Followup: Why the DPD supports California SW zoning change

upzonescreengrab.jpgThis 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:

The report illuminates what the city foresees as potential results of the rezoning – compared to what would eventually happen if the area were “built out” under the 30-foot zoning most of it holds now. This is from a section about utility impacts:

The calculations indicated that the proposed rezone would result in a likely build out of 386 residential units and 172 employees for the commercial area. This would be approximately 96 more units and the same number of employees that would result from full build out under existing NC1-30 zoning.


The most likely development will be ground floor commercial with three to four floors of residential above. This is the preferred type of usage in the residential urban village.

For a further comparison, the report says the area has “about 80 residential units” right now. The zoning change also would increase the maximum size of “many commercial uses” to 25,000 from the current 10,000. (For context on that – West Seattle’s forthcoming Trader Joe’s store in The Triangle is proposed at about 14,000 square feet.)

The commercial uses eventually allowed in the area also could involve up to 51,529 square feet of restaurant usage, says the report, although it observes overall, “This rezone will encourage the creation of more pedestrian-oriented shopping that will provide a broader range of goods and services for the surrounding neighborhood and greater West Seattle area,” and suggests that NC-2 zoning – what’s proposed – is more appropriate for the area in general. It lists the area’s zoning history, too:

1923 to 1947 – Business District with a 40 foot height limit
1947 to 1957 – Business Area District C (BC) with a 40 foot height limit
1957 to 1986 – Neighborhood Business (BN) with a 35 foot height limit
1986 to 1990 – Neighborhood Commercial 1 with a 40 foot height limit (NC1-40)
1991 to Present – Neighborhood Commercial 1 with a 30 foot height limit (NC1-30)

Much of the concern voiced during meetings and in other venues in the months after this was first proposed came from nearby neighbors. To some of their concerns, the report says:

In Seattle neighborhoods, it is common for Neighborhood Commercial development to create a clear edge by extending one lot deep along an arterial, and then transitioning to Single Family zones on either side of the strip of commercial zoning. The neighborhood plan and the rezone criteria encourage the location of neighborhood serving uses in commercial zones along arterials which provide the primary vehicle access to the residential neighborhoods. The zoning pattern in some Seattle neighborhoods provides a multifamily transition zone between the Neighborhood Commercial zone and the Single Family zone. However, that is not the case for many edge conditions along arterials in residential neighborhoods. In this proposed rezone area in the Admiral Neighborhood, the existing edge condition is clearly delineated and emphasized further by topographic breaks between the commercial and residential uses to the east and west of the arterial, the orientation of the residential and commercial uses facing away from each other, and an alley buffering the residential uses on 44th Avenue SW from the commercial uses on California Avenue SW.

The report does note that the southwesternmost corner of the proposed rezoning area, now single-story commercial, is outside of the Admiral Urban Village area and not specifically supported in city code for higher heights – but the rezone is recommended anyway.

Two other points of concern for neighbors had been shadows and view blockage from future development under the rezone. The report acknowledges this – but, particularly in terms of the views, says they would be blocked under what is currently allowed anyway:

Shadows – Potential development will create additional shadows on its north, east and west sides, depending on season and time of day. As described in the response to SMC 23.34.008.E above, future development would likely be subject to design review, which would include consideration of shadow impacts. …

Views – The Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound are visible from many parts of the site, including public rights of way and private properties. DPD has considered the potential impacts of the proposed rezone on adjacent views. It appears full build-out under existing NC1-30 zoning would block most, if not all private views from adjacent properties to the east. There would be no appreciable difference to private views between NC1-30 zoning and NC2-40 zoning.

Also listed in the report, some uses that would not currently be permitted – including entertainment (even “adult cabarets” if various conditions elsewhere in the city code were met) and lodging.

You can read the full report here. Summarizing the public response back in 2007-2008, while also mentioning the meetings that were held, the report says, “During the official public comment period, DPD received fifty-five comment letters and e-mails. Thirty-one letters and emails were in support of the proposed rezone and 24 were opposed.” Again, if you are interested in commenting on this new recommendation to approve the rezoning, the procedures – and time/place for the August public hearing – are here.

22 Replies to "Followup: Why the DPD supports California SW zoning change"

  • odroku June 28, 2010 (10:37 am)

    Seems like a good way to get rid of some of the affordable rental housing in the area in favor of…I don’t know what, but let’s get rid of those lower-income folk! Wait! That’s me! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

  • miws June 28, 2010 (11:34 am)

    Adult cabarets?


    Is it possible the Lusty Lady could reopen over here, in an assumably more affordable area? ;)



  • Diane June 28, 2010 (12:36 pm)

    Thanks for historical perspective on zoning
    this is my neighborhood; I’m also in affordable rental housing, and I think this is an excellent idea to move forward for positive growth in our community

  • JA June 28, 2010 (1:29 pm)

    Has anyone acknowledged the fact that – unlike along the rest of California – there is no alley behind the businesses on the east side of California? This means that all of us along 42nd could have four-story condos just eight feet from our back fences, blocking all afternoon sun and eliminating any privacy from our yards. Cayce and Gain will be enjoying a tremendous commercial benefit at the expense of my and my neighbors’ property values. Zoning changes are supposed to be driven by the good of the community, not opportunities for private profit.

  • M S June 28, 2010 (3:31 pm)

    Roger and Mike are wonderful businessmen that also care about the community. I support this and I am looking forward to see the results enhance our neighborhood

  • 4thGenWestSide June 28, 2010 (4:09 pm)

    JA- Did you know your property backed up to commercial zoned property when you bought it? It will still be the same distance from our property line, whether it’s 3 stories or 4.

    PS- If anyone is thinking of selling their homes along the west side of 42nd, they may have to disclose the newly approved heights. Just a thought.

  • nou June 28, 2010 (11:34 pm)

    SNIP: “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 for approval.”

    Is it more correct to say, “after that, it does to the City Council for approval or denial”? Given there’s an appeal period, comments being taken, a public hearing, and perhaps more given sufficient opposition?

    • WSB June 28, 2010 (11:35 pm)

      Or, just goes to the City Council, period.

  • dsa June 29, 2010 (1:28 am)

    JA I feel for you. Nobody seems to realize that ten feet more in the air is a lot. If ten feet more air rights were being taken from them next to their property line, they may think very differently.

  • JA June 29, 2010 (8:58 am)

    @ 4th Gen, ten feet is a substantial difference. Also, as Cayce and Gain will eagerly tell you, another story makes a big difference in the type of building you can put there (i.e. 40 feet can support ground-level retain with condos above; 30 feet can’t). I’m pretty conservative in terms of property rights – there is no such thing as a view easement, air easement, etc. and I generally think people should get to use their property how they like – but it’s also true that zoning laws are not supposed to be manipulated for private commercial gain. Therefore, I disagree that we accepted some risk of this happening when we purchased our home. And yes, if anyone went to sell, they would absolutely have to disclose the new zoning – it’s material to the property value. That’s the whole point.

  • dsa June 29, 2010 (11:54 am)

    Homes on the west side of 44th are also loosing air rights even though they do have an alley.

  • brian g June 29, 2010 (2:10 pm)

    Well Ja,

    If you stay there long enough your property will probably be rezoned and then you can cash in for it’s highest and best use. Until then, you may just want to enjoy the new amenities and the fact that you can afford a house at all.


  • CP July 16, 2010 (9:45 pm)

    Well, for all those who say it is “not big deal” or is a positive thing, I’d like to see what you’d say if the house behind your home was suddently going to become a 40′ tall building! – WITH NO BUFFER ZONE (like an alley). Then, see that the land owner is a slum lord like the current company seeking this rezone. In my opinion, C&G are nothing but neighborhood-wreckers. This is NOT a “rezone” to what it used to be. That is a lie. This is an upzone that hurts innocent families nearby.

  • Sarah Peck July 19, 2010 (12:56 am)

    This upzone thing is just wrong. The private business – Cayce and Gain should be ashamed of themselves for what they are doing to make a buck at the expense of hardworking families who live on these streets!

  • NO UPZONE July 28, 2010 (12:20 am)

    Want to learn more about how to fight this proposal? Check the FB group: “Don’t let Cayce & Gain ruin our neighborhood” It just got started but we hope to use it to assist those who want to fight this unjust, unfair special privilege-for-private- business upzone.

  • nou July 29, 2010 (9:35 am)

    CP and Sarah. Thank you for speaking up. I couldn’t agree with you more about this being a special privilege upzone petition!

    It appears that C&G own a huge chunk of the square footage in the proposed upzone area (about a third?) and that at least three other builder/developers have property there, too, including one who owns an apartment building. What will become of the 15 affordable apartment dwellings in that block? Do C&G or the city care at all that this flies in the face of the community’s Admiral Neighborhood Plan, crafted after many meetings by our West Seattle community over a two-year process?

    I will look for the Facebook page, and I think the many others who came to the ONE public meeting has been held about this to date, almost three years ago, and loudly opposed this will be glad to hear of it!

  • H.L. August 6, 2010 (12:58 am)

    I am very disappointed in WSB for giving Cayce & Gain a free full page ad for their controversial petition. Have you gone commercial on us or do you seek to represent the community? LOTS of people are very angry about this bad idea and are fighting it, yet this report totally ignores the harm C&G are doing to their neighbors. Where is the balance of reporting?

    • WSB August 6, 2010 (1:21 am)

      What “free full page ad”? For one, we don’t have full-page ads. Our ads are in our right sidebar and atop a couple of interior pages like Crime Watch.
      As for the story, follow the “California upzone” link under the headline and you can judge our body of work on this issue for yourself, dating back to when we first discovered and reported in fall 2007 that it was being proposed. We have a story in the works currently about the appeal that has been filed and will be covering that appeal as it goes before the Hearing Examiner starting next week.

  • Lisa M August 7, 2010 (9:20 am)

    Neighbors are organizing to fight this rezone and we need more help! There is so much we can do if we unite. Please join the Facebook group “Don’t let Cayce & Gain ruin our neighborhood” as it serves as a main hub for information and communication. There is lots of additional info posted there, info about meetings, and just a place to exchange comments:

  • nou August 7, 2010 (2:46 pm)

    Thanks Lisa! It is a tough time of year to rally people, and sadly there is a grave lack of city-driven community process for such a huge proposal. Still, given this stands to negatively impact more than the immediate neighborhood, and seems to beg review of city processes, it’s likely the uproar heard in 2007 will be heard again. Thanks again for sharing the news!

  • H.L. August 8, 2010 (8:39 pm)

    Sorry, WSB, but I beg to differ. Your reporting above clearly quotes the real estate developers extensively and calls out their opinions and even the heading sounds “pro” rezone.

    No. I respectfully disagree and would maintain that the article itself is and ad for them.

    We love the blog but we will have to admit total disagreement on this one and hope that you do take the time to express opposition views as clearly as you have Cayce and Gains.


  • 24601 August 25, 2010 (4:50 am)

    If anyone is or knows an architect who might want to help (partially as service and partially on a fee basis) with the possible designs for this block under the nc1-30 code, it would be tremendously helpful for all the parties involved if there were even a rudimentary idea of what can be done in this space with its particular topographical/logistical challenges. you could get hold of the neighborhood group through the facebook page Neighbors against the California Ave Rezone .

Sorry, comment time is over.