Tuesday, September 25, 2018

City Council Extends ALUV Moratorium, Designates Rainier Opportunity Zone, and Greenlights Arena

Seattle Center Arena. (OVG)

On Monday, the Seattle City Council waded through a very lengthy agenda. Councilmembers voted to extend a heavy industrial moratorium in Aurora-Licton Urban Village (ALUV) in hopes of later attracting denser mixed-use development. They also passed South Lake Union design guidelines, expanded a SoDo Business Improvement Area, approved a Seattle Center Arena development agreement with $700 million in private investment, established a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone in North Rainier, and designated two new landmarks: Anhalt Hall and Colonnade Hotel.

Heavy Industrial Moratorium

Last year, the city council imposed a one-year moratorium in the Aurora-Licton Urban Village on heavy commercial and industrial uses. The purpose of the moratorium was to preempt further development of uses deemed incompatible within a walkable, transit-oriented district while the city worked to rezone the area. With the hold-up of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) rezones, the moratorium needed further extension. The city council authorized an additional six-month moratorium on heavy commercial and industrial uses in hopes that the MHA rezones will be enacted by the time the moratorium lapses.

South Lake Union Design Guidelines

Excerpt of the design guidelines. (City of Seattle)
Excerpt of the design guidelines. (City of Seattle)

After more than a year of review, the South Lake Union Design Guidelines have been updated to reflect changing community priorities for development and become more consistent with zoning changes that took place in 2013. In short, the changes to the design guidelines include:

Mayor Durkan Boosts Funding for Police and Transit in Proposed Budget

Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Photo by ajderrick, Wikimedia Commons)

Mayor Jenny Durkan delivered her first budget address today at Fire Station 10. While the mayor had broadcast her desire to trim department budgets by 2% to 5%, ultimately her budget proposal increased the City’s budget to $5.9 billion, with police and transportation spending leading the way.

The budget includes $1.32 billion in general-funding spending, which is a $60 million jump from this year’s budgeted $1.26 billion in general-funding spending on a $5.6 billion total. A big chunk of the remainder is devoted to city-owned utilities like Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. Mayor Durkan said the budget does reflect $50 million in cuts she found, such as eliminating 150 open positions and tightening up discretionary spending on travel and consultants.

Public safety spending would jump 10% to $695 million, allowing the City to recruit 120 firefighters, hire 40 new police officers, and give police officers a raise–their first since 2014. The budget would also fund the Community Service Officer program, which replaces armed officers with plainclothes ones who focus on community needs.

Meanwhile, spending on housing and homelessness would get a modest $2.8 million increase to $89.5 million. The housing fact sheet also promised “[l]ater this year, Mayor Durkan will announce more than $70 million for affordable housing development.” That’s down from $100 million the Seattle Office of Housing brought in this year, buoyed by $29 million in bonding and a strong year for incentive zoning.

Transportation spending would increase $130 million to $609 million next biennium under Mayor Durkan’s plan, although some of that money is Move Seattle levy dollars leftover from earlier years.

The transportation funding surge includes a 63% increase in adaptive signals or Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) which urbanists have criticized for kicking pedestrians to the curb and extending wait times and frustrating people walking, biking, or taking transit.

On the other hand, both Vision Zero and transit corridor improvements appear conspicuously left out of the mayor’s budget bump. Vision Zero and “Safe Routes” gets $26.7 million in the Mayor’s 2019 budget, down from $28.4 million in 2018. And transit corridor improvement funding–which dovetails with Vision Zero in an ideal world–is also down, at $29.7 million proposed next year compared to $42.7 million this year.

The Mayor’s Office listed the follow investments on its transportation budget factsheet (emphasis and links mine).

What Does a Sanctuary City Look and Feel Like?

Rendering by Sundberg, Kennedy, LY-AU Young Architects in partnership with the ReWA

“Displaced: Design For Inclusive Cities” Contest Winners Envision Cities That Welcome, Support, And Empower Refugees and Migrants

Despite the Trump administration’s recent decision to reduce US refugee resettlement numbers to the lowest level since the program began in 1980, we are currently witnessing the highest levels of forcibly displaced people on record.

An unprecedented 68.5 million people live as refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless people, and internally displaced people in precarious situations around the world, more often than not in cities.

Four out of five refugees and other displaced people resettle in urban areas. As the concept of the refugee camp becomes increasingly obsolete, a new set of global agreements–one for refugees and one for migrants–are being drawn up to provide a framework for integrating new arrivals into cities.

“Cities are front-line players in dealing with refugees–UNHCR is ready to step up its engagement with mayors around the world.” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner on Refugees after the 2017 General Assembly in New York.

In response to this call for action, Design in Public and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Seattle chapter hosted an international design ideas competition calling upon designers of all disciplines to apply the power of design thinking to the urgent need to welcome, support and empower urban immigrants and refugees.

“This year there seemed no pressing question for us to think about than how we create cities and places that feel welcoming to everyone who resides there. Regardless of background and especially for people who are where they are because they were displaced by disaster, war, or economic necessity,” said Lisa Richmond of Design in Public. 

Sunday Video: Cycling London’s Bicycle Super Highways


In this video, Streetfilms highlights London’s cycle superhighways. 

What We’re Reading: LA-Vegas HSR, Capped, and Dignity of Walking


LA-Vegas HSR: Florida’s Go Brightline is taking over rights to build and operate a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

A pittance: After fighting hard to kill an affordable housing tax in Seattle, Jeff Bezos and Paul Allen tentatively plan to sponsor affordable housing development.

Evicted: A Seattle study indicates that women and black renters are disproportionately get evicted.

Capped: Seattle’s cap on move-in fees passes legal muster ($) in a major defeat to anti-tenant rights landlords.

Reforming parking requirements: Cincinnati has eliminated parking requirements in several dense neighborhoods to encourage walkable communities

Poorly executed by design: The SR-99 tunnel boondoggle sagas continue with yet another missed deadline for opening ($).

Global transit renaissance: Globally, transit is having a big boom, but the United States continues to lag behind.

Fight for free UPass: The University of Washington may be poised to cut the cost of staff transit passes by another 50%, but it still wouldn’t be free.

Central District stands: 50 years later, the Central District remains largely intact thanks to a freeway revolt.

Dignity of walking: Readers of The Guardian share their perspectives of walking in their cities.

Contributing factors: Why isn’t affordable housing more affordable?

Shake’N’Bake II: Nathan on Sleepers


This was going to be a footnote to my previous story, but it was getting too long– and too important! Sleepers are a major element of the bus world, and they deserve their own post.

If you do long routes at night, you’ll get ’em. As I write above“Waking them up can be a hassle (so can letting them sleep- you become a roving hotel and don’t have room for your Destinational Passengers), but if your biggest problem of the night is waking people up, you’re doing great.” 

Your non-bus driver friends will have trouble understanding how any of this could be annoying. They have a point. Sleeping? Not the most disturbing or violent behavior I’ve ever heard of. They could do worse things on your bus. But losing privacy during your breaks can irk, not to mention the hygiene issue, plus the nagging thought that these often aren’t your regular homeless folks in between jobs and struggling as they look for work. If you think about it, nobody actually minds those homeless people. These guys are different.

Sound Transit’s Level 2 Evaluation Narrows Path for Ballard and West Seattle Link

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, Stakeholder Advisory Groups for the Ballard and West Seattle light rail extensions got an update on Level 2 alternatives being evaluated. The updates provided detailed insight to anticipated ridership, mobility connectivity, project costs, and land use compatibility that particular alignment and station alternatives could result in. The update also took a deep look at other dimensions that could be affected by alternatives, such as “constructability” tradeoffs, environmental factors, and demographics served.

Ballard/Interbay Options

Alternatives for Ballard and Interbay. (Sound Transit)
Alternatives for Ballard and Interbay. (Sound Transit)

The Level 2 alternatives analysis looked at seven corridor options in addition to the representative project alignment. All of the corridor options stacked up well and all would perform better than the baseline representative project alignment, in large part because the baseline option is a moveable bridge that would essentially stick to 15th Ave NW instead of serving more unique and active destinations.

Getting Ready for a Post-Viaduct Downtown the Only Way We Know How


This week we learned that the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close permanently on January 11 of next year, with a three-week gap between the closing of one highway and the opening of another, the long-delayed deep bore tunnel connecting SoDo and South Lake Union. We’ve known this has been coming for a very long time, and the anticipated increase in congestion as 90,000 daily trips that currently utilize the freeway blocking our city from its waterfront find another route or mode.

The viaduct coming down was one of the main impetuses for the One Center City planning process, a meeting of the minds at the regional transit agencies. The outcome of that process was mainly the status quo, and so as we hurtle toward what is anticipated to be a major weeks-long traffic jam, it’s worth noting what tools the city is utilizing to prepare for this event.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) posted an update to its blog after the announcement of the viaduct closure this week: “Here’s what we’re doing to help you get around downtown.” In it, the department lays out its five strategies for getting people around the center city:

  1. Transportation system monitoring and real-time management.
  2. Investments in transit.
  3. Reducing drive-alone trips downtown.
  4. Managing construction projects in the public right-of-way.
  5. Working with commuters, employers, visitors, and Seattleites on their commute.

But it’s clear that pretty much the only tool in the toolbox at SDOT under Mayor Jenny Durkan is trying to move more vehicles, mostly with one or two people in them, though our limited downtown streets at the expense of those who chose alternate options.