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New DPD Planning Director visits Beacon Hill

April 23rd, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Posted by Melissa Jonas

Marshall Foster

Marshall Foster is the new Planning Director of DPD Planning Department. Frederica Merrell chairs the ad-hoc planning subcommittee of the North Beacon Hill Council and worked on the 1999-2000 draft of the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan. She invited Foster to a subcommittee meeting on April 19 to introduce himself to the community, hear our thoughts, and share his perspective on urban planning.  Foster was professional and approachable as he discussed issues ranging from his personal background to some of the challenges in the 2009 Neighborhood Plan Update process.

A New Orleans native, Foster fell in love with the Northwest and moved to Seattle from Portland with his wife in 2006. They live in West Seattle with their two children. While in Portland, Foster volunteered with Southeast Uplift, an organization working to increase citizen participation in neighborhood planning. He is passionate about urban planning, in particular comprehensive planning that includes the needs and desires of communities for public safety and vibrant small businesses.

Foster sees the Department of Planning and Development as responsible for merging the requirements of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan with grassroots citizen involvement. The Comprehensive Plan is how the City manages the requirements of the WA State Growth Management Act.

After the meeting, I emailed Foster for more details about his philosophy and upcoming DPD events.

The SPUNC subcommittee charged DPD to look into changing zoning in a larger area around the station.  Will this change the timeline of the current station overlay plan?

“That’s correct –– we were asked to look more broadly at zoning options. We plan to work with the community to develop what we’re calling an ‘Urban Design Framework’ for each of the three neighborhoods. This document will integrate the issue of zoning with what I call ‘placemaking’ elements —  how we ensure safe and attractive streetscapes, buildings that activate the street, how we move forward with the open space connections and other community improvements described in the update. We expect this work will begin over the summer and wrap up by the end of the year.”

If you and your family lived on Beacon Hill, how would you like to see the vacant lots around the station used while we’re waiting for final zoning? Some neighborhood ideas include food carts, outdoor music, etc.

“I’d like to see creative things happen with the spaces that front on the sidewalk. I’ve spent a good bit of time in and around Beacon Ave S, and those large open parking areas detract from the community feel the street otherwise has and serves to split the business district. It would be wonderful to see some temporary uses like food carts lining the sidewalk there, to help knit the street together and give people a reason to spend time there. Perhaps also some temporary public art or temporary community uses. There is legislation moving forward that would allow and encourage these kinds of temporary uses, as well as allow commuter parking on a temporary basis. It’s a great opportunity.”

Could you summarize your goals regarding merging the comp plan with grassroots planning objectives?

“In general, the City’s Comprehensive Plan guides all of our planning work as a city. It outlines our strategy as a city to manage growth and ensure change enhances the quality of life in our neighborhoods. An important part of the Comp Plan is the Urban Centers / Urban Villages concept, which aims to channel growth to parts of the city with established infrastructure, transit, and community services. Beacon Hill is one of the city’s urban villages. With neighborhood planning, we need to bring that perspective to the table and be clear about what it means –– which is essentially that we need to offer more housing opportunities close to the new Beacon Hill light rail station, and balance it with what priorities we’re hearing from communities. On the whole, I think the goals of the Comprehensive Plan are consistent with much of what’s described in the neighborhood plans, which focus on ensuring we have the community infrastructure in place to make Beacon Hill a livable place. That perspective couldn’t be more important.”

How do DPD and DON (Department of Neighborhoods) interact with regards to neighborhood planning? Are there certain aspects that DON leads and others where DPD leads? Who are the contact people?

“DPD is ultimately responsible for delivering the planning work –– the Neighborhood Plan Update itself and the goals, policies and strategies that are intended to help implement the neigborhood plan vision. DON’s role is to design and facilitate a top-quality public outreach and engagement process to develop the plan, with an emphasis on engaging historically underrepresented communities. We work closely together as one team, and have made strides in terms of getting new voices, traditionally not at the table, to engage with the process. Lyle Bicknell is the overall Neighborhood Planning Manager at DPD, and Veronica Sherman-King, Director of Planning and Community-Building, is lead for DON.”

What can the Beacon Hill community expect over the next year of strategic planning meetings? Why should people be excited about participating?

“We’re at a very exciting point with neighborhood planning. With the broad goals established in the proposed updates, we’d like to work with the community to prioritize what we can do together over the next few years to implement the plan. We’re hosting a public meeting in May to start that discussion – Beacon Hill neighbors should be receiving postcards soon about it, but here are the details:”

Neighborhood Plan Update
Action Teams Kick-Off

In 2009 over 1,500 people helped plan the future of their
neighborhoods in North Beacon, North Rainier and Othello

Now it’s time to get things done.

Come help prioritize next steps and
sign up for project action teams.

Friday, May 14, 2010
6:00-7:45 pm
Asa Mercer Middle School
1600 S. Columbian Way

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
6:00-7:45 pm
Filipino Community Center
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S.

NORTH BEACON, NORTH RAINIER, and OTHELLO

We’ll bring resources from a range of city departments to talk about what we’re doing as a city and what the community believes is most important for us to focus on in Beacon Hill, Mt Baker and Othello. This is really where the rubber meets the road so to speak: how we can work together to prioritize what’s most important and take action.

Getting more involved

Some examples of how grassroots activists can become more involved in urban planning: participate in the independent Seattle Planning Commission (also on Facebook) or take advantage of the Comp Plan Update Public Involvement Opportunity, the “Seattle 2030 & Beyond” Challenge: In 150 words or less, describe your Seattle 2030 or Seattle 2050. Send your comments to DPD_CompPlan2030Vision@seattle.gov. For more information, see the public involvement page.

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