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.
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 hpacws.org for updates.