Westlake lawyers seek more bike plan delays + Only boat & biz owners invited to ‘community meeting’

Seattle BMP Master Map-westlakeThe handful of angry people who have lawyered up to delay the entire city-wide Bike Master Plan are already seeking to delay the process even further. Their reason?

Too many people participated in crafting the Bike Master Plan.

Yes, it’s true. So many Seattle residents attended public meetings, hearings and submitted comments online in various forms that the legal team says they need until May to get digest it all. From a motion by Josh Brower, attorney for the Westlake appellants (see all filed documents related to the case here):

SDOT conducted a number of public outreach meetings, gathered comments and worked with numerous consultants in the research, drafting and completion of the proposed Plan. Obtaining and digesting all of this will take weeks if not a month or more. Under the current schedule, Appellants have approximately seven (7) weeks to do so. Even if the Appellants could timely obtain information from SDOT, which, based on past experience, is unlikely, seven (7) weeks is simply not enough time to gather and digest the mountain of information related to the Plan.

As of now, the original schedule of a pre-hearing January 15 and full hearing March 5 is still noted on the case website.

Brower is not to be underestimated. This is the same attorney who has been delaying the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link in Ballard for years. Here, he has turned the fact that the Bike Master Plan had such a successful public outreach campaign into a reason to delay city approval. It’s the work of a true artist.

If you live, work, travel or play on Westlake and would like to have a say as part of the Westlake Stakeholders Group, then you are invited to attend an upcoming meeting. Oh wait! No, you probably aren’t invited anymore.

After the public started signing up for their January 21 kickoff community meeting, organizers cancelled the meeting and took down the Evite page. Instead, they have turned it into a “private Westlake Community Meeting” from 5–7 p.m. at China Harbor, and you must provide a home address on Westlake Ave N, evidence you are a business owner or the slip number for your livaboard boat or yacht in order to attend.

Never heard of a “private” community meeting before? Me neither. If you can’t allow the public to attend your community meeting, might that be a sign that your group has lost all ability to claim you represent the community?

Or here’s another question for the so-called Westlake Stakeholders Group: Why does a person who owns a slip for their yacht count as a community member, but someone who bikes, walks, dines or shops along Westlake does not count?

Will you be editing the information on your website and outreach materials to reflect this narrowed definition of who is part of your group?

Have you been misled by Westlake organizers?

Are you a Westlake resident, employee, boat owner or business owner who has heard claims that the city is going to remove “half” of the parking on Westlake? Then you have either been lied to or were listening to someone who is confused.

Unlike language repeatedly thrown around by a couple of angry organizers, there are no specific plans for how the city will make Westlake safer for people biking and walking through the area. There is no idea yet how many — if any — parking spaces will be removed or how any such removal will be mitigated to continue serving residents, businesses and customers.

What we do know is that 92 percent of people who attended an open house about the Westlake bikeway plans said making the area safer for people biking is “important” or “very important.” That includes Westlake community members who also had concerns about parking. Nearly everyone wants the same things for Westlake: Safety for everyone and access to support homes and businesses. We can achieve both goals.

The city is in the early phases of design, and they need to hear your input about how community members use the area so a design can be reached that meets the needs of as many people as possible. The next step is for the city to dig through community feedback and come forward with a bunch of different design ideas. From there, more feedback will be gathered to guide which option they choose to move forward with. The city needs an active community group gathering this information and staying engaged so the final design can be effective.

We don’t need a sue-happy group that is willing to waste private and city money to delay a marginally-related bike plan that will have essentially no impact on the Westlake project. You, community member, should know that this lawsuit has almost nothing to do with the Westlake bikeway. It is a lawsuit to stop the entire city-wide plan, of which Westlake represents about 0.3 percent.

The Westlake bikeway project has design funding and is now operating independently of the Bike Master Plan, which is really just a bird’s-eye planning document. If you want to influence the Westlake project, get involved in the Westlake planning process. If you want to make people in every Seattle neighborhood angry and delay implementing a guiding document with comments and work from thousands of people behind it, then appeal the Bike Master Plan. If you prefer the former, I highly suggest you let the Westlake Stakeholders Group know.

End this charade and come back to the table

Look, Westlake Stakeholders, let’s end this now. Drop this obviously misguided appeal to a city-wide community plan for safer streets. This plan is far bigger than Westlake, which is why you look so silly lawyering up and standing in its way.

What you’re doing represents the worst that public process has to offer. You are using legal power that not everybody has access to in order to delay a road safety plan that was crafted based on thousands of hours and comments volunteered by everyday residents who thought it was important to help make the streets where they live and work safer. Instead of trying to have an open conversation with the public, you are trying to use money and legal power to go over everyone else’s head, and you don’t seem to care who you step on in the process.

When neighbors of NE 65th Street were upset about a planned protected bike lane on that street, the city delayed releasing the plan to hold a series of public meetings to address those issues. After hours of public testimony, neighborhood walks and of tons of comments from people who live, work, play or travel through the area, the city came up with a series of alternative options. People again weighed in and eventually a compromise solution was selected. That is the option that is in the plan today. It didn’t make every single person happy (some neighbors and some people who bike found issue with it), but it does its best to meet the goals of the bike plan while also avoiding the most difficult-to-mitigate parts of the street.

This is how the public process is supposed to function. That public process was hard and involved a lot of heated arguments and comments. But it developed a result that can work.

What the NE 65th neighbors didn’t do was file a lawsuit and hold a bunch of closed room meetings. Things happened in the open. It was hard and ugly at times, but that’s how people find common ground sometimes. We’re all in this city together.

You run the risk of losing your political voice in the process. Nobody respects a backroom group who is willing to use legal strong-arming to get their way. But people do respect an organized community voice representing viewpoints of all people who live, work and play in an area.

Drop this appeal and refocus on the goal: A better Westlake for everyone.

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53 Responses to Westlake lawyers seek more bike plan delays + Only boat & biz owners invited to ‘community meeting’

  1. Jake says:

    Wow… The stakeholders group meeting is now closed to everybody except folks who live, own a business, or dock a yacht in the area. This despite the fact that on their website the group defines stakeholders as those who “live, work, own property, employ individuals and travel this 1.7 mile stretch on a daily basis by foot, bicycle and a range of vehicles.”

    If you ride, walk, or drive this route, you are a stakeholder. According to their own definition.

    I think we should organize a campaign to stand outside the meeting with large signs saying “I am a stakeholder”. No yelling, no booing, no forcing our way in: just a quiet, respectful presence.

  2. Janine says:

    I beg to differ even that you must use or ever intent to use that route to be a “stakeholder.” I would be far more likely to ride there if there were a protected bike lane–I am completely unlikely to do so without one. Plus, by widening the net of their litigation to encompass the entire BMP, they have made anyone who cares about the BMP a “stakeholder” in this particular issue. I work on federal land issues, where there is an analogous dynamic that tries to draw very narrow boundaries around who is a” stakeholder” (can you tell I don’t like that term) in something affecting public land that belongs to all of us in order to pre-empt democracy and wide engagement. It’s insidious.

    • speneee says:

      I know some of the Stakeholders in question and they are cyclists, too. They’re concerns, as far as I can tell, result more from the cycletrack being presented as a “done deal”, and that section of the BMP garnered very little input from them, the folks who live and work on Westlake. You can disagree with their perspective, but let’s watch the inflammatory comments, please. These people aren’t big money-bags intent on keeping their pristine views of the four lanes of Westlake Avenue safe from the little people. They just want their viewpoint heard.

      Valid points are made in these comments about how the process is supposed to work in leading to a compromise wall can accept. My experience is that those on Westlake feel they’ve been ignored by the city in the run-up to the BMP. That’s always a recipe for problems.

      • Gary says:

        Having a cycle track as a neighbor is going to be a lot nicer than if the city decides to run light rail, or a street car down that road.

    • Rob says:

      Janine,

      You bring up a good point about who is and who is not a stakeholder. I just commented to the “Westlake Stakeholders” web site about this and perhaps you should add your useful distinction. My comment is awaiting moderation. I wonder what will happen to it. If it disappears, they are clearly not a group interested in listening to all voices.

      My Comment at http://westlakestakeholders.com/about/comment-page-1/#comment-118:

      Robert Elleman on January 22, 2014 at 9:37 am said:
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      The Seattle residents who use the city right of way are also stakeholders. This includes drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.

  3. Matthew Snyder says:

    The documents that Brower has filed are freaking fantastic. The best part is where he tries to get the hearing examiner disqualified because of pending “allegations of Appearance of Fairness Doctrine” violations against her. These allegations, of course, were also filed by Brower in another case (the missing link appeal)! So you file allegations in case A and then use “pending allegations” as a scare tactic in case B. He then lays his cards on the table: “If Examiner Tanner refuses to recuse herself, this matter will be tainted from the start, giving rise to an automatic appeal issue.”

    Yep, appeal issue. This is not going away anytime soon.

  4. Joel S. says:

    Maybe just make that whole parking lot metered parking at market demand rate? Sell it to the Westlake Stakeholders Group and make it a private lot? That way we can just come up with another solution and they can have their parking lot (at great expense to themselves).

    • Charles B says:

      How would selling the public right of way to the group whining that it ought to belong to them even remotely solve the problem here?

      We are talking about finding a fair way to share the corridor that still supports local needs and city wide transportation uses.

      Selling them the right of way does not solve the transportation issue and would be very poor management of city resources.

      I’d hate to think that people could use lawyers to force the city to hand over large chunks public lands for a one time cash payment.

      • Joel S. says:

        Just a little hyperbole to illustrate a point. No. Of course the city is not going to sell that parking lot. But why not meter it? That way the businesses can pick up the tab if they still want free parking for their customers. I plead ignorance as to why it’s not already metered.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Whether to meter parts of it, and where, and why are all the kinds of discussions that should be happening as part of the Westlake project.

        And that’s the problem. Once lawsuits are filed, open public discussion stops. The city can’t respond because of ongoing litigation, etc.

        I can understand suing if you think the public process has been dishonest or illegal. But we have barely even begun the process for Westlake, and there aren’t even design ideas to look at yet. It’s much too early for suing. And it definitely makes no sense to sue a different project just because it is conveniently nearby and vaguely about the same subject matter as the one you’re mad about.

  5. Janine says:

    What Charles said. If we gave in on the fact and principle of shared public space every time someone had a problem with sharing, it would all have been privatized eons ago.

  6. Peri Hartman says:

    Yes, parking – and free parking at that – is a privilege to be balance with other public needs. On my street, the fire department decided that it needed a faster way through, so they asked for – and received – removal of parking on one side of the street. It’s been this way for many, many years, but the effect is that there is much less on street parking but overall (I hope) better for public good. As far as I know, no one started a lawsuit against the city.

    • Jayne says:

      That’s because there isn’t a tiny minority of crazies who hate firefighters. There is a tiny minority of crazies who hate bicycles, and in general, the fact that it isn’t still 1970. Unfortunately the government somehow allows small minorities to influence policy because they have money.

      • Josh says:

        Current policies allowing small minorities to challenge public policy are a reaction to the massive, racially biased destruction of countless vibrant neighborhoods in the name of urban renewal and freeway expansion, to the “freeways to nowhere”, and other ill-conceived projects that ran roughshod over due process while squandering billions of dollars on boondoggles that spread sprawl, homelessness, and distrust of government decades ago. It doesn’t take much money to lodge appeals that gum up the process, just a will to resist consensus.

      • Jayne says:

        So you think this lawyerball is ok, Josh?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I believe Josh is saying that these processes are written this way to stop the government from steamrolling people who do not necessarily have the political or financial support to stop it on, say, a legislative level.

        If this were a plan for a Westlake freeway, I would quite likely be joining them in this fight. But this is a bike lane.

        I don’t deny that they are legally allowed to file this appeal. I am saying they shouldn’t be doing it because it’s wrong and a not a sign of good faith that they truly want a better Westlake for everyone.

      • Josh says:

        I believe what they’re doing is legal, but short-sighted, because better bicycle access would benefit almost all of the businesses along Westlake. (Bicycle access would be good for float planes, marinas, kayak rentals, boat sales, and yacht repair yards. Can’t think of any real benefit to the fuel dock, but that’s the only business I can think of that wouldn’t benefit from better bicycle access.)

        Lawyering up against the entire BMP may be the most effective tactic to delay the Westlake project if they believe they’re aren’t receiving a fair hearing on their concerns.

        I don’t know who “they” are or what input they’ve already provided in either the Westlake meetings or the BMP process, but there’s certainly been an undercurrent of people feeling railroaded by other recent bicycle infrastructure in the city, such as the cycletrack project on 65th.

        During the Seattle mayoral race, the Northwest Marine Trade Association backed Murray, saying he’d oppose the Westlake cycletrack because of its “devastating” impact on Westlake businesses.

        Then Murray said he supported cycletracks.

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some NMTA members think the fix is in, that nothing they say in public testimony will have an impact, and that their only meaningful alternative is participating in the appeal process.

        I happen to think they’d be better off in the planning process than the appeal process, that collaboration could produce a win-win outcome for businesses and bicycles on Westlake. But that’s not my call, they get to decide how they participate in public process.

        I suspect the city could have avoided this appeal if they’d put more work into marketing potential improvements that benefit the businesses to the business owners, recognizing them as having a strongly vested interest in the status quo. But that would have taken a lot of time and effort, and the city may have figured that defending the BMP through the appeal process will be faster or less expensive than building consensus support among the business owners.

  7. Rich says:

    How about publishing the names of all the Westlake “stakeholders” so we can avoid doing business with them.

  8. Queen Anne cyclist says:

    I think it’s fair for the people that own businesses and property to have a discussion within that community. Riding a bicycle down a street is not the same as having a permanent life there. That’s like saying that everyone who drives down Nickerson St. gets to attend community meetings for people who live in Queen Anne.

    • Joel S. says:

      They’re having a private meeting about public property. They’re free to do so, but it doesn’t help the situation any.

      • Queen Anne cyclist says:

        How does it not help, other than not being helpful to the cause of promoting a cycle track? I can understand wanting to discuss common feelings about a topic without having to argue about it with others, especially if you want to plan a strategy for opposition. What’s the point of having that discussion if people are going to crash it simply to derail it (let’s be honest)? I think it’s reasonable.

        What I do think is unreasonable is for other people to get so bent out of shape about it, simply because they disagree. I find the ire here that a bunch of people are getting together to have a conversation and OMG OTHER PEOPLE AREN’T INVITED amusing.

        Realistically, whatever happens with Westlake is probably going to suck for everyone in some way. For me, I can only hope that there’s a posted and enforced speed limit on a cycle track so the cat 6 riders stay on Dexter. That’s how this would suck for me. :)

    • Jake says:

      It’s certainly fair for them to have a private meeting. What seems a little off is to announce a “community meeting” for a group which purports to include a wide variety of people, and then after people begin RSVPing, change it to exclude the majority of people their group claims to represent. Especially when that group is using their financial leverage to indiscriminately block a year of good-faith efforts by hundreds of citizens throughout the city, I think that’s cause for concern.

      • Matthew Snyder says:

        The point has been made a few times, but just to reiterate: this doesn’t have much to do with financial leverage, at least not yet. Any one of us could have filed this appeal of the DNS. It costs $85 and it requires filling out a two page form with virtually no legalese. Yes, it’s true, they hired Josh Brower to do this for them, but they didn’t have to.

        Where the financial leverage will really come into play is in the (seemingly likely) appeal to superior court.

        This would be a nice opportunity for our new mayor to use the bully pulpit, if he’d like to see the BMP update passed (and I’m guessing he probably would). Sure, he might not be able to wave the magic wand and make the appeal go away, but he could likely persuade the Westlake folks that it’s in their best interests to drop the appeal, whether by using a carrot or, if needed, a stick.

  9. CD2UW says:

    Down where I am from, we know how to deal with a lawyer who files frivolous lawsuits…

    Permanently…




    FILE COUNTER-FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS!!

    Perhaps its time we stopped admiring Coppenhagen and started learning a thing or two from Silicon Valley. Sidewalks get awwwwweeeefullllll slippery this time of year if you don’t maintain them right.

    I don’t see how this could possibly end up as a net negative for all involved!

  10. Brian h says:

    Still not a single paragraph in the sheattle times about blocking this citywide plan. What a joke.

  11. Jonathan Mark says:

    This talk of lawsuits gives me an idea. The deep bore tunnel project has become something different from what was advertised, first with wells to pump groundwater (causing measureable displacement of the viaduct) and now with a plan to create an underground barrier against the movement of groundwater.

    Maybe a judge would agree that this seat-of-the-pants work needs to stop until it gets a full environmental review process?

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  14. Josh says:

    BMP appeal getting at least a little bit of media coverage.
    http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/business-owners-put-brakes-seattles-bike-master-pl/ncqCr/

    Interesting quote,

    “Sierra Hansen, from the Westlake Stakeholders Group, argues the plan includes changes to Westlake’s bike lane that change it from an off-street path to a cycle track that has a dedicated barrier to separate it from cars.

    SDOT says there aren’t any designs for what the bike lanes would look like on Westlake yet.”

    Have to say SDOT comes off less than credible saying that, when their own project page says,

    “The Westlake Avenue North Cycle Track is a Seattle Department of Transportation project to develop and study alternatives for a two-way cycle track within the Westlake Avenue North public right-of-way. “

    Sure sounds to me like they’ve already decided on a cycle track, not bike lanes…

    With that sort of doublespeak coming out of SDOT, I can’t imagine why the business owners might feel like they’re being stonewalled.

    • Josh says:

      The current SDOT comment about “bike lanes on Westlake” seems completely at odds with their published materials from the October open house.

      There’s not a single mention of any alternative that includes bike lanes, just four possible cycle track alignments, and design criteria that call for a bidirectional off-street facility at least ten feet wide. None of that is developed enough to call it a “design,” but it seems disingenuous at best to speak of “bike lanes on Westlake.”

      http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/October2013_WestlakeCycleTrack_OpenHouse_DisplayBoards.pdf

      • Matthew Snyder says:

        Well, it’s not presented as a quote from SDOT in the KIRO article, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the reporter just paraphrased the response and used “bike lanes” as a generic term for bike infrastructure. I can’t imagine more than a small minority of cyclists would be happy with unprotected bike lanes on Westlake, and to install that type of infrastructure would be incongruous with the BMP update. I think you’re reading way too much into a single unquoted phrase in a brief news article.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Yes. “Cycle track” is just a clumsy term for any kind of bike lane with a level of protection or separation from moving cars. Sometimes that layer of protection is a row of parked cars, in fact.

        Cycle track is a term used in some places in Europe. Like many European words, they don’t always sound quite right here. I think the term has a connotation of speed, since we hear “track” and think racing. Indeed, some people opposed to the Westlake project are worried about people on bike going too fast and, instead, want a “slow” bike trail instead.

        That’s the same thing many people in favor of the project want: A safe place where people of all ages and abilities can bike comfortably at a comfortable speed.

        In fact, one of the biggest complaints about the Broadway bikeway (also a kind of “cycle track”) I’ve been hearing from people who have been biking for a long time is that it is hard to go fast and pass people who are going slower. I don’t actually see this as a problem, and I think it’s in line with what some of the supposed “opponents” have been asking for.

      • Jayne says:

        Re: Passing on the Broadway cycle track.. I’ve never encountered a problem here because I’ve never seen more than one person using it at a time (Not counting the peds who consistently bumble into it).

      • Josh says:

        Most cycle tracks are explicitly *not* a type of bike lane, since bike lanes are defined as part of the street.

        Once you separate the facility from the street, it’s not a lane, it’s a path. Note SDOT’s signage on Broadway directing bicycles to the “path.”

        That may seem like a trivial distinction, but business owners who heard about potential “protected bicycle lanes” on Westlake may have taken the city at its word, then felt blindsided when not one of the design alternatives actually included bicycle lanes.

        Clearly, the “cycle track” terminology has its flaws, but if you want honest public participation, you need to start with honest government outreach, and “protected bicycle lanes” isn’t an honest description of what’s proposed on Westlake.

      • Josh says:

        Most business owners are busy people, and most aren’t bicycle policy wonks. If you want their input on a separated bicycle facility, you need to call it a separated bicycle facility, not a bike lane.

        If you say you’re studying protected bike lanes, then come back with proposals for off-road paths, you’ve shot your own credibility.

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  16. Nickerson St. Bicyclist says:

    From a “game theory” standpoint it makes perfect sense for the Westlake Ave. N community to employ Brower and go after the BMP if they feel that they are in complete conflict with the City of Seattle and its elite planners. Brower obviously has rattled the establishment.

    These people are not fighting to keep Seattle on the 70′s as some smug commenter mentioned – these people believe that they are fighting for their livelihood. Tom Furcoloro mentioned that they “risk loosing their political voice.” These people think that they have no political voice, and that they are being steamrolled by CBC. The “missing link” in Ballard and N 75th St have set the precedent of being steamrolled.

    I think the wisest thing to do is find a way the Westlake community to build trust with the city and bike community. That is not happening now, and digging in to force the BMP and Westlake Trail though is going to be very painful and only set-up the next fight.

    As a side note – I’ve lived and bicycled through the area for years without a problem. The biggest issue of speed (cars and cyclists).

    • Joel S. says:

      It is simply a battle as to whether this section of the city will move quickly or slowly into the future. Cycling and pedestrian facilities are being built into place in many American cities now, and that progress shows no signs of slowing down. This could have been done long ago along side many of our streets, but a car culture took hold and won the battle of the past. Now it is clear the the future will have many more safe alternative transportation methods available to city dwellers, and that transition will unfortunately be slow and painful here in Seattle.

      The slower and more painful it is however, the further behind a city like Seattle will fall in respects to other localities that put safe cycling/pedestrian facilities as a priority to its citizens. While we’re ahead of most of the country, we’re not #1. Someday in the future, there will be some kind of cycle facility through Westlake and much of the rest of Seattle, but it looks like it will come after many years of lawsuits and bickering instead of with open dialog. This is a shame in my opinion. I think it was done too soon when it should have been a weapon of last resort.

      Or I’m wrong about future urban centers. Certainly there are some who would love to keep things as they are. Maybe they will win.

      • Gary says:

        ” there are some who would love to keep things as they are. Maybe they will win.”

        They can’t because of the rising cost of energy, the limited space on the surface of the city and the rising population. Unless the economy colapases and we all move out to subsistence farms.

        Cars are choking the roads, they have paved everything possible therefore it has to change for them to drive at all.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      I’m assuming your “N 75th” comment refers to NE 75th St. For some reason, people seem to keep harping on that as some kind of city-driven agenda that was a mistake. It’s not. People in the community demanded changes to NE 75th. That included the 2 neighborhood community councils that NE 75th runs through. A few people didn’t want to lose street parking, but that was a very small minority. The majority of people wanted the road diet to happen on NE 75th, as can be seen by community meetings, informal online polls, and offline (more formal, SDOT-hosted) polls. Post-road diet, there’s been no outcry, no community-driven petitions to return the street back to its former configuration.

      Use something else for your example of supposed “steamrolling.”

  17. Rob says:

    So what happened at the pre-hearing on January 15th? And did anyone go to last night’s “private community meeting” at China Harbor?

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