Special events impacts and solutions

Special note for the weekend of August 13-14, 2016: Parking and traffic to be restricted on parts of Fairview Avenue E. and Eastlake Avenue because of run, walk, and bicycle events–comments and photos needed to gauge impacts

In recent years without consultation with the Eastlake neighborhood, and again this Sunday morning, August 14, the Seattle City government’s Special Events Office is allowing two simultaneous major events around Lake Union–the Obliteride (bicycle); and the Lake Union 10K (walk and run) that will cause parking and traffic restrictions on both Eastlake Avenue and Fairview Avenue E.

The permittees and the Special Events Office did not post or share early drafts of the traffic and parking control plans for these two events, making it difficult for the public to meaningfully comment or prepare. The permits were issued Friday, August 12, and the Eastlake Community Council received these two permits at 4:14 p.m. that day. We provide them here in the public interest: for the Obliteride permit, click here; for the Lake Union 10K, click here.

Near the end of each permit are the traffic and parking control plans; at the very end of the Lake Union 10K is the noise variance allowing noise to start at 7 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday) rather than the 9 a.m. normally required by City law. The Obliteride permit also allowed a rock concert at Gas Works park on the evening of Friday, August 12.

The Obliteride permit is confusing and possible in error: the Police Department part of the permit says that part of the bike ride will be on Fairview Avenue E., but the SDOT part of the permit makes no reference to such a route, and the organizers (who are based in the U.S. state of Georgia) have told us that they have no plans to use Fairview Avenue E. It may be that they (or someone else in the process) confused Fairview Avenue E. and Fairview Avenue N.–a good reason why the draft permit should have been circulated for public comment.

ECC would appreciate hearing from Eastlake residents and businesses regarding any impacts you experience from the traffic or parking restrictions and the noise associated with either event, and any other impacts; photos also are welcome. Are you satisfied with the situation, or do you suggest changes? We welcome any suggestions for improving the permit requirements and the permit process, as we will be working on this issue in the coming year. Please send your comments or photos to ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org. Questions and comments are also welcome there or to 206-322-5463.

Background. Millions of dollars a year (amounts that are growing) are being made from run, walk, and bicycle events that bring thousands of participants onto the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop, of which Fairview Avenue East is the longest part.

While these events raise funds for good causes and also bring taxable revenues to the companies that organize them, they raise issues of neighborhood impact that the City hasn’t yet faced. Among the concerns are noise from Gas Works Park; disruptions from street, bridge, and parking closures; poor outreach by the organizers; and lack of fair-share contributions for use of underfunded transportation infrastructure.

Usually held on a Saturday or Sunday, these events typically require closure of parts of Fairview Avenue East from motor vehicle access and the prohibition of some of its badly needed parking. parking on its east side of Fairview. On busy summer weekends, to prohibit motor vehicle travel and parking is a serious imposition on residents and businesses that has not been adequately considered in the permitting process.

Noise from start and finish ceremonies, usually in Gas Works Park and often very early in the morning, has been a persistent problem not successfully addressed by City agencies despite many promises to do so. Noise travels particularly well across water, and is very noticeable as experienced in the Eastlake neighborhood. On the specific issues of noise from Gas Works Park and, what ECC is doing about it, and how and where to send a complaint, see the Noise section in the column at right.

In recognition of the neighborhood noise, traffic, and parking impacts of events around Lake Union, the City’s Special Events Committee has agreed not to increase the number of these events annually. But any beneficial results are being counteracted by the Committee’s allowing existing events to substantially expand.

Despite concerns expressed by ECC, the City allowed the multi-day Obliteride to be expanded for the first time to include Fairview Avenue East (on Sunday, August 9, 2015). The May 30, 2015 Brooks Trailhead run (formerly the Emerald City run) was allowed to move from Sunday to Saturday (when the impacts were greater) and was allowed to be almost twice as large as in the past (the City would have allowed much more if ECC had not objected to the original proposal for more than three times as many runners); however, the actual number of participants fell short of these amounts.

Outreach to the affected neighborhoods by the event organizers has been poor. Event applicants should reach out early. It is unacceptable for an affected neighborhood to hear about an event expansion only after its permit has been applied for or approved. ECC’s request for information from Obliteride brought this response: “We are not quite ready to share these details as of yet, but will make parking and route information available on our website once we receive approval from the City.”

The fees that the City charges for events go mainly for police and traffic operations, with none earmarked for capital improvements to make the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop (which is in the Fairview Ave. E. roadway north of Newton St.) safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Upon designating the Loop in 2009, the City set aside a few capital improvement funds to implement it, but hasn’t done so for years, and the still poor drainage and poor conditions for bicycles, pedestrians, and parking reflect this lack of funding.

The Eastlake Community Council has asked Seattle’s Special Events Committee to require each event that uses Fairview and other parts of the Loop to contribute to a City fund to build bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements there. All events that gain donations or profits from using the must find a way to contribute to a City fund for pedestrian, bicycle, and drainage improvements.

ECC welcomes comments and suggestions on the above issues, to info@eastlakeseattle.org or by U.S. mail to ECC at 117 E. Louisa St. #1, Seattle, WA 98102. We especially want to hear about your own experiences with these special events.

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