FOLLOWUP: SW Holden ‘natural drainage’ plan explained at HPAC’s October meeting

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With SDOT director Greg Spotts canceling his appearance, most of HPAC‘s monthly meeting Wednesday night focused on the “natural drainage” project newly surfaced for part of SW Holden in Highland Park.

It’s a Seattle Public Utilities project that we first heard about when SPU sent us a notice 26 hours before the meeting. We wrote about it a few hours later.

This is far from the first “natural drainage” project in West Seattle; others planned and built by both city and county agencies over the past decade have gone by names including “green stormwater infrastructure” (2011), “bioswales” (2012), and “roadside raingardens” (2014). This time, the “natural drainage” features are proposed for the south side of SW Holden between 16th and 17th, plus the east side of a half-block of 17th south of Holden.

So why that particular section of street? we asked when the meeting got to Q&A. The SPU team in attendance had started their presentation with some generalities about Longfellow Creek pollution and this area being part of the creek’s watershed. Salmon in Longfellow Creek die before spawning at a higher rate than any other creek in the city, they said. So their goal is to “naturally” filter rainwater before it gets to the street and carries vehicle-related toxins into the creek. But no specifics about why this specific block, until they answered our question: SDOT approached SPU about “doing a project” there. SDOT says the street is too wide for its classification as a “residential” street, so there’s room for it. The SPU team said that as part of the project, the curb on the south side of the street would be “bumped out” five feet.

They said the project wasn’t expected to extend further west because of “obstacles” including a gas pipeline. How much street parking would be lost? Kuo insisted they didn’t know yet, since design doesn’t start in earnest until early next year. Before then, they want feedback, she said, so that’s why they went to HPAC.

In addition to the extended curb, they revealed a few more aspects of the project plan. SPU will maintain the project area, they said, adding that they in fact “prefer that (residents) NOT” try to do maintenance. The project will be built north of the existing sidewalk; none of that will be replaced unless there’s damage during the construction process. Some street trees will be removed, but they don’t have a count yet, and they noted the city’s policy of requiring two trees to be planted for every tree removed. (Not necessarily in the same area, though.)

One point of concern in the project zone is the city-owned ex-substation on the southwest corner of 16th/Holden. Despite much discussion in recent years, its future has yet to be determined. An attendee voiced fear that any work at that corner would be torn out when the site is finally redeveloped.

The project team also heard a complaint that this was just becoming public now, when it obviously has been planned for a while (though construction isn’t expected until 2024 or 2025). They said they’re doing what they can to inform everyone now, from doorknocking to mailing a flyer. The project website is here and includes contact information for Kuo, if you have feedback.

ALSO AT HPAC’S MEETING: A few quick notes – gratitude for Seattle Parks‘ recent trail refresh at Riverview Playfield and SDOT’s revision of its south-side sidewalk; the Trick or Trees event with something for everyone (details here) on Saturday afternoon; and an artist selection for the Highland Park Way/Holden intersection improvements’ public-art installation – the art will be a “gigantic Steller’s Jay.” (We’re following up to find out more.) Also, HPAC had a visitor from the Fauntleroy Community Association, continuing to solicit other West Seattle community organizations’ support for its opposition to expanding the ferry dock when it’s rebuilt.

NEXT MEETING: Watch for updates.

9 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: SW Holden 'natural drainage' plan explained at HPAC's October meeting"

  • John October 28, 2022 (8:44 am)

    Let’s hope some of the negative commenters on the ‘natural drainage’ projects actually read WSB’s coverage before exposing their false assumptions.  
    These are street enhancements that should grace many more streets regardless of ‘concerns’ about lost ROW  vehicle storage.  

    • Jim October 28, 2022 (10:40 am)

      God forbid people be able to park in the roads in front of the homes that they pay exorbitant property taxes for

      • Ice October 29, 2022 (1:27 pm)

        God forbid we remove a slight amount of free parking to prevent waste from being dumped into our streams and other body of water.

    • Kyle October 28, 2022 (8:42 pm)

      I’m not against them, I’m just wondering how I can get them on my street. If all you need is SDOT to recommend a “project” and not any criteria in actually bad drainage, I’d love for them to spend $500k+ on my block.

      • J October 29, 2022 (6:40 am)

        Kyle, If you are interested in improving the environment, you might, depending on your location, only outside designated Environmentally Critical Areas, be encouraged by the city to create your own ‘rain garden.”  
        They divert the hard surface run-off and roof downspouts of your home from our sewers and storm drains allowing the water to infiltrate and be cleaned by the soil. 

  • West Coast Nomad October 29, 2022 (3:39 pm)

    Our neighborhood was initially excited about getting these as well. Then over months of conversation, we learned about the many street trees we’d lose, ugly signage not shown in the photos used to promote these, not only lost parking but also curb bump outs on narrow streets that would slow down emergency vehicles, loss to home values, etc. Our neighborhood is full of rational, college-educated, eco-friendly folks who support actual rain gardens on our property. The questions we posed led to a more thoughtful and discreet use of these versus the multiple blocks of deep “bioswales” initially planned with low regard for safety, much less, aesthetics. Those  impacted should continue to ask questions, educate and advocate for themselves.

    • John October 29, 2022 (5:43 pm)

      West Coast Nomad,
      I spent some time at the West Seattle Raingardens site you recommended.  
      It raised more questions than it answerred.
      I could not find material that is not badly dated.  
      If all of the scary ‘concerns’ outlined ten years ago (circa 2012), came true as feared, why not update the site to support them?  

      The only photo this group provides  is dated and from the  Ballard ill-fated prototype of 2011.  Here is a photo and description of a 2017 Ballard project..
      Without current updated,  the concerns of 2011 simply appears as typical NIMBY fear mongering.  
      A few points to address-
      Have property values decreased significantly compared to adjacent streets ?  
      Does deep standing water remain?  
      Are they 15 feet wide from the sidewalk into street and 45 feet long?
      Have they caused sinkholes and destabilized sensitive soils?  
      Do you still consider them “the strip in front of your house  a stormwater treatment “facility.”  
      Has anyone drowned in them?  
      Are they proven unsafe in other ways?  
      Has the County not maintained them?  
      Do they slow down emergency vehicles more than the now common traffic circles?  
      Have they caused you to utilize our free street parking blocks away? 
      How about an update?

    • Kyle October 30, 2022 (12:45 pm)

      What? You do know where this is proposed? There are no trees and it’s mostly in front of a seven eleven and an abandoned utility lot. These would be good. Just wish it was more democratic how sites are decided.

      • WSB October 30, 2022 (2:26 pm)

        Not on the 7/11 side of the street.

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