Friday, March 25, 2011

Seattle Transit Communities: Seattle Planning Commission March 10th Meeting Report

On March 10 at City Hall, the Seattle Planning Commission presented and discussed its Seattle Transit Communities report, released last November. The commission outlined their vision for walkable, livable, transit-accessible communities and the steps they suggest to achieve this. They emphasized that their report details how to create transit communities rather than the best way to implement transit across the region. The report identifies 41 different transit destinations, categorizes them by four different typologies, and prioritizes 14 communities that have the highest need and readiness for transformation.

A discussion followed the presentation, offering a chance for the audience, which was fairly large, to ask questions. The commission mentioned the decline of the hub-and-spoke model of transit, with households needing access to more destinations, especially dual-income households. They noted that Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities outside the sunbelt and that this growth would be best managed with increased density. They also emphasized that residential density in mixed-use neighborhoods is crucial for businesses to flourish. The commission expressed the need to plan ahead for upcoming transit development. They pointed out that Roosevelt is already trying to sell some land to potential retailers in preparation for the opening of their light rail stop in the 2020.

However, a few Roosevelt residents attended the meeting and expressed dissatisfaction with not being consulted during the planning process thus far. Residents were concerned that they had spent lots of money on their high school, intending it to be a historic anchor to their community, and they feel they have been ignored. Specifically, Roosevelt High School was intended to be the tallest building in the neighborhood, but the Roosevelt Design Group has proposed building a 12-story unit near the future station, which would conflict with Roosevelt’s neighborhood plan. One resident insisted, “We are a community, not a quarter-mile circle.”

The commission responded first by emphasizing that they do not have authority over development, but they have been encouraging the city to change its approach to development. They also said they have strived to build their plan around existing plans and buildings and are eager to listen to Roosevelt residents and to work with them on this plan. They encouraged everyone to read the entire report and reminded residents that they have years to discuss their concerns before development actually begins. Finally, the commission emphasized that community development is very complicated, but they are confident they can reach an acceptable solution for everyone.

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