City Planning Ahead
posted by April 7 at 12:56 PMon
The city council is just starting the process of amending its comprehensive plan—the planning blueprint that guides the city’s land use policies. This year, 16 citizens, city departments, civic groups, and city council members submitted 21 possible amendments for the council’s consideration; of those, perhaps a dozen will make it into the Comp Plan itself. While participating in neighborhood planning efforts and testifying at public meetings give citizens a chance to offer their input on legislation, the comp plan process offers a rarer opportunity: The chance to have a real, direct impact on city planning. This year’s amendments range from intriguing to laudable to ludicrous.
• A proposal by the city’s Department of Planning and Development to build a lid over I-5 linking downtown and Capitol Hill. The idea, according to a DPD spokesman, is “just a vision right now,” with no specific structure, location, or price tag, although the spokesman says it could include a park or housing.
• An amendment by pedestrian-safety advocate Kate Martin (a friend and ally of Andrea Okomski, whose son Josef Robinson was badly injured by a car) that would require a crosswalk at bus stops on streets with more than one lane of traffic in each direction. The idea, Martin says, is to enable pedestrians to cross the street safely without having to worry that cars in one lane won’t stop for them.
• A proposal by the Belltown Housing and Land Use Subcommittee to prohibit new surface parking lots in residential areas downtown.
• An amendment by long-winded gadfly Chris Leman to encourage Metro and the city’s solid-waste companies to buy buses and trucks no heavier than state law allows. Currently, buses and garbage trucks are exempted from state laws that would otherwise limit their weight; heavy buses and trucks take a huge toll on city streets, causing potholes that damage cars and endanger cyclists.
• Another Leman proposal that would make hard reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) an official city goal, and encourage the city to only fund highway projects that don’t increase the number of miles driven in and through Seattle.
• A proposal by the North Seattle Industrial Association to prohibit bike trails “within 100 feet of an existing short line railroad franchise that is in or adjacent to the Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing Industrial Center.” The amendment is an effort to undo years of planning for the “missing link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail, which the council approved four years ago; neighbors of the trail, chiefly Ballard Oil, say completing the 1.5-mile segment would hurt “maritime businesses” and “encourage more … deadly accidents” as trucks collide with cyclists. BINMIC’s proposal cites two biker deaths in Seattle in the last six months; however, both of those deaths occurred on city streets, not bike trails.
• An amendment that would make it easier for the city and state to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with the new, larger elevated viaduct voters rejected more than a year ago.
• A proposal by three citizens to create an “Element of Trees” as one of the items to be considered in land-use planning. The proposal would also create a position of “tree czar,” which “would be responsible for trees throughout the city.”