5 ideas from Beacon Hill to help Capitol Hill

I asked Seattle neighborhoods that have already gone through light rail construction what Capitol Hill should know about the process. Here’s an interesting answer from Beacon Hill:

It would be worth talking to some of the folks who were involved in the NBHC and the Beacon Chamber of Commerce back in 2004-05, I believe, when construction issues and mitigation methods were being addressed. I was involved in the noise issue and can suggest some ways to address this. The Beacon HIll construction required a variance of the standard noise rules and an application was made available for public review and a public comment meeting was held. My first suggestion to the Capitol hill folks would be to find someone in the neighborhood who knows permitting, contracting, or general construction issues. As a last resort, pool your money or get a grant to hire a construction management professional to spend a few hours here and there reviewing documents. I found a few substantive errors in the noise permit application. Prior to the noise permit, a survey of ambient noise will be done and this will need strong critique as well. Second, get people to go to the comment meetings. Hardly anyone showed up to the Beacon Hill noise permit public meeting.

Third, distribute the final noise conditions and complain when they are not met. Consider setting up independent noise monitoring equipment or convincing ST to contract out the noise monitoring and committing to distributing data to the local community group for review. ST will rely on complaints for enforcement, even when noise limits are exceeded.

The basic principal to remember is that there are laws, contract specifications, and unenforceable promises. Just because Sound Transit promises something doesn’t mean they have the ability to deliver. It became obvious after a while that ST relies on complaints to deal with nuisance issues such as noise and parking. Assign neighbors to be “enforcers” and come up with some sort of call list so that it doesn’t look like there is one crazy person in the area that calls on every little issue. Some of the community-impact issues should make it into the design and contract specifications from the start, so that ST can’t just say their hands are tied. This is another opportunity for help from a construction management person.

One other thing on Parking. THis issue isn’t a huge deal on BH, as there is a decent amount of parking surrounding the site, but this needs to be anticipated on Capitol Hill. On BH, the plan was for EL Centro to lease their south lot to ST for contractor parking. It wasn’t long before that area became equipment staging and contractor employees started parking in the neighborhood. ST basically said this is not enforceable and was limited to “encouraging” the contractor to make the El Centro lot more available to employees. This could have been prevented by a temporary residential parking zone and some enforcement, but the El Centro lot was justification for not being creative with this issue.

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One thought on “5 ideas from Beacon Hill to help Capitol Hill

  1. I’ll be on KUOW’s Weekday program Wednesday at 9a to talk Capitol Hill light rail construction with a few other folks from the neighborhood and a rep from Sound Transit.