In late August a press release was sent out by Mayor Nickels office regarding plans to increase sidewalk construction in areas of the city where there are none now. Many buyers I talk to on a regular basis tell me they want to live in neighborhoods with safe streets where they can walk to and from shops or to be able to take their kids safely to local parks, etc. I personally love having sidewalks in my neighborhood. An online tool that can be used to determine if your area has good “walkability” is this site: http://www.walkscore.com/
A large portion of the northern section of Seattle is without sidewalks since they were developed prior to being within the city’s borders (most areas north of 85th St). An article in the Seattle Times highlighted this area and others recently noting how expensive it is for cities to add sidewalks, but because city inhabitants have been vocal for it Mayor Nickels is going to give them what they want. Or is he?
Here is a link to the city’s current plan to add sidewalks, most of which is supposed to be funded by new construction: http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/Planning/Sidewalks_Improvement_Initiative/Overview/
Now, let’s compare that to a notice I received from the Master Builder’s Association as shown below. As I read it, the MBA doesn’t want to take on the responsibility for the costs of adding the sidewalks. If they do, they will, of course, pass it on to the consumer (buyer of their developments) and as a result the cost of the sidewalk will go up multi-fold because there will be added costs from the builder on top of the original cost to install. I don’t know if the city can get a “bargain” compared to the MBA developers or not but I would think that it would be inefficient for the city to try and manage all of the independent developments and the sidewalk needs of those as they happen ad hoc around the city. Perhaps if the “fee in lieu” were to go directly into a pot that could be used for ad hoc installing of sidewalks I’d feel better about it, but I’d also be concerned about whether or not that would be managed well too.
The Mayor’s Sidewalk Announcement
The long anticipated Sidewalks Initiative was announced today by Mayor Nickels and is available at: Sidewalk Press Release.
Should the proposal pass, sidewalks, curb and gutter would be required for all new development in Urban Centers and Villages and along any arterial. The threshold for the remaining portions of the city would be lowered to 3 units. For more detail, goto: Seattle Sidewalks.
The MBA is proposing a fee in lieu of program that would bank sidewalks and allow the city to contract with the lowest bidder to install all sidewalks—I assume the city gets a better deal than we can. The goal is for members to avoid the long and expensive SDOT review.