More ‘natural drainage’ in Highland Park, and a chance to ask questions

(From SPU website: Rendering of ‘natural drainage system’ a few years post-installation)

On a rainy night, we have an update on another “natural-drainage systems” project in West Seattle – this time in Highland Park. These are the types of installations that have previously gone by names such as “roadside raingardens.” If you have questions about it, you’ll have a chance to ask project reps from Seattle Public Utilities during Wednesday night’s HPAC meeting. An info-sheet sent to nearby residents (see it here) says the project will be built along SW Holden between 16th SW and 17th SW and on a half-block of the east side of 17th. SPU is working with SDOT because the project will involve street changes too:

Natural Drainage Systems: Natural drainage systems will help improve stormwater drainage and remove
pollutants from stormwater runoff to improve water quality in Longfellow Creek.

• Roadway Improvements: This project will include roadway improvements, such as curb bulbs, ADA ramps, and landscape plantings.

Community input, alongside technical evaluations, will be essential during each project phase. The project team will work with impacted neighbors and community members to understand important issues in the neighborhood and identify feasible and appropriate locations for natural drainage systems. Community members will be able to share their input through a variety of online and in-person activities and surveys. Community engagement will be ongoing through all phases of the project – planning, design, and construction.

There’s more project info on the official website, where you’ll also see how to participate in/watch tomorrow night’s online meeting, which starts at 7 pm. SPU says the design starts early next year, and construction is expected in 2024-2025.

21 Replies to "More 'natural drainage' in Highland Park, and a chance to ask questions"

  • Kyle October 25, 2022 (8:35 pm)

    The flyer says nothing about why this random block is the best block for this work. I’d argue the drainage on Holden is worse on the hill between 14th Ave SW and 13th Ave SW. Also how much will this cost?

    • TC October 26, 2022 (7:59 am)

      Sounds like you should attend the meeting tonight since they are looking for comments like this.

    • Mr. Highland October 26, 2022 (4:15 pm)

      Are you talking about the intermittent natural river that flows down the steep alley between 13th and 14th, washing all the surface mud & gravel down onto the sidewalk and the street?  Yeah the city just plain gave up on that like 10 years ago.

      • Kyle October 26, 2022 (7:59 pm)

        Yes exactly. I think these are a good thing. It just seems random why this block and not where the drainage is worse. However, I thought about it more and maybe it’s a traffic calming concession instead? That block got a lot of cut through traffic when the bridge was closed. They just made it sound like this block has really bad drainage but they didn’t back up that statement with anything. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the meeting time.

        • WSB October 26, 2022 (9:01 pm)

          I asked the “why this block” question tonight (meeting report forthcoming, hopefully tomorrow). The answer was mostly (a) SDOT suggested “a project” and (b) the road is too wide for its designation as a neighborhood street (one of the additional details tonight was that the curb would be “bumped out” five feet). Otherwise, the reply was generically “Longfellow Creek is polluted and this will reduce some toxic runoff. Yes, but so would doing this on any one of dozens of other blocks. – T

  • Frog October 25, 2022 (9:10 pm)

    The interesting question would be who maintains these “natural drainage” sections, and how?  After a short while, they don’t look like the picture.  They sprout meter-high thickets of grass unless mowed regularly.  Can that contour be safely mowed by a home-owner?  Or will the city send large roadside mowers, the type with arms extending from trucks?  If there are blackberries anywhere within a half mile, and the strips are not mowed, blackberries will eventually establish there and you would need nukes or a lot of patience to ever clear the space.

  • Sunny.206 October 25, 2022 (9:26 pm)

    Hm, isn’t this an road commuters take to exit WS to go to work down Highland parkway, seems like  just another road diet on a way out of WS. to me.  :(

  • Skeptic October 25, 2022 (9:40 pm)

    Try visiting the mature installations of some of these in the North Side of  Highpoint, 31st & 32 Ave SW South of Juneau St.
    Also a few blocks along 32nd and 34th Aves SW between Myrtle St. and Webster St.  
    The city installed them maybe  five years ago with the promise the city would maintain them.  
    I was also skeptical, but they are in fairly good condition various with shrubs and plants that filled in rather quickly, choking most weed out.  
    There is not any lawn type grass that requires mowing and the blackberries have not taken over.  
    The city did test for water permeation ahead of time as they likely did on the proposed area. 
    WSB has a lot of coverage of the original sir project as it was a somewhat radical proposal.

  • Ice October 26, 2022 (12:49 am)

    The already existing ‘natural drainage’ systems that are in Highpoint add a lot of character to the neighborhood and make walking much more pleasant, nevermind the environmental benefits. I wish they would do this in my neighborhood.

  • Zen October 26, 2022 (6:20 am)

    This is a great way to slow the flow rate and filter the street runoff.  Better storm runoff management than underground retention reservoirs.  A vast improvement over curbs and easements.  Best idea I have seen in WS.

  • West Coast Nomad October 26, 2022 (8:20 am)

    And here we go again. First they were called bioswales then rain gardens and now natural drainage. These are prettied up ditches. The part they don’t mention is street trees will be removed (they can’t grow in standing water), parking will be lost, ugly signage will be going up,  homeowners will be left to maintain these and much more. It’s no accident these projects are done in certain neighborhoods in West Seattle and not others. These projects have many risks associated with them for residential neighborhoods. Residents should learn lessons from Ballard and other WS neighborhoods of what these are really about. The city will try to keep this project under the radar and then ram it through:

    • nonni October 26, 2022 (11:19 am)

      Thank you. When they were first installed I called them fishing weirs and Carthaginian walls. Now I  affectionately call them Cherry Pitfalls (did you play Candyland as a child? Skip a Turn). Homeowners are not allowed to maintain them, but there is nothing preventing passersby (it began with ‘bioswales’, then was declared a Greenway/ Safe & Healthy Street : All are Welcome on foot, bike, skateboard, scooter, wheelbarrow race…just no non-local cars, please) from tossing in all manner of litter. I truly hope that  the engineered ditches are performing their alleged purpose (filtering street runoff to keep it out of Puget Sound), because that alone would be enough to justify the parking inconvenience (we cannot exit our passenger doors without stepping into a pitfall; curb bulb chokepoints create a game of ‘chicken’ at the intersection) and navigational hazards of tripping on the raised curb alongside the sidewalk ( I know, try not to be such a klutz). I’m happy cyclists have a safer place to ride, though I can’t say there is less through-traffic on four wheels. As for the signage,  we enjoy no fewer than 5 (barrels, barricades and post-mounts) in the span of 2 houses plus alley. But at least they’ve got purty pitchers on their backsides, now!  If I live another 20 years (and become senile), I’m sure I’ll think them the greatest thing since the shoo-ka-loo.

    • K October 26, 2022 (1:26 pm)

      None of that happened with our bioswales/raingardens in the neighborhood, expect for a small loss of parking which is a favorable outcome for some. In our neighborhood the replaced ugly, useless grass in planting strips. It’s public knowledge now, so it’s not secret and being “rammed through.” Lessons were learned from Ballard like a decade+ ago at this point and were addressed at public meetings before these were ever built in West Seattle. I am impressed by the bloggers commitment to keeping that blog up though! Not everything is a massive plot to ruin our way of life.

      • Jen October 26, 2022 (8:06 pm)

        If the city didn’t publicize tonight’s meeting until yesterday afternoon/evening, they are in fact attempting to ram this through. I’m just now finding out about the meeting, one hour after it started. When a city agency wants to push projects through with as little input as possible, this is how they operate. I live within 4 blocks of this project and did not receive the info-sheet for “nearby residents.” Same thing happened for a similar type of project (SDOT, though) on my block earlier this year. The city rep said info-sheets were sent out in advance, but none of my 9 or 10 nearest neighbors (within 1.5 blocks) got one. Disingenuous at best.

  • South Delridge resident October 26, 2022 (9:09 am)

    I love the rain gardens they’ve created in our neighborhoods. Glad to see the city is investing in the environment and in this area in general after we’ve been sacked with pollution, crowded roads, speeding cars and litter for two years as main arterial route for all of west seattle for two years. 

  • Joe Z October 26, 2022 (11:11 am)

    It’s pretty crazy to me that people would be opposed to these, but I guess some would prefer a patch of dead grass mixed with weeds in front of their homes. 

  • tim October 26, 2022 (11:30 am)

    yeah, they’re putting in bioswales(or whatever the new fancy name is) right now on 24th ave sw, near Westwwod village.  There  already was a problem of Longfellow Creek backing up into everyone’s basements. It sounds like this is only going to make the problem worse  rather than solve. Not to metion they’ve lost all of their street parking. I don’t get it.  When will the constuction site  look  like the pictures which show dogs chasing a ball, and families smiling in the sun with their strollers, etc? Or is it going to look like those Ballard tar pits?

    • Skeptic October 26, 2022 (7:16 pm)

      Oldtimers remember the  farm and bog of what became Westwood Village. Bogs “often develop in poorly draining lake basins created by glaciers during the most recent ice age.”  
      I fondly recall community ice skating on this bog during the coldest of winters in the 1950s.

      And since the bog (remember, poorly draining lake!) and Longfellow Creek pre-existed ‘
      everyone’s basements’ by a millennium, maybe the houses with basements flooding are the result of building them in a bog!  
      The establishment of permeation drainage systems will draw away and reduce the bog water in those improperly sited residential basements.  

      Additionally, Seattle’s current Environmentally Critical Areas Codes would now protect this bog as they did for the fenced off minuscule one adjacent to the Louisa Boren School.

      • DH October 27, 2022 (7:57 am)

        Thank you Skeptic. I had the same thoughts about the bog and basements. Admittedly buyers may not have been aware but building on a bog was not a good idea. I lived in a first floor condo across from the Staples for a few years and could regularly hear the pumps under the condo complex. 

  • Breeze October 26, 2022 (3:45 pm)

    Not sure what some commenters are talking about when they write the city doesn’t maintain the installed rain gardens (or natural drainage ditches). I walk frequently along several blocks NW of Westwood Village (and west of the Southwest Sports complex) that have these rain gardens; they’re all filled in with beneficial shrubs / plants, mulched with wood chips and well-cared for. Some even have a small tree. It is my understanding all of these are being maintained by the city and they’re doing a good job as every single one looks for be in the same (good) condition. Aside from the improved aesthetics for the neighborhood, the rain gardens act as filters for street run-off, helping our creeks and thus the salmon. 

Sorry, comment time is over.