Shoreline walkway gap between Edgar and Hamlin street-ends

Opportunity from NOW until Feb. 22, 2019 to rate possible City transportation funding for connecting the shoreline walkway gap between the Edgar and Hamlin street-ends, on the east side of Lake Union. The Seattle Department of Transportation’s selection of projects for the Neighborhood Street Fund occurs just once every three years. The only project in Eastlake that SDOT is considering in the current funding cycle is this shoreline connection. The Eastlake Community Council board of directors has endorsed this project for funding.

This project will happen only if the many people who would benefit from it voice their support in the on-line rating process which has just begun and will end on Feb. 22; and in an on-line voting process which will be held in April and May. The final funding decision will be made later in the year by SDOT and its Levy Oversight Committee.

Whether you support or oppose this project, please give it your rating on-line by clicking here or here. You will be asked to give an e-mail address and password. While optional, it will help a lot if you also give your name and street address, street, or neighborhood.

In the online process, start by scrolling to District 4 (there are seven City Council districts), as you will be rating this project in comparison with others in District 4. When you find the list of projects, click on the project number and title : “2019-5, Lake Union shoreline pedestrian and bicycle connection along the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop.” You will taken to a summary and the words “What do you think?” in big print. You then have a choice of rating the project anywhere between “low” and “high” priority, and to make a written comment.

The only way to provide a rating other than on-line is by attending one of the two SDOT District 4 public meetings -– EITHER Mon., Feb., 6-7:30 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N Seattle, WA 98103 OR Mon., Feb. 11, 7-7:30 p.m. at the Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public Library, 6801 35th Ave. N.E. Seattle, WA 98115. Your rating there will count the same as if you had provided it on-line. You may also make a brief comment for others at the meeting to hear.

For questions, suggestions, or to volunteer, please contact the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org.

HISTORICAL AND DESIGN BACKGROUND FOR RE-ESTABLISHING A WALKING AND BICYCLE SHORELINE ROUTE BETWEEN THE EDGAR AND HAMLIN STREET-ENDS NEAR OR ON THE FAIRVIEW AVENUE EAST RIGHT-OF-WAY.

One of Seattle’s worst barriers facing pedestrians and bicyclists is the lack of a shoreline connection between E. Edgar Street and Fairview Avenue East, in and near Mallard Cove. Current signage along the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop directs pedestrians and bicyclists to use the named alley (Yale Terrace East) between Edgar and Hamlin Streets. This alley lacks space for sidewalks, and is so steep at either end that drivers of motor vehicles at several points along the alley in both directions, or approaching it from the south, cannot see the roadway for even a few feet ahead.

Caption for photo to be added: Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop on Yale Terrace E. (a named alley), seen from the rise facing south to E. Edgar St. The intersection with E. Hamlin St. is behind the photographer, downhill. In the distance, note the extreme steepness of the rise to the E. Edgar St. intersection. To the immediate left is a driveway connecting to parking for several businesses. At the alley’s lowest point on the left (not visible in this photo) is the only garage entrance for a large office building.

Pedestrians and bicyclists who use the block of the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop that is on Yale Terrace East are at some points completely invisible to motor vehicles, and at some points also unable to see the approaching vehicle. Worsening the danger to pedestrians and bicyclists are driveways on both sides of this block of Yale Terrace including one that is the only route into or out of the parking garage and loading dock of a large office building.

On this designated City pedestrian and bicycle route, pedestrians and bicyclists are at extreme risk. The only north-south alternative to pedestrians and bicyclists is to use Eastlake Avenue E., a route that requires them to further climb or descend on the steep E. Edgar Street and the even steeper E. Hamlin Street. The Eastlake Avenue route also takes Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop users far from the shoreline and indeed any visual connection to Lake Union.

Using either the Yale Terrace E. route or the Eastlake Avenue route for pedestrian or bicycle passage is unsafe, inconvenient, and topographically daunting. For pedestrians, it is also far too steep to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Indeed, this is the only segment of the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop that is so steep, and that is not within sight of the lake.

Shoreline connection would be shorter and safer. The above-mentioned routes are poor substitutes for a shoreline connection that, in contrast, would require little hill-climbing and would not expose pedestrians and bicyclists to traffic danger. The shoreline connection would also be much shorter, allowing level travel on the one block between Edgar and Hamlin streets in contrast to an extra two to four blocks of hilly travel of the alternatives.

Caption for photo to be added: Aerial view (dated about 1995; north is up) of the vicinity showing the property lines. At lower center is the apartment house at 100 E. Edgar Street (with black dot). Just to its south is E. Edgar Street, which connects over water with Fairview Avenue East (which runs diagonally north and south) and its shoreline street end. Most of the private marina that, by SDOT permit, serves 100 E. Edgar is on public SDOT right-of-way (both Edgar and Fairview, partly on land and partly over water. Also, part of the private parking lot that serves 100 E. Edgar is on E. Edgar Street right-of-way. [Note: this image predates the rebuilding of the marina and retaining wall.]

Caption for photo to be added: A more recent aerial view (dated about 2013; north is up) of the vicinity showing the property lines. The new retaining wall can now be seen. At lower center is the apartment house at 100 E. Edgar Street. Red diagonal line indicates the shortest distance on land between E. Edgar St. and Fairview Avenue East. As discussed in the accompanying text, this connection could be made entirely on the Edgar and Fairview rights of way, or partially on the property of 100 E. Edgar St.

Historic shoreline pedestrian and bicycle public access between E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. E. was first closed in 1957. Dating back to the earliest Native American period, pedestrian access was traditionally available along the shoreline north from the E. Edgar Street-end to Fairview Avenue East. In 1896, shoreline pathway access for bicycles as well was improved with a path that in the ensuring years was extended completely surrounding Lake Union for pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

Unfortunately, bicycle and pedestrian access along the shoreline through this site was abruptly terminated in 1957 with construction of an apartment building at 100 E. Edgar Street and with SDOT’s issuance to the apartment owners of a permit for a private marina located largely on the land and water portions of the adjacent City-owned Edgar and Fairview rights of way.

City begins efforts for reconnection in the early 1970s. Seattle’s efforts to reopen the shoreline connection at this site began in the 1970s, with City Council designation of a Lake Union Bikeway. In 1972, Washington’s Shoreline Management Act became law with strong requirements for public access, and allowing local governments to require shoreline access pathways as a condition for allowing new buildings and uses in the shoreline zone. The new state shorelines law specifically freed public pathways from restrictions and processes that other projects might face in the shoreline zone.

Among the earliest actions by the newly formed Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board was to engage in planning to reconnect bicycle and pedestrian public access through this site. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Board, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the City Council, and a series of mayors made intense but sporadic and unsuccessful efforts toward that end. These efforts included the 1980 Ordinance 108775, which appropriated $233,715 (much of it reimbursed from state and federal funds) to complete preliminary engineering and construction of part of the Lake Union Bikeway, including as specified in the Oct. 22, 1979 mayoral letter presenting the ordinance to the City Council, “construction of a water level segment at Mallard Cove north of East Roanoke Street.”

Shoreline bicycle and pedestrian public access between Edgar and Roanoke streets is closed in 1992. In the block from Edgar south to Roanoke Street, the traditional public shoreline trail for bicyclists and pedestrians continued into the 1990s (see photo to be added). The City obtained a written agreement with the owner of the Mallard Cove apartments and houseboat moorages for a perpetual easement for the shoreline pathway if negotiations with SDOT (then known as the Seattle Engineering Department) could be completed by 1990. Unfortunately, it does not appear that any serious negotiation occurred, and this deadline passed without the City securing public shoreline pathway access along this block.

Caption for photo to be added: Photo is of the Edgar street-end, facing NW. The private marina is partly on-land and underwater portions of E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. East. The gated steps on the right are on the property of the adjacent apartment building at 100 E. Edgar.

A new owner of the Mallard Cove apartments and houseboat moorages soon proposed townhouses to replace the apartments. During consideration of the permits for the proposed development, the Eastlake Community Council and the Cascade Bicycle Club asked City officials to condition approval of the project on reopening of the bicycle and pedestrian pathway between Edgar and Roanoke streets. In a 1991 letter to the Cascade Bicycle club, Seattle Engineering Department director Gary Zarker stated; “The Engineering Department is willing to reexamine alternative routes through this area, but believes any decisions regarding Master Use Permit #9000520 must be made first. When DCLU has made a final decision, we will look at improving or providing additional bicycle and pedestrian routes.”

In 1992, the Mallard Cove property owner prohibited the public from using the traditional bicycle and pedestrian shoreline pathway (shown in the photo to be provided below), and closed and fenced off the stairway at the north end by E. Edgar Street. Later in 1992, the Department of Construction and Land Use (today known as the Department of Construction and Inspections) approved the Mallard Cove project without requiring a shoreline public access pathway between Roanoke and Edgar streets. Instead, this block of Yale Avenue East (on the east edge of the redevelopment project) was required to be widened with a sidewalk installed on one side (the west side); and a small public viewing platform on the northeast corner of the building site.

Caption for photo to be added: In a photo taken in about 1990 from E. Edgar St. facing southwest, a bicyclist uses the public stairs and pathway that once followed the Lake Union shoreline between Edgar and Roanoke streets. SDOT did not pursue an easement to protect this public access, and DCI did not require it as condition for the shoreline/master use permit for the site’s redevelopment. The landowner closed and fenced off this traditional bicycle and pedestrian route in 1992.

Eastlake neighborhood planning (1994-99) calls for re-establishing the Edgar-Fairview missing link. In 1994, the Eastlake Transportation Plan and Related Design Issues (available in the column at right) was completed by the Eastlake Community Council in cooperation with the Seattle Department of Transportation, with assistance from the Neighborhood Matching Fund. About half of the plan focused on Fairview Avenue East and (15 years before the City’s Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan) the proposed re-establishment of the historic shoreline bicycle and pedestrian route on the east side of Lake Union.

The 1994 plan identified the missing link between Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. E. as an important priority. Given later the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop plan’s 2009 proposal for an overwater bridge on the Fairview Avenue East right-of-way, the 1994 Eastlake Transportation Plan’s two paragraphs of cautionary language about that idea are instructive (pp. 57-58):

“Because of landowner resistance to a shoreline pedestrian and bicycle connector along the shore of Mallard Cove, proposals for establishing the connection on the Fairview Avenue right-of-way in the Cove between Roanoke Street and Hamlin Street are regularly voiced by neighborhood residents. Most of this public right-of-way is under water; it could be utilized with a floating walkway similar to the one now spanning Waterway No. 8 in front of the Steam Plant. Any such bridge structure would need to provide for passage of watercraft, with one possibility being a hand-operated drawbridge such as can be found in the Netherlands. Such a structure would benefit pedestrians and bicyclist and might qualify for state or federal funds.”

“However, many questions remain as to the cost and safety of a floating walkway across Mallard Cove, and whether it would interfere with navigation and with the privacy of nearby houseboaters. In fact, even the draft plan’s suggestion for more study of the idea was met with strong resistance from the association of Mallard Cove floating homeowners, whose letter urged that the Eastlake Transportation Plan ’should not be used to destroy each other’s security, safety and privacy as this proposal does. It makes no sense and further study will at best divide the community into hostile camps.’ The letter also warned of the expense of construction, the need for a full time bridge tender, City liability for falls, blockage of emergency service, and harm to privacy and security. Residents of the Roanoke Reef houseboats have also expressed opposition. One interesting issue that has been raised is whether legal objections to the blockage of watercraft and shoreline access may supersede the City’s right to place a structure on its right-of-way.”

The 1994 Eastlake Transportation Plan continued with the following two paragraphs urging a focus on connecting the Edgar street-end northward to the land-based right-of-way of Fairview Avenue East (p. 58):

“It would be possible to close the gap entirely on public rights-of-way by connecting up to the submerged Fairview right-of-way, a route that the apartment owner once resisted out of concern for loss of water access. A completely land-based route would need an easement across a small corner of land owned by the property owner, who rejected past City approaches. A solution to this situation would be for the City, a generous private purchaser, or a nonprofit organization like the Trust for Public Land, to buy the apartment property, install the Edgar-Fairview connection or assure an easement for one, and then resell the property. Such transactions are becoming increasingly common as the importance of public access is being recognized, especially in shoreline areas. We suggest that the City explore this possible purchase, either directly or in cooperation with a nonprofit organization. This recommendation was endorsed by 63 percent on the response form on the draft transportation plan.”

Solving the Edgar-Fairview missing link was also identified as a priority in the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan (available in column at right), whose public survey found that connecting the Edgar street-end with Fairview Avenue E. north to Hamlin St. received “strong” support from 44.4 %, while another 29.6% said they “somewhat” supported this proposal, and only 6.2% were either “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed. In other words, 75% of those surveyed supported connecting the Edgar street-end with Fairview Avenue E. north to Hamlin St.; and when those who had no opinion were excluded from the totals, over 90% of those responding supported it.

1999 legislation makes solving this missing link an SDOT and DCI priority. The Mayor and a unanimous City Council by Resolution 29932 (April 12, 1999) approved and adopted the Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, and in the Approval and Adoption matrix attached to the resolution, they designated SDOT and DCI (called SEATRAN and DCLU in those days) as the lead agencies (p. 22) for the following activity, which was designated as “high priority”: “OS-12.2: Study through a public process that includes affected property owners, a pedestrian path connecting Fairview Avenue. E. just north of Mallard Cove and the upper Edgar Street end. If this process is inconclusive, study other routes, including an over-water route that follows the Fairview Ave. right-of-way through Mallard Cove.”

Ordinance 119322 (Dec. 14, 1998), amended the Seattle Comprehensive Plan in accordance with the Eastlake Neighborhood Plan. Section 1(B) of that ordinance states: “The Eastlake Plan goals and policies, as shown in Attachment 2 to this Ordinance, are hereby incorporated into the Neighborhood Plans volume of the Comprehensive Plan.” One of the transportation policies enacted in this way is the following: “Seek to implement the City’s Urban Trail system within this neighborhood by completing pedestrian connections.”

Res. 29932 directed that implementation of this Comprehensive Plan policy ( “Seek to implement the City’s Urban Trail system within this neighborhood by completing pedestrian connections.”) should give particular urgency for implementing the Edgar-Hamlin pathway connection. It did so by the following language in the approval and adoption matrix that was attached to Res. 29932 that adopted the Eastlake Neighborhood plan: “Council affirms the Executive Comments on the Fairview Shoreline Corridor activities, with the following addition: For activity OS 12.2: In seeking to implement Eastlake Comprehensive Plan Policy E17, which reads ‘Seek to implement the City’s urban trail system within this neighborhood by completing pedestrian connections,’ particular attention should be given to the gap in the Lake Union Trail extending from the Edgar Street-end north to Hamlin Street along the Fairview Avenue East right-of-way.”

Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan (2009). The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation and the Seattle Department of Transportation jointly and with the assistance of the Seattle Parks Foundation, issued the 2009 Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan (available in column at right). The master plan identifies as a priority a shoreline connection in the Mallard Cove area, with the general recommendation (p. 55) to “Initiate future process with stakeholders, local community to further explore both upland and over-water options.”

Options listed in the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop Master Plan (p. 103) include (1) “connection between E. Edgar Street and the north end of the submerged Fairview Avenue E. right-of-way”; (2) “redevelopment of parking on Fairview right-of-way at end of Hamlin Street to provide pedestrian path continuation (6’ minimum)”; and/or (3) “an over-water route utilizing a water funicular/cable ferry in the Fairview right-of-way…or a bridge structure.”

The Cheshiahud Master Plan’s Appendices contain extensive summaries of comments received from the public in writing, at public open houses, and at advisory committee meetings. Many of these comments voice the strong concerns of pedestrians and bicyclists about danger and inconvenience from the current lack of a shoreline bicycle and walking route from E. Edgar St. north to Fairview Avenue E. Some comments also consist of equally strong objections by a smaller number of nearby residents to any shoreline route. Also in the appendix volume are three pages of technical information regarding the cable ferry option that would span 600 feet of the underwater Fairview Avenue E. right-of-way between E. Roanoke St. and landfall south of E. Hamlin St.

Seattle Bicycle Master Plan (2014). This plan identifies 27 “Catalytic Projects,” defined as “located at significant choke points in the network that pose challenges to implementation due to infrastructure physical constraints. Completion of these projects will significantly reduce barriers and increase safety by creating a connected all ages and abilities network to the maximum extent feasible. These projects are likely to be expensive, but are very important for network connectivity.”

The Bicycle Master plan’s Chapter 4 , “Bicycle Network,” identifies on a map on p. 43 the “Cheshiahud Loop: Mallard Cove connection” as one of the “Catalyst Projects.” The plan’s appendix ends with details on the 27 “Catalyst projects.” In a section entitled “About the Cheshiahud Loop: Mallard Cove connection,” the appendix describes the location as “Fairview Ave. E. between E. Hamlin St. and Edgar St.” and provides the following description: “A floating bridge or other innovative ideas over or around Mallard Cove would make this connection along the shoreline and provide a scenic facility on Lake Union. The existing Cheshiahud Loop routes bicyclists through a steep connection of streets and alleys.”

SDOT proactive planning and design needed. In the years since SDOT was directed by City Council Resolution 29932 to proactively solve the missing pedestrian and bicycle shoreline link between E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. E., SDOT has not yet taken on this role. Instead, in 2009 SDOT permitted the expansion of the private marina at 100 E. Edgar St. which SDOT has long permitted on the E. Edgar Street and Fairview Avenue E. rights of way. It is urgent now that SDOT engage in the proactive planning and design to at last establish this missing shoreline connection, thus providing safety and convenience to the pedestrian and bicycle users of the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop.

Design options. Those who wish for reconnection of this missing link but are new to the issue can quickly imagine the solution as a bridge or ferry on the underwater Fairview Avenue E. right-of-way that extends north about 600 feet from E. Roanoke Street past the E. Edgar St. right-of-way, making landfall about half a block south of E. Hamlin Street. On closer examination, however, this option faces a host of problems, most notably an astronomical cost of construction; and (as was recommended in the 1994 Eastlake Transportation Plan) it seems best put off from further consideration unless lower-cost alternatives are found to be infeasible.

Caption for photo to be added: This photo (taken on the Fairview Ave. E. ROW, facing SE shows the 2009 expansion of the private marina and the retaining wall that SDOT permitted on the E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. public rights of way.

Connecting the E. Edgar street-end north to the Fairview Avenue East right-of-way on and near dry land that is south of the E. Hamlin street-end seems the most inexpensive and least disruptive solution to this missing link. The least City construction cost would be incurred if the owners of 100 E. Edgar St. were to provide the City an easement across the SW corner of their property, allowing access by bicyclists and pedestrians without interfering with the private marina that these same owners currently enjoy by city permit on the E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. E. land and water rights-of-way.

Alternatively, reconnecting the missing link can also be done entirely on SDOT’s E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. E. rights-of-way. The City could install pilings or a float to support a short overwater connection (partly on land and partly under water between these two rights-of way. This step would possibly involve an end to the private marina permit, which under its terms the City can cancel without cause with just a few months’ notice.

The Seattle Municipal Code directs that private permits not be allowed to block important public uses of the shoreline. The 1999 Ordinance 119673 directs that SDOT, in considering permits for the private use, must recognize “As to shoreline street ends, their purpose to provide the public with visual or physical access to the water and the shoreline.” In the many decades in which SDOT has annually renewed the 100 E. Edgar St. property’s permit for a private marina on the E. Edgar St. and Fairview Ave. E. rights of way, SDOT does not seem to have considered the foregone public access presupposed by this private permit.

Caption for photo to be added: This segment of the Fairview Ave. E. right-of-way is partly on land and partly under water. Photographer faces SE from a part of the Fairview Avenue E. ROW that is entirely on land and is now being used for public parking.

Less disruptively for the adjacent property owner, the existing floating dock could be converted to become part of the public shoreline pathway; all that would be required are similar floating docks connecting each end to land at the E. Edgar street end and to the north at the Fairview Avenue E. right-of-way. To induce the 100 E. Edgar St. marina permit owners to give up some of the public space close to shore, the City could offer to extend their marina further out into the Edgar and Fairview rights-of-way, thus keeping their marina spaces whole (and still secured with a security gate), while reconnecting the historic blockage for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Funding sources. Reconnection of this missing link is so important, and has for so long (45+ years) been recognized in City planning efforts, that the City government simply must find the funds (including from state and federal sources, as was originally intended by the 1980 Ord. 108775)) to make it happen. The connection is currently being considered for funding via the Neighborhood Street Fund, which is available only for projects that involve SDOT right-of-way. Another possible source is the City’s Americans with Disabilities Act fund, as the current pedestrian route upland has steep slopes that violate ADA standards.

A further funding possibility is SDOT’s Shoreline Street-ends Fund, whose revenues come from permit fees for private use of street-ends (including for the private marina that is partly on the land and water parts of the E. Edgar street-end). The 1999 Ordinance 119673 directs that the revenues from permit fees be used, among other purposes, for “City-funded street and sidewalk improvements within a half-block radius of any of the 149 shoreline street ends identified in this legislation that directly contribute to public access to the shoreline street end.”

Nothing would better promote public access to the shoreline than if the Shoreline Street Ends Fund were to enable improvements in the E. Edgar Street-end that would contribute to solving the bicycle/pedestrian missing link to its north that arose in 1957 with the apartment construction at 100 E. Edgar Street. And the language just quoted from Ord. 119673 does not require that such funds be spent only on the Edgar Street-end. So long as the spending is “within a half-block radius,” it could be spent on the adjacent Fairview Avenue East right-of-way (which although technically a shoreline street-end, is not among the 149 that are mentioned by Ord. 119673).

Probably the Shoreline Street Ends Fund could also be drawn on for purchasing a small easement from the 100 E. Edgar St. property owners. It would seem that such an easement (or if not an easement, an outright purchase of a small piece of land) could be considered a “street or sidewalk improvement”.

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