‘The intersection needs to be fixed’: Highland Park Action Committee, report #2

After last week’s June meeting of the Highland Park Action Committee, we published our first report, on the vote to send the city a letter about the proposed sale of what’s known as the Myers Way Parcels. Next step toward a decision on their future is the community meeting about the site this Thursday, 6:30 pm, at the Joint Training Facility (9401 Myers Way S.).

But the Myers matter was far from the only topic HPAC tackled at this month’s meeting. Here are the rest of our toplines:

TRAFFIC TROUBLE SPOTS AND SDOT: Will the worst intersections in HP ever get fixed?

James Le, from SDOT’s Vision Zero group, was there but didn’t have much news about Highland Park’s traffic trouble spots – 16th/Holden and Highland Park Way/Holden, both with collision challenges.

(July 2015 crash scene during morning commute at Highland Park Way/Holden)

Le said the department had received a grant toward a left-turn signal at southbound 16th and Holden, and is continuing to look into the feasibility of the roundabout proposed for Highland Park Way and Holden. As he noted, a Neighborhood Street Fund community application for roundabout funding has been submitted too. A grant application going out in July might be able to bring in funding toward the $2.1 million price tag, Le said.

HPAC chair Gunner Scott reiterated the “significant concern” in the community because of deadly crashes on Highland Park Way and the gas-main crash at Holden.

Mike from West Seattle Bike Connections then spoke, mentioning the relatively new greenway that crosses Holden, saying that if the intersection at 16th is “being modernized,” it would be an excellent opportunity for safety features such as protected bicycle lanes.

Michele pointed out that safety features have been sought at Highland Park Way and Holden “for 75 years … I’m past being pissed. How many bodies do you need to get something here?” She was particularly angered by the opening statement always being that “it costs too much money.”

Craig amplified that, while Kay pointed out the awkwardness of the added light at 15th, though the community hadn’t requested it.

Le said he didn’t have the full timetable for the grant application results, but thought some information would be available around October. A discussion of side streets feeding into Holden ensued, with another traffic circle on the way to 12th.

Overall, Michele summed it up, “we need kind of a coordinated [corridor-type] response to this neighborhood – like 35th and the West Seattle Bridge,” rather than just piecemeal. “Instead of these individual grants,” as chair Scott summed it up, “our request is to sit down with SDOT and go through a plan – places where we don’t have sidewalks, don’t have curb (bulbs/cuts, too) – and put a plan together.”

Another attendee said that for all the money just spent on stormwater infrastructure on 17th, that money could have been applied toward safety features.

And an exclamation point was put on it by Alan, noting that the Holden traffic isn’t just a neighborhood problem – it’s a major through route for people from other parts of the area. “It’s pretty disturbing … if I die in the neighborhood, it’ll be because I was turning left from Holden onto Highland Park Way, and the intersection needs to be fixed.”

SEATTLE 2035: Patrice Carroll from the city came to talk about the Comprehensive Plan update known as Seattle 2035. It doesn’t redo specific neighborhood plans, she clarified, but there is a section that she said looks at how fast they think growth will occur in some areas. Right now the second version of the plan – the “mayor’s recommendations” – is in the hands of the City Council, specifically the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee chaired by Councilmember Rob Johnson, who’s having a public hearing next Monday, as the committee’s review starts. All the briefings are listed at 2035.seattle.gov, she noted. She said the council is likely to adopt the plan sometime this fall. “We hope they will complete their review in October, but it could take longer.”

Carroll also tried to explain the difference between HALA and the Comprehensive Plan, calling the former “an implementation plan.” And she added that the plan includes new “policy language” because people wanted to see quality-of-life-type topics addressed.

So how could this area’s neighborhood plan get updated? chair Scott asked. For one, make that interest known, she said, adding that it’s “definitely on staff’s radar,” especially with the “looming [North Highline] annexation.”

Scott also expressed disappointment in the Comprehensive Plan’s omission of components addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “We know discrimination is up,” Scott added. The city rep said that the plan wasn’t addressing things that are addressed by federal law, and that might be why it appears that’s not addressed here.

Another attendee wondered, “Where are the amenities for all these people crammed into this small space?” That led to the city rep explaining the split between the two agencies born of the former Department of Planning and Development, and she sidetracked off into a mention of possible changes ahead for Seattle’s 13 neighborhood districts (something that’s been very much under discussion in local community councils). She also touched on how standards of open space might be unachievable and so community discussions might be needed about what standards would make sense in the future. “I’m hearing there might be a much broader conversation about how we provide open space in a growing city that’s getting denser.”

She was asked about how the split in what was DPD affected resources. “Do you actually have time to do the extra work” with which they’ve been tasked? asked Kay. The rep said that the new spinoff department has a director who just started, and also said that City Council staff had just received extra positions (which is not entirely true, though the groundwork’s been laid for that).

Asked how the city can coherently/cohesively plan when it doesn’t control the transit agencies, the rep said that the overarching goal was for mobility of people, not necessarily mobility of vehicles.

SEATTLE POLICE UPDATE: The Major Crimes Task Force and Gang Unit are working on West Seattle right now, according to Lt. Ron Smith, who said that “crimes against persons” are down 27 percent in this area from a year earlier. Two were robberies that started as shoplifting incidents – once force/struggle is involved, the shoplifting is reclassified as robbery. Residential burglaries are down 5 percent, nonresidential down 50 percent, larceny/theft down 12 percent, but car prowls are more than double what they were last year; sttrategies to tackle that will include increased staffing, with “a couple of full-time detectives.” Two “prolific car-prowl” suspects good for “probably 50 each in West Seattle” have been arrested, he said. Car theft is half of what it was. As for what’s behind property crime, he said he wanted to be clear about this point: “There’s an effort by some in the community to suggest that homeless people are those responsible for the car-prowl situation, that’s not what we’re seeing –” it’s drug-addiction-fueled, he said. SPD’s approach toward people experiencing homelessness, meantime, is based on offering social services.

When it was time for community concerns/questions, one attendee mentioned the illegal fireworks that proliferate on the 4th of July. “We are overwhelmed (that day),” Lt. Smith noted, “and our focus is on Alki because of the volume of people.” But he promised to advise third-watch officers to come through this area if they can. He also noted that the 4th brings “a lot of gunshots.” And officers that otherwise would be off are brought in to work Alki or the downtown fireworks, he added.

The Riverview Playfield arson was brought up. “We are having officers go by (but) I don’t know the status of the investigation,” said Lt. Smith. HPAC chair Scott asked him to bring more information to the July meeting.

Another question involved the “running gun battle” on Roxbury a few weeks back, and Lt. Smith said SPD hadn’t received much information on that, though they have reached out to the primary investigating agency across the city-county line, he said. “There’s been no suspect information given to us in regards to that,” and he pointed out that the King County Sheriff’s Office had an even worse staffing crunch than SPD.

WASTE MANAGEMENT CONTEST: HPAC is going to compete for $15,000 in the Recycle/Reuse Challenge. If they win, the money could go toward a community-needs assessment, or maybe toward child care for meetings so families could attend (this was said with a dad holding his little daughter, standing in the corner) – and also things like mulch and flowers. Watch the HPAC website for more information on the contest and how to be part of it.

HIGHLAND PARK IMPROVEMENT CLUB: Michele said the insurance money from the “eyebrow fall” came through “so we’re going to start doing some design stuff.” Next big event at HPIC is Corner Bar on Friday, July 1st, with Squirrel Butter.

NEW BIZ: HPAC chair Scott said another coffee stand is coming to the Seamart parking lot on the southeast corner of 16th/Holden. More info to come.

The Highland Park Action Committee meets on fourth Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, at HPIC. Watch hpacinfo.wordpress.com for updates.

5 Replies to "'The intersection needs to be fixed': Highland Park Action Committee, report #2"

  • KD June 28, 2016 (7:20 pm)

    Thankyou Gunnar!

  • Trickycoolj June 28, 2016 (9:13 pm)

    100% agree with the sentiment: how many bodies are required to get any safety changes and attention on a major east-west corridor for southern West Seattle. I too feel that if I’m in a major car accident it will be on 16th or HP Way and Holden. I commute that corridor every day to and from work and if I ever have out of town guests (like my mom) in the car they freak out and cover their eyes when trying to turn left onto HP Way. That’s not how traffic is engineered in other communities!

  • Azimuth June 28, 2016 (9:46 pm)

    Highland Park and Holden is exactly the type of weird and risky intersection the city loves to ignore.

  • BlairJ June 29, 2016 (3:57 pm)

    HP & Holden is a setup for roll over accidents when a driver turning left from eastbound Holden onto northbound HP Way does not realized that traffic turning left from northbound HP Way onto westbound Holden does not stop.

  • Alan June 30, 2016 (9:50 am)

    Yes, making a left turn off of Highland Park Way onto Holden is dangerous. There is so much to watch for at that intersection and people new to turning left from Holden onto HP Way sometimes fail to notice that they have to yield. It doesn’t register to them that the stopped car is just waiting for traffic to clear. The good thing is that it is a relatively slow speed hit, though under acceleration.

    What seems most dangerous to me is trying to find a gap in traffic that is coming up the hill. Lt. Smith commented on how much speeding is done on those coming up the hill. Traffic in the right turn lane blocks the view of the other traffic, which is frequently hitting 45-50. Pull out in front of one of those cars and it is a driver side strike to your car.

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