Laurelhurst Community Club
Danica You, President, ASUW
University of Washington
SAO 205, Box 352238
Seattle, Washington 98195
Dear Ms. You and Members of the Board,
Thank you for agreeing to revisit the issue of the proposed expansion of the golf driving range, one of the many components of the proposed UW Master Plan. Time is short as the City University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC) has submitted its comments on the UW's final Master Plan supporting the project, reversing its earlier position of January 10, 2001. Because DCLU has 60 days to submit its comments to the hearing examiner, it is possible that CUCAC will have an opportunity to submit supplemental comments after it meets on December 11th.
History of CUCAC action on the project: The student representative to CUCAC, Margaret Hornbaker, was the sole dissenting vote when CUCAC prepared its initial comments on the Draft Master Plan in January opposing the golf driving range fence height and second story. In her separate comments on the draft plan and draft environmental impact statement, Ms. Hornbaker stated, "ÉI am deeply disappointed in the parochial perspective generally shown by the neighborhoods and the apparent lack of concern for the needs of the student population of their own state university ..." Ms. Hornbaker further stated that the views of CUCAC and community groups relating to the golf driving range were, in her view unsubstantiated, and should therefore be disregarded. This was after CUCAC had literally spent hundreds and hundreds of hours reviewing documents, listening to presentations and discussing master plan issues in lengthy meetings often twice a month for over an extended period.
To its credit, the UW made a few changes to the project as a result of community concerns--reducing the number and size of light poles, reducing the height of the fence from 100 feet to between 80 and 100 feet and agreeing to undertake other mitigation measures. As a result, CUCAC voted to support the University by a vote of 7-3 on the issue. This could change at the next meeting, which is why we are asking you to review the project and provide direction to your CUCAC representative.
Who we are: Before we get into why we oppose the project, we like to tell you who we are. The Laurelhurst neighborhood borders the University on the east. The Center for Urban Horticulture, UW student housing and the relatively new Ceramic Metal Arts Compound are a part of our community. We are principally a single-family neighborhood, however 26% of our neighborhood is multi-family and low-income housing. Many neighbors are UW faculty members and students.
Contrary to the perception of your CUCAC representative, our perspective on issues is far broader than parochial. We have a long history of support for parks, open space and environmental issues as a means to maintain the livability and vitality of northeast Seattle and the City in general. We played an integral role in securing Ravenna Woods as open space and are currently involved in the creation of Blakeley Crescent Park on the backside of University Village. We support the University on many issues, most recently on securing much needed funding for The Ave Project. We are part of the TransLake Washington Project. We will work for funding of the University Area Transportation Plan and will continue to work for transportation infrastructure improvements in northeast Seattle. We pursue all of these activities as volunteers. Our goal is to work with neighboring business and community organizations, including the University, in a cooperative and positive manner.
Why we oppose the golf driving range proposal: Laurelhurst has consistently opposed the golf driving expansion even after two presentations from the University and a thorough review of the original proposal, the feasibility study and the revised plan. For the past two years, we have had monthly briefings from our CUCAC representative or alternate and spent much time discussing the golf driving range proposal. We recognize the need to upgrade the facility, but we believe that the proposal goes too far.
The UW golf driving range is situated in a densely populated residential area. An 80-100-foot fence on three sides of the facility is incompatible with the surrounding communities. The tall fence poles and netting (about three times taller than the current height) would tower over the trees and all else in the area and would be a visual disaster and would block views of the lake. The UW insists that pedestrians, bikers and drivers could see through the chicken-wire fence, but in our view that would be akin to looking through prison bars. More and more, traffic is backed up to Five Corners and frustrated drivers will be stuck in traffic looking through ugly fencing that obscures the tranquil view of the lake. We believe that the high fence poles would set a precedent at DCLU for approval of other tall structures and facilities.
In addition to the unsightly appearance, we are concerned that the fence will interfere with bird flight patterns, despite one report to the contrary. UW consultants insist that birds are smart enough to avoid flying into the chicken-wire netting, but we are not convinced.
We also have safety concerns about location of an expanded facility adjacent to heavily congested NE 45th Street and Montlake Boulevard. Safety is also an issue due to possible interference with nearby landings at the helistop. The UW insists that these are non-issues, but we disagree.
We also consider the lighting on much taller poles visual pollution. We appreciate the fact that the University has explored lighting techniques to limit the impact on adjacent communities. But, light trespass is a serious issue. Turning the lights off at 11 p.m. as the UW has proposed is no solution. Installation of flashing red lights to guide the landing helicopters as proposed, will contribute to the visual assault even if there is a mechanism to turn off and on the lights as needed.
The UW has promoted this project as a means to meet industry fencing standards and to reduce liability concerns due to the number of golf balls that overshoot the current fence. The feasibility study, however, notes that a 100-foot fence will not eliminate balls from leaving the range due to improvements in golf balls and club design. The study concludes that the higher fence will merely reduce the chances of it happening. For this reason, we find no justification for the higher fence.
The UW has also said that this project is a priority to serve students and will generate funds for the student body. From what we understand, this project was rated as the third priority in a poll of students. At the time of the poll, however, we question whether students had the opportunity to consider concerns of impacted communities. Because the mission of the University is to serve its students and faculty, we asked the UW to undertake a needs assessment to determine whether expansion of the facility is warranted. We don't know if the UW did this. Our neighbors report that most of the people they see using the driving range appear to be retired, rather than students. The feasibility study we reviewed documents the existing conditions of the facility with no mention of usage, other than reference to economic factors and the University's desire to generate additional revenues.
The Northeast District Council, representing 18 business and community organizations voted to oppose the project in lengthy comments it submitted. That group stated: "The Northeast District Council is opposed to the proposal for a 100' fence around the golf driving range. We believe that such fencing would be extremely unsightly, and would impair numerous views. The NEDC also believes that such a fence would run counter to State policy, which favors allowing the public the opportunity to view shorelines and open water." After hearing a presentation on the revised project, the Northeast District Council refused to change its position.
We agree with the Northeast District Council and hope you will consider our views. Please let us know how you intend to proceed on this issue. Your CUCAC representative has undoubtedly briefed your board many times on the golf driving range expansion proposal. If you would, however, like a different perspective, let us know and we'll do our best to provide a speaker.
Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
525-5135 / FAX 525-9631
cc: Northeast District Council; Margaret Hornbaker