California Ave upzoning – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 01:30:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 California SW rezoning proposal passes council committee Tue, 30 Nov 2010 18:24:33 +0000

(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…)

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California SW ‘upzoning’: Back to council committee Tuesday Mon, 29 Nov 2010 02:41:26 +0000 This Tuesday morning brings the City Council Committee on the Built Environments next hearing for the proposal to rezone a block-plus along California SW south of Admiral. The three-year-old proposal would rezone the area to allow taller buildings and bigger businesses; here’s our coverage of the committee’s first meeting about it, week before last. As decided then, the council will listen to oral arguments Tuesday, from both the neighbors who are fighting it by filing appeals, and from supporters. The agenda is here, with links to documents including the council’s official briefing memo; it’s the first item on the agenda for the 9 am Tuesday meeting at City Hall. Here’s our archive of coverage dating back to when the proposal was first made public in November 2007. There is no specific project proposed in the rezoning area, but supporters have argued that the new zoning will make “nicer” redevelopment more likely. If the committee does not vote on it Tuesday, they would take it up again next week; once they have voted, it goes to the full council for a final decision.

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California ‘upzone’: No vote today – at least 2 more hearings Wed, 17 Nov 2010 20:39:15 +0000 Three years and nine days after the first word of a proposal to change the zoning of a full block of California SW on the south end of the Admiral District, the proposal has finally reached the City Council, which has the final say.

(Screen grab from Seattle Channel stream of this morning’s hearing)
Its Committee on the Built Environment has just concluded its first hearing on the proposal to change the zoning along a block-plus of California SW (Hanford to Hinds) from NC1-30 to NC2-40, enabling larger businesses and taller buildings.

Despite the time it has taken for the proposal to get to this point, council staffer Michael Jenkins noted to the committee, “You are pressed for time on this” – it’s now close to the end of the 120-day period allotted for committee action. It’s been pushed off this long because the city recommendation on the proposal came right before fall – which happens to be when councilmembers are focused on budget matters; they have wrapped those up except for next Monday’s final budget vote, so that’s why they were able to take it up today.

No one was there for public comment (on this issue or anything else on the agenda) at today’s meeting. The council spent about half an hour listening to Jenkins’ presentation, involving the issues on which we’ve reported many times before (here’s our coverage archive). Clark summarized that the main issues seemed to her to be the height analysis – how would the upzoning really affect the area – and interpretation of whether this fits with the Admiral Neighborhood Plan. There were some technicalities bandied about regarding the “adopted” plan versus the “recognized” plan; Clark said she has always felt the entire “recognized” plan should be considered as such. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw suggested a “field trip” to the site; no date was set but Clark said that certainly was possible. Clark asked for clarification of whether the property owners who proposed this (Mike Gain and Roger Cayce) owned all the parcels (they don’t, though Jenkins didn’t have that information handy) or had a special agreement with other owners supporting the proposal.

Bottom line: There will be at least one more hearing in this committee – they are scheduling November 30th for oral arguments, and the people challenging the rezone (six appeals, largely involving dozens of nearby residents) will get 15 minutes to split among themselves, while those seeking it (and, since it recommended approval, the city Department of Planning and Development), will get 15 minutes. After that hearing, committee chair Clark said, they will decide if the committee is ready to vote on the request – or if they will schedule one more meeting on December 8th. Once this committee makes its decision, a full council vote would be next. (One note, the graphic on the screengrab above is erroneous; though the term appeared throughout the meeting stream, this is not a CONTRACT rezone, which would involve a specific project; this is a general rezone – differences explained here.)

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West Seattle ‘upzone’ goes to City Council committee tomorrow Tue, 16 Nov 2010 20:54:43 +0000 Will the City Council approve property owners’ request to “upzone” the block of California SW between Hanford and Hinds (city map at left)? The next step in the three-years-so-far process is a City Council committee hearing and possible vote tomorrow. In fall 2007 (1st report here), area property owners Mike Gain and Roger Cayce filed a request to change the zoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40, enabling taller buildings with larger commercial spaces – there has not been a specific development proposed for the area so far. Neighbors mobilized opposition, and a contentious public meeting ensued on November 30, 2007 (story here).

2+ years later, the city Department of Planning and Development finally issued its recommendation this past June, supporting approval of the change (WSB coverage here); area residents subsequently challenged the accompanying “determination of (environmental) nonsignificance.” Two months ago, city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner ruled against that challenge (WSB coverage here), and recommended council approval of the zoning change. That in turn was appealed by dozens of area residents; the City Council now will decide the fate of their appeal as well as the proposal itself. All this sets the stage for a hearing tomorrow before the City Council Committee on the Built Environment, 9:30 am at City Hall (here’s the agenda, and here’s the council staff’s memo summarizing the proposal and its status; if you can’t be at City Hall, it should be live online at and on cable channel 21). According to the council’s briefing memo, this committee will have to meet at least once more on this matter, before the full council can take a final vote, and all that has to be done before the end of the year.

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California ‘upzoning’ proposal: Read the complete rulings Fri, 10 Sep 2010 08:44:36 +0000 ORIGINAL 1:44 AM REPORT: Just before the long holiday weekend, we reported on the city Hearing Examiner‘s decisions regarding the “upzoning” proposed for a block-plus stretch of California SW south of the Admiral District: Examiner Sue Tanner recommends the City Council approve the proposal to change the zoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40, meaning larger commercial spaces and taller buildings allowed. She also ruled against a community activist’s appeal of the city’s determination that the zoning change would be environmentally “nonsignificant.” We received the decisions via postal mail; we immediately requested electronic copies – and they’ve finally arrived in e-mail, so we have uploaded them to our site for you to read in their entirety if you’re interested: The decision recommending City Council approval of the rezone is here; the decision affirming the “determination of (environmental) nonsignificance” – denying community activist Dennis Ross‘s appeal – is here. As noted in our story a week ago, September 16th is the deadline for people “substantially affected” by the rezone approval recommendation to appeal; we are checking to see if the council’s Built Environment committee has a date yet for its vote on the rezone proposal.

ADDED 9:36 AM: Just talked with Michael Jenkins from the council’s Central Staff. He says the council has 90 days to get the proposal before the committee – and it’s not likely to happen any time soon, since the council will be busy with the budget for the next few months. If the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation is appealed, he says – noting that a few people have inquired about that process, though no formal appeal has come in yet – that ups the time line to 120 days. He has one other note: By law, council members cannot be contacted directly about matters like this; if you want to find out how to comment, or have other questions about the process, Jenkins says he’d be happy to help – e-mail him at

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California SW ‘upzoning’: Hearing Examiner’s decisions are in Fri, 03 Sep 2010 18:55:17 +0000 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.”

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Awaiting the California SW ‘upzone’ report: The hearing recap Thu, 26 Aug 2010 06:25:55 +0000 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If you saw a woman with short white hair, perhaps a notebook too, roaming the 3200 block of California purposefully over the weekend – that just might have been City of Seattle Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner.

She’s the most powerful city official you’ve (probably) never heard of, and she announced at the end of last Wednesday’s combined hearing on that block’s three-years-in-progress “upzoning” request that she would make a site visit before writing a report on the request and ruling on a related appeal, “probably (visiting) on the weekend.” (Whether last weekend or next, we won’t know till her report.)

“But if you see me,” she warned, “do NOT approach me.”

Though you are not asked to rise when she enters her chambers on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown, Tanner’s role is similar to that of a judge. She listens to sworn testimony, sometimes to public comment, in hearings on matters that may sound mundane from a distance, unless you are the one whose livelihood and/or property will be directly affected by the ruling – as is the case for most of those involved in this case, both the neighbors along the blocks immediately behind the block proposed for a zoning change, and those who own the dozens of parcels that would be eligible for higher buildings and larger commercial spaces if the zoning is changed.

On Wednesday of last week, the rezone proposal occupied the Hearing Examiner’s docket for the entire day, which began with most of the 30 or so seats in her chambers filled – mostly with the aforementioned neighbors, wearing lime-green ribbons – and ended seven hours later with most of the seats empty.

Though 2 years and 9 months passed between last week’s hearing and the previous time that public comments were taken on Roger Cayce and Mike Gain‘s proposal to rezone an entire block of California SW and its formal city hearing – much remained unchanged, such as the players who were on hand at both events (the first one was a community meeting, not a formal part of the process):

As was the case at that meeting on November 29, 2007 (WSB coverage here), Gain and Cayce both spoke, though most of the talking on their proposal’s behalf was done by their primary representative, consultant Josh Stepherson. And as was also the case then, most speaking against the rezone identified themselves as residents of the neighborhoods immediately to the east and west of California – though they were joined, again, by neighborhood advocates: Mark Wainwright, who detailed why the Admiral Neighborhood Association had taken a stand against it in 2007, when he was its president, and Dennis Ross, who led the predecessor group Admiral Community Council, and is officially appealing the “environmental nonsignificance” ruling regarding the proposal.

Another constant: There remains no specific development proposal for the rezone area, which fuels some of the opponents’ concerns and some of the proponents’ promises, and which again at last week’s hearing led to a suggestion that a “contract rezone” specifically applying to some specific future development proposal would be more appropriate than a “blanket rezone.” (That came up in November 2007, and we noted that the planner on the case – who isn’t on it any longer – said she’d look into it. In the DPD report recommending approval of the rezone, the concept is mentioned only in the context that this is not a “contract rezone” proposal and there is no specific project being proposed right now.)

But it wasn’t pure deja vu. One big change: When this first came up, the development market seemed white-hot. We were at Design Review meetings twice a month, and photographing teardowns-to-townhomes seemingly every week. Now: The Southwest Design Review Board just met for the first time in six months (the 7100 Delridge project), and the most recent demolition we covered (former Pegasus Pizza location on Alki) cleared a building to make way for one smaller than the existing structure – because, its owner told us, he couldn’t get financing for anything bigger.

The proposal to rezone the California SW block between Hanford and Hinds first went public in fall of 2007, not with an announcement or briefing, but with a line in the twice-weekly Land Use Information Bulletin. The then-president of the Admiral Neighborhood Association, Mark Wainwright, suggested publicly that Cayce and Gain might have gotten the proposal off to a more well-received start if they had approached the community first to talk about it, rather than filing the request and dealing with the shock waves. They in turn contended they wanted to restore the area to its earlier zoning and eventually build “something nice.” (The proposal would change the current NC1-30 – thirty-foot buildings, commercial spaces up to 10,000 sf – to NC2-40 – forty feet, 25,000 sf, similar to how the area reportedly was zoned prior to 1990.)

You can scroll down to the start of our coverage archives on the issue to see where things went from there. Though that not-required public meeting eventually was organized, there was concern that the proposal did not get sufficient public airing before launching right into the official process. For most of 2008 and all of 2009, the issue was dormant, and then in June, the city Department of Planning and Development finally released its recommendation for approval of the rezoning, along with a Determination of (environmental) Non-Significance.

That triggered the next phase of the process, which led to the full day of proceedings Wednesday – first public comment and official presentations on the proposal, made to the Hearing Examiner, who will issue a report to the City Council, then the hearing on an appeal filed against the DNS.

As noted here following a pre-hearing conference last week, the day’s first order of business was to be public comment on the rezoning. 16 people spoke – 10 against, 6 for (including applicant Gain; his business partner Cayce did not speak during the comment period, but was a witness later during testimony on the appeal). Hearing Examiner Tanner also indicated that she had received written comments “from some members of the public”; the hearing day last Wednesday was also the official deadline for such comments.

Each person who provided comment sat at the end of a rectangular table that faced Tanner and her paralegal, with room for three or four people on each side. Throughout the day, Ross sat on the left side of the table, while Stepherson, an assistant who never spoke, and DPD planner Shelley Bolser – who said the proposal had been turned over to her toward the end of last year – sat on the other.

The first to testify was Steve Levey, who had joined Ross at the pre-hearing conference on August 10th (WSB coverage here). He told Tanner that he and his neighbors in the 3200 block of 42nd SW, immediately east of the proposed-upzone block, had “been working on the issue for 33 months … We are not opposed to development in West Seattle, but we feel this rezone will degrade the character of our adjacent neighborhood and will do very little to upgrade the commercial life of the 3200 block of California.” When he finished his comments, the first and last applause of the day broke out in the chambers – Tanner informed the room that applause is not appropriate in the proceedings.

From the same block, Janna Annest spoke next. She pointed out a unique factor in the relationship between the proposed-upzone block and the block where she lives: No alley. Acknowledging that the DPD report points out the slope between the California properties and 42nd properties as a buffer, she said, “We don’t think the DPD adequately took into account the fact that slope varies tremendously, literally house to house. It disappears entirely on parts of the block.” She voiced concern that a new development at the proposed 40-foot height could bring, “maybe 8 feet behind our fence, a wall of windows and condo building looking into our (home) … I believe it would make our property unlivable, we’d be living in a fishbowl.”

That “wall” could rise 47 feet under the proposed new zoning, said her husband Dino Annest, speaking next, saying that even with the aforementioned slope, that could be 21 feet above their fence, “two sets of windows staring into our home.” He spoke also of the congestion concerns arising from the absence of an alley, with trash and delivery trucks having to access properties from California – already now, he said, some delivery trucks simply “park in the middle lane” of California. “At the very least, this should be a contract rezone” to set conditions with specific development proposals, rather than a rezone for the entire block, he concluded.

The city outright erred in analyzing the effects of property height, given the variable slope, contended the next person to speak, Phil Wingard, also from the 3200 block of 42nd. “To allow a blanket rezone would be to say those differences didn’t exist.”

Wife Monica Wingard followed him, focusing on parking and traffic effects, and the stress already placed on both by the presence of schools including West Seattle High School immediately north of the proposed-upzone block and the Swedish clinic immediately south, which she said has parking for patients but not for employees. On their block, she explained, street parking is only allowed on the west side, which already means a competition for spaces among neighbors who don’t have garages or otheroffstreet parking.

Next to speak, the first commenter in favor of the zoning change – one of the applicants, Mike Gain (Tanner observed during his remarks that it’s unusual to hear from an applicant during the public hearing), beginning with what was something of a rebuttal to a few remarks made by the 42nd SW residents who spoke before he did.

“I have a vested interest in not only this block, but also what happens in the rest of West Seattle,” began Gain, who currently runs Prudential Northwest Realty, which moved its offices last year from the proposed-upzone block to Jefferson Square. Responding to an earlier speaker’s suggestion that he and Cayce did not have a development track record, he detailed several properties in other parts of West Seattle that they have developed, and moved on to suggest the neighbors’ choice of green for their ribbons was ironic because “everything we do build is green.” He agreed with an earlier observation that most of the properties in the 3200 block of California are “dilapidated” … regarding his own, he said they’re maintained and “not vacant, but we’re not going to spend a lot of money on them because we do intend to develop.” Insisting that the block “needs to be developed,” he also noted that any development proposal would require permit applications that would open another phase of community input. “If you have the extra 10 feet, it allows you to build a nicer building and supply adequate parking .. if we develop, we hope to have underground parking and ease the parking problem … I think a lot of the things that (opponents said) were the same things voiced at the community hearing (in 2007) and I think the DPD spent a lot of time reviewing these issues and came to the only appropriate conclusion.”

Dennis Ross spoke next, testifying separately from the appeal process that came later in the day. He cited the Admiral Neighborhood Plan, noting that he was president of the Admiral Community Council when it was written. It recommends, he pointed out, that “existing zoning remain” and that zoning not be changed unless it could be shown that would enhance the neighborhood. He also acknowledged that the city contends that part of the plan is “unadopted.” Nonetheless, he said, there is already more than 400,000 square feet of NC2-40-zoned land in Admiral (triple the size of the proposed rezone). To suggestions that it will add needed housing stock, Ross called attention to the ~40 that are in the plans for the Admiral Safeway site, “and 10 more permitted (in Admiral) now,” adding that he’s concerned that affordable housing on the block will be replaced with not-so-affordable housing, while more of the former is needed.

Whatever is eventually built there, developer/land owner Gary Cobb – whose company Cobb Construction is in the proposed-rezone area – said next, it won’t be built any time soon. He suggested redevelopment might still be a decade away. Or more – he mentioned “maybe … 30 years.” At any rate, he said, “I have no intentions of redeveloping or tearing down my building” even if it’s approved. But his main point, with which he opened his comments, involved his perception of why the 42nd SW residents are opposing the upzone: “I think the main argument on 42nd is that there’s a slight view. It does bump up from California quite a bit. What I’m hearing is that the neighborhood doesn’t want to lose their view.” (This drew audible, disapproving reaction.) He continued, “Right now, if the properties (on California) were developed to the (permitted under current zoning) 30-foot limit, many of those views would be gone.”

Another construction-company owner on the block, Steve Zeasman of Constructive Energy, noted that he bought his building in 1989, “a few months after the downzone of the block,” and looked at redeveloping it about a decade ago, but felt constrained by the current 30-foot height limit. “We were going to provide 45 units of housing, (in an) architecturally significant (building) … but the (height limit) didn’t allow much architecture in terms of drama …” He characterized the block as “the only one on California that has been downzoned” and “about the only one that hasn’t witnessed redevelopment of significance.” Of the applicants, Zeasman said, “(They) have been my neighbors for years. I believe they are sensitive to the neighborhoods they redevelop in. I know them to be upstanding guys.”
If this doesn’t happen, he warned, “We’ll eventually be the only block on California Avenue living with a series of ramshackle buildings.”

He was followed by former neighborhood association president Mark Wainwright, who recapped points the group made in its official fall 2007 letter opposing the rezoning (read it here), while also observing that it’s been “very difficult for the community to deal with a process lasting two and a half years … this process has been anything but meaningful.” While almost all of the block is considered to be in the Admiral “urban village” zone, it is “separated from the core of the Admiral neighborhood,” Wainwright noted, suggesting it makes more sense for the city to encourage “more intense development in the center of our neighborhood … it makes for a more walkable, transit-oriented community.” As for this block, he said, “I think the neighborhood is up for considering a specific contract rezone on a (specific) parcel – so that, along with the rezone, comes specific public benefits.”

Another resident of the 3200 block of 42nd SW, John Hanson, followed Wainwright, with brief remarks centering on concern about parking. To Gary Cobb’s earlier point, he declared, “I have no view.”

A property owner from the west side of the 3200 block of California spoke next – Brandon Gillespie, who owns 3247 California SW, where he operated Beato Food and Wine for more than two years. He said the block’s “problems” – including “terrible” lighting – were among the reasons his restaurant had to close last November, despite “great reviews.” Gillespie said he couldn’t rent the space for a year after that, and then when he did, the restaurant that followed (Eness) “was open for 3 months.” (This is the space where Blackboard Bistro just opened a week and a half ago.) “The only way to attract the funds necessary to invest in this section of West Seattle is to rezone it,” Gillespie declared. “It just doesn’t make sense any other way … If (the rezone is not approved) that block will just disintegrate. You will deal with crime … even squatting.”

From the block behind Gillespie’s side of the street, on 44th SW, came the next to speak, Lynn McIntosh. She gave Tanner seven letters she described as from rezone opponents in her neighborhood, including herself. First, commenting on what Gillespie had said, she suggested the new restaurant at 3257 California “has a better chance” because it’s “less expensive.” A point she made that hadn’t come up before was a refutation of rezone supporters who pointed to the process that would be required to approve specific projects, saying they’d have to go through Design Review. That didn’t happen for the townhome complex at 3409 and 3423 California (here’s our brief 2007 note on the site) – “(The parcels) escaped the (Design Review) threshold by becoming four units of four … (the complex) is huge and should have gone through Design Review.” McIntosh suggested that even with underground parking, new developments in the proposed-rezone block would pose a safety challenge with “more curb cuts” given the lack of an alley from which the parking could be accessed.” And she took issue with the California property owners’ contention that if the block’s not upzoned, it won’t be redeveloped: “My understanding is that the (block) was downzoned after briefly higher zoning because areas were standing vacant and not being developed.” And that situation exists now elsewhere along California SW, McIntosh observed: “Current developments are not being used to their potential; some have been abandoned.” The economic “boom” climate that existed when the rezone was first proposed three years ago, she added, “is not expected to return.” Not far away, though, she said, there are new buildings within the existing-zoning height limit for this area – about 35 feet – that she described as “vibrant buildings that really fit well.” She also quoted a WSB article from last fall in which Mike Gain talked about some of the new businesses that moved into the block when Prudential Northwest Realty moved out.

More business variety for the area, including those serving “daily needs,” was envisioned by Shelby White from West Seattle Realty, headquartered on the west side of the California block – providing the rezone is finalized; he said he would expect more “walkability” to result in the area, which “would enhance not just the (California) block but also the nearby single-family residences.” He said the block’s lack of “consistency or identity” is its biggest downfall, as he’s seen it in the past almost-five years of being headquartered there, so he believes a “more consistent and vibrant identity” would benefit all. But he also didn’t expect any development to result immediately “with the current economic and real-estate market … this is going to be more a longterm type of development or improvement.”

The final public comment in support of the rezone came from builder-developer Drew Beebe, who echoed previous suggestions that any specific development would require a review – “I’m sure many of the neighbors here would be in attendance and would have a big say on what gets built and how it gets built” – and that future development would improve parking. On a note of semi-optimism, he added, “I’ve heard (others say) the economy’s not expected to rebound any time soon – it wasn’t expected to drop, either.” In response to one opponent’s concern that no “master plan” exists for the proposed-rezone area, he said that would be difficult with more than two dozen diferent property owners.

Then came the final public comment against the rezone, from another resident in the 3200 block of 42nd SW, Cole Peck. He prefaced his remarks by telling the hearing examiner, “Excuse me if I’m nervous – I’m not a wealthy land owner,” and she smiled, “Some of them are nervous too.” Though little emotion had surfaced in the hearing before his turn, he spoke with some anger, talking about a real-estate agent’s assurance that zoning would “protect” his home from being next to large commercial developments. The land owners can “do improvement without a rezone,” he insisted. “This is about an investment land grab – this is about making money. You don’t need the rezone for these guys to (redevelop).” Bringing back the point that the commercial block on California and the residential block on 42nd are not separated by an alley, Peck said, “Because of the slope, they can build something that may look more like 50 feet, that completely shades my back yard, that has people looking down on my children playing in my back yard. … The people who own properties abutting this will be cheated out of property value.” While Mike Gain had earlier contended that a majority of people at the fall 2007 public meeting were pro-rezone but they hadn’t been able to speak before time ran out, Peck called that “categorically incorrect” and claimed that while city reps told those at the meeting that they’d have time to “respond in writing,” and that while they were told a date was extended, “our letters were stuffed in a file at the DPD and never considered. … This process has been stacked against us property owners from the start.” He closed by calling for the mentioned-multiple-times-earlier “contract rezone … where (various factors and concerns) are carefully considered by the community.”

That concluded the public-comment period, which lasted about an hour and a half, formatted without rebuttals. Following a break, hearing examiner Tanner listened to the official presentation about the rezone proposal – most of which duplicated what’s in the DPD’s official report (see it here), but she also addressed some of the specific points that had come up in public comment along the way, both that morning and when the proposal originally came out.

To the point of the area’s previous status in a zoning classification close to what’s being sought now, DPD’s Bolser said that was in effect 1986-1990, and was apparently rolled back because of the CAP Initiative (here’s historic background on that). Zoning changes under review right now, she said, would allow 40-foot heights for multifamily zones including properties south of the proposed-rezone block. Regarding neighbors’ observations that the slope between the California and 42nd properties varies dramatically, Bolser said that the department “normally wouldn’t require topography for a rezone” and reaffirmed that “full buildout under (existing) NC 1-30 zoning would block any existing views in the uphill properties.”

She also acknowledged an error in the DPD report, saying it did not include a “seismic overlay” showing known earthquake potential in the area. But, she added, “existing codes” would address seismic safety in any potential development, and she said she had spoken with a geotechnical engineer who told her that soil stability would be addressed in a survey for any development proposals that would come forward. To the issue of a “buffer” between the California and 42nd properties, given their lack of alley, she contended that what exists now is better than blocks to the north and south. (It should be noted, West Seattle High School is immediately to the north, and there is no buffer issue there since the high school and adjacent Hiawatha Community Center/Playfield both stretch from California on the west to Walnut on the east, with that street as the buffer between the facilities and the adjacent single-family homes.)

Bolser was followed by Gain and Cayce’s official representative as the project applicant, Josh Stepherson, who opened with the understatement, “It’s been a long process.” His main contention: With the upcoming changes (as mentioned by Bolser) in the multifamily housing codes, plus existing zoning, this change would simply bring the block in line with what exists and/or is allowed all along the rest of California SW (city zoning maps here).

Framing the request in a bigger picture, Stepherson said it would “prevent sprawl” and “protect single-family zoning,” as well as “optimizing” transit investments, where government is making them, and “promot(ing) a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use neighborhood.” And he countered opponents’ mentions of the Admiral Neighborhood Plan saying zoning shouldn’t change, by noting that zoning had changed recently – for the Admiral Safeway project, supported by some who were speaking out against the 3200 California rezone, such as Dennis Ross and Mark Wainwright. (It should be noted – and Ross pointed this out later in the hearing – the Admiral Safeway rezone was a “contract rezone,” which neighbors in this case suggested would be more appropriate, if any specific project arose.) According to Stepherson, records show the area “designated commercial with 40-foot heights” as far back as 1923. “The existing zoning is in part discouraging growth, so this new designation is key,” he concluded.

The third and final part of the day came after a lunch break – evidence in the appeal, which specifically challenges one decision that DPD has made so far, the “determination of non-significance,” which means they don’t believe the requested zoning change would have significant environmental impact. (In a case like this, “environmental” goes far beyond “ecological,” taking into account a variety of other factors, like traffic – it’s all explained here.)

Appellant Ross’s primary witness was neighborhood resident Steve Levey, who had evidence on a variety of “environmental” factors, leading Tanner to ask that he present all his testimony at once, rather than in multiple short stints.

First Levey focused on earthquake risk in the area, noting the Seattle Fault that runs through West Seattle and citing in particular a newspaper report from several years ago about chimney failure in West Seattle because of the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. He also referred to a 2007 state ruling (see it here) in which the city was told it should be more closely examining seismic risk factors.

Levey’s second challenge to the nonsignificance ruling involved air quality. Larger projects, he said, would degrade it through emissions from not just vehicles using California SW, but also adjacent side streets and the alley to the west: “We think there’s a possibility this could degrade air quality to the extent we could see increased cases of asthma and other things to which … young children are susceptible.”

Noise also would increase, he said, as it has from bar/restaurant businesses moving into the area, and that segued into the contention that parking effects were not adequately considered either – especially without the entire length of the block being an allowable parking area now.

In followup questioning once Levey was finished, DPD’s Bolser asked if he had done any studies “to show that current city code is inadequate to address” (the effects they mentioned) – in other words, she was asking, wouldn’t the newer development rules make sure those types of problems were handled? (No, he replied, they hadn’t done studies.) And property owners’ rep Stepherson challenged Levey regarding the earthquake risk and the location of the “fault zone” vs. the fault itself.

Ross then picked up the presentation of appeal evidence, going through more areas where he said the city’s analysis had fallen short, including water and drainage – yes, they can supply the area, but Seattle Public Utilities is saddled with an “aging infrastructure,” he noted – and transit service, which already is taxed by the fact that hundreds of older schoolchildren in the area take Metro, “overloading” routes such as the 55 and 128 when they all get out at the same time.

The transit, traffic and parking issues subsequently were addressed by John Shaw, introduced as a transportation expert with DPD. He agreed that there are “notable traffic generators” in the proposed-upzone area, but said that if a project “large enough to trigger SEPA (review)” is proposed for the upzone area, there would be an analysis specifically for that project. Otherwise, Shaw said he doesn’t believe the zoning change itself would “lead to significant impacts for transportation or parking” and trying to put conditions on it now “would be speculative and ineffective, because we don’t know what proposals are coming in.”

The next witness on behalf of the project was co-applicant Roger Cayce. (His business partner Mike Gain was no longer in the examiner’s chambers by the time he appeared.) His role as witness was not to defend the proposal in general but to address the points of the environmental-nonsignificance-ruling appeal; he noted that he had “worked at real-estate companies in the area for almost 29 years.” Cayce said he’d been involved in many “complicated” projects over the years, many involving soil studies. Asked by Stepherson about the seismic concerns voiced in the appeal, Cayce said any new building would be much safer. He also said he believes there’s enough sewer, water, etc., capacity for potential development, and reiterated that underground parking in potential future developments would help address area parking concerns.

As they summarized toward hearing’s end, Ross returned to the 16 housing units just south of the proposed-rezone block that did not go through Design Review, saying, “I think that can happen again – just by saying everything is subject to design review, that may not occur.” (DPD’s Bolser said a short time later that policies have changed and there are “different thresholds” now.) Ross repeated his contention that the city needs to address issues from earthquake risk to air-quality and traffic effects before approving a rezone paving the way for bigger buildings – otherwise, “we have no knowledge what’s going to happen next.”

Stepherson reiterated that while building out the block to its current zoning would meet what’s projected to be the need for housing and business space in the area, “(redevelopment is) unlikely to happen in this zoning” – his clients need the change to make it financially feasible.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Hearing Examiner will issue her recommendation on the rezone and her decision on the DNS appeal by the end of next week. Whatever she recommends, the rezone proposal would be scheduled for City Council consideration – first a committee hearing, then a full council vote.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While this story has been in the works since the hearing, a followup discussion post-hearing has already taken place in the comment section following our item previewing the hearing – they’re worth reading as a supplement to this account – find them here.

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West Seattle Wednesday: ‘Upzone’ hearings downtown, and more Wed, 18 Aug 2010 15:01:44 +0000 From the WSB West Seattle Events calendar: Today’s the day for what could be all-day proceedings regarding the proposed zoning change in the 3200 block of California SW, which would allow more height and larger commercial spaces in future buildings. As noted when we covered related proceedings last week, it’s happening in the city Hearing Examiners chambers (40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown) and will begin with the public hearing on the proposal, which the city Department of Planning and Development has recommended the City Council approve; the day’s schedule also includes the hearing on an appeal filed against the DPD’s ruling of “environmental nonsignificance” for the proposal. … Otherwise, regular weekly Wednesday events are on the calendar, including produce sales at the High Point Market Garden, 32nd/Juneau, 4-7 pm, and trivia at Skylark Café and Club (WSB sponsor), 6:45 pm, followed by open-mike time at 9 pm.

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California SW ‘upzone’: Plan for next week’s hearings outlined Wed, 11 Aug 2010 13:15:57 +0000 One week from today, the proposal to “upzone” a block-plus of California SW (map) makes its final stop before City Council consideration: A public hearing before city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner, in her chambers downtown. Also to be heard that same day – Wednesday, August 18th – is the appeal filed against an environmental “nonsignificance” ruling issued in connection with the city’s recommendation that the rezoning proposal be approved. How will that day play out? We have an outline, after covering a pre-hearing conference on Tuesday with Tanner presiding, mostly focused on the appeal – read on:

Proceedings before the Hearing Examiner are open to the public, but no one came to watch this one – your editor here was the only person in the gallery of Tanner’s small, windowless hearing room on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower, where we have covered other West Seattle cases (including the Satterlee House appeal that ultimately went all the way to the state Supreme Court).

At the table: Admiral residents Dennis Ross and Stephen Levey, who are appealing the “determination of nonsignificance” that the Department of Planning and Development issued along with a recommendation that the rezoning request be approved; DPD planner Shelley Bolser (not the original planner on the case); consultant Josh Stepherson, on behalf of area land owners Mike Gain and Roger Cayce.

It was noted that these conferences usually happen several weeks before an appeal hearing, but some sort of scheduling difficulty caused this one to fall just nine days ahead. That meant, for example, that “discovery” requets made by Ross and Levey won’t be granted – Tanner said they needed to have been requested long ago.

The main point, though, was to clarify what they are contending. Tanner repeated several times during the conference that the burden of proof in an appeal is on those who challenge it, to show why it was in error, or incomplete. A determination of “nonsignificance” under SEPA – the State Environmental Policy Act – means that the city believes granting the rezoning will not significantly affect environmental factors. The appeal, according to what Ross and Levey said in the conference, takes issue with that on a variety of fronts, including soil stability linked to earthquake risks in the area because of the nearby Seattle Fault, which Levey said runs right through the block proposed for rezoning.

Ross also said the proposal would bring noise and pollution that the city’s decision did not adequately address, as well as traffic/transportation challenges – he mentioned a perceived shortage of curb space for parking on the east side of the street.

No one had a complete list of what witnesses they might call or exhibits they might show, so Tanner asked repeatedly if everyone was OK with proceeding to the appeal hearing on August 18th as scheduled – particularly Stepherson. Ultimately, the answer was “yes,” so that set up this order of events for that day, according to Tanner (starting at 9 am):

*Public testimony on the rezoning proposal – this is the official “public hearing” (no time limits for each speaker, Tanner said in response to a question from Ross, unless a huge number of people show up to speak)

*DPD presentation of the rezoning request/recommendation

*The applicants’ presentation of the rezoning request/recommendation

*Rebuttal, if any, first from DPD, then from the applicants

*The appeal hearing (which again, just covers the DPD’s determination that the rezoning proposal is environmentally nonsignificant)

*Appellants will present their case (Tanner noted that anyone who plans to speak as part of that presentation is welcome to speak in the earlier “public hearing” section – as long as the two appearances are NOT redundant)

*DPD will present its evidence

*Applicant will present their evidence

*Rebuttal of any, in the same order as above; closing remarks, in the same order

Tanner said her calendar currently has only the one full day set aside for this, not knowing how long the public hearing will be and how many people will show up to speak.

After more logistics discussions, including how all sides would get copies of basic case documents given the short turnaround – Tanner said her office did not have the ability to e-mail them, so would have to rely on faxes, though both appellants and applicant said they’d just come pick up the documents – the conference concluded after less than an hour and a half.

If you are interested in participating in the upcoming hearing – or any other Hearing Examiner proceeding – the office has a downloadable guide on how its process works. After next week’s hearings, the next step will be for the Hearing Examiner to write a report on the rezoning recommendation, and to issue a decision on the appeal – that usually takes a few weeks.

WSB coverage of the rezoning proposal, dating back to 2007, is archived here, newest to oldest.

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California SW ‘upzone’ proposal: Appeal filed; opponents organize Mon, 09 Aug 2010 05:15:34 +0000 upzonescreengrab.jpgIt’s less than a week and a half till a public hearing is scheduled before the city Hearing Examiner downtown for anyone with something to say about the city’s 3-years-in-the-making recommendation to approve the zoning change proposed for a block-plus stretch of California SW (city map at left). The change from NC1-30 to NC2-40, which permits larger businesses and taller buildings (zoning classifications are explained here), was first proposed in fall of 2007 (we found it in the city’s Land Use Information Bulletin in November 2007). The city Department of Planning and Development, however, didn’t issue its recommendation until this summer.

First word of that came in June from local real-estate entrepreneur Mike Gain, who applied for the zoning change along with longtime business partner Roger Cayce. Then we followed up when the city’s memo was available. Since then, Admiral residents Dennis Ross and Stephen Levey have filed an appeal, under the name Admiral Community Council. (The group is separate from the Admiral Neighborhood Association, though ANA did send the city a letter in December 2007 [read it here] outlining why it did not support the rezoning proposal.) And residents near the proposed rezoning area have launched a new opposition group, organizing online via Facebook. Read on for more on what’s happening now, what happens next, and the key date for those with something to say about the proposal:

First, the basics of the proposal:

In fall of 2007, Gain and Cayce asked the city to rezone the block of California SW between Hanford and Hinds – and a bit farther south, on the west side. Their real-estate business was originally located there; Gain is currently head of Prudential Northwest Realty, which was located for a time in the same area, but now is headquartered in Jefferson Square.

At the time they requested the rezoning, they laid out their original reasoning in a statement published here.

Subsequently, nearby residents launched an opposition campaign. Though city rules do not require a public meeting on a proposal like this in that early of a stage, there was one, and it was heated (WSB coverage here).

As you’ll notice if you browse our coverage archive here, that all subsequently was followed by a long period of the city saying – every time we checked – that its decision was imminent – though it wasn’t – and there was no word from anyone involved until June of this year, when the recommendation was issued.

Now area residents have regrouped; they’re on Facebook as the group “Neighbors Against the California Ave Rezone.”

If you aren’t on Facebook, the publicly visible section of their page lays out their view:

Cayce & Gain have petitioned to upzone 152,755+ square feet of California Ave. SW. Developer/builders own about 50% of the property (including Cayce & Gain about a third). Their property values will rise at the expense of residential neighbors!

We need to stop this upzone NOW because:
Rezoning from NC1-30 to NC2-40 doesn’t mean “an extra floor,” as some state. Accommodating for business type and/or eastward slope, heights could be about 55 feet. Size limits, now 10,000 square feet, would be 25,000 (50,000 for sales/service!). New business types allowed include auto/large boat sales/repair, manufacturing, theater/spectator sports, adult cabarets, lodging, and dedicated parking lots.

This subverts The Admiral Residential Urban Village (ARUV) 1998 Plan developed through two years of community meetings. The Plan recommends against rezoning, including the 3200 block. “The Planning Coalition recommends that existing zoning should remain with no changes within the ARUV because of the Coalition’s strong desire to maintain the existing character of the community.” (Key Strategy 1, Recom. 1.2, pg. 6); additionally, any proposed change to heights should include an “enhanced and meaningful” city/community planning process. This private petition includes limited input within tight timelines (during the holidays 3 years back; and now in the heart of summer). If approved, this could result in more developer-driven rezones that circumvent community planning.
The proposal includes no plans at all, let alone clear enhancements. Per a recent city report, the rezone could “result in a likely buildout of 386 residential units and 172 employees for the commercial area,” and about “650 new daily (car) trips” for new residences; but it seriously downplays impacts. Building at NC2-40 would magnify negative impacts to views and natural light, street and alley traffic, and parking. An added floor of view property would likely result in 4-story multi-family dwellings oriented west, blocking views and light of residences on 42nd and towering over 44th Ave. backyards.

There is already enough NC2-40 property in the 98-acre ARUV to support projected growth figures for both housing and businesses in the ARUV. The area of petition includes about 15 affordable apartment buildings; residents will likely be displaced and affordable housing lost – new units (particularly with sweeping sound views) would cost more. The ARUV Plan calls for 200 more residential units in the 98-acre ARUV by 2014, with density around the Admiral Junction business area; growth is on target as planned. Developing at NC2-40 this far from the Junction would draw business and residents away from the ARUV business core, hurting businesses that located in due faith as planned. Small existent businesses could suffer from lack of on-street parking and higher taxes. Also, new construction and remodeling within NC1-30 zoning allowance is ongoing and profitable. Plus West Seattle faces a condo glut – apartment conversions to unsold condos are rented, but residents have been displaced. The healthy neighborhood-business area will suffer if this rezone is allowed!

The group opposed to the zoning change has set up not just the aforementioned Facebook group, but also an e-mail address: – for anyone seeking information.

Meantime, back to the appeal. This Tuesday, the Hearing Examiner is scheduled to meet with both sides in the appeal. As with all Hearing Examiner proceedings, it’s open to the public – 3 pm at the HE chambers, which are on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown.

The main public event coming up next, however, is the official public hearing at that same location, 9 am on August 18th, one week from Wednesday. If you can’t get to the hearing, comments are still being accepted by postal mail, but they must be received, the city says, by that same date. The address listed is: City of Seattle Hearing Examiner,
700 5th Avenue, Suite 4000/P.O. Box 94729, Seattle, WA 98124-4729.

After the hearing, the HE will write a report for the City Council – according to the rezoning process explained in this city document – which then would vote on the proposal; there’s usually a committee vote and then the full council vote – no dates set for that yet.

(Cayce and Gain have not announced any specific development proposal; we’ve done an area check via this DPD map tool and it doesn’t appear anything is pending in the area currently.)

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Followup: Why the DPD supports California SW zoning change Mon, 28 Jun 2010 15:43:47 +0000 upzonescreengrab.jpgThis morning, the official city report is out on a major development reported here Friday in a story that’s been ongoing for almost three years – a request to change the zoning for both sides of one full block (and a bit extra) of California SW. Most of it currently has a 30-foot height limit; the proposed new zoning would add 10 feet. As property owner/rezoning proponent Mike Gain told WSB on Friday, the Department of Planning and Development, which has had the rezoning proposal under review since summer 2007, is recommending approval. This page explains how to comment before the public hearing, which is planned before the city Hearing Examiner at 9 am August 18th (her chambers are on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown) – after that, it goes to the City Council. The full Director’s Report on the recommendation can be seen here (PDF); we’re reading it now and will add its toplines to this story.

ADDED 10:35 AM: As promised – click ahead for toplines from the report, including what it forecasts would be the eventual effects of the rezone:

The report illuminates what the city foresees as potential results of the rezoning – compared to what would eventually happen if the area were “built out” under the 30-foot zoning most of it holds now. This is from a section about utility impacts:

The calculations indicated that the proposed rezone would result in a likely build out of 386 residential units and 172 employees for the commercial area. This would be approximately 96 more units and the same number of employees that would result from full build out under existing NC1-30 zoning.


The most likely development will be ground floor commercial with three to four floors of residential above. This is the preferred type of usage in the residential urban village.

For a further comparison, the report says the area has “about 80 residential units” right now. The zoning change also would increase the maximum size of “many commercial uses” to 25,000 from the current 10,000. (For context on that – West Seattle’s forthcoming Trader Joe’s store in The Triangle is proposed at about 14,000 square feet.)

The commercial uses eventually allowed in the area also could involve up to 51,529 square feet of restaurant usage, says the report, although it observes overall, “This rezone will encourage the creation of more pedestrian-oriented shopping that will provide a broader range of goods and services for the surrounding neighborhood and greater West Seattle area,” and suggests that NC-2 zoning – what’s proposed – is more appropriate for the area in general. It lists the area’s zoning history, too:

1923 to 1947 – Business District with a 40 foot height limit
1947 to 1957 – Business Area District C (BC) with a 40 foot height limit
1957 to 1986 – Neighborhood Business (BN) with a 35 foot height limit
1986 to 1990 – Neighborhood Commercial 1 with a 40 foot height limit (NC1-40)
1991 to Present – Neighborhood Commercial 1 with a 30 foot height limit (NC1-30)

Much of the concern voiced during meetings and in other venues in the months after this was first proposed came from nearby neighbors. To some of their concerns, the report says:

In Seattle neighborhoods, it is common for Neighborhood Commercial development to create a clear edge by extending one lot deep along an arterial, and then transitioning to Single Family zones on either side of the strip of commercial zoning. The neighborhood plan and the rezone criteria encourage the location of neighborhood serving uses in commercial zones along arterials which provide the primary vehicle access to the residential neighborhoods. The zoning pattern in some Seattle neighborhoods provides a multifamily transition zone between the Neighborhood Commercial zone and the Single Family zone. However, that is not the case for many edge conditions along arterials in residential neighborhoods. In this proposed rezone area in the Admiral Neighborhood, the existing edge condition is clearly delineated and emphasized further by topographic breaks between the commercial and residential uses to the east and west of the arterial, the orientation of the residential and commercial uses facing away from each other, and an alley buffering the residential uses on 44th Avenue SW from the commercial uses on California Avenue SW.

The report does note that the southwesternmost corner of the proposed rezoning area, now single-story commercial, is outside of the Admiral Urban Village area and not specifically supported in city code for higher heights – but the rezone is recommended anyway.

Two other points of concern for neighbors had been shadows and view blockage from future development under the rezone. The report acknowledges this – but, particularly in terms of the views, says they would be blocked under what is currently allowed anyway:

Shadows – Potential development will create additional shadows on its north, east and west sides, depending on season and time of day. As described in the response to SMC 23.34.008.E above, future development would likely be subject to design review, which would include consideration of shadow impacts. …

Views – The Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound are visible from many parts of the site, including public rights of way and private properties. DPD has considered the potential impacts of the proposed rezone on adjacent views. It appears full build-out under existing NC1-30 zoning would block most, if not all private views from adjacent properties to the east. There would be no appreciable difference to private views between NC1-30 zoning and NC2-40 zoning.

Also listed in the report, some uses that would not currently be permitted – including entertainment (even “adult cabarets” if various conditions elsewhere in the city code were met) and lodging.

You can read the full report here. Summarizing the public response back in 2007-2008, while also mentioning the meetings that were held, the report says, “During the official public comment period, DPD received fifty-five comment letters and e-mails. Thirty-one letters and emails were in support of the proposed rezone and 24 were opposed.” Again, if you are interested in commenting on this new recommendation to approve the rezoning, the procedures – and time/place for the August public hearing – are here.

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After 3 years, a thumbs-up for California SW ‘upzoning’ proposal Fri, 25 Jun 2010 22:58:50 +0000 upzonescreengrab.jpgAlmost three years after it was originally proposed, the recommended zoning change for California SW between Hanford and Hinds (and a bit beyond, on the west side) is moving ahead. We got first word from one of the property owners who first proposed it in 2007, Mike Gain. It’s not reflected yet on the project’s Department of Planning and Development webpage, but DPD’s Bryan Stevens confirms to WSB that the notice is about to be published:

DPD’s recommendation on the rezone request will be published for public viewing on Monday. There will be a 14-day appeal period which initiates upon publication and a required hearing with the City’s Hearing Examiner to review the department’s recommendation. The date for the hearing has been tentatively scheduled for August 18th at 9 am. After the hearing, the Hearing Examiner will issue findings and make a recommendation to City Council to help inform their decision on the rezone proposal.

According to Gain: “The Director’s Report supports the rezone of the 3200 block of California Ave SW from NC1-30 to NC2-40. This essentially would return it to its previous zoning while allowing for one additional floor and increased flexibility in the size and/or type of ground floor retail.” He adds:

This rezone has undergone a lot of review and received substantial public comment. We are pleased with the decision. Several benefits to this that will occur over time are that it will:

· Help enhance the California Ave “corridor”
· Encourage job creation and business vitality
· Maintain and enhance neighborhood character
· Provide more and a better mix of housing options
· Increase the number of goods and services that allow people to shop locally

As you are aware, in the 1980’s this area was zoned for 40’ and is consistent with surrounding building heights. For some unknown reason and no notice the city down-zoned this area. Since that time there has been little reinvestment – many businesses have come and gone – while some storefronts remain vacant for lengthy periods of time. This rezone will help to change that.

When the proposal was first made, it stirred a fair amount of controversy, which we covered extensively – as archived here (reverse chronological order). Gain and partner Roger Cayce had not put forward a specific project proposal for the area, but at one point along the way, discussed their ideas with WSB. We will be continuing to follow this process, including any proposals they may bring forward in the future. MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: We’re writing a separate story, but in the meantime, here’s the link to the DPD page with the “director’s report,” officially published today as expected.

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DPD: California Ave “upzone” recommendation finally almost done Wed, 28 Jan 2009 17:58:06 +0000 When we reported last week on Prudential Northwest Realty moving out of its California SW location, merging with the same-ownership office at Jefferson Square, we got a new round of questions about the “upzoning” proposal for the area in which the now-empty office sits (which also was invoked in the real-estate listing for the Shamrock apartment building, as we reported days before the Prudential story). That proposal to change the zoning along California between Hanford and Hinds (and a bit further south on the west side of the street) to NC2-40 has been in the works for almost 15 months (we broke the story 11/8/07), and it’s been more than half a year since the city started telling us the recommendation was almost ready. And that’s what the city says now; planner Malli Anderson tells WSB, “I expect to complete a draft of the rezone recommendation this week.” Two of her supervisors then review it, including Bob McElhose, who told us, “When we have agreed with the decision and the final edits, it will go to the Hearing Examiner for the open record pre-decision hearing and recommendation, for which there will be notice. Depending on the review of the draft, the notice could go out as early as this Thursday or possibly next week.” (The city’s Land Use Information Bulletin is published Mondays and Thursdays; you can see the latest one here.) Anderson said the notice will “be sent to those who sent comment letters and e-mails or signed the sign-in sheet at the public meeting.” (That’s the public meeting we covered in late November 2007; a month after that meeting, longtime local businessmen Mike Gain and Roger Cayce talked with us about their vision for the area.) No explanation of why it’s taken so long, although planners told us at one point along the way that it’s not unusual for rezoning requests to take more than a year; since the decision here will trigger hearings and comment periods, it’ll be months before anything’s final.

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West Seattle real estate: Building for sale in the “upzone” zone Sat, 17 Jan 2009 18:53:03 +0000

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That’s the Google Street View of the Shamrock apartment building, 3262 California SW. The half-century-old 10-unit building is the latest West Seattle apartment complex to go up for sale; asking price $1,495,000 according to this listing. We report most big real-estate listings no matter what, but this one’s particularly interesting because it’s in the area that’s been under review for “upzoning” for more than a year (archived WSB coverage here). This is mentioned in the flyer for the building, which reads in part:

This property may provide a buyer with a high quality building in an excellent location, the potential to increase below market rents, and potentially increase the density of the property with its new zoning of NC1- 40’ (final approval expected).

We haven’t checked lately on the status of the upzoning proposal (after repeated checks kept yielding answers with timeframes that never panned out) but will on Monday; its official city status page is here. Other new and notable multi-unit listings in West Seattle right now include the Limrock in the Admiral District (listing here) and the waterfront brick building on Beach Drive next to Weather Watch Park (listing here)

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From the followup file: Checking on the California Ave “upzone” Tue, 30 Sep 2008 16:00:42 +0000 upzonescreengrab.jpgThose big white signs have been up for almost a year now along California between Hinds and Hanford (city map at left), the section proposed for “upzoning” (archived coverage here), and you may wonder from time to time what’s up with the proposal, so we keep checking to see when the decision’s due. Last time we checked, a decision was expected to be published around the end of August. It’s now the end of September, so we checked with the city’s Department of Planning and Development again. Now the guesstimate is “about another three weeks” till a decision will turn up in the Land Use Information Bulletin, according to Bryan Stevens at DPD. (A decision is not the final word – potentially a round of Hearing Examiner and City Council hearings would ensue.) You can keep an eye on the official city project page here.

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