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Neighborhood greenway promoter draws a line in the planter strip sandbox

Cell phone photo from Paulo.

With just a simple sand box, Paulo Nunes-Ueno has challenged the city to reimagine the balance between safety and active community life.

Nunes-Ueno is the transportation and sustainability director at Seattle Children’s and a promoter of neighborhood greenways. When he and his family moved to a new home in the Wallingford/Green Lake area, he installed their old sandbox in the planter strip in front of their home. It was an instant hit, but also raised some concerns.

From the Seattle Times:

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On the new block, where the number of kids is estimated at between 15 and 20, and where many of the front yards are postage-stamp size, the sandbox became an instant gathering place for youngsters and their parents.

But not everyone approved. The city received an anonymous complaint that the sandbox, located at the end of the Nunes-Ueno driveway, violated city rules about play structures too close to the street.

The city sent him a warning he would be fined $500 a day if he didn’t remove the sandbox.

The city now has, if not a fight, at least a debate on its hands. Nunes-Ueno, a transportation and sustainability director for Seattle Children’s hospital, wants to nudge the city toward more varied uses of the street, planting strip and sidewalk. That means at least considering some streets could become as safe for kids to play on as for cars to drive.

Read more…

At the heart of the neighborhood greenway dream is a chance not just for a bicycle route link or a few speed bumps, but a chance to change the way we look at the neighborhood streets where people and families live. Why should every single street (even the non-arterials) be reserved 24/7 solely as a space for cars to pass through?

To phrase it another way, if a sand box in the planter strip seems dangerous, then why not make the street safer instead of getting rid of the box?

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10 responses to “Neighborhood greenway promoter draws a line in the planter strip sandbox”

  1. I saw this on the news this morning. The fine seems ludicrous to me…but maybe that’s just me. On the point of the safety of the sandbox, it seems it’s on a quiet street and it appeared that the kids were supervised the entire time, so what’s the big deal?

  2. Cha Cha Ala Mode

    I think municipalities take too much of safety away from parents. By creating so many rules for safety we take away a person’s ability to think and act for themselves. If a family wants a sandbox, supervised, in the parking strip then the only real danger is likely for cars parking next to it. Of for the children to get bonked in the noggin by a door. Seriously why so many rules, common sense is not so common because the governing bodies seem to have a lack of faith in our ability to keep ourselves and our families out of danger. Jay walking at an intersection, with no cars coming is a decent fine, yet where is the danger? No cars, no danger. Silly if you ask me.

  3. Gary

    What is totally ridiculous is that he could have a “cactus planter” without the plants and that would be 100% legal. And the kids could spend time digging in the planter box to make holes for future cactus and that would be fine too.

    The whole thing is overblown. Also the no basketball hoops at the edge of the curb rule, like the kids wouldn’t know that a car was coming down the street. Whatever happened to street football?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I actually didn’t know basketball hoops on the street were illegal until I read this (I just thought it wasn’t popular here).

      Where I grew up, they were everywhere, and kids were always shooting hoops in the streets. It definitely makes the street feel more alive. Sure, people driving have to slow down to get by safely, but that’s a good thing.

  4. jdg

    few relevant CAMs http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/cams/cam2305.pdf

    and 2304

    probably other ones too but it might look like a set-back issue or raised bed issue

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I haven’t measured, but it looks like it is far enough from the curb (not sure about the 1′ from the sidewalk rule). Those issues can be addressed easily with a saw and some nails, though. It’s the fact that the city doesn’t allow “play structures” that seems to be the real issue.

  5. merlin

    Some time in the last 50 years or so, we allowed ourselves to be persuaded that car crashes that kill people “just happen” and are not the responsibility of drivers to prevent. Rather, it’s up to everyone else to stay out of the way – FAR out of the way. Paolo is the perfect person to take on this fight.

  6. Steve

    It is silly that planters are OK but sandboxes aren’t. But can we at least acknowledge that if the sandbox is in the house’s front yard (inside the front property line), which is just on the other side of the sidewalk in the photo that it becomes totally legal without a special ruling or fines, appeals etc?

    We have one house in our neighborhood where the parents have put up two soccer goals for their kids who are in 3rd grade. In a postage stamp sized front yard. I don’t think they even have the minimum 20′ setback to the front of the house. The kids play out there all the time with their friends. The street’s more active, cars slow down as they go by. In short everything that the sandbox accomplishes. Everything except pick a fight with the city over what can go in the planter strip.

  7. Act More

    I sure hope he doesn’t exercise this type of poor judgement at a hospital for children.

  8. Doug Bostrom

    Every city street that is not an arterial is simply a long driveway leading to various peoples’ homes. Drive as you would in your own driveway…

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