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.