For the next 5 days we will be running Wallingford’s Seattle City Council District 4 Candidate Wonkathon! As promised, Wallyhood put out 5 Wallingford-specific questions to all District 4 candidates and asked each of them to answer the questions in 200 words or less, although some candidates couldn’t contain themselves. At the end of each post you get to vote on which candidate best spoke for your point of view. We’ll begin with the wonkiest question of all…
Question 1: Wallingford’s Neighborhood Plan dates back to 1998. Unfortunately, this has meant that we have not had plans at the ready when levies are devised, so we get short changed. Further, the development plans we do have are no longer well enforced by DPD, with developers having connections downtown that allow them to get zoning exceptions.
Going beyond plans, priorities are being set downtown with haphazard outreach to impacted neighborhoods. For instance, the Wallingford Community Council was consulted on the detailed design of a bike lane at Latona and 50th, but was never asked about priorities and plans for the $930 million Move Seattle levy. Many neighborhood groups want to see a return to having neighborhood planners that coordinate government outreach and set priorities collaboratively with neighborhoods.
Do you agree all neighborhoods should have current neighborhood plans, and are you willing to say you will not run for reelection unless Wallingford gets an updated neighborhood plan first? Beyond that issue, how do you plan to productively reconnect government priorities to neighborhood priorities?
Jean Godden’s Answer: I support neighborhood planning. For those plans to be meaningful, they must incorporate the goals and values of the neighborhood and be kept up to date. Any plan dating back to 1998 needs to be updated or completely redone.
Neighborhood plans must be developed in a spirit of true collaboration between City Hall and the neighbors. No more top-down planning, where the City controls everything and neighborhood citizens are little more than observers. I want to prepare, educate, and train the neighbors so that they are empowered to secure the necessary funds for their neighborhoods. Seattle is a fast growing city, and it’s important that we get the planning right, so that we preserve the neighborhood character and other features that people find attractive.
The City is now in the process of updating the Comprehensive Plan. I will work to assure that neighborhood planning is included as a necessary implementation tool.
Abel Pacheco’s Answer: Seattle used to be a leader in providing support for neighborhood planning and citizen involvement. However, in the past several years those efforts of been frustrating. Being a member of the Wallingford Community Council board, I’m aware of these problems. In Wallingford, neighbors put in thousands of hours developing the South Wallingford Amendment to the neighborhood plan. Once finished, City Hall refused to conduct evaluations necessary for steps toward adoption. The City Council must push for the revitalization of the Department of Neighborhoods, and undergo a broad and inclusive effort at neighborhood planning with follow-up by city departments.
The lack of notice to Wallingford regarding the Move Seattle Levy is a representation of the broader problem. So often projects which will have a direct impact on neighborhoods are only disclosed once it is too late to have effective input. As result, neighbors often find their only option is expensive and extensive litigation. When developers and city departments have brought issues to the Wallingford Community Council early, the neighborhood has negotiated important improvements in projects, and everyone avoided expensive litigation. Some Wallingford examples include negotiations with SPU over the rebuild of the transfer station, and input to the CVS pharmacy going in on 45th.
The city’s current process for providing public notice is too limited and too late. I think we need to take a long look at existing notice requirements. One option would be to allow community groups such as committee councils to register with the city to receive notice when projects are proposed which will affect their community. Since notice is required in any event, cost should be minimal, and goodwill and cooperation more likely.
Regarding not running for reelection unless Wallingford gets an updated plan first, my answer is no. It is not my character to quit if I run into obstacles or delays. District 4 needs someone that will hang on and fight, and Wallingford needs a resident from the neighborhood willing to take on the challenge.
Michael Maddux’s Answer: I do agree that all neighborhoods should have current neighborhood plans, and would be willing to explore including land-use overlays as part of such plans in instances where it made sense. With districts as our new system, I am hopeful that there will be greater connection between city government and neighborhoods. As a council member, I would work to ensure successful implementation, and expansion as appropriate, of Council Member Licata’s Participatory Budgeting proposal. For future major investments in local infrastructure, I would advocate for using community advisory committees comprised of representatives from stakeholder groups and neighborhoods to be part of the design and prioritization of local investment packages.
Rob Johnson’s Answer: Seattle is a city of neighborhoods and our neighborhood plans are one of the most unique and important elements of our city’s processes. I’m an urban planner so I spend a lot of time thinking about where people live and how they get around. As we continue to grow as a city we need to work closely across departments be it DPD, SDOT, Housing, Human Services, Neighborhoods, to better prioritize community investments. And growth can be a scary thing, but when done right can bring incredible new community members and community assets to our neighborhoods. But that only works when the public sector outreach coordinates well with community interest and is followed by public and private investment to achieve a common goal. I’ve got a great track record of working across governments to get things done; I helped run the 2008 light rail plan under construction now and 2014’s successful Seattle bus measure, which will result in the biggest increase in bus service in Seattle history. I also plan to open a district office to be able to more quickly and easily work with individuals in the district to help cut red tape and get the most out of government.
Tony Provine’s Answer: Neighborhood plans are routinely ignored and violated. Most are 16 years old and badly outdated. Despite urging from several neighborhood leaders, little has being done to update these plans. We need resources to update neighborhood plans and the city must ensure developers adhere to them. The 38 plans developed in 1998-99 were the result of a neighborhood driven, bottom-up community engagement process that emerged from years of frustration with indifferent city planning practices and policies.
As President of Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, I worked along with the Wedgwood Community Council to proactively plan for change. We sponsored a grassroots neighborhood planning effort that produced Zoning recommendations and Supplemental Design Guidelines for the 35th Avenue NE Business District. I am proud that, even though our neighborhoods were not designated urban villages, I was able to help obtain funding within the 2015 budget from City Council for DPD staff to conduct a Legislative Rezone based on our recommendations.
I support active community participation in neighborhood planning and I will work to obtain the support and resources needed. Updating Wallingford’s neighborhood plan so that residents there can enhance their neighborhood’s safety, character and livability will be one of my top priorities for this District.