(Video of this morning’s entire committee meeting, from Seattle Channel; West Seattle item starts at 21:10)
We’re at Seattle City Hall, where the Council’s Committee for the Built Environment has just – with what chair Councilmember Sally Clark described as some frustration – voted 3-0 to deny the appeal of the California SW rezoning proposal, and send it to the full council for a final vote. That comes 3 years after the emergence of the proposal to rezone a block of California SW between Hinds and Hanford for taller buildings and bigger commercial spaces. The vote followed almost half an hour total of oral arguments from opponents – mostly neighbors who had filed formal appeals – and supporters, including area business/property owner Roger Cayce. Click ahead for details on what preceded the vote (we are progressively adding more details to the story before moving on from City Hall, where we’re also now monitoring the same committee’s forthcoming vote on the Multi-Family Code (which addresses townhouse design – and much more – and has been years in the making):
The proposal approved by the committee today first came to light in early November 2007. Thought there is not, and has not yet been, a specific redevelopment proposal for the area, the rezoning supporters have contended – as they did again today – that the current zoning makes new projects economically unfeasible. The formal applicant throughout the process has been consultant Josh Stepherson, representing a group of property owners most visibly including local real-estate entrepreneurs Roger Cayce and Mike Gain.
While the proposal lay idle for all of 2009, this year it revived with the Department of Planning and Development’s recommendation that it be approved. That led to a multi-part hearing before the city Hearing Examiner – it included an appeal of a separate determination that it had no significant environmental impact (environment in this context including factors such as traffic, not just ecology), as well as the formal public hearing on whether the proposal should be approved.
When her report came out, it denied the appeal and affirmed the DPD recommendation for approval. Opponents then filed what the city counted as six appeals – which would have to be considered by this council committee, which started that process at the previous meeting.
At that meeting, committee chair Councilmember Sally Clark had made provisions for a possible third committee meeting on the proposal, but decided today to go ahead with a vote, while voicing some “frustration” that many of the opponents’ points could not be considered – particularly their contention that the rezone wouldn’t fit with the Admiral Neighborhood Plan. Apparently, the plan’s “goals and objectives” are all that count in proceedings like this – and the committee said they’d checked that with the City Attorney’s Office – not its narrative, as worked out in an arduous neighborhood-involved process more than a decade ago.
In addition to the contention that the rezone wasn’t in the spirit of the Neighborhood Plan, as argued before the council by Dennis Ross, neighbors also said the city had erred in dismissing their concerns about views – Phil Wingard argued this point, saying some views were legally protected, though the city contended it had nothing of the sort on record – and Cole Peck contended, among other points, the process had not given neighbors or other concerned parties their due, given that there was only one official public meeting (November 29, 2007). All three were among those who had spoken in the Hearing Examiner’s chambers during the hearing there three months ago.
The four speakers for the rezone were consultant Stepherson, property owner Cayce, city planner Shelley Bolser, and local architect/developer Brandon Nicholson, who, when the proposal emerged in 2007, had been active with the Admiral Neighborhood Association, which ultimately opposed it; our coverage of a December 2007 ANA discussion of the proposal quoted Nicholson as saying then that he thought the supporters had “a case” for getting it approved. In general, they refuted the opponents’ contentions, insisting the rezone made sense.
(still more to come … to be continued…)