Councilmember Pedersen draws a crowd for January 30 Eastlake Town Hall

Nearly 200 people turned out on a damp January night for a town hall meeting with District 4 Councilmember Alex Petersen. Transportation issues were the big draw at the Eastlake Community Council-sponsored meeting, but other topics ranging from homelessness to a progressive tax system also came up during the 90-minute meeting in the TOPS Seward school cafeteria.

The meeting format, set by Pedersen’s staff, had participants fill out index cards with a question. Detra Segar, ECC president, read questions and Pedersen answered.

One of the first questions was from Paul Proios, owner of the 14 Carrot Café on Eastlake Avenue East. And it perhaps set the tone for the meeting. Proios, a business owner who fears the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Rapid Ride project that eliminates parking on Eastlake Avenue East will put him out of business, asked if it was possible to find a compromise between bicycle lanes and parking.

Pedersen said the Rapid Ride Roosevelt J Line has been in the works for some time. He urged all attending the meeting to comment on the project to the Federal Transit Authority by the Feb. 14 deadline. “I am a proponent of more bus service,” Pedersen said, but added that he wanted to hear all viewpoints. He emphasized that he did not see Eastlake as a “corridor.”

There was a sizeable group from Seattle’s bicycle community also at the meeting. Several of the questions reflected their concerns about safety, connected bicycle routes and climate change. One flyer passed out said “We bike, walk, bus and wheel to Eastlake businesses.” 

Pedersen again said that whether attendees supported bike lanes or are a concerned business, comments should be sent to the FTA. In response to a later question, he said evaluation of bike lanes was crucial, adding that he would look at perhaps protected lanes in one area and “greenways” in another.

Another transportation question regarded parking on side streets, also a challenge in Eastlake because most side streets are hilly.

Pedersen said Eastlake is zoned 100 percent multifamily and, with previous new building changes that no longer required parking, parking is an issue. He said parking is heavily saturated and acknowledged that businesses also have concerns on loading zones. Segar, the ECC president, said that Restricted Parking Zone 8 in Eastlake is under review and may be expanded.

Lorelei Williams, SDOT Deputy Director Capital Project Delivery, said that the department has more to do. “We want to address the impacts,” she said. “We have heard the comments and are paying attention.”

Here is what Pedersen had to say on other issues:

Development:  Eastlake has grown rapidly in recent years but “we need to make sure we don’t knock down affordable housing.”  The city may not have been listening to Eastlake in the past but “we are listening.”  He said he was critical of the Mandatory Housing Affordability ordinance, since “it seemed to be a good deal for some developers but we are not getting the public benefit.”

Head tax:  He is “not a fan” because in part there was not a good plan for how money would be spent. The new regional authority on homelessness will have better credibility to ask for more funds.

Taxes:  Pedersen said he favored a “progressive’ tax system that was based on income. He said he would look at utility rates, which can be like regressive taxes, affecting lower income people more. He was also concerned about rising property taxes, especially their impact on older homeowners on a fixed income.

Metro Route 70:  Pedersen said “the 70 needs to be part of the conversation,” adding that “personally” he would keep both the 70 and the Rapid Ride buses. That brought a round of applause.

Crime:  Pedersen said the police force has not kept pace with the growth of the city. “There is no one solution,” he added.