As the neighborhood gears up for the second meeting of the Foster Streetscape Committee, some difficult challenges lay ahead for the committeemembers. At the first meeting on September 19th, things were fairly routine, amicable and mostly stuck to generalities. The group layed out a rough schedule, reviewed the goals for the project and for the most part enjoyed the “sunshine phase” of the process.
But with meeting #2 happening this week, the committee will attempt to tackle some significant challenges. How much courage and creativity will the committeemembers bring to these big issues? The answer to that question will play a large role in what the future Foster Road looks like.
1. CAC Composition
At the committee’s first meeting, one thing that everyone around the table could agree on was that ethnic diversity on the committee is sorely lacking. No one who attended meeting #1 could fail to note that there were no people of color on the committee, no seniors, no people with disabilities, no recent immigrants.
Yet no one’s offered up much in the way of solutions to the problem.
Ensuring diversity isn’t just a nice idea –it’s essential if the plan the committee writes is to have any credibility or value.
First and foremost, the job of ensuring that all parts of the community are involved falls to the City –specifically PBOT and PDC, through it’s FLIP process. Given that the City insisted on scrapping the 2003 plan, it is their responsibility to ensure that what it’s replaced with enjoys wide community support.
But it also falls to the advisory committee members, who are now –like it or not –the leaders of this effort in the community. Every member of this advisory committee needs to bring ideas to the table for real inclusion of underrepresented people who live and work in the plan area. This needs to go beyond just complaining. Where’s the solution?
2. The “Road Diet” concept
Over the last year, various members of the community have come together to create a vision for what Foster Road could be. This effort, led by Marcel Hermans and Dan Campbell (the transportation chairs of the Mt.Scott-Arleta and Foster-Powell neighborhood associations, respectively), represents a unique collaboration of neighborhood and business groups in the Streetscape project area. The plan has since been endorsed by the Foster-Powell, Creston-Kenilworth and Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood associations as well as the Foster Area Business Association and Southeast Uplift.
The key ingredients of this vision are that Foster Road be business-friendly, safe, and pedestrian- and bike-friendly. This coalition explicitly rejects the idea that the “Foster Freeway” and its regular litany of deaths and injuries is some kind of necessary evil that the community needs to learn to live with.
Will the Streetscape committee fight for the road diet vision? For something else? Or will they be led into a lowest-common denominator approach that slaps a project together, spends a bunch of money and does nothing to address the problems?
The Foster Streetscape Plan area covers 40 blocks and runs more than 2 miles. It needs a lot of help, and some of the ideas that have been talked about aren’t cheap. To happen, they’ll require additional resources beyond what’s already been identified.
So far, the project has identified $3.25 million.
For a rough cost comparison, the City is currently building the Foster-Woodstock Streetscape Enhancement Project, which improves the area of Foster and Woodstock Avenues between 90th Avenue and I-205, a total of about 12 square blocks. The budget for this project is more than $4.5 million.
So this committee needs to do more than just plan a wishlist of infrastructure improvements –It needs to become the place where strategies for additional resources are identified and pursued.
The Foster Road Streetscape Plan Advisory Committee meets Wednesday, October 17th from 6 to 8 pm at SE Works, 7916 SE Foster Road. The public is welcome to attend.
For more information about the project, go here.