Ballard changing faster than planned, residents say

Ten years after the city’s neighborhood plans were published, residents have been asked to help create a “status check” on how well the 20-year plans are progressing — and whether they need an update. Thursday evening a group of Ballard and Crown Hill residents gathered around a table at the Phinney Center to provide the city with feedback on the draft copy of the status report (.pdf).

“(Ballard) is a totally different place than it was ten years ago,” said Craig Benjamin, explaining that he’s disappointed that the city’s draft status report fails to adequately explain the dramatic change in the neighborhood. “When the basis of a plan changes so dramatically, you need to reevaluate where you’re going,” added Peter Locke. Others agreed that the neighborhood’s transformation from a “sleepy fishing village” to a high-density community has introduced new priorities around affordable housing (“Ballard just isn’t affordable”), transportation (“Metro buses are packed”), safety and other city services. Another added that “Crown Hill is the red-headed stepchild” when compared to Ballard’s neighborhood improvements. Representatives from the Seattle Planning Commission and the Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee took notes as neighbors provided their feedback.

The report reviewed the plan’s original strategies: 1) create a Ballard municipal center with a park, library and service center 2) extend the Burke-Gilman trail through Ballard 3) acquire Crown Hill school and develop the facility into a community sports field complex and 4) establish a location for a commuter rail station. As the report explained, the first is complete and the next two are underway, but a light rail station is currently not planned for the neighborhood. Several residents suggested that the city make the neighborhood plans more flexible to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can fill out an online survey with your thoughts about the neighborhood and the status report. In October, the city will hold public meetings to review the updated status reports, and then they’ll be presented to the mayor and the city council to consider.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

44 thoughts to “Ballard changing faster than planned, residents say”

  1. Here is synopsis:
    -Too Fast, the 20 year plan I voted for is moving too fast!
    -Not in my backyard, but infill is good!
    -It's too expensive, but my house has lost so much value!
    -Transportation is bad, but we don't want to pay better transportation, when can we vote it down?

  2. Great coverage! Thanks for attending all these meetings. I really appreciate it.

    And I know that I'm not excused from attending in person just because MyBallard will report on them. ;-)

  3. Bus improvements would be nice, but not in the forecast. I'm assuming any light rail we get will be Southbound to Queen Anne and the like. Places we can already get to by bus. Ah, well.
    I'll stop griping now and echo Silver. Thanks for covering this for my lazy arse, Geeky Swedes!

  4. I just don't get why light rail is so difficult in this town. In the time Seattle has wasted on repeatedly voting/debating the issue Phoenix actually went out a built a system and is going to expand it by another 20 miles within the decade. Kind of embarrassing that ultra conservative/Republican Phoenix was able to develop a light rail system faster than supposedly “green” and “progressive” Seattle!

    Also amazes that Seattle can do such a great job with their parks and libraries but such a dismal job with mass transit and traffic improvements. Very weird.

  5. Problem is there are people who will happily ride a subway or light rail system but would never set foot on a bus. I personally don't get that but I've certainly seen it in action in SF, Boston and NYC. For transit to truly work it needs to on a dedicated right of way so it doesn't get stuck in traffic the way buses do.

  6. “Crown Hill is the red-headed stepchild”. Hey, I resemble that remark. What's wrong with red hair anyway?

    I live in Crown Hill and just want the city to build the dam* park! We've waited too long. Now the fire station is there. What will it be next? Tent city?

  7. I agree Seaspider. I loved BART when I was in Oakland. It was great. And the buses there were a little on the stinky side (and always packed).
    In Seattle I would take either if it went where I needed to be going (i.e. North).

  8. Yes and no on SF Muni. Compared to Seattle SF buses are much, MUCH more crowded (anyone who whines about a bus in this town being crowded hasn't a clue!), dirtier, less comfortable and you also have far more deranged/smelly types riding the Muni. However, I can tolerate much of that because the buses in SF run much more frequently and go everywhere. It's a joke that at the peak of rush hour buses in this town only run every 15-20 minutes (if that!) Also the buses in this town are really only good for getting to downtown. Going anywhere else simply takes forever when you factor in the 20-30 minute wait times. Finally, figuring out how to get from point A to point B on Seattle buses is impossible because the brilliant geniuses at Metro can't figure out how to draw a system map! Seriously, this is the only transit system I've encountered that doesn't place system maps in all of their bus shelters. SF Muni has far more lines than Seattle yet they're able to put up maps in their shelters. Ditto for Boston and NYC. I long ago lost track of how many times a bus was delayed because the driver had to stop and give someone directions.

  9. I really don't get the whole park thing. What's wrong with Soundview and Loyal Heights? Both are just a few blocks walk from most of Crown Hill, have great playgrounds and fields. Go a few blocks more and you have Carkeek, North Beach, Sandel, and Salmon Bay. I'm having a hard time thinking of any part of Crown Hill that is more than 5-10 blocks from a nice park. I have to give the city credit for doing a good job on their parks.

  10. +1
    When I moved here from Chicago, I was amazed at how second world the bus system is here. When I attempted to get a map online it actually (and still may) stated due to technology limitations they don't have a map available for download. I have a scanner, want me to do it?
    I've learned to deal with it, but not the other Seattle bus “accoutrements”. First lose the free ride and replace it with a downtown free ride circle line which will swing by all the homeless hotspots from drug dealer dog park to Pioneer Square and all the tourist locales. Pre-pay ticket system for the rest of us with kiosks. Enforce ticketing on cars that block the box/intersection.

  11. Yeah, I guess SF Muni has good and bad. When I lived there, I was amazed at how almost every single bus trip I ever considered was two buses. And the two-bus trip is the kiss of death, just like here. But the maps (and digital updates, for the last few years) at most bus stops are very nice.

    My wife commuted by bus in SF for three years and has nothing but contempt for that system.

  12. Seattle doesn't even make the minor leagues when it comes to vocal minorities! Study San Francisco politics for any amount of time if you want to see vocal minorities ***really*** muck things up. This is one area where I'm happy to see Seattle lagging behind.

  13. Trains tend to run every 5 – 10 minutes, don't get stuck in traffic, don't stop as often, and all the stations tend to be well lit and covered. At every job I've had in this city, I've been able to ride my bike to work, shower and dress faster than I could get there by bus.

    It's not that I “never set foot on a bus”, but I'm definitely not a fan. As for Boston and NYC their trains rock. Ditto for every European city I've visited. (I haven't spent much time in the bay area)

  14. What you say is true. But some of us don't have the option to bike. I have to 'set foot' on a bus. I'm not alone in buses being my only option, and it does take too long and the routes are ineffective. If and when the mayor's toy train extends Northward I'll be happy to ride it. Right now I'm taking two buses (or one bus and a long walk) to get to 85th and Greenwood. A ten minute drive. It's nuts.

  15. “I just don't get why light rail is so difficult in this town. In the time Seattle has wasted on repeatedly voting/debating the issue Phoenix actually went out a built a system and is going to expand it by another 20 miles within the decade. Kind of embarrassing that ultra conservative/Republican Phoenix was able to develop a light rail system faster than supposedly “green” and “progressive” Seattle!”

    You already figured it out – It's because Seattle really isn't progressive. Or rather the civic mentality is progressive, but the results aren't. This area has always had absolutely zero vision or identity for itself and what it could be other than “San Francisco Jr.”

    Mass transportation is only one of the areas where this mindset shows.

    Having lived in Chicago and Denver, I saw firsthand what a region that's really committed to providing effective, efficient mass transit for its citizens can do.

    In Seattle it's just lip service to the electorate and then providing the absolute cheapest, crappiest solution possible at ridiculous expense to the taxpayer. For some reason the process itself is the result.

  16. Yup… they screwed up Ballard faster then even they thought they could. Living up to the Seattle pastime of doing everything wrong the first time.

  17. If I could just point out that neighborhoods seem to have problems because there are no city representatives representing our neighborhoods. In other words, Seattle City Council members are not elected by district, they are at-large. Do you think we would be better off with a system that advocates for city council elections by districts? Would it not better to hold someone who lives in Ballard, and represents Ballard, accountable for what happens in Ballard?

  18. As I recall, when the first Sound Transit package went before the voters in the mid 90's with a complete regional light rail package, it passed by high margins in both Seattle in Tacoma, was close to 50/50 on Eastside, but was killed by the overwhelming no votes in rural King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The package kept getting whittled down and sent back to the voters until it passed. What we wound up with is a bunch of HOV lanes and a solitary train from the U-District to the Airport. Seattle certainly has a serious lack of vision and leadership, but I'm not sure you can pin our lack of mass transit on that.

  19. What route do you think a train might take that would get you from Ballard to 85th and Greenwood that would not still require a transfer? You are aware that the reason trains move faster is they make few stops?

    I am a regular Metro user and have been for years. They seem fine to me and really there are more routes available than ever before.

  20. Well, since improving Metro service doesn't seem to be in the plans I would hope for train service that doesn't just go to the U-Dist. I can get to the U-Dist with one bus. I can't get to Greenwood on one bus. That's all I'm sayin'.
    Just because you can get to where you need to go doesn't mean bus service is working for everyone.

  21. Regarding Loyal Heights Playfield:

    A plastic and rubber carpet rented by organized sports organizations seven days a week does not equal a “neighborhood park”.

  22. Uh, it's surprising that a more conservative municipality could get a major infrastructure project done than a “green” and “progressive” one?? No…it would be surprising if it were the other way around….

    See, when you air on apply more government, regulations and pointless oversight things take longer. If endless years and dollars are exhausted on environmental impact analysis and debate, rinse and repeat—–then what do you expect?

    Nothing “progressive” about that approach…mostly its just regressive…

  23. Good points save one: having lived in Chicago for over 30 years, I can tell you that the CTA is crumbling, dangerous, and has been on the verge of financial catastrophe for years. There's absolutely no commitment to improving it.

    Mayor For Life Daley is only committed to flashy big things like Olympics and such…

  24. While this may sound great (“real representation for our corner of the world! yeah!!”) the reality is this setup inevitably leads to graft, corruption and nepotism. In Chicago, each of the 50 alderman (the City is divided up into 50 wards) are given what is known as “Aldermanic Privilege” when it comes to zoning… other words, each rep has full autonomy to decide how land should be zoned in their ward.

    Think these folks get greased much by developers who “contribute” to their re-election efforts??? The results are very low oversight by community groups, poor or no planning and projects that do not fit with a neighborhood's character.

    Now Aldermen are great if you have a problem and want to complain to them. They feel your pain, you feel like you've spoken to someone in power and maybe something gets done.

  25. So true though at the same time Phoenix isn't what you'd call an ideal place for mass transit. It's the land of the big pick-up and “Mormon limo” (Chevy Suburbans). It's also a vastly sprawling place unlike Seattle which is fairly compact thanks to the water and thus more suitable to mass transit.

    Finally, it's a place where the people are generally opposed to spending government funds on anything. Keep in mind it's the state where people with a straight face claimed they voted against a MLK holiday not because they were racist but because it supposedly would have cost too many tax dollars!

  26. I've lived in Chicago (Lakeside) and you sir are an dolt to consider contrasting Chicago architecture with Seattle. The problem with Seattle architecture is projects over 20 units are designed by a committee/community at DRB meetings. To think common folk who just finished watching a HGTV marathon should have say in architecture is unreal. No other city of this size allows this, and accordingly no other city has such abysmal architecture. The Chicago Boards are filled with well qualified architects. The proof is in the AIA awards. In no other field do we let unqualified people make such important decisions. The greasing here in Seattle is done by the unqualified people and groups who take advantage of the DRB process to hold a project up for money. (See Goodwill site which had to pay hundred of thousands to community groups that magically appeared when the project was announced years ago.)

    There is plenty of greasing going on in Chicago as well, but I can assure you it is not on the Design Boards. For one project in order to put up a small sign in a south loop building we were asked to contribute to a campaign. My personal favorite is when King Daley stated he had a right to go into private garages to see if the cars had city stickers to park on city streets.

    Large committees like attorney's aren't put together to move a successful project forward. Nobody reading this can think of a committee they enjoy dealing with.

  27. This type of representation works in San Francisco, for those of you familiar with the City. I really don't see why we can't have city council elections by district, if not for the weak-hearted elections office.

    Further, hizzoner Mayor FivePennies, is NOW the friend of the neighborhoods, whereas for so long he was cow-towing to developing having their way with our Emerald City.

    No, we need something better. We need a more accountable system. Representation by district is the only way.

    A coordinated effort to mandate change must happen.

  28. I maybe a dolt but not because of anything to do with my thoughts of Chicago architecture vs. Seattle–I'm not sure where you see the word in my post. Where did I ever say anything about design boards either??

    My aunt is a board member of a neighborhood advisory group–the entities that are supposed to be the “voice” of the neighborhood. But as is the case with most of these, they are mostly filled with developers, real estate agents, and campaign donors to the alderman; people with vested interests in zoning decisions made by the alderman.

    This is why in Bucktown there are a couple of 3 million dollar single family homes around the corner from where I still own a condo; these behemoths sit vacant across from small rental apartments. Oh wait, the Tribune did a full story on just what I speak of:

    You ever see that place?? It may be aesthetically lovely but it sure don't belong on that street. Ridiculous.

    Look, I'm on your side. I've been to meetings in Chicago where too many “common folk” think they know how to design buildings. That's not my issue. My original point was about aldermanic privilege and what kinds of results arise from this unfortunate system

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