Comment (2017-08-25) about parking in Volunteer Park

To: Seattle City Council and staff
From: Jonathan Mark and Protect Volunteer Park
Date: August 25, 2017

Dear City of Seattle decision makers,

We have concerns about the parking situation in Volunteer Park, as it relates to the proposed Asian Art Museum expansion. We hope you will consider this information in deciding whether to approve the project and/or modify City zoning code to legalize the project.

With the coming of nice weather, we at Protect Volunteer Park studied the weekend parking situation. Summarizing our conclusions (which are discussed in detail in articles linked below):

  • In nice weather on weekends, the parking within Volunteer Park routinely becomes 80% full, even with the Asian Art Museum closed.
  • Reopening the museum at its present capacity will consume the remaining 20%.
  • The museum plans to increase its exhibit visitors by 54% with the expansion. On weekends in nice weather, all this additional parking demand will overflow to neighborhood residential streets.
  • SAM submitted a traffic study claiming sufficient parking existed within Volunteer Park for the additional museum visitors. This conclusion was reached by measuring the parking occupancy on two wet November days (one entirely after sunset) and assuming that the demand from park users would be the same year-round. There are obvious problems with this analysis and its conclusion.
  • We are concerned that this parking shortage may cause the Parks Dept. to reopen the western loop road permanently. This road was closed to cars in 2009 as part of the “Healthy Parks, Healthy You” program, and because of safety issues for park users and neighbors. SAM’s traffic study proposes more temporary openings of the loop road for special events. We have asked Parks staff for assurance that this road will not be permanently reopened to serve as a parking lot for SAAM, but have not received any reply.

SAM has requested a code amendment creating a special exception for this project from City zoning and its parking requirements. We ask you not to approve this code amendment, in view of the information we have presented about parking. Expanding the museum would harm the public use of Volunteer Park, through parking shortage and/or putting cars back on the western loop road. It would also worsen parking pressure in a residential area which is seeing increased residential density and will need to accept more density in the future.

If I may, I will reiterate some of the other reasons we hope you will reject this proposal. It was never held up to a true public involvement process, which would include alternatives. It inequitably expands facilities in an already well-served area outside the urban village, violating the Parks Dept.’s own plans and the equity standards on which those plans are based. There is no need for additional City subsidy to a partner which is already getting free use of a City building, plus a substantial operating subsidy from the Parks budget, in addition to the substantial City subsidies of its two other locations. The project is in a culturally and environmentally sensitive area, very close to exceptional trees which the minimal DCI “drip line” standards do not adequately protect. A concern for climate impacts alone would suggest using the expansion space already built into SAM’s downtown building (subsidized by a City bond guarantee), and served by excellent transit including Metro, Link, and the City’s upcoming 1st Avenue streetcar. We believe Seattle’s natural park land is precious and should be preserved whenever possible, and especially from construction of new indoor facilities for non-park-related use.

Please protect the public interest in Seattle’s parks and do not approve an expansion of the Asian Art Museum.

We are providing much more detail in the following two articles which present our study of Volunteer Park parking conditions, along with discussion of the traffic & parking study provided by SAM.

Parking Impact of Museum Expansion:

Our Parking Study:

Thank you for considering our input.

Best regards,

Jonathan Mark and Protect Volunteer Park