Two weeks after the daylong hearing on the proposal to “upzone” a block-plus of California SW between Hanford and Hinds (WSB coverage here), the city Hearing Examiner‘s rulings have just arrived in the mail – one, her recommendation regarding the proposal itself; the other, her decision on the appeal challenging the Department of Planning and Development‘s “determination of [environmental] non-significance” regarding the proposal. We are still reading the documents – and will link here if they’re online – but short report for starters: Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner recommends that the City Council approve the rezoning (from the current NC1-30 to NC2-40, which allows taller buildings with larger commercial spaces), and ruled that the DPD’s “determination of non-significance” stands. 12:45 PM UPDATE: Read on for details from the decisions, which so far as we can tell are NOT online yet – and we’ll continue to add more:
Excerpts of potential interest, from the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation report:
Page 4: “… In total, public testimony and comments submitted to the Examiner ran approximately two to one in opposition to the proposed rezone.”
Page 6, the “Conclusions” section, #4: “… The proposed rezone … would increase the zoned capacity of the urban village, and the capacity would be consistent with the density established in the Urban Village Appendix to the Comprehensive Plan. …”
Page 6, the “Conclusions” section, #5: “… The site is already zoned and used for commercial development, and the rezone would not affect the compact, concentrated configuration of the commercial area or the preferred configuration and edge protectxion of adjacent residential zones. Nor would it result in any encroachment of commercial development into residential areas. …”
Page 7, the “Conclusions” section, #7: “… The site best matches the functional and locational criteria for the NC2 zone. It provides both small and medium-sized businesses that serve the adjacent and surrounding neighborhoods. … The area is really part of the pedestrian-oriented shopping area that extends for several blocks and functions as the primary business district within the Urban Village …”
Page 7, the “Conclusions” section, #8: “… A height limit of 40 feet is consistent with the type and scale of development intended for the NC2 zone. …”
Page 7, the “Conclusions” section, #9 and #10: “… Heights throughout the California Avenue SW corridor generally do not reinforce the natural topography of the area, and development does not provide a gradual transition to height, scale and level of activity between zones. Although the slope across the site provides some topographic break between the site and adjacent single-family development to the east, most views from those residences would be blocked if the site were fully built out at NC1-30 zoning, and any remaining views would be blocked by build-out at NC2-40. This would be an issue to be addressed in design review of projects proposed for the site.
“The predominant height and scale of existing development on the site is not a good measure of the area’s overall development potential. A better measure is the height and scale of development to the north and south on California Avenue SW. During the last 20 years, many parcels within surrounding areas that are zoned for 40-foot heights have been redeveloped, which indicates the area’s likely development potential.”
Page 8, the “Conclusions” section, #12: “Although the adopted Neighborhood Plan does not include policies relevant to the proposed rezone, future development under NC2-40 zoning would meet policy A-P1, because it would confirm to the existing character and scale of development along much of the nearby California Avenue SW commercial area, which includes a number of four-story structures.”
Sections #13 and #14 address the “no buffer” point made by the 42nd SW neighbors – immediately to the east of the “upzone” block. In summary, the Hearing Examiner writes that “most of the California Avenue SW commercial corridor in the area” does not have significant buffering between “neighborhood commercial and single-family residential zones.” She notes that “transitions to respond to the neighboring single-family development would likely be provided through design review of future development on the site.”
In section #17 on page 9, her report acknowledges, “Full build-out of the site under either the existing … zoning or the proposed … zoning would result in shadows to the north, east and west, depending on the season and time of day, and would impact private views from adjacent properties to the east. The Director determined that review of future site development pursuant to SEPA, design review and other City Code requirements would be sufficient to address these future development impacts.”
The final conclusion #22: “Weighing and balancing the applicable sections of Chapter 23.34 SMC together, the most appropriate zone and height designation for the site is NC2-40,” before the single line headed RECOMMENDATION: “The Hearing Examiner recommends that the City Council APPROVE the requested rezone.”
The document also says that “… any person substantially affected by a recommendation of the Hearing Examiner may submit an appeal of the recommendation in writing to the City Council. The appeal must be submitted within 14 calendar days following the date of the issuance of the recommendation of the Hearing Examiner …” That makes Sept. 16th the deadline. The address listed is:
Seattle City Council
Built Environment Committee
c/o Seattle City Clerk
600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 3 (physical address)
P.O Box 94728 (mailing address)
Seattle, WA 98124-4728
Meantime, we’ll be watching for the hearing date that committee will set for consideration of the proposal.
APPEAL: Summary of the “Determination of Non-Significance” appeal denial — While the 9-page ruling recaps the arguments made by appellant Dennis Ross, a longtime Admiral community activist/advocate, it points out that in appeals, the burden of proof lies with the appellant – and for virtually every point, the Hearing Examiner wrote that no, or insufficient, evidence was presented to show that the DNS’s findings were wrong.
As for next steps on this, the document says the decision “is the final decision for the City of Seattle,” but notes that it could be challenged in court, but not until after the City Council completes its “action on the rezone application.”