Looking Toward the Future & Listening for New Voices in Shaping Policy in Seattle

The City of Seattle is one of seven finalists for City Accelerator competition focused on civic engagement. City Accelerator is an initiative of Living Cities and the Citi Foundation. Seattle’s engagement proposal focuses on the Seattle Comprehensive Plan.

We are looking to engage Seattle residents as we update our Comprehensive Plan. Seattle anticipates 120,000 new residents and 115,000 new jobs over the next 20 years. Seattle’s proposal is to create an inclusive, scalable, and adaptive path for growth through more effective public engagement. We want people to be engaged in the entire process—from planning to implementation. The City Accelerator would help Seattle design and implement its approach and structures that would sustain it over time.

If City Accelerator chooses Seattle’s project, they will help us:

  • Design and implement effective engagement strategies
  • Improve upon existing structures and networks for engagement
  • Evaluate impact and process
  • Build a better “back end” for engagement
  • Tell a good story
  • Build muscles for inclusive engagement

You can help influence the final decision. Visit the City Accelerator site, rate our video, and tell us what you think by April 3!

Seattle 2035: Civic Planning, Past, Present and Future

Reflecting on history is an important aspect of Seattle 2035, the update to Seattle’s comprehensive plan. Over 100 people gathered on March 19 at MOHAI to do just that at “Seattle 2035: Civic Planning, Past, Present and Future,” the latest edition of MOHAI’s History Café. Historian Jennifer Ott offered a brief overview of post-war planning and moderated a panel that included Diane Sugimura, Director of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development; Greg Nickels, former City of Seattle Mayor; and Rebecca Saldaña, the Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage.

The panel explored topics and policies that have shaped the city’s past and are still important today as we plan for the city’s growth over next 20 years. Greg Nickels noted past mistakes in efforts to build mass transit. Diane Sugimura reflected on the process to create the city’s first plan under the Growth Management Act in 1994. Rebecca Saldana noted issues of equity continue to loom large in the Rainer Valley.

Audience members polled throughout the evening members revealed a preference for mass transit, larger open spaces, and an even distribution of single-family and multi-family housing.

History Cafe is just one of the many events over the next year where people can learn more about Seattle 2035. Visit 2035.seattle.gov to sign up for updates and catch up on past events.

Measuring the Success of the Urban Village Strategy

In 1994 the city adopted a new Comprehensive Plan centered on the innovative “urban village strategy.” Rather than scatter growth throughout the city, or squeeze growth along corridors, this plan called for guiding growth and City investment to mixed-use, walkable villages. So 20 years later, how successful how this strategy been?

On January 28 over 250 people crowded into Bertha Knight Landes to find out. Peter Steinbrueck and Mikaela Winter of Steinbrueck Urban Strategies presented the results of Seattle Sustainable Neighborhood Assessment Study (SSNAP). SSNAP is a data-driven study that measures results and achievements of the urban village strategy. Steinbrueck explained, “as we prepare for the next 20 years, we need to measure the success of the last 20 years.”

They assembled data for 22 neighborhood indicators in 10 representative urban villages. The study concluded the urban village strategy is working, but identified opportunities for improvement, especially in the areas of social equity, transit, employment, and tracking city investments.  The results will inform Seattle 2035, the current effort underway to update Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan. SSNAP report is available at 2035.seattle.gov. A video of the presentation will soon be available on the Seattle Channel.

West Seattle ‘Let’s Talk’ Follow-Up

Last summer, we hosted a meeting in West Seattle to provide information about development in the neighborhood and give West Seattleites an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. About 40 people joined 26 staff from the City’s Departments of Transportation, Planning and Development, Neighborhoods, and the Mayor’s office.  You can read more about the meeting, and view the presentation materials, at The West Seattle Blog. This article summarizes what we heard about some of the major issues and identifies how you can get involved in related ongoing planning efforts.

The following materials were presented at the meeting and include feedback from the community:

Why is there so much change in our neighborhood?

We heard a number of people voice concerns that some West Seattle neighborhoods are growing too quickly and that growth should be directed into other areas. People continue to come to Seattle to work and live.  By some measures, Seattle as a whole is the fastest growing large city in the country. We can help shape the City’s vision for itself while the region grows.

Our Comprehensive Plan, originally adopted in 1994 as part of Washington State’s Growth Management Act, requires growing regions and cities to adopt plans for growth that serve to protect natural resource lands – our farms and forests. Over the next twenty years we anticipate that Seattle will grow by 70,000 new households and 115,000 new jobs, which, when compared to all of the Central Puget Sound Regions, is less than a fifth of the anticipated total growth. We are currently updating the plan, which we are required to do every ten years.  If you’re interested in how neighborhoods grow, we encourage you to join us in this process – called Seattle 2035 – and help shape the future of our city.

What opportunities are there to help shape what this growth looks like in my West Seattle neighborhood?

Currently, neighborhood-scale planning efforts are underway in Delridge. You can get involved with the Delridge Action Plan, which will use the Healthy Living Framework to focus attention on how neighborhood planning can improve our health, connect people and places, and make sure places serve people. Additionally, West Seattle residents have formed a land use committee that is looking at how to become a resource and education network for West Seattle residents around the topics of land use and growth.  For information on this group, contact Yun Pitre (206-386-1924) with the Department of Neighborhoods for more information.

What is the City doing about parking?

We heard concerns about parking and what the City is doing about parking. We heard that not enough parking is being provided within new buildings, making it difficult to find on-street parking. Overall, the City manages parking in two regards: on-street and off-street. SDOT manages on-street parking to:

  • Balance competing needs (transit, customers, residents, shared vehicles, commercial loading)
  • Move people and goods efficiently
  • Support business district vitality
  • Create livable neighborhoods

In neighborhoods where a lot of non-residents regularly use on-street parking, a Restricted Parking Zone, or RPZ, may be appropriate. Go to SDOT’s RPZ website to learn more about this program. Within the West Seattle Junction, SDOT has created a new Construction Hub Coordination Program, which includes a new free parking program.

We regulate off-street parking through the Land Use Code. Over time, changes to the code have reduced minimum parking requirements so that they are determined by market demand and transit availability. This supports Comprehensive Plan goals related to encouraging more walkable neighborhoods and active transportation rather than dependence on automobiles.  As part of recent Code changes, we have committed to reviewing parking requirements. Please contact Gordon Clowers (206-684-8375) for more information about this work.

What is being done to explore how to get a hospital located in West Seattle?

Bernie Matsuno, the Director of the Department of Neighborhoods, has followed up with some initial inquiries about how to attract a hospital to West Seattle. The City is not likely to be the sole initiator or funding agent of a hospital in West Seattle, but the community can work on several aspects to see if there are interested partners. One approach is for the community to work with the Northwest Healthcare Coalition for a discussion about disaster specific medical response, as that seemed to be a major component of the concern. There will likely be a call for people who are interested in working on this as a community committee. Please contact Yun Pitre (206-386-1924) with the Department of Neighborhoods for more information.

What is the City doing to improve outreach and engagement?

We are always looking for new ways to improve outreach and engagement. We hope that you will join us and get involved the projects listed above. We would also like you to take a very brief survey to let us know how best to keep you informed. Please follow this link to a brief questionnaire.

The City has recently initiated the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). To take a survey on housing and affordability issues, follow this link. Legislation relating to residential zoning may be introduced later in 2015, after HALA makes recommendations on a range of housing issues.

Finally, find information about permits, zoning and other information at the DPD website. For information about how to comment on a development project follow this link. You can also sign-up for email notification of DPD’s blog at this link.

Seattle 2035’s New Schedule Gives More Time to Plan Our Future

Our Seattle 2035 project schedule is changing. The new schedule gives us more time to work with you to develop a new Comprehensive Plan for Seattle. However, we’ll need to make some changes this year to keep our current plan compliant with the State’s Growth Management Act.  Over the next two years, Council will take two actions to update the Comprehensive Plan:

  • Adopt the new, Seattle 2035 Plan in 2016. Throughout 2015, we’ll work through some tough challenges with you. We’ll team up with major policy initiatives such as the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, Move Seattle, Equitable Development Initiative, and the new Metro Park District to make sure the plan is headed in the right direction. These changes will include a preferred pattern of future growth and new policies. Other changes will make the plan easier to understand and use. The Mayor will finalize his recommendations at the end of 2015, and Council will deliberate and adopt a new plan in 2016.
  • Adopt limited changes to the current plan in 2015. We’ll make some changes to the current plan as part of the annual amendment process. These changes include new citywide growth estimates for 2035, updated inventories, and estimates of future demand for housing, transportation, and capital facilities.

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