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Gridlock In The Making - An Update

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• Topics: Bellingham, Planning, Business,

Ali Taysi, a land use consultant and founder of AVT Consulting, hosted a neighborhood meeting on June 1st to present the plans for a project they are promoting, Samish View, a 118-unit apartment building on the parcel next to the Samish Way Elks Club. (My previous article on this project can be found here.) Taysi also happens to be the president of the city’s Planning Commission, although the permit process for this project will not involve recommendations from that commission. Six Samish Neighborhood residents “attended” a Zoom meeting; among them were three members of the Samish Neighborhood Board and the head of the Elks Lodge.

Samish Way, looking south.
Samish Way, looking south.

Many of the questions revealed concerns about traffic and parking. The developers’ representatives were attentive to the concerns although some aspects of the traffic issues were beyond the scope of the meeting. One of the main issues was the steep egress (8% according to the developer) from the property’s parking areas and the concomitant problem of sight lines to the north and south along Samish Way. (See artist’s rendering above.) The reps were somewhat aware of this issue and indicated that cars exiting the complex would have sufficient space to move up to the fog line on a level surface to maximize the sight lines north and south. This brought on a discussion of the speeds of vehicles on Samish Way, an arterial with a 35-mph speed limit. The consensus among all was that cars regularly drive in excess of the speed limit, often up to 50-mph. The reps agreed to bring the issue up to the city but pointed out that the developer was not responsible for the speed issue.

Attention was also called to the six parking spaces planned for the front of the building along Samish Way and problems that might arise due to insufficient space to pull out of the line of 35 - 50 mph traffic to parallel park. Suggestions were also made that the parking spaces in front include a loading zone that is marked as such by the city, and a prohibition on parking for more than a few hours, since the developer’s intention is to have these spaces for in-out deliveries, taxis, etc. Additionally, this short-term parking, if not planned correctly could limit views for traffic exiting the parking areas.

Samish Way, looking north.
Samish Way, looking north.

The project will allow for about 116-118 parking spaces (one for each unit) on site with no guest parking to speak of. The head of the Elks Lodge was concerned about overflow parking when guests do arrive and the controls that would be placed on overflows. Ali Taysi of AVT Consulting responded that the best way to work out this issue would be through direct discussions with the property manager once the project is built and a manager is hired. The plan includes space that is intended for covered bicycle parking & storage on the lower level, which sounds like a well-intentioned effort to encourage bicycle transit to campus or downtown.

A question arose as to the plans for “affordable” units within the development. Taysi said the units would be offered at market rate. He further stated that the units would be relatively less costly to rent in that all were studios. He offered no estimate of monthly rents but the project will probably not be ready for tenants for a year or two, during which time rental prices may change. Several participants also asked if there would be “doubling up” in the units in an attempt by the renters to cut costs. Taysi said he doubted very much that two people could live in one studio as the average unit size of 350 sq. ft. (about 18 ft. X 20 ft.) would be dissuasive. He also indicated that marketing would be to the general populace and not specifically to students.

Since this permit process is done under a part of the city code, an administrative decision by the planning director is all that is required for approval. In the coming weeks and months the developer will submit the required documentation and at some point the Planning Department will give Notice of Completed Application. At that point, a public comment period of 14 days will begin.

Comments by Readers

Robert Bystrom

Jun 08, 2020

Ah,  yes.  Regarding parking problems, it’s the old “wait until the project is built and we have hired a new manager and you can talk directly with that person.”  Of course, why should we concern ourselves with the small detail of parking spaces before then?

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Tim Surratt

Jun 09, 2020

I live in a residential neighborhood with two-car garages for each house.  A quick survey of my street will show that the average is 3 cars per household.  In fact, I am the only single vehicle owner on my block.  If the units in question are two-room apartments, provision should be made for two cars per unit from the outset.

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Dick Conoboy

Jun 09, 2020

The units in Samish View are all studios.

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Tim Surratt

Jun 09, 2020

Thank you, Dick!  

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Nicholas Sotak

Jun 11, 2020

The city indicated a desire to turn Lincoln into more of a multimodal corridor, theoretically friendly to people walking and biking.  If actual changes materialize, along with the changes that are happening on the Samish-Maple-Ellis corridor, people who live in these buildings would theoretically be able to do a lot of their living without using a car, and have good options for doing so.  While I agree it’s worth considering the potential impact more vehicles in the area could have, if it becomes less convenient to own a car, residents who don’t really need one may choose to go without.

Beyond that, realistically, a high percentage of these units will be rented out to students.  Even without any of the planned short and long range changes being considered to the streets in the area, it would not be hard for them to take a bus to campus, downtown, or the shopping centers off Samish and Lincoln.

Until we get over the need for POVs and parking everywhere we’re always going struggle with these types of situations. 

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Dick Conoboy

Jun 12, 2020

Nicholas,

If the city wants to make Lincoln a bike and pedestrian friendly corridor, it has a lot of work to do.  It is probably the least pedestrian friendly area I have ever encountered.  I also thought that the idea was to get bikes OFF Lincoln and ON to Nevada that runs parallel. 

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Nicholas Sotak

Jun 12, 2020

Dick,

Here’s the city page about the general area showing the progress towards a multimodal future. I ride on Lincoln semi-regularly, and while I agree is has a long way to go (the bike lane going southbound just disappears for ~1/4 mile), it also has great potential for being a direct link between the adjacent urban villages and would be an important part of a city-wide network.

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