The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will not remove the center railing on the Galer steps at Queen Anne Avenue and West Galer Street.
The stairs’ remodel was part of the streetscape plan from the neighborhood group Picture Perfect Queen Anne (PPQA). The remodel was sponsored by a grant from the Department of Neighborhoods’ Neighborhood Park and Street Fund.
The center railing was supposed to be removed after the side railings were installed. SDOT has adopted Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards for sites like this, which dictates there must be at least 4 feet between handrails.
Queen Anne resident Rich Littleton has fought the removal of the railing since the beginning, citing safety concerns. When SDOT wasn’t responding to his requests, he filed a motion with King County Superior Court against SDOT. The court date was scheduled for today, Wednesday, Jan. 22. On Thursday, Jan. 16, Littleton got word that SDOT would not remove the railings.
SDOT didn’t say what its reasoning was, Littleton said, but he thinks the lawsuit made officials change their mind.
“I suspect that they just said it’s not worth the hassle,” he said. “And my guess is they realized it was not a problem and [was] cheaper to live with it.”
Removing the railing would be costly and risk safety to people walking in the middle or side-by-side on the stairs, Littleton said in a previous interview.
Even when he was planning the lawsuit, Littleton was hoping the court would just order SDOT to leave the railing alone. Littleton said he will dismiss the lawsuit now.
“I’m very happy with this outcome,” he said. “To me, it was the common-sense situation.”
While the people from SDOT were always willing to communicate and listen, Littleton didn’t think it would go as far as a lawsuit, he said.
SDOT’s lawyer, Stephanie Dikeakos, said there has been ongoing discussion about the railing since December. SDOT decided to leave it because there were people in the community who felt strongly about keeping the railing, she said. Dikeakos thought she remembered other community members voicing their support for the railing but couldn’t confirm who or how many.
While the current city standard is to follow those ADA rules, new standards will be out soon for 2014, Dikeakos said. Those standards will apply the 4-foot-between-handrails rule to new construction only.
If neighbors speak out in favor of removing the railing, SDOT will listen to their opinions. The agency is trying to take things day-by-day and see how they go, Dikeakos said.
SDOT is trying to do the right thing by listening to the community, she said: “It’s so hard to keep everyone happy, but we try our best.”
PPQA chair Margaret Okamoto said she had not heard about the decision on the railing. PPQA is fine with whatever was decided, she said.
“The railing was never part of our proposal,” Okamoto said. “We’re amenable to whatever has to be done.”
In the meantime, Littleton is happy with the decision. “I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is hurt by it.”
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