MASS and Allies to Host Mayoral Forum Wednesday

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Mayoral candidate forum hosted by MASS and allies on June 16th 5:30pm to 7:00pm. Image: forest fire and logos of sponsors.

On Wednesday, Seattle Mayoral candidates will square off in a forum centered on transportation, equity, and the environment and hosted by the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition and allies. The Urbanist is a member of MASS and is helping put on the online event. Erica C. Barnett of Publicola is moderating the forum.

Confirmed candidates include Jessyn Farrell, M. Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Andrew Grant Houston, Lance Randall, and Casey Sixkiller. Unfortunately, Colleen Echohawk has a conflict because it is graduation day for her son and cannot attend, but we will read a statement from the campaign outlining their thoughts on our forum focus areas.

Many candidates in this race have been putting out interesting ideas around transportation, housing, and social justice. We hope to dig into the details. The Urbanist has also covered the major candidates via interviews.

One popular concept this cycle has been 15-minute cities, which is the idea that people should be able to meet all their basic needs — groceries, healthcare, childcare, hair care, restaurants, and cafe — within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of their home. Another popular touchstone is missing middle housing — triplexes, fourplexes, cottage clusters, rowhouses, small apartment buildings, and so forth — that could be unlocked in single-family zones with zoning reform. We’ll see how candidates plan to make their particular visions of each a reality and how they fit together.

The Top 10 Street Ends of Ballard and Fremont

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As previously written, Seattle has 141 Street End shoreline points. A great sampler is accessed by foot or bicycle from the Burke-Gilman Trail (BGT) which provides a great wayfinding route. Along your journey, you will be rewarded with outstanding views of Seattle’s vibrant maritime heritage.

Map of Ballard and Fremont street ends.

Street End 149

Street End 149 is the westernmost street end along the BGT, and is known as the NW 60th Viewpoint. It is maintained by Seattle Parks and Recreation and includes a small shoreline public access area and bench that was part of the adjacent Golden Tides Marina Center development. There was once a stop on the “Mosquito Fleet” ferry line here, and the pilings date from that era.

Street End 148

Street End 148 offers the rare chance to explore the intertidal zone; or, should one wish a safer prospect, one can enjoy the street end from a dry vantage point which doubles as a piece of stormwater infrastructure.

Street End 147

A short distance south of 148, Street End 147 (36th Avenue NW at Seaview Avenue NW) appears quite modest yet does have a picnic table and bench.

Street End 146

Among what must surely be one of the best maritime views in Seattle, Street End 146 known as the Salmon Bay Natural Area (34th Avenue NW at Seaview Avenue NW) reveals a piece of vital Seattle transportation infrastructure — Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s Salmon Bay Bridge. Built in 1914, this muscular structure was recently threatened with replacement, but the railroad company has recently agreed to continue to maintain it and upgrade it to current specs.

Both of which suggest one rest for a minute or two and take in the great views across Salmon Bay and its layers of single-family homes and apartments. Noting the vast expanse of private waterfront across the Canal is a reminder of how precious public access and viewpoints are.

Views of the bridge and canal are afforded by a generous plaza with an interpretive sign, pavers, and a cantilevered overlook. The jewel of these improvements is the sculpture “A Salish Welcome”, which was created in 2010 by Marvin Oliver to welcome visitors to this location which has been valued by countless generations.

Street End 145

Access to recreation is, of course, one of the goals of the Street End program, and the shores of the Ship Canal at Street End 145 (28th Avenue NW at NW 54th Street) witness use by motorized, wind, and people-powered vessels.

Street End 144

The BGT leads into the heart of Ballard’s thriving maritime industry, and Street End 144 (24th Avenue NW at NW 54th Street) allows for intimate viewing of powerful (if dormant) sea going craft. Recently improved, this street end has a concrete pier with artfully placed mosaics and open-air grating. The grating fosters fish habitat by allowing aquatic plants to grow in area that would otherwise be shaded and prevents hiding places for prey of juvenile salmon on their way to sea.

Canines, it seems, are a continued and welcome presence at these watery playgrounds. This street end also has seating, as well as a small gravel beach ideal for kayaking launching.

One of the pleasures of these access points into the inner-workings of Ballard is seeing the undeliberate — yet quite lovely — colors, shapes, and sizes of the vessels and their enclosures.

Street End 143

Contrasting the singular focus of the commercial vessels found at Street End 144, those on 143 (20th Avenue NW at Shilshole Avenue NW) have carefree airs and lush plantings — designed to be habitat-enhancing.

While those vessels across the Canal are more decidedly patrician and lack a working vessel’s patina and chromatic esprit.

Street End 141

Neither fancy ships nor robust docks can be found at Street End 141 (14th Avenue NW at Shilshole Avenue NW), reminding us all that street ends are open to all, blind to either pretense or modesty.

Street End 140

Street End 140 (11th Avenue NW at NW 54th Street) has a very impressive landscape and amenities making it worthy of a picnic. A small promenade, a bench, flower garden, and even a chair swing combine for a unique experience along the Ship Canal and were designed by University of Washington landscape architecture students.

Street End 137

The least improved of the Street Ends in this post, 137 (NW 39th Street at 3rd Avenue NW), still offers great views to our working waterfront including a view across the canal of Foss Maritime, the largest tug towing vessel maker on the West Coast.

Equally impressive is the view of the Ballard Bridge. The view is centered on the lifting span of the bridge, and the End’s amenities provide a comfy and scenic perch to watch the ships pass through the raised span.

Everyone should have access to Seattle’s diverse waterfronts. Since 1997 Friends of Street Ends has worked to provide access to and enhance Seattle’s shoreline street ends. Street Ends dot the shore of Lake Union and Lake Washington, the Ship Canal, Puget Sound, and the Duwamish. For more information on exploring or volunteering for our street ends, please visit our website or the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Shoreline Street Ends project page.

How WSDOT Has Blocked Completion of the Rainier Valley Greenway for Years

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A planned connection to the Mountains-to-Sound Trail from the Rainier Valley Greenway includes this state-owned property.

The Rainier Valley Neighborhood Greenway is the longest continuous greenway in Seattle, running over five miles from Rainier Beach to Mount Baker. Completed in 2018, the greenway takes a large of number of twists and turns to provide a signed, relatively calm walking and rolling route between and within Rainier Valley neighborhoods. But its utility to provide a safe crosstown biking route has always been hindered by its many twists and turns, and by another fact: it’s still incomplete. The greenway lacks a connection to the north and onto the Mountains-to-Sound Trail that connects Beacon Hill across I-90.

Current neighborhood greenway signage directs users to turn onto S College St, where the wayfinding immediately disappears. (Photo by the author)
Current neighborhood greenway signage directs users to turn onto S College St, where the wayfinding immediately disappears. (Photo by the author)

Today, if you follow the neighborhood greenway signage to 30th Ave S and S College St in Mount Baker, an arrow directs you down S College St, and after that you’re on your own. That’s because the planned final leg of the greenway, along 28th Ave S, was separated from the rest of the project after the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) ran into a problem getting permission to construct a trail connection at the end of 28th. Without that trail, sending users down 28th doesn’t work. So for years, people have been left to figure out their own way to get to the trail.

The orange connection to the I-90 trail was planned to be completed in 2018. It remains unfinished. (SDOT)
The orange connection to the I-90 Trail was planned to be completed in 2018. It remains unfinished. (SDOT)

The property in question is a part of Sam Smith Park, and is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). A set of emails obtained by The Urbanist reveal the long battle between SDOT and WSDOT to come to an agreement around use of the property. That battle has continued into 2021, when a lease agreement was on the verge of being signed between the state and the city early this year, but city staff were surprised to find that the proposed agreement would have committed SDOT to paying nearly $24,000 per year to WSDOT in perpetuity (tied to inflation) after paying to design and construct the trail connection itself.

Discussions with the state over completing this connection date to at least late 2016. City staff, including SDOT Greenways Project Manager Summer Jawson, met with WSDOT staff in both 2017 and 2018 regarding the proposed design for the trail connection, and the design was modified based on feedback from the state. Additional documents surrounding the project, including details of how it relates to Seattle’s comprehensive plan and Bicycle Master Plan, were provided to WSDOT to develop a trail agreement.

Sunday Video: How Radical Gardeners Took Back New York City

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Vox tells the story of how two women led movements to plant street trees and commission community gardens in New York City in a period of deep disinvestment. Their legacies still live on today.

What We’re Reading: Final Section, TikTok Urbanism, and Side Street Urbanism

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Final section: Construction on the final section of the East Lake Sammamish Trail has begun.

2,000 passes: Seattle will offer up to 2,000 workers in certain industries in Chinatown-International District six months of free transit passes.

All cars kill: Electric vehicles may be more dangerous to people walking than their counterparts due to weight.

INVEST Act: A committee in the United States House of Representatives has passed the INVEST Act, leading to joy from progressive transportation advocates. Active transportation got many earmarks in the bill.

Restored service: Whatcom Transit Authority improves service on Sunday.

Airport planning: Vancouver International Airport is considering land use changes near the airport allowing for development of hundreds of acres.

Stopping expansion?: With climate concerns in view, will King County stop expansion of Boeing Field?

Blasting past 70%: Seattle is the first major American city to surpass 70% vaccination of eligible residents.

WFH option: Amazon will allow office workers to work from home two days a week with the other three at the office ($).

To reimagine or not?: Will Seattle follow through on “reimagining” policing?

Mid-Year Service Changes Lead with Link Light Rail Frequency Improvements

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A Link train waiting at a platform. (Sound Transit)
A Link train waiting at a platform. (Sound Transit)

Three Puget Sound transit agencies are improving service beginning this weekend. Chief among them is Sound Transit, which will bump up Central Link light rail service nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Intercity Transit and Pierce Transit are also rolling out additional service for riders in Olympia and Gig Harbor.

Link service improvements

Last week, Sound Transit announced that Central Link would see big service increases starting on Saturday, June 12th. Trains will run as frequently as every eight minutes during weekday peak hours, every ten minutes during weekday off-peak hours and on weekends, and every 15 minutes during late evening hours.

Service of late has been every 12 minutes during weekday peak hours, every 15 minutes during weekday off-peak hours and weekends, and every 30 minutes during late evening hours. Prior to the pandemic, service on the line had run every six minutes during weekday peak hours, every ten minutes during weekday off-peak hours and weekends, and every 15 minutes during late evening hours.

Sound Transit’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Rogoff, heralded the news in a press release: “The days are longer, the weather is warmer, the virus is retreating, and we are all venturing out more and more. In the coming months as more and more people return to normal routines, expanded Link service will help riders get back to enjoying fast and congestion-free trips,” he said. “With traffic congestion worsening and already at pre-pandemic levels, the benefits of Link will only keep growing, especially with our Oct. 2 expansion of service northward to the U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate.”

Snohomish County Liberalizes Backyard Cottage and Basement Apartment Rules

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Backyard cottage with woman in patio and sunset.
The pre-approved backyard cottage from Artisan Group on the City of Seattle's ADUniverse website.

Snohomish County’s long-awaited reform of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) has finally come to pass. Yesterday, the Snohomish County Council voted unanimously to pass a package of ADU regulatory reforms for both urban and non-urban unincorporated areas of the county where some 369,000 residents live — two-thirds of whom are in urban areas. Key highlights among the reforms are two ADUs per urban lot, elimination of owner-occupancy requirements, and no parking requirements for ADUs in urban areas. The package of regulatory reforms were much broader.

The key adopted changes in the county’s ADU regulations (note that “AADU” means “attached ADU” and “DADU” means “detached ADU”) are as follows:

Snohomish CountyCurrent RegulationAdopted Changes
Number of ADUsOne per lot with a single-family residence, provided that an ADU is not permitted on a lot that has a temporary dwelling unitIn urban zones, one AADU and one DADU are permitted per lot with a single-family residence; and in rural, resource, or other zones, one ADU is permitted per lot with a single-family residence, provided that DADUs are not permitted on lots that do not meet the minimum lot size for the zone and DADUs as mobile homes are only permitted on lots that are 10 acres in size or more
AADU Maximum Size20% to 40% of the floor area of the primary residence, depending up size, up to 1,500 square, provided that an AADU cannot be less than 360 square feet and the primary residence cannot be reduced to less than 900 square feet1,200 square feet, excluding garages, porches, and unfinished basements
DADU Maximum Size40% of the floor area of the primary residence or 850 square feet, whichever is less, provided that a DADU cannot be less than 360 square feet1,200 square feet, excluding garages, porches, and unfinished basements
DADU LocationIn residential, multiple family, and commercial zones, a DADU cannot be located beyond the primary residence front unless well landscaped or compatibleNo longer applicable
ADU Parking One off-street parking space is requiredIn urban zones, no off-street parking space is required; one off-street parking space is required per ADU in other zones
Owner OccupancyAn owner-occupancy covenant must be recordedNo longer applicable
Non-Urban StandardsNot applicableMaximum separation between the primary residence and DADU is generally 100 feet, except for DADUs in a legally constructed accessory structure prior to the ADU reform legislation adoption, and ADUs must use the same driveway as the primary residence
ScreeningADUs must be screened with a six-foot high fence or five-foot wide high intensity landscape screeningNo longer applicable
Substandard LotsADUs are prohibitedNo longer applicable, except that DADUs are not permitted on lots in non-urban zones that do not meet the applicable minimum lot area
Use AuthorizationIn zones where permitted, an administrative conditional use permit is requiredIn zones where permitted, the use is permitted outright

Snohomish County did miss out on other reforms that could have gone further to encourage ADUs in urban areas, such as allowing two AADUs on single-family lots, increasing lot coverage, reducing setbacks, and allowing ADUs for duplexes and townhouses. The county also did not address genuine issues of ADUs being used in rural areas to create massive garages and avoid procedural and regulatory hurdles.

“If we’re looking at affordable housing, green housing, and increasing density, I think it’s critical that we can remove the restriction for the parking spots.”

Snohomish County Councilmember Megan Dunn, who represents District 2 (Mukilteo, Everett, and Tulalip).

Northgate’s Construction Spree Is Just Starting

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Early demolition of Northgate Mall in January 2020. (Photo by Author)

In the past two decades, development in and around Northgate has, for the most part, been a bit sleepy. Every few years a new project would complete, but in 2019 three apartment buildings opened. With the Northgate light rail extension to begin service on October 2nd, several projects are currently underway, and many more are in the planning and permitting process.

Long anchored to the first of its kind Northgate Mall, the area is warping with the old mall property. The diffuse neighborhood has long been standard suburbia defined by single-family homes and strip malls. Changes coming to the Simon-owned mall property signal the start of a possible transformation of Northgate with dense residential and commercial development. The introduction of light rail service and a new transit center offer many transit-oriented development opportunities, albeit the development is being artificially limited by neighboring I-5. Upzoning and the significant publicly owned lands in the area will provide an influx of both market-rate and affordable housing options.

The Northgate Urban Village and its satellites (Courtesy of The City of Seattle)

Most of this change is happening within a couple of blocks of the dismantled mall. Outside of the obvious mall cluster, Northgate’s urban village jumps across I-5 to capture some of Haller Lake and Licton Springs. I’d also include North Seattle College, and capture the upzoned strips in Pinehurst and Maple Leaf into Northgate Urban Village’s orbit. Other nearby non-single-family zones are captured by the Lake City Way corridor, two Aurora Ave urban villages, and the Green Lake/Roosevelt urban village.

“Northgate’s position for an explosive economic recovery [and development] is no accident. It results from years of preparation to sustainably add density and invest in big infrastructure projects, like the light rail, to attract partners like OVG and NHL Seattle. The NHL’s new training facility alone will bring an additional 80,000 visitors to the area annually. Northgate is the future of development for a greener, more interconnected urban experience, not just in the North End but all of Seattle,”

Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez, who represents Seattle’s District 5 that includes the Northgate area

The Mall Cluster

Before we get to the mall developments, let’s tackle what’s in less flux. The three apartment buildings completed in 2019, referenced at the beginning, and other incoming projects include…

  • 10720 5th Ave NE – Lane Apartments West: A seven-story, 134-unit mixed use apartment building with street level retail and 137 parking spots. Inspections completed in 2019
  • 10715 8th Ave NE – Lane Apartments East: A four-story, 81-unit apartment building with 2 live/work units and 41 above-ground parking spots. Inspections completed in 2019
  • 10711 8th Ave NE – Prism Apartments: A seven-story, 134-unit mixed use apartment building with seven live/work units and 121 parking spaces. Inspections completed in 2019
  • 10631 8th Ave NE – Modera Northgate: A five-story, 400-unit apartment building with 240 parking spaces and 409 bicycle parking stalls. In the permitting/design review process
  • 10712 5th Ave NE: A seven-story, 235-unit apartment building with 203 parking spots. Under construction
  • 11057 8th Ave NE: A seven-story 89-unit apartment building with a child care center, 28 parking spaces, and 102 bicycle parking stalls. In permitting process
  • 545 NE 112th St: A five-story 82-unit senior housing apartment building with no parking. Under construction
  • 11201 Roosevelt Way NE: A five-story 291-unit mixed use apartment building with 4 live/work units, commercial space, 207 parking spots, and 231 bicycle parking stalls. In permitting/design review process

Outside of the NHL practice facility, the mall development is still undergoing planning and permitting. Fortunately, unlike the two-story practice facility, the rest of the buildings planned on the property will be using most or much of their density allowances. The four mixed-use buildings with residential units will all be on 5th Ave NE, office buildings will populate the south, and a couple of hotels wrap up Simon’s plans in the north of the development. Most or all of the buildings include ground floor retail or restaurant space. Much of the old mall’s parking lots are consumed to site these buildings, but the parking will stubbornly remain with parking garages in the new construction that will allow for more capacity for cars than ever before.