Sutton observed that they are “not very community-friendly, because we don’t live in that wonky world.” Even engaged neighborhood advocates like those on the tour “have trouble understanding how to make change.”

Some plans might be missing key components; when talk turned to area parks, and the lack of greenspace in The Triangle itself – though Camp Long and West Seattle Stadium are directly east – Leighton noted the Comprehensive Plan is missing a “parks element.”

Another issue of coordination came up – components of private projects, and how they relate to public infrastructure. Example: The hillclimb that’s planned as part of the 4535 35th SW mixed-use project now under construction (at left in rendering above), likely to be a major connection from The Triangle to the stadium/Camp Long area, not to mention the RapidRide stops at 35th/Avalon. How is that plan acknowledged and addressed when all the others are brought up?

No answers, but lots of questions, and much to think, and to keep talking, about, in this time of transition.

Those interested in continuing the morning’s conversation moved on to a Junction coffee shop; we weren’t able to stay for that, but here are some ways to speak up:

*As mentioned above, the environmental-impact statement for the Seattle 2035 comprehensive-plan is in the works. Thoughts about where the city should be going? Here’s how to send in yours.

*For the specific area traveled on the tour, get involved with the Junction Neighborhood Organization, whose next meeting is Tuesday (October 21st), 6:30 pm at the Senior Center of West Seattle (Oregon/California).

10 Replies to "Touring the Junction/Triangle 'walkshed': Proliferation of plans"

  • Diane October 16, 2014 (1:31 pm)

    THANK YOU for the outstanding thorough coverage of this very important event; and THANK YOU to all the community members and businesses there to represent

  • CMP October 16, 2014 (2:52 pm)

    I’d like to see the NEC of Fauntleroy and Alaska improveded (basically the Shell gas station). That’s a somewhat sharp turn traveling northbound and my bus has hit the curb a few times. It’s called condemnation for a reason SDOT…exercise it! Although maybe with the proposed changes, it maybe won’t be an issue. Doesn’t appear so as I skimmed through the Triangle Streetscape Plan however.

    • WSB October 16, 2014 (2:57 pm)

      I should have mentioned, then of course there are subplans on top of subplans … The Fauntleroy Boulevard plan and intersection improvements promised by The Whittaker developers both will affect that intersection. Haven’t seen a final plan – and the boulevard hasn’t reached final design or funding yet …

  • 30MikeMike October 16, 2014 (5:24 pm)

    I dislike the Shell station for a different reason: people slow to a near stop to mount the driveway. If their entry is obstructed they stop with their tail hanging out. Sooner or later somebody is going to gel clobbered on their right rear corner.

  • CEA October 16, 2014 (5:58 pm)

    I want to second Diane’s sentiments – thank you WSB for outstanding and incredibly valuable coverage (on this and many, many other issues) and to every single individual, business owner, or committee member who is devoting time and attention to this most important effort. I can’t emphasize enough how important your contributions are!

  • Cascadianone October 16, 2014 (8:26 pm)

    Everybody knows we need a grade-separated, driverless, electric light rail/subway line to downtown Seattle. With stops at North Delridge, Alaska Junction, Morgan Junction, High Point and Westwood Village, the line couldn’t fail.

    Why sit in traffic on the West Seattle Bridge when we could have our own train?

    How long can our property values hold with the endless crush of new folks and NO NEW TRANSIT to support all of them?

    We don’t own the land, we can’t stop them from developing it. We can’t build more roads and highways, where would those go?

    All these plans and overlays SOLD US DOWN THE RIVER by permitting a massive density build-up without promising nor paying for increased infrastructure, like transit.

    All we can do now is demand and vote for transit to support our new neighbors and improve the quality of all our lives.

    When the politicians won’t pay for it (and they are telling us they won’t!), you find a way to tax yourself and pay for it anyway. But you remember their failure on Election Day…

    South Lake Union built the streetcar by buying it outright. We can do the same. We have the resources, as a community. We are already invested, and our investment is at grave risk…

    West Seattle deserves rapid transit NOW, not in 20+ years. They need to break ground TOMORROW on a high-capacity line. If they did, those of us who own property on this penunsula would become very wealthy and this would be one of the most desireable spots in the city.

    I don’t want to know what will happen when thousands of new residents realize they live an hour plus from a major city through crushing, endless traffic with very few non-retail/service jobs and no industry to support them…

  • zark00 October 17, 2014 (12:37 pm)

    Cascadianone – build it ourselves like the S.L.U.S. Havent’ heard this idea. I like it, it could actually work.

    A massive kickstarter, and give it to the WSTC.
    They’d have funds and a mandate.
    They’re already kind of awesome, I’d love to see what they’d do with a bunch of cash.

  • Thomas M. October 18, 2014 (11:09 am)

    What’s the status of the high density rubber shock pads they put under the adjacent West Seattle Freeway and bridge? Can that road hack all the increased usage? There does not appear to be any engineering activity under there at all.

  • Fauntleroy fairy October 22, 2014 (9:31 am)

    @zark & Cas

    Your great “vision” doesn’t take into consideration any of the families that live here. Like it or not, we are a family community, not an urban jungle and it would be virtually impossible for the majority of the population here to move in and around WS on a fixed transit line.
    I don’t use mass transit, but I do understand the need for bus service. Beyond that, it’s up to you to get yourself to and from work. If it’s taking longer than YOU would like, then move closer.
    Another rail line snarling traffic and costing tax payers 100’s of millions? No thanks.
    It appears your desire to be “wealthy” is overshadowing any rational thought you may have.

  • GUA8Avenger30Mike October 22, 2014 (2:31 pm)

    N.C. is just oppositional. I use transit all the time. My rig is in the shop and I went to a business event in Ballard all the way on the C line. Coming back up the W Seattle Bridge, the bus bounced around like a hobby horse. Those rubber pads isolating the concrete from the support pillars must be taking a heck of a beating. The Times had an article last year about how they were not up to specifications, and detailed how these things are not thick enough. Let’s fix what we have first.

Sorry, comment time is over.