When did Seattle CM Rob Johnson really know about bike lane opposition?
Northeast Seattle residents say that a city project to transform 35th Avenue Northeast is nothing but a favor granted to bikeshare companies.
Gabe Galanda, a 35th Avenue Northeast business owner and member of the group Save 35th Avenue, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that while the project was originally touted by the city as a pavement plan, its actual goal is to take away parking spots in favor of creating bike lanes.
“What it turns out this really is is a complete reconfiguration of the main arterial … 35th Avenue Northeast — which will include, among other things, the loss of 60 percent of on-street parking that is needed to allow small businesses to survive and the loss of bus stops and other amenities up and down the corridor,” Galanda said.
According to an information sheet provided by Save 35th Avenue, the city’s plan would “add dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of 35th Avenue NE between 65th and 89th (and on the east side between 47th and 65th)” and “eliminate all parking on the west side of 35th from NE 47th to NE 85th.”
About 70 percent of the businesses along the corridor, including 50 small businesses, have written multiple letters to Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Rob Johnson, who represents the neighborhood. But Galanda said that city government officials “have not bothered to listen to the concerns that local community members and small businesses have articulated once they realized that this plan was not just for asphalt.”
“They have not concerned themselves with the impact it will have on daily lives, be those business lives or individual lives,” Galanda said.
The community believes that the project will be a nail in the coffin for mom-n-pop businesses that already struggle to make a go of it in today’s world of internet shopping and discount chain stores.
“It’s disastrous for small businesses that are already on a very fragile corridor in the Northeast … if they lose 60 percent of their on-street parking, those businesses will have a hard time surviving,” Galanda said.
The reason that Johnson continues to ignore his constituents’ concerns, Galanda said, lies in the fact that he has been bought out by bikeshare programs. Johnson is the puppet, Galanda said, and the puppet-masters are the Cascade Bicycle Club, along with various others who have “vested interests in bikeshare programs.”
“There is no secret that special interests rule city hall,” Galanda said. “But the problem here is the dishonesty and the lack of transparency associated with this project.”
When did CM Rob Johnson know?
Councilmember Johnson told Galanda in February of this year that he had only recently heard of any opposition to the 35th Avenue project. However, emails and text messages that Galanda obtained through public records requests prove that Johnson was warned over a year before any recent opposition.
“Rob Johnson was fully aware by December of ’16 and January of ’17, according to [Seattle Department of Transportation] emails and text messages, that 68 percent of people were opposed to the project,” Galanda said.
“What I’ve seen from Mr. Johnson and his cohorts downtown makes me rather upset,” Galanda said. “It’s dishonest, it’s unethical, and it is hardly good government.”
Besides the detrimental effects the project would have on 35th’s small businesses, residents are also concerned about the loss of the bus stop for the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Library, as well as the traffic that would be rerouted through residential streets if drivers are forced to look elsewhere for parking.
No environmental review has been completed for the project either, because city policy states that a SEPA review is not necessary for bike lane projects.
“Not only is it unethical and corrupt, it’s not even smart, meaning not smart to not study transportation, traffic, environment, or any other impacts associated with the project,” Galanda said.
Even so, the community members say that they are far from giving up.
“We do feel like we’re facing an uphill battle, but it’s not one that we intend to abandon,” Galanda said.