Big rezoning request along California Ave

November 8, 2007 at 2:16 pm | In California Ave upzoning, Development, West Seattle news | 34 Comments

There’s a real bulletin this time around in the semiweekly city Land Use Information Bulletin that just came out: A request to rezone both sides of California, between Hanford and Hinds on the east side, and from Hanford to 100′ south of Hinds on the west side. If this is granted, the zoning would change from NC1-30′ (the last number is max height) to NC2-40′. Looking now to find out more about what’s behind this, but wanted to pass it along in the short run – we’ve been following the LUIB fairly closely for more than a year and haven’t seen anything like this in that time.

34 Comments

  1. Sounds like more condo’s! Just what we need, squeeze in more people so the traffic gets even worse…

    Comment by marty — 3:17 pm November 8, 2007 #

  2. Not to mention build them taller. Can’t let any of the people in single family homes have views y’know.

    Comment by donald — 3:21 pm November 8, 2007 #

  3. Wow! I’m kind of torn on this one. This block’s population is already dense, in the form of fugly apartment buildings. I’m disturbed by the condo trend, and would rather not see (a) renters displaced or (b) another block of generic cookie-cutter condos. But on the other hand, just about anything would look better than, say, the Shamrock Apartments. I’m a big supporter of preserving the old charm of West Seattle, but that place has about as much charm as the underside of a bus.

    Comment by Luckie — 3:44 pm November 8, 2007 #

  4. Granting this rezone would probably just replace one or more uncharming buildings with several more uncharming (and 40′) tall ones. I guess 30′ of ugliness isn’t enough for some developers.

    Comment by JumboJim — 4:00 pm November 8, 2007 #

  5. Sorry to get slightly off topic, but I’ve heard from numerous people (including Jack at The Husky Deli) that 6 or 7 years ago the Junction was basically dying. Stores were going out of business and the vacancy rate was quite high.

    I’m wondering if the influx of condos were part of what has revitalized the area. Would you rather have a thriving retail core or low max height zoning and views for the wealthy home owners in the area?

    I definitely agree that many of the condos that are being built are heinously ugly and that West Seattle is grealy in need of more apartment options, but on whole I think increased density is a great thing. The vast majority of West Seattle is zoned for single family homes and the vast majority of those homes are not within easy walking distance of commerical areas (this is why West Seattle will never be the next Ballard), so why is raising the max height restrictions on basically the only busy commerical street in the entire area such a bad idea?

    Comment by villagegreen — 4:01 pm November 8, 2007 #

  6. Can’t say I’d miss some of those apartment buildings/tanning salons, which are just sorta rundown. It’d be a shame for Spiro’s and that new restaurant going in to get rezoned out of existence.

    Comment by Jeff — 4:05 pm November 8, 2007 #

  7. I believe the city is required by law to extend the comment period by at least a week or two if the public knows enough to request an extension. Whatever your feelings about the upzone proposal itself, please call the city planner noted in the bulletin and request a public comment extension beyond the November 21 cutoff date.

    Thanks for the heads up, WSB.

    Comment by Forest — 6:01 pm November 8, 2007 #

  8. Everything in that block is “butt-ugly” and underutilized, this would give the opportunity for a taller building with underground parking. I would prefer that to townhouses that you now see in the 5900 block of California. For the price that is paid for townhouse sites this is a real option for the seller to maximize their profits and get out now, which might be a more viable option given present zoning. This is close to Admiral and on California, whatever is built will be nicer that what is there now.

    Comment by jdp — 7:03 pm November 8, 2007 #

  9. I have no problem with this one. If you’re going to increase density (which will happen no matter how much we bitch) this is EXACTLY where you want it…not in the middle of a quiet residential group of single family homes, but on the busiest most commercial strip in West Seattle. Makes sense. Come on, Seattle is at it’s “limits” geographically. There is no more room to grow, we have water on two sides, and cities to the north and south. That means Seattle will only get denser in it’s existing boundaries. Given that, let’s try to confine it to the busiest/commercial spaces first (like our ‘mega’ projects likes QFC and Whole Foods).

    Comment by David — 7:53 pm November 8, 2007 #

  10. Yes, this area is massively fugly, but the one thing West Seattle doesn’t need is another cluster of freaking townshouses/condo developments.

    And what’s with the height regulation? There’s no views in that area unless you go 70 feet tall – then you’d get a mediocre view of more houses and maybe a glimpse of some water. No need to block the sun from existing homeowners – that’s all the height would do.

    Bring it down, but put something useful in. Not more 500K waste-of-space condos. You want people buying condos in WS? Then let local businesses have California Ave, not more and more and more condos. Ugh.

    Comment by dolly — 9:29 pm November 8, 2007 #

  11. well…i live in one of those “fugly” apartments. and i love it here. i dont know how many wsb readers are renters, but let me tell you…for those of us that cant afford home ownership, these places are the only way i can live in west seattle. i would be devastated if i couldnt stay in this neighborhood….
    …and most likely i wouldnt be able to if they tore down these apartments.

    Comment by s — 10:24 pm November 8, 2007 #

  12. Very true, s.

    Comment by dolly — 10:30 pm November 8, 2007 #

  13. Money moves where there is a need.

    Comment by Maria — 12:29 am November 9, 2007 #

  14. s, here’s hoping the apartments stay in place, at least until there are similar options in our neighborhood that renters can afford. Best of luck and I’m glad you’re here in the ‘hood.

    Comment by Luckie — 7:19 am November 9, 2007 #

  15. November 9 UPDATE: I’ve just heard from the city planning department that its public comment deadline for the upzone proposal has been extended until December 5. Thanks to anyone here who helped prompt the additional two weeks for concerned residents to submit their comments.

    - Forest

    Comment by Forest — 10:33 am November 9, 2007 #

  16. I’m a renter in this block as well. My main concern, besides rentals getting increasingly squeezed out, is that parking and traffic is a big issue that already spills into the “quiet residential group of single family homes” in this area. Yes the buildings are fugly, but I hope they take the density impact into serious consideration.

    Comment by luna — 12:21 pm November 9, 2007 #

  17. we moved to West Seattle in 96..Condos or not..it’s a hell of a lot more fun to live here now. More to do, more to see. I would like to see some nice rental apartments here tho, for those who don’t want to buy.

    Comment by grr — 11:10 pm November 10, 2007 #

  18. Hi. I’m a longtime resident of 44th Ave. S.W., which is one block west of Calfornia. The back of our property abuts the block (3200) that is up for rezoning. I originally hesitated to buy a home that shared a back boundary with commercial zoning, but part of the reason I decided to buy was that the commercial zoning only allowed lower-rise buildings. We have already lost privacy in our backyard (which borders the alley due west of California) due to new development of higher houses (“skinnies”). And now this. The businesses/apartments that overlook our backyard aren’t particularly atractive (especially since two of them removed the beautiful pines that provided some natural buffering), but they at least have some character. And new, higher buildings would mean decreased privacy, less sun, and, probably even more noise. And what might follow? Multi-family zoning to replace single-family a block or so east and west?

    Is anyone in the area interested in sharing resources to speak against the rezoning? Or is there a group already doing so? I’m not sure what we could do – distribute flyers to neighbors to ensure they know it’s happening and who to contact… or something else? Perhaps I am being naive in hoping something like this might help. I hope not.

    I’m grateful for this blog, which is where I found out about this, though my husband recently saw the sign posted about it near Spiro’s.

    Comment by mctosh — 4:17 pm November 12, 2007 #

  19. What has taken someone so long to request this? i am surprised that this hasn’t been thought of earlier. Sounds like a great idea to get rid of some old stale buildings and replace them with some nice retail and housing. Maybe this part of the California Ave. strip can finally attract some good retail businesses and continue the revival of West Seattle commercial. The neighborhood between the Alaska & Admiral Junction areas has needed this for decades. Being a lifetime resident of this neighborhood, I hope it doesn’t get swept under the table because non forward thinking residents can’t stand any change! C
    mon City of Seattle. Be bold and actually grant something we REALLY need.

    Comment by Jonathan — 3:52 pm November 13, 2007 #

  20. Jonathan, Forward thinking includes planning and only foolish people embrace all change blindly. In fact, West Seattle already has a plan that addresses change in the area being proposed for rezone: The Admiral Neighborhood Plan. It was developed over much time through many meetings and discussion by many, many West Seattle residents who were being both “forward thinking” and planful in considering change, and it specifically and clearly recommends against rezoning in the area proposed for rezoning. To see this excerpt from The Admiral Neighborhood Plan please see my comment under “Upzone update #2: Applicants’ statement; your next steps”.

    Comment by Concerned WS Resident — 1:49 am November 15, 2007 #

  21. I’ve lived and worked my entire life in West Seattle. I think it is a very special place and I plan to be here forever. I have had my offices located on this block for over 25 years. I own property in this block and would like to develope it. I am very interested in enhancing the identity and character of the area. I’d like to build a high quality mixed use building with retail, apt/condo’s that will fit in and look like it belongs in the Admiral district.
    This block was actually downzoned from a 40′ height restriction to 30′ a few years ago. It should be put back to what it was and remain consistant with the adjacent properties to the north and south at 40′.
    Parking has always been an issue in the Admiral area and the additional 10′ will allow us to afford to supply two floors of underground, much needed, parking and storage.
    I’d like to build a building I can be proud of.

    Comment by Mike — 12:03 pm November 22, 2007 #

  22. I feel the rezone should be granted. Zoning should make sense. This block at a 30 foot height restriction makes none. As a lifelong resident of West Seattle I think it is time to continue to improve on it. West Seattle is a great place to live and it should not be held back. The secret is out and it is going to grow and change, like it or not. It is nice to know that some local property owners who care about the area and the long term outcome of development are involved in this rezone. This is not just another investment to them. They are not outsiders just coming in to make a quick profit, take their money and run. They really do care and would like to build some nice buildings. They should not be penalized by the down zone that took place a few years back. The zonoing should be returned to what it was. It should be consistant to the adjacent blocks to the north and south, 40 Foot height.
    I would like to see some attractive mixed use buildings with retail on the main floor and apartments built in this block.

    Comment by JG — 3:54 pm November 24, 2007 #

  23. West Seattle is and has been a wonderful place to live for a long time. Raising the heighth restriction is a must if we are going to allow affordable housing for young families. If not propery values will continue to rise and young families will not be able to afford to live here. We should all be thankful to the developers who are modernizing our little city.

    Comment by West Seattle Resident — 3:58 pm November 24, 2007 #

  24. 30 ft…..40 ft….. whats the big deal! I’ve lived in West Seattle my whole life. Don’t confuse motion with progress, for it you do West Seattle’s twin sister would be South Park (no offence South Park) but you still look the same as you did 30 years ago.

    Since this was originally zoned 40′, I cannot imagine why it would have been changed to 30′. Anyone know the answer to this and if so is it a good one?

    The City Planners are responsible for the parking issues on street and off through the building codes. So let them do their job but allow this property owner to put in some parking by raising the height back to its original 40′. In the love of god man…… 10′ is less then a car length.

    Remember…. The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. Go WEST SEATTLE!

    Comment by Martini — 8:44 am November 25, 2007 #

  25. It seems to me that there are three options for the future of this block in general. The first is to leave it as is which will leave mostly older run down properties that will be rented for lower rents but will continue to decline in condition and offer few amenities that the block could use. The second is to do like most other blocks now being built on up and down the street and build townhomes which also offer no amenities to the block but they would look better than the current buildings. The third is to allow the requested rezone and hopefully end up with some nice buildings that would offer many more living units and have full commercial street frontage with underground parking. Without question I feel that the third option is the best!!!

    Comment by Roger Cayce — 8:49 am November 25, 2007 #

  26. I don’t necessarily understand why the City from time to time downzones property. I’ve had property downzoned and all I got was a letter that said btw your property has been downzoned from x to y. The downzoning of this property makes no sense to me unless you think you want to increase single family homes (30′ height) along California Avenue? Who would live there? 40′ is still not very tall as it compares to the 60′ or 65′ zoning which is more common in commercial areas. I say more power to cleaning up that block and building something attractive and welcoming to both small business and residents.

    Comment by al — 10:32 am November 25, 2007 #

  27. The only question I have is why not?
    California Avenue is where we should increase density not decrease it. I think the 40 foot height request will have no negative impact and makes the best sense. If they were asking for a 65 foot height I would speek against.
    I’m all for it. The rezone to 40 feet should be approved. Lets see some nice developing done to continue to improve West Seattle.

    Comment by Lifelong WS Resident — 4:15 pm November 27, 2007 #

  28. I agree with Lifelong WS Resident.
    What is the difference. If the additional 10 feet of height will allow nicer buildings at what could be more affordable prices, approve it. I’d also like to see the block updated with some much needed additional parking. Lets face it. California Avenue is overdue for some updating.
    This request does make sense.

    Comment by sue/another lifelong WS Resident — 4:24 pm November 27, 2007 #

  29. As a lifelong resident of this wonderful city I have seen an abundance of growth and changes over the years, some good and some not so good. This rezone request should be granted and returned to 40′ as is with the properties located both to the North and South. Why it was reduced in the first place makes no good sense. The difference between a property owner/developer that takes pride in our city and those others who have little regard for the impact their development may create on the neighborhood/residents is huge! The plan to develop this block has been well thought out and will do nothing but enhance our neighborhood, provide much needed housing, commercial space and parking. If you reside, work & do business in lovely West Seattle and know this property owner who wishes to develop than I would think you would agree that supporting a man who takes such great pride in his community, business, & neighborhood is truly a good thing as his plans will do nothing but enhance this block and provide opportunities for others success as well.

    Comment by KN — 10:36 am November 28, 2007 #

  30. it is one thing to say we “could” offer more affordable housing…
    …but who’s to say that once the zoning changes that it doesn’t just end up being condo’s identical to all the others on california ave.

    Comment by s — 4:48 pm November 28, 2007 #

  31. California Avenue is developing at such a rapid pace and in some cases without much thought for the surrounding neighborhood. However, I think in this case with businesses such as Huling Bros. closing and the negative economic impact of that on the West Seattle community we should consider any development that would create employment opportunities a plus.

    Comment by John — 5:29 pm November 28, 2007 #

  32. A reply to comment by s….
    There is no guarantee “to say that once the zoning changes that it doesn’t just end up being condo’s identical to all the others on California ave.” The bigger question is why should this block not be able to be like the rest of California ave.? Why should this block be penalized? The good news here is that some of the owners of this block who want to develope it, live and work in West Seattle and care about it’s outcome and look. What do you have to lose. Have some faith. Support the rezone.
    The alternative is to leave it as it is with mostly older run down properties that will continue to decline in condition and offer few amenities that could be positive for the Admiral District.

    Comment by Mike — 5:32 pm November 28, 2007 #

  33. I have seen the developers proposed plans for what could become of the block between Hanford & Hinds on California Ave. They did not look like your average condos/retail that you see up and down the Avenue. It was a very classy looking building that had a downtown urban look and feel. This would be 20 times better looking than what is there now, not to mention 2 floors of underground parking that would be provided. This extra parking is really needed along this particular part of California Avenue. I don’t know why the block was down zoned in the first place, both too the North & South along California Ave is all 40 feet. Why would we not want to utilize California Avenues major bus lines and add this floor of condos or apartments? This would help keep the condos and apartments out of neighborhoods and putting them where they belong. Seems to me that there has been a number of blogers above that know and are supportive in what these developers are capable of doing here. These developers have been long time residents and business owners here in West Seattle. I know them both personally and I am 100% behind what they are trying to do for this community.

    Comment by Paul — 9:17 pm November 28, 2007 #

  34. Grew up in West Seatttle but have lived all over and now currently live in a beautifull European country….For years I have never liked the way that block has looked {along with so many other areas of west seattle…nothing seems to match or connect gracefully together…it’s just not pleasing to look at. I understand perserving the idenity of the area but c’mon people…that block has got to go!!! TO THE INTERESTED DEVELOPER: wHO can deny the beauty of ancient European cities? How about encorporating some stone architecture into a beautifull thought out designed building that would be INCREDIBLY ATTRACTIVE VISUALLY. Something that would last many many years and really contribute to the neighborhood. The ROMANS and GREEKS weren’t stupid you know..they were masters of beauty and functionality. WHY CANT WE DO THE SAME? iF YOUR GOING TO BUILD…BUILD IT WELL!!! As for change…well, nothing stays the same. It could be a lot worse people! ENJOY LIFE

    Comment by margarita — 6:27 am January 6, 2008 #

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