California SW rezoning proposal passes council committee

(Video of this morning’s entire committee meeting, from Seattle Channel; West Seattle item starts at 21:10)
We’re at Seattle City Hall, where the Council’s Committee for the Built Environment has just – with what chair Councilmember Sally Clark described as some frustration – voted 3-0 to deny the appeal of the California SW rezoning proposal, and send it to the full council for a final vote. That comes 3 years after the emergence of the proposal to rezone a block of California SW between Hinds and Hanford for taller buildings and bigger commercial spaces. The vote followed almost half an hour total of oral arguments from opponents – mostly neighbors who had filed formal appeals – and supporters, including area business/property owner Roger Cayce. Click ahead for details on what preceded the vote (we are progressively adding more details to the story before moving on from City Hall, where we’re also now monitoring the same committee’s forthcoming vote on the Multi-Family Code (which addresses townhouse design – and much more – and has been years in the making):

The proposal approved by the committee today first came to light in early November 2007. Thought there is not, and has not yet been, a specific redevelopment proposal for the area, the rezoning supporters have contended – as they did again today – that the current zoning makes new projects economically unfeasible. The formal applicant throughout the process has been consultant Josh Stepherson, representing a group of property owners most visibly including local real-estate entrepreneurs Roger Cayce and Mike Gain.

While the proposal lay idle for all of 2009, this year it revived with the Department of Planning and Development’s recommendation that it be approved. That led to a multi-part hearing before the city Hearing Examiner – it included an appeal of a separate determination that it had no significant environmental impact (environment in this context including factors such as traffic, not just ecology), as well as the formal public hearing on whether the proposal should be approved.

When her report came out, it denied the appeal and affirmed the DPD recommendation for approval. Opponents then filed what the city counted as six appeals – which would have to be considered by this council committee, which started that process at the previous meeting.

At that meeting, committee chair Councilmember Sally Clark had made provisions for a possible third committee meeting on the proposal, but decided today to go ahead with a vote, while voicing some “frustration” that many of the opponents’ points could not be considered – particularly their contention that the rezone wouldn’t fit with the Admiral Neighborhood Plan. Apparently, the plan’s “goals and objectives” are all that count in proceedings like this – and the committee said they’d checked that with the City Attorney’s Office – not its narrative, as worked out in an arduous neighborhood-involved process more than a decade ago.

In addition to the contention that the rezone wasn’t in the spirit of the Neighborhood Plan, as argued before the council by Dennis Ross, neighbors also said the city had erred in dismissing their concerns about views – Phil Wingard argued this point, saying some views were legally protected, though the city contended it had nothing of the sort on record – and Cole Peck contended, among other points, the process had not given neighbors or other concerned parties their due, given that there was only one official public meeting (November 29, 2007). All three were among those who had spoken in the Hearing Examiner’s chambers during the hearing there three months ago.

The four speakers for the rezone were consultant Stepherson, property owner Cayce, city planner Shelley Bolser, and local architect/developer Brandon Nicholson, who, when the proposal emerged in 2007, had been active with the Admiral Neighborhood Association, which ultimately opposed it; our coverage of a December 2007 ANA discussion of the proposal quoted Nicholson as saying then that he thought the supporters had “a case” for getting it approved. In general, they refuted the opponents’ contentions, insisting the rezone made sense.

(still more to come … to be continued…)

5 Replies to "California SW rezoning proposal passes council committee"

  • BookGal November 30, 2010 (12:32 pm)

    What makes a neighborhood feel like a community where you want to put down roots?

    When you walk along the West Seattle Junction, Admiral Junction and Morgan Junction – what do you feel? What do you notice about the buildings and the places you shop or just hang-out?

    What do you feel when you are on a street (eg downtown Seattle in the business area)? Do you feel welcome? Do you feel buildings looming over the sidewalks (blocking the sunlight and the warmth of the day)?

    What draws people to West Seattle is that feeling of community and a sense of history. I think that many people would choose to avoid a structure(s) or areas devoid of warmth and character. Look at the facades. Look at the way the doorways are recessed inviting you to enter. Take a real look at the newer buildings in West Seattle and compare them to older buildings. What makes one building or business more inviting than the other?

    What is the first thing people say about what they do not want happen to West Seattle? They do not want it to become another Belltown, Fremont or Ballard. What does this say about those areas, the new architecture, the condos/townhouses, and the businesses in those areas?

    Taller buildings have its pluses – as long as the upper floors are set back to allow room to breathe for those walking below. Homogeneous all glass facades lack visual interest, and lack warmth.

    And what about those residential HOMES and families living behind these proposed tall buildings? What will happen to the families, gardens, flower beds, and trees that will no longer have the sun or that summer breeze?

  • Alki Area November 30, 2010 (1:04 pm)

    THANK GOD this finally passed. What absolute waste of time sillyness! It’s liking watching that great movie “Pleasantville” about a town that never changes (until it does). I’m SORRY life happens. I’m sorry West Seattle is getting more people. I’m sorry the old Safeway was bigger than the corner store, and the new Safeway will be bigger than the old one. It’s life. Manhattan used to be a forest, then 5 story wooden structures, now a skyscraper filled city. Stop trying to pretend growth and change doesn’t happen.

    I don’t want everything to change all at once or every 2 years, but that corridor is on THE BUSIEST BIGGEST commercial street in all of West Seattle. That’s WHERE it SHOULD be the most dense and highest. I don’t want huge buildings on little side streets, but on THE main commercial street, of COURSE! Duh. Where ELSE are we going to grow. This is SMART growth.

    Yes if you have a cute little cottage house right next to some small one store business on the MAIN BUSINESS STREET and that building is torn down and replaced by a 6 story building that blocks your view, you’ll be angry. Of course. But don’t live on or right next to THE MAIN commercial artery then. Yes it’s convenient, but that comes with a price. It’s like people buying cheap houses (wonder why) next to the airport and then complaining about the noise. That’s WHY they were cheap houses. If you don’t want to live next to busy 6 story commercial building, then live 6 streets back in some residential zoned neighborhood.

  • engaged_citizen November 30, 2010 (1:32 pm)

    I don’t see how area streets can support this kind of development, let alone the detriment to the neighborhood such taller buildings will provide. We don’t have mass transit capacity, nor street capacity for the additional cars, and where will all the cars be parked? There is a reason why this neighborhood was asked what kind of vision they wanted for its development into the future, does this proposal fit into that vision?

  • WSnewbie November 30, 2010 (8:33 pm)

    This is GOOD News, more people in one area means more tax money for the city to fix the streets that everyone is complaining about. I come from DC where this has been going on since DC was built and its great for the area. Small business can and will open up in the store fronts and still make it feel cozy.

  • engaged_citizen December 3, 2010 (1:55 pm)

    I don’t think this is what is wanted based on the neighborhood planning documents. I wasn’t living in West Seattle/Admiral during that process, but I support their conclusions. I support smart growth, with public input. If you like this kind of development, then move to where it already exists, such as Fremont, or Ballard. I have lived in both of those places, before and after the building blitzes. Remember now how long it takes for you to get places, and compare that to how long it will take you in the future when this area is all built out. Remember the unique character of this area, that will be gone. If you want that kind of place, then maybe you should consider moving to where it already exists?

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