California SW ‘upzoning’: Hearing Examiner’s decisions are in

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 Examiners 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:

Excerpts of potential interest, from the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation report:

Page 4: “… In total, public testimony and comments submitted to the Examiner ran approximately two to one in opposition to the proposed rezone.”

Page 6, the “Conclusions” section, #4: “… The proposed rezone … would increase the zoned capacity of the urban village, and the capacity would be consistent with the density established in the Urban Village Appendix to the Comprehensive Plan. …”

Page 6, the “Conclusions” section, #5: “… The site is already zoned and used for commercial development, and the rezone would not affect the compact, concentrated configuration of the commercial area or the preferred configuration and edge protectxion of adjacent residential zones. Nor would it result in any encroachment of commercial development into residential areas. …”

Page 7, the “Conclusions” section, #7: “… The site best matches the functional and locational criteria for the NC2 zone. It provides both small and medium-sized businesses that serve the adjacent and surrounding neighborhoods. … The area is really part of the pedestrian-oriented shopping area that extends for several blocks and functions as the primary business district within the Urban Village …”

Page 7, the “Conclusions” section, #8: “… A height limit of 40 feet is consistent with the type and scale of development intended for the NC2 zone. …”

Page 7, the “Conclusions” section, #9 and #10: “… Heights throughout the California Avenue SW corridor generally do not reinforce the natural topography of the area, and development does not provide a gradual transition to height, scale and level of activity between zones. Although the slope across the site provides some topographic break between the site and adjacent single-family development to the east, most views from those residences would be blocked if the site were fully built out at NC1-30 zoning, and any remaining views would be blocked by build-out at NC2-40. This would be an issue to be addressed in design review of projects proposed for the site.

“The predominant height and scale of existing development on the site is not a good measure of the area’s overall development potential. A better measure is the height and scale of development to the north and south on California Avenue SW. During the last 20 years, many parcels within surrounding areas that are zoned for 40-foot heights have been redeveloped, which indicates the area’s likely development potential.

Page 8, the “Conclusions” section, #12: “Although the adopted Neighborhood Plan does not include policies relevant to the proposed rezone, future development under NC2-40 zoning would meet policy A-P1, because it would confirm to the existing character and scale of development along much of the nearby California Avenue SW commercial area, which includes a number of four-story structures.”

Sections #13 and #14 address the “no buffer” point made by the 42nd SW neighbors – immediately to the east of the “upzone” block. In summary, the Hearing Examiner writes that “most of the California Avenue SW commercial corridor in the area” does not have significant buffering between “neighborhood commercial and single-family residential zones.” She notes that “transitions to respond to the neighboring single-family development would likely be provided through design review of future development on the site.”

In section #17 on page 9, her report acknowledges, “Full build-out of the site under either the existing … zoning or the proposed … zoning would result in shadows to the north, east and west, depending on the season and time of day, and would impact private views from adjacent properties to the east. The Director determined that review of future site development pursuant to SEPA, design review and other City Code requirements would be sufficient to address these future development impacts.”

The final conclusion #22: “Weighing and balancing the applicable sections of Chapter 23.34 SMC together, the most appropriate zone and height designation for the site is NC2-40,” before the single line headed RECOMMENDATION: “The Hearing Examiner recommends that the City Council APPROVE the requested rezone.”

The document also says that “… any person substantially affected by a recommendation of the Hearing Examiner may submit an appeal of the recommendation in writing to the City Council. The appeal must be submitted within 14 calendar days following the date of the issuance of the recommendation of the Hearing Examiner …” That makes Sept. 16th the deadline. The address listed is:
Seattle City Council
Built Environment Committee
c/o Seattle City Clerk
600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 3 (physical address)
P.O Box 94728 (mailing address)
Seattle, WA 98124-4728

Meantime, we’ll be watching for the hearing date that committee will set for consideration of the proposal.

APPEAL: Summary of the “Determination of Non-Significance” appeal denial — While the 9-page ruling recaps the arguments made by appellant Dennis Ross, a longtime Admiral community activist/advocate, it points out that in appeals, the burden of proof lies with the appellant – and for virtually every point, the Hearing Examiner wrote that no, or insufficient, evidence was presented to show that the DNS’s findings were wrong.

As for next steps on this, the document says the decision “is the final decision for the City of Seattle,” but notes that it could be challenged in court, but not until after the City Council completes its “action on the rezone application.”

13 Replies to "California SW 'upzoning': Hearing Examiner's decisions are in"

  • dsa September 3, 2010 (12:59 pm)

    I’ve never agreed with the lead, proposing, or controlling agency being the one who makes the determination if there is or is not a significant impact. What we have here is the city deciding for the homeowners that by declaring a DNS (No Significant Impact) this rezone will go forward without further environmental review. Here is a SEPA link:

  • Michael September 3, 2010 (1:09 pm)

    “What we have here is the city deciding for the homeowners that by declaring a DNS (No Significant Impact) this rezone will go forward without further environmental review.”
    Uh, I understand your frustration over this issue, but that’s kind of a city’s job – local zoning and determination. I sure hope you aren’t thinking the State should do it.
    As much as some people would like to run government by plebiscite, we’d be in an even worse mess if that were the case.

  • manolita September 3, 2010 (1:09 pm)

    Congratulations Mike and Roger! I am looking forward to improvements in that area and in general in our beautiful West Seattle!

  • Silly Goose September 3, 2010 (1:21 pm)

    What a huge disappointment this is, once they opened pandora’s box it just keeps leaking rotten crap like this. I love the clause that says;The proposed rezone … would increase the zoned capacity of the urban village, and the capacity would be consistent with the density established in the Urban Village Appendix to the Comprehensive Plan. …” Yeah but does the density fit in with the amount of parking that is available and I don’t mean the 1.5 car crap I mean the real amount of available parking, does it fit the percent of officer to tennants that will be needed with this added density. Another ugly building for West Seattle Oh boy so excited to live in an area the is being built up so high that our sidewalks are becoming nothing more than dark shaded area’s and our streets clogged with cars becauase they have purchsed a condo that has no available parking.

  • dsa September 3, 2010 (2:25 pm)

    Silly Goose sees impacts.

  • bebecat September 3, 2010 (2:26 pm)

    Back in the 70’s we gave up our indivdual say to development when we voted in the Comprehensive Plan.

  • Barry September 3, 2010 (2:40 pm)

    We can only go up

  • cp September 3, 2010 (6:51 pm)

    We can only go up – Yeah, literally. Up about 20 more feet and looking DOWN into private back yards. This is a sad day for single family residences in West Seattle and across the city. ALERT: Maybe YOUR home will be the next victim of this kind of up-zoning.

  • kgdlg September 3, 2010 (8:08 pm)

    CP i couldn’t disagree more on this issue. The hearing examiner did not allow a SF zone to go to a commercial zone. Increased density on an arterial completely makes sense, especially in an NC zone. This is exactly where density should be going, shielding and protecting SF zones from traffic on arterials.

  • Lorelee September 4, 2010 (11:25 am)

    Boooo! Corperate America wins again.

  • nou September 9, 2010 (10:48 pm)

    Thanks for covering this WSB. I’m wondering if the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation report is on-line yet, and where specific info on filing this type of appeal can be found (and if the 9/16 deadline is for postmark or receipt).

  • JN September 15, 2010 (12:39 am)

    I can only assume that all the people who have supported this rezone either do not live in the affected area or will benefit financially from the proposed rezone. How about having a 40-odd foot building built right smack-dab against their property line, with no alley? I bet then they would probably change their tune…

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