Proposal Could Mandate Sidewalks as Part of Seattle Complete Streets

Almost a third of the city’s neighborhood streets lack sidewalks.

2 minute read

September 24, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Sidewalk in Seattle with yellow fall leaves on the ground and cars parked next to the curb.

zhu difeng / Adobe Stock

A Seattle city councilmember is calling on the city to include sidewalks as a mandatory element in its Complete Streets policy, which currently does not explicitly require sidewalks to be built with new transportation projects.

As Ryan Packer explains in The Urbanist, “The Council’s transportation committee got a first look Tuesday at a proposal that would require SDOT to build new sidewalks, and repair existing ones, whenever it completes a ‘major’ repaving project on the adjacent street.”

Packer adds that, in the last audit conducted in 2015, more than 30 percent of non-arterial streets in the city lacked sidewalks. Moreover, “a 2021 audit of the existing sidewalk network revealed that almost half of the sidewalks in the city are in a ‘fair’ or worse condition.”

The situation is complicated by the nebulous status of sidewalk maintenance responsibilities, which often fall on adjacent property owners. According to Cecelia Black, organizer with Disability Rights Washington, “No other public space that we think of operates in such an ambiguous way, without any jurisdiction responsible for maintaining or regulating public spaces.”

For Packer, “This update to the city’s Complete Streets ordinance, while it leaves that conversation around funding until another day, represents a big step forward when it comes to how the mobility of people who walk and roll, and depend on the city’s sidewalks, is treated when it comes to maintaining essential infrastructure.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 in The Urbanist

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