Monthly archives for August, 2006
The Audience has spoken for this Saturday’s Cinema at the Park! And it is the perfect choice. This is arguably Mel Brooks’ funniest film, and it appeals to all ages. One of my all-time favorite movie moments is in this film…When Gene Wilder gets squeezed trying to manipulate the the rotating secret passage in his new castle…”Now listen very carefully….put…the candle…back!” Toooo funny.
Everyone in Renton should make an effort to attend this last Outdoor Cinema of the Season. The park can probably provide good viewing for a thousand people, so come on down!
Last Sunday St Matthews Luthran Church in the Highlands had a huge block party for the neighborhood. Free entertinement, food, games, inflatables, pony rides and more. My wife and I helped with the Pony rides. I captured these nice pictues of Cathy in the process.
Another exciting council meeting tonight.
We got some good business done for the safety of school kids (young ones walking and older ones driving) reviewed an annexation petition, listened to a gentleman’s concerns about increased business jet traffic at the airport, had a warm introduction from the new Renton School Superintendant, and then moved on to the Highlands audience comment.
Pretty quickly the emotions surrounding the Renton Highlands came to a boil again. It began when the Renton community activist that was recently brutilized in a home invasion crime expressed disappontment that she felt re-victimized by the mayor after discussing the need for more law enforcement in the area.
Then we listened to both Phil and Heidi Beckley, who together leveled numerous criticisms at multitudes of people. Mr. Beckley complained about an article by Inez Petersen in the Fairwood Flyer which was negative about Renton. While he was sharing this, I was thinking that I did not imagine what council might do about it, since Ms. Pettersen is a private citizen, the Fairwood Flyer is not our publication, and we have taken a position as a council of being neutral on Fairwood’s incorporation even while there is strong citizen debate on the issue.
Then Heidi Beckley, a long-time friend of mine, approached the podium and criticized all members of the council for not staying the course on the plan the council was reviewing in April (when Lipstickgate first broke out–which she referred to as that ugly personal thing, or something like that). She felt that all of the council had been bullied into backing off of the Mayor’s plan by a “few people.” She specifically critisized me personally for attending the August 17 Highlands Community Association meeting (even though it was also attended by a State House Representative, two other city council members, our Public Works Director, our Police Chief, Our Community Services Director, Several other city staff, and about forty citizens from the Highlands…not a bad turnout for a warm August day.) Ms. Beckley expressed support for the way the mayor has effectively treated these constituants (they would say they have been shunned), and encouraged me to do the same. (Ms. Beckley mistakenly believes that HCA is the reason I am not in favor of blighting, community renewal act takings, and high density apartments in Renton Highlands.)
After Heidi’s comments, I expressed my belief that she and I still had many common goals, particularly in cleaning up the Highlands business environment, but I clarified that I’ve held my views on not wanting massive new apartment constuction in the Highlands for many years. The same is true for my protection of private property rights, which dates back to the city’s efforts to condemn my backyard for an apartment developer in 1989. I mentioned that making single family non-confoming and building apartments at densities up to 80 units per acre was not a way to get the neighborhood we both were looking for… and suddenly Dan Clawson jumped in and attacked me for “falsely” and “misleadingly” stating that we had ever considered looking at building up to 80 units per acre.
Huh? But here is the current proposed zoning map from the city website:
Everywhere the map says 80 DU/AC bonus, it stands for 80 dwelling units per acre if the developer includes low income units in the building. Between the dark gray (80 DU) and black areas (75 DU), the majority of the study area can be built with this type of density. Since Dan Clawson is a member of the Planning and Development Committee, he should know this map very well. In light of the fact that Mr. Clawson publically accused me of making false statments (again), and my statements prove honest and true (as they always do) by the above map, perhaps Mr. Clawson could explain to the public whether he was extremely confused tonight, whether he himself was trying to mislead, or whether he had some other motivation when he said that we never considered 80 unit per acre densities.
While you contemplate that, here is some info from a planning firm, the Lincoln Land Use Institute, on “visualizing densities.” Click Here , but you have to open a free profile to get to the good stuff.
And below is what 37 units per acre looks like:
And below, right from the North Highlands study area, is what 10 units to the acre looks like:
Of all the pictures above, the one that would NOT BE ALLOWED in the study area UNDER THE MAYOR’S PROPOSAL is the one immediately above, with the single family homes. This is picture of four homes that replaced one 1940′s era duplex on Harrington Circle. This is also the development that the market forces were giving us eighteen months ago when council slapped an onerous moritorium on this area, thus halting redevelopment. This is also the development pattern that the lawful owners of the property were building, that required no expensive or controversial blighting or community renewal actions, and did not involve tying up potentially tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in public/private partnerships that are subject to risk. These single family projects were refreshing, free to the taxpayers, and provided great opportunities for families to buy their first new home.
I hope that one day the mayor may let go of her bitterness toward me, HCA, and countless other highland residents, and let the council majority restore some sense to the Highlands plan. With all the personal attacks, and conspiricy theories I have to endure just because I don’t want sixteen-hundred apartments replacing the homes near me, I’m going to have to start wearing hip-waders at city hall.
Do I want highland revitalization? Yes, probably more than anyone. With a wife and five kids living right on the boundary of the affected area, I would love some updating and some more shopping. Do I want high density apartments when I could see single family move in, no.
I remember about four years ago when the mayor (then a council member) waged a bitter, hostile fight to try to prevent 40 single family homes from being built on ten acres of properly-zoned vacant land in her neighborhood of Renton Hill. Ironically, four years later, she is using every means (and person) she can muster to convert already occupied low-density land in my neighborhood into sixteen hundred apartment units, at densities up to 80 units per acre…I doubt I’m the only one who percieves this as hypocritical.
Like I say, another exciting night!
The New Logan Avenue is going to provide a direct four-lane connection from Exit 5, through the Landing, and right into downtown Renton near the Downtown Parking Garage and Piazza. Now is a great time to redouble our efforts to effect more positive change downtown, by making sure that the completed Logan Ave encourages lots of two way traffic to tie our Downtown and Landing business districts together. We also need to look at public infrastructure improvements to downtown in 2007 and 2008, to further enhance the business environment and security in this important and historic area.
We have put the subject of one-way streets on the back burner, but it is also time to reconsider making more of our streets two-way traffic again. When a motorist passes a business, thinks about stopping in, but then has to drive six blocks to get back to where they were, it inhibits patronage. One-way downtown streets are largely a failed urban experiment from the 1960s and 1970s. Modern business districts use them very rarely, and Renton’s downtown streets were not originally platted for one way traffic. Sure, they can carry 10 percent more vehicles, but sometimes at the expense of giving downtown streets the feel of confusing limited access”freeways.”
Most of the greatest shopping streets in the world, such as the Champs Elysees in Paris, have two-way traffic flow (four lanes each way in the case of Champs Elysees). Let’s take a look at this.
Also, I’ve been told that we are contemplating assessing downtown merchants a fee for new public ammenities such as benches, but I think that would be the wrong thing to do. After spending twenty million dollars for streets at the Landing, I think council can prioritize some money in 2007 and 2008 to clean up the downtown a little, and develop a promenade between downtown and the Landing. The downtown merchants deserve as much, and it would do the overall city a lot of good.
I am very optimistic that Renton businesses in all disttricts, including the highlands, will experience banner years ahead. A rising tide lifts all boats, and our city is getting a tide of positive press for our economic development efforts. Let’s make sure we take full advantage, and not make anyone sink as the tide comes in.
As always, I am interested in your thoughts on this subject!
I like these pictures I took at the Landing ground breaking ceremony on Tuesday!
My wife Cathy, in front of the banner and the official ground-breaking sandpile. (The kids searched for buried treasure in the sand.)
Some MySpace friends help in the ground breaking while sporting their new “Renton Myspace Friend” T shirts.
Movies in the Park presents “Mrs. Doubtfire,” a hilarious and touching film about parenthood and families. Bring your chairs, blankets, snacks and friends to this terrific FREE show. Saturday, at Liberty Park (next to the Library), at sundown. Major Funding provided by Spirit of Washington Dinner Train in cooperation with the City of Renton, Greater Renton Chamber of Commerce, Renton Visitor’s Connection, Renton School District, and Renton Technical College.
There is an important election on the horizon for Fairwood residents. They will soon need to cast ballots relative to whether or not they wish to form a new city. This is an important vote because King County continues to make public statements about curtailing urban services to communities like Fairwood, which puts pressure on these communities to either incorporate as an indepedent city or annex to an existing city.
I am neutral on Fairwood annexing to the city of Renton. As I stated in my June 17 entry to this journal;
“There are many neighborhoods bordering our city that are looking at the potential of annexing over the next few years. People in this position often have many questions and concerns, and I’m not going to try to address them all with one journal entry this morning.
I would instead like to convey my basic position on annexations, and invite readers to contact me at 425-271-6913 or leave comments below with any questions they have of me on the topic.
My basic position is this:
If you are in our Potential Annexation Area (PAA), and the majority of your neighborhood wishes to join our city, then I welcome you with open arms. If you are in the PAA, but the majority of your neighbors do not wish to join our city, then I understand and I have no issues with that..peace to you, and your settlement . Lastly, if you are outside our PAA, and you wish to join our city, we should work with other jurisdictions to update the PAA and go from there.
My only wish is that you and your neighbors have accurate facts and data to work from (this is my inner engineer’s voice), Therefore, I support our staff’s printing of materials that explain how your situation is affected by annexation. I want this material to be politically neutral, accurate, and readable.
I will generally not plan to attend meetings of King County residents who are weighing an annexation decision, because I don’t want to put myself in the position of taking their decision personally. If I’m not at their meeting, I won’t have my feelings hurt if they decide not to annex…better for them, and better for me!
In summary, if you are in our PAA, treat it like an event invitation. Ask your questions, get the facts, and make the decision that works for you. I’ll support you either way.”
I wish to clarify that I a neutral because I realize that my opinion, whatever it may be for a given annexation, is completely trumped by the opinions of the people living in the affected neighborhood (in this case Fairwood). The choice Fairwood residents make will affect their daily lives, as they experience everyday things such as water and sewer service, stop lights, parks and libraries, tax payments, and building permits…around the clock…winter, spring, summer, fall…for countless years into the future. The choice may also affect the more anxious moments of their lives, such as the way police or fire services are dispatched in an emergency. While it’s true that their choice may also affect residents of Renton here and there, any impact on existing Renton residents is very small compared to the impact on the Fairwood households. Many Renton residents wont even notice the apparent nuance of Fairwood being unincorporated versus incorporated versus annexed, and those that do will generally forget all about it in a week or two. If I saw a family in my neighborhood having a passionate argument about the choice of carpet they were installing in their home, the last thing I would do is walk over and tell them that they should go with my choice because I sometimes visit their home and I want it to look just right for me, or because I am worried that their carpet choice may affect my property value. While I may in fact hold an opinion on their carpet, I am wise enough to know that their collective opinion simply overwhelms mine, that they are the ones that perpetually live with the choice, and I should stay out of it. The same is true for an annexation discussion.
I have recently been told by a Fairwood resident that there is still confusion about what will happen if the area votes against incorporation. Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said that I expect that nothing would happen unless the residents formed an annexation drive. However, Renton Council recently got a surprise in the Maplewood neighborhood along Cedar River a couple meetings ago, when the King County Boundary Review Board increased the size of an annexation by five hundred percent, after some citizens had made an application to annex. I would have expected such a change to go to a vote or petition, but it did not. In this case, the majority of the residents of the affected area seemed to be in favor of the expansion, and I was extremely happy for Wonderland Estates residents that benefited from this decision. But the surprising turn of events left me with questions about how the 2006 annexation process really works. I have promised the inquiring Fairwood resident that that I will seek clarification on what happens if the vote for incorporation fails. When I sort this out, I will post the answers here.
For those of you that have asked me, here is the final version of the outside legal opinion regarding public speaking at the April 17 hearing (the night of the lipstick incident.)
(While this opinion was given to council initially as a confidential memo, it has now been distributed widely within city hall making it an official public record.)
For those of you who like political debate and intrigue,and don’t mind finding your way through lots of legal jargon, this is interesting and entertaining reading