Fairview Green Street

CITY OF SEATTLE IS YET TO ACT ON THE FAIRVIEW GREEN STREET CONCEPT PLAN WHICH IT RECEIVED FOR REVIEW IN JANUARY 2016

Fairview Avenue E. is one of the best things about the Eastlake neighborhood–-a quiet, leafy place to walk and to enjoy the lake. But Fairview needs improvements allowing pedestrians, bicycles, local traffic, and parking to coexist safely while solving drainage and flooding problems. For that reason, our neighborhood through the Eastlake Neighborhood Plan asked the City of Seattle to designate four blocks of Fairview between Fuhrman Avenue and Hamlin Street and four blocks of Fairview between Roanoke and Newton streets as a Green Street–as it did in 1998 as an ordinance. Later however, the City repealed the ordinances designating green streets, and instead designates green streets in the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Right of Way Improvements Manual, which now designates these segments of Fairview as neighborhood green streets.

For the Green Street designation to have real meaning as way to protect and improve these segments of Fairview Avenue East, a design concept plan needs to be adopted as a joint rule by the directors of the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. In order to develop such a design concept plan for Fairview, the Eastlake Community Council led years of effort including many public meetings and other outreach, input from hundreds of residents, business people, and property owners, and the work of many volunteers (including a surveyor and a landscape architect) to produce in January 2016 the Fairview Green Street design concept plan. Everyone’s comments are still welcome and needed as the Eastlake Community Council works with City officials on any final revisions. Send them to ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org.

The Eastlake Community Council submitted the Fairview Green Street design concept plan to the City of Seattle on January 22, 2016 (click here for the e-mail). Unfortunately, now more than two years later (February 2018), the City has failed to act on the plan or, so far as we can ascertain, even to review it. It is hoped that Mayor Jenny Durkan and District 4 City Councilmember Rob Johnson will get the relevant City departments to act on the Fairview Green Street design concept plan. Click here for the Eastlake Community Council’s April 2017 letter to Councilmember Johnson asking for his help in getting the City departments to review and act on the Fairview Green Street design concept plan. As of February 2018, Johnson had not yet responded to this request.

The current draft of the Fairview Green Street Design Concept Plan is in two parts (click on each to reach the documents): (1) the segment between Newton and Roanoke streets; and (2) the segment between Hamlin St. and Fuhrman Ave. (for #2 without the photo overlay, click here.

The Fairview Green Street Design Concept Plan is in two parts (click on each to reach the documents): (1) the segment between Newton and Roanoke streets; and (2) the segment between Hamlin St. and Fuhrman Ave. (for #2 without the photo overlay, click here.

The north and south drafts look different because the south segment is overlaid on a professional topographic and land survey donated by Johann Wassermann. Lacking a topographic and land survey for the north segment, we relied on geographic information system (GIS) overlays from the City of Seattle that are the next best thing. The photo overlay can help locate various features that would be pinpointed on a topographic and land survey. Unfortunately, the photo overlay does not cover the parts of Fairview Ave. E. and Fuhrman Ave. E. that are under the freeway and thus not seen by aerial photography.

Additionally, click here for a prose description of the proposed design elements. A remaining question is whether the speed limit should be 15 miles per hour or 10 miles per hour; on this issue, see the section below on “Need for State legislation to enable Green Streets like Fairview to have a speed limit as low as ten miles per hour.”

Please alert the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org or 206-322-5463 if you have trouble accessing any of these documents, and be sure to contact us if you have any suggestions or questions.

Background on the Fairview planning process and Green Street designation and meaning

Pedestrians traveled along the Lake Union shoreline long before the automobile, and indeed long before European settlement. Native Americans established the earliest shoreline trails, which largely became the route for Fairview Avenue East, which was initially just a dirt road. When Fairview Avenue E. was paved, few sidewalks were included; automobiles shared the roadway with pedestrians and bicyclists.

Fairview Avenue East now attracts a constant stream of visitors from all over the region–most of them on foot or bicycle–who come for the water views, street-end parks, marine businesses, and picturesque houseboat colony. The combination of residents, businesses, bicyclists, and tourists that use Fairview would itself be a complicated traffic situation, but is made worse by drivers seeking to bypass Eastlake Avenue, Interstate 5, and other north-sound routes.

It is a miracle that Fairview Avenue E. is as pedestrian-friendly as it is. Its public right-of-way is 100 feet wide (120 feet between Newton and Blaine Streets), far larger than Eastlake Avenue’s 75 foot right-of-way. In fact, in 1927 the City seriously considered reformatting Fairview Avenue E. (not Eastlake Avenue E.) as the major arterial through Eastlake, with a 72 foot wide (six lane) roadway. In 1970 a local improvement district nearly received enough signatures to expand Fairview Avenue E. to four lanes; this proposal was defeated through the efforts of the Floating Homes Association.

In 19xx pursuant to a Seattle City Council resolution designated a Lake Union Bikeway around the lake, and the predecessor agency of the Seattle Department of Transportation conducted planning efforts that led to the Bikeway’s being located on the Fairview Avenue E. roadway except a two-block area between Roanoke and Hamlin Streets where Fairview Avenue East is not a roadway, but an undeveloped underwater right of way. For this two-block area, SDOT continued with planning that in a sense has never been completed.

In 1994 with funds from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and in cooperation with what the predecessor agency of the Seattle Department of Transportation, a steering committee of resident and business representatives staffed by the Eastlake Community Council developed the the Eastlake Transportation Plan and Related Design Issues, which is available by clicking here. This 1994 Plan recommended sidewalks for the parts of Fairview Avenue East that are south of E. Newton Street and north of E. Hamlin Street. It also recommended that the four blocks of Fairview between Newton and Roanoke streets not have sidewalks, but rather traffic calm these blocks to allow pedestrians to mix safely with bicycles and motor vehicles.

Also in 1994, the Mayor and City Council adopted a new citywide Comprehensive Plan, a central part of which was to designate Eastlake as one of 27 urban villages, and to fund a neighborhood plan for each of them. Under strict performance standards enforced a Seattle Office of Neighborhood Planning, a steering committee of resident and business representatives and other stakeholders (again staffed by the Eastlake Community Council) developed the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, which was approved and adopted by the Mayor and City Council in 1999. One of many actions that the City took as a result of the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan (available along with the City’s approval and adoption document in the column at right) was, in adopting Ordinance 119322, to designate as a Green Street Type III (meaning that motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles would coexist in the roadway) the portion of Fairview Avenue E. between Fuhrman Ave. E. and E. Hamlin St. and the portion of Fairview Avenue E. between E. Roanoke St. and E. Newton St.

Within three years of passing the ordinance that designated the Fairview Green Street, in 2001 the then Mayor and City Council (without any notice to or consultation with the affected neighborhoods) repealed this ordinance and other key ordinances regarding Green Streets, including the distinction between Type III and other types. This change required the Eastlake neighborhood to retrace its steps to finalize Fairview’s Green Street status via the administrative process that replaced this ordinance.

In 2008-9, the Seattle Transportation Department and the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation jointly engaged in planning for a walking and bicycle route around Lake Union, published as the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan (May 2009). Click here for the Plan and here for the appendix. As did the previous two Eastlake planning efforts, the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan placed the walking and bicycle route on the roadway for the four blocks of Fairview between Newton and Roanoke streets, while also acknowledging the need for a shoreline bicycle and pedestrian route for the two blocks south of Hamlin Street.

The Seattle Department of Transportation and the City’s Office of Planning and Community Development now address Green Streets administratively, through the Right-of-Way Improvements Manual and through joint directors’ rules that approve for each Green Street a design concept plan that protects it from unwise changes (including those from the Manual itself) based on general standards for areas where the automobile dominates, and also helps the Green Street qualify for City-funded and developer-funded improvements.

The Seattle Right-of-Way Improvements Manual already classifies these two segments of Fairview as a Neighborhood Green Street, but this designation does not have mandatory effect until a joint directors’ rule is adopted. The Manual defines a Green Street as follows: “A Green Street is a street right-of-way that, through a variety of design and operational treatments, gives priority to pedestrian circulation and open space over other transportation uses.” The Manual states further that a Neighborhood Green Street is one that emphasizes “pedestrian amenities, landscaping, historic character elements, traffic calming, and other unique features.” The Manual also lists the purposes of a Neighborhood Green Street as being to: (1) reflect a local community’s desire to target specific streetscapes for a pedestrian or open space enhancement; (2) enhance the pedestrian environment and attract pedestrians; (3) create open space opportunities in residential neighborhoods; and (4) retain unique street features (e.g., brick paving, mature landscaping that is adjacent to the roadway, curbless streets).

To protect Fairview from unwise changes that otherwise would be required by the Right-of-Way Improvements Manual’s standards for all streets and to qualify for City-funded and developer-funded improvements, the neighborhood needs to work out a Fairview Green Street Design Concept Plan and get it adopted by Seattle’s Department of Transportation and its Department of Planning and Development. Until that time, Fairview will continue to be jeopardized by one-size-fits-all standards in the Right-of-Way Improvements Manual that require curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and pavement 25 feet wide (much wider than it is today in many places, and at great sacrifice to public parking, trees and other greenery, and Fairview’s cherished “country road” atmosphere).

The Eastlake Community Council thanks the hundreds of Eastlakers who, over a period of many years, have made suggestions–whether in letters, drawings, or e-mails, or at public meetings. Every one of your comments has been recorded and considered in producing the current draft. ECC also thanks surveyor Johann Wassermann and landscape designer Meredith Sessions for making these drafts possible. Because this draft concept plan is a compromise, they and everyone else involved will not find everything in it exactly to their wishes. However, ECC is committed to producing a plan that the largest number of Eastlakers can stand behind.

To develop this Fairview Green Street Design Concept Plan, over almost two decades the Eastlake Community Council has sponsored many public meetings, public workshops, public tours, and advisory meetings, and has issued many draft documents for public comment. ECC has worked hard to identify and resolve any major questions and concerns from the public prior to submitting the Concept Plan for adoption as a joint director’s rule by the directors of the Department of Planning and Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation.

On January 18, 2016 ECC completed the latest draft Fairview Green Street Design Concept Plan and on January 22, 2016 ECC submitted it for City review (see above for links to the Plan and the submission e-mail). Revisions will continue to be made as ECC works with City officials toward the version that they will approve. Suggestions are welcome and needed, to: info@eastlakeseattle.org, or please mail or drop by paper comments to ECC, c/o Lake Union Mail, 117 E. Louisa #1, Seattle 98102-3278. Phone inquiries are also welcome, to 206-322-5463.

NEED FOR STATE LEGISLATION TO ENABLE GREEN STREETS LIKE FAIRVIEW TO HAVE A SPEED LIMIT AS LOW AS TEN MILES PER HOUR

In 2013 via House Bill 1045 the Washington State legislature amended the Revised Code of Washington to allow cities and towns to reduce the speed limit from 25 to 20 mph on any “nonarterial…within a residence district or business district.” Such nonarterials constitute the majority of road mileage in cities and towns, requiring compromise so that the speed limit could be allowed to drop no lower than 20 mph. Unfortunately, that 5 mph reduction from the previous 25 mph is of little value for the tiny number of roads like our Fairview Green Street that cities or towns have specifically designated for priority of pedestrian circulation over all other transportation uses. AS a result of the 1999 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, the City of Seattle posted 15 mph signs on the parts of Fairview Avenue East that are a designated Green Street. Unfortunately, police are not allowed to ticket and the City is not allowed to enforce any speed limit below the 20 mph currently allowed by state law. To allow vehicles to travel at 20 mph on such streets endangers the very pedestrians whose use of these streets is officially prioritized over motor vehicle use. For those few streets, the City of Seattle needs the option of reducing the speed limit to as low as ten miles per hour.

The Eastlake Community Councilwill be working in the 2019 state legislative session to add a new sentence to RCW 46.61.415(3)(a) authorizing “a maximum speed limit of ten miles per hour on such a nonarterial highway, or part of a nonarterial highway, on which an ordinance of the city or town has given priority to pedestrian circulation over other transportation uses.” Even though in Seattle the priority for pedestrian circulation over other transportation uses is granted administratively, our suggested language would require that this designation be by City ordinance–thus we hope reassuring potential opponents that the designation would not be given lightly.

The minimum vehicle speed limit of 20 mph under current state law is much too fast to be safe for streets where pedestrian circulation has been given priority over other transportation uses. There will be substantial support and, we believe, little opposition, for allowing cities and towns to reduce the speed limit to 10 mph for the very limited number of streets that qualify for this unique priority for pedestrian circulation over other transportation uses.

The City of Seattle’s Right of Way Improvements Manual designates 32 non-arterial streets as Green Streets, which the Manual defines as giving “priority to pedestrian circulation and open space over other transportation uses.” A few other streets, such as Pike Place, give some priority to pedestrian circulation but are not formally designated as Green Streets.

Political support for the proposed statutory change will come from not only Seattle but other cities and towns that have at least a few streets on which pedestrian circulation is officially given priority over other transportation uses. Political support will also come from other cities and towns that are hesitant to give official priority for pedestrian circulation over other transportation uses until state law allows a safely low speed limit there.

In our Eastlake neighborhood, the City’s designated Green Street on Fairview Avenue East is a perfect example of the safety need for this statutory change. The City designated eight blocks of Fairview as a Green Street in 1998. In 2009, the street’s priority for pedestrian circulation was further emphasized by the City’s Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan Master Plan (pp. 52 and 101) which designated this part of Fairview Avenue East as part of the official walking route around Lake Union. The Master Plan made it clear that the walking route is in the roadway itself (a “shared space street”) because there is no room on this part of Fairview for a separated sidewalk. Unfortunately, pedestrians are currently under threat from fast-moving vehicles, many of which use Fairview to bypass stop lights and traffic jams on the Eastlake Avenue arterial.

Seattle allows a Green Street to depart from normal street standards that enable and even encourage high speeds once it has approved a concept plan with design and operational treatments to calm the traffic. Through an extensive process of public outreach and involvement and working in close partnership with SDOT, the Eastlake Community Council has drafted a concept plan for the Fairview Green Street, which it submitted in January 2016 for review and adoption by Seattle City officials (see above section). An important part of the concept plan will be the posted speed limit.

Pursuant to a recommendation in Seattle’s 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, SDOT has already posted parts of Fairview Avenue East between Newton and Roanoke Streets for a speed limit of 15 miles per hour—an unofficial speed limit which under current state law is, of course, not legally enforceable. Now that H.B. 1045 has been passed, we could ask the City to remove the present 15 mph signs and officially post this part of Fairview Avenue East for 20 mph. However, doing so is not preferable because 20 mph is too fast a speed for vehicles on a street where pedestrian circulation is officially the higher priority.

If the RCW amendment proposed here were adopted to allow enforcement of a speed limit as low as 10 mph, our neighborhood could ask Seattle officials to adopt a 10 mph speed limit for these four blocks of Fairview Avenue. Any decision to do so would be the result of extensive public outreach and discussion. ECC welcomes your thoughts on whether to do so, to info@eastlakeseattle.org.

SUGGESTIONS MADE BETWEEN 1999 AND 2005 FOR THE FAIRVIEW GREEN STREET BETWEEN FUHRMAN AVE. AND HAMLIN ST. AND BETWEEN ROANOKE ST. AND NEWTON ST. Click here for the document]

As mentioned above, one of many actions that the City took as a result of the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan was, in adopting Ordinance 119322, to designate as a Neighborhood Green Street the portion of Fairview Avenue E. between E. Fuhrman Ave. E. and E. Hamlin St. and the portion of Fairview Ave. E. between E. Roanoke St. and E. Newton St. Between 1999 and 2005, committees composed of people who lived, worked, or owned property in the Eastlake neighborhood developed draft guidelines for the two Fairview Green Street segments. (To see them, click the link in the subtitle above.) The Eastlake Community Council thanks these many volunteers for their efforts and provides their drafts here as background for the current effort to finalize a concept plan for these two segments of the Fairview Green Street.

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