Southgate received a notice yesterday about a SEPA comment period for a proposed 13-home subdivision along Freya Street called Moran South Estates. You’ll remember this project held a Community Meeting back in August.
The project is very similar to the developments on 45th Court and 47th Avenue directly to the north and south of this area. A couple comments related to pedestrian accommodation that I would supply would be to ask if the right-of-way improvements along Freya Street will be completed per Spokane Municipal Code. As you can see, the sidewalk ends as the cul de sac goes out to Freya. Anyone living on the east side of Southgate knows how unaccommodating Freya is to pedestrians and bikes. If we don’t ask developers to fill in the sidewalk between 44th and Palouse Hwy it will never be built.
Another pedestrian accommodation (supported by the SMC, the City Comp Plan, and our Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity Plan) would be to add some non-motorized connection to the west. A mixed-use Centennial/Ben Burr style trail punching out at the end of the cul de sac or out of the southwest corner of the development across a County-owned stormwater swale would allow residents easier and safer access to the shopping area of our neighborhood’s District Center via Palouse Hwy. It would take some discussion between the developers and the owners of Clare House or the County, but it would be a great amenity and help prevent the continuation of the pervasive lack of east/west connectivity in our neighborhood. Without this type of connection residents would have to walk a 1/3 mile south or 1/4 north to find a route towards the District Center.
The SNC Land Use Committee will draft and submit comments as well, we will upload those here when we have them drafted. In the meantime, please send in your comments so the City knows what you think.
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.
The City of Spokane is updating the transportation chapter of the city’s Comprehensive Plan in 2014. On Thursday they released a 12-page booklet with the Inlander that outlines the process, the philosophy that drives it and some draft goals for the final product.
There are some great ideas in the document, some of which are already being enacted. Projects like the Crestline water main and the upcoming High Drive redevelopment incorporate some of the vision the city is talking about (combining transportation and utility projects to stretch limited funds). The big question is how these concepts, some of which are already in the current Comprehensive Plan, can be enacted in current projects like the development of the Southgate District Center.
The booklet emphasizes the need to encourage multi-modal transportation options with the goal of creating “livable streets”. Features like dedicated bike lanes, roundabouts, and pedestrian connections are held up as “Best Practices” in transportation planning and design. These are all elements of the complete streets approach Southgate Neighborhood took in developing our Neighborhood Connectivity Plan. I encourage you to look at the city’s plan and see how it melds with our neighborhood’s.
The city is encouraging public input through a series of open houses starting early next month. The full list is on the back of the brochure or can find the information on the Spokane Planning Department website. I’ve also entered the events on our website calendar. Now is the time to put this on our radar and give our input to the city since this update will set the tone for transportation planning in our area for the next 20 years.