Meeting last night at the Sisson Building/Senior Center, the Junction Neighborhood Organization also was looking ahead to tonight’s city-organized “open house” about topics from housing to roads to parks to parking – though it had two other major topics.
REZONING ACTION PLAN: On the eve of the city’s big “open house,” JuNO director René Commons talked about community concerns, especially about how poorly the city had been communicating about the rezoning that is part of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda‘s Mandatory Housing Affordability component. The area is just now feeling the effects of changes in the late ’90s, she noted, with major projects. So input means more now than ever.
“This is a draft proposal… and activism matters,” said Commons. “It’s about not being angry, but about being passionate – to make change, good change.”
One attendee brought up that “this is not the only upzone we’ll be dealing with – Sound Transit 3 will put two elevated stations in our area, and these stations are big, and each one comes with a ‘station overlay,’ to ensure that there’s adequate density around the stations, to make them more viable… (but) people working on HALA are not necessarily talking to the people working on ST3.” For one, he said, the area should have options – “at least two materially different proposals” – for how to accommodate growth, not just the “blanket approach that every urban village should be treated the same way.”
Another attendee talked about finally hearing about the proposed upzoning in late October from coverage on WSB – “oh, that’s my street!” She tried to find out if she had missed some outreach that would have helped her understand; no, she hadn’t. Even the city’s title “Mandatory Housing Affordability” was not conducive to helping people understand about rezoning – “it sounded like somebody’s finally doing something about the rising rents, and that’s not it at all.”
So what kind of feedback should JuNO offer, tonight and beyond?
One view – it’s going to be difficult to say totally scrap it, better to say “we acknowledge there needs to be some density, but there’s a better way to go about it.”
Challenging the outreach is one thing. Challenging the HALA acronym itself, suggested another attendee who said he was “from the neighborhood-state of Fairmount Springs,” is important – “there’s a false narrative that if you’re against this plan, you’re against density, you’re NIMBY …We’ve shouldered a lot of growth (in parts of West Seattle) … what I’m seeing is a steady march down the streets [his is 40th] block by block, single-family home by single-family home, until there’s no difference between what you see on the neighborhood streets and the arterials.”
Back to one resident – the Junction Neighborhood Plan calls for protecting single-family homes, but the city, it seems, “wants them to go away.” Community advocate Deb Barker pointed out that some of that might have been stripped out/modified by the 2035 Comprehensive Plan that’s been adopted.
Another attendee said that she supports the “urban village” concept and understands it as a planner who works in another city, but there could be concepts for accommodating growth that the city hasn’t even thought of.
Next concern brought up: How the upzoning will change property values, and therefore the taxes. Many of her neighborhoods are retirees, “not fat cats… and we may be driving (them) out just to bring in another (lower-income) population. … My concern is that the existing area that’s already upzoned is nowhere near capacity,” such as California SW sites that are zoned for up to 4 stories.
“Exactly,” someone chimed in.
Paul Haury from east-of-The-Junction group SeattleNERD said he researched and found that what’s been built in the Junction is at 321 percent of what was the 2024 target in the original neighborhood plan, in terms of units built and units permitted. Morgan Junction is at 94 percent as of October. Admiral is at 117 percent.
“What are the chances that if we ask for more time for community input, that it will be granted?” asked one attendee.
More discussion ensued, including David Whiting of the Southwest District Council – whose regular meeting night was disregarded by the city in its decision to have the Southwest regional open house tonight – expressing frustration regarding the city’s non-intuitive tech for gathering feedback. “Yes, things can be done online and quantified and measured, but we are social creatures, and there’s much to be said about gathering in a place” to talk and hear about it. He stressed that showing up tomorrow will send a message.
An attendee suggested copying whatever letter JuNO sends to the city, to the Seattle Planning Commission as well.
For another real-world example, Haury brought up the affordable apartments that had been removed on SW Avalon -in the neighborhood his group represents – replaced by, and to be replaced by, a variety of costlier new units both for rent and for sale.
As discussion continued, “extend the deadline” for MHA rezoning is the key major message that it was suggested be conveyed. One attendee summarized, “We need more time for a comment period because we are concerned this plan won’t do what you want it to do.”
One more time – if you see this before 7:30 pm Wednesday (December 7th), get to the city’s open house – which is in two locations, with the same departments and projects promised at each, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW) and Shelby’s (4752 California SW) – any time between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm, and have a say, on the rezoning and a multitude of other projects.
Also discussed last night at the JuNO meeting:
NEW STREETLIGHTS: More than a dozen new streetlights are going in on 40th and 41st SW between SW Alaska and SW Genesee. And neighbors aren’t all happy about it. This project got going, Abdy Farid of JuNO explained, with the realization that the area was fairly dark and unsafe, so it led to a request for lighting, after a walking tour that revealed areas that were “dimly lit,” as Commons put it. Kelly Enright and Maneet Jain from Seattle City Light were at the meeting to talk about it – a flyer had been distributed to residents in the area, though there hadn’t been a media notification (we pointed this out).
Jain said SDOT had reviewed the area and agreed lighting was needed; he said the project has permits for construction starting next March and lasting up to a month. One neighbor who spoke at the meeting said the first they had heard about it was when markings appeared on the street. He said that neighbor concerns had led them to put the project on hold to take comments – the flyer, which we saw for the first time at the meeting, says the comment deadline is December 9th. (E-mail email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org)
Some neighbors say they like living in a not-so-brightly-lit area. What’s the point of lighting the last block before the bus stop? asked one neighbor. Another one said there are two streetlights on Oregon by her residence already: “I’m pretty well lit-up already … one in front of the house seems to be kind of a waste of money.”
One attendee said that the LED lighting going in around the area is “so bright, you can read a book,” and that friends near that lighting had to spend money to block it. Jain said the pre- and post-LED lighting is “the exact same footprint and the exact same (brightness). … It is our standard light.”
Enright said getting concerns about new lights “is a twist for us” but suggested organizing a walking tour with neighbors and “tweaking the plan” if needed. It’s still possible, Jain confirmed, “it can be amended … it’s our in-house engineers.” This might be organized after the New Year, suggested Enright, so people don’t have to worry about this during the holiday season.
P.S. The problem with intermittent outages on the West Seattle Bridge came up. Up to 24 lights are out at times, the SCL reps acknowledged, and that’s being looked into.
RESIDENTIAL PARKING ZONE: Ken, who lives on 41st north of Alaska, is heading up the new pursuit of this possibility. He is a condo resident who doesn’t have offstreet parking and often has to park up to 3 blocks away, he said. It’s not just increased residential density affecting that, he noted, but also the addition of the QFC, and the memory-care building that’s on the way. The city requires 10 contiguous blocks to be affected, he pointed out. They’re working with two city reps to “at least get the project looked at.” They’ve been told it’ll be “at least a year” to get the area looked at. Dakota to the north, Alaska to the south, west to 41st, east to 36th. “We would skip 37th, 38th, 39th on Fauntleroy, mostly businesses who are affected there.” They also skipped over east-west blocks. If anyone else has blocks to recommend, they’re putting together a letter, and hoping that JuNO would sign on to help them forward the issue.
Checking WSB archives, it’s been almost 7 years since the city said no to an RPZ in the area.
Haury from SeattleNERD near 35th/Avalon said they had tried for an RPZ but had not been granted it. But he encouraged those interested in the subject to take photos of everything they see – especially driveway-blocking and other violations. “Somebody’s going to say ‘you don’t have a problem, that’s just part of growth,’ but as long as they have a timestamp, they can’t dismiss it. … Take the pictures and document it.” He said that while a city employee had claimed their neighborhood had no problem, they had video and even the city Hearing Examiner expressed incredulity.
Right now there’s only one RPZ in West Seattle, near the Fauntleroy ferry dock, but that’s been in place for more than 30 years.
Deb Barker pointed out that the city is revising RPZ policy (note – this is part of the parking topic that’s on the agenda for tonight’s city “open house”).
ONGOING INITIATIVES: Commons opened by mentioning some of what else is going on, including the sculpture installation in Junction Plaza Park and upcoming development of the future park space on 40th SW.
The Junction Neighborhood Organization does not currently have a set meeting schedule but you can contact wsjuno (at) yahoo (dot) com to get on its mailing list.