West Seattle, Washington
(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):
This Tuesday morning brings the City Council Committee on the Built Environment‘s next hearing for the proposal to rezone a block-plus along California SW south of Admiral. The three-year-old proposal would rezone the area to allow taller buildings and bigger businesses; here’s our coverage of the committee’s first meeting about it, week before last. As decided then, the council will listen to oral arguments Tuesday, from both the neighbors who are fighting it by filing appeals, and from supporters. The agenda is here, with links to documents including the council’s official briefing memo; it’s the first item on the agenda for the 9 am Tuesday meeting at City Hall. Here’s our archive of coverage dating back to when the proposal was first made public in November 2007. There is no specific project proposed in the rezoning area, but supporters have argued that the new zoning will make “nicer” redevelopment more likely. If the committee does not vote on it Tuesday, they would take it up again next week; once they have voted, it goes to the full council for a final decision.
Three years and nine days after the first word of a proposal to change the zoning of a full block of California SW on the south end of the Admiral District, the proposal has finally reached the City Council, which has the final say.
(Screen grab from Seattle Channel stream of this morning’s hearing)
Its Committee on the Built Environment has just concluded its first hearing on the proposal to change the zoning along a block-plus of California SW (Hanford to Hinds) from NC1-30 to NC2-40, enabling larger businesses and taller buildings.
Despite the time it has taken for the proposal to get to this point, council staffer Michael Jenkins noted to the committee, “You are pressed for time on this” – it’s now close to the end of the 120-day period allotted for committee action. It’s been pushed off this long because the city recommendation on the proposal came right before fall – which happens to be when councilmembers are focused on budget matters; they have wrapped those up except for next Monday’s final budget vote, so that’s why they were able to take it up today.
No one was there for public comment (on this issue or anything else on the agenda) at today’s meeting. The council spent about half an hour listening to Jenkins’ presentation, involving the issues on which we’ve reported many times before (here’s our coverage archive). Clark summarized that the main issues seemed to her to be the height analysis – how would the upzoning really affect the area – and interpretation of whether this fits with the Admiral Neighborhood Plan. There were some technicalities bandied about regarding the “adopted” plan versus the “recognized” plan; Clark said she has always felt the entire “recognized” plan should be considered as such. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw suggested a “field trip” to the site; no date was set but Clark said that certainly was possible. Clark asked for clarification of whether the property owners who proposed this (Mike Gain and Roger Cayce) owned all the parcels (they don’t, though Jenkins didn’t have that information handy) or had a special agreement with other owners supporting the proposal.
Bottom line: There will be at least one more hearing in this committee – they are scheduling November 30th for oral arguments, and the people challenging the rezone (six appeals, largely involving dozens of nearby residents) will get 15 minutes to split among themselves, while those seeking it (and, since it recommended approval, the city Department of Planning and Development), will get 15 minutes. After that hearing, committee chair Clark said, they will decide if the committee is ready to vote on the request – or if they will schedule one more meeting on December 8th. Once this committee makes its decision, a full council vote would be next. (One note, the graphic on the screengrab above is erroneous; though the term appeared throughout the meeting stream, this is not a CONTRACT rezone, which would involve a specific project; this is a general rezone – differences explained here.)
Will the City Council approve property owners’ request to “upzone” the block of California SW between Hanford and Hinds (city map at left)? The next step in the three-years-so-far process is a City Council committee hearing and possible vote tomorrow. In fall 2007 (1st report here), area property owners Mike Gain and Roger Cayce filed a request to change the zoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40, enabling taller buildings with larger commercial spaces – there has not been a specific development proposed for the area so far. Neighbors mobilized opposition, and a contentious public meeting ensued on November 30, 2007 (story here).
2+ years later, the city Department of Planning and Development finally issued its recommendation this past June, supporting approval of the change (WSB coverage here); area residents subsequently challenged the accompanying “determination of (environmental) nonsignificance.” Two months ago, city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner ruled against that challenge (WSB coverage here), and recommended council approval of the zoning change. That in turn was appealed by dozens of area residents; the City Council now will decide the fate of their appeal as well as the proposal itself. All this sets the stage for a hearing tomorrow before the City Council Committee on the Built Environment, 9:30 am at City Hall (here’s the agenda, and here’s the council staff’s memo summarizing the proposal and its status; if you can’t be at City Hall, it should be live online at seattlechannel.org and on cable channel 21). According to the council’s briefing memo, this committee will have to meet at least once more on this matter, before the full council can take a final vote, and all that has to be done before the end of the year.
ORIGINAL 1:44 AM REPORT: Just before the long holiday weekend, we reported on the city Hearing Examiner‘s decisions regarding the “upzoning” proposed for a block-plus stretch of California SW south of the Admiral District: Examiner Sue Tanner recommends the City Council approve the proposal to change the zoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40, meaning larger commercial spaces and taller buildings allowed. She also ruled against a community activist’s appeal of the city’s determination that the zoning change would be environmentally “nonsignificant.” We received the decisions via postal mail; we immediately requested electronic copies – and they’ve finally arrived in e-mail, so we have uploaded them to our site for you to read in their entirety if you’re interested: The decision recommending City Council approval of the rezone is here; the decision affirming the “determination of (environmental) nonsignificance” – denying community activist Dennis Ross‘s appeal – is here. As noted in our story a week ago, September 16th is the deadline for people “substantially affected” by the rezone approval recommendation to appeal; we are checking to see if the council’s Built Environment committee has a date yet for its vote on the rezone proposal.
ADDED 9:36 AM: Just talked with Michael Jenkins from the council’s Central Staff. He says the council has 90 days to get the proposal before the committee – and it’s not likely to happen any time soon, since the council will be busy with the budget for the next few months. If the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation is appealed, he says – noting that a few people have inquired about that process, though no formal appeal has come in yet – that ups the time line to 120 days. He has one other note: By law, council members cannot be contacted directly about matters like this; if you want to find out how to comment, or have other questions about the process, Jenkins says he’d be happy to help – e-mail him at email@example.com.
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:Read More
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you saw a woman with short white hair, perhaps a notebook too, roaming the 3200 block of California purposefully over the weekend – that just might have been City of Seattle Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner.
She’s the most powerful city official you’ve (probably) never heard of, and she announced at the end of last Wednesday’s combined hearing on that block’s three-years-in-progress “upzoning” request that she would make a site visit before writing a report on the request and ruling on a related appeal, “probably (visiting) on the weekend.” (Whether last weekend or next, we won’t know till her report.)
“But if you see me,” she warned, “do NOT approach me.”
Though you are not asked to rise when she enters her chambers on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown, Tanner’s role is similar to that of a judge. She listens to sworn testimony, sometimes to public comment, in hearings on matters that may sound mundane from a distance, unless you are the one whose livelihood and/or property will be directly affected by the ruling – as is the case for most of those involved in this case, both the neighbors along the blocks immediately behind the block proposed for a zoning change, and those who own the dozens of parcels that would be eligible for higher buildings and larger commercial spaces if the zoning is changed.
On Wednesday of last week, the rezone proposal occupied the Hearing Examiner’s docket for the entire day, which began with most of the 30 or so seats in her chambers filled – mostly with the aforementioned neighbors, wearing lime-green ribbons – and ended seven hours later with most of the seats empty.
From the WSB West Seattle Events calendar: Today’s the day for what could be all-day proceedings regarding the proposed zoning change in the 3200 block of California SW, which would allow more height and larger commercial spaces in future buildings. As noted when we covered related proceedings last week, it’s happening in the city Hearing Examiner‘s chambers (40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown) and will begin with the public hearing on the proposal, which the city Department of Planning and Development has recommended the City Council approve; the day’s schedule also includes the hearing on an appeal filed against the DPD’s ruling of “environmental nonsignificance” for the proposal. … Otherwise, regular weekly Wednesday events are on the calendar, including produce sales at the High Point Market Garden, 32nd/Juneau, 4-7 pm, and trivia at Skylark Café and Club (WSB sponsor), 6:45 pm, followed by open-mike time at 9 pm.
One week from today, the proposal to “upzone” a block-plus of California SW (map) makes its final stop before City Council consideration: A public hearing before city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner, in her chambers downtown. Also to be heard that same day – Wednesday, August 18th – is the appeal filed against an environmental “nonsignificance” ruling issued in connection with the city’s recommendation that the rezoning proposal be approved. How will that day play out? We have an outline, after covering a pre-hearing conference on Tuesday with Tanner presiding, mostly focused on the appeal – read on:Read More
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:Read More
This morning, the official city report is out on a major development reported here Friday in a story that’s been ongoing for almost three years – a request to change the zoning for both sides of one full block (and a bit extra) of California SW. Most of it currently has a 30-foot height limit; the proposed new zoning would add 10 feet. As property owner/rezoning proponent Mike Gain told WSB on Friday, the Department of Planning and Development, which has had the rezoning proposal under review since summer 2007, is recommending approval. This page explains how to comment before the public hearing, which is planned before the city Hearing Examiner at 9 am August 18th (her chambers are on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown) – after that, it goes to the City Council. The full Director’s Report on the recommendation can be seen here (PDF); we’re reading it now and will add its toplines to this story.
ADDED 10:35 AM: As promised – click ahead for toplines from the report, including what it forecasts would be the eventual effects of the rezone:Read More
Almost three years after it was originally proposed, the recommended zoning change for California SW between Hanford and Hinds (and a bit beyond, on the west side) is moving ahead. We got first word from one of the property owners who first proposed it in 2007, Mike Gain. It’s not reflected yet on the project’s Department of Planning and Development webpage, but DPD’s Bryan Stevens confirms to WSB that the notice is about to be published:
DPD’s recommendation on the rezone request will be published for public viewing on Monday. There will be a 14-day appeal period which initiates upon publication and a required hearing with the City’s Hearing Examiner to review the department’s recommendation. The date for the hearing has been tentatively scheduled for August 18th at 9 am. After the hearing, the Hearing Examiner will issue findings and make a recommendation to City Council to help inform their decision on the rezone proposal.
According to Gain: “The Director’s Report supports the rezone of the 3200 block of California Ave SW from NC1-30 to NC2-40. This essentially would return it to its previous zoning while allowing for one additional floor and increased flexibility in the size and/or type of ground floor retail.” He adds:
This rezone has undergone a lot of review and received substantial public comment. We are pleased with the decision. Several benefits to this that will occur over time are that it will:
· Help enhance the California Ave “corridor”
· Encourage job creation and business vitality
· Maintain and enhance neighborhood character
· Provide more and a better mix of housing options
· Increase the number of goods and services that allow people to shop locally
As you are aware, in the 1980’s this area was zoned for 40’ and is consistent with surrounding building heights. For some unknown reason and no notice the city down-zoned this area. Since that time there has been little reinvestment – many businesses have come and gone – while some storefronts remain vacant for lengthy periods of time. This rezone will help to change that.
When the proposal was first made, it stirred a fair amount of controversy, which we covered extensively – as archived here (reverse chronological order). Gain and partner Roger Cayce had not put forward a specific project proposal for the area, but at one point along the way, discussed their ideas with WSB. We will be continuing to follow this process, including any proposals they may bring forward in the future. MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: We’re writing a separate story, but in the meantime, here’s the link to the DPD page with the “director’s report,” officially published today as expected.
When we reported last week on Prudential Northwest Realty moving out of its California SW location, merging with the same-ownership office at Jefferson Square, we got a new round of questions about the “upzoning” proposal for the area in which the now-empty office sits (which also was invoked in the real-estate listing for the Shamrock apartment building, as we reported days before the Prudential story). That proposal to change the zoning along California between Hanford and Hinds (and a bit further south on the west side of the street) to NC2-40 has been in the works for almost 15 months (we broke the story 11/8/07), and it’s been more than half a year since the city started telling us the recommendation was almost ready. And that’s what the city says now; planner Malli Anderson tells WSB, “I expect to complete a draft of the rezone recommendation this week.” Two of her supervisors then review it, including Bob McElhose, who told us, “When we have agreed with the decision and the final edits, it will go to the Hearing Examiner for the open record pre-decision hearing and recommendation, for which there will be notice. Depending on the review of the draft, the notice could go out as early as this Thursday or possibly next week.” (The city’s Land Use Information Bulletin is published Mondays and Thursdays; you can see the latest one here.) Anderson said the notice will “be sent to those who sent comment letters and e-mails or signed the sign-in sheet at the public meeting.” (That’s the public meeting we covered in late November 2007; a month after that meeting, longtime local businessmen Mike Gain and Roger Cayce talked with us about their vision for the area.) No explanation of why it’s taken so long, although planners told us at one point along the way that it’s not unusual for rezoning requests to take more than a year; since the decision here will trigger hearings and comment periods, it’ll be months before anything’s final.
That’s the Google Street View of the Shamrock apartment building, 3262 California SW. The half-century-old 10-unit building is the latest West Seattle apartment complex to go up for sale; asking price $1,495,000 according to this listing. We report most big real-estate listings no matter what, but this one’s particularly interesting because it’s in the area that’s been under review for “upzoning” for more than a year (archived WSB coverage here). This is mentioned in the flyer for the building, which reads in part:
This property may provide a buyer with a high quality building in an excellent location, the potential to increase below market rents, and potentially increase the density of the property with its new zoning of NC1- 40’ (final approval expected).
We haven’t checked lately on the status of the upzoning proposal (after repeated checks kept yielding answers with timeframes that never panned out) but will on Monday; its official city status page is here. Other new and notable multi-unit listings in West Seattle right now include the Limrock in the Admiral District (listing here) and the waterfront brick building on Beach Drive next to Weather Watch Park (listing here)
Those big white signs have been up for almost a year now along California between Hinds and Hanford (city map at left), the section proposed for “upzoning” (archived coverage here), and you may wonder from time to time what’s up with the proposal, so we keep checking to see when the decision’s due. Last time we checked, a decision was expected to be published around the end of August. It’s now the end of September, so we checked with the city’s Department of Planning and Development again. Now the guesstimate is “about another three weeks” till a decision will turn up in the Land Use Information Bulletin, according to Bryan Stevens at DPD. (A decision is not the final word – potentially a round of Hearing Examiner and City Council hearings would ensue.) You can keep an eye on the official city project page here.
When last we checked in on the proposal to “upzone” California Avenue between Hanford and Hinds, and a bit further south on the west side of the street (city map at left) — first reported here nine months ago — city planners told us in mid-June that they were “writing the recommendation.” Now, almost two more months have gone by, while the signs and notices posted along that stretch of California SW continue to fade in the summer sun, so we called the city today to see where in the pipeline that recommendation might be. According to Bryan Stevens in the city planning department, the decision “should be published at the end of the month. Due to the complexity of the issues and the analysis that must occur, it’s not uncommon for a rezone request to take 10-12 months before it goes to Council.” (That refers to the City Council approval that would be required for a zoning change; a Hearing Examiner hearing would be scheduled after the recommendation is published, too.) If you missed the original round of reports on this, our coverage is archived newest to oldest here; the official city webpage for information on the proposal is here.
Seven months after we first reported the proposal to “upzone” California SW between Hanford and Hinds (map at left) and a bit beyond on the west side — more than three months after our last update — and more than six months after the big public meeting about it — the city Department of Planning and Development‘s recommendation about the California Ave “upzoning” proposal is finally close to completion. We just talked with Malli Anderson, the city planner working on it, and she says she is “writing the recommendation this week.” She says it’s a complicated multi-page decision and can’t commit to exactly when it will be done – but everyone who is a “party of record” will get notification by mail (if you don’t hear about it sooner) — that includes everyone who has sent the city comments about the proposal, as well as everyone who put their names on the sign-up sheet at that official meeting last November (WSB coverage here). Here’s how the process will go, according to Anderson: DPD issues its recommendation to the city Hearing Examiner, who then schedules a hearing. That recommendation can also be appealed. About two weeks after the hearing, the HE makes a recommendation to a City Council committee, which then in turn makes a recommendation to the full Council (which has to approve any zoning change such as this). The recommendation will not be public the moment Anderson finishes drafting it – it first must go through various stages of internal review at the DPD before it’s released. We’ll keep watch and let you know as soon as we know. (To catch up on this proposal, you can check our coverage archive here; that includes our December interview with area property owners/rezone backers Mike Gain and Roger Cayce.
Almost three months have passed since the big public meeting on the proposed “upzoning” of both sides of California Ave between Hanford and Hinds (plus a bit further south on the west side of the street), and two months since we talked to major property owners Mike Gain and Roger Cayce about it, so it seemed high time to check in with city planners. The lead planner on the proposal, Malli Anderson, just told us by phone that the official recommendation isn’t likely to be out for at least another month — two main reasons: 1. it’s an especially important proposal and they don’t want to rush, and 2. they’re swamped with other concurrent projects. She says she has “a ton” of citizen feedback to review as she works toward a recommendation, which will also have to go through Department of Planning and Development management; once that recommendation is out, several steps will remain, including a public hearing before the city Hearing Examiner, and then a City Council vote would be required before any zoning change could be approved. (Previous WSB coverage is archived here.)
As mentioned earlier, Mike Gain and Roger Cayce granted our request for an interview about their proposal to upzone a stretch of California Avenue south of Admiral, and sat down with us for an hour and a half at midday today. Here’s our long-form writeup:Read More
After last month’s contentious public meeting regarding the proposal to upzone both sides of California between Hanford and Hinds (and a bit further south on the west side), longtime West Seattle real-estate/property-management partners Mike Gain and Roger Cayce offered to talk personally with anyone who has questions about what they hope to do. So we took them up on it, and they just spent an hour and a half talking with us. First headline: It was suggested at the last Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting (WSB coverage here) that they withdraw the proposal and start over again; they told WSB today they’re not going to do that. But they had plenty more to say (and info to offer) — much of it, we think, that provides previously unreported context for what they want to do and why; we are writing up a full-length report that you’ll be able to read in a separate WSB post later this afternoon.
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.Read More
It’s the hottest topic on WSB since the now-legendary “West Seattle Dishes to Die For” — 85 comments and new ones every day — so we’re thinking you might be interested in the next chance for an in-person discussion of the upzoning proposal on California between Hanford and Hinds (and a little further south, on the west side of the street, as shown on the city map @ left): Tomorrow night, you’re invited to the monthly meeting of the Admiral Neighborhood Association, 7 pm tomorrow at Admiral Congregational Church (California/Hill, map here). The ANA’s last meeting brought the first word of full details on this proposal, so who knows what you’ll hear if you drop by tomorrow night!