California Ave upzone proposal: More from the proponents

upzonescreengrab.jpgReminder that this Thursday night (6:30 pm, West Seattle High School library) is the first major public meeting about the proposal to rezone both sides of California between Hanford and Hinds (and a bit further south on the west side of the street) to allow larger businesses and taller buildings (city map screengrab at right). Over the holiday, the major landowners behind the proposal (and four other site visitors) added comments to the original WSB report about the plan — since that report is almost 3 weeks old, there’s a 99.9% chance you haven’t seen the new comments, so here are the highlights:

From co-applicant Roger Cayce:

It seems to me that there are three options for the future of this block in general. The first is to leave it as is which will leave mostly older run down properties that will be rented for lower rents but will continue to decline in condition and offer few amenities that the block could use. The second is to do like most other blocks now being built on up and down the street and build townhomes which also offer no amenities to the block but they would look better than the current buildings. The third is to allow the requested rezone and hopefully end up with some nice buildings that would offer many more living units and have full commercial street frontage with underground parking. Without question I feel that the third option is the best!!!

From “Mike,” apparently co-applicant Mike Gain:

I’ve lived and worked my entire life in West Seattle. I think it is a very special place and I plan to be here forever. I have had my offices located on this block for over 25 years. I own property in this block and would like to develope it. I am very interested in enhancing the identity and character of the area. I’d like to build a high quality mixed use building with retail, apt/condo’s that will fit in and look like it belongs in the Admiral district. This block was actually downzoned from a 40′ height restriction to 30′ a few years ago. It should be put back to what it was and remain consistant with the adjacent properties to the north and south at 40′. Parking has always been an issue in the Admiral area and the additional 10′will allow us to afford to supply two floors of underground, much needed, parking and storage. I’d like to build a building I can be proud of.

No obvious project ties on the names signed to the other four comments that also came in on the 11/8 post at about the same time over the holiday, all pro-upzone; you can read them by scrolling down here. Haven’t found background yet on the “it was previously downzoned” contention – we found this zoning map going back to 1999 and it labels the area as NC-1 but without an appended height restriction. Whether you’re for it or against it, the Thursday night meeting @ WSHS is a good place to find out even more than we learned at the informal presentation to the Admiral Neighborhood Association a week and a half ago.

19 Replies to "California Ave upzone proposal: More from the proponents"

  • Jan November 26, 2007 (3:32 pm)

    actually, when it comes down to it, what they’re saying makes sense. And if, as is stated, the areas to the north and south of this area is already NC40, then, fair is fair, as much as some people might argue against it.

  • hc November 26, 2007 (4:00 pm)

    A property management company, interested in rezoning? Wow. Shocker.

    Yes, the city is growing, and we have a need more more dense housing, no doubt about it.

    However, the brunt of Mr. Cayce’s statement seems to revolve around “older run down buildings” that will “continue to decline in condition”, which is quite an assumption on his part. I’ll grant you, many of these buildings are not architectural wonders external, but they are by no means the hovels that he makes them appear. I have friends who live in the aforementioned block, and their apartments are lovely, well-maintained, spacious, and perhaps most importantly, affordable.

    And lower rents? God forbid that someone who has neither the means nor inclination to buy want to be able to live in West Seattle! Somewhere, in the past year, renting has been cast as an almost criminal offense, and it’s ridiculous. Want to buy a condo? Great! Go for it! I’m thrilled that you can afford it, and there are plenty open all over West Seattle and waiting to be purchased. But please remember, that it’s not always an option for everyone. Why not leave a few places that those of us not as blessed can live?

    In regards to amenities: while it can be nice to have them a few steps outside your front door, this block is not exactly miles from anything. PCC is what, 2 blocks away? And the Admiral Junction is easily walkable, too, and contains a lot of choices.

    And to Mike: please remember that high-quality is subjective. While you think that brand new, expensive buildings are the only way to go, I tend to value keeping high-quality neighbors in West Seattle, instead of chasing them away with unaffordable living options.

  • WSB November 26, 2007 (4:12 pm)

    Jan – data point here, the zoning isn’t NC2-40 on both ends of both sides of the proposed upzone area – just to the north on the west side, and to the south (Swedish facility) on the east side.

  • willow November 26, 2007 (4:25 pm)

    I hvae lived here longer than you have lived. Cayce and Gaine have also done that. YOU will never find 2 people more committed to West Seattle than the 2 of them.

    Suck it up, live with it, and go back to where ever it was you came from – like NY.

  • hc November 26, 2007 (4:54 pm)

    Willow, I appreciate your advice, especially because you’ve lived here your whole life. You know West Seattle better that I ever will.

    Me? I’ve been lucky enough to live in West Seattle 10 years, moving from a tiny town in the Midwest. I picked West Seattle out of all the Seattle neighborhoods here because everyone was open, friendly and welcoming, and didn’t seem to care how much money someone made, but instead how a person contributed to the community as a whole.

    I also appreciate that Cayce and Gain have been here forever. I respect that they are a well-established West Seattle business.

    But just because I wasn’t lucky enough to be born and raised here doesn’t mean that I don’t get to voice my opinion, and call things as I see them, just has you have and Mssrs. Cayce and Gain have done.

    All of our experiences living here are going to be very different, no doubt. What I was trying to make clear is there seems to be a shift in attitude happening in WS the past year or so, that’s disturbing, and I wanted to add that viewpoint to the conversation. It used to be about neighbors here, and now, all that seems to be discussed are buildings. Yes, it’s partially a natural progression in the growth of any neighborhood. Still, I have every right to be concerned for people who aren’t going be able to stay here any more, who *adore* the neighborhood and contribute to it in a variety of ways, simply because they can’t afford to buy, or to pay the ever-increasing rents here.

    I love West Seattle. And no, I won’t leave it and return to the Midwest just because our opinions differ. This is a community, and we all get a say.

  • JumboJim November 26, 2007 (5:05 pm)

    HC –

    Good for you for sticking up for yourself in a very reasonable manner.

    I’m sure willow would feel differently if he or she moved somewhere else and was basically told “you’re not from here so shut up”.

  • Jan November 26, 2007 (5:14 pm)

    WSB….thanks for the information. So…a real estate “mogul” hedging on the facts? Am I surprised? Guess not. Of course Mr. Cayce and Mr. Gain will slant things in their favor. And, I totally agree with hc….I have always wished that the people who want to develop do so without just tearing down and then building something that looks like everything else in the area. And…a note to “willow”…longevity doesn’t necessarily mean being right…for you or Mr. Cayce and Mr. Gain.

    Yes, we all get a say.

  • Forest November 26, 2007 (6:20 pm)

    The credibility of Cayce and Gain would double if they actually presented a development proposal and rendering of that proposal instead of using that empty promise of “allow the requested rezone and HOPEFULLY [emphasis added] end up with some nice buildings.”

  • Picklemom November 26, 2007 (6:38 pm)

    Alas, I’ve heard only negative things about Cayce and Gain – they’re in it for their own personal Gain. Their record as property managers is abysmal. I’d be reluctant to trust anything they say as being in the best interest of West Seattle.

  • Dave November 26, 2007 (8:09 pm)

    These guy’s are not asking for something unreasonable. They’ve created job opportunities and affordable apartments to many of us in this community. Adding off street parking and updated buildings for commerce is a good thing for all of us. The zoning shouldn’t have been altered a few years ago.

  • oooh careful November 26, 2007 (9:38 pm)

    In essence I agree that part of Cali would best be served by development (those buildings are frightful at best)…

    However, I agree with Forest, I am quite uncomfortable with just a promise. I would be much more behind the idea if there was a clear path forward. Without that it is simply a way for the current owners (Cayce/Gain) to make their property worth more.

    Who knows what will happen once they get the zoning and (possibly) sell it to the highest (out of town) bidder. Then, we end up with another cluster f*** on Cali.

  • Keith November 26, 2007 (10:52 pm)

    They made the same sort of promises about a “vibrant” mix of new businesses on Capitol Hill when they changed the zoning laws there to allow taller buildings with retail on the ground floor. And that’s when Quizno’s moved in. Not my idea of enhancing identity or character.

    Closer to home, the “Death Star Trench” of taller mixed-use buildings just south of the Alaska Junction doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of amenities, unless you want to get your nails done.

  • Admiral Neighbor November 27, 2007 (12:14 am)

    Just a note. The Thursday meeting may not only be the first, but is the ONLY public meeting scheduled regarding this rezone, and it was scheduled only after the Admiral Neighborhood Assocation requested it. Per my info from the City Planner, the next step is for the Planner to make recommendations/a report to the Hearing Examiner; the Ezaminer will make a report to the City Council, which will vote on the rezone request. There will be opportunity to speak at the Hearing Ezaminer and City Council meetings, at least. I also understand from talking to the Planner that it is quite unusual for an upzone involving this much property to be requested by an individual, and public meetings/community discussion are not built into the individual application process; rather, a rezone of this magnitude is more commonly handled through a legislative process that is, by design, much more public and includes more public meetings/community discussion. So the meeting on Thursday is a time not only to get information but also to make comments, and it is important to learn as much as possible and to speak up without too much delay. Also, though the official comment period ends Dec. 5, four business days after the only scheduled public meeting, I understand comments will be allowed beyond that. Personally, I think this kind of rezone should be part of a very public community planning process over time. It seems unfortunate an individual is allowed to request this size of rezone; the review process will burn up city resources that could be used elsewhere. Also, the timing is certainly not good for those who might want to study the issues and make comments based on solid knowledge and reflection – right over the holidays; family time.

  • Concerned Neighbor November 27, 2007 (8:33 am)

    Dear Mrs. Cayce and Gain,

    I have some questions that will hopefully be addressed at Thursday’s meeting but thought I would pose them here, since comments from you have been made here.

    Would you mind sharing what percentage of the property you (and your relations or companies you are involved in) own of the 152,755 square feet between Hanford St and SW Hinds, including the 3200 block and a portion of the 3400 block that you are requesting to be rezoned? (Perhaps it is just your two or three buildings, but from talking with someone at the city I understood that one owner owns a large portion, or most, of the property involved and that they will be flying in for Thursday’s meeting; but I have also been told you both own a lot of the property, so I am a bit confused.) I do have the list of the property owners interested in the rezone, or perhaps supporting it, which was part of your application I believe, but many of the properties are listed as being held by groups or companies, and I have been told those could be members of one family, or an individual holding different companies, e.g., for tax purposes, so from that document it is hard to tell who owns much of the property.

    I thik this could be researched through the City Examiners office but, since that would take some time, to look up each of the companies/groups listed, I thought I would pose the question here.

    Also, since this is a lot of property, could you describe any of the specific development plans you know of for the property, besides what you have shared about as potential ideas for your two or three real estate company buildings?

    Thank you,
    A Neighbor

  • Alvis November 27, 2007 (11:00 am)

    I grew up in West Seattle and have lived here for over 50 years. I am not the least bit impressed by people who think growing up here gives them special rights and wisdom in matters of current changes or developments. Nor should those people be impressed by me.

    Give it a rest, fellow natives. Nobody cares how long you’ve lived here. Definitely I don’t.

    That said, does anyone know the format that will apply at Thursday’s meeting? I can’t see it doing much good if the gist of the meeting will be people supporting or opposing the upzone without any specifics discussed.

  • Joni November 27, 2007 (11:44 am)

    I live directly behind the re-zoning area. I will probably share my ally with the parking garage users and be looked “down onto” from the looming buildings above me. I’ll just plant a tree! The reason I moved to West Seattle was to be around cool things to do, interesting places within walking distance while still offering the small town feel. I look forward to the changes. Not only will the improvments in the conditions of the new buildings be great, garbage dumpster lids stay on better then regular garbage can lids and cars looking to park drive much slower then the cars that blow through on a short cut!

  • Michael November 28, 2007 (2:20 pm)

    I grew up in West Seattle. I am currently working here in West Seattle. However, I do not live here. I have instead chosen to live in Downtown Seattle.

    Although West Seattle is a nice community with a small town feel, I prefer the energy and excitement of Downtown. I love all of the new beautiful buildings that are going up Downtown. With every new building, Downtown will become a better place.

    Even with all the new condos and building going on, we will always have the Pike Place Market, Space Needle, Seattle Center, and the Cinerama to remind us of the past.

    West Seattle is a place that has so much potential. It is a shame that West Seattle has so far to go to reach that potential. There is still time for West Seattle to get in the game and become a more desireable place to live for people like myself. However, if West Seattle does not step up to the plate soon and change, it might lose a lot of people like me forever.

  • scian November 28, 2007 (4:37 pm)

    Concerned Neighbor, consider that the “owner” flying in represents the same family that owns and is looking to develop the property currently leased by the Charleston. They are long-time commercial property owners with MANY holdings in the area. Their MO typically is not to sell but rather to hold and collect rents – good for them.

    In recent times they have sought to develop certain of their properties as the chance to dramatically increase income is huge. Again good for them.

    The problem is they are / have been rather insensitive to quality development efforts apparently only looking at numbers on paper rather than maybe of mix of numbers and good will.
    This project seems to be starting out in a similar vein.


  • Ray November 29, 2007 (7:44 am)

    We must reach a balance in both preservation of our open space and historical buildings as well as keep progressive and in step with what is going on in Seattle. I have done business with both Mr. Cayce and Mr. Gain in the past, and I truly believe they are both visionary and dedicated to this community. As a property owner and business owner myself, I can understand and appreciate their motivation for undertaking this project.

    Both have been through the ups and downs of real estate in Seattle (this city’s real estate has not always been a boom), which created valuable insights for them to contribute back into the community. I don’t agree for a moment that “real estate moguls” is a fair and accurate description of these two gentlemen. They have built a solid and dynamic business in West Seattle and are very well respected in the community. Look at how many business have come and gone. Any venture is a gamble–they could have lost it all if real estate crashed. They took a chance on building a foundation for this community (by creating jobs) and were successful, but it took many years and hard work…and risk.

    West Seattle has not always been a “hot spot”. In fact, when I first moved here back in the 80’s, West Seattle was often thought of as a retirement community because of its geograpic isolation from the city. If Seattle wasn’t so fortunate to have major businesses such as Costco, Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, Real Networks, we wouldn’t have the need for housing and we could remain as the small “Mayberry” community. But that isn’t what is taking place. People are moving here for jobs, because of the businesses that have picked to do business here. Currently, there is a rental shortage in the city because of this.

    That is why we are witnessing this explosion of new buildings and development. It’s trickling to our small, isolated “retirement community” of West Seattle as well. But I agree that we all need to participate in the planning of these buildings, which we can do at public hearings which are required by city zoning laws.

    We should consider ourselves fortunate that we have community/business leaders like Mr. Cayce and Mr. Gain who have the vision, resources and willingness to move West Seattle in the right direction. And based purely on my past dealings with them, I’m sure that if you have concerns about their plans, both would be very receptive to your comments.

Sorry, comment time is over.