Upzone update #2: Applicants’ statement; your next steps

Continuing our report on details about the California Ave (Hanford to Hinds) rezoning request that were revealed at tonight’s Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting: While, as we mentioned earlier, there are two “primary applicants,” the area involved in this request to “upzone” from the current NC1-30 to NC2-40 has more than 20 property owners. The applicants’ rep Josh Stepherson says 70% of them have signed on for this, but even among the other 30%, he says, none are opposed. His presentation included bullet points on what “positive impacts” the applicants think this would have on the area — but first, the full text of their statement, included in the 10-page handout Stepherson distributed tonight:


“We (Mike Gain and Roger Cayce) are lifelong residents of West Seattle. We have raised families here, have worked here our entire careers, and plan to spend the rest of our lives in West Seattle.

The block in which the rezone request is made is where our offices are located. Next year we will have had our offices located there for 25 years. Hopefully, we will continue to have it located there for another 25 years.

We are very much interested in enhancing the character of the area. We want to build a high quality building that will look like “Admiral” with some brick work, character and charm.

We intend to instruct our architect to come up with a design that will be of such high quality and character that it will hopefully be an example for others to follow.

The change from NC1-30 to NC2-40 is consistent with the surrounding area and will provide the financial feasibility to build a much more interesting/attractive looking building with very nice storefronts at street level.

Parking has always been a problem in the Admiral area. The additional floor will allow us to build more below-grade parking – two floors with storage space – that will exceed City parking standards. This will hopefully help to ease some of the on-street parking “crunch” in the area.

In summary, this is not just another investment to us. We are not outsiders. We will continue to live and work here. We want to build something we are proud of, that improves the area and enhances the identity of the Admiral neighborhood. This proposal will enable us to do that.

We are sorry we were not able to attend the Admiral Neighborhood Council meeting but had out of town commitments that we were unable to change. When we are back in town we look forward to speaking with you more about the proposal and how we feel it will benefit the area.”

Roger Cayce and Mike Gain

Stepherson’s cover letter laid out seven expected “positive impacts,” also reproduced here in full before we get to some of the tough questions/potential concerns, plus what happens next:

*Encourage the development of more housing in the Admiral RUV [Residential Urban Village] that will provide a mix of housing options for present and future citizens.

*Locate density in the urban village that will take pressure off adding housing in the surrounding single-family neighborhoods.

*Spur the creation of additional businesses that will provide a diverse range of desired services for the surrounding area.

*Increase employment opportunities in the subject area that will benefit local residents by providing work opportunities close to where they live.

*Support the creation of a more livable, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood by locating more housing within walking distance of many public services (schools, libraries, etc.), stores, restaurants, and the other places people frequent.

*Support transit use by locating more businesses and housing near existing Metro bus lines.

*Improve quality and design of buildings by providing greater development flexibility.

Now, pull out your fine-toothed comb. As Admiral Neighborhood Association president Mark Wainwright noted, “greater development flexibility” is particularly significant here in the NC change of the proposed upzone from 1 to 2, rather than the height change from 30 to 40 (which basically amounts to 1 extra floor). NC2 allows larger commercial spaces than NC1, potentially dramatically larger. Mark and other meeting attendees also noted a few potential sticking points — this development is a fair distance south of the heart of the Admiral District (Admiral/California), and development diffusion may not necessarily be a good thing — it also was noted that the existing Admiral Neighborhood Plan “discourages rezoning.” (Read the plan here.)

Keep in mind, there is no specific proposal right now for this area other than the rezoning request — that theoretically would follow approval of this. But what is most important right now is that this is the time to find out more about the rezoning request and to comment on it. Several things toward those ends: First, the ANA asked for an official public meeting about this; DPD is going to organize one, and the most likely dates will be November 28 or 29, with the meeting probably to be held at West Seattle High School. The date/time/location should be finalized within a day or two, and we will let you know as soon as that happens. Also, the public comment period on this is under way RIGHT NOW and in effect for just a few weeks — you can use the “comment on application” link from this city page, although you should be aware that the comment deadline listed on that page has been extendced, and the city planner who said tonight that she’s handling this application is not the same one named on that page — the planner who attended the meeting is Malli Anderson, and she says you are encouraged to contact her by e-mail, postal mail, or phone regarding this proposal:
700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000
Seattle, WA 98124

15 Replies to "Upzone update #2: Applicants' statement; your next steps"

  • grr November 14, 2007 (8:08 am)

    sounds to me like Gain and Cayce have some great plans in mind..They indeed have been here forever. I’d much rather see them doing development with their architects to keep the character of WS intact, as much as they can.

  • MW November 14, 2007 (9:11 am)

    Thanks again, WSB.

    Just to further clarify the process…

    After the public meeting (date TBD) and end of the “official” comment period (Dec 5 as noted above), DPD will still accept comments from the public until the recommendations are published. The recommendation from DPD will be presented to the Hearing Examiner (there are two for the City), and the Hearing Examiner will take that and present a recommendation to the City Council. I don’t know when this will happen, but it could potentially extend well into next year. I’m sure there is a bit of a backlog of things for the Council to consider.
    I look forward to seeing everyone from the neighborhood at the to-be-announced public meeting!

    Mark W

  • jmland November 14, 2007 (10:20 am)

    the first question in my mind (as an architect) is “who exactly is their architect”? that could be the real difference between enhancing and destroying the character of the neighborhood.

  • elevated concern November 14, 2007 (11:04 am)

    Mr. Josh Stepherson is probably the right man to lead this extensive rezone if you are the developer, not if you are impacted as a resident. Without a doubt Josh was so politically motivated by the monorail movement that he did indeed surcomb to the koolaid and proceeded to deflect public input consistently as it related to the alignment and financing of the monorail. He lied to me and I would suggest that you check his 70% approve and 30% no oppositon to the rezone. He does not acknowledge opposition and will further his career to his fourth job without hesitation to look in the mirror at himself.

  • MsBette November 14, 2007 (11:31 am)

    Cayce and Gain are real estate moguls – they want to make more money with big apartments and upscale restaurants! Housing – not “houses” – is mentioned four times, and Business – three times. Their little fluff proposal looks like north of the Junction coming to south of Admiral. Notice they don’t LIVE here – they just work, and I doubt they do much of that.

  • villagegreen November 14, 2007 (1:41 pm)

    ‘Housing’ and ‘Business’, how un-American! Not every first-time homebuyer can afford a single-family house (especially in the posh Admiral District). I know I wasn’t. The only way I was able to eventually buy a house was to first buy a condo in one of the large complexes just south of Alaska.

    I realize the average person may not even be able to afford these new condos (more apartment options are needed in West Seattle), but they’re still a better option than a single-family home for a lot of people.

    Like it or not, the density these types of projects create is the only way to prevent modest income families from fleeing the city to places such as Burien, Renton, Federal Way, etc.

    Without these options Seattle will continue it’s course towards becoming a homeogenous city of the white and wealthy.

  • Forest November 14, 2007 (1:57 pm)

    MsBette –

    I don’t know where either of them lives now, but Roger Cayce and Mike Gains are both from West Seattle and attended Sealth High School in the late 1960s.

  • WSB November 14, 2007 (3:07 pm)

    We checked public databases and it does appear Cayce has a WS residential address; can’t tell about Gain.

  • willow November 14, 2007 (4:50 pm)

    WELL, Not that many years ago, Cayce was a near neighbor in North Admiral: I could look down on his house, and envy him. No, I will not tell his address. They earned their life here —, Thank you very much.

  • Vio November 14, 2007 (7:02 pm)

    Put simply, upzoning a property is simply a way to leverage the value of land (have you ever heard of someone downzoning?). I would like to find out what possible benefits the community will get out of this. The parking rational is bogus, of course, and it must be noted that the developer will have no obligations outside of what is required by code once the property is up-zoned.

    Any changes to zoning should be done as part of a neighborhood plan, not in isolation like this.

  • Cindi November 14, 2007 (10:00 pm)

    One question for ANA & the Admiral NH Plan: When Admiral drew their Urban Village boundaries, did the current zoning support the growth target proposed for the Admiral Village? If so, then I would take a careful look at all proposed upzones.

  • Concerned WS Resident November 15, 2007 (1:25 am)

    Indeed, what is in it for residential neighbors of this commercial area? I’d say it amounts to a “dezone”, or devaluation of property values for them, while businesses stand to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased property value, since 10 feet higher would greatly expand water views. It would also block views and light for bordering homes, which would remain at the 30 foot height limit. So, is an impact study planned as part of this proposal, or is this just done when design plans are part of a rezone proposal, not the case here? For example, what would the noise impact be in the alley of C&G’s proposed parking garage? What about increased garbage and delivery trucks, in addition to car traffic? There are many more questions. I am not anti-change but proposed change of this scope should absolutely be of a larger neighborhood plan. In fact, we have a neighborhood plan. The “Admiral Neighborhood Plan”, developed over much time with much planning in many meetings that included many WS residents. This Plan includes the area requested for rezone, and states (Key Strategy 1: Section 2, pg. 5) “The Planning Coalition recommends that existing zoning should remain with no changes within the Admiral Residential Urban Village because of the Coalition’s strong desire to maintain the existing character of the community.” (Perhaps WS Blog could post this plan on their website? Thank you WS Blog for providing a forum for this discussion.) Please neighbors, help respect our Admiral Neighborhood Plan and our neighborhood character. C&G mentions talking to 20 or so businesses (a process began that began back in September that residential neighbors are just finding out about with limited time for comments), and they don’t mention one residential neighbor being approached. And the proposal ignores the recommendation of our Admiral Neighborhood Plan. Anyone getting the message here? Neighbors, we have to care and speak up, even if this was dropped in our laps in the middle of the holidays.

  • chet November 15, 2007 (9:47 pm)

    I’m with ya Concerned WS Resident.

    I could list many issues I see with this but if anyone has been reading this blog over the last year or so, they know where I stand. In the last few months, it has been nice to see people comment with the same concerns I have had for years.

  • Concerned WS Resident November 16, 2007 (12:32 am)

    Thank you Chet! I have not been reading the blog that long and would very much like to hear your thoughts on the issues here. I think it is important they be shared now in the context of the proposal being pursued by Cayce and Gain realtors, shared with those in the neighborhood of the proposed rezone and in greater Seattle, and with the city planner who will draft the recommendations to the City Council. The next rezone request by a well-heeled realtor/developer could end in yours or a nearby neighbor’s lap, threatening your property value and quality of life. Apartment dwellers in the 3200 block shouldn’t be driven out, nor should mom and pop businesses (notably, nearly a third of them are not voicing support, at least per Josh’s figures, even though their property values would skyrocket). There are areas zoned for bigger, taller businesses and condos where Cayce and Gain are free to go. I have no doubt they can readily afford to (and/or already own property there). Businesses are not restricted from developing in the 3200 block of California and C&G does not need a rezone to do so; they would just need to build to code, like everyone else has to. And they have plenty room to go up as in their current location, or they could buy nearby – don’t they also own the property across the street? If this type of development-driven (versus neighborhood- or city-plan driven) rezoning is allowed California Avenue (and other streets) will become one long line of condos, and eventually neighbors nearby will be driven away and multi-family zoning will creep in. The Admiral Neighborhood Plan was developed to guard against this, while allowing for reasonable growth; C&G’s rezone request ignores it. C&G wouldn’t live in a home like mine, which borders the alley in the area they want to rezone for their business, but this home is my lifetime investment. Although it is old my husband and I have put our sweat equity in it. We can’t afford to move elsewhere in West Seattle. I would not have bought next to a NC2-40 zone, and should not have to live by one now, given this is being proposed outside any larger planning context. Malli has said that neighbor’s opinions will be counted and are important. Please help us save our neighborhood by speaking up! Thank you Chet.

    Here’s the Planner’s contact info. She actually picked up the phone when I called!

    Malli Anderson

  • Mary November 29, 2007 (5:31 pm)

    Three cheers for the West Seattle Blog! I’ve been driving past that land use sign for three weeks kicking myself for not getting involved (holidays, toddler, job, blah blah). This made it a snap to get to the plan, leave a comment for the city, hear about tonight’s meeting and get updated.

    I knew the Gains… they were lovely. And I’m sure their sons are great. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for a re-zone. But that doesn’t mean the city has to say yes. One-off rezoning favors the savvy landowner. Heck, if we could all convert our lots to NC2-40 we could retire early.

    Rezoning is always painful but if it’s done as part of a neighborhood plan, like the Admiral plan, you know you’re making decisions for the common good rather than offering a significant property value bump to the guys who happened to ask for it.

Sorry, comment time is over.