1. Transit advocates are concerned that governor Jay Inlsee may jeopardize the roughly $1 billion (out of $16 billion) that’s dedicated to multimodal transportation in the new state transportation package. Inslee is considering enacting low-carbon fuel standards. Transit advocates support low-carbon fuel standards, but a GOP amendment to the transportation package stipulated that if Inslee goes for it on the low-carbon fuels standard, the legislature can reallocate the multimodal money to roads; the Democrats referred to the Republican amendment as a “poison pill.”
But this afternoon, something much more devastating may undermine the transportation package. The Sound Transit board is set to pick its southern extension (from Angle Lake, one stop south of SeaTac, to the Federal Way Transit Center.) The choice puts Sound Transit’s commitment to transit oriented development (TOD)—building light rail stops as neighborhood hubs—on the line.
The board is weighing an SR 99 alignment, which would place stations centrally in the community (including a stop that would directly serve Highline Community College), against an alignment further east along I-5. Building the stations right along I-5 would literally wall off the possibility of making transit hubs centerpieces of more neighborhoods. “It would lose half the TOD walk shed,” says Andrew Austin policy director with Transportation Choices Coalition, “people aren’t going to walk across an eight-lane freeway to get to a transit center.”
Indeed, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement found that the TOD development potential on the western option is much greater: 119 acres versus 76 acres in the I-5 option—meaning the SR 99 option has 56 percent more potential for TOD.
Light rail is the saving grace of the flawed transportation package; the package authorizes $15 billion in ST money, which rejiggers the shocking imbalance in the roads/transit split for the state’s $16 billion.
However, if light rail isn’t leveraged to make the Puget Sound a blueprint (greenprint?) for dense development, then losing $900 million in ped, bike, and bus funding and/or forgoing low-carbon fuel standards (a chimeric offset, by the way, that actually creates more car culture and, thus, sprawl architecture) will be minor grievances compared to the disaster of transit oriented sprawl.
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon in advance of today's meeting, environmental group Futurewise said they "support a SR-99 alignment as it maximizes transit oriented development opportunities, provides for a stop on the West side of SR-99 at Highline College, as well as utilizes the sparsely used Redondo Heights Park and Ride station."
2. Speaking of transit advocates: The Seattle Transit Blog released its important city council endorsements yesterday.
While lots of bloggers (me) and writers consider themselves urbanists, the crew at STB has been at it the longest and in it the deepest on DEIS documents, DPD studies, and ST alternatives (they came out for the SR 99 alignment, by the way.)
STB is Seattle’s authentic urbanist voice.
Check out their picks, which inlcude Lorena Gonzalez in the at-large Position Nine race, Mercedes Elizalde in North Seattle’s District Five race (who reportedly blew the STB folks away), and their line about incumbent Jean Godden in District Four: "Jean Godden has a poor record on the council and is out of touch with the dense-living, transit-riding generation."
3. One criticism of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee is that it didn’t include enough “neighborhood” representation. In its editorial urging more process, the Seattle Times led with this line: “Just one neighborhood representative was in the room when the plan was cooked up.”
And city council member Mike O’Brien told PubliCola last week: “I’ve known from day one that the committee the mayor appointed did not have fair representation from neighborhoods. What I told everyone was, if you’re going to do anything on there that affects neighborhoods, know that you don’t just get to roll out a recommendation and it’s going to be blessed.”
This line of attack is an attempt to stall and torpedo the most controversial aspect of mayor Ed Murray’s HALA committee recommendations, the transgressive idea of adding density to Seattle’s single family neighborhoods.
There were 28 members on the committee; it included affordable housing interests, developer interests, social justice advocates, and labor. (Council member Kshama Sawant has been incorrectly saying “the committee was half full of big developers.”)
The sound bite that the 28-member committee didn’t include neighborhood representation is a lark. Of the18 members that I’ve been able to confirm addresses for so far, 12 of the HALA committee members live in Seattle single-family neighborhoods while six live in multi-family zones.
The Times’s line that HALA had “just one neighborhood representative” is a fudged reference to HALA committee member Cindi Barker, from the City Neighborhood Council. But saying she was the only neighborhood voice in a committee packed with people who live in single family neighborhoods is like saying there’s only one child advocate in a room filled with parents because only one officially works for the Children’s Defense Fund.
Here’s the list of HALA committee members that voted overwhelmingly (always getting at least 20 yes votes on its single family zoning reforms) to challenge the city’s satus quo.
David Wertheimer – Co-Chair Citizen, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Faith Li Pettis – Co-Chair Partner, Pacifica Law Group
Alan Durning Executive Director, Sightline Institute
Betsy Braun Administrative Director of Facilities Management, Virginia Mason
Bill Rumpf President, Mercy Housing Northwest
Catherine Benotto Seattle Planning Commission
Cindi Barker City Neighborhood Council
David Moseley 40 year administrator for Washington State
David Neiman Principal, Neiman Taber Architects
Don Mar Owner, Marpac Construction
Estela Ortega Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza
Gabe Grant Vice President, HAL Real Estate Development
Hal Ferris Principal, Spectrum Development
Jermaine Smiley Washington & N. Idaho District Council of Laborers
Jon Scholes Vice President, Downtown Seattle Association
Jonathan Grant Executive Director, Tenants Union
Kristin Ryan Director, Seattle Office, Jonathan Rose Companies
Lisa Picard Executive Vice President, Skanska
MA Leonard Vice President, Enterprise Community Partners
Maiko Winkler-Chin Executive Director, SCIDpda
Maria Barrientos Owner, Barrientos
Marty Kooistra Executive Director, Housing Development Consortium
Merf Ehman Attorney, Columbia Legal Services
Mitch Brown ASUW Representative
Paul Lambros Executive Director, Plymouth Housing Group
Sean Flynn Board Vice President, Rental Housing Association
Sylvester Cann IV Advocacy Lead, the Road Map Project, CCER
Ubax Gardheere Lead Coalition Organizer, Puget Sound Sage