Next year the east side of the Southgate Neighborhood is going to be the site of some pretty major road work. The city is going to be replacing a 36-inch water main in Havana Street from 37th Ave. to the water towers on Glenrose Rd.
The city is using their new integrated maintenance policy to repave the road and install continuous sidewalks from 37th Ave. to the city line. Other improvements will be bike lanes, storm water drainage improvements, and an experimental section of pervious pavement.
At an initial meeting with city staff in July, SNC officers and members of the Land Use Committee suggested this project could be an opportunity to complete the bike/pedestrian connection along 44th Avenue outlined in the Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity Plan. The city said they would look into it, but that the current scope of the project was related to work along the Havana Street right-of-way.
A couple of weeks ago, the city contacted the Southgate Neighborhood Council to say the newest design for the Havana project included the completion of a 12-foot multi-use trail between Havana Street and Freya Street…because the city needs to put in a 12-inch water main between Freya Street and Myrtle Street so the neighborhoods to the north of 44th don’t lose their water service during the construction on Havana. A notification letter was sent to property owners along the west side of 44th Avenue (from Freya to Julia Ct.) outlining some of the initial work to be done this fall.
The development of this trail will continue the completion of a much needed east/west connection in our neighborhood (outlined in our neighborhood Connectivity Plan), allowing residents east of Freya to more safely and easily access the businesses along Regal Street and the developing Southgate District Center. A representative from the city’s Engineering Department will be attending our neighborhood meeting on November 12th to discuss the immediate steps to install part of the 12-inch water main before the ground freezes this fall.
I encourage you to look over the plans the city has shared for Havana Street and come hear about the plans to create another bike/ped connection outlined in our neighborhood’s plan.
So after our Candidate Forum in October, we are back to regular meeting business. This month we’ll hear about the Havana Street water main project, a new bike/ped trail along 44th, and we’ll be taking nominations for our 2015 neighborhood council officers. Hope to see you there! Here’s the agenda.
SNC representatives had the opportunity to attend the Ribbon Cutting at the new South Hill Target and do a quick preview before the soft opening tomorrow. So what follows is a quick photo tour of the new store.
Dave Black had a couple of announcements about new confirmed tenants and timelines for work on the exterior pads. First was the announcement that Pad A next to Target will contain Spokane’s first Mod Pizza (a regional chain based in Seattle), a Sally Beauty Supply, and haircut shop (probably a SuperCuts). He also said he has 5 other letters of intent for other spots on the property.
Anthony’s Beach Cafe just got its permits last Friday and will begin construction immediately in one of the spots adjacent to the Community Plaza near Regal. Speaking of which, the Community Plaza will also be worked on through the rest of the summer. We will certainly keep people up to date on the progress here and through the Southgate District Center Facebook page.
Now for the store interior:
Some points of interest on the exterior:
So that’s the quick look. If you have been inside the Northside Target in the last year or so many of the store fixtures and features will seem familiar, the size of the place is what really gets you. Check it out for yourself, the Soft Opening begins Wednesday morning at 8am. The staff is there and very friendly and helpful.
Verizon is proposing to add a new cell tower over in Glenrose and they are holding a Community Meeting from 7:00-8:00pm next Thursday, July 24th at Moran Prairie Library to give some new details on location and design.
You may recall that this was discussed at one of our neighborhood council meetings back in April. Based on our input to them at the time, Verizon has moved forward with a tower design to look like a pine tree.
Take a look at these documents from Verizon for more info
Earlier this month, the Riverfront Park Master Plan was revealed to the public and now the city is collecting public comments via email and in person at public meetings happening in May and early June.
Here is a good example of what we are trying to avoid in terms of street design in the Southgate District Center. The Atlantic shared this a month or so ago and it is applicable to our neighborhood planning situation all over Spokane.
We want to avoid a stroad at all costs. Spokane is rife with stroads, and Regal Street could join the list if we don’t get the city to enact the District Center code requirements and neighborhood plans. A stroad is a poorly designed street that neither accommodates auto traffic well, but also does not encourage multi-modal transportation or maximize the land use around it.
Welcome back! Now, for the second part of our Epic Planning Battles: Traffic Calming. Traffic calming is a set of road features used to create the environment that encourages pedestrian and bike uses in the District Center. Traffic calming, as envisioned by the City of Spokane, is a set of tools that can help implement our Centers and Corridors zoning and Complete Streets ordinance.
According to the City, traffic calming is, “a self-enforcing management approach that forces motorists to alter their speed or direction of travel. The purpose of traffic calming is to improve safety, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists, and to improve the environment or livability of streets for residents and visitors.” I want to emphasize that most traffic calming tactics are not meant to slow down traffic below posted limits and increase congestion, but rather encourage adherence to posted speeds and create conditions where other road users have safer access to our streets.
Given that our District Center is zoned CC1 (Pedestrian Emphasis/Auto Accommodating), traffic calming along Regal Street and Palouse Highway are a crucial part in changing the character of the area to meet the requirements of the zoning. Right now the roads through the Southgate District Center feature no bike accommodation and have pedestrian access that does not meet current city design standards; specifically a lack of any sidewalks along Palouse Highway and no pedestrian buffer strips on the sections of sidewalk we do have.
Speed limits through our District Center are currently posted at 30 -35 mph. According to the Spokane Comprehensive Plan, minor arterials in Focus Growth Areas should have a speed limit range of 20-30 mph.
In keeping with the precedent set in other CC1 zones, the speed limit through our District Center should be lowered to 20 mph to allow for safer bike and pedestrian use of our roads. I know people will deride this goal as only creating congestion on what they consider to be an already congested road, but looking at the amount of road effected and the reduction in speed we are talking about only 11 seconds of extra travel time along Regal through the District Center and 21 seconds along Palouse Hwy. Not a large amount of time by any standard, but a huge increase in livability and traffic calming for our pedestrian-oriented District Center.
Two big traffic calming features that create “frictional slowing” by creating the perception of a narrower road are on-street parking and planted medians. On-street parking has two benefits, it increases the amount of available parking in the District Center and the parked cars visually narrow the road (even though the lanes are the same standard width) encouraging motorists to slow down and be cautious. That’s a good thing in a pedestrian-oriented shopping district. Planted medians achieve the same effect by narrowing from the middle, increasing the perception of a narrow road and causing drivers to be more cautious and aware of their surroundings.
According to Spokane Municipal Code, on-street parking is a required feature in all Centers and Corridors. Both on-street parking and medians are key features in the street character designs in the District Center Integrated Site Plan and the Southgate Connectivity and Transportation Plan. We will not have the option of on-street parking in Southgate; the city has decided to not make our street designs align with Spokane Municipal Code and omitted on-street parking from the offsite improvements in our District Center. We are still not sure why or how this key feature was eliminated and it is part of an ongoing discussion with city planning staff. We are pursuing the inclusion of planted medias as mitigation for the lack of the required on-street parking, but have yet to reach an agreement with the city about its inclusion. They have agreed in theory to the inclusion of medias, but there is not yet agreement about how to pay for them or when they need to be built.
Ultimately, the goal is to change the character of the road to absorb the impact of increased traffic from the development of the District Center properties. As mentioned in our last post, adding a streetlight at Palouse and Regal will manage the flow of the new traffic, but it is these traffic calming and complete street elements that will provide options for people in our area to travel to the Southgate District Center in something other than a car that stand to have the most impact on increased demand.
Providing multi-modal facilities and a calm traffic environment will create a district that encourages people to get out of their cars. There will be plenty of parking (Target alone has 11 acres), but we want to make this a place you can park at and then travel around by foot, or get to without a car entirely.
There is a persistent myth that adding more lanes eases congestion, when in reality all it does is bring more traffic. Multiple studies going back to the late-60’s have concluded that expanding traffic lanes will initiall ease congestion, but the expansion also lowers the “cost” (in terms of time/convenience usually, but also in economic terms) of a trip and induce more cars to use the road. This is called induced demand. According to later studies, within about 5 years 80% of the extra capacity is used up and congestion returns worse than before. This raises the pressure for more capacity and further expansion into less congested areas, a condition we all know and love as suburban sprawl.
In the case of our District Center, the city has determined (on two occasions now) the level of new traffic created by development in our District Center does not warrant more lanes along Regal or Palouse (as measured by their traffic models and a result they call Level of Service). That is not to say it will be completely without effect and the city does collect traffic mitigation fees and apply them to traffic projects around the development. In Southgate they are adding the stoplight at Palouse and Regal to help make it easier for vehicles to turn left onto Regal and for pedestrians to make it across Regal. I think we can all agree getting onto southbound Regal from Palouse Hwy can be a hassle occasionally.
The measures being supported by the Southgate Neighborhood Council are aimed at making the area more usable for all types of users: auto, transit, bike, and pedestrian (an approach known as Complete Streets). This aligns with both the Spokane Comprehensive Plan that says the priority consideration for transportation use in Spokane should be pedestrian, bike, and auto, in that order (TR 1.1, pg. 12); and the the Complete Streets Ordinance of the Spokane Municipal Code, which states that all streets shall include complete streets elements. Both of these documents, as well as current best practice in urban planning, point out the need to consider more than just auto user needs on our roads.
And that is how you get back to avoiding the cycle of induced demand: options. When the “cost” of getting in your car to go to the new District Center is equal (or even higher than) to the “cost” of walking or biking on dedicated sidewalks or trails, then we will actually start seeing reduced demand. And that is the only lasting way to relieve congestion.
The idea of creating options includes options for autos. If people feel Regal is too crowded and will only get worse, then there needs to be other route options available to them to get through or around the District Center. That’s why the Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity and Transportation Plan (with maps) makes one of it’s priorities “completing the grid”. Our neighborhood has very poor east/west connectivity. Between 37th and 57th there isn’t a single complete east/west route. Giving people better options for moving east and west across our neighborhood would relieve the pressure on Regal Street and maybe even get people home faster.
Now, creating a complete street environment will take some traffic calming, which we will discuss in the next post. I think this is a long enough post for one night, stay tuned for Part 2: Traffic Calming.