Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

March 27, 2001

Councilmember Nick Licata, Chair
Arts, Culture & Parks Committee
1100 Municipal Building
600 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-1876
Fax 684-8587

Ken Bounds
Superintendent of Parks
100 Dexter Avenue North
Seattle, Washington 98109
Fax 233-7023

RE: Roanoke Street Project/Initiative 42 Issues

Dear Councilmember Licata and Superintendent Bounds:

The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees has reviewed informational material prepared by the Portage Bay Roanoke Park Community Council following a recent meeting you participated in to discuss the proposed Roanoke Berm project. While we recognize safety problems in the area, we believe the current design raises Initiative 42 issues. We urge the City to redesign the project so that the berms and sidewalks are entirely south of the boundary of Roanoke Park.

The Seattle Transportation Department paving chart (Document 13-277) shows that 16.5 feet of street right-of-way intervene between the curb of the roadway of Roanoke Street and the park boundary. That width allows ample space for relocating a six-foot wide sidewalk within the street right-of-way and placing guard rails, barriers or berms as protective barriers south of the sidewalk to retain the traffic on Roanoke Street. The current project design would place the sidewalk 3.5 feet into Roanoke Park. If the City proceeds with this design, we ask that you comply with Initiative 42 by replacing the lost parkland.

The Laurelhurst Community Club supported--and still supports--Initiative 42 as an important bulwark in protecting our park and recreation system from encroachments, both public and private. Initiative 42, Section 1 states: "All landsÉheld for park and recreation purposes shall be preserved for such use; and no such landÉshall be changed from park use to another usage, unlessÉthere is no reasonable or practical alternative and the City shall at the same time or before receive in exchange land or a facility of equivalent or better size, value, location and usefulness in the vicinityÉ" The proposal neither shows necessity or encroaching into the park, nor provides the park equivalent land in exchange.

The materials supplied by the Portage Bay-Roanoke Park Community Council outline a variety of arguments made the community council and city staff for allowing such an encroachment. Key arguments are set out in italics below with our response following:

The relocated sidewalk would be a park walkway. We disagree. Calling it a park walkway does not make it such any more than calling a person who sleeps in a garage a car. The pavement replaces a sidewalk connected to the streets and functions as a sidewalk to assist travel alongside a roadway just like a sidewalk does. Without using it, people in wheel chairs have no way of getting from 10th Avenue East to Broadway on the north side of the street. If adopted, the south side of the park will be the only street segment without a sidewalk in the neighborhood. It will be open at nighttime when the park is closed. The project would be funded with street moneys. The overriding purpose of the project is to serve a street duty--retaining cars within the roadway.

The Parks Department retains title. Strickly speaking, title to parks is in the City in trust for the public at large. Initiative 42 addresses "use" as well as title. A sidewalk is a street use. The argument leads to this absurd result: If parks may be used for street or other purposes as long as the City keeps title, then all city parks are at risk for diversion to other long term occupancies as long as the formal paperwork is not processed. Both Initiative 42 and the Accountancy Act (RCW 43.09.210), which governs local government accounting, look to the reality on the ground and consider the beneficial use of the site as well as the title. The square footage taken over by the sidewalk is not available for park and recreation usage as it is now.

Putting a sidewalk in a park is no different than letting parks landscape part of the street right-of-way next to the park. We disagree. The two situations are very different. An abutter owns the fee title underlying the street easement and may make use of it for landscaping and other purposes consistent with the public's use and enjoyment of the street right-of-way. Abutters commonly maintain the sidewalk and planting strip in front of their homes. It is an exercise of an abutter's reserved rights as owner of the underlying fee. The converse is not true: The City under its street easement may not trespass on the property of the adjoining owner. Here, the park has fee ownership and the City stands as an owner and may landscape the street right-of-way, but street uses may not encroach into the park.

The sidewalk is already part of the park and it's merely shifting the sidewalk from one site within the park to another. The paving chart shows clearly that the sidewalk is now entirely within the street right-of-way and totally outside Roanoke Park. Initiative 42 precludes shifting the sidewalk from street right-of-way into Roanoke Park without a showing of necessity and providing replacement property to Roanoke Park. While Parks staff may say that it regards the sidewalk and planting strips around its parks to be part of the parks and park use, the plat dedicated the Roanoke Street right-of-way for street purposes. City ordinances put street right-of-way under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. Utilities and others seeking to use the street right-of-way apply to the Department of Transportation for permits.

Roanoke Park gets a benefit in increased safety from vehicles jumping the curb. While this may be true, the primary duty of retaining vehicles on the roadway and within the right-of-way falls on the Transportation Department. An analogy might be drawn to a private owner who has to conduct his activities from continually trespassing or causing a trespass on the property of a neighbor. If the Transportation Department defaults, as here, then the Parks Department may exercise its reserved power as an abutter to put up a guard rail or Jersey barrier within the street right-of-way to protect the park, but it may not give over parkland for a street purpose. Otherwise, our parks and boulevards will be shaved away.

Allowing the encroachment of the Roanoke Street sidewalk into Roanoke Park would set a very bad precedent for the City. Moreover, it jeopardizes the City's ability to use the "substitution value theory" to secure replacement of parkland inkind if a public project should require park land, e.g. the expansion of SR 520 and its interchanges near the Arboretum or Montlake.

We therefore stand with the Seattle Community Council Federation in urging you to adhere to the requirements of Initiative 42 and redesign the project to locate the sidewalk entirely outside of Roanoke Park. Thank you for considering our views.


Jeannie Hale, President
Laurelhurst Community Club
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
525-5135/ FAX 525-9631

cc: Councilmembers Heidi Wills, Richard Conlin, Richard McIver; Daryl Grigsby, Seattle Transportation Department; Jim Diers, Department of Neighborhoods; Jim Simpkins, President, Portage Bay-Roanoke Park Community Council

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