Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Ravenna-Bryant Community Seeks a More Pedestrian Friendly Neighborhood!

Earlier this year, the 35th Ave Committee undertook a survey to learn how the 35th Ave NE Business District is used and what its users seek in the future.  The results of that survey (see here and here) have shaped our planning efforts, including the scope of the grant we were recently awarded.

Shortly after we completed our survey though, the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association (who has endorsed our group and planning effort), put out their own survey for the NE 65th Street Business District. Part of the reason for th The boundaries that they included for their survey extended into the 35th Ave NE Business District planning area.

Recently, the RBCA summarized the results of their survey which showed some interesting differences and similarities.  However, in their summary of the results, the RBCA writes that:
"More than two-thirds of survey respondents said that development is good if the area becomes more walkable and streetscape is improved."
They also go on to report that 54% of residents plan to walk and 19% plan to bike to the new Roosevelt light rail station once it's open.

While the complete results were not published (at the time of writing), it appears that many respondents had similar concerns to our survey results as well.  Namely, people are concerned with the current and future vehicle traffic and parking availability, safety, and other similar concerns.

Kudos to the RBCA for taking on such a wonderful survey and doing such a marvelous job in summarizing the results.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The 35th Ave Committee to Develop a Streetscape Plan and Zoning Recommendations in 2014

Over the last several months, the 35th Ave Committee has been discussing how best to build on the 35th Ave Survey, along with more community feedback, to create the conditions necessary to achieve the future 35th Ave NE that so many hope to see.  A business district that is more walkable and supports the types of businesses that people want.  Through discussion with the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), we determined that the best "next step" is to hire a consultant to assist us in the following:

  • Develop a streetscape plan to define the pedestrian environment and frontage experience desired by the residential and business community that use the 35th Ave NE business district.  
  • Prepare zoning recommendations, based on survey results and community feedback, for the 35th Ave NE business district to be given to DPD for consideration.  
This scope was not only approved of by DPD, but has also been endorsed by the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association and Wedgwood Community Council.  The 35th Ave NE business district spans across both neighborhoods. 

In October, the 35th Ave Committee submitted a grant application through the Department of Neighborhoods for a Small & Simple Grant to complete this scope.  Today, we were notified that our application has been approved and we were awarded the grant!  We're all super excited!

What is a Streetscape Plan?
Example streetscape profile from the
Pike/Pine Streetscape Concept Plan
These are plans that have been approved by SDOT which define the design and character of the pedestrian environment within the business district.  They give the City and developers design guidance when determining what frontage improvements should be made along the business district.  

Some streetscape plans can include changes to travel and parking lanes; however, the intent for our streetscape plan is to only focus from the curb to the building fronts (e.g., pedestrian environment). This decision was made for a very practical reason.  SDOT has identified 35th Ave NE as a corridor suitable for a cycle track bike facility in its draft Seattle Bicycle Master Plan. If/when SDOT moves forward with a bike facility on 35th Ave NE, it would require the City to complete a design and conduct a public outreach process prior to constructing this facility.  Any such design would likely require some changes to the travel and parking lanes on 35th Ave NE.  As a result, we've decided to focus our time and resources on the pedestrian environment.

What are 'Zoning Recommendations'?
As part of the scope that we will be seeking from a consultant is the development of zoning recommendations.  What these recommendations are yet, we don't know.  We will be asking them to review what the community has voiced as their desired vision for a future 35th Ave NE business district through the 35th Ave Survey, NE 65th Street Survey, Wedgwood Vision Plan and Survey, and through direct feedback from community meetings to develop zoning recommendations.  These recommendations will then be provided to DPD who may implement some or all of them over the subsequent year(s).  

What's Next?
The 35th Ave NE will be preparing an open request for proposals to solicit a consultant around January 2014. We are expecting to co-host several community meetings with the consultant throughout 2014. There will be many opportunities for the community to share feedback throughout 2014 on the process and design. If you have questions or are interested in getting more involved, please email us.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Part 2: Why Plan for 35th Ave NE? Missed Opportunities.

If you follow the Seattle Department of Planning and Development's (DPD's) NE Seattle Land Use Information Bulletin, you'll occasionally notice bulletins for redevelopments within the 35th Ave Business District.  There have been two recent bulletins for redeveloping older homes along 35th Ave NE within our planning boundaries into town homes with or without live-work units on the ground floor.

One of these projects is the redevelopment of the old "Green House," located immediately south of the Sunshine Cleaners and north of the Rxtra Care pharmacy.  Another project (DPD Project No. 3014188) is located further south in the business district, north of Grateful Bread.   One could make a case that both of these projects are within the center of the business district and are ideal locations for additional retail space, should redevelopment occur as planned.

This is not intended diminish the merits of these projects individually, but rather to identify these as potentially missed opportunities due to the absence of a well thought out plan for the business district that describes a shared vision for the future of 35th Ave NE.  Had we had an appropriate plan and completed a review of the zoning for 35th Ave NE, developers may have selected a different outcome for these two projects that included increased retail space and provide a healthy return on investment for the developer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

35th Ave Neighborhood Planning Process Endorsed by Community Councils

The Ravenna-Bryant Community Association and Wedgwood Community Council are the two neighborhood community groups that represent the 35th Ave NE Business District, with NE 75th Street serving as the north/south boundary between the two. Over the past few weeks, the board of trustees for both the RBCA and WCC have voted unanimously to endorse the 35th Ave Committee and the neighborhood planning that our group is pursuing. Their support is no doubt due, in part, to the phenomenal response and show of support received through our 35th Ave Survey.

Thank you for the support of these two community councils! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Part 1: Why Plan for 35th Ave NE? Change is Inevitable.

This is the beginning of a mini series on the reasons for working towards a neighborhood plan.

A comment we periodically hear from folks or read in our survey results goes something like this, "Don't change a thing. 35th is perfect just as is."  Unfortunately, freezing time is not in our means and change is inevitable.

The Theodora is being sold by the Volunteers of America.
Recently, this inevitable change became exemplified with the listing of a 3.7 acre property at 3300 NE 65th Street owned by the Children's Home Society of Washington, which isn't on 35th Ave NE but is within the limits of our draft planning boundary. Change cannot be stopped and it comes when we least expect it. Today, the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association shared that the Theodora is being sold by the Volunteers of America. The Theodora property is approximately 1.49 acres in size and is located east of the CHSW of property. This means that nearly 5.2 acres of property is for sale and will likely be changing near the 35th/65th intersection.

According to our survey, 84% of respondents are comfortable with more development, 92% of respondents want more retail diversity, and 88% of respondents think that the business district is "underdeveloped." One way to interpret these particular results is that folks generally would like some type of change to occur to the 35th Ave NE business district. Our hope is that we can provide a community's vision for the 35th Ave NE Business District to help guide future changes for the benefit of both the community as well as business owners and developers.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Get Involved and Join the 35th Ave Committee!

The 35th Ave Committee is the all-volunteer, grassroots group comprised of residents from the Ravenna, Bryant, and Wedgwood neighborhoods in NE Seattle. We're not a group of professional planners, architects, or land use attorneys...we're leadership consultants, biologists, physicians, teachers, and the like. We live here, are invested in this community, and want to proactively plan for the unavoidable changes that will occur along 35th Ave NE...our business district. Our goal is to engage our community and attempt to develop land use tools that faithfully represent the community's share vision for the business district.

Currently, there are 9 members of the 35th Ave Committee. We meet monthly-ish or slightly more if needed. If you're interested in participating, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Shoot us an EMAIL and tell us a little about yourself.  We always love to hear from folks who are passionate about land use, whether or not it's your profession.

What Kind of Businesses Did We Hear that People Want on 35th Ave NE?

As the results of our 35th Ave NE Survey indicate (HTML Link), the majority (92%) of respondents desire an increased diversity of businesses throughout the 35th Ave NE Business District.  Currently, the most frequently used business types currently include 1) shopping/grocery, 2) coffee/snack, and 3) banking.  But what are the most desired business types that respondents would like to see?  Well check out this cool word cloud!

Here's also our attempt to summarize what we heard from the respondents.

Dim Sum
Decent pizza restaurant
Breakfast/brunch/lunch place
Bagel shop
Café/deli/sandwich shops with healthy foods
Prepared, carry-out foods
Gluten free bakery
Organic food outlets
Ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt
Specialty desserts, e.g., pie shop
Smoothie/Juice bar
Pub/brewery, like Elliot Bay Brewery
Affordable neighborhood bistro
Family friendly
Finer dining
Artisan food shops, like La Pasta
Wine/cheese bar
Kosher deli or restaurant or butcher
Dog friendly restaurant
Tea house
Food trucks at park on Saturday nights
Fish taco cafe
Restaurants/Food Service, specifically mentioned
Sandpoint Grill
Molly Moons
True Food Kitchen
Elliott Bay
Red Mill burgers
Tutta Bella
Macrina Bakery
Nana’s Soup
Frank’s Oyster House
In-N-Out Burger
Paseo sandwich shop
PlayDate SEA
Zingerman’s Deli
Zoka’s coffeehouse
Zippy’s Giant Burgers
Twirl Cafe

Specialty Food Stores
Trader Joes
Chinese grocery
Farmer’s market

Children’s bookstore
Third Place books with community gathering space

Kid clothing store
Consignment shop for kids, clothes and toys
Vintage clothing
Boutiques – clothing, gifts, cards
Fitness clothing

Yarn/craft/art store
Art gallery
Artist’s co-op
Ceramics studio -- wheels, kilns

Small gym/fitness
Kids gym

Ace or City People’s or McVicar’s hardware

Performance/Gathering Spaces
Small movie theater, live theater, performance spaces
Music studio rental space
Musical instruments
Music venue
Community center with meeting rooms
Retro video arcade
Healthy hangout for teens
Family friendly evening entertainment, e.g., bowling

Auto parts
Shoe repair
Small appliance repair
Computer repair

Small Business Services
UPS store
Photo copy & business printing store

Credit union

Daycare/kid activity
“Math N Stuff”
Doggie daycare/grooming
Dollar store
Home decorating accessories
State licensed marijuana store
Garden store
Bike shop/community based bike shop
Antique store
10,000 Villages
Party supply store

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Diving Deeper Into Our Survey Results

If you're a "numbers person", you can download the MS Excel spreadsheet (.XLS, 92KB) of our recent 35th Ave NE Survey results and go crazy.  We did just this to look beyond the summary results (HTML Link) and see if there were any trends that weren't apparent at first.  Here's a summary of our additional analysis.
  1. Were the survey results "stacked?" The first question we thought we'd try to address is whether anyone "stacked" the results by taking the survey multiple times. This question was brought up on the Wedgwood Community Council's Facebook page in response to how many people completed the survey. While we did not require any personal identification on the surveys, the online survey captured the unique IP address from each computer that completed a survey. In lieu of being able to answer this question directly, we can figure out how many surveys were completed on a single computer.
    Here's what we found! Turns out there were 51 occurrences where the same IP address was recorded on multiple surveys, totaling 116 surveys. Most of these duplicate IP addresses were associated with 2 surveys, which is not uncommon for a single household with a shared computer. Of the remaining duplicate IP addresses, there was 1 occurrence associated with 5 surveys, 2 occurrences associated with 4 surveys, and 4 occurrences associated with 3 surveys.

  2. Does the business preferences change for residents vs. non-residents?  We were interested in seeing if there were distinct differences in motivation to visit 35th Ave NE between those that self-described themselves as "living in the neighborhood" versus not.
    Here's what we found! Of the surveys we received, 913 respondents identified themselves as living in the neighborhood while only 111 said they did not. Therefore, the data set associated with non-residents was much smaller and may not be as reliable as the data set for residents.  Nevertheless, we have compared the data out of curiosity.

    From a review of this data, there doesn't appear to be a significant difference between residents and non-residents on their reasons for visiting the 35th Ave NE Business District.  However, as we mentioned in our original review of the data, an error in our survey was the failure to include the NE Branch Library as an option.  From our review of the data, it appears that may respondents included the library under the "Personal Business" category, which the 2nd largest category selected by non-residents. This may suggest that the NE Branch Library serves as a draw to the 35th Ave NE Business District which attracts non-residents.

    Of the other notable differences, fewer non-residents (21%) visit the 35th Ave NE Business District for "Shopping/Grocery" than residents (29%) and fewer non-residents (3%) visit the business district "To Walk" than residents (8%).

  3. Was there a difference in demographics between those that responded online versus submitted hardcopy surveys?  We thought we'd look into this question since we tried hard make sure everyone in the community had that opportunity to respond to the survey. Not only did we include four options for people to submit their results, but we posted flyers for the survey throughout numerous businesses (cafes, banks, library, dry cleaners, laundromat, and others) as well as at bus stops and on telephone poles to make sure we got the word out.  We also had information on the survey posted on our website, the Wedgwood Community Council's website, Ravenna-Bryant Community Association's website, and the Ravenna Blog's website.
    Here's what we found! As it turns out, the majority of respondents we heard from were white women for those that completed hardcopy and online surveys. However, there appeared to be a difference in age range in those that completed hardcopy versus online surveys.
    The data suggests that of the 1,012 respondents who provided their age (123 hardcopy respondents + 889 online respondents), there were more respondents by percentage between the ages of 50-64 (36%) and 65+ (33%).  Meanwhile, the majority (53%) of online respondents by percentage were the ages of 30-49.

  4. Is there a difference among different age rages on their comfort level with increased development and a more diverse selection of businesses? Based on the results of Q25, Q26, and Q29, it appears that a strong majority of respondents are comfortable with more development within the 35th Ave NE business district, a more diverse selection of businesses types on 35th Ave NE, and a predominance of people who think the business district is currently underdeveloped. However, we were interested to see if there was a demographic group that was less supportive of these results than others.
    Here's what we found! As it turns out, every age range was strongly in favor of these results, albeit some stronger than others. Nevertheless, there appears to be support for increased development and greater diversity of businesses on 35th Ave NE. Of course, these questions were designed to force an answer to a difficult question without the opportunity to elaborate. In reading through the comments, it's clear that while most people are agreement on these outcomes, the scale, size, location, design, and other factors are clearly variables that influence the responses and were not captured in these statistics.
This additional digging into the data was to help us better understand the nuances of the survey and make sure that we're faithful to the data provided to us by those who completed the survey. If you'd like, dive into the data and share your findings in the comments section below.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What We Learned from Our Survey

UPDATE: It appears that the HTML link to the survey results does not open correctly in the Google Chrome browser. Try opening in Firefox or Explorer if you have trouble.

Thank you to the 1,038 people who took the 35th Ave NE Business District Survey between June 1st and July 14th! We heard from lots and lots of you which means lots and lots of data to look at, which is a great problem to have.

To make make sure we were able to hear from everyone who wanted to complete the survey and attempt to get a representative portion of the community, we had 4 methods for people to complete the survey.
  1. We had an online survey for people to complete.
  2. We had printed hardcopies of the survey stationed at local businesses for people could pick up or drop off surveys.
  3. We had versions of the survey available to print and mail in.  
  4. We completed intercept (face-to-face) surveys where we interviewed 35th Ave NE business district users.
Given these 4 methods, we ended up with 914 respondents to the online survey and 124 hardcopies of the survey, which is loads of data to chew on. So, what have we learned from these 1,038 surveyors? Here are a few results that caught our eye. Here are all the results (HTML link) for your viewing pleasure, or you can download the full results in an .XLS Spreadsheet [92KB] if you're a fan of statistics.
  • Q1: 69% of respondents hadn't heard of the Wedgwood Vision Plan before.
  • Q2: Of those that had heard of the Wedgwood Vision Plan, only 9% of respondents participated in the Wedgwood Vision Plan, suggesting that the results of the 35th Ave Survey largely represents new respondents from those that completed the Wedgwood Vision Plan Survey
  • Q3: 76% of respondents hadn't heard of this 35th Ave NE neighborhood planning process.
  • Q5: The majority (89%) of respondents self identified themselves as living in the "neighborhood."
  • Q8: However, most people (81%) work outside of the "neighborhood."
  • Q9-11: It appears that people visit the business district during short, frequent trips throughout the week.  
  • Q12: The top 3 reasons people visit the business district is for grocery shopping, coffee, and banking. (Full disclosure - The NE Branch library wasn't specifically identified as an option, which was an oversight of the survey.)
  • Q13-14: Those that consider 35th their primary business district do so mainly because it's close and they grocery shop there.
  • Q13&15: Those that don't consider 35th their primary business district do so because there's not enough variety and prefer to shop elsewhere.
  • Q16: Most people visit the business district near the NE 75th Street and NE 85th Street intersections.
  • Q17-18: In general, people feel safe in the business district.
  • Q19-21: The majority of respondents appear to be white women between 30-49 years of age.
  • Q22: In general, people visit the business district on their own or in small groups.
  • Q25: 84% of respondents are comfortable with more development within the business district.
  • Q26&31: 92% of respondents would like more retail diversity within the business district and 68% of respondents would like more "retail" than was inventoried.
  • Q29: 88% of respondents feel that the business district is "underdeveloped." 
  • Q30: Respondents said that they were comfortable with more development along the business district if it improves streetscape and walkability (75%), is well designed (72%), is located appropriately (55%), provides increased retail (46%), and transitions well with single-family (44%).
  • Q34 & 37 (hardcopy questions only): Most people appear to drive alone or walk to the business district. (Full disclosure - This question did not include "Bike" as an option, which it should have. The 2.5% of respondents who chose "bike" wrote it in. This was clearly an oversight in the survey.)
  • Q36: Most people (61%) who drive to the business district park in off-street parking lots.  
We're doing a bit more analysis of the survey results to see whether or not there are differences between the online survey results and the hardcopy surveys or between different demographics. We also may compare these results with similar surveys in other business districts that we are aware of as well. We'll post this further analysis at a later time.  For now, we hope you find the results as equally interesting as we do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Over 650 Surveys Completed with about 2 Weeks Left

This past weekend, we started doing person-to-person surveying along 35th Ave NE to hear how the business district is effecting its users.  We've been getting a lot of great feedback to complement the surveys we have received online.  With about 2 weeks to go in our survey, we've received more than 650 complete surveys.  The information in this survey will be extremely helpful in guiding us into the future so that the 35th Ave NE business district best meets the needs of its users.

Thank you to everyone who have already taken the survey!  We can't wait to crunch the numbers and share the results with you all.

On a side note, the University District Livability Partnership released their Urban Design Framework for the U District today!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2 Weeks Into Survey and Already 300 People Have Filled it Out!

UPDATE: In the past week, more than 200 more people have filled out the survey! We've now gone past 500 completed surveys! There's still plenty of time to have your voice heard and take the survey before July 14th.

After only 2 weeks of the 35th Ave NE Business District Survey being officially out, 300 people have already taken a few minutes to fill it out and share their thoughts on the future of 35th Ave NE.  There is so much wonderful information that we're hearing from all of you!  Everyone's thoughts are wonderful and we'll process all the data and share it once we close the survey.  Please continue to share the survey with your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else you know who uses the 35th Ave NE Business District.

If you haven't already, please TAKE THE SURVEY NOW!  Keep the hard copies coming into the local businesses too!  I just picked up a handful from HomeStreet Bank, Cafe Javasti, and Van Gogh Coffee House.

The survey will be up through July 14th.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Take Our 35th Ave NE Business District Survey!

Click here to take survey

Back in 2012, a community-driven "neighborhood planning" process began to initiate a discussion about the future of the 35th Ave NE business district.  This is intended to be a proactive approach so that our community's voice and values may be infused in the inevitable changes to 35th Ave NE.  The neighborhood planning began following the Vision Plan developed by the Wedgwood neighborhood back in 2010.  While the Wedgwood Vision Plan only applied to the Wedgwood neighborhood, north of NE 75th Street, it clearly identified that the 35th Ave NE business district was not meeting the needs for many of its users.  The neighborhood plan concept conceived was an ambitious plan for a volunteer committee of non-planning professionals, but we have been slowly but surely moving ahead.

The first step that we began was to initiate a series of Coffee Talks to discuss neighborhood planning topics. The first Coffee Talk was on the conditions necessary to support neighborhood businesses.  We heard from Theresa Barreras with the City's Office of Economic Development (OED) discuss the importance of data to characterize the background conditions.  With this in mind, we completed a business inventory of 35th Ave NE.  We realized that of the businsses along 35th Ave NE, between NE 87th Street and NE 68th Street, 71% of all businesses (store fronts) were service-based and 24% of all businesses were retail-based.

With this information in mind, we have developed a survey to better understand who is using the 35th Ave NE business district and how the business district is meeting their needs.  You can take the survey between June 1st and July 14th in 3 ways:

  1. Take the survey online by clicking HERE
  2. Download a hardcopy (PDF) or pick up a copy of the survey and return it to one of many local businesses with drop off locations, including HomeStreet Bank, Washington Federal, Cafe Javasti, Van Gogh Coffee House, and many more!
  3. Download a hardcopy (PDF) or pick up a copy of the survey and mail it back to
    35th Ave Committee, PO BOX 15770, Seattle, WA 98115
We'll also be interviewing 35th Ave NE Business District users over the 6 weeks we have the survey open so we can hear directly from those using the business district.  If you see us, please stop by and say, "Hi!"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Catching You Up On the Neighborhood Planning for 35th Ave NE

It's been awhile since we've updated the blog on what the 35th Ave NE Steering Committee has been doing.  Nevertheless, we have a lot of great progress to report.

Back in October 2012, members of the 35th Ave NE Steering Committee performed an business inventory of the 35th Ave NE business core, from NE 68th Street to NE 87th Street.  Business district inventories are a suggested baseline data gathering step that Theresa Barreras with the Office of Economic Development (OED) suggested during the Coffee Talk 1.  As it turned out, the data gathered was really helpful.  Based on our analysis, the central business district is comprised of 71% service-focused businesses (e.g., accountants, lawyers, dentists, etc) and 24% retail-focused businesses (e.g., coffee shops, boutiques, grocery stores, etc.).  The remaining businesses were government-based establishments (e.g., Post Office, NE Branch Library).  A graph of the results follows.
With this information in hand we met with Councilmember Richard Conlin in February to share the results of our business inventory and explain to him that business districts such as 35th Ave NE and those similar in size merit attention so that they can provide the resources and business types to support the residents who use and live near the business district.  We wanted to make sure that Councilmember Conlin for the following reasons:
Following our meeting with Conlin, we met with Marshall Foster and others at the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) in March.  Mr. Foster is the Director of Planning and is helping to oversee the Comprehensive Plan update and manages the DPD's work plan for 2013.  Our meeting with DPD was intended to convey the same message, which was to allow an opportunity for arterial commercial corridors, like 35th Ave NE, to have the opportunity to help shape their future.  

Since our meetings with Conlin and DPD, we have been working on a survey for users of 35th Ave NE which we will be making public shortly.  The survey is modeled after surveys completed by the OED to better understand who is using the commercial corridor and whether or not it is meeting the needs of the users.  Stay tuned for more news on the survey!