By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Seems like Sound Transit West Seattle light rail is Topic A everywhere.
One night before Thursday’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition presentation/discussion, it was also a big part of the agenda at Wednesday’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting – including another potentially loud voice supporting tunneling along at least part of what’s been drafted as an all-elevated route.
So that’s where our report begins:
(From the draft map for Sound Transit’s West Seattle light rail)
CITY REP ON SOUND TRANSIT 3 LIGHT RAIL: Interested in some tunneling on the West Seattle light-rail line, now in the “early scoping” public-comment mode through March 5th? The city may be on your side. Lyle Bicknell came to speak with DNDC on behalf of the city’s interest in the ST3 planning process – he’s with the Office of Planning and Community Development – and talking about how to minimize the impacts of the upcoming light-rail project.
Bicknell discussed city observations about some aspects of the proposal – such as, the Delridge station (currently envisioned to be near Delridge/Andover) having a potential major role as a “transit intercept.” Bicknell’s remarks led to a table discussion about other aspects of the draft project (“representative alignment” as ST calls it) – acknowledging that “we are very keen in urging Sound Transit to explore a tunnel component” he said after attendees brought up the point. Bicknell said the city is concerned about the impacts of an elevated track in the area where it’s projected to be 150 feet high. And yes, he said, the city is aware that tunneling would cost more. But in response to some cynicism about whether a difference can be made now, Bicknell said that he’s seen it happen in other communities and “decisionmakers tend to see the light when they feel the heat.” And he stresses that now is the time to speak up – again, wsblink.participate.online is one way, and e-mail/phone/postal mail info is all on the last page of that feedback site – by the upcoming March 5th deadline.
Also discussed: light rail only serving a fragment of the peninsula. Michael Taylor-Judd, who chairs the West Seattle Transportation Coalition as well as representing North Delridge on the district council, pointed out that pre-ST3, there was talk of the line running completely east of 35th SW, and that didn’t seem like it would have worked either. Bicknell pointed out that West Seattle’s major density is in The Junction. “But with (HALA) upzones,” Highland Park Action Committee co-chair Gunner Scott said, “that’s all going to change.”
“Given that this is a project that will affect our community for at a minimum 100 years,” said Bicknell, planning it thoughtfully is key.
DELRIDGE ACTION PLAN: This was a case of a city plan that morphed into something other than what it was intended to be, over the course of four years, and now is being tossed back in the lap of the community, which in turn is asking questions such as, what is this really intended to be/do?
The city rep for this item was David Goldberg, who noted that he had originally come to the community in spring 2014. He talked about how the project he was working on has changed – for example, what was the Delridge Multi-Modal Corridor Plan component (noted in this 2015 story) evolved into planning of the future RapidRide H Line. He was here to finalize the document and the work plan that has ultimately resulted from it, before it goes to the City Council.
What about neighborhood input on the final plan? asked Pigeon Point’s Pete Spalding. Goldberg said there are no new meetings planned (his last discussion with community reps was more than a year ago, also at the Delridge District Council). What about including other areas of east West Seattle? he was asked. Goldberg said his work is on behalf of the mayor’s office and suggested talking with City Councilmember Lisa Herbold about expanding the coverage area. South Delridge’s Marianne McCord said it’s imperative that her area be considered, because it’s part of the corridor and going to ultimately be part of the urban village. “I agree with you in terms of the concept,” said Goldberg, “but … I did not have the ability to plan for this entire area, so we had to make an assessment about our capacity,” and it stopped where it stopped. The goal of putting this plan forward now is to get some focus on “community priorities,” he added. “Part of what I’m here today to do is to figure out what (the community) thinks are priorities in the next (few) years.”
He mentioned that economic development is one thing that’s being worked on already. Spalding in turn observed that the Delridge Multi-Modal Corridor Plan concept was one that seemed like it would have worked for the community, so couldn’t this go back to that – and what happened to the money? Goldberg said some had been spent. But overall, he said the Multi-Modal Corridor Plan concept was something the city was pursuing in five areas of the city – and then RapidRide came along and the plan changed. “We didn’t change the scope of the project we lobbied for,” Taylor-Judd noted. “Nor did we,” said Goldberg. “We spent years lobbying for that money, and for the corridor,” Taylor-Judd retorted, “by lobbying multiple SDOT directors and mayors – and this plan exists because (we) lobbied for years to get you money in your budget to do (some) neighborhood planning.” (The funding dated back to work that community leaders did with former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, longtime DNDC members mentioned multiple times.) Goldberg said he would advocate for the community’s concerns, but he also warned that part of the forthcoming report/document might be things the community “(don’t) agree with” or wouldn’t consider a priority. Spalding said it’s vital that community reps see the plan before it goes to the council so they could for example point out their concerns/priorities in advance to decisionmakers such as Councilmember Herbold.
As district-council reps/attendees leafed through copies of the plan’s latest version, its mention of the Delridge Grocery Co-op – not represented at the meeting – was spotlighted, while attendees voiced the perception that it appears to be no closer to opening a store than it’s been in its years of working toward that goal. Goldberg said the city still has an open offer of “technical assistance” but hasn’t had a recent request, and promised that the plan would address Delridge’s “food desert” problem somehow.
YOUR VOICE, YOUR CHOICE PROJECT DEVELOPMENT MEETINGS: Yun Pitre, community engagement coordinator from the Department of Neighborhoods, reminded everyone of the schedule of meetings coming up to go through the community suggestions for park/street grants. (Here’s the list – first one is Monday.) Several of the people here who participated last year and offered suggestions for improving the process – which was new last year – expressed dismay that it hasn’t changed. While hundreds of ideas were submitted, only a few dozen people participated in reviewing ideas. South Delridge rep McCord added dismay that projects involving public safety are being forced to compete for what Pigeon Point’s Spalding called “an ever-shrinking pot of money.” That led to a brief question of whether some of the money that’s not going to be spent on the Fauntleroy Boulevard project – so far – might be spent instead on the grant-funding-denied Highland Park roundabout.
ROXHILL PARK COMMONS: Earl Lee from Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition brings up this idea now in discussion to get more community involvement with the park (with a kickoff meeting coming up next Tuesday).
DELRIDGE DAY: Spalding said the skating part of the festival will be expanded this year, and Nafasi Ferrell of DNDA is putting together cultural features, Chas Redmond is programming the music, the Precinct Picnic will be back and the bicycle officers will lead a bike ride through Delridge. Spalding said they are hoping that more community organizations, like neighborhood councils, will participate this year. Though it’s in North Delridge, it’s not the North Delridge Day Festival, pointed out Taylor-Judd. He pointed out there’s tons of free stuff – food, treats, backpacks, entertainment, activities. And he pointed out that sponsorships (we’ve been a sponsor each year) and other community support has meant the festival has raised money, thousands of dollars donated to local nonprofits.
BEE FESTIVAL: As always, it’s at High Point Commons Park, and this year’s date is May 19th, Deborah Vandermar from the High Point Open Spaces Association announced. It will begin with the parade as always.
DISTRICT COUNCIL COLLABORATION: There’s talk of having West Seattle’s two district councils formally collaborate for a “unified voice” on behalf of the peninsula. Spalding pointed out that the councils used to have an annual joint meeting. The concept, overall, is a work in progress.
The Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meets on third Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, currently at Highland Park Improvement Club (1116 SW Holden).