Friday, July 28, 2017

LCC's Statement On Impacts Of UW's Proposed 2018 Campus Master Plan

The UW shared recently that its 2018 Seattle Campus Master Plan (CMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which also includes public comments, is available on-line.   

The press release said:

The final document responds to comments received on both the draft master plan and the environmental impact statement during the comment period held last fall.  The plan will ultimately be reviewed and adopted by both the Seattle City Council and the UW Board of Regents, likely in early 2018.

The next step in the CMP process includes a review this summer by the City University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC) and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) and then the Seattle Hearing Examiner review in the Fall. The Seattle City Council and the UW Board of Regents will consider the CMP in the Winter or Spring of 2018.

The 2018 Campus Master Plan identifies 86 potential development sites and the need to build 6 million net new gross square feet of building space on the Seattle campus during the life of the Campus Master Plan. The additional space will accommodate anticipated growth of students, staff and faculty of 15 percent between 2018 and 2028.

Many changes were made to the Campus Master Plan between the time the draft was issued in October 2016 and the issuance of the final version. These changes were made in response to comments from the campus community and greater public, including CUCAC. Other changes were made in response to suggestions from SDCI. More detailed development standards and design guidelines were included to minimize concerns about building height, bulk and scale. Some building heights were lowered in the West and South campus.

The University revised its proposed Transportation Management Plan to commit to a 15 percent single occupancy vehicle (drive alone) mode share by 2028 to minimize impact on traffic.

LCC commented in a recent letter to the City regarding the impacts on potential development near Laurelhurst saying:

The CMP 2018 shows that Buildings E80, E81, E82 are planned to be doubled in height. These are student housing units that border the single family Laurelhurst neighborhood.  The sf residential heights are capped at 30 feet.  The CMP 2018 should not increase the heights to be compatible with the underlying zoning. Not only is the CMP requesting to double the height, but also build out in the green space that the student families heavily use.  LCC requests that the 65 foot heights not be allowed in this part of the campus, and retain a more family friendly setting for both the students and nearby neighborhoods. 
Laurelhurst is also closely affected by the UW daily operations of classes, plus the football, basketball, tournaments and special events, at the East Campus, which directly impact the egress from the northeast residential neighborhoods. These impacts are anywhere south of NE 65th Street, or even allowing access to the grocery store at University Village. Thus, the transportation management and traffic circulation plans in the CMP 2018 are integral to the Laurelhurst neighborhood's ability to travel in and out of its island-like geography, as well as the Montlake, Madison Park, Wallingford, Fremont, Ravenna and Roosevelt neighborhoods.Assuming that the mode split generally continues for the CMP 2018 build out, a 20% increase in the Seattle campus will generate 20% more car traffic (20% of 80,000 future projected population is 16,000 total daily drivers to campus, and as such, is a 20% worsening in already gridlocked congestion.

LCC also said about the Master Plan last year:

It is a very aggressive plan to expand the University's footprint out from down to Boat Street, upzone the U District with tall buildings, and expand along Montlake Boulevard with building structures on the E-1 parking lots which border Laurelhurst.  In addition, there are plans to increase buildings along Mary Gates Memorial Drive. 

Here is LCC's recent comment letter (in part)regarding the proposed 2018 Master Plan:

The massive square footage expansion requested by the University in this proposed Master Plan, and the planned 20% increase of students, faculty and staff is monumental in scale. The proposed 12.9 million square feet of build out capacity, and 8 million in growth request square footage (gsf) is nearly three times the growth that was requested in the 2003 Master Plan which was for an additional 3 million growth square feet on the same basic footprint.  LCC's overarching comment is that the University has an important and unique task to educate the growing population, but also to ensure that their main campus, centrally located in densely populated areas, can function, and absorb reasonable growth. The campus is surrounded by dense, residential neighborhoods, with limited capacity to access to major highways. The university also has an extensive network of smaller campuses that integrate well into its educational mission.

The vast amount of the additions would not be for classrooms, or student's residences, but instead for "offices" equaling 1,912,000 gsf, and for research labs 727,000 gsf, and for study/library of 953,000 gsf.  This is 3.9 million gsf, or 65% of the requested growth allowance of the 6 million gsf.  The students would be designated 785,000 gsf for the basics of residences and classrooms (13%).  If they are allocate 589,000 gsf for sports and student life, and another +10 % for support amenities, and a little more than half of the library/study gsf, that yields another +10%.  The total is then around 33% of the CMP 2018 gsf requested, which is dedicated to just educating the students.

Thus, it would appear that most of the new gsf requested is dedicated not to the education of students, but to provide extra space for faculty, and general use offices.  The need for any expense of future build-out should be more data driven, and based upon the mission to educate the students, as well as perform public benefit research. Spaces inside the campus should be student driven. The office and research development outside the MIO should be included in any request for additional square footage on the Main Campus. The why and how will the new square footage proposed be needed, and used by whom? 
In analyzing the supposed deficit of office space versus peers, the University of Washington has supplemented this need for office space with the half million in square footage in the Safeco Tower that was purchased in September 2006.  It is a few blocks outside the Major Institution Overlay, and it should be counted when using comparisons with other institutions on Table 2, (page 34 in the Executive Summary). In addition, the University has research buildings all over Seattle, especially in South Lake Union where the UW has over 1200 scientists and staff working on biomedical cutting edge research within two miles of the main campus. They are already under construction in 2016 for five buildings to house this important work for the university. This large and new research facility is not counted on the Main Campus analysis on Table 2, and once again, must be included in any "deficit" calculations being used to calculate the real need for greater research gsf.
The West Campus Green should be a requirement for the addition of any new square footage added along Brooklyn Avenue NE, and 11th and 12th Avenue NE.  There has already been much more structure density added by the University with the building of the West Campus dormitories.  
South Campus Green is an essential element of the new growth at the medical center.  South Campus should not replicate a downtown urban environment for students and faculty.  Bike and vehicle parking should be provided to allow this South Campus Green to be used by the public, as well as to connecting sidewalks and the shoreline. 

The East Campus CMP is proposed to build on much of the University's true open space. Adding tall buildings along State Highway 513 (Montlake Boulevard) creates a spilt from the main campus facilities, and would require a connector path to be built. This proposed "Land Bridge" walkway offered to replace the loss of so much open space which hold views of Lake Washington, the Cascade Mountains, Mt Rainier and Union Bay, is not at all adequate mitigation for the loss of open space on East Campus.  Rather, it is simply a steep slope walkway from the main campus to the lower one across a freeway that has bumper to bumper traffic.  It is not the same as a providing level waterfront green (park) such as is planned on the West or South Campus options.  Thus, LCC rejects this Land Bridge as an adequate replacement for the lost open space. It is just a sloped pedestrian path that connects the East Campus to the Central Campus, and is not a functioning amenity for students, faculty or the public. The CMP2018 should require real waterfront park access (green), so that its students, faculty and the public can use to replace any built structures on the East Campus. Currently, most of the East Campus waterfront is restricted to the crew and sports teams, and does not offer true open access.

LCC strongly supports the inclusion of a continuous Waterfront Trail. The CMP2018 should be required to have this trail built as a priority in all approved plans.

LCC supports the adherence to the City's tree ordinances in its 2018 CMP. In the past development projects, the university has claimed an exemption to any tree protection ordinances, despite having its campus in the heart of the City of Seattle.  Trees provide the oxygen and habitats for the urban ecosystem.  If the trees are not specifically protected, the university, as in the past, cut down many exceptional and rare trees to instead of working around them.
2018 CMP relies upon much higher building heights in the West, South and East campuses which border neighboring communities while adding very little to the Central Campus to add 6 million of new net gross square feet, from the 86 new development sites in an identified development of 12.9 mil new net gsf.  

In the Central Campus the maximum height of 105 feet represents the right approach to transitioning from the old and newly added buildings.  This limit on new heights helps to retain a more human scale on its Central Campus (Table 14, page 160-161) and promotes the experience with walking, biking and connecting with the natural environment.  

West Campus in the CMP, however, gets dramatically transformed from the 50-70 foot campus to a proposed 240 height average building along Pacific Avenue and to 130 feet at the shoreline. These buildings are listed as academic, but the scale and character are very unusual in supporting an academic environment. Heights of 125 feet should be the maximum allowed in the West Campus master plan, which can then be reduced to no greater than 50 feet nearer the shoreline and the Portage Bay Park.

South Campus in the CMP 2018 proposal would create a wall of 240 foot high rises along Pacific Avenue straight up from sea level. This part of campus would be transformed from a shoreline oriented campus, to one with tightly spaced tall office towers.  Once again, the student atmosphere of academic buildings is not consistent with this density and tall building heights.  The mass they create in front of the shoreline creates a barrier to the water access, and students, staff and the faculty (who do not get the fancy new view offices), will lose the sense of the natural environment, and the orientation to Portage Bay, one of the greatest assets of the university.  LCC does not support this massing of development near the shoreline at South Campus.  

East Campus plans in the CMP 2018 represent an entire new campus addition for "academic" use. The land itself is poor, and is of uneven building quality. More importantly, the land has underlying history of being the City of Seattle's primary garbage dump from 1926 through 1966, called the Montlake Landfill.  Unrestricted waste from humans, animals and industrial were dumped into this area for 40 years before it was closed.  The potential environmental impacts from digging up the old hazardous waste from the prior garbage dump use in the East Campus, makes the whole site a very poor choice for development. There are pockets of methane gas as well as some contained buried medical hazardous waste that could be highly toxic to the surrounding campus and communities. This area should be left alone or expensively and safely, remediated before considering the site buildable. In addition, this section of the campus is disconnected with the campus life and other needed facilities (e.g. food services) to make new gsf workable for academic purposes.

The LOS (levels of service) at intersections through the University District to I-5 already operates at a D or E or F-failure levels. The Montlake Intersection, now made worse by the removal of the Lake Washington Boulevard ramps, and tolling, operates at a failing level, with minimal relief planned for the future.   
To help mitigate the increase pressure on the limited transportation options, LCC also requests that the University of Washington: 1) Build out the shoreline trail to be used for pedestrians to safely walk all parts of campus 2) Extend its own shuttle service to the Link Light Rail stations to reduce mobility challenges for potential users, as well as provide safe connections for students, faculty and staff who work or study late at night, and must carry heavy materials to class or the workplace 3) The RPZ plan to discourage non-campus parking "for free" in adjacent neighborhoods is a good program.  LCC supports this effort, especially expanding into both primary and secondary zones 4) Extend its own shuttle service to the Link Light Rail stations to reduce mobility challenges for potential users, as well as provide safe connections for students, faculty and staff who work or study late at night, and must carry heavy materials to class or the workplace 5) Finish and better light the sections of the Burke Gilman Trail for safe and easy bike connectivity, as well as provide secure locations for bike storage throughout any newly built gsf development 5) Work with WSDOT, SDOT and their own campus to improve the sidewalks along Montlake Boulevard. They flood easily, the curbs are too low, and they do not drain. This creates a deterrent for pedestrian use, and a hazard for vehicles, swerving in and out of the west lane on rainy days and 6) Prepare a lighting plan to ensure that pedestrians are well lit -especially with increased building heights. Safety is critical to encourage walking on campus.

In February, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to adopt the University District upzone, which could increase building heights to up to 320 feet (32 stories), plus another 15' for mechanicals. The affected area is the main University District core (15th  Avenue NE to the freeway and 41st to NE 50th Street) and potentially 240' buildings in other areas of the core area.

LCC commented about this as well saying:
The University District Upzone plans--The City of Seattle has changed it existing zoning to allow for greater heights in the University District in the 2035 Comp Plan. With no added infrastructure, except for the University stop for Light Rail Station to Northgate, it can add also triple the population when built out in the next 20 years.

The concurrency of planned growth in northeast Seattle is without any plans for adding more rapid transit, bike paths and actually has been reducing road capacity  implementing road diets will increase the gridlocked traffic congestion.

For more information go here.

(photo courtesy of UW)

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