Safe Walk Routes for Schools/City's 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update

Good coverage by Publicola over the Mayor's huge Transportation levy and safe walk/bike routes for students. 
The group (Seattle Greenways) believes that upgrading walk sheds around the city’s 97 schools with bike and ped safety amenities will transform Seattle into a perambulatory paradise—not just for kids, but, by planning for kids’ safety, the strategy would simultaneously benefit everyone. Disappointed in the plan’s $7 million line item for Safe Routes to School, they called for $40 million.

Mayor Ed Murray spokesman Jason Kelly tells me that despite the $7 million line item listed in the presentation to council, the mayor’s plan actually spends $47 million on Safe Routes to School programs. Kelly says there’s $7 million in the levy, plus $33 million from school zone cameras and $7 million in grants that would complete one Safe Routes to School project at every Seattle public school.

Greenways director Cathy Tuttle says she’s well aware of the $47 million figure, but she says much of that—the $33 million from cameras—is already part of SDOT’s ongoing Safe Routes to School budget, levy or no levy. Tuttle says Seattle Greenways wants an additional $40 million in the levy proper, on top of the money that’s part of the regular budget. 

Specifically, Seattle Greenways wants the $40 million to fund a series of pedestrian upgrades—a $250,000 sidewalk reconfiguration at Eighth Avenue South near Concord Elementary, rapid flashing beacons for arterial crossings near Dearborn Park Elementary, and $350,000 worth of sidewalk blocks near Northgate Elementary, for example—in the mile walk sheds around 28 elementary schools where 75 percent or more of the students meet the free and reduced lunch standards. (Seattle Greenways has published a list of $21.4 million worth in projects at 10 specific low-income schools.)

However, Seattle Greenways’s $4.7 million to-do list for Northgate Elementary includes several other projects, including stop signs, speed bumps, sharrows, and flashing lights at arterial crossings. Seattle Greenways has a bigger project list than SDOT because, while Seattle Greenways is scoping out the mile walk shed around each school, SDOT is (literally) zooming in on fixes in the immediate vicinity of the schools.
The levy’s prioritization of Safe Routes to School projects will be based on the following criteria: percent of children eligible for free/reduced lunches, project scoring from the Pedestrian Master Plan, and collision data.
 SDOT’s list, by the way, also includes middle schools and high schools; Seattle Greenways’ does not.

Any thoughts?

Also, the City wants YOUR thoughts on their 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update. 

One HUGE thing to note is that the City may be under the mistaken impression that BEX IV is covering SPS' need for space.  (Cue laughter from parents and SPS school staff.) 

The latest Seattle Public Schools capital program, BEX IV, ensures adequate capacity to meet enrollment projections for the 2021/21 school year, 13 years short of the comprehensive plan update planning horizon of 2035 (Wolf 2014). Student enrollment would likely continue to grow as population increases in Seattle, affecting school capacity in the long run.
Because only 34 of 117 schools (30 percent) are located in urban villages where all alternatives propose the most population growth, demand for Seattle Public Schools transportation services would likely increase. Focusing growth near light rail stations under Alternative 3 and 4 would provide better transit access to middle schools and high schools. Focusing population growth in urban villages with deficient sidewalk infrastructure in or near school walking boundaries would increase potential safety risks, which may burden some families with driving children to school who could otherwise walk if sidewalks were available. Residential areas that currently lack sidewalks are mostly concentrated in Northwest Seattle and Northeast Seattle north of N 85th Street, Southeast Seattle, South Park and Arbor Heights.

Currently no policies direct the district to purchase new property or to increase capacity in schools within urban villages, with the exception of a possible investment in a downtown school, currently under exploration.

Call for input from the City:

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development has released for public comment a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update. This is a major milestone towards an update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan which plots a 20-year vision and roadmap for Seattle’s future growth and livability. The Draft EIS provides detailed information on various growth alternatives, their potential impacts to the environment, and proposed mitigation strategies. The City wants your voice to be heard as we refine strategies for accommodating growth for the benefit of all.

How to provide feedback on the Draft EIS:

Submit comments on the Draft EIS online, via email to, or in writing to:

City of Seattle, Department of Planning and Development
Attn: Gordon Clowers
700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000
PO Box 34019, Seattle, WA 98124

Comments must be postmarked no later than June 18, 2015.


Patrick said…
Why should safe routes to school depend on household income?
TheGoodFight said…
Patrick, it's the Seattle way. If you wrap it up with the bow of poverty it's politically toxic to oppose it. I will see that Viewlands is on the top of the list of schools that gets street upgrades. Northgate has needs also, but not as pressing as Viewlands. Both schools are title one schools, but Viewlands is in the Broadview area where we are all millionaires, (ya right) so it's not as attractive to the politicos.
I haven't been able to look at this thoroughly but I hope there something in there for Cedar Park Elementary which is rapidly looking like the least favored child in the district's family. It's going to be more a portable shanty town than a real school AND was drawn to take in a lot F/RL from John Rogers and Olympic Hills AND no sidewalks.
TheGoodFight said…
You have to wonder how effective a deterrent is when you base your operations funding off of the fines the deterrent generates. Similar to the anti-automobile groups funding transit off of fees associated with cars. If they are successful in the plan to remove cars, then eventually they kill their funding. Then it's back to the old property tax piggy bank....again. In reality pro transit groups know it will be many decades before automobiles numbers are even reduced, look around and see just how much of our economy is automobile industry driven, but Seattle will be happy to keep trying make cars a luxury for the rich.
TheGoodFight said…
I just looked at the SPS Director District I map posted on the SPS web site (2012 date) and do not see Cedar Park listed.

This is from the ST-
Once Artwood residents have vacated by March 1, the district will renovate the campus while keeping its landmarked architectural shell intact. It will house Olympic Hills Elementary students starting in the summer of 2015 until their own campus renovation is finished. Steve Cole, Seattle Public Schools project manager, says he expects Cedar Park School to become its own elementary once again by the end of 2017.

MW are you accusing SPS of gerrymandering to concentrate FRL students at Cedar Park? and that's not corrupt? "Our school district is not corrupt nor is it run by venal people." Are you flip flopping or did you just forget?
Anonymous said…
Surely there can be other reasons that it was drawn this way (size, walk zones), and the problem is that the district is lazily/incompetently not thinking big picture about this attendance area and the problems with the way it is drawn. It doesn't have to be corruption or a conspiracy. It can just be incompetence.

Anonymous said…

Here is the BEX link for Cedar Park. It is planned to open in fall 2017.

Here is a draft map of the boundaries- not sure if it is still accurate.

kellie said…
The decision to re-open Cedar Park and the decision to make Cedar Park a long-term attendance area school, were two separate decisions made at completely different times and for different purposes. The challenge for Cedar Park is a result of those two separate sets of decisions colliding.

Decision #1 was a Facilities and Capital Planning Decision (2012)
At the end of BEX 4, after the whole process was set and packaged for the voters, it became clear that there was not enough interim capacity for the BEX plan to work. SPS secured a $10M grant from the State of Washington to re-open Cedar Park as an INTERIM location. The $10 M was enough to get it open, but not nearly enough to turn it into a modern school.

When re-opened, Cedar Park will NOT have space for a library and 50% of the classrooms will be in the portables. This is not a great set up, but it is adequate for a short term location.

Decision #2 was an Enrollment and Assignment Policy Decision (2013)
Then during the growth boundaries process, it was determined that they could NOT draw boundaries for elementary schools in NE Seattle because there was simply not enough capacity, even with the new building at Thornton Creek AND the expansion at Olympic Hills. At that point, the decision was made to draw boundaries for Cedar Park and make it a permanent long term school.

Decision #1 plus Decision #2 - Consequences
As these decisions were "siloed" decisions, not corrupt or venal decisions, as the Good Fight implied, there were some unintended consequences.

* The attendance area boundaries include two extensive low income housing projects, thereby making the future school potentially 90% FRL.
* The change of the building status from INTERIM to PERMANENT was done outside of any financial conversations, therefore there is no additional capital funding to update the building.

The result - a decision to put a mostly FRL student population into a building which does not meet current ed specs.
kellie said…
The EIS from the City of Seattle regarding school capacity is an interesting snapshot about "ensuring adequate capacity."

The 2015 City of Seattle Report is referencing a 2012 Seattle Public School report. Typically, school enrollment does not change drastically in three years, so it is very plausible that the City of Seattle thinks this document is adequately current. However, Seattle is the fastest growing city in the US so .... a three year old document is unlikely to current.

The record documents for the BEX 4 vote had a 2020 estimated enrollment of about 56,000 students. With BEX 4 providing a potential capacity buffer of up to 2,000 seats. This is about a 3% buffer.

I guess you can call 3% adequate. However, it hardly merits an "ensures."

More critically, there is nothing to in the EIS to determine if the school capacity in the right locations for the planned growth in Seattle. While enrollment growth has been overall in line with expectations the location of the enrollment growth has not been as expected. Growth is continuing to exceed expectations in the areas where there is already a shortfall.

Anonymous said…
Re: Cedar Park

The map posted by "sleeper" is an out-dated version of the Cedar Park attendance area map. Unfortunately, none of growth boundaries-related links appear to have been restored on the new SPS website, so I am unable to link the updated version. In the newer version, the Cedar Park/Olympic Hills boundary has been moved east, to 30th Ave NE, and the Cedar Park/John Rogers boundary was moved south, to 120th Street.

The new Cedar Park boundaries align almost perfectly with the largest density of ELL-eligible students north of the Ship Canal (I would post a link to the ELL map, but that link is broken, as well). Cedar Park will take students living in the Little Brook neighborhood (high poverty/high immigrant neighborhood currently served by Olympic Hills), as well as Lake City Court (low income family housing, currently served by John Rogers). There will be many split siblings/families when Cedar Park comes online as a neighborhood school. This will certainly be a hardship for these families, most of whom cannot provide private transportation.

As Kellie pointed out, the Cedar Park building, after renovations to re-open it, will not have a dedicated library space. The plan for Olympic Hills, in interim at Cedar Park, is to use one classroom space (about 900 sq ft) as a library. This is about half the size of the current John Rogers, Olympic Hills, and Thornton Creek libraries. The "modulars" (which is what they are calling the portables) will be permanently-sited on foundations. They will have shed roofs, instead of gable roofs, as specified by the Landmarks Preservation Board, in keeping with the mid-century modern style of the building.

The "modulars" might look better than typical portables, but they will be lacking sinks and drinking fountains, as specified in the ed specs for an elementary school. In other words, they will be nicer-looking, but not functional as an elementary school classroom for long-term use.

The 8 modular classrooms are meant to bring the capacity of the building to 400. There are no plans that I have heard of to expand the core facilities (lunchroom, bathrooms, etc...) to accommodate that many kids, nor are their apparently plans to do interior renovations to make a decent-sized library or put classroom sinks in the modulars.

Cedar Park is being set up as a school in surge capacity-mode, from day one.

Olympic Hills will be there in interim (2015-16 and 2016-17), prior to Cedar Park opening as an attendance area school, and it will be a very tight squeeze for their 300 kids. It doesn't seem feasible to cram 400 kids at Cedar Park, and allow for the support spaces needed for a high-needs population.

As far as Safe Routes to School, their are no sidewalks on many of the streets surrounding Cedar Park, and the ones that do exist are very narrow and broken, so there are no "safe" routes to any school in the Lake City area. Thankfully, the Cedar Park walk zone has been re-drawn so that kids on the west side of LCW will receive transportation, but there are still very dangerous crossings on 35th Ave NE and NE 125th St. Some Greenways projects are in the early planning stages, and may help.

As Kellie points out, none of this was probably intentional, but a simple overlay of the Cedar Park boundaries with either a FRL or ELL heat map would have been been very helpful during the BEXIV/ Growth Boundaries planning process.

- North-end Mom
Joe Wolf said…
The decision to use Cedar Park as an attendance area school is tied to the SDAT/campus planning work and outcome for the new Thornton Creek campus.

Initially this new campus was intended to be an attendance area school, with Thornton Creek remaining in its current facilities. That scenario was not acceptable to the neighborhood. The compromise reached was to move Thornton Creek into the new BEX IV facility.

This compromise left us with a deficit in NE Seattle of ~400 seats. That situation led to the decision to open Cedar Park as an attendance area school.

For the record:

- Analysis by Enrollment Planning shows the new Olympic Hills and Cedar Park boundaries have basically the same FRL % - about 73%.

- Capital Planning is well aware of the ways in which the Cedar Park campus does not meet the current elementary ed specs. We're evaluating their situation/needs in the context of the needs of all our campuses in the planning for the BTA IV levy.
NW mom said…
Thanks for the info Joe. Can I ask, what will be done with the current Thornton Creek building? The BEX IV facility will be a brand new building, correct?

Joe Wolf said…
Response to NW Mom:

- Thornton Creek (current facility): In Summer 2016 the portables will be either demo'ed or relocated for Capacity Management use at other sites, depending on their condition. No use for the permanent "old Decatur ES" building has been determined.

- The BEX IV facility for Thornton Creek is all brand new.
NW mom said…
Thank you Joe! I appreciate your sharing info on this blog.
Anonymous said…
Isn't it wonderful that the NIMBY's in View Ridge, concerned about the number of busses on their street, got to dictate that those Cedar Park kids get sent to a portable farm in a sub standard building (granted the Decatur bldg is also falling apart)? Way to look out for yourselves neighbors!

NE Neighbor
Anonymous said…
@Joe Wolf

"- Analysis by Enrollment Planning shows the new Olympic Hills and Cedar Park boundaries have basically the same FRL % - about 73%."

Have you done similar analyses for John Rogers, Sacajawea and Olympic View (post 2017 boundary changes)?

73% FRL seems low for Cedar Park, considering the high density, low income neighborhoods being drawn into the school, and the tendency for more affluent families to avoid higher FRL schools.

For Cedar Park, was this a hypothetical total resident student analysis, where it is assumed that all students living in the area will attend their neighborhood school?

What percentage of non-FRL students currently living within the Cedar Park boundaries attend their neighborhood schools (John Rogers or Olympic Hills)? What percentage go to option schools, like Hazel Wolf? What percentage go across 145th to Shoreline schools? What percent go to private schools (one just opened in the Cedar Park attendance area)? Were these trends factored into the calculated FRL percentage for Cedar Park?

I understand that the FRL percentage for Olympic Hills will probably not change significantly, since they are losing one area of low-income housing (Little Brook and a big chunk of the Olympic Hills neighborhood) and gaining low-income neighborhoods like Pinehurst, currently assigned to Olympic View and Sacajawea, as well as taking a portion of the Northgate AA.

Right now, the FRL/ELL population of the Lake City/Northgate area is shared between five schools (John Rogers, Olympic Hills, Olympic View, Northgate, and Sacajawea).

In 2017, after Cedar Park opens and the boundaries change, the bulk of the FRL/ELL kids will be assigned to only 3 schools (Cedar Park, Olympic Hills, and Northgate).

How is this OK, other than that it will keep the area option and private schools full?

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
North-end Mom:
Which private school just opened in Cedar Park attendance area?

I see St. Matthew's up there but that has been there for awhile.

Anonymous said…
I am guessing it's Laurel Academy on 35th by the Fred Meyer.
We are a family assigned to Olympic Hills, entering K this year. Under the new boundary plans, we will be assigned to Cedar Park once it opens as a permanent school. Partly because of this, we have decided to enroll our child somewhere else.

Incoming K in NE
But Joe, it is true that Cedar Park would not have as high a F/RL if they weren't drawing off John Rogers, no?

Incoming K, if I were in your position, I might do the same thing.

I would expect to see the same amount/kind of support for Cedar Park as say, when the district opened McDonald. Let's see if that happens.
Anonymous said…
@ HP

I was referring to Laurel Academy. It is located within in the future Cedar Park attendance area.

- North-end Mom
Joe Wolf said…
All: Any additional context regarding the FRL %s needs to be obtained from/asked by you of the Enrollment Planning team directly. I'm just the messenger on that data.

If you have questions about capacity and related please direct them to me at Thanks.

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