California SW ‘upzone’ proposal: Appeal filed; opponents organize

upzonescreengrab.jpgIt’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:

First, the basics of the proposal:

In fall of 2007, Gain and Cayce asked the city to rezone the block of California SW between Hanford and Hinds – and a bit farther south, on the west side. Their real-estate business was originally located there; Gain is currently head of Prudential Northwest Realty, which was located for a time in the same area, but now is headquartered in Jefferson Square.

At the time they requested the rezoning, they laid out their original reasoning in a statement published here.

Subsequently, nearby residents launched an opposition campaign. Though city rules do not require a public meeting on a proposal like this in that early of a stage, there was one, and it was heated (WSB coverage here).

As you’ll notice if you browse our coverage archive here, that all subsequently was followed by a long period of the city saying – every time we checked – that its decision was imminent – though it wasn’t – and there was no word from anyone involved until June of this year, when the recommendation was issued.

Now area residents have regrouped; they’re on Facebook as the group “Neighbors Against the California Ave Rezone.”

If you aren’t on Facebook, the publicly visible section of their page lays out their view:

Cayce & Gain have petitioned to upzone 152,755+ square feet of California Ave. SW. Developer/builders own about 50% of the property (including Cayce & Gain about a third). Their property values will rise at the expense of residential neighbors!

We need to stop this upzone NOW because:
Rezoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40 doesn’t mean “an extra floor,” as some state. Accommodating for business type and/or eastward slope, heights could be about 55 feet. Size limits, now 10,000 square feet, would be 25,000 (50,000 for sales/service!). New business types allowed include auto/large boat sales/repair, manufacturing, theater/spectator sports, adult cabarets, lodging, and dedicated parking lots.

This subverts The Admiral Residential Urban Village (ARUV) 1998 Plan developed through two years of community meetings. The Plan recommends against rezoning, including the 3200 block. “The Planning Coalition recommends that existing zoning should remain with no changes within the ARUV because of the Coalition’s strong desire to maintain the existing character of the community.” (Key Strategy 1, Recom. 1.2, pg. 6); additionally, any proposed change to heights should include an “enhanced and meaningful” city/community planning process. This private petition includes limited input within tight timelines (during the holidays 3 years back; and now in the heart of summer). If approved, this could result in more developer-driven rezones that circumvent community planning.
The proposal includes no plans at all, let alone clear enhancements. Per a recent city report, the rezone could “result in a likely buildout of 386 residential units and 172 employees for the commercial area,” and about “650 new daily (car) trips” for new residences; but it seriously downplays impacts. Building at NC2-40 would magnify negative impacts to views and natural light, street and alley traffic, and parking. An added floor of view property would likely result in 4-story multi-family dwellings oriented west, blocking views and light of residences on 42nd and towering over 44th Ave. backyards.

There is already enough NC2-40 property in the 98-acre ARUV to support projected growth figures for both housing and businesses in the ARUV. The area of petition includes about 15 affordable apartment buildings; residents will likely be displaced and affordable housing lost – new units (particularly with sweeping sound views) would cost more. The ARUV Plan calls for 200 more residential units in the 98-acre ARUV by 2014, with density around the Admiral Junction business area; growth is on target as planned. Developing at NC2-40 this far from the Junction would draw business and residents away from the ARUV business core, hurting businesses that located in due faith as planned. Small existent businesses could suffer from lack of on-street parking and higher taxes. Also, new construction and remodeling within NC1-30 zoning allowance is ongoing and profitable. Plus West Seattle faces a condo glut – apartment conversions to unsold condos are rented, but residents have been displaced. The healthy neighborhood-business area will suffer if this rezone is allowed!

The group opposed to the zoning change has set up not just the aforementioned Facebook group, but also an e-mail address: – for anyone seeking information.

Meantime, back to the appeal. This Tuesday, the Hearing Examiner is scheduled to meet with both sides in the appeal. As with all Hearing Examiner proceedings, it’s open to the public – 3 pm at the HE chambers, which are on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown.

The main public event coming up next, however, is the official public hearing at that same location, 9 am on August 18th, one week from Wednesday. If you can’t get to the hearing, comments are still being accepted by postal mail, but they must be received, the city says, by that same date. The address listed is: City of Seattle Hearing Examiner,
700 5th Avenue, Suite 4000/P.O. Box 94729, Seattle, WA 98124-4729.

After the hearing, the HE will write a report for the City Council – according to the rezoning process explained in this city document – which then would vote on the proposal; there’s usually a committee vote and then the full council vote – no dates set for that yet.

(Cayce and Gain have not announced any specific development proposal; we’ve done an area check via this DPD map tool and it doesn’t appear anything is pending in the area currently.)

33 Replies to "California SW 'upzone' proposal: Appeal filed; opponents organize"

  • Forest August 9, 2010 (12:11 am)

    The group that I’m able to find on Facebook calls itself “Neighbors Against the California Ave Rezone!”

  • WSB August 9, 2010 (12:15 am)

    They may have changed it since I started writing this … Will check. Thanks.

  • farron August 9, 2010 (1:28 am)

    Stop the apartment overbuild in WS!!

  • WSB August 9, 2010 (1:30 am)

    Same URL, but different name. Updating the copy. At least the URL is number-ID-specific so that if they change it again the link will still work …

  • Glenda August 9, 2010 (1:31 am)

    Yes, please stop!!! I am not anti-development, but enough is enough on California Ave. Take the “dead zone” of the Fauntleroy Triangle and go nuts developers and leave the rest alone!!!

  • nou August 9, 2010 (1:45 am)

    I agree farron! West Seattle does not need another block made into a “corridor of buildings” on California Ave., not to mention what it would do to the bordering residential neighbors in that block and beyond. On another note, thanks WSB for such an informative story about this! Tracking back through the high points is helpful since the “Upzone Uproar” meeting was held almost three years ago.

  • LisaM August 9, 2010 (8:02 am)

    yes, we changed the name to be more representative of our mission to “Neighbors against the California Rezone”.
    We could use more support and there are many levels of involvement – pls visit or join the fb page for more info – thanks!

  • Lynne August 9, 2010 (8:51 am)

    This lovely strip of neighborhood should be left alone. Shame on Cayce and Gain. Please take all your loot and go fix the Hole.

  • chicago transplant August 9, 2010 (8:52 am)

    What about the other side of the story?
    What are the plans for the space?
    Couldn’t we use some additional tax revenue? Construction projects bring jobs…

    and hotels and adult cabarets…really do we need that inflamatory rhetoric.

    • WSB August 9, 2010 (9:21 am)

      There are no plans currently, CT. Re: the other side of the story, please follow the links. The proponents were the first to announce a little over a month ago that this recommendation was impending, and you’ll see what they had to say in those previous stories; we also interviewed them when this was first proposed in 2007. This story is about the opponents; the stories earlier this summer were about the proponents; when this goes to the Hearing Examiner this week and next, we expect to hear from both in the same venue – TR

  • Manolita August 9, 2010 (8:54 am)

    “NO CHANGE ” campaign again!
    I am a tenant in this area and this impacts me directly. I do support the rezoning 100%, change is good!
    Good luck Mike and Roger with this one…

  • nou August 9, 2010 (9:13 am)

    Manolita: There isn’t a “no change” campaign afoot. It is an effort against a blanket upzone in that area, very different things. An upzone of the whole 3200 block (and part of the 3400 block) would amount to a blank ticket to develop any and all of the property at NC2-40, entirely different zoning than NC1-30. NC2-40 would allow much bigger/taller buildings and different kinds of businesses (e.g., auto repair/sales, cabarets, adult entertainment, lodging, big box stores/chains, and more). In fact, at NC2-40 sales/services businesses can be allowed up to 50,000 square feet (the limit at NC1-30 is 10,000). This is why neighbors are alarmed!

    The oppostion is not about anti-change; it is about planful change. Change is good. Plenty can be done at a NC1-30 zoning, and that would fit much better in the neighborhood as has been determined by the Admiral Neighborhood Plan (approved by the city). In fact I can think of at least four buildings/businesses that have been upgraded/remodeled in the proposed area fairly recently.

  • mar3c August 9, 2010 (9:38 am)

    chicago: that “rhetoric” is a direct quote from the zoning code, and simply illustrates the types of businesses that can fall into the NC2-40 class.
    i guarantee that what developers are looking for are mixed-use buildings, like link, mural, and capco, with residential units above retail space.
    why? because it’s the only profitable urban real estate development model left available to commercial property owners. (provided that they’re able to pay contractors past the excavation phase, that is.)
    i disagree with re-zoning. that’s a nice, quiet neighborhood, and its ad-hoc development feels like an actual neighborhood. am i right in thinking that the re-zone is where spiro’s, bohemian, and prost currently reside?

  • Huindekmi August 9, 2010 (9:41 am)

    There are no plans. This is nothing but a money grab. The proposal takes property value away from the single family homes that immediately border the upzone area and hands it straight to Cayce and Gain. They can then either develop the area or sell it off at a profit to someone else to be developed.
    It’s not like the area can’t be developed now. It’s not like the current zoning won’t support street level retail with residential units above. That’s what has already been built along the corridor in other areas under current zoning. The upzone proposal basically gives a blank slate to build darn near anything.
    The retail allowance (larger than Safeway) is HUGE. The height restriction is based on the highest point on the property, meaning that on the east side of the street, you could build something that’s 55-60″ tall from street level. All of this without a buffer zone between it and the neighboring housing, as required by the Admiral Neighborhood plan approved by the city.
    The proposal is wealth transfer, pure and simple.

  • CP August 9, 2010 (10:47 am)

    Change is often good. This change is NOT. These developers have shown their true colors with the way they (fail to) keep their existing buildings. You LIKE bigger building? Great! Allow a hotel to overlook YOUR backyard and see how much you support this! Have a bar/pub/restaurant keeping YOUR kids up at night (since there is no buffer zone) and see if you support this change then! C’mon folks. This is not about being anti-development. This is about being PRO community and pro-family!

  • CP August 9, 2010 (10:53 am)

    Oh, an apologies to all for the name change on FB. We are just starting out and working to quickly pull all this together – unlike Cayce and Gain, we don’t have a full-time, paid consultant (who works for the city) to handle all our work for us on this.

    Also, this section of California is going to feel like driving through a canyon of buildings – but don’t worry, you won’t have to think about stopping there because there isn’t a place to park.

  • Manolita August 9, 2010 (11:58 am)

    CP :I know you changed your FB name because according to people’s feedback on the WSB forums, the previous name sounded REALLY agressive. Now after reading your comments I sense a lot of anger and fear. That is never good.

  • Mama o'four August 9, 2010 (12:03 pm)

    Also, can someone clarify what the Admiral Community Council is and who are the members? We belong to the Admiral Neighborhood Association and have never heard of it, where they meet, what they do. Interesting…

  • nou August 9, 2010 (2:43 pm)

    Manolita. The forum feedback you refer to is not about the name (or name change). It refers to the first forum post, which is later explained by the original poster… who then receives kudos.

  • Mike August 9, 2010 (2:51 pm)

    If we want to make a statement against this, boycott Prudential NW Realty, tell your friends, family everyone to boycott them. Then if they do rezone and build (which will be vacant like all the other buildings like they are going to be duplicating locally), sue them for loss of property value. Do it Eastside style, sue the crap out of them. If there’s one thing Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and Woodinville have done well, it’s to sue people for things like this. Welcome to America, you can sue for anything.

  • grr August 9, 2010 (3:43 pm)

    I thought Trader Joes was going into that new building where the upzone is…


  • MrJT August 9, 2010 (5:47 pm)

    We stopped Petco….

  • CP August 9, 2010 (9:21 pm)

    Since when is it required of me to “be nice” about this?

    Why shouldn’t I be angry? My home will lose value (actual $$$$ value!!!) when a 45 foot building blocks my view, and when my plants die for lack of sunlight and when apartment dwellers look down on my back yard and when I can’t park in front of my own house. This is HOME EQUITY that will keep me from paying for college for my kids!

    Yes, I’m angry about how this company brushed off my concerns and showed ZERO concern for being a good neighbor about this.

    Yes, I’m angry that they lied to the city and they tried to lie to us about this rezone.

    Yes, I’m angry and I don’t care if you don’t like my “tone”.

    This rezone is wrong. Cayce and Gain are wrong and I am not going to sugar coat it. I’m fighting a fight to keep them from doing real, actual harm to me and my family.

    All this talk of how I’m supposed to be all sickly sweet and nice about this while Cayce & Gain can hire a paid PR guy to lie for them does actually kind of tick me off.

  • Herman August 9, 2010 (9:39 pm)

    I’m totally against this money grab. It’s all about cash extraction, not the neighbors.

  • dude August 10, 2010 (9:33 am)


  • nou August 10, 2010 (12:09 pm)

    Hi Mar3c: Your characterization of the neighborhood warmed my heart. Thank you. Cayce and Gain own contiguous properties on both sides of the block so there is a real possibility that something large could go in, whether by them or someone else since they could sell.
    Yes, the remodeled Spiro’s, Bohemian, and Prost are in the rezone area, as are the Heartland Cafe (recently remodeled as Beatos) and the remodeled Swinery. Decreased parking and higher tax assessments could create a grim scenario for those and many other small neighborhood businesses located there. Notably, some new construction developed nearby on California Ave. at an extant 30-foot height limit seems to be doing well. Examples are the building with the architect office/barber shop and the building where Al’s Auto was near Charleston (both on the west side).
    Compare how those new buildings fit into the neighborhood with the new gray compound of condo/townhouses just south of Prost. Those were also built within a 30-foot height limit. I was told by a trustworthy source they by-passed design review by being divided into several multiple-unit buildings. They appear squeezed in so they’ll front both east and west. What enhancement are they to West Seattle and the neighborhood they’re in? Imagine those expanded to the NC2-40 level in an area (3200 block Calif.) where sound views begin at the second story and grow sweeping above. Also, there’s the issue of affordable housing; there are 15 affordable apartment buildings already located in the area of proposal.

    • WSB August 10, 2010 (1:15 pm)

      I think Nou means the about-to-open (currently in soft-open mode, we’re told) Blackboard Bistro, formerly Beato – Heartland is up on Admiral Way just east of California.

  • CP August 10, 2010 (12:30 pm)

    Nope. It isn’t nimbyism, dude. I would support Cayce & Gain doing whatever development they want WITHIN current zoning rules.

    I object to arbitrary changing of zoning laws to benefit ONE wealthy investor!

  • nou August 10, 2010 (1:39 pm)

    Yes WSB, I meant Blackboard Bistro, formerly Beato. Thanks for the correction!

  • OwnerMary August 10, 2010 (8:12 pm)

    I dont do Facebook- call me old. Did i miss a coverage of what supporters are seeking of us fellow citizens? What is the process to stop it (ie you need a certain quantity of letters/signatures?) while i dont support further densification of WS, i sure would like to see a personal message from Cayce or Gain as to why this is needed. Unless proposals for development have twice the required parking, i think they should all be disapproved. The only part of the poposal i like is the parking lot, but that location would never be sustainable as a parking lot. Seattle has a mentality that if you dont build parking that people will walk. WS is proof that doesnt work. People just conduct their commerce outside WS.

  • Cp August 10, 2010 (10:09 pm)

    Cayce & Gain make no promises about parking (or anything else, for that matter) as far as I know. Of course, given my experience with them & that Josh Stepherson guy, I would not trust them anyway if they did.

    Do you have email access? Email to and we can give you details about what you can do to fight this.

  • nou August 11, 2010 (1:47 am)

    Hi OwnerMary. You may be already aware of it, but you can register for Facebook fairly easily and quickly, which allows you to link to other Facebook pages.

  • CP August 11, 2010 (11:58 pm)

    An open apology to all WSB readers…

    I would like to offer my sincere apologies to WSB readers.

    First, I do stand FIRMLY AGAINST this rezone for very good reasons, and I do believe that this neighborhood is better off without it.

    However, in my zeal to protect the value and character of our beautiful neighborhood, I lost sight of the goal and made this about Cayce & Gain and not about the facts and issues. For that, I apologize.

    Having said that, the issues are important, and this rezone must be fought. I strongly encourage you to join me in fighting this very bad idea.

    Check out the facebook page, or email our little group (see links in prior posts by myself and others). We have ideas and suggestions on how YOU can be effective in preserving and protecting – and even improving our wonderful little piece of Seattle.

    Thank you.

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