Swedish Major Institution Master Plan, Friday Library Hours Restored to High Point and South Park Libraries; Cannabis Education for Seniors; Car Chase Technology

Swedish MIMP

On May 16, the Full Council unanimously voted to adopt the Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill Major Institution Master Plan.

The Swedish Medical Center at Cherry Hill is located east of the Seattle University Campus in the Squire Park neighborhood. The campus is not located in an urban center or village. Single family zoning extends to the south and east of the site. Low-rise 3 multifamily zoning is located north of the site on the opposite side of Cherry Street, and a Major Institutions Overlay with a 65 foot height limit is located on the opposite side of 15th Avenue.

Swedish Medical Center at Cherry Hill is a hospital and is therefore regulated as a major institution. Major Institutions are subject to a zoning overlay whereby an institution can deviate from the development standards in underlying zoning, if the institution prepares a Major Institutions Master Plan (MIMP).  The intent of the MIMP is to balance the needs of the Major Institutions with the need to minimize the impact of their development on surrounding neighborhoods.

In November 2011 Swedish Medical Center at Cherry Hill applied for approval of a new Major Institution Master Plan (MIMP). This process is established by the Seattle Land Use Code Section 23.69.032.  The Swedish Medical Center at Cherry Hill application consisted of a rezone to increase the height limits allowed under the current Major Institution Overlay (MIO).

A MIMP is prepared with the review and participation of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC is composed ofmembers representing the interests of the institution, the surrounding neighborhood, and the City of Seattle.  The CAC may recommend changes to the plan or possible mitigation of impacts to maintain the health and livability of the surrounding communities.  The CAC’s final recommendation is provided to the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner and City Council.

In this instance, the CAC met a total of 36 times between December 2012 and 2015. On September 24, 2015, the Hearing Examiner recommended conditional approval of the MIMP, incorporating some of the recommendations from the CAC. Unfortunately, the issues were not resolved and the Council received seven appeals.

The City Council has quasi-judicial powers to make decisions on the rezone application when there are appeals. The Council’s decision to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the recommendation must be supported by substantial evidence in the record.

In effort to address the ongoing concerns from the CAC about height, bulk and scale. I proposed two amendments to (a) make the mass of institutional structures more compatible with the neighborhood and (b) create a more gradual transition from more intensive zones to less intensive zones.

The first amendment addressed heights on the Western block, where Swedish proposed to increase the MIO height to 160’ but the hearing examiner conditioned to 150’. The CAC majority recommended 105 foot heights. In an effort to truly strike a balance between the request to limit the MIO height at 105’feet and the MIO height of 150’ recommended by the Hearing Examiner, I proposed the amendment to reduce the maximum allowable MIO height to 125’. The 105’height would have resulted in a reduction of approximately 147,600 and 196,800 SF, which is about 10% to 13% of new proposed floor area for the overall campus.  The 125’ will result in an approximately 98.400 s.f. reduction or about 6%.

The second amendment addresses the Eastern Block and it conditions a portion of this half-block down to zero feet.   This will result in a reduction of approximately 9200 s.f. or about .6% of new proposed floor area for the overall campus

Both of these amendments address: (a) The need to insure that the mass of institutional structures are compatible with those in adjacent areas; and (b) the need for a more gradual transition from more intensive zones to less intensive zones.

Friday Library Hours at High Point and South Park Restored

As of July 1st, the High Point and South Park libraries will restore Friday operating hours. Six years ago they suffered reduced hours including the loss of Sunday and Friday hours due to a $1.7 million dollar cut to the Library’s budget in 2010. In 2012 the voters passed the Library Levy and in 2013 Sunday hours were restored to all locations. After many patrons expressed their wishes that the branches be open on Fridays the Library Board prioritized this request totaling $378,000, and was approved in the Library’s 2016 Operations Plan.

The branches will now be open from 1:00pm – 8:00pm Monday and Tuesday, 11:00am – 6:00pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 1:00pm – 5:00pm on Sunday.

Cannabis Education for Seniors: Community Conversation @ Senior Center of West Seattle

The Senior Center of West Seattle is holding an educational cannabis event for seniors on May 26th.

Seniors are the fastest growing demographic of cannabis consumers and they often have a lot of questions about what is legal and what is safe. NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Women of Washington is offering Cannabis Education for Seniors at the Senior Center of West Seattle on Thursday, May 26th at 2pm.

NORML is the Nation’s oldest marijuana consumer’s lobby. NORML Women of Washington is a chapter comprised of women who are dedicated to education and outreach on marijuana in the State of Washington. Members of this group will be facilitating a conversation about cannabis.

Topics to be discussed include the basics of marijuana history, laws, industrial uses; non-intoxicating health, nutritional, and beauty aids; and information on products such as tinctures, edibles, concentrates, vaping, and pain-relief patches and creams. The NORML Women representatives will also talk about myths regarding marijuana and can brief the latest research on medical marijuana and addiction. Bring your questions–there will be ample time allotted for questions and for sharing wisdom across generations!

 Car Chase Technology

I’ve been asked by a few constituents whether any tracking technology might be available to help police officers apprehend suspects driving in cars. Existing SPD chase policies are available here.  You can see that these policies specify the importance of safety and require officers to end pursuit when the risk of the pursuit outweighs the danger to the public if the suspect is not captured. Still, the nature of a high speed chase has many inherent risks. According to FBI statistics, over 40% of people killed in vehicle pursuits are innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We had our own high speed pursuit tragedy in Highland Park very recently.  I’ve asked the Seattle Police Department to meet with me to discuss available options to reduce the risks associated with high speed pursuit chases.

Because of the risks, some cities have no-pursuit policies.  Other cities are considering options such as Starchase.  Starchase reports that “there are more than 100,000 high-speed pursuits in the U.S. every year, endangering everyone involved in the chase – the suspects, the police and the public.  Up to 85 percent of these pursuits are initiated by non-violent offenders.”

The City of Bothell is considering the use of such technology; civil liberties issues would be an important consideration in any technology that involves tracking of a vehicle.  I’m looking forward to learning more soon.

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