ST3 planning strains city resources in Lake Forest Park

Sunday, November 12, 2017

LFP Central Subarea

By Donna Hawkey

The process for a City such as Lake Forest Park that usually would take two or three years, has been packed into a timetable of months due to King County’s fast-track Sound Transit (ST3) development needs.

On Saturday November 4th, the Mayor and three City Councilmembers held a coffee to answer questions and hear concerns from residents about any of the “Big Five” projects list. (See previous article.)  The ST3/Central Subarea Plan dominated the conversation.

Although the timetable to deliver an initial ST3/ Central Subarea Plan is very tight, the whole process will take time to sort out. The planning timetable has created much strain on City staff who are fully busy with regular work duties.

Even during normal workloads, consulting firms hired by the City to do government studies are necessary in order to achieve State and Federal funding.

Now previously committed Federal Funds for transportation improvements are being threatened by cuts made to the national budget, so planning throughout the whole region is being affected.

Additional contributing local factors have increased budgeting needs for ST3 due to property values increasing 44% since 2014, and the shortage of construction workers adding to rising labor costs.

Bus rapid transit through Lake Forest Park
with parking in LFP, Kenmore, and Bothell

Sound Transit will be building a Bus Rapid Transit Station at Town Center with buses traveling directly into downtown Seattle and the University District just as is happening today. One resident did point out that there is no mass transit plan for traveling north at this time.

There is a common misunderstanding about the definition of “Bus Rapid Transit.” Buses will be running every ten minutes, however, they are not traveling at faster speeds, as stated by Councilmember Phillippa Kassover.

Many residents may not realize that while City Hall is located in the Town Center, the property firm, Merlone Geier Partners, owns the largest percentage of land and retail space. The City has developed a symbiotic relationship with this organization which may serve it well going forward. 

Meetings for the ST3/ Central Subarea Plan include representatives from Merlone Geier, Sound Transit and various City Councilmembers and City Staff members. Merlone Geier has been doing further outreach through scheduling meetings with various Lake Forest Park community groups for their input.

Rain garden demonstration project in LFP

The recent rain garden demonstration project (located in front of the Bank of America building) was cited as a successful public-private partnership experience which was initially spearheaded by Councilmember Mark Phillips due to a grant he helped secured.

Plans by the Mayor to develop a citizen community-wide advisory role to help sort out resident priorities was well-received.

For many years, LFP residents have asked for a commuter parking garage at Town Center. Now that the reality is here due to ST3 planning, some residents are showing concerns over increased traffic issues and the aesthetics of a parking garage especially in a limited Town Center development footprint.

There is a strong desire to keep all neighborhoods intact, and maintain the character of a City that has fought hard to hold on to past community values and philosophies.

Some discussions have also occurred in the City’s Planning Commission about the idea of using building material that can be repurposed. In the event of big shifts in automobile technology advances. the parking garage could be transformed into a different usage as needed.

Design ideas to mitigate noise along Highway 522 by building concrete walls that include plant vegetation such as the one at the entrance of the University of Washington, Bothell location were mentioned as keeping in character with Lake Forest Park and its green values.

City Council has listed “Healthy Creeks” as one of its priorities in the “Big Five” planning list. The City has had strong historical environmental and preservation ethics.

There are concerns that pollution and various increases in automobile and other damaging liquid runoffs could impede the ability to maintain and further develop healthy creeks. Residents at the November 4th meeting were assured that the Mayor and all City Councilmembers are working in their best interests because they want LFP to remain a nice livable community as well.

For example, Councilmember Phillippa Kassover, who is an alternate member on the Seashore Transportation Forum, said she is learning much about ST3 plans through this involvement which is an ever evolving process due to its complex nature. And Councilmembers fought hard for Lake Forest Park to have the same voting strength as Seattle, otherwise, the bigger cities like Bothell and Woodville could take too much of the budget pie. Mayor Jeff Johnson was co-chair of this forum in 2016.

The informal nature of this coffee meeting worked well as participants had the ability to actually discuss issues directly with City leaders. LFP Gov Watch Chair Myra Gamburg concurred and relayed how much she appreciated this meeting time and the conversation exchange.

"Involving all residents in this process is so important as it is clear now how very much this planning affects everyone and not just one or two neighborhoods" explained Myra.

Councilmember John Wright pointed out that a big question for residents to answer will be; How much density should further be absorbed in a 3.5 square mile of land that already is feeling gridlock problems at peak rush hour times?

Councilmember Phillippa Kassover remarked that we need to have “voices in many places,” and to put on citizen pressure when and wherever you feel it is needed. “We'll count on you!” she exclaimed.

Donna Hawkey is a 21 year resident of Lake Forest Park and can be reached at dhawkey@comcast.net.



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