Link Light Rail in Seattle’s neighborhoods
The North Rainier Valley Neighborhood envisions "an interweaving of people of various backgrounds who live and work in a culturally and economically diverse area" in its neighborhood plan. The business district will be strong, stimulating, and economically stable, while retaining the diversity and ethnic heritage that make the Rainier Valley unique. This vision for a town center will be fulfilled with the development of the McClellan station area. The station area will be a lively commercial, employment, and residential district, building on its existing commercial vitality and employment density. The station area will be the heart of the neighborhood, a place for people to work, live, gather, shop, and enjoy community life. It will be surrounded by safe and inviting residential neighborhoods that are affordable to a broad range of people. The McClellan station will be the northern gateway to the Rainier Valley on light rail.
Located near the intersection of Rainier Ave. and MLK Jr. Way, the aerial station will help the community achieve its goal for a transit system that is easier to use and more community friendly than today’s auto-oriented systems. The station will provide a new focus for a town center that provides a wide range of services and is a destination for residents of the neighborhood and beyond. A bus transfer facility near the station will connect bus-riders from around the Rainier Valley to the light rail system. The McClellan station will also help serve Beacon Hill prior to that station's construction. Access at the intersection of MLK Jr. Way and Rainier Ave. and through the neighborhood (including the Olmsted Boulevard system) will be pleasant and safe for pedestrians and bicycles.
The McClellan station is the closest station in the Rainier Valley to downtown Seattle and light rail will bring employees to the many jobs near the station, reducing their transportation costs and neighborhood traffic. Light rail will help achieve the vision of the North Rainier community by focusing public and private residential, commercial, and employment investments in a way that is sensitive to the fabric of the neighborhood, while providing easy access to many parts of the city and region.
We can achieve our vision for McClellan with these tools.
A number of different tools and actions can be used to achieve the vision for the station area. Many of these tools will be used in the majority of station areas. Only the tools and the actions specific to this station area are listed below.
Land Use Code (Text and Zoning Changes)
Objective: Change land use regulations to encourage well-designed development that achieves the vision of the neighborhood plan, supports light rail and bus ridership, discourages auto use, and promotes pedestrian and bicycle activity. Land use regulations within the station area should also encourage affordable and mixed-income housing and economic opportunities for area residents near transit, while preserving single family neighborhoods.
Action: Establish a Station Area Overlay to prevent development for automobile-oriented uses. Encourage a walkable community around the light rail station, with buildings that have retail shops at street level, affordable and mixed income housing above, and parking located away from the street or underground. An overlay for McClellan will exclude single family zoned areas and will have specific boundaries designated around the station. The overlay could include height bonuses for housing, development requirements that encourage housing, and development standards (including increased sidewalk width for new development, and fulfilling open space requirements off site). Analyze proposed zoning changes from C1-65 to NC3-65 in the station area to ensure that they are appropriate and that the zoning will attract development that fulfills community goals. Ensure protection of existing single family residential areas while encouraging housing and retail development near the station. Ensure sensitive transition from higher density mixed-use and multifamily residential to single family areas.
Objective: Ensure that the light rail station, surrounding development, and associated street and sidewalk improvements reinforce the architectural, cultural, and visual character of the neighborhood and support the community’s vision and goals. Ensure that public art, gateways, and other design elements are incorporated into the station and development around the station, and communicate a clear sense of neighborhood identity. An easy to understand system of maps, markers, and signs should help visitors find their way around the station and to key community attractions and bus stops.
Action: Develop design criteria with Sound Transit staff and the community to influence projects developed on Sound Transit properties. Coordinate with other City light rail permitting processes and guidelines for light rail. Design the McClellan station, visually and functionally, so that it is part of the town center as envisioned by the community, and ensure that the elevated light rail structure is an attractive feature of the neighborhood. Provide clear connections between the light rail station and nearby bus transit facility to make transferring easy and convenient.
Objective: Implement parking strategies in the neighborhood around the station to promote transit ridership, enable development that benefits from and supports transit, and protect neighborhood parking.
Action: Consider parking requirements appropriate to the neighborhood that promote light rail and bus use. Manage the amount of on and off street parking. Working with the community and local businesses, create policies that: prioritize parking for residents and retail, discourage commuter parking, encourage shared parking among developments, separate parking costs from building rent costs, and reduce dependence on the automobile. Ensure that Cheasty Boulevard is not used for hide-and-ride parking.
Objective: Balance the public benefits of street/alley vacations that support transit-oriented development in the station area with the need for circulation and access.
Action: Consider surface street vacations near the McClellan station to help assemble sites for development that will fulfill the community’s vision and support light rail ridership. Ensure that the street network is adequate to handle increased activity in the area around the station.
Objective: Support existing businesses and services impacted by Sound Transit construction and encourage new businesses and services that will benefit from and support the light rail system. Create a diversity of family-wage jobs for local residents and generate activity in the station area to fulfill the community’s vision for a lively, mixed-use town center and strong, stimulating, and economically stable businesses.
Action: Work with the community to develop and implement a plan that directs impacted businesses to appropriate resources, tools, and assistance during construction and helps ensure their successful relocation, operation during construction, and long-term viability. Use the Community Development Fund and other community and economic development resources to retain neighborhood businesses and services impacted by station construction. Identify opportunities for new development to achieve the neighborhood plan vision for strong and stable commercial development, which retains the diversity of the community. Work with Sound Transit and the Office of Economic Development to attract new businesses to the McClellan station area that support transit, create jobs, and achieve the vision for a town center. Focus on relocation opportunities for businesses impacted by light rail in other parts of the Rainier Valley.
Street Reconfiguration/Operational Changes
Objective: Improve access to the light rail station for pedestrians, bikes, buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders. Ensure good circulation and traffic flow throughout the station area.
Action: Examine operation and configuration options for the Rainier and MLK Jr. Way intersection. Redesign MLK Jr. Way and Rainier with pedestrian amenities as part of the Sound Transit project, including wide sidewalks, lighting, and street trees. Explore strategies for discouraging automobile use of Cheasty Boulevard and preventing cut-through traffic in adjacent neighborhoods.
Sidewalk and Crossing Improvements
Objective: Improve access to the light rail stations for pedestrians. Make walking within 1/4 mile of the station a safe and enjoyable experience for all people. Support the community’s goal of improving the connection of Cheasty and Mt. Baker Boulevards for pedestrians.
Action: Improve the pedestrian environment along Rainier Ave. S and MLK Jr. Way through such measures as widening sidewalks, installing decorative lighting, and making crossing improvements. Support the neighborhood’s desire for decorative, textured crosswalks. Bring sidewalks and crossings up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards in the station area. Ensure good connections to KC/Metro bus facility, Franklin High School, Cheasty and Mt. Baker Boulevards, and surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Bicycle Facilities and Access
Objective: Provide bicycle facilities at the station and improve bicycle access throughout the station area to increase bus and light rail ridership and reduce auto dependency.
Action: Supply bike parking at station and consider striping bike lanes and marking bike routes in the station area. Work with Sound Transit to provide north-south bicycle connections in the Rainier Valley and to I-90. Support neighborhood plan goals for bike lanes on McClellan and on MLK north of McClellan. Preserve Cheasty Boulevard as a bicycle corridor.
Bus Service Changes
Objective: Work with KC/Metro to increase access to the light rail system for buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders.
Action: Work with KC/Metro to locate the off-street bus layover facility on the east side of Rainier Avenue to avoid conflicts with improvements to Cheasty Boulevard. Reallocate bus service that duplicates the light rail route to provide better local east-west access from the Rainier Valley to Beacon Hill. Maintain local bus service along MLK Jr. Way. Use the McClellan station to provide a transfer point for bus passengers from other areas of the Rainier Valley. Provide seamless connections and frequent bus service to the station to increase accessibility of the light rail system.
Open Space Improvements
Objective: Provide additional open spaces for gathering and recreation in the station area. New open space should provide a vibrant, active, and safe environment for area residents and transit riders to gather, relax, and play.
Action: Work with the community, Sound Transit, King County, and other agencies to develop a high quality public plaza near the station entrance. Provide clear pedestrian and bicycle connections from the station to the Cheasty greenbelt and preserve the Olmsted Boulevard legacy. Support the community’s goal of providing physical, social, and/or cultural connections between Cheasty and Mt. Baker Boulevards.
Objective: Support human services in the station area that can benefit from easy access to buses and light rail, and will serve residents and others in nearby communities.
Action: Support the relocation of DSHS in the station area in a way that encourages interaction between DSHS employees and the community. Explore options for new childcare facilities as part of McClellan station area developments. Work closely with the community and human service providers impacted by light rail construction in other parts of the Rainier Valley to pro-actively relocate their facilities in the McClellan station area and help them avoid service interruptions.
Objective: Increase opportunities for a range of new housing in the station area that take advantage of access to the regional light rail system, maintain the diversity and character of the neighborhood, and generate activity around the station. Support the neighborhood plan vision for increased housing development near transit.
Action: Work with Sound Transit and other property stakeholders in the station area to identify housing opportunity sites. Increase housing for homebuyers as well as renters in multifamily projects. Promote and facilitate redevelopment of public and privately-owned sites in the station area in a manner that supports the vision for a town center. Develop housing programs and financing mechanisms that enable affordable housing to be included in housing development. This may include height bonuses for housing and human services, and reduced parking requirements where demand for parking is lower. Promote greater use of Property Tax Exemption and Location Efficient Mortgage programs where they support City housing goals.
Objective: Promote a vibrant, active community with a number of public investments in the area around the light rail station, including recreational and community gathering opportunities. Design public facilities to reinforce neighborhood character, inspire positive social interactions between neighbors, support local efforts to promote economic opportunity, and celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood.
Action: Support the relocation of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) facility in the McClellan station area in a way that encourages interaction between DSHS employees and the community. Allow the on-going viability of the UW Medical Center laundry. Support neighborhood plan goals to create public squares and other community uses to increase activity in the station area. Work with the community to improve open spaces for gathering and recreation, integrate public art into the station, and provide public restrooms in the vicinity of the McClellan station, either as a public amenity or through arrangements with private businesses.
Objective: Maximize development opportunities on Sound Transit, KC/Metro, and other publicly owned properties that support the community’s vision for a vital commercial center and maximize the opportunity presented by a regional light rail station. Work closely with community groups and private developers to create opportunities for public-private partnerships that will benefit the community.
Action: Explore joint development opportunities on Sound Transit and City-owned properties and at the station and off-street bus layover facility that achieve the vision for a town center. Establish partnerships with the University of Washington to explore future redevelopment opportunities at the UW Medical Center laundry site that allow the ongoing viability of the laundry. Explore opportunities for joint development to relocate DSHS in the station area in a way that is compatible with the town center. Work with Rainier Valley businesses impacted by light rail to explore joint development options near the McClellan station.
Objective: Create a well-designed, safe, lively environment throughout the station area that has increased commercial activity, recreational opportunities for youth and adults, and a neighborhood that has a high level of pedestrian activity and community interaction.
Action: Provide good lighting and clear lines of sight around the station. Encourage the development of mixed-use buildings with shops on the ground floor and housing above to foster pedestrian activity and "eyes on the street." Coordinate with Seattle Police officers, the business community and other interested community organizations to develop and implement a public safety strategy that promotes and enhances public safety around the station.
Objective: Ensure that all planning activities in the station area are consistent and that station area planning implements the neighborhood vision.
Action: Support activities that implement the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan. Coordinate with Olmsted inventory/planning efforts. Conduct further design, economic, and transportation/circulation analysis in the McClellan station area.