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

February 5, 2002

Meredith Getches, Seattle Hearing Examiner
1320 Alaska Building
618 Second Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-2222

Re: Seattle Department of Design, Construction and Land Use Master Use Permit, January 17, 2002, Project No. 2007975, page 49 (University of Washington Master Plan)

Dear Ms. Getches:

I am here today as the Laurelhurst Community Club representative to the City University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC) and am commenting on the University of Washington's request for a rezone for its golf driving range to allow it to enlarge its facilities and build new fencing that would go as high as 100 feet. The current fence is 37 feet tall.

I have served on CUCAC for approximately one year and in that time have heard a number of presentations by the University of Washington on its proposed golf driving range expansion. Moreover, discussions about the golf range proposal were already underway when I joined CUCAC. In fact, CUCAC has voted formally three times on the golf range:

  1. CUCAC initially voted against supporting the request for rezone and that vote is reported in CUCAC's comments on the draft master plan. CUCAC had little information about the project and members were concerned about possible adverse impacts.

  2. In commenting on the UW's final master plan, CUCAC reversed its position and voted in favor of supporting the request for rezone. CUCAC received information from the UW regarding its redesign to address some of the concerns CUCAC initially raised. CUCAC did not receive copies of the UW's feasibility study or its bird-on-netting study in arriving at its decision to reverse itself.

  3. After receiving additional information from the Laurelhurst Community Club about the adverse impacts of the proposed expansion, CUCAC again reversed its position and voted against supporting the request for rezone.

The changing votes reflect both the ambivalence of CUCAC members about the project, and with the most recent vote against (on January 8, 2002), the emergence of new information about the project and its impacts. These votes also demonstrate a serious shortcoming in the way that CUCAC and the University interact. Among CUCAC's duties are to advise the City of Seattle and the University on the orderly physical development of the University and the greater University area and provide advice regarding the protection of the surrounding community and business areas from adverse effects of University and City actions.

In connection with the golf driving range, some CUCAC members cannot provide well-informed advice or review because of the complexity of the relevant land use law, including the State Environmental Policy Act. I, and I suspect others, are only superficially acquainted with the relevant law and related questions that arise with this rezone request. That puts CUCAC members such as myself at a profound disadvantage in providing well-informed advice and makes it impossible to carry out our duties as CUCAC members effectively. The City should provide CUCAC member with a way to consult with neutral city attorneys who are expert in land use law, to ask questions and get answers in a non-adversarial environment, so that we can do our jobs. Otherwise, we are being set up - members of CUCAC versus the experts. Please do not leave us hanging.

The University has argued in meetings that we CUCAC members should support the rezone and that our concerns will be addressed in the SEPA review. However, that argument ignores the powerful momentum that will be created for the project if the rezone is approved. If CUCAC members and the community clubs and councils they represent had equal resources - money and staff - with the University, that might be a reasonable argument. But the communities surrounding the University have only one resource - dedicated volunteers willing to take time off from their jobs to come here today to testify. No one testifying here today from the University is doing it on his or her own time. (Moreover, no UW student - other than the CUCAC student representative - has ever participated in or attended any discussion on this golf driving range proposal at which I've been present).

I want to stress in the strongest possible way that the Laurelhurst Community Club is not opposed to the presence of the existing golf driving range, and in fact many members of our community use it regularly. The community club is opposed to the expansion because of its concerns about these issues:

  1. The extremely high fence will mar the view corridor from the north and the light poles will be visible from many of the hills in our neighborhood to the east. The University argues that it will plant trees that will shield the site - these trees may eventually shield the site, but not in a reasonable amount of time. They are unlikely to do their job in our lifetimes.

  2. The light poles themselves add to the visual clutter of East Campus. We would request that the hearing examiner look at the rezone in the context of the entire area in East Campus and the aggregate impact. The University several years ago - before CUCAC, I believe - added a baseball diamond on East Campus with eight 90-120-foot poles. Just this fall and winter the University added a soccer field with six poles, each of which is 80 feet high. These poles are not insubstantial - they are 12-18 inches in diameter. Each of them is topped with a bank of lights that is 8-10 feet across. With 13-14 more such poles on the golf driving range, the aggregate visual impact is severely adverse. As the Laurelhurst CUCAC representative, I have consistently pointed out that the University has paid insufficient attention to the adverse impact on the view corridor of creating a "forest" of poles. (No one will be able to view Mt. Rainier without looking through this forest of aluminum poles.) When I mention this impact, UW officials ignore it or respond by talking about glare.

  3. The fencing material - chicken wire - could very well negatively affect the flight patterns of migratory birds and disrupt mating season. The university originally proposed a "softer" but more visible material and then after objections from CUCAC offered the chicken wire. We simply do not know what the impact of rigid chicken wire is on bird flight patterns. Given the fact that the golf driving range is just north of the Union Bay Natural Area (a major stopping point for dozens of species of migratory birds) and given the fact that many of these birds migrate in a north-south pattern, we need to know what the impact will be on these birds. This information - obtained from a neutral expert, not someone hired by the university - should be known before the rezone request is granted, not afterwards.

  4. A bigger facility will increase traffic in the area. The major street in this area - Montlake Boulevard - is in grid-lock already. Again, as CUCAC members, we need to know what the aggregate impact on traffic congestion will be of adding to the existing golf range. We need to know that information from a neutral source and before the rezone is granted, not afterwards.

In summary, I hope that I have conveyed that as a CUCAC representative, I have serious concerns about the process by which CUCAC has tried to advise the City on this rezone. I have substantive unanswered questions about impacts of the project itself. On behalf of the Laurelhurst Community Club, I urge you to recommend against the rezone at this time.

Sincerely,

Jean Colley

Jean Colley, CUCAC Representative
Laurelhurst Community Club
3811 NE 41st
Seattle, WA 98105
206-525-5013 / 206-448-1772
jcolley@ccom.net


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