Traffic be damned: Mayor Gerend–but fears transit loss yet opposed transit policy

Two recent events make it clear that Mayor Don Gerend continues his quest to cram too much development into the Town Center, despite recommendations from five commissions and committees with some 70 citizens that adverse traffic impacts that would result.
At the same time, Gerend is bemoaning the very real possibility that cash-strapped Metro might cut bus service to Sammamish. Yet Gerend also opposed transit policies for the Town Center that would have sent a very real signal to Metro and Sound Transit that Sammamish is serious about attracting more transit service.
The most recent event concerns Transfer of Development Rights. The Sammamish Review reported Nov. 17, “…Gerend said he supported the program, saying it shifted potential traffic problems instead of adding to them.
“You remove potential traffic that would be going onto (state Route 202) into Redmond, which is one of the choke points in our morning commute,” Gerend said. “We’re reducing traffic in the north end, not just adding traffic to Town Center.”
Gerend uses this “shift” argument in his ill-conceived effort to pave over the Town Center with 700,000 to 1.9 million square feet of commercial development and 4,000 homes.
Gerend argued for years this would “shift” traffic from the City’s choke points to the Town Center. Never mind that gridlock would result within the City’s Center.
The preceding event occurred during deliberations for Town Center regulations, Gerend said he wanted to do away with the nationally recognized Trip Generation manuals for calculating traffic, as he argued for more development.
The Trip Generation manuals are key to determining the City’s traffic concurrency and the roads necessary to accommodate traffic resulting from development of any kind. With the absence of a grid system, and only 228th Ave. as a four-lane arterial (with center turn lanes), the Town Center simply cannot accommodate the kind of growth Gerend supports without either accepting gridlock as a solution or trying to fund road expansion that at the very least would cost tens of millions of dollars.
Then comes Gerend’s legitimate concern over the prospective loss of Metro bus service. He is correct to be concerned. But Gerend also was the leading opponent of supporting development in the Town Center that would support transit (i.e., building a park-and-ride with development focused around it), which would send a strong signal to Metro and Sound Transit that Sammamish is making tangible policy decisions to support bus service. A public-private partnership of such transit-oriented development would say volumes to these agencies. Instead, Gerend favored a park-and-ride in the far north end of the City, perhaps by the Gray Barn at Sahalee Way and SR202, outside the city limits.
Certainly a park-and-ride is needed there, too. But that was not what was on the table for consideration–the Town Center was. A TOD in the Town Center would reduce traffic to the south park-and-ride on 228th Ave. (a major concern of Deputy Mayor Nancy Whitten) and provide synergies between a park-and-ride and Town Center business.
Gerend’s inconsistent positions are increasingly cause for concern. He personally proposed 700,000 sf of commercial space in the Town Center (when the City’s own consultant recommended no more than 575,000). He supported a proposal by SE Quadrant landowners to increase the overall commercial space in the Town Center to 1.9 million sf so they could have their “proportionate” share of 300,000 sf.
There is only one way to grease the skids, so-to-speak, for this kind of development. To avoid running afoul of concurrency issues, Gerend proposed scrapping the nationally accepted Trip Generation manuals, offering no sound reasoning for doing so. Gerend supports “shifting” development, and the related traffic, from the City’s edges to the City’s core. Yet he opposed policies that would attract more transit.
Gerend has three more years on the City Council. The Comprehensive Plan can be amended annually to increase zoning. Gerend will bear watching: his history suggests that he will make packing in unsustainable growth into the Town Center an annual event.
Speaking of the SE Quadrant

John Galvin, the self-purported spokesman for the SE Quadrant, let loose on-line with yet another of his  blasts that once again ignores the underlying point of what I was trying to communicate in a letter to the editor of the Sammamish Review, and he obfuscates and undertakes his usual personal attacks in the process.

The point of my letter is, as noted above, is that Mayor Gerend wants to do away with the nationally recognized Trip Generation manual that is used to compute traffic generated from projects; and that he continues to pursue a dubious philosophy of “let’s shift traffic from the choke points to the center of the city” where there is no road infrastructure to support the traffic that would be generated by his proposal to jam 700,000 sf of commercial (and his support of Galvin’s plan for 1.9 million sf) into the Town Center.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Whitten “gets it” and has been the leading skeptic on the Council of Gerend’s “pack-‘em-in-plans.”

Galvin’s defense of Transfer Development Rights is laughable. He has been the leading critic of this element of the plan.

As for his persistent challenge to a public debate, we’ve been publicly debating this for 10 years. He’s lost with the Planning Advisory Board, Town Center Committee, the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Planning Commissions (all of which I was on); the Special Study Area Task Force and the Parks Bond Advisory Commission and he had minor victories with the 2007 and 2008 City Councils and major rejection by the 2010 Council (none of which I was on). The public debate is unambiguous: citizens do not want something that is one-third larger than Bellevue Square in our Town Center.

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One Response to Traffic be damned: Mayor Gerend–but fears transit loss yet opposed transit policy

  1. Pingback: TDR decision the right one « Sammamish Comment

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