By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The proposed rezoning for the Housing Affordabiity and Livability Agenda‘s Mandatory Housing Affordability component was a major topic for the two community councils who have met this week in advance of tonight’s city-organized 2-location “open house” about that rezoning, and more.
First was the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, which met Monday night at the Southwest Library. Feedback on the rezoning plan comprised most – but not all – of the night’s discussion; later in this report, you’ll see toplines from other topics including a big change in WWRHAH leadership as well as an SPD update on crime trends.
Back to HALA rezoning:
One member observed toward the end, “The scary part of this is that the majority of the community has no idea about the tidal wave that is headed their way.”
That was a reference to the shortage of direct city communication – no briefings or announcements directly explaining “this is the rezoning we’re proposing in your area and why” – since the draft rezoning maps appeared online in October.
In recent weeks, community groups have taken to organizing their own discussions of those maps in hopes of at least helping neighbors comment effectively – pro, con, or otherwise – online and at tonight’s open house (5:30-7:30 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW, and Shelby’s, 4752 California SW).
The rezoning is focused on the city’s long-designated “urban villages,” as well as multifamily/commercial property in all areas.
WWRHAH’s area includes the Westwood-Highland Park Residential Urban Village, where, as chair Amanda Kay Helmick noted Monday night and has pointed out before, the city hasn’t made investments in helping it reach its potential. So now, she said, it’s “… a done deal, folks,” while adding that where change can be effected is “the livability piece. … They’re saying, ‘we need this to make the city more affordable,’ and I think it’s up to us to say, ‘this is what we need to make the community livable’.” The main point of the HALA MHA proposal is to give developers/property owners extra capacity and in turn to require that new development include a certain percentage of “affordable” units – or require the builders to pay a certain fee to the city for a fund that will build such units somewhere. Community leaders also have voiced concerns that the plan will result in few “affordable units” in the same areas where the extra building will happen. Here again is the WW-HP Urban Village map, showing current zoning and what’s proposed under HALA MHA:
WWRHAH member Kim Barnes, who has been focused on land-use issues, then took over. She mentioned Deb Barker and Cindi Barker‘s much-attended workshop last week (WSB coverage here) and showed the multi-dimensional models that they had made for that meeting.
Helmick proposed that everyone walk up and take a closer look at the proposed rezoning, before discussing opinions of the proposal.
Afterward, Helmick suggested that in offering feedback to the city, residents “take it all in, process it, and tell your story” about how this will affect you. “The city needs to understand (how you will be affected) …’what it means to me is that I will not be able to afford to live in my house – where will I be able to go?’ … The Westwood area has a lot of senior citizens. Where will they be able to go? … They’re talking about building housing for people who will be moving in and commuting downtown …they’re not talking about aging in place, etc. … Tell your story. How long have you been living in the neighborhood? Why did you move here? I moved here because it was (affordable) 10 years ago. … That’s my story. … The most impactful thing is the human story. Not ‘I don’t want this in my backyard,’ that’s easy to dismiss … but your story (isn’t).”
She suggested that group members also share their stories with her so they can be part of the comment letter she sends to the city. “What are we getting?” she added. “Lots of hardscape … also potentially a redevelopment of Westwood Village, which could be huge…”
One attendee said that park space would be important – Roxhill Park wouldn’t be big enough if three to four times as many people live in the area. And speaking of those numbers, WWRHAH member Chris Stripinis asked, is the city talking about how many more people are expect to move into the area?
Nothing beyond the “20,000 affordable units citywide,” said Helmick and Barnes, who added that they believe Seattle in general will be a draw for many in the years ahead, for a variety of reasons including climate change and political concerns.
Deb Barker said the numbers would likely emerge in the Environmental Impact Statement that is in the works for the Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal, but not due out – and then, in draft form – for at least a few months.
So, as Stripinis observed, affordable housing will be needed not only for people moving here, but for the people already here.
“Who can still live here? Who’s going to come here? Displacement is huge,” Helmick said.
“Diversity and vibrancy” are what Barnes said drew her here. “That is something that is important to me, to be able to maintain that diversity.”
Turning to the group, she asked opinions on whether the rezoning plan would enhance community – does it create a hub? She observed that it seemed to set up two areas, including one that would be a sort of “high street.”
WWRHAH board member Eric Iwamoto said it would be important to have wide sidewalks, restaurants, and “if it’s done right, I’d gladly trade the height – even if it does feel like you’re in a canyon, like in The Junction.” He said it would be great to see a variety of businesses, as long as they’re “walkable.” White Center was mentioned as an example.
Another attendee said she expected her parents to move here when they retire, and so “aging in place” and walkable businesses/amenities are important to her too.
At that point, Helmick pointed out another section of the map, where it “slopes down” toward Westwood Village, including the triangle that’s proposed for redevelopment with apartments. “There are no sidewalks on Barton that would connect (the Delridge commercial zone) to (the Westwood Village commercial zone),” she observed. So that’s some of the feedback she’ll be providing.
Next: What do you consider assets in this neighborhood?
“Affordability had been an asset,” but now it’s vanishing, said one attendee. That also goes for affordable business spaces, “low barrier to entry,” said Stripinis.
Other assets listed:
Multigenerational population – older people, younger families.
The salmon run (Longfellow Creek).
The six bus lines that serve the area
View of Mount Rainier
-Congestion, said one attendee
-Lack of a hospital
-Lack of park space in the eastern section of the urban village
-Lack of crosswalks, curb cuts
Do you have something you’d like to see in WWRHAH’s official feedback? Besides voicing it tonight at the city open house (the two locations will have the same city departments and feedback opportunities, we’ve been assured) – e-mail email@example.com
HALA HOTLINE: The official city feedback channels are hala.consider.it and firstname.lastname@example.org – but we also noted recently that the city has a hotline, if you have questions, and this came up briefly at WWRHAH. The city says, “Call us at (206) 743-6612 if you have questions or comments. We do our best to answer the phone M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you get our voicemail, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”
Now, the night’s other topics:
LEADERSHIP CHANGE: Chair/co-founder Amanda Kay Helmick is leaving – not only WWRHAH leadership, but West Seattle – “I’m moving to Burien,” she told the group Monday night. She’ll be continuing as Roxhill Elementary School PTA president so in that context will be able to retain involvement with WWRHAH, but not leadership.
AREA CRIME TRENDS: Year-to-year 32 percent drop in crimes against persons, “which is significant,” said Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith.
Also: Residential burglaries are down 14 percent; commercial burglaries, down 38 percent; theft (including shoplifting) is down 27 percent. Robberies are down too. “But car prowls are still way up – 58 percent. We’re putting up an emphasis around the holidays.” Last but not least, auto theft is “starting to see a spike” here and around West Seattle – six in this area in the past four weeks. “Where you see a lot of car prowls, you’re going to see a lot of auto theft,” since the criminals steal cars for transportation.
Package thefts are up too, and overall, local police have “had some great arrests” for property crimes lately.
“What about drug sales at Westwood Village?” asked one attendee. That’s an ongoing investigation, said Lt. Smith. If you have information about that or something similar, contact the Anti-Crime Team at the precinct, he said.
An attendee identifying himself as from South Delridge said that while he is thankful for the work police are doing, “the trends are not good” for crime in the area and he intends to move away. He sought to clarify when to call 911 and when not to – what about when there are people walking down the street trying gates? If they don’t break in, police might not be able to make arrests, but “you will see a patrol car.”
How many officers are on duty in the area? asked Helmick. “Today we were doing good – 14,” said Lt. Smith, while adding that half of them spent part of the day in training.
NEXT MEETING: Not until February – first Monday, 6:15 pm, Southwest Library. Before then, Helmick reiterated, comment on the HALA rezoning proposals!