The City’s Staff Report for the Garden District came out last Monday. In summary, the City concludes that this PUD design does not meet the City connectivity standards and should have a connection between Crestline and Southeast Blvd: “Staff is concerned that the site plan is inconsistent with several of the policies…and does not achieve the connectivity envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan and the City’s Arterial Street Plan. In order to satisfy this approval criteria, Staff believes street connections for vehicles must be provided by “Crestline Street” from the intersection of Crestline St and 34th Ave to the intersection of Southeast Blvd and 31st Ave intersection per the Comprehensive Plan Map TR 12.” (Staff Report, Page 6) So in essence the report agrees with SNC’s position that City code and Comp Plan policy say a connection is required.
The Hearing Examiner hearing on the Garden District PUD will be this Wednesday, December 12th at 1:30pm in the Commissioner Assembly Room, Lower Level of the Spokane County Public Works Buildings at 1026 W. Broadway. The County Hearing Examiner will be taking public testimony on this matter and then render a decision to approve or deny the proposed PUD plan.
SNC submitted comments during the SEPA Public Comment Period and they are part of the record and establish our standing to appeal if desired. You should still provide comments in person as well to give a physical voice to the idea (per our comments) that there should be a connection between Crestline and Southeast Blvd.
Thoughts on City’s Recommendations
Now SNC’s position differs a bit from the City’s conclusions in a couple areas. Starting on page 11, the Staff Report the City begins listing their recommendations and conditions including reiterating the need for the Crestline connection. That is a good conclusion and consistent with SNC’s comments. However, it says in point 2a that, “The vehicular connection shall be built to City of Spokane Street Standards.” Starting with the City standards is good, but the current arterial standards may well create an auto-oriented road through the PUD. While SNC supports creating a connection that accommodates all modes of transportation, including autos, an auto-oriented connection is not what anyone desires.
A possible solution: the road could be built to a residential street standard even if it is officially an “arterial”. The precedent for this is 44th Avenue between Freya and Regal in Southgate. This street is designated the same level of arterial as Crestline is currently (a Minor Collector), however the road design is a traffic-calmed one with enhanced pedestrian facilities and a 25mph speed limit. What is more important than the road’s designation is its design. Accordingly, the connection through the Garden District should be auto-accommodating per the code and Comp Plan, but the design should prioritize pedestrian and non-motorized user comfort given the road’s designation as a Bikeway in the Spokane Bike Master Plan and the CC1 zoning within the PUD.
Another place where the design standard would differ from the intent to create a pedestrian-emphasized streetscape is on page 14, condition 24e which states, “A minimum of thirty-foot radii are required for residential and arterial intersections.” So what this means is that along Crestline’s intersections with the other roads and driveways in the PUD, they will require a 30-foot turn radius. Wider turn radii allow for vehicles to turn more quickly onto and off of arterials. This makes the pedestrian environment less welcoming (and less safe) since the vehicles are moving faster when they turn. So in support of creating an auto-accommodating, pedestrian- emphasized environment, this arterial standard should be modified within the PUD to have all intersections be built to the 20-foot radius residential street standard. This along with a narrower road section and 25 mph speed limit will allow the required vehicle connection, but maintain the pedestrian-oriented feel desired by the developer and area residents. City staff allow for variances and deviations from the standards, they just need to be submitted in writing and approved by the City Engineer. (Page 14, recommendation 24d)
Complete Street and Traffic Calming Needed
With or without the connection, there will be an increase of traffic along Crestline south of the development and area residents deserve to have a safe route between their home and Hamblen Park and Hamblen Elementary. Toward that end, the developer must be required to develop complete street features and traffic calming measures along Crestline Avenue from the south end of his development to Thurston Avenue as part of the mitigation for this development. Right now there are no pedestrian facilities on Crestline from 32nd to 37th and just sidewalks on one side between 37th and Thurston. These complete street features and traffic calming will also compliment the proposed traffic calming and street design that should be built within the proposed PUD along Crestline.
1) The Staff Report reflects the same conclusion that the Southgate Neighborhood Council had come to: that City code, Comp Plan policy, and adopted neighborhood plans all require or support the connection of Crestline to Southeast Blvd. It is good urban design and will not perpetuate the development of disconnected PUDs and subdivisions so common on the South Hill.
2) SNC believes the design of the connection should use traffic calming features and residential road design standards to create an auto-accommodating, pedestrian-emphasized streetscape and that this concept is supported by the connection’s designation as a Bikeway in the Spokane Bike Master Plan and the PUD’s CC1 zoning. This includes pursuing deviations from road width, speeds, and corner radii as well as other traffic calming features (such as on-street parking, curb bulb-outs, roundabouts, speed tables, bike lanes, etc.).
3) Regardless of whether or not a connection is ultimately required, SNC suggests the developer must install complete street features (pedestrian and bike facilities) and traffic calming measures (see above) between the southern border of the development and Thurston Street. This will mitigate the impact of increased traffic along Crestline and provide a safe street environment for area residents.
Depending on how the Hearing Examiner rules, there may be appeals to the decision. In order to have standing to appeal, you need to have submitted comments during the SEPA Public Comment Period or given testimony at the upcoming hearing. If there is an appeal, the issue will go to the Spokane City Council for a final ruling on the matter. So whatever your feelings, I encourage you to go to the hearing and provide testimony.
The City of Spokane Design Review Board (DRB) will hold a Collaborative Workshop on the proposed Garden District project on Wednesday, April 25th at 5:30pm in the Council Briefing Chamber at City Hall. This is the development proposed for the Sonneland Property near 29th and Southeast Boulevard.
This meeting is open to the public and public comments will be taken by the board. You can also submit comments ahead of time to the DRB Community Assembly representative, Kathy Lang, or to City Urban Designer, Omar Akkari.