Almost all redevelopment projects in densely populated areas of Seattle would be required to install sidewalks, under a proposal Seattle...

Almost all redevelopment projects in densely populated areas of Seattle would be required to install sidewalks, under a proposal Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced today.

Facing a crowd of senior citizens, Nickels said his goal was to make Seattle America’s best walking city.

“That means building sidewalks,” he said, announcing his “Keeping Pace” legislation that would increase the number of sidewalks built in the city by changing development rules.

Citing recent estimates, Nickels said roughly 500 miles of city streets don’t have full sidewalks. A City Council memo last month estimated that 40 percent of the city’s streets lack full sidewalks — with the majority of the missing links in North Seattle, including the Lake City area.

Since the mid-1950s, when the city annexed much of North Seattle from King County, the city and some residents have been stymied in trying to get sidewalks put in, either through a local assessment on property owners or through the city’s public works budget.

Now with townhomes and condominium projects sprouting all over the city, officials are hoping private developers will be able to get the job done more quickly.

Under legislation Nickels sent to the council this week, all developers will be required to provide sidewalks with their projects, with fewer exceptions for housing projects than currently exist. And the city will direct its sidewalks budget — funded by the voter-approved Bridging the Gap levy passed last year — to connect the missing links between new developments, where old housing lacks sidewalks.

“We want to make sure that sidewalks keep pace with the growth that occurs,” Nickels said.