Ballard businesses sue over Burke Gilman trail

A coalition of Ballard industrial businesses, associations and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court challenging the city’s plans to fill the “missing link” of the Burke Gilman trail. Specifically, the lawsuit questions the city’s environmental review of the project. “The city has, so far, completely failed to evaluate and analyze impacts from alternative routes, safety impacts from insufficient sight distances, safety impacts from mixing cyclists and trail users with heavy trucks and industrial traffic, impacts from lost parking, and the inconsistency of locating a recreational trail through an industrial area,” explains Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association. Wasserman says the city has not conducted the same level of environmental review that it would require of any industrial business. “We’re not anti-trail,” he said. “The city’s decision is just another example of the Seattle Department of Transportation not treating people equally.”

In June, the city’s Office of the Hearing Examiner ruled in favor of completing the stretch between 11 Ave. NW and the Locks, long considered a dangerous stretch for bicyclists. We’re working on gathering reaction from SDOT as well as the Cascade Bicycle Club, and we’ll update the story as we learn more.

285 comments on “Ballard businesses sue over Burke Gilman trail”

  1. Mondoman

    The trail will run south side of NW 45th, cross Shilshole at 17th, then go to Ballard Ave. where it will be a 'signed' bicycle route, with sidewalks for pedestrians.
    Then at Vernon Place, the trail will begin again, in front of the old Yankee Diner, then up to market street and adjacent to the sidewalk till 28th.

    The 'permanent' route, staked out by the City (as in, some day, this is where it will go), will cut off the Ballard Ave piece, and will also not divert up to Market, but instead follow the rail line along Shilshole, then along 'Not 54th STreet'

    So, SBSG, Ballard Oil are bypassed for the very foreseeable future — an acknowledgment by the City that, in their view, there is too much business activity to justify putting the trail there now.

    So, the compromise the City reached to appease Nerdrum, et. al, has done nothing of the sort — though he signed the franchise agreement (b/w RR and City) saying he understood the City would build a trail, he is exercising his legal right to sue over the limited SEPA analysis.

    Hope that clarifies for many MyBallard readers.

  2. Mondoman-

    The trains are not just at night. The BTRR started about 1.5 years after the last shipment was undertaken by BNSF (for those 1.5 yrs, Western Pioneer, which used to ship down frozen fish from AK, then load onto cars, and hook up with the mainline, then ship east, use trucks). Then when WP went down, they decided to start shipping cement by rail car, so that's been most of the activity for the past few years.

    Term of franchise with City — 30 yrs
    yearly cost of franchise — $0
    15 yr Interest free loan from state for early capital repairs — $150k?
    Ability to use RR to block trail — priceless

  3. Exactly. Which is why the owner of a Sand and Gravel company would start a railroad….control your surroundings. It 's smart, legal, defensible.

    What is not defensible is then telling the citizens they can't use their right of way to lay down 12 feet of asphalt, and N

  4. No Mondoman….those of us who have lobbied and fought on this issue for the past 13 years do not have that point of view.

    We understand the impacts on the businesses who are along the interim route. We just believe that the impacts will be minimal (this is a street that is being used, not a driveway, or parking lot, or private property) in terms of coming and going from those businesses — and for EVERYONE else (vehicle users of the street, walkers, cyclists,), this will be a tremendous improvement.

    Remember, we're talking about doing a realignment of a street right of way in all areas, not widening it, or moving it or anything else.

    In two locations where loading docks, now currently illegaly encroaching on the right of way, the City will build, with its money, new loading docks for the businesses.

  5. Urgent, schmurgent.
    Idea to do this -1996
    Vote on route, after 1.5 years of public meetings, etc – 2003
    Design finished, funding procured – 2009

    So, it's not like this just sprang up out of the blue. No one said it was urgent, it's just time.

  6. Thanks carynatcookies…..

    The devil is in the details, and in built environment, if you are going to change the use of something like a right of way, something has to give. In the case of the trail, about 150-160 total spots along the section between 11th and the Locks will be lost. About 80 or so of those are east of Shilhsole.

    Free or even limited on street parking will be lost when the trail is built. That is a fact. Building the trail will lessen the number of people hurt bicycling in Ballard, and will lead to more persons bicycling and walking.

    It would seem to me that offering discount incentives to persons who get to your store by bus, bicycle, their feet, instead of a vehicle, would be a brilliant way to encourage less driving, and leave more parking for those who choose to do so. It certainly wouldn't discourage carred customers and would boost your walk in business.

  7. This is a very interesting point you raise….the general consensus is that SBSG started the RR so they could control the land, reasoning, one presumes, that if the city took control of the rail right of way, they would tear up the tracks and build a trail, the logical thing to do. With the train, you have to take parking instead and I think they believed the City would never go through with it. Well, we did.

    What say we rescind the rail franchise, SBSG can go back to hauling cement by truck (they did this without issue for, oh, the past 90 years or so….), and no parking is lost.? It is true, the train delivery of cement is ultimately better for the environment, but I worry about all the hot air drifting up into the atmosphere on this issue contributing more to global warming.

    so, it's simple — lose the railroad (some jobs, nonunion, would be lost), but BTRR has a franchise in Tacoma, and they just got rights to run on the abandoned eastside line… they'll be ok.

    something to consider…

  8. It is in the franchise agreement that the City has with BTRR, the possibility of a 'trolley' service. Seems like it might conflict with the mondo-industrial attitude of keep anyone in a truck outta here …….but it's there. Could be sweet.

  9. They have adopted a 'the City should have do what all the businesses have to do' attitude to justify this. Of course the City had to do it's due diligence, which it did in filing the SEPA determination of non-signficance. That was challenged, as is allowed, and the challenge was rejected on all grounds.

    So, the Chamber is being pressured to take this side, and to be fair, most of the industrial businesses in this fight are Chamber members.

    But, I agree — this is about parking.

  10. In my personal circle of friends I know of two people besides myself who have wrecked on the RR tracks, 2 people who have been hit by cars, one of which was on Ballard Ave by a left turning minivan who was judged to be 100% at fault. Luckily none of these have been fatal, but bicycle accidents are unfortunately common and a lot of these wouldn't have happened with the missing link being fixed.
    Read in this same comments section how many people have wrecked on those pointless railroad tracks.

  11. It is a known public safety hazard.
    If I put a bear trap out on the sidewalk, you don't think I'd get sued after a few dozen people were hurt by it?

  12. Danimal growled: “you Dems are all just haters, reason and logic just make no sense to you. Liberalism is a mental disorder.”

    Whatever you said before that just got thrown out the window. If you want to make a point it doesn't help to insult 90%+ of your audience.

  13. Bikers need to BOYCOTT the businesses behind the appeal. Bikers are business owners and boaters as well. Put your business and money elsewhere. Keep your eyes open for any infractions or actionable activities including traffic, parking, health-safety and questionable environmental issues by these businesses and report them to the proper authorities. Bikers need to quit being polite and reasonable and be as self centered as they are.

    Put the bike trail right NEXT to the waterfront. Snake it along the shoreline so we have a view while we ride. Screw compromise, lets go for the BEST route. Let the businesses have their street access and parking on public property.

    Take the land NEXT to the water for a beautiful WATERFRONT trail. These businesses refuse to compromise and act selfishly without regard for others. Time for CCBC and bikers to go after what is best for us. Period.

  14. That would be great for people who live fairly locally. However, my customers are coming from Fall City, Issaquah, Federal Way, Tacoma and all over the Northwest region. I have a very specialized business that is the only one of its kind and my business draws people to this neighborhood that would not otherwise come and spend their money here. While I encourage cycling it is not going to bring peole from other areas in to support the local businesses. We cannot survive on Ballard alone. While this is a nice thought, it is not a reality. A cyclist is not going to spend $200 in my store because there is not enough room on a bike to carry that much product. I rely heavily on the regular customers that make a long commute and fight for the little parking that they still have to spend that kind of money. The fact of the matter is that if I offer that discount to non-drivers then I have to raise prices. Then people complain that your prices are too high and stop buying your product. People seem to think that small business owners have large markups. Many stores have only 10-20% margins. Giving a discount could mean actually taking money out of my pocket. If I were to give a discount to every group that asks, and there is at least one a month that brings up the same proposal, then you would no longer see small businesses anywhere. My main concern with bringing that up in my post was that it was done by using a shakedown tactic. Not much different if it were a gang member demanding money for protection.

    Back to the point I was hoping to make. Do you think that more people will be riding bikes in the next 25 years? I do. Do you think the 1.5' – 2' that will be given cyclist will be enough at that time or even now? I don't think so. Maybe I'm wrong. I think we should look at long term and not just what is good for today. That was what I was trying to get across.

    Thank you for your dialogue. I believe the more each of us understand the other side the better solution we can come up with for both sides.

    Thanks again, Caryn

  15. Such whining…..I mean come on. You really don't realize this area is an industrial corridor and not a pastoral trail through the forest?? Why Shilshoe?? Because this is an INDUSTRIAlL area.

    That means, these hazard causing people are WORKING. Get out of their way on your bike. You should consider it a privilege that they LET you ride your bike there. So be sure and thank all of them next time as you cruise by, ok?

  16. Well put. It's amazing to me how hard it is for others to grasp these concepts…

  17. Are you serious?? Do you really believe accurate economic comparisons can be drawn between a small European country and a neighborhood in Seattle?? Please go to community college and take an Econ 101 course first, read the chapters on how EU countries are setup and than come back to them message board. Thanks!

  18. Thanks Capitalist Pig. You illustrated my point better than I did. “INDUSTRIAL” means get out of the way. Means I need to ask (who, exactly?) for permission to use the street. And of course, it is a public street. I know the WA code that applies to bikes pretty well by now and I must have missed the part where INDUSTRIAL means that WORKING people have right of way.

    Well, thanks for helping me out. I'll return the favor and open up a can of INDUSTRIAL honesty on your ass. But my rant is not about bikes, it's about class, economics, and which direction the elevator is going.

    When you say “INDUSTRIAL” what we all understand you mean is what used to be called “working class.” Because at one level, this is really a class thing (at another level it's about free street parking, but never mind). And by working class, I mean white people of median or below annual income and a high-school education who support themselves by making, fixing and doing stuff that's useful. Please note that I think this is cool: America used to have a lot of people like this, it's one of the reasons we've been so rich for so long. Cause a lot of people worked hard doing useful things. Well guess what?

    It's over. You lost. Ballard outgrew you. In ten years, none of that INDUSTRIAL stuff is going to be there. Seriously, do you have any doubt about this? You sound like someone who should know. Picture yourself in a lawyer's office settling some business owner's estate, or at a board meeting of a privately held company. “OK, we can stay true to the founder's vision and slug it out fixing widgets, or we can just sell the property and set ourselves up for life. All in favor of noble servitude, raise your hands.” Ahh, capitalism, ain't it grand.

    Brother, it's worse than that. It ain't just Shillshole that's going down. The whole damn INDUSTRIAL economy in the US has been destroyed in the last 30 years. There's nothing left of the working class, just poor people. And the middle class is on the endangered species list. Or maybe you didn't notice, “capitalist pig,” cause you were too busy dusting your framed picture of Ronald Regan and listening to Rush on the radio?

    Welcome to Argentina, muchacho. You're about to learn just how “not special” we Americans are.

    The sad part is that we're all in this together. When gas hits $10, you may be riding a bike to work. And I'll be looking for someone who knows how to keep my Subaru running one more year cause I'll never have the money to buy another one. OK you're pissed, well I'm pissed too. We should have been on the same team. I've been slugging it out in the streets with neo-liberal economics and the violence it takes to keep the lid on FOR 30 YEARS while the working class beat up and spit on us “dirty hippies.”

    I don't give a sh*t about the Shillshole bike path. I don't expect it to get better. I had someone in an SUV almost kill me on Juanita this morning. I guess because its a SUBURBAN neighbourhood and I didn't ask permission before riding my bike there. Whatever. But next time you feel hatred for some lycra clad yuppie on a bike think for a moment: is that guy really the problem? Is he maybe an ally and we just don't recognize each other?

  19. The anti bike path fight may have escalated. An SUV crashes into the the only bike shop in Ballard. Very suspicious.

  20. The Ballard Chamber has shown its colors as anti-pedestrian and anti-bicycling. This project would repave paved areas — what is the environmental impact of that??? This is a bald attempt to make Ballard a less pleasant place to live.

    FIGHT BACK! BOYCOTT THE CHAMBER'S BALLARD SEAFOOD FEST!!! Why should you spend your money on merchants who are spending big bucks on lawyers to keep your family from having a safe place to walk or cycle?

  21. Ohhhhh kay…..

    Well I guess appreciate your honesty, comrade. Clearly you see this bike trail as the center of your dissertation on the erosion of the working class et al.

    Rush and Reagan?? That's pretty funny. I actually worked for the Obama campaign for several months last summer. My working class hating employer allowed me time off for this opportunity actually.

    But certainly that would mean nothing to you as these tired class-struggle based arguments are not the change we were waiting for and worked hard to elect.

    I don't know if we're in this together or not; but when certain groups decide their agenda trumps everything, and the rest should fall in line than I become sure that we are not.

    And the idea that there are less manufacturing jobs now is somewhat of a myth; there are plenty, they just require a higher skill level than in the past. Progress is a bitch, huh?

  22. If I can find them, I will post the pictures showing the 6 or so mangled bicycles that appeared chained to various street signs in Ballard, on the edge of the so-called industrial area, the day after the City Council passed the Resolution in 2003 specifying the interim and permanent routes for the trail.

    There are obviously some STRONG opinions on both sides — don't know who mangled the bikes, then chained them to the posts, but one suspects an Angry Industrialist… opposed to a texting driver, as in the Bike Sport smash. I'm glad they are fighting with money now, and not sledge hammers!!

  23. Courts tend not to go against the ruling of the hearing examiner in this county. Recent attempts to overrule the hearing examiner include Safeco's attempt to keep a strip club from going up by their stadium.

    The lawsuit amounts to a land by local business to take control of the rail right of way owned by the city.

    Sorry suckers,

  24. I would call myself neither a “bike enthusiast” nor anti-business. I am a single mom who drops her kid off at public school and then rides a bike to work at the UW. I wave thanks to the drivers who stop and wait for me to cross in front of them. I ride my bike, not because I am on some kind of crusade, but because:

    * It's faster than riding Metro
    * It keeps me healthy
    * It's gentler on the environment than a car or bus
    * I enjoy it

    I live near 65th x 32nd, and by far, the scariest part of my 6 mile ride is the section between 24th and Fred Meyer: along Shilshole or Ballard Ave, crossing the train tracks. I just want a safe route so I can get to work and get home to spend the evening with my daughter. That's it. No agenda.

  25. Were they painted white? Those are put up in places where cyclists have either been hurt or killed as a protest and also a warning to other cyclists.

  26. You are talking about playing with your SUV in the driveway, right? Good, leave the road for the grownups on bikes and cars who know how to drive and share the road that's been paid for by all of us and built for all of us.

  27. Thanks Ludlow. This is true for many of us commuters who choose bicycles for transportation. This is all about making what is currently a less than ideal streetscape safe for all modes, including bicycles.

    Keep riding — maybe more of our UW Ballardians will choose to do the same — once they try it, it's hard not to like it! And the more of us on the road, the safer it will be for us all.

  28. Baggyman – let's go for a ride some time. I can show you some of the sights of Ballard from the perspective of a bicycle, if you've not been on one lately. Let me know if you're interested.

  29. If you had someone run into you as you came out Fred Meyer, then you failed to yield right of way.

    Not only would I not pay for the damage to your car, I'd call the cops to come write your ass a ticket.

  30. Considering that Ballard Oil supplies home heating oil and there are a number of cyclist/homeowners out there, I'd like to suggest a boycott. Surely there are other companies that would be happy to receive the cyclists business?

    Same goes for the rest of the businesses opposing the trail. Cyclists have money to spend, whether at home or as part of business. Need gravel? Try someone other than Salmon Bay Gravel.

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