Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Children's Presenting Their Final Burke-Gilman Trail Connection Concept Tonight At SAC Meeting, Read Neighbor's Comments On Connection

The Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) will hold its 10th meeting tonight from 6-8pm in the Sound Cafe on the 7th floor.
The SAC is made up of representatives from Children’s Hospital and surrounding neighborhoods, chosen by Children's and the City, who advise the City and the Hospital on development that is occuring under the provisions of the Children’s Hospital Major Institution Master Plan adopted by the City Council in 2010.

Tonight's agenda will include:
  • Presentation of the final Concept for the Burke-Gilman Trail connection being developed on the Hartmann property. (Children's is required to build the connection, and make nearly $4 million on other transportation improvements in adherence to the Master Plan) 
  • Public comment (6:35pm)
  • Project update - Replacement housing
  • Presentation of Children's Annual Report

For more information about the meeting, contact Steve Sheppard at 206-684-0302 or steve.sheppard@seattle.gov.
The Burke-Gilman Trail connection has been controversial for residents in both Laurelhurst and Bryant.
Some comments received were:
The plan entails taking about 2,000 square feet of park property. In addition, Initiative 42 prohibits the taking of park property for non-park purposes without some kind of a land swap and public process.
Todd Johnson, VP Development, Children's: The Burke-Gilman Trail/Sand Point Way NE Connection at Hartmann site, will continue to be fully available for public use and is  extended onto those portions of the connection that cross the Hartmann property owned by Children’s between the Trail and Sand Point Way NE. There is not an Initiative 42 issue here since the City is neither transferring park property to Children’s for non-park purposes nor changing the park and recreational use of the Burke-Gilman Trail.
The plan uses vegetated park land that is over time is getting smaller and smaller and I have concerns about the use of parkland to make the connection.  I am not sure if the connection will still be park property, as it seems it will be park property that has been converted to a non-park use.
Does Initiative 42 apply - will Children's own the connection to the trail or is ownership being transferred? Or is Children's paying for the trail access and not purchasing the land where the connection will be? 
The Friends of Burke-Gilman Trail have spent over 1,000 volunteer hours on this portion of the trail and it is my understanding that they were never contacted, even though they had received grants for additional vegetation. 
The connection will have a huge benefit keeping cyclist and pedestrians away from 40th ave NE and SPW.

And here is an email received from a nearby resident of the trail:
Subject: Building Hopes - Taking Parks?
Dear Laurelhurst Blog:
This past fall Seattle Children's Hospital presented a conceptual design for a pedestrian and bicycle ramp linking their Hartmann Site to Sand Point Way. In order for the ramp to connect to the Burke-Gilman Trail it must also cross city parkland. A community volunteer group, and both Bryant and Laurelhurst residents are opposing this ramp as it proposes to remove upwards of 50 trees and build huge concrete walls to shore up the hillside (mostly on park property). A volunteer group, Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail Sand Point, is devastated because hundreds of hours of work removing weeds and planting native plants are going to be for nothing.
This isn't a NIMBY issue. It is really more about Children's stretching their influence onto public lands away from the main hospital campus. It is also an issue about good public policy, leveraging private dollars where they will do the most use, and protecting the Burke-Gilman Trail as our city's green ribbon.
Children's did hold a couple of open houses (not really public meetings) where they showed off slight various to one design. There was nothing really to comment on. No alternative sites were considered or shown. Since it was Children's open house none of the conceptual designs clearly, accurately showed parkland, and how much of the ramp really was taking trees on parkland. While Children's sent postcards advertising the open houses, nothing was mentioned about taking parkland. If you walked or rode along the trail today you would not see any signs, notices, or banners telling passersby that a big concrete ramp is proposed for this location.

Children's staff believes that they have gone through all the applicable planning processes and now they have a right to construct this ramp. Yes since December some changes were made to the design so that it does not remove so many trees, but the fact remains that a private concrete ramp will be built on public parkland. Children's hasn't offered any data on how many people might use this ramp, costing at least $600,000, but information from their master plan points to somewhere around 40 bike riders and maybe the same amount of walkers per day. This is very little change from the amount of bike riders who current commute to Children's. Is it worth removing public parkland and open space for so little benefit? 
Where are better locations? One is about 900 feet to the north, another with a little work just 100 or so feet to the west, and another about 600 feet to the west. All of these would not remove trees or green space like exists along the Hartmann Site. Why not put the cost of the ramp where it can be leveraged into improvements which support the entire community - not just Children's employees?
It is interesting that this issue popped up now. Starting this year the Burke-Gilman Trail enters into its 40th year of existence. On February 9, 1973 the city came to agreement with the Burlington Northern Railroad to buy the right-of-way. The city has made many improvements to the trail in the intervening years. However Seattle has changed. It has become more dense and will become denser. Citizens value other ways of getting to work. As a result there are threats to the Burke-Gilman. Encroachments are one threat. For example going eastward from UW to NE 65th Street there are a least ten or so spots where someone has built stairs, a ramp, or gate onto the Trail. So what's the issue? These are private connections to the Trail which take away from general public use. They also make the Trail a little bit less useful. Think of Aurora Avenue and how there are so many driveways. Can you drive safely along Aurora without worrying about cars pulling out in front? No. This is what could happen to the Burke-Gilman Trail if all property owners put in their own ramps, gates, paths. This is also why Seattle Children's should not be allowed to construct their Hartmann Site ramp. It just establishes a really bad precedent.

The Burke-Gilman Trail is actually owned by three institutions: Seattle Parks and Recreation; the University of Washington; and the Seattle Department of Transportation. North of the city King County owns another portion which extends to Woodinville. A few plans exist which call for long-term improvements or maintenance of the green open space. However these plans are fragmented, not coordinated. In late 2012 the University of Washington looked at their portion of the trail and developed a great master plan. King County also studied their portion of the trail through Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and Kenmore. A key task in both of these plans are the tasks to remove connections, not add them. After 40 years it seems time for the city to take a more coordinated and regional approach to how the Trail and areas along the Trail should be developed. For example a couple of years ago a developer proposed a condo project to the southwest of the Hartmann Site. At three or more stories it would have created one more wall just like the Blakeley Place condos east of 25th Avenue NE. Also take note that within a couple of months a new lease agreement will likely allow a fiber optic cable to remain under the Trail. Is the city getting enough revenue from this? Is this the future we want along our public green ribbon?

Children's is preparing to open their new hospital wing within the next month. Their ad campaign it is called "Building Hope". It is admirable all the work Children's does to advance the health of children. That's their mission. They have also done the right thing, been the good neighbor on their recent expansion, for example buying out the Laurelon Terrace condo owners, but again their mission is medicine and pediatric health not community development. So why do they need to take public parkland? I for one don't want to remember them as "Building Hope - Taking Parks".

1 comment:

Joseph Adams said...

This is all great info… thanks-
could someone point me to a diagram of the proposed changes ?