MAKING IT WORK
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide
information, inspire involvement, and make things work
in this great city.
September 1, 2005, Volume VII, Issue 8
REBUILDING THE SR520 BRIDGE
On Monday, July 25, the Council approved a set of guiding principles and initial design preferences for planning the State Route (SR) 520 Bridge and HOV Project. Significant portions of SR 520 are aging and vulnerable to earthquakes and storms, and the region has been working for several years to develop a plan for replacing the bridge and approaches. The Environmental Impact Assessment which must be completed before actual design begins. These principles will guide the Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) and inform the project partners about the Council's approach to selecting a preferred alternative. The project partners expect to make that decision in the next few months.
The Council has adopted similar sets of guiding principles for projects including the Link Light Rail project, the Alaskan Way Viaduct project, and the Downtown Waterfront. The goals are to focus the Council discussion, build agreement on the Council about the City's core interests, and make those interests known before project design moves too far along to be modified.
The Council adopted four guiding principles: focus on improving neighborhood livability; ensure transportation connectivity; promote ecological sustainability; and keep the public involved. The principles were developed in consultation with affected communities, although there are still differences of opinion about some design preferences.
The Council's initial preferences include:
- Continuing to study the feasibility of moving the current SR520/Montlake Boulevard interchange to the vicinity of N.E. Pacific Street and Montlake Boulevard N.E. with consideration of the impacts to the University of Washington, the parks lands of the Arboretum, the public shoreline, and neighborhoods on both the north and south side of Lake Washington Ship Canal.
- Connecting I-5 to a replacement floating bridge with the minimal width over Portage Bay necessary for the mobility and safety requirements of the project;
- Limiting SR520 to no more than four general-purpose lanes and allowing transit/HOV lanes, if feasible.
- Designing SR520 to accommodate existing bus transit and potential future High Capacity Transit across Lake Washington by providing a convenient transit connection and rider transfer point to the proposed University of Washington light rail station.
- Developing bicycle and pedestrian paths and connections to a number of locations.
- Ensuring adequate freight turning radius and minimizing grades to enable access.
- Coordinating construction of SR520 with light rail to minimize community impacts.
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SUPPORTING SEATTLE SCHOOLS
Schools are at the heart of a thriving city and vital neighborhoods. Although the City does not operate schools, we have core interests in ensuring the success of the Seattle School District. The Council and School Board meet jointly every three months. On Friday, July 29, we agreed to work closely together to overcome the current financial crisis in Seattle Schools.
While the City provides support and assistance through the Families and Education Levy, the City cannot fund classroom instruction, both because the City lacks resources to do so and because the legal framework for school funding does not permit it. However, the City can provide more support than it has in the past, and we discussed a variety of steps the City can take that would be legally and financially practical. I presented two ideas:
- Develop a long-range legislative solution. Only the legislature can address the long-range fiscal situation of the schools. In November the City will prepare its 2006 legislative agenda, and I propose that the City make solving the school funding crisis our number one legislative priority.
- Consider City purchase of surplus properties from the School District for use as community facilities to provide short-term budget assistance. My highest priority is the former Allen School for the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA). PNA has leased the buildings for almost 25 years, but the School District still retains title. The Allen School is worth about $3.5 million, about the amount that the now-withdrawn closure plan would have saved in its first year. The City could also purchase the University Heights school, also operated by a community non-profit, and part of the Memorial Stadium parking lot at Seattle Center for the relocation of the Seattle Center skatepark.
Together these properties could provide up to $10 million, an amount that could be significant in next year's school budget. The two buildings were identified for acquisition for community use in their respective neighborhood plans. The real estate boom is bringing the City some $10 million per year in unbudgeted real estate excise tax, legally limited to capital expenses. That could provide funds for these purchases, although with careful accounting to create a clear legal and financial framework. We hope to complete discussion with the School District on this proposal within the next month.
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On Monday, August 15, the City Council passed a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and I extending the deadline for community and preservation groups working to raise funds for the preservation of property at "Soundway West" as open space and wetland habitat. The new deadline is December 31, 2006.
In the 1950s Seattle purchased two properties to build a freeway to Vashon Island. Among them is a parcel called "Soundway" with significant acreage near South Seattle Community College and the West Duwamish Greenbelt between 9th and 15th Avenues SW. The Mayor proposed selling this surplus property for development, but community members want to keep it as open space and habitat.
The Council postponed the sale in 2004 to allow the community time to raise money to preserve the land. I subsequently worked with Senator Eric Poulsen, who persuaded the Legislature to appropriate $500,000 to preserve this greenbelt. I believe the City and community can find the remaining $800,000 to ensure that the property is kept in public hands.
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CONSTITUENT SERVICES REPORT
My office followed up on a Seattle PI story on traffic concerns for young families whose children attend South Park's only public elementary school, Concord Elementary. After SDOT staff, parents, students and neighborhood groups took a walking tour of the area, SDOT installed new signs showing kids crossing and new curbs to deter sidewalk parking, along with a 4 way stop and repainted crosswalk at 7th and Trenton.
Staff spoke with neighbors who have been working with the City to prioritize 13th Avenue South and South Nevada for a traffic circle or other mitigation. SDOT had listed this as #12 in the 2005 Neighborhood Traffic Control Program based on the number of reported collisions, speed and volume. However, Seattle Fire Department objected, concerned that the traffic circle would slow response time. My staff spoke with the Fire Chief, who agreed that the traffic circles could be installed, with the Department's needs met by restricting parking at the corners to ensure fire trucks could get through.
The Director emailed our office regarding the time schedule for issuing ADWAS (Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services) its building permit for construction of their transitional housing project. Delays could jeopardize one part of their funding. My office contacted the Department of Planning and Development, who had not known that this was a low income housing project (which get priority in the City permit process). DPD expedited the review.
Two housing developments in the Pike-Pine neighborhood are caught in a Catch-22, as the City has designated the area for undergrounding of power lines, but not funded undergrounding in this particular block. The projects would have to bring in overhead power or fund the undergrounding themselves, when the City is sharing costs in other areas of the community. Councilmember Godden and I will try to convince City Light to advance their capital funding and complete the undergrounding when the sidewalks are already torn up for redevelopment. Otherwise, City Light will have to come in several years later and tear up brand new sidewalks at a higher cost and inconvenience to the residents.
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"One person may supply the idea for a company, community or nation, but what gives the idea its force is a community of dreams."
"If you are not at the table, you could be on the menu."
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting, and useful. And please forward it along to friends who might be interested. You can get more information or send me feedback through the City Council website at http://cityofseattle.net/council/
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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