Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hearing examiner recommends against Hospital expansion

The hearing examiner’s decision is a hefty doc, so here are a few key passages snipped and highlighted from the conclusions section. Note that pdf files do not cut/paste well, so some characters/numbers are only accurate in the original.

Height District Rezone
36. As discussed above in the section on development standards and transitions, the requested rezones are inconsistent with two of the Code's zoning principles and two of the criteria that must be used to select appropriate MIO height districts.
38. Although greater than 40 feet, the proposed MIO 160/140 and MIO 160/125 districts may be considered outside an urban village, but only if the proposed heights would be consistent with an adopted neighborhood plan, a major institution's adopted master plan, or the existing built character of the area. SMC 23.34.008 8.4. Laurelhurst is outside an urban village and has no adopted neighborhood plan. The proposed heights are not consistent with Children's adopted MIMP, which caps heights at 74 feet. And the proposed heights are not consistent with the area's existing built character, which consists of one-and two-story single-family residences, lowrise multifamily development, and a small amount of lowrise commercial development. The only non-institutional development in the area that is not lowrise is the 100-foot nonconforming condominium west of Sand Point V/ay and south of Hartmann. However, that building is an anomaly, and is not immediately adjacent to any single-family or lowrise multifamily development. From the west and south, impact of towers 95 to 110 feet taller than the adjacent single family or lowrise development will be stunning
42. Children’s was part of the Laurelhurst neighborhood when the Council designated urban centers and urban villages during the comprehensive plan process in the 1990s, yet the Laurelhurst area was not designated as an urban center or village.
43. lt is apparent from the FEIS Land Use section that Children's expansion under the proposed MIMP is inconsistent with the city’s urban village strategy. Although major institutions are permitted outside urban villages/centers, Children's seeks heights that exceed those of any other major institution located outside an urban village or center. Exhibit 22, Attachments H *ã l. The significant, unmitigated traffic, and height, bulk associated with Children's proposed expansion result largely from the fact that the MIMP proposes development outside an urban village at an intensity that is designed for development within an urban village. Children's is asking that the proverbial "square peg" forced into a "round hole," but it does not fit.
44. The city's general policy toward significant, unmitigatable traffic impacts stresses enhancement of non-SOV travel modes that could increase the person-carrying capacity of the transportation system without necessarily increasing vehicular capacity. However, the amount of time it takes to get to work and back, to shop, and to complete the other tasks of daily life, either by bus or by car, is a component of the vitality and livability of an area. When a major institution that produces thousands of daily trips during peak hours is located in an area with two severely congested transportation corridors that are utilized by 50 percent of its employees, it may be necessary to explore a less ambitious expansion. The same is true with respect to the significant height; bulk and scale impacts of the proposed MIMP at the west and south boundaries of the Laurelon Terrace site' as discussed above.
45. The MIMP approved for Children's may well be viewed as precedential by other institutions located outside urban growth areas. It may also send a signal to the owners of property at the perimeters of those major institutions about the stability of neighborhood zoning. It will clearly shape the character of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. And it will decide the future of some of the properties adjacent to the perimeter of the expanded campus.' See Exhibit 22, Attachment G.
46. In this situation, it is essential to scrutinize need relative to alternative development scenarios. Children's has avoided this scrutiny by not providing any alternatives that would afford less than 2.4 million square feet of development area. The Code provides that "appropriate" institutional growth within boundaries is to be permitted while minimizing associated adverse impacts. SMC 23.69.A02 A. And the major institution's ability to change, and benefits associated with that change, are to be balanced with the need to protect the livability and vitality of adjacent neighborhoods. SMC 23.69.002 B. The Code does not dictate what that balance should be. Therefore, even if Children's could demonstrate that it should absorb the entire statewide need for specialty pediatric care, it is not necessarily entitled to this intensity of development, in this place, at this time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Next CAC Meeting: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009: 6:00- 9:00 PM
Talaris Conference Center Dining Room
4000 NE 41st Street; Seattle, WA 98105


From the DON: "The same room and times have been reserved for a possible meeting on January 29th...[The January 29th meeting will] occur only if insufficient progress is made on January 27th."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Reminder: CAC Meeting this Tuesday, Dec 9

This Tuesday's Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting will be held from 6-9 pm in the Hospital's Sound Café (5th floor in the Whale Zone). Public input is invited.

Likely under consideration: LCC's Proposed Motion for the Hartmann Property. This motion favors replacement of the housing lost from Laurelon with new housing at the Hartmann property -- instead of expansion of the institutional boundary across Sandpoint way to Hartmann.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Laurelhurst Community Club has formally appealed the Hospital's EIS

The announcement of the appeal summarizes the LCC's concerns:

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) has appealed to the Seattle Hearing Examiner the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Children’s Hospital Expansion. Located in Laurelhurst, Children’s proposes to virtually triple in size, leapfrogging its current boundaries and crossing Sand Point Way. LCC’s appeal, filed just before the Hearing Examiner’s office closed on November 24, charges that the Hospital EIS understates the expansion’s harmful impacts, including gridlock, and refuses to study any compromise alternatives that would help prevent them. The LCC appeal therefore asks that the Hearing Examiner send the EIS back to the drawing board.
The transportation deficits of the EIS are covered in detail in the appeal. A few excerpts:
  • The FEIS [Final EIS] continues to withhold data and analysis necessary to examine its trip projections. For example, the FEIS assumes 1410 daily peak hour trips when the ITE standard would result in 2800.
  • There remains a 100% discrepancy in the EIS for critical minor stopped approach volumes. It is these that determine the approach LOS [Level of Service] and queuing... This has not been addressed in the FEIS.
  • The FEIS answer did not address the inadequacy of using 1998 concurrency volumes for a 2030 build out year. Nor does it provide data necessary – and requested in DEIS comments -- to knowledgably assess calibration, queuing analysis, or bottlenecks (e.g. on Montlake Boulevard or 45th Street). Therefore, the FEIS off-site analysis continues to underestimates the delay along these corridors and the impacts of the proposal.
  • The failure of the FEIS to disclose and analyze an actual construction management plan in light of the size and implications of the construction and related vehicle trips (e.g. 140 truck trips per day for a period of years) and related cumulative impacts is a significant deficiency under SEPA.
  • The FEIS continues to omit queuing/blocking impacts important to assessment of operation of emergency vehicles.
  • It does not provide any real alternatives for reducing and/or mitigating traffic impacts on the neighborhood.
  • The Montlake/45th Street/5 corners intersection LOS is not supported by actual improvements or travel time calibration.
The next Citizen's Advisory Committee Meeting will be Tuesday, December 9, 6-9 pm, Children's Hospital, Sound Café (5th floor in the Whale Zone).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NE District Council and Seattle Community Council Federation Submit Preliminary Comments on Final EIS

We just received preliminary comments on the final EIS and the final Master Plan from:

Also, the January 2008 Field Study on bed requirements has been updated to include 2007 data that was released after the initial study:
You comments on the final EIS can be submitted to the Citizen's Advisory Committee by email. The CAC is currently working on finalizing its final report on the EIS.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reminder: CAC Meeting this Wednesday, Nov 12

The Citizen's Advisory Committee will meet this week on Wednesday, November 12, at 6 p.m. in the Talaris Conference Center Cedar Room. Agenda.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hospital's conditions include a "free 20-year option" on purchase of Laurelon at 2008 price

Laurelon residents recently received detailed terms of the proposed sale of Laurelon Terrace condominiums to the Hospital. Relatives of a Laurelon resident contacted us with their concerns. In their words:

1. Why is Laurelon granting a FREE 20-year option (indeed why even the free 5 year “closing date extension”)?

This is ridiculous; options cost money and should be paid for at the time the option is granted (which, as we read it, would be upon the execution of the Purchase and Sales Agreement; although there should really be a separate Grant of Option Agreement). The cost for obtaining an option varies in connection with the length of the option period and with what the later sales price is agreed to be. That is, the cost of the option is highest when the exercise period is long and the sales price is similar to what would be offered for a present purchase; and would be lowest where either the exercise period is short, or where the later sales price is significantly higher than what would be offered for a present sale.

Here, the residents are basically granting a free option for a LONG, LONG option term that sets the later sales price at the exactly the same amount the hospital is willing to pay as of the original closing date! If for any reason the original closing date (between Jan 4 and Jan 15, 2010) is not met, the hospital would get a return of its earnest money, but would still have about 19 years of an option at exactly the same terms. For this they would have paid nothing, and the residents will have received nothing, except that their property would be encumbered by the option. Why is this not worth something; something substantial? The hospital would be getting a free 20 year guarantee of the same sale price they are offering now; a price which as of today may be a premium, but which could turn out to be a huge bargain 15 to 20 years in the future! The hospital should either be paying a fairly large up-front sum to secure that option, or the later sale price should increase in later years of the option period until exercised (e.g., sales price of say $93 million in year 1 of the option period, and going up 5% compounded per year from then forward). The Grant of Option amount should be completely non-refundable, completely separate from the property sales price, and should be payable upon execution of whatever instrument conveys the Option (which as of now is the PSA). What was/is the consideration for granting the option(s)? Who priced this option? If the property is worth $93 million on Jan 4, 2010; what would it be worth 20 years later?

2. Earnest money and its refundability

  • Why is the earnest money deposit so low ($250,000 total)? We would expect that the earnest money on a $93 million purchase would be more like $4.5 million.
  • Why is the earnest money completely refundable if all purchase conditions are not met, even those not under the control of Laurelon? It seems that at least a substantial portion of the deposit should be non-refundable if/after Laurelon gets the 80% ratification and 50% support of street vacation accomplished. The Hospital started this entire process, upsetting many residents, taking up a lot of their time and attention, and keeping them in limbo to a large extent as to their future. Yet Laurelon owners have very little influence on most of the conditions for closing; and if any condition, even those not under Laurelon’s control, is not met, the residents get exactly $0 for being put through this circus.
3. Not enough Notice Time for Laurelon residents to arrange affairs:
  • When would the residents know whether all the Conditions of Closing are met or waived? As it appears that the residents must be out of the units by Closing Date, how are they to prepare, when there are so many conditions over which they have no control? Can they get a minimum of 4 months notice that all conditions are met? Can they get the right to stay in the unit up to 4 months after closing free of charge?
  • If for any reason the Sale does not close on the closing date, but instead is either “extended” (for up to 5 years!!!) or is re-set due to an exercise of Buyer’s option (up to 20 years!!!), how do the residents know when such a later closing would occur; and how do they plan?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reminder: Next CAC Meeting Tuesday Sept 23rd, 6pm

September 23, 6 – 8:30 p.m. Laurelhurst Elementary School. 4530 46th Ave N.E. According to the Hospital, "The focus of the meeting will be sustainability."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Does this look like 'maintain[ing] existing view planes' to you?

Our previous post mentioned the PDF document contributed yesterday by Bryant neighbors. Today, these neighbors sent us their words:

The Hospital claims in a ‘Good Neighbors’ mailing received on 9/7/2008 that the Laurelon Terrace Expansion is a “Win for Children’s and the Community” and claims that it “...takes advantage of existing maintain existing view planes”.

We disagree with that statement and feel that view planes will be profoundly affected for all neighbors to the north of the Hospital. Most dramatically, Bryant's outlook to Mount Rainier and Lake Washington will be blocked by the Hospital and taken away from thousands of residents. A detail of the southern corner of the Hospital and the expansion:A panoramic view from the northwest of the Hospital during summer 2008 (note the view of Mount Rainier and uninterrupted ridgeline):A panoramic view from the northwest of the Hospital proposed Alternative 7 (generated using ZGF drawings):
These images were rendered by a Photoshop professional who teaches 2D digital rendering. They were created using the Hospital's own drawing, sections, and other views of Alternative Seven, combined with a Bryant neighbor's panoramic images. Click on the images to see their details:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bryant Outlooks + CAC Meeting Reminder: Tuesday, September 9th.

CAC Meeting Reminder: According to the Agenda, Tuesday's meeting will start at 6pm at the Giraffe Entrance with "an optional tour of the buffer (setback) areas" for 40 minutes before moving inside to the Hospital's Wright Auditorium.

Bryant Outlooks: This revealing document just arrived from Bryant neighbors. An excerpt:
A Bryant neighbor and "Photoshop professional who teaches 2D digital rendering" was disappointed that the public did not have access to before/after Bryant images during the DEIS comment period. Kudos to our neighbor for using personal time and expertise to produce carefully-scaled renderings of projected Bryant outlooks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Roll-Up of DEIS Comments

Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) poured in during July. Concerns about cumulative traffic impacts stand out as universally common threads among community letters. Since these concerns receive remarkably light consideration in the Citizen's Advisory Committee's comments, we highlight them here.

CAC. It is encouraging to see the CAC's 7/25/08 DEIS Comments state that "the proposed enhanced traffic management plan outlined in the EIS would fall short of the traffic mitigation necessary to insure the livability and viability of the surrounding neighborhoods." However, the methods the CAC proposes for mitigation themselves fall short. Among these:

"[Department of Planning and Development] should identify specific actions to be taken and conditions to be imposed on future development in the event that CHRMC fails to meet its trip reduction targets."
The first suggestion goes in the right direction; however, why impose reactive "conditions" only after growth has already outpaced mitigation? Wouldn't it be more prudent to benchmark approval of growth increments on trip-reduction and traffic-flow achievements? Furthermore, where are ties between nebulous "trip reduction" efforts and benchmarks for arterial function? Off-site parking might certainly reduce direct trips to the campus while still increasing trips through the bottlenecked Montlake corridor to off-site parking. Having hospital staff & visitors drive past the hospital in order to park at Magnuson and take a shuttle back to the hospital seems like a nonsensical solution for fixing traffic flow.
"CHRMC [should] seek to collaborate with local partners, e.g. UW and U Village on sub-area solutions."
The second mitigation recommendation is also a move in the right direction; however, it also comes up short. Where is coordination with the City and the State on solutions for the "Montlake Mess?" Where is consideration of cumulative impacts in this corridor (the upcoming reconstruction of the 45th steet viaduct, 520 construction, light rail construction, in-fill construction, etc.) ? Impacts of the magnitude proposed by the hospital require wider coordination on transportation solutions.

One would hope that the approach taken to transportation in the final EIS is more proactive, more context-cognizant and more comprehensive.

Bryant. Excerpts from a DEIS comment letter from a Bryant family:
Cumulative Analysis:...The Bryant Neighborhood is one of several that manage to function around an already stressed traffic environmental created by the churning vortex of the University Village, the University of Washington, connections to Interstate 5 and State Route 520, a drawbridge, as well as Children’s Hospital, making for a traffic situation so severe that it was actually named decades ago: the well known and often cursed “Montlake Mess.” This intensely congested corridor cannot be bypassed. Due to the extreme conditions that occur along Montlake, the cumulative assessment needs to be re-run to include all growth expected in the area as well as a growth factor to ensure a conservative analysis.

...In conclusion, our family supports Children’s Hospital in its quest to continue to provide world class health care to Washington, Alaska, and Idaho; but we strongly encourage them to do so within a reduced scale project alternative which has not yet been considered. Such an alternative will not include the Hartmann site or will include very limited, fully self-parked development of the Hartmann site; and the total build-out of the entire campus will be reduced so that it is in scale with the existing hospital area and will not require a twenty year build-out. The continued reliance and expansion of nonadjacent parking facilities is simple testament that the use is already struggling to fit here. ...We strongly recommend, based on the facts of the record, that Children’s Hospital’s expansion plans can be scaled back to fit within their neighborhood.

Seattle Community Council Federation. Excerpts from its comments on the DEIS:

It is not possible to mitigate the traffic and transportation impacts associated with the build alternatives in the DEIS. Alternatives involving a much smaller scale expansion should be included in the final EIS. This is because there is no conceivable way to mitigate the impact of 42,000 vehicle trips per day. The comments submitted by Gibson Traffic Consultants demonstrate the many flaws in the data and methodology used to determine trip generation and traffic volumes and outline many other issues and flaws in the DEIS.

Northeast District Council. Comments on DEIS submitted on 07/24/08 include:

Standardized methodology must be used and data provided. There is no trip generation data or traffic counts included for Children’s existing campus or the Hartmann property. The DEIS does not employ the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) methodology and rates, which is the industry standard for determining trip generation data. ...With the information provided in the DEIS, it is impossible to determine if there will be an estimated 8,400 vehicle trips per day, or the 42,000 estimated using the standard Institute of Transportation Engineers formula.

The cumulative impacts of other development in the area must be analyzed in the final EIS. The DEIS fails to analyze the other major development planned in the area. University Village is planning a major expansion, much development is underway at Magnuson Park and plans to replace SR 520 are in the works. The final EIS should analyze these factors to adequately address transportation and traffic impacts, transportation infrastructure needs and concurrency requirements.
More. Additional community comments on the DEIS that have already been posted on this site:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Planned hospital will be 1/3rd the size of the Pentagon

A neighbor pointed this out in DEIS comments:

  • Total floor area of Pentagon: 6,636,360 sq ft -- Wikipedia
  • Total floor area of Hospital's preferred Alternative 7: 2,400,000 sq ft
  • The planned Hospital will be more than 1/3rd the size of the Pentagon.
From the Pentagon's web site: "...the Pentagon is one of the world's largest office buildings... The National Capitol could fit into any one of the five wedge-shaped sections."

Infrastructure: Scale alone doesn't explain why a facility of the size planned by the Hospital is problematic in a bottlenecked residential area. Consider the infrastructure that surrounds the Pentagon for the purpose of delivering visitors and employees:

"...people arrive daily ... over approximately 30 miles of access highways, including express bus lanes and one of the newest subway systems in our country. They... park approximately 8,770 cars in 16 parking lots" -- Pentagon web site

Final comparison:
The final hospital will be 87% of the size of the Empire State Building, which has a total floor area of 2,768,591 sq ft (Wikipedia). Needless to say, Manhattan is well-served by mass transit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ER Physician Says Hospital Plans Not in Best Interest of this Region's Kids

Must-Read: Comments from a doctor working on the growing Eastside who sends many young patients to Children's Hospital (highlighting added):

"...As an emergency medicine physician practicing in Kirkland, I have witnessed firsthand the growth on the Eastside and in Snohomish County of the need for inpatient pediatric care. Young families with young children are not, in general, settling in Seattle, but in outlying communities where the median home price is more affordable. The vast majority of these children who need admission to a hospital do not need highly specialized care, but rather ongoing care of relatively simple disease processes such as asthma and dehydration.

As it stands, these children often require transfer to CHRMC because of the paucity of inpatient pediatric beds in this service area. This adds further stress to families who are already faced with the emotional and financial burden of hospitalization. Adding inpatient pediatric beds to the Eastside, or South Snohomish County would be a vastly better approach to the need for inpatient resources.

Statistics provided by CHRMC show that the majority of their admissions do not require specialty care and that the majority of patients admitted do not resided in Seattle. These facts argue against the logic of expanding at the Laurelhurst campus. While cost has been sited as a reason not to expand elsewhere, CHRMC's original plan to erect massive towers above the existing campus would have cost more than construction at an alternative site. Creating a partnership with an Eastside hospital with land and space, where zoning is appropriate for a hospital expansion and nearer to where the growing pediatric population actually lives, is a far more logical means of addressing the region's needs for expanded inpatient pediatric care. For example, the land and buildings recently vacated by Eastside Group Health would provide more land (with an onsite healthcare facility already established) for less money than the deal to acquire the Laurelon property.

Any operating costs secondary to 'redundancy' would quickly be offset by the income generated by admission at an Eastside facility. I believe more Eastside doctors would admit children if they didn't have to worry about the inconvenience to families of doing so in Seattle. Why else would Swedish have submitted a certificate of need to establish an inpatient pediatric presence on the Eastside?

Not only would establishing a separate campus provide more comprehensive care for the children and families of the region, it would serve more practically in the event of a mass casualty incident [(MCI)]. At the most recent meeting of the Central Region Trauma Council, of which I am a member, the Triage and Critical Care Task Force announced [the results of] a study to optimize care to the region's pediatric population in the event of an MCI. They found 'the current centralized system for care of hospitalized children in King County' to be an obstacle to this goal. Maintaining inpatient pediatric care only at the existing CHRMC campus could have dire implications if the hospital itself, or transportation routes to it were damaged by a natural disaster, or terrorist attack.

As the medical director of [a large Eastside city]'s Medic One, I also worry about the implications for transport of critically ill children from the Eastside. With Highway 520 becoming increasingly congested, the creation of worse traffic congestion on Montlake and along the arterial roads serving CHRMC has potential lethal implications when timely transport is essential. While CHRMC has suggested that they can mitigate traffic concerns by expanding use of alternative modes of transportation, it is impractical to believe that staff that need to arrive during off hours will use bikes and public transportation and ludicrous to believe that families with sick children will be able to use any transportation other than their own vehicles.

...CHRMC has yet to provide an explanation for its desire to add ten times what the State's formula for need has determined to be the necessary number of beds. It has also failed to mount an effective argument against creating inpatient beds at an alternate site (one that would better serve the needs of the region's children). Without these essentials, the City and the CAC cannot, in good conscience, approve any of the existing alternatives. At least three new alternatives must be created: 1) no build (until CHRMC can explain its need to expand inpatient services despite falling use of such services since 2004); 2) limited expansion to meet bed necessity set by a certificate of need issued before creation of another draft master plan; 3) creation of an additional campus in a location better suited to serve the region's growing pediatric population."

Professional Traffic Consultant Pans the DEIS

This just in: a professional traffic consultant's scathing evaluation of the Draft EIS. Remember, the last day for sending your comments on the EIS is this Friday, July 25th.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Impacts of a 1.5 Million Square Foot Expansion (A Columbia Tower) are Not Mitigatable

Frustrations from this week's CAC meeting are still reverberating. Many neighbors feel that the voices of people who live in the immediate community are not being heard, particularly after the elimination of many near neighbors from the committee, largely due to the Hospital's pending acquisition of their homes. One neighbor asked us to share his suggestions for the CAC:

At the latest CAC meeting (7/15/08) I was very concerned to see how those who feel that a 1.5 million sq ft expansion is unmitigable in any form were effectively silenced by the committee chair after the break, the discussion resuming completely on the Hospital's terms. The word "unmitigable" was said often enough that it seems time for the committee to address the obvious question: in order to bring the height, bulk, scale, and traffic down to more manageable levels, what size expansion can be livable?

Based on simple arithmetic, a very crude estimate can be obtained for the square footage that the Laurelon site can accommodate to maintain the scale of the other Hospital buildings: six acres = a 250,000 sq foot footprint. Reduce this to 150,000 sq ft to allow access and open space (perhaps 125,000?), then a stair-step design contoured to the hillside built 6 stories high (similar to the other hospital buildings) would put the effective square footage per floor to be about 100,000. Multiplying by 6 stories gives 600,000 sq ft. Add some more for parking, etc. This puts it in the neighborhood of 750,000 sq ft -- half of the 1.5 million that are currently proposed.

Therefore I would suggest that the CAC consider a motion to reduce the proposed expansion by approximately one half on the basis of height, bulk, and scale. A further reduction of about 700,000 sq ft could be accomplished by moving the 190 psychiatric beds to a separate site, as suggested by Nancy Field.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Arterial Benchmarks & Balancing Needs

As we discussed in the last post, the intent of a Major Institution Master Plan is to "balance the needs" of the institution and the community. On the issue of transportation, the needs of the community and the institution substantially overlap. The CAC can take advantage of common interests in transportation to identify checkpoints for institution growth that help achieve "balance."

When it comes to transportation, the community and the Hospital really are in the same boat. If 42,000 daily car trips to/from the Hospital materialize before major transportation infrastructure improvements occur, we'll all be at a standstill -- patients, neighbors, doctors, hospital staff, UW staff... the list of impacted parties will extend as far as the traffic backups.

Members of the CAC are struggling to find appropriate benchmarks for growth increments of the Hospital. How about linking growth increments to the existing/projected "Level of Service" (LOS) grade of intersections along major arterials surrounding the Hospital? Once key intersections reach (optimistically) "A" grades and models predict that these intersections would only decrease to "Bs" during the next increment of growth, that increment could go forward.

Yes, this requires some coordinated improvements by government entities that will be partially out of the Hospital's hands. To achieve its goals, the Hospital will need to move arterial solutions forward within the context of a complex, regional transportation planning framework. This won't be easy, but the real transportation mess we face does not have easy solutions. Encouraging employees to bike/bus is great, but it doesn't take a large enough chunk of hospital trips off the roads year-round to solve the transportation problem for patients and families.

Remember, growth that plugs all nearby arterials will not "meet the institution's needs." Patients and families will not be able to reach whatever incredible new facility is built if this facility is surrounded by multi-mile traffic backups. Growth that oversteps transportation capacity also won't keep nearby communities functional -- View Ridge, Bryant, Ravenna, Laurelhurst, the U-District... the list will grow with the backups. [Yes, we'd all love to take mass transit all the time, but it's not practical for all trips for all families.]

The CAC should call for transportation benchmarks for growth increments based on arterial function.

EIS Comment Reminder: Remember, you are encouraged to send comments on the Draft EIS to the City DPD through July 25, 2008. Instructions are here.

Intent of Master Planning Process: "balance the needs" of the institution and community

In light of the discussion at tonight's CAC meeting, it is useful to reprint the core section of the city code governing Major Institution Master Plans. SMC 23.69.025 states:

"The intent of the Major Institution Master Plan shall be to balance the needs of the Major Institutions to develop facilities for the provision of health care or educational services with the need to minimize the impact of Major Institution development on surrounding neighborhoods."

The CAC is tasked with a far more difficult job than simply "figuring out how to meet the needs of the Hospital." The CAC must advise the council on how to "balance the needs" of the community and the institution. We discuss in the next post one idea for seeking out this balance.

Redwoods taken off the chopping block

Kudos to the Hospital's architects -- they have redesigned their plan for the Hartman site to leave the grove of Redwoods standing. Hospital representative Ruth Benfield's letter to the CAC states (bold added):

"Children's architects provided you with a redesign of the site which shows that the Redwoods will be protected on the Hartman site."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reminder: CAC Meeting Tuesday, July 15

6:00- 9:00 PM. Talaris Conference Center Dining Room. 4000 NE 41st Street

How to save the Redwood grove at Hartmann

Did you know that the Hartman site hosts a grove of Redwoods, right along the Burke Gilman? You sure wouldn't find out by reading the Hospital's EIS.

Unfortunately, the proposed Master Plan implies that this grove would be eliminated by the northwest corner of the 65 - 105 foot "big box" building planned for the Hartman site:The Hartman neighbor who spoke at the EIS forum on Thursday put together a terrific slide deck showing the grove and a practical plan to save it. The deck contains full details and a great set of photos/slides (many are used in this post). The grove has:

  • 6 Redwoods > 3' diameter
  • 2 Redwoods > 8' diameter
The speaker proposed a modified Hartman plan that keeps the grove intact, adds an access point to the trail and uses a "wedding cake" instead of "big box" design for the building.
Loss of open space and trees at Laurelon too: As far as trees, the EIS mentions impacts only to 1) Street trees (on parking strips) and 2) The 225 trees on the Hospital's existing campus that the Hospital would "remove, relocate, and/or replant" to accommodate Alternative 3 or6.

The EIS makes no mention of the Redwoods, or existing large trees at at Laurelon (see the Hospital's photo to the left). The EIS should clearly state the fate of these trees, the acreage of open space lost with Alternative 7 and the mitigation measures planned by the Hospital.

Patients, hospital staff and neighbors will all benefit from good planning for green space.

Addendum: In case you're curious about the city's vegetation plan for the stretch of the Burke Gilman near Hartman, there's actually a web page for Management Unit 4: 36th Ave NE to 40th Ave NE. This page does not mention the redwood grove, but you'll enjoy this quote from the plan: “Pure blackberry section should be retained for picking by trail-users.”

For further info on the vegetation plan, see the Burke-Gilman Trail Vegetation Management Guidelines

EIS Comments: Remember, you are encouraged to send comments on the Draft EIS to the City DPD through July 25, 2008. Instructions are here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Laurelhurst Community Club's Preliminary Comments on the EIS

The LCC shared some of its preliminary review of the EIS tonight at the EIS forum. You can read the LCC's review here. Particularly noteworthy were the LCC's comments on traffic:

  • "The DEIS appears to grossly underestimate the number of vehicle trips per day. The DEIS estimates 8,400 vehicle trips per day; however, using the standard Institute of Transportation Engineers formula, the number of trips per day would be 42,000.The final EIS should provide trip generation data, employ standardized calculations regarding vehicle trips and provide sufficient parking."
  • "An increase of 8,400 vehicle trips per day to the Children’s campus will result in major congestion along Sand Point Way and in the vicinity that cannot be mitigated. The level of service (LOS) at five locations under Alternatives 3 and 7 would be at “E” or “F.” These locations include: Five Corners, Montlake Boulevard and NE 45th, Montlake Boulevard and the SR 520 eastbound ramps, 40th Avenue NE and NE 55th Street (by the Metropolitan Market) and 40th Avenue NE and NE 65th. Alternative 1 includes one additional failing location—25th Avenue NE and University Village."

Remember, you are encouraged to send comments on the Draft EIS to the City DPD through July 25, 2008. Instructions are here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Public Forum on the Draft EIS: Thursday, July 10th

The Department of Planning and Development is soliciting public comments on the Hospital's Draft EIS (available on the Hospital's Master Plan site). You can provide comments in two ways:

  • Attend the Public Forum for the DEIS. July 10, 6-8 p.m., at the Center for Urban Horticulture. For further details, see the flier prepared by the Laurelhurst Community Club.
  • Submit written comments to Scott Ringgold, City Planner. You also may wish to send your comments to the Citizen's Advisory Committee. Deadline for DEIS comments: July 25, 2008.
Your input will shape the next round of discussion of the Hospital's plans. For those who care about both outstanding health care for our regions' kids and the well-being of NE Seattle neighborhoods, please take time to comment. Your ideas will shape a better plan.

Carol Eychaner's Review of the Draft EIS

Seasoned land use planner Carol Eychaner has made her initial review of the Draft EIS available for CAC review. You may find it helpful to you in composing comments on the EIS (due July 28th). She provides:

Carol finds that car trips to the larger hospital could increase by a factor of 2.9 (from 9,200 to 26,680), far more than the increase factor of 1.9 used by the Hospital in its EIS:
"Under all the DEIS alternatives, hospital facilities and beds would increase by more than the factors projected by CHRMC and used for the trip generation... Applying these factors to the number of existing average daily trips of 9,200, would result in a range of 22,080 to 26,680 total trips at full build out - many more than the 17,600 trips estimated in the EIS."
Additional items of interest provided in Carol's documents:
"The requested 160-foot height increase is more than five times the height allowed by the campus' underlying and surrounding zoning." (Comments on the PDEIS)

"The magnitude of CHRMC's proposed on- and off-campus expansion -- in a low scale, low density area outside of any urban village -- is wholly in conflict with the urban village growth strategy that is the foundation of the City's Comprehensive Plan. The impacts of the development proposal ... on the character, scale, land use, viability and livability of the surrounding community are significant and unmitigatable. CHRMC has also made it clear that its plans will not stop with this master plan proposal, but that it is the building block for more to come." (Comments on the PDEIS)

"When CHRMC proposed its current master plan for the Laurelhurst campus, adopted in 1994, it argued that it was essential to have its clinical and research space in close proximity on the same campus... Apparently the need was not so essential after all, since all of CHRMC's research is now located off campus at or near the Denny Triangle site. " (Comments on the DEIS)

"CHRMC has ... proposed... 194 psychiatric beds. This large a psychiatric facility would likely have economies of scale allowing for a viable separate campus or co-location with one of the other existing psychiatric hospitals in the Seattle area... a reasonable discussion of alternatives would include CHRMC’s establishment of a pediatric psychiatric hospital at a location separate from the current campus." (Field Study)

“In Seattle, Swedish Hospital’s inpatient pediatric services now care for more King County children than does CHRMC.” (Field Study)

“The need for Swedish’s pediatric beds is essentially nonexistent” -- CHRMC , May 2005

We've previously covered the Hospital's opposition to Swedish's expansion of inpatient care on the Eastside. Now available and fascinating to read is the Hospital's own letter to the Department of Health objecting to the addition of any pediatric beds at the Swedish facility. In May 2005, two years before CHRMC proposed adding 350 beds to its site, the former CEO of CHRMC wrote the following:

“Children’s is strongly opposed to Swedish’s proposal to establish a dedicated 8 bed inpatient pediatric unit. All available data suggests that the demand does not exist for such a unit, and that rates for inpatient pediatric care continue to decline within the service area...

The need for Swedish’s pediatric beds is essentially nonexistent."

Huh? Remember, Issaquah's population just grew 26% in one year alone (Seattle Times). Perhaps the the Hospital should reconsider adding beds where the kids are if bed need projections have changed so dramatically?

30% of Perimeter Homes Already Acquired by Hospital

Two weeks ago, land use planner Carol Eychaner provided the CAC with updates on the Hospital's purchases of adjacent homes. The materials she provided:

From her Summary Memo:
  • "CHRMC has purchased 9 (or 30%) of the 30 single family homes that are on streets around the perimeter of its campus (the 5 houses associated with Talaris on NE 45th Street are not included in this calculation). Of the 17 houses that are on NE 45th Street, between 40th and 45th Avenues NE, 11 are owned by or associated with CHRMC or Talaris. All CHRMC purchases were made since June 2007 and the most recent was on May 23, 2008...
  • CHRMC has purchased 43 units in Laurelon Terrace, representing 32.1% of total ownership. All purchases were made since October 2007 and the most recent was on June 9, 2008. "

University Village Proposes 25% Expansion

While commenting on the nearly-3X expansion/rezone proposal from the Hospital as part of the EIS process, you may wish to consider another nearby proposal that will strongly impact transportation corridors. From the May 8th Seattle PI: Seattle's University Village plans big expansion:

"Plans call for about 25 percent more retail space at the upscale open-air Seattle shopping center, and a similar increase in the number of parking stalls.
...When all the work is done, the plans say, the number of parking spaces would increase about 28 percent, from 1,938 to 2,474."
It isn't a stretch to imagine that a 28% increase in parking stalls will produce a 28% increase in car trips to this location, along the same arterials used by Hospital traffic.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Upcoming Events: Walking Tour and Next CAC Meeting

CAC Walking Tour This Sunday: 1 pm Sunday, June 22nd: CAC will take a walking tour of Ravenna-Bryant to evaluate the impact of the Hospital's plans, particularly the Hartman building. Meet at the intersection of Sandpoint Way & Penny Drive. Neighbors welcome.

CAC Meeting Next Tuesday: 6-9pm, Tuesday June 24th: Members of the CAC will discuss their initial concerns regarding the Hospital's Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Location: Talaris Cedar Room, 4000 NE 41st Street. Public comment time available.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Comments on the Draft EIS sought by City DPD

The Hospital's Preferred Alternative: Alternative 7 is shown in Hospital's powerpoint slides from last week's CAC Meeting. An "After" image from Sandpoint:A "Before" image from the same perspective:Two more before/after perspectives, this time from the south side:
Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Kudos to the Hospital team in working quickly to include Alternative 7 in the Draft EIS, which is now available on the Hospital's web site.

Comments: Please submit your comments on the Draft EIS to Scott Ringgold at the Seattle DPD and the members of the Citizen's Advisory Committee. The comment period last 45 days, so please comment before July 28, 2008.

Mark your calendar: The DPD will hold a public hearing to gather comments on the Draft EIS on Thursday, July 10, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture, Northwest Horticultural Society Hall, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98105.

Update on Bald Eagles at Talaris:

  • Looks like they won't be featured in the EIS because Talaris is considered a sufficient buffer.
  • Great news on the chicks -- rumor has it that a neighbor up the hill has spotted two chicks in the nest using a spotting scope. If you want to go see the family, the best spot to stand is next to the first light post east of the intersection of Surber and 41st Street (on the south side of the street). Stand just to the east of the light post, look north and you'll see the nest in the tall trees at Talaris.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Update on Home Acquisitions

The Hospital has closed on a total of 9 neighboring homes, on top of its Laurelon acquisitions:

Sold Date
4XXX NE 45th St
4XXX 44th Ave9/28/2007$960,000
4XXX NE 45th St
4XXX 45th St
4XXX 44th Ave NE
4XXX NE 45th St

59% (10/17) of the homes along 45th Street between 40th & 45th Avenues are now owned by organizations known to be seeking development of adjacent parcels.

You can keep an eye on the Hospital's ongoing purchases using the King County Assessor's eSales database. Note: For recent sales, the purchaser is only found on the Recorder's Office pdf tax records.

Update: Carol Eychaner has documented 39 Laurelon units acquired by the Hospital for approximately $10.4 million as of 5/29/08. These units are in addition to the stand-alone homes listed above, for a total of 48 homes in all.

Reminder: CAC Meeting This Tuesday, June 10

On the schedule this week -- the Draft EIS:
  • A presentation by the City of Seattle on the supporting Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
  • A formal presentation by Children's on the Draft Master Plan
Tuesday, June 10, 6 - 9 p.m. Agenda. Talaris Conference Center Dining Room 4000 NE 41st Street

Particularly interesting will be the extent that the EIS covers the Laurelon alternative (Alt 7). Up to this point, we've heard that the EIS will not fully cover this alternative, the one clearly favored by the Hospital. There will be public comment time allocated, so bring your questions.