Seattle City Council President Sally Clark attended the annual Groundswell NW meeting at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club last week. She was the featured speaker at the event and informed those in attendance about the City Council’s action plan and green space priorities for 2012.
City Council President Sally Clark addresses green space issues at Groundswell NW's annual meeting
By Anne Marije-Rook
Groundswell NW held its annual meeting last week at the Ballard Boys and Girls Club. Now in its 22nd year, the organization dedicates its time and efforts to create community parks and habitat in NW Seattle. They've successfully completed 20 projects as they work towards a vision of having green space in every quadrant of Ballard.
Seattle City Council President Sally Clark was the featured speaker of the evening, informing those in attendance about the City Council’s action plan and green space priorities for 2012.
Clark, currently in her seventh year as council member, said the City Council action plan is dominated by issues not related to green space issues. Instead the Council has their hands full with issues of police reforms, budget cuts, seawall replacement and the remake of the waterfront.
"Every council member has pet projects that don't make it to the action plan," Clark stated.
With that said, Clark did address some issues that were of the group's interest such as greenways, the Missing Link, and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.
Neighborhood Greenways -- bike and pedestrian-friendly slow-speed residential streets near major arterials -- are currently under review. In February, council member Sally Bagshaw revealed a set of pilot Neighborhood Greenways being planned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) this coming year. SDOT will review a total of 11 miles of greenways, seven miles of which are in Ballard along NW 57th Street from Seaview Avenue to 17th Avenue NW and NW 58th Street from 17th Avenue NW to 4th Avenue NW.
"’Greenways’ is the new buzz word for residential streets that are walkable and rideable, and give more priority to people and non-motorized vehicles," explained Clark, who along with Mayor Mike McGinn and various council members visited Portland last year to observe the city’s model of greenways.
Implementing these greenways is a matter of money, changing attitudes, and knitting together departments, said Clark.
"It's a lot harder than you think to lower speed limits on residential streets," she continued, adding that municipalities in Washington currently do not have the power to lower speed limits on their own non-arterial streets.
Clark, along with council members from other municipalities, testified in Olympia in favor of passing SHB 1217, also known as the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill, which would have given municipalities the power to lower speed limits on non-arterial streets without the need for an expensive engineering study.
But the Neighborhood Safe Speeds bill was among the bills lost during the coup in the Washington State Senate last month.
"We'll take another run at it next year," Clark promised.
Clark also revealed that SEPA requirements are under review.
To welcome development, the city is pursuing opportunities to reduce red tape and encourage job growth by revisiting some regulations that may have become outdated or redundant.
Herself undecided on the issue of getting rid of the SEPA requirements for developments with fewer than 200 units, Clark said the argument is that in cities like Seattle where the land use code is so robust, SEPA has become redundant because many of the checklist items can be found elsewhere in the code.
Clark said the council will take a closer look at this issue in May.
One issue many Groundswell members feel strongly about is the completion of the "Missing Link", a section of the Burke Gilman trail where the trail ends at Ballard's Fred Meyer and people are left to find their own route to the Chittenden Locks where the trail picks up again.
The Ballard portion of the Burke Gilman Trail has been in limbo since the 1990s as a group of Ballard businesses has halted the construction of the trail time and time again.
When asked where she strands on the issue, Clark said, "I get the concerns from the business owners and they are reasonable but I think we should go ahead and build the Missing Link as is designed. I'm not opposed to building parallel infrastructure but it wouldn't be a trade-off with the current Missing Link design."
In addition to a question-and-answer session with Council President Clark, Groundswell NW also presented their annual “Local Heroes” awards, recognizing fellow Ballardites for their efforts to create and enhance parks, public spaces, and habitat in our community.
Recipients of the Local Heroes awards were longtime volunteer Ray Pennock, who is the secret gardener of Baker Park; Mark Dexter, who has been the group's webmaster for seven years; and Lisa Hopkins, who's been helping Treasurer Dawn Hemminger with the books.