Update: City Council committee takes up Triangle rezoning

November 16, 2011 at 10:55 am | In Development, Triangle, West Seattle news | 26 Comments

10:55 AM: Proposed rezoning for the West Seattle Triangle – and adjacent areas – is going before the City Council’s Committee on the Built Environment during the meeting that’s under way right now (the meeting started at 9, but they had a big agenda). You can watch the live video feed here – click “play”:

(meeting over so video window removed – will add archived video when it’s made available by Seattle Channel, likely later today)

Here’s the presentation they’re being shown about the proposed rezoning, which would rezone some parts of the Triangle/east Junction area to allow 85-foot-high buildings, as well as changing an even-larger area from “commercial” to “neighborhood commercial” zoning, which doesn’t change the height but does change expectations at street level, for example. The Triangle Advisory Committee did not endorse the upzoning, as council staffers are noting in the briefing, but DPD council staff is recommending expanding that upzoning beyond what had previously been discussed. You can read their extensive memo here. It mentions a bombshell dropped recently by the Seattle Planning Commission, which suggested that the concept of a “single iconic tower of 160 feet or more” be considered for the Fauntleroy/Alaska vicinity. That is NOT currently part of the rezoning proposal, but something to keep an eye out for. We’ll add some notes once the meeting is over.

11:51 AM: Meeting’s over. Council staff will draft a bill to be voted on by the committee on November 30th if possible (the sentiment expressed was that they would “like to get this wrapped up by the end of the year” – watch the agendas here). West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen expressed concerns about zoning in the area of 40th/Oregon, where he expressed appreciation for old bungalows that have townhouses built behind them; he thought that was a more appropriate and “pleasant, unique” use of the land than changing the zoning so those bungalows are all facing demolition and replacement with what he called “schlocky townhouses.” Council President Richard Conlin said he wanted to be sure the “canyon effect” – taller buildings, both sides of the street – wasn’t going to result from changes here. Councilmember Sally Clark (the committee’s chair) said she favors DPD’s proposal and appreciated the firsthand look she got during a recent Triangle walking tour (WSB coverage here). Conlin and Councilmember O’Brien said they’ll probably come out this way for their own firsthand looks.

One other thing discussed, the issue of “hide and ride” parking – Clark said that was raised during the walking tour, and she supports the proposal to have SDOT study the area for potential parking regulation to reduce that possibility.

26 Comments

  1. Looks awesome. C to NC will make a nicer pedestrian environment. It dovetails nicely with Metro’s proposed restructure of the bus network in West Seattle: RapidRide C will go right through the heart of that area, as will the revised 128, providing a direct connection to Alki, Admiral and Delridge.

    The tower idea is intriguing, if it can be done right. I seriously hope they don’t build a P&R there. That would be nuts.

    Comment by Bruce Nourish — 11:21 am November 16, 2011 #

  2. We have heard the govt’s say time and time again – especially the city – park and rides are NOT in their plans for here or for anywhere, unless a private developer wanted to build one. There was some talk of some excess parking being used that way, years ago, for a still-on-hold lot a bit closer into The Junction, and also maybe for the humongous below-grade garage “The Hole” was dug for … that building was approved when the city required more parking in developments than it does now. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:33 am November 16, 2011 #

  3. That part of my comment arose this line in from the PDF document from staff:

    “Another note from the Framework is consideration of providing a park-and-ride facility in the West Seattle Junction Hub Urban Village to serve transit riders bound for downtown.”

    Comment by Bruce Nourish — 11:43 am November 16, 2011 #

  4. I’m disappointed to see NC3-85 is as ambitious as their willing to get. I’ve written to city council and DPD suggesting hight limits ranging from 120ft up to 250ft in the Triangle. I’m concerned that the current proposal simply won’t do enough to encourage more development in the Triangle.

    Comment by Peter on Fauntleroy — 11:56 am November 16, 2011 #

  5. An iconic tower to match Alaska House? That addition to the neighborhood certainly didn’t encourage developer investment for the past 30 years. That height provision was struck down to 85 feet to prevent iconic towers from being built.

    Comment by elevated concern — 12:45 pm November 16, 2011 #

  6. Hey folks, I am including a link to the Planning Commission website where you can read their entire letter for a better understanding of the nuance of their thoughtful recommendations.

    http://www.cityofseattle.net/planningcommission/

    Comment by Barbara Wilson — 1:24 pm November 16, 2011 #

  7. As a long time resident, the speed at which the council’s & newbies’ knees hit the floor for developers is simply breathtaking.

    Not only expand the 85 foot height limits, but commence the Bellevueization of West Seattle with an Iconic Tower?

    Iconic to whom? For whom? Is our collective ego so fragile, or our inferiority complex so great that we need an Iconic Tower shouting “look at me” to Beacon Hill and Downtown?

    I see no upsides to the existing neighborhood at all. Instead, I see architectural condescension telling me my neighborhood is without, to which I take great offense.

    Comment by pjmanley — 2:39 pm November 16, 2011 #

  8. to reinforce TR’s comment; there will never be a park&ride built in WS. It would have to be a structure, which is too expensive, between the land and construction costs.
    For a private developer to be involved, as was the case at Northgate, it would have to be a HUGE development, similar to, well, Northgate. The most feasible option would be a shared surface lot where the owner doesn’t need the space on weekdays; that pretty much limits it to a church. I’m not aware of any churches near the main WS transit routes with huge parking lots.
    In any event, neighbors would not be happy with the traffic generated by a 300 – 500 stall parking garage.
    The Framework was developed by a community group organized by the city; they were not restricted in what they recommended; the comment about the park-and-ride (and other future recommendations) was prefaced by, “The community’s recommendations have not been evaluated by City departments as to their feasibility …” The comment was made in response to concerns about ‘hide-and-ride’ parking in the neighborhoods by commuters using RapidRide to get downtown.
    The Framework’s URL is too long to post here; you can find it by clicking on ‘read their extensive memo here’ in the story, going to page 13 and clicking on the title of the Framework at the top of the page.

    Comment by metrognome — 3:03 pm November 16, 2011 #

  9. PJ – Via Twitter, my friend Justin- who publishes neighborhood news on Capitol Hill at http://capitolhillseattle.com – says that the “iconic tower” seems to be a new fad among planning recommendations. The light-rail project up there has had one recommended in much the same way. (However, their “iconic tower” was suggested at 120 feet, only 75% of “ours.” ) Again, though, please keep in mind this is NOT in the official proposals so far … we’ll do our best to read the fine print and appreciate the others who are doing the same …

    Comment by WSB — 3:22 pm November 16, 2011 #

  10. The iconic tower is not a recommendation by anyone. The idea was simply mentioned in a letter drafted by the Seattle Planning Commission. I’m not sure why it received the play it did in the article, but the idea hits a nerve here in WS!
    .
    Not mentioned here is the fact that City Council spent a lot of time discussing how to make sure small open spaces, green streets and pedestrian networks are part of future development projects. A little more density with a little more green sounds good to me!

    Comment by Iconic Tower — 3:41 pm November 16, 2011 #

  11. We have covered all that extensively and intensively along the past almost-four-years of covering the Triangle planning/visioning process. As for the Iconic Tower, here is the exact language from the Planning Commission letter, which I need to upload and link to the story: “Consider zoning that would allow for a single iconic tower at Alaska and Fauntleroy. This could create a strong focal point for the community. However, in order to make such a tower feasible we suspect that a height of 160 feet or greater would be needed. The additional capacity in the tower would be tied to incentives that would yield neighborhood-specific public benefits.”
    .
    TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:03 pm November 16, 2011 #

  12. What I’m most interested in is preserving the view from the Alaska Junction, over the triangle and out east to the Cascades. It’s lovely and should not be marred by the tops of acres of apartment buildings.

    Comment by Herman — 4:15 pm November 16, 2011 #

  13. Hi, I am on the staff of the Seattle Planning Commission. the Commission itself is an independent and objective body that provides advise to city decision makers.

    Please note that the Commssion letter is very nuanced and worth a read. The single iconic tower was presented as an idea to consider. It is not a central focus or high priotiy within the Planning Commission’s comments and recommendations. Please go here to read the full letter

    http://www.cityofseattle.net/planningcommission/

    Thanks,
    Barb Wilson
    Director, Seattle Planning Commission

    Comment by Barbara Wilson — 4:30 pm November 16, 2011 #

  14. I’d be happy to see an iconic 160-foot tower there on top of a light rail station.

    Comment by Paul — 9:44 pm November 16, 2011 #

  15. It would be nice if the Seattle Design Commission, and Seattle DPD would have considered the Gateway concept proposed by previous advisory boards to the Triangle. 100,000 folks travel throught the Alaska and Fauntleroy intersection every day. We need a street level vibrant intersection that embraces cars and allows pedestrians,pets, and cyclists to access all corners of the neighborhood safely. The park and ride concept could co-exist with a new development and be upscaled to include small retail and cafe’s.
    Please consider that the trade off for Upzoning and allowing commercial property owners to max out their lots should provide more significant gains for this neighborhood in our community. Perhaps the council and DPD can redraft a plan that would allow our community to grow and expand more cohesively. I love West Seattle.

    Comment by jet city girl — 11:05 pm November 16, 2011 #

  16. “The additional capacity in the tower would be tied to incentives that would yield neighborhood-specific public benefits.”
    .
    i’d be happy to see an iconic tower blasting free wi-fi to all of west seattle.
    .
    paul allen had a similar idea for the space needle a few years ago – broadcast a free wi-fi signal from there with a 5-mile radius. but of course, the big cell providers screamed bloody murder.

    Comment by redblack — 5:51 am November 17, 2011 #

  17. Nothing could be less “West Seattle” than a 160′ tower. Exactly how does a 160′ tower fit with the Murals of West Seattle, the Walking on Logs statues, the Log Cabin Museum and the overall relatively modest homes in West Seattle. It doesn’t. Look at what the City allowed to happen to Ballard. Everyone I know bemoans what has happened to Ballard. I don’t want the same fate for West Seattle. I don’t want the Alaska Fauntleroy area to be turned into a dark canyon bounded by large ugly and cheap buildings which is what we will get. For those of you who want tall buildings, move to downtown or Bellevue.

    Comment by nancy38 — 9:17 am November 17, 2011 #

  18. I could see one single tower at that one corner to really ground the 5 way intersection. I could see a few floors of retail at ground, then 2 floors of parking, then medical offices including an urgent care facility. That would bring jobs to West Seattle and provide a very important need for the WS community. On single slender tower would actually be kind of cool!

    But anyway, I read the letter from the Commission which seemed to be much more focused on pedestrian safety and environment and getting needed open space. I concur that people are making too much of a single point in a very thoughtful analysis by the Planning Commission.

    If you read the letter you will see that it is focused on queuing the area up to be “vibrant, safe, pleasant walkable communit(y) that make the most of our local and regional transit investments….while taking into consideration preserving and enhancing important community assets like Alki Lumber and the West Seattle YMCA…”

    Right on! Bring it!

    Comment by George — 11:13 am November 17, 2011 #

  19. Why shouldn’t we be demanding that the developers contribute to a park and ride? Just because it isn’t as big as Northgate doesn’t mean the impact of the new development isn’t going to have the same or in this case even a greater impact to West Seattle? Why is this off the table? They want increased height to generate more profit then they need to re-invest a portion of that back into the community they are building in. Why give them a free ride when for every unit built it is going to cost us all in increased traffic time, increased utilities, the list goes on.
    As for the tower.. in West Seattle? What a red herring.

    Comment by neighbor — 11:56 am November 17, 2011 #

  20. 160 foot tower would be very out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. Far more reasonable (in my opinion) would be to step up some of the SF land near Faunteroy from SF5000 to either LR 1, 2 or 3. This won’t mean all of those houses will be instantly converted: unless current residents decide to all sell en-mass new development will happen slowly and almost imperceptibly, which is as it should be.

    Comment by Alex Broner — 2:50 pm November 17, 2011 #

  21. The problem with such trade-offs are that they are never even trades. A developer gets 3 extra floors, zero lot line setbacks, increased breadth, reduced parking, etc., and the community gets what? A couple of corner gardens and a little grass?

    I’m sorry folks, but the way we celebrate “pocket parks” like grand triumphs in this city is why we end up with ruinous redevelopment like Ballard.

    I defy anyone to give me an example anywhere in this entire City where offsetting benefits to the community were worth what they gave up to developers. I have yet to see it anywhere where it wasn’t 80/20 or better in favor of the developer.

    And no, hell no, I’m not against development or jobs. Living in the Junction area, I’ve seen lots of redevelopment whether as condos, backyard duplexes, or townhomes, and the most significant reason why they work in this area, is because they remain in scale with the neighborhood surrounding them. Gradual, thoughtful, carefully paced and planned development is what we want if we want West Seattle to remain West Seattle, and not become another Ballard or Bellevue.

    The last time I drove down Market Street in Ballard, I could barely tell the difference between it and Bellevue Way. Drive both roads sometime and see for yourselves.

    I like West Seattle’s character, and support the thoughtful development and compromises that are worked out in good faith. These kinds of moves, however, disgust me. Where does it end? Once it starts, it never will.

    Comment by pjmanley — 4:26 pm November 17, 2011 #

  22. Great post pjmanley . Bravo!!

    Comment by DF — 4:55 pm November 17, 2011 #

  23. “Consider zoning that would allow for a single iconic tower at Alaska and Fauntleroy. This could create a strong focal point for the community. However, in order to make such a tower feasible we suspect that a height of 160 feet or greater would be needed. The additional capacity in the tower would be tied to incentives that would yield neighborhood-specific public benefits.”

    Who birthed this idea in the first place? And oh, how I want to see their portfolio, so I know what “creative ideas” are coming next.

    Comment by pjmanley — 9:15 pm November 17, 2011 #

  24. West Seattle Neighbors
    We need to have a meeting to discuss what our community wants/needs in “addition to” what the Seattle Design Commission and the Seattle Dept. of Planning and Development are recommending and give it a thorough critical anaylsis. This is permanent people. We all are part of crafting the future of our neighborhood. The Seattle City Council can be encouraged to supports the needs of our West Seattle community. THIS IS PERMANENT PEOPLE. Lets give it our thoughtful consideration. I love West Seattle.

    Comment by jet city girl — 10:58 pm November 17, 2011 #

  25. Please consider the fact that Seattle is an economically dynamic place and every time that economy demands 500 new workers and we can only give them 10 new homes, we’re actively pricing ourselves out of our own neighborhood. Please consider what is more important, a view or several hundred people’s option to live affordably. Architecture is one thing, but Ballard will be able to be affordable for longer as a result of those developments. Be anti ugly, not anti big. Seattle can either be a big city for everyone or a small city for those who can afford it, please make the decision that will benefit the most people.

    Comment by Cameron — 2:09 pm November 18, 2011 #

  26. Good point Cameron. Something to be considered.

    Comment by DF — 6:54 pm November 18, 2011 #

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