Shoreline wants bus base out of Ridgecrest; Metro wants more time

Friday, February 2, 2024

Sixty Metro Access vans are parked under the Cascades Bingo sign in the middle of a weekday in January Photo by Oliver Moffat

By Oliver Moffat

At the Monday, January 22, 2024 City Council meeting, the council changed Shoreline’s zoning laws to forbid bus bases in the Ridgecrest neighborhood, the current location of Metro Transit’s Access bus base and maintenance garage.

As previously reported in Shoreline Area News, the current owners of the property want to sell the site and Metro wants to buy it. The city says the bus base has never been legally permitted; vehicle storage has been forbidden at the site since 2008, four years before the base opened. 

Metro says they need the site to provide paratransit services in North King County and is threatening the city with legal action. Metro is asking for six years to find another site despite already owning a bus maintenance garage and two underutilized parking lots in the city. The city is eyeing the site to build a community arts and performance space with affordable housing for local artists.

Michelle Allison, Metro Transit’s General Manager,
said Metro’s question to the city is “why?”
and threatened further legal action
According to written public comments from Michelle Allison, Metro’s General Manager, without the Ridgecrest bus base, Metro would need to deploy buses from South Park, Bellevue or Kent bases which would increase expenses, congestion, travel time and decrease reliability. 

This makes the site an essential public facility in Metro’s view and contends it would be illegal under the state’s Growth Management Act if the city forced the bus base out. Given the cost and complexity of buying property in the region, Metro wants at least six years to move to a new site.

According to Metro’s public comments, there is nowhere else in Shoreline for the bus base to go because the other sites where bus bases would be allowed under the new zoning rules are either not for sale, would displace retail stores, are slated for other development, or aren’t big enough.

At the January 22 meeting, Councilmember John Ramsdell asked why the sites Metro already owns in Shoreline could not be used to park Metro’s vans. 
“I haven’t heard much of a reason why from Metro why none of those three other sites… would be unworkable.” He said, 
“I think it’s a little bit dishonest that we were told there is no other option in North King County that would accommodate the one hundred access vans.”

According to a staff report, Metro Transit owns three sites in Shoreline that would be permitted to be used as a bus base. Metro owns two park-and-ride parking lots in Shoreline (the 5.34 acre Shoreline Park and Ride Lot on the corner of 192nd & Aurora and 211 spaces at the Aurora Village Transit Center east of Costco) 

Both sites are expected to be underutilized once the Sound Transit Light Rail stations open later this year. Metro also owns the 12.53 acre King County Metro North Base located west of I-5 which is currently used as a bus base and maintenance garage but does not have room for the Access vans, according to Metro.

In an emailed response to questions, a spokesperson for Metro said, “The three sites identified as options each have limitations and tradeoffs. A fuller evaluation is needed to address whether those limitations can be overcome or if they cannot, and additional time will then be needed to make an alternate site—if found to meet the necessary criteria—operational.”

In written public comments, Allison pleaded with the city to negotiate a solution without further legal conflict and said, “Metro’s question to the city is ‘why?’”

In a letter sent to Metro obtained through a public records request the city told Metro that the site was in violation of the city’s zoning laws because it had never received a permit to operate as a bus base. The city cannot permit Metro to use the site as bus base because it would be in violation of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, according to the city.

A map of the Ridgecrest Commercial Planned Area as designated in 2008; the zoning area includes the Metro bus base in the south-west parcel. Map data from OpenStreetMap 

In 2008, four years before the site was put to use as a bus base, the city passed ordinance 492 which created the Ridgecrest Commercial Planned Area incorporating the six parcels at the corner of 5th Ave NE and NE 165th St. 

The zoning rules allowed greater density while enforcing rules to improve the livability of the neighborhood and encourage retail businesses. One of the rules explicitly forbids vehicle storage on any of the six parcels - including the site currently in use as a bus base.

However, in 2012, the city granted a permit to remodel the property into a bus base and garage. A permit search result shows the city reviewed and approved the plan for compliance with city zoning rules in 2012.

Councilmember Keith Scully speaking in favor of the
Ordnance said,“that is Metro's problem, not ours.”
Photo by Oliver Moffat

In public comments at the January 22 council meeting, Councilmember Keith Scully made his feelings on the matter clear: 

“We have tolerated for over 10 years, the facility that is not in compliance with our code in a neighborhood where it does not belong. 
"And we have bent over backwards, extending the period of time that facility was allowed to operate. 
'"We have bent over backwards, trying to find an alternate location in Shoreline. 
"Nothing about this ordinance bans transit access. Nothing in this ordinance has anything to do with the operation of the busses,” he said. “That is Metro's problem, not ours.”

Artspace Mt. Baker Lofts in Seattle. Photo Credit: Artspace
ShoreLake Arts recommends something similar at the Ridgecrest bus base -

In 2022, the city provided funds to ShoreLake Arts to conduct a market study on a project presented by ArtSpace to build a permanent home for ShoreLake Arts including classrooms, a performance space, art installations, and 40 to 70 units of affordable housing for artists. 

ArtSpace has completed similar mixed-use live-work spaces for artists in the region: the Mt. Baker Lofts in Seattle and the Schack Art Center Lofts in Everett. 

ArtSpace recommended the former “Bingo Hall,”,now in use as a Metro bus base in Ridgecrest as the preferred location in the 2022 study.


DK February 2, 2024 at 6:43 AM  

This makes no sense at all. The two Metro facilities are part of the Rapid Transit (including the last mile) that the Shoreline Development Code relies upon in reducing parking required in new residential and mixed use projects.

Anonymous,  February 2, 2024 at 7:55 AM  

Just who is Metro hurting by being in this location? As a local resident I can say that they are good neighbors, better than the apartment complex across the street which is a dumping ground for abandoned vehicles and assorted debris, or the other businesses which lack parking and clog our streets. I find the idea that the city has bent over backwards to help anyone other than developers to be laughable, and if you think that this will be used for anything other than more soul-less block housing then I have ocean front property in Arizona for you.

Anonymous,  February 2, 2024 at 9:43 PM  

One more example of Shoreline driving out businesses and amenities in favor of developments (and developers) as they encourage more and more oversize buildings and more and more people.

Anonymous,  February 3, 2024 at 1:22 PM  

I think the city made the right decision. I'd like to see Ridgecrest's commercial area develop more so that it can attract more businesses. The only thing I disagree with is the 2026 enforcement date; I would prefer Metro be given until 2029 as they requested.

Anonymous,  February 4, 2024 at 8:59 PM  

I agree with those who think it is a good thing to let Metro park the special-needs vehicles in Ridgecrest. I like to see us as being aware of the needs of those less fortunate, and help the special mini-buses stay here.

Just My Opinion February 5, 2024 at 9:05 PM  

So the city DID issue a permit for the bus base to be used as such - any chance it had a time limit in the permit? I'm guessing council members who issued the permit are no longer serving, so the new council gets to change the rules? I'm just grateful Janet Way was on the council long enough to keep the site from being Trader Joe's - a store we all love that would have been a nightmare in that location!

Anonymous,  February 6, 2024 at 3:52 PM  

Just an idea: Shoreline could sell that patch of scrubby grass sandwiched between the Metro bus base and the big substation. Metro gets parking with access to their big shop and direct access to the freeway and Shoreline gets a badly needed arts center. Ridgecrest is a great place for such a center with Shoreline's only movie theater and to soon have the city's only bookstore.

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