As part of our Safe Routes to School program here in SDOT, and in partnership with our Urban Forestry team, Columbia City now has 69 new beautiful trees along 42nd Avenue South between South Orcas and South Graham streets. The project is in direct response to what community members shared–concerns about cars speeding through the neighborhood to avoid back-ups on the nearby arterial and blowing past yield signs. This corridor is flanked by two schools: St. Edward School and Aki Kurose Middle School. With school children walking in the area and the neighborhood looking to reclaim its street, the following changes were made:
- At the 42nd Avenue South and South Meade Street school crosswalk we replaced yield signs with stop signs
- On the east side of 42nd Avenue South from South Orcas to South Meade streets we removed restrictions on parking
- Next to St. Edward School we replaced a concrete planting strip with grass and 9 new trees (while removing three struggling trees)
- Along 42nd Avenue South from South Orcas to South Graham streets we planted nearly 70 new street trees
The stop signs help clarify traffic rules through the intersection with the school crosswalk, and removing parking restrictions helps decrease speeds as drivers tend to go slower on narrower pathways. Street trees have also been shown to slow traffic speeds, so they are a pedestrian safety priority. The new grass planter strip helps provide a pleasant buffer between pedestrians and motor vehicles.
The great news when SDOT’s Urban Forestry crew inspected the area is that much of it had 10-12 foot planter strips; yet, trees hadn’t been planted due to the proximity of overhead and underground utilities. That was solved with a specific planting plan: smaller but hearty blooming starlight dogwoods (see picture below) near utilities – east side of 42nd Avenue South from South Juneau to South Graham streets – and larger more majestic emerald sunshine elms (named for brilliant yellow fall color of leaves) where there were no restrictions in tree size – west side of 42nd Avenue South from South Orcas to South Graham streets and east side of 42nd Avenue South from South Orcas to South Juneau streets. Both tree species are newly developed disease and pest resistant hybrids of their well-known natives.
Before the project, we notified neighbors along the corridor and gave them contact information to express any concerns. The project manager also reached out to St. Edward School to ask if the concrete planting strips were used or needed for parking access or student drop-offs. The school was happy to have the 3-for-1 tree replacement along their block, exceeding the City’s 2-for-1 standard, and the more welcoming environment. They even agreed to maintain the new grass surrounding the new SDOT-managed street trees along the block.
For all 69 new trees SDOT purchased and planted, our Urban Forestry tree crews will provide water the first few years to help them get established, and maintain them for the lifetime of the trees. It all makes for a safer, healthier and more enjoyable neighborhood experience.
P.S. Thanks to Seattle Conservation Corps for their help – especially with concrete removal – and for bringing a great attitude!