Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

          

October 6, 2005

  

Councilmember Nick Licata, Chair

Public Safety, Civil Rights and Arts Committee and

Members of the City Council

600 4th Avenue, 1st Floor

P.O. Box 94726

Seattle, Washington  98124-4726

 

RE:  Fire Station 38 Relocation

 

Dear Councilmember Licata and Members of the Seattle City Council,

 

At its September 12th meeting, the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) Board of Trustees discussed the recent announcement of the results of the selection process for the re-location of Fire Station 38.  We were pleased with the proposed site and appreciative of the efforts of the Fire Department and Fleets and Facilities in reaching out to the community in this process.  We urge you to adopt the proposed ordinance authorizing acquisition of the property for relocation of the fire station.

 

            Laurelhurst voters overwhelmingly approved the 2003 Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy.  Our community has looked forward to replacement of Fire Station 38 to enable our neighbors and fire fighters to have a facility sufficient to meet their needs.  The current Fire Station 38 is the smallest station in the system and its size does not allow space for modern fire fighting equipment or easy maneuvering of fire trucks.  When the rebuilt station is complete, it will meet all current seismic safety codes and provide the full complement of services typical of a station housing one engine and a reserve.

             Community involvement in the site selection process.  We appreciate the efforts of Fleets and Facilities and the Fire Department to reach out to the community in searching for a new station location.  At presentations before our Board of Trustees and the Northeast District Council, representatives from the Fire Department and Fleets and Facilities provided an overview of the site selection process and criteria for choosing a new site.  We were provided with a map of the Station’s “primary response area” and invited to suggest locations.

 

            To supplement the notice of the November 9, 2004 community meeting provided by Fleets and Facilities, the Northeast District Council included an announcement about the meeting in its August, September, October and November announcement handout.  The Northeast District Council handout of announcements is distributed at each monthly meeting to representatives of its 20 member organizations for distribution to their own communities.  The handout is an important mechanism to get the word out about important community meetings, public forums and other events and activities affecting northeast Seattle residents and is distributed widely.

 

            In its September 2004 monthly email newsletter to neighbors, LCC notified the 1215 neighbors on its list of the opportunity to suggest locations within the primary response area.  LCC discussed the fire station relocation over a four-month period, responding to concerns from neighbors about ensuring a prompt response time to neighbors in need.  LCC also periodically contacted Fleets and Facilities for updates on the site selection process.

 

            Representatives from LCC attended the November 9th community meeting along with representatives from Ravenna-Bryant, Hawthorne Hills and other community organizations.  We were pleased to learn that local residents within the service area had recommended the site that was ultimately selected. 

 

            Community understanding of the process.  At all times throughout the process, community groups and interested neighbors were aware that there would be no opportunity to vote for or express preferences for one site over another.  This is why Fleets and Facilities and the Fire Department spent so much time telling us about the criteria for choosing a new site.  Suggestions for possible sites were always welcome, questions were answered and concerns were always listened to, but the operational criteria were instrumental in dictating the site that was ultimately selected.  Part of the reason, we believe was also due to concern that community involvement in choosing one site over another could impact the real estate negotiation process and drive up the price of the property.  We believe that the involved departments did an excellent job of due diligence in this process.

 

            Community groups and interested neighbors, at least those that have been involved until the preferred site was recently identified, also understood that any impacts such as traffic, congestion, noise and the like would be addressed in the design process.  For example, our community has a concern about the ability of fire trucks to maneuver from NE 40th across Sand Point Way NE into Laurelhurst to respond to emergency needs as there is a center lane divider in that location on Sand Point Way.  As the design process moves forward, we are confident that we will be able to continue to address this and any other concerns we may have in the design venue.

 

            The northeast corner of 40th Avenue NE and NE 55th Street is an excellent choice.  Although there are many site selection criteria, our bottom line is maintaining or enhancing response times to our neighbors in critical need of services.  This goal will be achieved with selection of the proposed site.  We were also pleased to learn that no one would lose their home, which would be the case with other locations under consideration.

 

            It is disappointing that the longtime auto repair shop and the balloon business will be displaced.  With a two to three-year design process and the relocation assistance provided by the City, we are hopeful that these businesses will be able to relocate nearby.  The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees has a long history of supporting the small business sector that serves our community.  We were glad to hear that the City will be formalizing its business relocation assistance policy and look forward to commenting on that proposal.

 

            We appreciate the frustration of the adjacent property owners and tenants in selection of this location for the new fire station.  We were glad to hear that the City was in touch with property owners last spring in this regard.  No location will be perfect.  It’s important, however, to remember that there are few options available to address this critical public need in the service area.  Some of those suggested by those testifying before the Council, such as Warren G. Magnuson Park, are outside the service area and cannot be considered.  This would jeopardize public safety.  Other concerns that were raised can be addressed in the design process.

 

            The current facility cannot be expanded.  It has been suggested that the Fire Department and Fleets and Facilities consider expanding Fire Station 38 at its current location.  This would be difficult if not impossible to do to meet the operational needs of the Fire Department and the mandates of the Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy approved by the voters in 2003.  The 1930 era facility has been slated for an Historic designation.  Expansion at this location would mean acquisition of adjacent residential properties.  This would mean that neighbors would lose their homes.  

 

            We urge you to adopt the proposed ordinance authorizing acquisition of the property for relocation of Fire Station 38.  Thank you for considering our views on this issue.

 

Sincerely,

                                                     

Jeannie Hale, President                                                 Pat Wright, Crime Prevention Rep

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE                                              3925 48th Avenue NE

Seattle, Washington  98105                                                      Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631                                          206-522-0871

jeannieh@serv.net                                                                    fredmm@comcast.net