At the S.W. District Council Meeting May 7 were Brian Dougherty in the middle, addressing the council. To his left is Cindi Barker, to his right is Yun Pitre.
Biking to school coming soon; Land use, parade also discussed in SW Dist. meeting
By Gwen Davis
“Who remembers walking or biking to school?” asked Brian Dougherty from Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) to the Southwest District Council on Wed. evening.
Many hands in the room went up.
But now, only 20 percent of students walk or bike to school, Dougherty said.
Which is why SRTS is at work making the many West Seattle school outside environments safer for children to walk and bike. Dougherty informed attendees about the past, present and future projects throughout the Southwest District.
Part of the effort includes informing community groups – such as the council – and parents about the construction and why it is important.
The funding comes from new speeding cameras and other initiatives.
“We need kids to realize that it’s fun to bike and walk,” Dougherty said. “We need the parents to see that, too.”
The effort has been underway for a year and a half, when Seattle authorized money for school improvements, such as making sidewalks and intersections safer.
Between now and 2015, the following schools will receive improvements: Roxhill/Holy Family, Roxhill, Explorer Middle School/Roxhill, Gatewood, Arbor Heights, Sanislo and Pathfinder. Construction may also occur at Denny/Chief Sealth in 2016.
Projects include repairing roads and sidewalks, and installing reflective covers on school zone sign posts, pedestrian countdown upgrades and curb ramps.
“We don’t have specific recommendations yet, but will come out with those this fall,” Dougherty said in response to a participant’s questions about funding the Roxhill project. “If you see things that don’t get let me know.”
“Are there top priorities near schools that aren’t on this list?” he asked. “How do we spread the word? In a lot of ways, we rely on you to tell us these things to update our own records.”
Certain projects are a priority, he said, such as remarking the sidewalks.
“The traffic signals near schools have a dual benefit,” Dougherty added. “They help walkers and drivers.”
Participants praised Dougherty’s initiative.
“Repairing all the crosswalks in the perimeter around the school will raise awareness,” a participant said.
But people need to know why construction is taking place, they also warned.
“People get cranky when construction starts and they are not notified,” one participant said.
Someone asked about private schools – specifically regarding Hope Lutheran School on 42nd Ave. SW and SW Oregon St. – and if it would get improvements, as well.
“I’m glad you mentioned that,” Dougherty said. “We were primarily focused on public schools, but there will be speed cameras for private and public schools.”
Small lot debate rolls on
On Thurs. night, May 8, a public meeting will be held to discuss the ongoing small lot debate. The Seattle City Council said that small lots would not need further restrictions.
(See the Herald’s “Small lot development regulations up for consideration” for more information.)
However, the Southwest District Council members disagreed with the ruling.
“The developers are exploiting use a loophole where they don’t have to go through the design review,” said Vlad Oustimovitch, from the West Seattle Land Use Committee.
Oustimovitch said the city council’s conclusion will be appealed to the hearing examiner.
“It’s a very interesting problem,” he said of the city council’s decision. “But it does invoke problems and chaos,” that weren’t intended, he said. “There will probably be a big flurry before this loophole is closed.”
But Oustimovitch was not optimistic.
“I have had zero success talking to the council,” he said.
One participant added how he always had to hire an attorney when going against the city.
But the group also discussed how the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (SDN) which was put together in the early ‘90s could be utilized.
The council passed a motion on potentially using the SDN staff to facilitate issues with the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD).
“There’s not supposed to be such unhappy neighborhoods like what we have now,” Oustimovitch said.
The 12 other district councils should do the same, the council agreed.
No one was opposed to the potential motion.
“You know when David battles Goliath, sometimes David gets crunched,” Oustimovitch said. “I don’t know if we will or will not be successful in this.”
Near the end of the meeting, the council discussed the summer parade. The Southwest District Council should be represented, attendees said. “We just need to make some noise,” one participant added.
Chas Redmond with the City Neighborhood Council (CNC) gave updates, particularly how members who have held leadership positions for many years in the CNC need to move on, allowing for new people and new energy.
“We cleaned up the process, now we need to clean up the philosophy,” Redmond said. “I’m psyched.”
He also discussed grants and grant matches.
Jenni Nadler, from the American Cancer Society Relay for Life informed council members about an upcoming event and how West Seattle should take part.