Sound Transit challenges Lake Forest Park Town Center ordinances

Friday, May 21, 2021

On April 30, 2021, The City of Lake Forest Park was notified that Sound Transit filed a petition with the Growth Management Hearings Board appealing four of the five ordinances that were adopted by the City Council relating to development in the Town Center zone.

  • 1217 Town Center, 
  • 1218 Development Agreements, 
  • 1219 Off-Street Parking 
  • 1220 Landscaping 
The petition was assigned Case No. 21-3-0008 and is available here.

In the petition, Sound Transit says, “... Development Regulations enacted by the Ordinances would effectively preclude the Bus Rapid Transit parking garage in violation of GMA requirements, including by making its development impossible or impracticable.”

The City stated that it intends to defend its ability to protect the character of the built and natural environment in the Town Center zone, the heart of Lake Forest Park, through its locally adopted development regulations, that reflect the goals and objectives of its elected officials and residents as determined through a robust public process of Town Halls, Community Meetings and Public Hearings.

One of several designs that MG proposed for Town Center.
The Bus Rapid Transit parking garage space is in blue

In January of this year, Merlone Geier, the owners of Town Center, advised the city that, 

"...despite our feedback to the Lake Forest Park City Council, and given the timeline that the City is pushing for, the code as proposed will not result in redevelopment of the Town Center.

"We will continue to work with our existing and future tenants to provide a grocery and pharmacy anchored neighborhood retail center here at the Town Center. 

"The incorporation of housing (affordable and market rate), open space, enhanced sustainability measures and all of the associated public benefits, will not come to fruition based on the code that has resulted from this process."


billyking May 21, 2021 at 11:59 AM  

Good news that Sound Transit light rail transit is rebuffed and that community concerns are a priority with the community and the town council.. Looks like the whole project may be moot due to lack of taxpayer funding via tax collection.

Anonymous,  May 22, 2021 at 9:25 AM  

Good news - nothing will happen there now. I guess that's what the community wants? Looking forward to when Third Place pulls the plug and there's a huge empty space. At least Kenmore and Bothell will continue to thrive.

Anonymous,  May 23, 2021 at 1:35 PM  

Exactly! The times are changing and we need to change with them. LFP needs to get with it.

Unknown May 24, 2021 at 8:31 AM  

There is nothing wrong with the town center now. No changes are necessary.

Mike,  May 27, 2021 at 3:21 PM  

The garage is for the benefit of Lake Forest Park residents and the immediate surrounding area to get to the station if they're not near a bus route they can take. If the community didn't ask for it, ST wouldn't be building it. The Northgate community asked not to expand the P&R and ST didn't. (It had to rebuild some spaces because they're owned by Northgate Mall or are obligated in mall-tenant contracts.) Most suburban stations have strongly requested expanded parking, so that's probably the case in Lake Forest Park.

LFP is not getting light rail; it's getting BRT like Swift in Snohomish County. ST's overall budget problem is temporarily hitting the debt:asset ceiling between around 2028-2035. If I remember there was a $13 billion gap, which has since been reduced by half. ST is considering various ways to delay or trim some projects to get under the ceiling. Some of these would delay the 522 line by a few years or build all ST3 parking last. ST will not completely cancel ST3 over a small and short-lived budget gap. And the 522 line is neither a major contributor to that gap nor a least-important project. The 522 communities strongly supported the BRT line and begged ST to include it in ST3 and promised to ride it, more so than other suburban projects. So it will be built for those reasons at least, even if it's a few years late.

There are cost increases in Seattle beyond this, but those are for add-on options or rising real-estate prices, so they're mostly for options that ST hasn't committed to yet. This is almost irrelevant to 522 Stride, except that Lake Forest Park and Shoreline are in the same North King subarea with Seattle. ST will have to make an overall decision on North King, balancing 522 Stride, the Seattle light rail lines, the second downtown tunnel, and the 130th and Graham infill stations. That could go several different ways, some of them not affecting the 522 line much and others affecting it a lot. But undoubtedly the biggest potential impact on 522 would be a few years' delay.

Park & rides are a large part of ST3's costs, so if cities are willing to reduce them or schedule them last, that would benefit everyone except P&R drivers. Most riders don't come from P&R lots because only a small fraction of their cars would fit in them. P&Rs are not a cost-efficient way of generating ridership because each parking space costs tens of thousands of dollars, each space is as large as a bus (including the empty space in front of it for the car to get in and out), most spaces serve only one rider throughout the 9-5 workday, and the streets have to be wide to bring the cars in and out. So if the community decides it doesn't want a LFP parking garage after all, I'm all for that. And if ST chooses the alternative of building all parking last after everything else, then the garage won't get built until the 2040s. But the BRT line must be built, as close to its original schedule as feasible, with all transit-priority lanes and in-lane stations and pedestrian access and local-bus interchanges that were planned. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly improve circulation in the 522 corridor and give better non-driving options to people. We can't throw that away.

Anonymous,  December 23, 2022 at 4:57 PM  

BRT in-planning supposedly will take riders to catch the Light rail on 145th and I-5. But who in their right mind would drive to a garage at LFP to take 2 more modes of transportation when they could park at MLT transit station or 185th station and get a seat earlier on the light rail?

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