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Stephen Fesler

Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.

11 Comments

  • Bryan Kirschner
    December 14, 2017 at 10:50 am

    “Most storefronts are small with 50% 25 feet in width or less (11% are less than 15 feet wide);
    Most businesses occupy 2,000 square feet of space or less (55%);”

    Sounds like (re)legalizing corner commercial everywhere would be quite helpful.

  • Preston Sahabu
    December 14, 2017 at 11:23 am

    I like that the report didn’t rail against upzoning per se, but sought to preserve the essential (and economically resilient) small storefront character of the Ave.

    One recommendation I would’ve liked to see is pedestrianization of the Ave. It would create a unique space in the city, driving foot traffic and hence business activity. Business parking would still be needed, so it would need some sort of off-hour access or alley arrangement, but overall the concept is sound. It could be combined with open space surrounded by retail at 43rd, either centered on the Ave (https://www.udistrictsquare.org/474/option-c.html) or on the current UBookstore footprint (https://www.udistrictsquare.org/1464/option-e.html).

    With the impending opening of light rail on Brooklyn, it already makes sense to shift the Ave buses to Brooklyn. To help transfers to 15th buses and augment the pedestrianized Ave, 43rd could be closed to traffic between Brooklyn and 15th.

  • 🚇🚲🚡💵
    December 14, 2017 at 11:32 am

    In part, the ave businesses are suffering because the u district has been diminished as a transit hub with the opening of husky stadium station and the interim bus restructure. And with property values and rents reflecting the the station area rezones, It really is a double blow for the existing businesses.

    • Eli
      December 17, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      And yet, they are primarily complaining about lack of access to parking — consistent with other neighborhood intercept research showing that small business owners wildly overestimate the % of customers coming by car.

      I’m curious how many UW students now have dinner in the International District rather than the U-District. It’s just as easy to get there by light rail, than to trudge over to the Ave — and the food’s a lot better in the ID. I see so many more international young people eating in the ID than I remember before light rail.

      • Preston Sahabu
        December 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm

        I imagine there’s been a shift among international students, but not a big one generally. Even from the nearest dorms, walking to the UW light rail station takes about as long as walking to the Ave. Factor in the wait and the ride, it takes at least twice if not three times as long to get to the ID.

        On the other hand, Brooklyn Station is going to be a blessing and a curse for the Ave: the potential for customers is huge, but they’ll be in direct competition with a lot of the city. Pedestrianization will be the strongest step forward, creating a welcoming space for customers coming through the new transit hub.

  • 1980Gardener
    December 15, 2017 at 7:06 am

    I’m surprised that lowering business costs (such as property taxes) weren’t included in the mix.

    Regardless, all good suggestions and glad to see the focus on small business.

  • Glen Buhlmann
    December 15, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    #TheAve is the perfect place for the city to take over ownership of parking. The city can design one large underground parking lot connected across the entire area from 50th down to 41st. As properties are redeveloped, they must design for the city parking which is connected together as buildings develop. Then the entire area can be made a giant pedestrian mall with no street parking and a few parking garage entrances on the edge from Brooklyn/15th/50th/41st. This is not a new concept. Some European countries have done it (I think The Netherlands is one example). Microsoft’s new campus plan is somewhat trying to lean in that direction although as a car-oriented suburban campus which is planning to build an insane amount of parking, is not going to be quite what this could be.

    This has multiple benefits:
    1. No cars in the business district. Even deliveries can be done via the parking garage.
    2. Very few driveways on perimeter which makes it much better for traffic on those streets as well as protected bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.
    3. It allows people to drive here and get easy parking
    4. The city can manage the parking, setting price appropriately to make sure that there is always some parking. And they can ensure too much parking does not get built, sabotaging transit.
    5. The money from parking can go back into non-car improvements to the district like public spaces, art, even transit service if that’s what the city decides.
    6. It has always been a no-brainer for #TheAve to be a ped mall. Yet SDOT and Council/Mayor’s office has never been willing to consider because they fear the backlash of it being framed as anti-car (which of course Seattle Times Ed Board and Jason Rantz will absoliutely do). At least this cannot be realistically claimed as anti-car if the city is forcing developers to contribute to construction of a city-managed parking garage.

    • Preston Sahabu
      December 15, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Building underground parking is expensive though, and it isn’t needed because the new light rail station should be a major transit hub. Sufficient off-peak and alley access would be enough to support Ave businesses.

      I imagine the Ave as a superblock bounded by Brooklyn, 15th, Campus Parkway, and 50th, with 45th passing through the middle. Cross streets of the Ave would be pedestrianized between the Ave alleys, with business access only between the alleys and Brooklyn/15th. The alleys would be activated into small shared streets, inviting to pedestrians but accommodating of motorized deliveries.

      • Glen Buhlmann
        December 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm

        Hey I would love to have a car-less Core U District without even car parking. But I don’t see anything like that happening in my lifetime in America. Yes underground parking is expensive. Although so is above-ground structured parking so having a couple lots on the edges might not be all that different in price? If it is only a single-level of parking, I would think that it becomes much cheaper. I don’t know much about the specific breakdown of costs of building underground parking but I suspect 1 level is quite a bit less than half the cost to build than 2 levels. And as car use dwindles, the space could be re-purposed as storage for the businesses or homes built above.

        • Preston Sahabu
          December 16, 2017 at 10:15 am

          If parking becomes a blocking issue, then your approach makes a lot of sense as a compromise. However as an aspirational goal we should aim to have no garage, pointing to the Street Fair to argue that a pedestrian Ave already works without additional parking, and that the transit hub should only boost that. We could also add that such a garage would be in opposition to other goals (livability, affordable housing, narrower towers, etc.) due to cost.

          • Wells
            January 13, 2018 at 11:07 am

            One big advantage parking garages offer is electric car charging stalls, which should be indoors, out of inclement weather. We can fairly assume EVs (both PHEVs and BEVs) are inevitable in the future. We can also fairly assume fully self-driving cars will never happen, nor would it do much good if the technology were possible, which it isn’t. It’s like putting the cart before the horse; diverting attention from conversion to EVs with the empty promise of self-driving tech fantasy. At level 3, most of the safety features are possible. Platooning or tailgating on freeways and boulevards will always have a high potential for multi-car pileups. Levels 4 & 5 (distracted drivers and then no steering wheel nor brake/accelerator pedals) are pretentious nonsense. Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it.