By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With one month until your next major feedback opportunity for West Seattle light rail, this week’s Southwest District Council meeting brought a chance for some to catch up on where the process is so far. Sound Transit reps were the spotlight guests, along with Lora Swift from the West Seattle Junction Association.
WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: This was something of a primer to catch up those who haven’t been following it much since the process of determining a “preferred alignment” for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions revved up three months ago.
Stephen Mak from Sound Transit first recapped the backstory that we’ve already covered here many times, including what’s currently the “representative alignment” – aka, the draft route – elevated stations at SODO, Delridge, Avalon, and The Junction, with a new light-rail-only bridge over the Duwamish River.
By this time next year, the Sound Transit board hopes to have a “preferred alignment” approved. Next feedback step, the first round of “neighborhood forums,” with one in West Seattle 10 am-12:30 pm May 5th (as announced last month). Before then, the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) has two meetings, April 17th and 24th – and that’s when the official report on the public “early scoping” feedback from February-March will be made public, Mak said in response to a question from Deb Barker, one of two West Seattle community representatives on the SAG. He recapped the “early themes” described at last month’s SAG meeting, including suggested alternate routing, with some tunneling – all five of them are shown here:
Mak stressed, as briefers had at the SAG meeting, that these are not in any way final options – just an early look at some themes emerging.
Also from ST, Andrea Burnett spoke, noting that West Seattle already had the largest number of comments (remember that this process is for the West Seattle AND Ballard extensions), and talking about the neighborhood forum and reiterating that they would like people to RSVP – they have 90 already!
Might ST consider someplace larger than the venue (Masonic Hall, same place as the open house in February)? Burnett said there are few potential venues that could hold hundreds of people, but they’ll see how it goes, when planning future forums. The feedback from this, as with the “early scoping” feedback, will go to the Stakeholder Advisory Group and Elected Leadership Group.
Will there be cost information at the forum? Later in the process, said Mak.
When will the community get information on how many properties might be affected if the line remains elevated? Later in the process, was the answer to this too. Burnett said they would be happy to come out and talk with groups, neighborhoods, whomever, about how the process might work.
Other questions included when the design of the train equipment would be discussed. The reply included a reminder that the line is 12 years away from its planned opening, so things could change.
“Transit integration,” as Mak termed it, was a big Q&A topic too. ST is talking with Metro about how bus routes might change when light rail starts running (projected in 2030). So, the reps were asked, when will ST talk with residents about how buses and light rail will interface? That too will be later in the process.
WEST SEATTLE JUNCTION ASSOCIATION: Executive director Lora Swift started with an update about the parking-lot situation, acknowledging there’s been a lot of buzz about it. (Here’s our coverage from four weeks ago.)
She recapped that the Junction Association rents the lots from West Seattle Trusteed Properties, and that while the relationship worked well for “many many many years,” they had to work out a new lease recently, which happened before a leadership change at WSTP put developers in charge of the organization, with a different view of the property’s worth. Meantime, the valuation of the land skyrocketed – and that matters because (as we noted last month) the property taxes are directly passed on to WSJA as part of the rent, which as a result has skyrocketed too.
She threw out a question to Southwest District Council attendees: Is it important to work to keep the parking lots free? Or is it time for the parking no longer to be free? Is it time for the land to be developed?
Various options were suggested – for example, Eric Iwamoto from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition pointed out the policy at Uwajimaya in the International District, with a certain amount of parking validated – and therefore “free” – for shoppers/diners who spend a certain amount.
Swift recapped that the lot adjacent to the meeting location – behind the Senior Center and businesses to its south – is the one of the most concern, as it includes almost half the 228 spaces totaled in the “free” lots, and is considered to be the one that its owners might want to see developed first.
Are the Junction parking spaces a matter of “civic pride,” as Swift says some view them? One attendee brought up the murals facing the parking lots, and the visibility of the flat space, “and you lose that when you put the parking into a garage,” referring to the Junction’s lease terms that say if any of the lot space was developed, the parking would have to be replaced within the development.
The Junction pays Diamond $600/month to monitor the time-limited lots, Swift said in response to a question. In response to another, she noted that there’s some talk Sound Transit could wind up interested in one lot as a station location. (The ST reps were gone by then.)
After a bit more discussion, Swift summed up that they’ll “continue to have these big conversations.”
She also was there to talk about a grant that WSJA and the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce got to address the business community’s challenges (as discussed at this event last fall). Over the course of about nine months, they gathered a lot of information and Swift said they’re resolved to not let the information go unused. Part of it resulted in a website, wsresourceroundup.com, that they hope will be widely used. It’s a link-list type of website, meant to help you figure out what to do and where to go if you have a question, concern, problem. Lots of links -and if something’s missing, Swift wants to hear about it. You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
They’re working on a followup grant to help businesses and organizations connect with new West Seattle residents. And SWDC co-chair Amanda Sawyer from the Junction Neighborhood Organization said they’re looking to work with other neighborhood groups on getting a grant for collaboration on outreach.
The Southwest District Council, including reps from community councils and other organizations around (mostly) western West Seattle, meets first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, at the Senior Center/Sisson Building.