Confirmed victory

Seattle: Do Not Pave Our Planting Strips

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Victory!! Seattle: Do Not Pave Our Planting Strips

The City of Seattle and SDOT have reassessed the new sidewalk project on the 2400 block of SW Findlay Street and have decided to remove the asphalt that was recently placed and restore the original design of the project to include landscaped planting strips along with new trees. Moving forward, SDOT will work with Urban Forestry to complete this project. 

 

Additionally, staff at SDOT expressed several ‘lessons learned’ including the importance of circling back around to the community when a neighborhood project changes. 

 

We appreciate SDOT’s willingness to listen to our concerns, reevaluate the issue and take action to bring this project into alignment with Seattle’s green initiatives and the community’s vision for the neighborhood. 

 

Moreover, we appreciate all of you who signed our petition and requested the project be reevaluated, as your input directly lead to this positive outcome. Councilmember Rasmussen specifically expresses his thanks to everyone that signed the petition and contacted his office.

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Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has a policy that allows the paving of planting strips on City funded projects when the adjacent property owner is unwilling to maintain the planting strip.  SDOT is not required to inform the surrounding community or engage with neighbors or business owners to find an alternative solution.  SDOT maintains this policy is needed to prevent planting strips from turning to dirt or weeds.  This policy, however, does not support vibrant communities. 

This SDOT policy recently came to light when, in March of 2014, SDOT completed a sidewalk project on the 2400 block of SW Findlay Street and proceeded to fill in the newly formed planting strips with asphalt (excluding the tree pits).  Community members immediately reached out to SDOT and the Department of Neighborhoods, and later to Seattle City Council members, to understand the rationale behind this unsightly decision.  The original design for the project indicated that the planting strip would be grass.  How could a project that had the potential to beautify a neighborhood be altered so quickly, without any input from the surrounding community?

SDOT provided the following explanation of why this action was taken:

“Maintenance of planting strips is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner; when adjacent property owners are uninterested or unable to maintain grass planting strips, the planting strips tend to revert to dirt or weeds.”

In addition to offering this explanation, SDOT suggested possible remedies to this situation:
 
“(We) sympathize with your desire for further beautification of the area . . . One possible short term approach would be for the community to collaborate with the adjacent property owner to install flower planters on top of the new planting strip. This approach would provide beautification with less area to maintain, and could be easily removed if needed. Over the longer term, the asphalt could be removed and replaced with soil if the community and the property owner collaborate for construction and maintenance.”

There is no humor in this irony, especially when this situation was the direct result of SDOT’s lack of community engagement to begin with.  Now neighbors are left to go above and beyond, once again, to remedy the situation and improve a now unsightly corner of our small commercial node.

Additionally, there are numerous City ordinances, policies, and recommendations to support the beautification of neighborhoods, including the Seattle Green Factor which indicates that well-designed landscaping not only improves the look and feel of a neighborhood and supports adjacent business, but also decreases crime.

In this particular instance, the community has an active neighborhood council, a growing business district, and many invested organizations and community members.  It is unfortunate that the opportunity was missed for the community to be engaged and problem-solve the issue at its onset, when feasible solutions could have been implemented to produce a vibrant outcome, one that supports the growth and well-being of our neighborhood.

Please join us in telling the City of Seattle that this policy is unacceptable. Public money, directed at improving city infrastructure, should be used to support the interest of the entire community and the City’s green initiatives, not to appease the request of absentee or non-engaged property owners.



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