Revisiting streets standards

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Council suggests revisions

By Mandy Marksteiner

“It’s amazing what you can do to create vibrancy with your street design,” said Marsha Kaiser, the Director of the PlaceMaking Group of Parsons Brinkerhoff. The presentation about the “Complete Street” concept sparked a full discussion at the county council meeting in White Rock Tuesday.

Regina Wheeler, the county environmental services manager and Rick Bohn, the director of the Community Development Department asked the council to approve the Downtown Streets Standards Vision, Goals and Objectives that incorporate “Complete Street” design principles.

Complete street systems are designed (using public input every step of the way) to enable safe and comfortable access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and bus riders.  

The subject of Trinity Drive was much debated at the Downtown Streets Standards Committee’s public meetings, said Ron Moses, who has served on the Downtown Streets Committee.

“There’s not one place where a pedestrian can safely cross Trinity,” he said.

“Trinity Drive is not a pleasant place to walk along,” said Councilor Robert Gibson, who suggested separating the different modes of transportation. “Cars and trucks are much heavier and faster than bikes. If we stuff all modes into the existing right of way, whether they fit or not, it may compromise every mode of transportation – so nobody’s safe or happy,” he said.

“(With complete street designs) we look at how we’ll accommodate the different modes – not necessarily on the right of way,” Kaiser said.

Janie O’Rourke, who has a degree in city planning, said during public comment, “Trinity Drive is a highway, but it’s not just a highway.  There are people living on both sides and there are businesses on both sides.”

O’Rourke also said, (using a complete street system means) “We will use the latest design, engineering and expertise to solve the problem.”

Councilor Nona Bowman said the language in the document was “too prescriptive.” Her example was how one of the plan’s objectives called for sidewalks that had “space for three walkers side-by-side.” She said, “Do you want this everywhere? If this goes into county code, people think it’s gospel.  I don’t think the community will accept it.”

Councilor Phelps  

agreed. He said, “I want to make sure they can’t force us to do things.  This is not a policy - these are standards. What I would like to see, if we move forward, is that we get very precise with our terminology.

Bohn said standards were intended to be flexible goals. “It’s a policy statement.  It gives us direction on how to proceed. It’s not a mandate or ordinance,” he said.

Stover said, “This document does not make that clear to the public.”

Council Vice Chair Michael Wismer said, “We can have the best design, but if it’s not communicated properly it will do no good.  Once you have a complete street design it’s equally important to tell the community the results.”

Wendy Swanson, a member of LA Walks, said, “I want to encourage people to get in the process early and not jump in at the last minute with negative comments.”

Councilor Sharon Stover made a motion that the committee must revise their street standards plan before it is approved. The motion passed 6-1.

Councilor Chiravalle voted against, saying he thought the standards were appropriate for specific areas, but not everywhere.

“If these standards were applied to White Rock I would be very happy,” he said. “It might create unsafe situations, especially for bicyclists.”