It’s less than a week and a half till a public hearing is scheduled before the city Hearing Examiner downtown for anyone with something to say about the city’s 3-years-in-the-making recommendation to approve the zoning change proposed for a block-plus stretch of California SW (city map at left). The change from NC1-30 to NC2-40, which permits larger businesses and taller buildings (zoning classifications are explained here), was first proposed in fall of 2007 (we found it in the city’s Land Use Information Bulletin in November 2007). The city Department of Planning and Development, however, didn’t issue its recommendation until this summer.
First word of that came in June from local real-estate entrepreneur Mike Gain, who applied for the zoning change along with longtime business partner Roger Cayce. Then we followed up when the city’s memo was available. Since then, Admiral residents Dennis Ross and Stephen Levey have filed an appeal, under the name Admiral Community Council. (The group is separate from the Admiral Neighborhood Association, though ANA did send the city a letter in December 2007 [read it here] outlining why it did not support the rezoning proposal.) And residents near the proposed rezoning area have launched a new opposition group, organizing online via Facebook. Read on for more on what’s happening now, what happens next, and the key date for those with something to say about the proposal:
First, the basics of the proposal:
In fall of 2007, Gain and Cayce asked the city to rezone the block of California SW between Hanford and Hinds – and a bit farther south, on the west side. Their real-estate business was originally located there; Gain is currently head of Prudential Northwest Realty, which was located for a time in the same area, but now is headquartered in Jefferson Square.
At the time they requested the rezoning, they laid out their original reasoning in a statement published here.
Subsequently, nearby residents launched an opposition campaign. Though city rules do not require a public meeting on a proposal like this in that early of a stage, there was one, and it was heated (WSB coverage here).
As you’ll notice if you browse our coverage archive here, that all subsequently was followed by a long period of the city saying – every time we checked – that its decision was imminent – though it wasn’t – and there was no word from anyone involved until June of this year, when the recommendation was issued.
Now area residents have regrouped; they’re on Facebook as the group “Neighbors Against the California Ave Rezone.”
If you aren’t on Facebook, the publicly visible section of their page lays out their view:
Cayce & Gain have petitioned to upzone 152,755+ square feet of California Ave. SW. Developer/builders own about 50% of the property (including Cayce & Gain about a third). Their property values will rise at the expense of residential neighbors!
We need to stop this upzone NOW because:
Rezoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40 doesn’t mean “an extra floor,” as some state. Accommodating for business type and/or eastward slope, heights could be about 55 feet. Size limits, now 10,000 square feet, would be 25,000 (50,000 for sales/service!). New business types allowed include auto/large boat sales/repair, manufacturing, theater/spectator sports, adult cabarets, lodging, and dedicated parking lots.
This subverts The Admiral Residential Urban Village (ARUV) 1998 Plan developed through two years of community meetings. The Plan recommends against rezoning, including the 3200 block. “The Planning Coalition recommends that existing zoning should remain with no changes within the ARUV because of the Coalition’s strong desire to maintain the existing character of the community.” (Key Strategy 1, Recom. 1.2, pg. 6); additionally, any proposed change to heights should include an “enhanced and meaningful” city/community planning process. This private petition includes limited input within tight timelines (during the holidays 3 years back; and now in the heart of summer). If approved, this could result in more developer-driven rezones that circumvent community planning.
The proposal includes no plans at all, let alone clear enhancements. Per a recent city report, the rezone could “result in a likely buildout of 386 residential units and 172 employees for the commercial area,” and about “650 new daily (car) trips” for new residences; but it seriously downplays impacts. Building at NC2-40 would magnify negative impacts to views and natural light, street and alley traffic, and parking. An added floor of view property would likely result in 4-story multi-family dwellings oriented west, blocking views and light of residences on 42nd and towering over 44th Ave. backyards.
There is already enough NC2-40 property in the 98-acre ARUV to support projected growth figures for both housing and businesses in the ARUV. The area of petition includes about 15 affordable apartment buildings; residents will likely be displaced and affordable housing lost – new units (particularly with sweeping sound views) would cost more. The ARUV Plan calls for 200 more residential units in the 98-acre ARUV by 2014, with density around the Admiral Junction business area; growth is on target as planned. Developing at NC2-40 this far from the Junction would draw business and residents away from the ARUV business core, hurting businesses that located in due faith as planned. Small existent businesses could suffer from lack of on-street parking and higher taxes. Also, new construction and remodeling within NC1-30 zoning allowance is ongoing and profitable. Plus West Seattle faces a condo glut – apartment conversions to unsold condos are rented, but residents have been displaced. The healthy neighborhood-business area will suffer if this rezone is allowed!
The group opposed to the zoning change has set up not just the aforementioned Facebook group, but also an e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org – for anyone seeking information.
Meantime, back to the appeal. This Tuesday, the Hearing Examiner is scheduled to meet with both sides in the appeal. As with all Hearing Examiner proceedings, it’s open to the public – 3 pm at the HE chambers, which are on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown.
The main public event coming up next, however, is the official public hearing at that same location, 9 am on August 18th, one week from Wednesday. If you can’t get to the hearing, comments are still being accepted by postal mail, but they must be received, the city says, by that same date. The address listed is: City of Seattle Hearing Examiner,
700 5th Avenue, Suite 4000/P.O. Box 94729, Seattle, WA 98124-4729.
After the hearing, the HE will write a report for the City Council – according to the rezoning process explained in this city document – which then would vote on the proposal; there’s usually a committee vote and then the full council vote – no dates set for that yet.
(Cayce and Gain have not announced any specific development proposal; we’ve done an area check via this DPD map tool and it doesn’t appear anything is pending in the area currently.)