Council to vote on proposal to prevent ‘bulky low-scale development’ in urban areas

There’s overdevelopment – and then there’s underdevelopment. The proposed one-story, 14,000 standalone pharmacy at 4722 Fauntleroy Way SW – first reported here in July – is considered by some to be a potential case of the latter, along with two similar projects we mentioned in that story, one in Wallingford, one in lower Queen Anne, since they are planned on sites where much bigger developments could be built. City Councilmember Richard Conlin has announced a proposal that would prohibit these types of projects in certain urban areas in the future:

Councilmember Richard Conlin introduced interim controls legislation today that sets a minimum density requirement for new buildings in pedestrian-oriented Neighborhood Commercial zones in Seattle’s urban villages and urban centers. Councilmember Conlin developed the legislation in response to neighborhood concerns about one-story, suburban-style projects proposed in various Seattle urban villages.

The goal of the proposed legislation is to align the design of new projects with the character of designated pedestrian zones. “Neighbors affirmed the vision in our neighborhood plans that bulky low-scale development is out of context with their neighborhood. I introduced short-term legislation to ensure we aren’t missing opportunities in communities that have planned for and want a more vibrant streetscape,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee. “It’s great to hear so many people saying yes to mixed-use projects with ground floor retail and housing above.”

The legislation requires a minimum density for Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zones in urban centers, urban villages and station area overlay districts that have a pedestrian designation overlay. The minimum density level, measured by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), would be based on the maximum allowable height in the NC zone. The requirement would only apply to new buildings or modifications to existing buildings that add or remove more than 1,000 square feet or 10 percent of the gross square footage currently existing on the lot, whichever is less.

“Our Comprehensive Plan targets job and housing growth in our urban villages and urban centers. P-zones in those areas are places where people like to walk, shop and hang out. Strip mall-type developments don’t invite that type of activity,” said Conlin. “The land use code is usually used to limit height and density, but we can also use it to encourage the right kind of growth in the right places.”

The Full Council is expected to vote on the interim controls on Monday, September 9. If adopted, the legislation would take effect immediately after the Mayor signs the bill. Permanent legislation will be developed with stakeholder input in the Council’s land use committee in 2014.

Even if the “interim controls” are approved next Monday, a council spokesperson tells us it’s too late to affect anything in the pipeline right now – it would only apply to projects that are not in the application process yet.

As for the drugstore proposal at 4722 Fauntleroy – while it will require design review, no meeting date is set yet, nor have any new details appeared in public records (or otherwise been made public).

17 Replies to "Council to vote on proposal to prevent 'bulky low-scale development' in urban areas"

  • Dead End Marc September 3, 2013 (5:05 pm)

    Unrented ground floor retail spaces are an indicator that what we need is more vacant space to drive DOWN the value and cost of retail space forcing Landlords out of business and disrupting banks loaning money and,
    … wait a second here!

    Exactly WHY is this considered a good idea?

    The NIMBY mentality can go too far, and IMO it has.

    I understand some folks might want to live in a community that is different from where they live.
    Find your own ‘private Idaho’ is, and move there.
    Making a series of low impact coding changes is not the path to eden, as any bumps in the road create imperfections you will not want to live with.

  • Peter on Fauntelroy September 3, 2013 (5:46 pm)

    They cannot make the legislation retroactive, so my neighborhood is still going to get stuck with CVS’s dream of suburban hell everywhere. I will never ever set foot in a CVS anywhere, anytime, ever.

  • Diane September 3, 2013 (6:19 pm)

    who was the owner of 4722 Fauntleroy, that sold their property to CVS?

    • WSB September 3, 2013 (6:37 pm)

      The property has not been sold. And CVS is not confirmed – just circumstantial evidence (the developer who has filed for this property and the others mentioned works with CVS, so it’s presumed) so far. The owners are listed in property records, the Campagnaro family, who I understand are longtime locals.

  • Alki Area September 3, 2013 (6:44 pm)

    LOL…so on “average” we’re good! The Whole Foods development is TOO big, the CVS (if that’s what it is) is TOO small…so the average of that block should be just perfect. Problem solved…next!

  • Laura September 3, 2013 (7:02 pm)

    Well pedestrian traffic is all well and good, but at some point they need to leave West Seattle and we only have so many ways out of here. Bigger isn’t always better.

    Makes me think that they should consider the following next… Should all new homes now be required to be multiple family dwellings if they are near a bus route or are near a pedestrian zone? Should all remodels that change 10% of a house’s structure require it be converted into a multiple family dwelling? After all the council just loves getting into your business.

  • metrognome September 3, 2013 (7:09 pm)

    wonder if Fauntleroy will be modified (again) to put in a left turn lane for traffic coming from Alaska (either EB or WB) or off the bridge; otherwise it will be pretty difficult for those folks to get there. With all the traffic from Whole Foods and the channelization changes on Fauntleroy, this is likely to become a bottleneck.

  • dsa September 3, 2013 (10:07 pm)

    An owner of property has no rights because the council can change those rights at will.
    Conlin et al, do as you please, you will anyway. Let them build 20 stories, just don’t block the sun from getting in my West Seattle backyard.

  • dsa September 3, 2013 (10:25 pm)

    So if the current buildings were destroyed in an earthquake or fire, you could not replace them because they would be underdeveloped and the land would sit idle until the economy caught up with demand. Wake up Conlin.

  • steve September 3, 2013 (10:34 pm)

    I wish this push for high density would end. It won’t be long until West Seattle looks like the row houses of Moscow. Yuk! Councilmember Richard Conlin wants to tell property owners “Sorry, not big enough”. What a twit.

  • jetcitygirl September 4, 2013 (12:10 am)

    You can email your city Councilmembers and you can write to your Director of Planning and Development at the City of Seattle – be sure to reference the project and use subject title: Concerns!: #3015817 – West Seattle 4722 Fauntleroy Way. Ask for a reply confirmation that your email was received. Voila! It becomes part of the public record for the project.

    Interesting to note as the Blog reports this WS pharmacy site is zoned Mixed Use NC85 in the framework plan. It up zoned in 2011 to allow for more condos and apartments and a mix of small businesses to promote an urban pedestrian mall type space – not vehicular. The proposed project is 14,500sf single tenant retail pharmacy – most likely with a drive through in a format planned like the one proposed in Wallingford and where the Kidd Valley is on Queen Anne blvd and Mercer…
    Our neighborhood deserves something more distinctive. What about a coop for small businesses on the lower floor for retail and restaurants with a pharmacy camouflaged into it, condos, apts, live work loft spaces – a mix!
    Keep it real West Seattle. This project will happen but its up to You to be part of shaping opinion on what your community needs and wants. Even better – engage your neighbor that is an urban planner or architect to guide your comments!
    This project has not gone to Early Design Guidance Review yet so there is time for You to comment.

  • JoAnne September 4, 2013 (7:55 am)

    Most of the city council members live in nice neighborhoods with plenty of parking or in luxury condos with the same.
    Us “little people” can rot in their high-density utopia I guess.

  • artsea September 4, 2013 (3:56 pm)

    The problem with nearly all of the new high-rise apartment blocks that are burying us is that the “ground floor retail” that Richard Conlin mentioned is rarely retail. Most are huge accounting offices, legal offices, and things that I don’t consider retail. It’s all really boring stuff.

  • Sassy Seattleite September 4, 2013 (5:27 pm)

    I’m really happy that Richard Conlin is leading this effort. Contrary to what some people believe, West Seattle is not a suburb, but part of a vibrant city. If I wanted to shop at a strip-mall style CVS, I’d move to Lynnwood.

    We need to continue electing leaders who will lead our city into the future. If we don’t insist upon development and design that encourages people to walk and take mass transit and give them housing options close to where they work, we’ll just end up with a city that looks like San Jose, Los Angeles or Phoenix. Ick.

  • Mickymse September 4, 2013 (5:28 pm)

    Funny how the same people who want government regulation out of their business and out of the dense urban villages… are the same ones who demand action when a private property owner buys a house next door to them or across the street and tears it down to build something. THEN, they suddenly want design review and size controls imposed.

  • Jennie September 4, 2013 (7:57 pm)

    Wish both ideas would be scrapped and it was turned into a park instead of more concrete jungle.

  • Ray West September 5, 2013 (5:21 am)

    Bulky, low-scale development with open space is out of character for the neighborhood, but tall, blocky, condos/retail space crammed into compact areas is? Let’s be honest here, the city only wants high density because it means more tax revenue for them. A single-story business in a location with space for parking will bring in less tax dollars. Don’t get me wrong. I DON’T want a chain drug store go in at this location. I do want the present businesses that are there to be able to remain. That’s the type of commercial diversity West Seattle needs. Not more gyms, or bars, drug stores, or “upscale” food markets. The triangle area could be developed into a really unique and diverse commercial area with a variety of smaller shops, restaurants, entertainment venues that are intersperse with parks and open areas.

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