Utility Screening Legislation Approved

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Seattle City LogoOn Monday, February 28, the Council unanimously approved legislation that I sponsored to set standards for landscaping and screening for solid waste transfer stations and utility service buildings.

This issue came to my attention when I was Chair of the Committee overseeing Seattle Public Utilities.  As we moved forward with a rebuild of the North Transfer Station in Wallingford, residents expressed concern that the new larger station would be more intrusive – especially to the residences directly across the street.  While the utility was promising that they would screen the new facility, City code did not specify the kind of screening that residents were hoping for.

As we investigated this situation, we heard from other neighborhoods concerned about the lack of adequate screening of electrical substations, combined sewer overflow facilities, pumping stations, and trolley transformers.

Working with the Department of Planning and Development, we crafted legislation that:

  1. Applies the Seattle Green Factor landscaping standard to solid waste transfer stations.  The Green Factor is a scoring system for landscape amenities, and the legislation requires generous landscaping including trees and shrubs, with incentives for green roofs and walls, bioretention, permeable paving, and tree preservation.
  2. Establishes minimum setbacks for fences and free-standing walls around utility services uses, with landscaping in these setback areas.
  3. Establishes standards for architectural detailing and/or setbacks for fences and walls around utility services uses.

This legislation is a good example of the work that Councilmembers do on a routine basis.  This kind of involvement does not get much visibility because it’s extremely wonky, and because it affects only a relatively small number of people in the City.  But to the neighborhoods and people affected, it makes a lot of difference to their quality of life, and it is important that we take on these kinds of issues as well as the big ones that are more glamorous and get more publicity.