Last night’s Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting spent more than an hour focusing on the much-discussed upzoning proposal for both sides of California between Hanford and Hinds (and a little further south on the west side, as shown on the city map at left). At the heart of this discussion: What happens next? Association president Mark Wainwright thinks the property owners, represented by Josh Stepherson (who attended last night’s meeting) and longtime local real-estate/property-management partners Roger Cayce and Mike Gain, should pull the proposal and start over. But that was just one of the suggestions at last night’s meeting.
With a smaller group — about 15 people sitting around tables in a U formation at the ANA’s usual meeting venue, Admiral Congregational Church — last night’s dialogue was a lot more civil than the big public meeting two weeks ago, though almost as spirited.
Since that meeting, Wainwright has met with Gain, who he said showed him some early plans for the type of development they are considering for the east side of the block. Wainwright believes that’s not the best place to start developing the area, for reasons including the absence of an alley for access.
As has been reported previously, the zoning change that’s being sought would enable 4-story buildings with ground-floor space for businesses as big as 25,000 square feet (roughly the size of a small grocery store like PCC, it was suggested at the meeting), compared to 3 stories and 10,000 square feet, respectively, in the current zoning.
The Admiral association’s contention is that development of this size runs contrary to the Admiral Neighborhood Plan (which you can find here), created with intensive community input in the late ’90s. The property owners’ contention is that the Neighborhood Plan is out of date.
Another one of the area residents at last night’s meeting, Junction-based architect Brandon Nicholson, says he believes the property owners do have a “case for the rezone” — because in his view the area does match the criteria for NC2-40.
Nicholson says he is interested in an idea that first surfaced at the November 30 community meeting, proceeding with this proposal as a “contract rezone,” which would peg the upzoning to a specific project on a specific site, with various terms and conditions. “Something’s going to happen with the property at some point,” he contends, “does the neighborhood want to have some control?” He believes that control could only come through a compromise such as a contract rezone.
Wainwright says he doesn’t entirely agree the area is a match for NC2-40 zoning – he considers it more of a “split,” on the line between its current NC1-30 and the proposed NC2-40. One reason he cites: Many areas with the latter zoning tend to have more of a buffer zone between their larger developments and neighboring areas of single-family developments, which would not be the case here, as streets of single-family homes are immediately behind these blocks, on both sides (42nd to the east, 44th to the west).
Throughout the discussion, which also involved worried neighbors who had voiced opposition to the upzoning, property owners rep Stepherson listened and took notes that he promised to share with his clients. Asked what he would take away from the meeting, Stepherson said he was hearing talk about potential “mitigation measures” — though the association’s Dennis Ross took exception with that, contending it’s “too early to talk about mitigation … on 42nd and 44th, you can’t mitigate height [from the potential new development].”
Wainwright took that occasion to note, again, that everyone needs to remember current zoning would allow a building of nearly 40 feet to go up “tomorrow” if the property owners chose; Nicholson offered words of caution, again, about neighbors proceeding in an adversarial mode regarding the property owners: “If you fight the fight, you might hate the result.” He says he’s had experience in some situations where developers could wind up holding a grudge against project opponents who fight them tooth and nail.
That shifted the discussion to concerns about how the upzoning proposal has been handled and presented to neighbors. (First word of it came in the city’s Land Use Information Bulletin on November 8th, which we promptly posted here on WSB, but it got little mention elsewhere aside from the obligatory city signs that went up on the block, and some neighbors say they didn’t hear about it till just a few days before the public meeting on November 30.) One neighbor suggested, “They (Cayce & Gain & the other property owners) may have the power to reverse this (negative perception), to shift this in a more positive direction,” if they sought a new, proactive way to present their ideas to the community — Stepherson described it as their “vision” — and listen to concerns.
Wainwright suggests it would be most productive for a smaller subgroup to form and try to open that dialogue. We expect to hear soon from the neighbors at last night’s meeting who committed to organizing that subgroup; their communications also will funnel through the Admiral Neighborhood Association, whose official e-mail group (everyone who lives and/or works/does business in the area is welcome) can be found here.
As for the official next step: City planner Malli Anderson is still accepting public comments on the upzoning proposal, though the official deadline has passed. Her contact info:
700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000
Seattle, WA 98124
You can also track the official city project page here.