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RSS icon Comments on The Future of 23rd and Union

1

You guys get upset over four-story buildings? Heck, we've got five-story residential buildings going up a block from the PCC in Fremont and nobody puts that in The Stranger ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 5, 2008 2:25 PM
2

Zoning on this corner only allows construction up to 40, and some neighbors at the design-guidance meeting last summer voiced opposition to building any taller. One commenter is reported saying, A six story building on this site is disproportionate to the neighborhood, especially the single family development.

It's always the same story with the neighborhood types in Seattle - "density is great, as long as it's in that other neighborhood down the street."

Posted by JMR | March 5, 2008 2:33 PM
3

Build it now! I would have convened the design review meeting in the parking lot of the shuttered QFC on Broadway, so I could show everyone the difference between 40 foot height limits (the deadzone of north Broadway, circa 2002 to present) and 65 foot (the development on the Safeway site).

Posted by Eric F | March 5, 2008 2:35 PM
4

I'm crossing my fingers for some development that promises to bring in Quiznos, Desert Tan, a dry cleaners and a Kinkos. That'll perk up that neighborhood.

Posted by michael strangeways | March 5, 2008 2:42 PM
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Posted by George Orwell | March 5, 2008 2:44 PM
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Don't question whether we should disregard the height limit. Question why that limit was set in the first place. To say that we should not limit this development to 40' is to say that we should not enforce height limits set via zoning, or to simply not set them in the first place.

It's extortion. "Increase the value of my property by allowing me to build higher than I knew I was allowed at the time I bought the property or else you can learn to live with the shithole I have there now."

Bob Burkheimer tried the same thing on Broadway. He repeatedly threatened to leave the shithole he has there now (old QFC building) in place if we didn't upzone. Eventually he got his height increase. His property immediately increased in value to the detriment of everyone whose skyline will be blocked by the extra 25'. Now he's threatening to leave it there unless we allow him to build at-grade parking in an area where parking is required to be below-grade.

Posted by Phil M | March 5, 2008 2:57 PM
7

Phil M, maybe using QFC is the wrong model. But yeah, I don't have a problem with saying cities shouldn't micromanage building heights. Or at least, that 40 feet is a ridiculous height limit for an apartment building.

Posted by Eric F | March 5, 2008 3:04 PM
8

Eric: That picture makes it look like there's nothing around that is more than 1-story high. A 65' building would be a monstrocity there.

Furthermore, what's wrong with 40' for an apartment building? What makes 65' better? Don't you think if the owner bought it with a 65' limit, he'd be crying about how he just can't make his project pencil out unless we disregard zoning and let him build to 80'?

What does the Central Area Neighborhood Plan call for in that area? Many thousands of volunteer hours were spent developing that plan just ten years ago. Should we disregard all that public input at the whim of one developer who wants to make his project more profitable?

Posted by Phil M | March 5, 2008 3:11 PM
9

Eric F. wrote:

I don't have a problem with saying cities shouldn't micromanage building heights

But presently, the city does manage building height limits. If you don't like it, quit complaining about the Design Review Board doing their job by enforcing the limits set by zoning and start lobbying the city to do away with height limit zoning. It's ridiculous to go through all the process of deciding what responsible development is going to look like only to disregard it as soon as some property owner says he can't make a buck otherwise.

Doesn't everyone see that since we already have this system of height limits, upzoning is like 1) handing the property owner a bag of money and 2) sending a big FUCK YOU to everyone who helped establish those limits, as well as everyone currently enjoying a view of downtown, Puget Sound, the Olympics, or the Cascades via the space between the old and new limits?

Posted by Phil M | March 5, 2008 3:21 PM
10

Good point, Phil M. I agree, we should send a big FU to those who set the height limits.

Time to wake up and smell the density.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 5, 2008 3:27 PM
11

Will, we'd be pretty damned dense and still be able to tell that we're surrounded by mountains and the Sound if we simply built to 40' everywhere.

Posted by Phil M | March 5, 2008 3:38 PM
12

Gee, Phil: read the article. The guy SAYS why he doesn't build it at 40 feet: he'd lose a fortune. It's nice of you to want to tell other people they should throw a million or two dollars away when it's not your money.

It's true, though; a 65 foot building would be totally out of scale with the FUCKING VACANT LOT that's there now. Frankly, a Quiznos would be a huge step up for that corner.

This is the problem with neighborhood planning: a handful of zealots run, and ruin, the show. Sure, lots of volunteer effort went into the neighborhood plan -- but 99% of the neighborhood had no input. Now you've got one jerkoff NIMBY standing up and saying no, and everybody acts like he represents everyone, or anyone.

And almost everybody who should be asked is at work or someplace, not in some smelly meeting room.

Void the restriction, bar the objector from attending any more meetings, and build the damn thing.

Posted by Fnarf | March 5, 2008 4:16 PM
13

Phil M:

You are right about the fact that there's not much around there more than one-story in height (The building on the west side of this proposed development at 22nd & E Union, and the building behind the cheese stake place on E Union, where Thompson's is located are both two-story, but that's it), but as for "monstrosity", well that's in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

Frankly, I'd settle for a 20 story building there if it meant that many more eyes looking down on the open-air Crack-Mart that occurs daily at that intersection; maybe all those additional people complaining about it to SPD would get them off their lazy butts to actually do something about the problem.

Of course, the satellite precinct going into the old pharmacy across the street might have some positive effect as well, but still - that just leaves a big ole' vacant lot anchoring one corner of that intersection, which seems a waste no matter how you look at it, height limits or no.

Posted by COMTE | March 5, 2008 4:20 PM
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@11 - I meant 40 stories, not 40 feet.

Surrounded by parkland or greenspace so we can see the mountains and water.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 5, 2008 4:21 PM
15

Phil M: We can't build to 40' everywhere because about 3/4 of the city is untouchable single family zone.

The neighborhood plan was written 10 years ago and times change. The need to densify has become much more evident and pressing over those 10 years. And in those same 10 years that site has not been developed. That itself should be a pretty clear indication that the 40' height limit is unworkable for redevelopment.

From the perspective of a person on the street there is very little difference between 4 and 6 stories. Where that building is sited it will impact the views from very few homes. The view corridors down the streets will be unaffected.

That site is about 1.5 miles from the skyscrapers of one of the most important cities on the West coast. In the context of big cities on planet earth, 65' is a very modest height for that location.

The neighborhood badly needs that development. It will be a catalyst for revitalization. And it is the right thing to do for the future sustainability of our city as a whole.

Posted by Henry Miller Lite | March 5, 2008 4:35 PM
16

Fnarf wrote:

read the article. The guy SAYS why he doesn't build it at 40 feet: he'd lose a fortune.

It's a blog post, not an article. And the reason given is, "Mueller says, `I don't know how I would do this at 40 feet.' In order to make back the costs of development, he says, the building requires two additional stories. That calls for the city council to rezone the land. `It's pretty much a deal breaker'."

Oh, is that it? Well, that's enough for me. Let's give him a couple extra stories if he says he needs them.

It's true, though; a 65 foot building would be totally out of scale with the FUCKING VACANT LOT that's there now.

And what's next to that vacant lot? Four- to six-story buildings? The picture doesn't seem to indicate so.

Comte wrote:

I'd settle for a 20 story building there if it meant that many more eyes looking down on the open-air Crack-Mart that occurs daily at that intersection;

That's a rather short-sighted solution. Do you advocate chasing the traveling crack-mart around the city repeatedly building 20-story towers until that's all we have?


I'm not saying this isn't a spot that deserves an exception to the existing zoning. I'm just saying that zoning regulations are generally a good thing, and that up-zoning is like handing money to one property owner at everyone else's expense.

If it's truly impossible to build out that property to 40', maybe we should have the property owner open his books to prove it. Maybe we should see if anyone has ideas that do pencil out under the current regulations, and if so, encourage this guy to sell or shut up.

Posted by Phil M | March 5, 2008 4:39 PM
17

@15 - that can change.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 5, 2008 5:00 PM
18

The community should have a discussion about what it wants at the site, but that someone is proposing to build a new building gives them lots more options than they had before. A reflexive opposition to height will probably reduce their options. Sounds like a great opportunity for the neighborhood.

Posted by michael | March 5, 2008 5:04 PM
19

The site was once home to dry cleaner. Whomever owns it has had to abate the ground contamination for years.

Posted by six shooter | March 5, 2008 5:17 PM
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It seems to me that lots and lots of new buildings are going up in Seattle in 40' zones - many of which are in neighborhoods with higher property values/costs than this one - so I'm not at all sold on the whole "I need two more stories to make enough money" assertion.

And if the developer actually is correct, who does he think will want to buy this lot anyway?

Posted by Mr. X | March 5, 2008 5:43 PM
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i don't see why the additional floors are neccessary.

the additional underground parking (required) would run about $750k on the low side (30k/stall x 25 units).

it's an apartment building, not condos. so he'll recoup his money, just not as fast as he'd like to.

otherwise, what's the point of having height limits?

Posted by mike | March 5, 2008 5:52 PM
22

Exactly, what is the point of having Seattle be 75 percent single-family housing with unrealistic height limits that push residents to live in nearby global-warming-increasing suburbs while they commute to work more and more slowly in polluting cars ...

There is none.

Wake up, Seattle!

We no longer have cheap single family housing because we won't rezone.

Now, I'm not saying the solution is zoning 40 to 100 story inexpensive residential rental apartment buildings near all transportation hubs (it is), but the continued insistence on single family zoning is just driving up the price of housing.

And that is just plain ... WRONG.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 5, 2008 5:59 PM
23

Where will people get their crack?! This could completely upset the balance at this intersection.

Posted by Touring | March 5, 2008 6:57 PM
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Henry Miller Lite @ 15 - 3/4 of the city is NOT SF. 3/4 of the residentially zoned property in the city is zoned SF.

Posted by LH | March 5, 2008 7:05 PM
25

Sayng a 40-foot building isn't viable on the site is like saying Howard Shultz saying the Sonics were losing money. Both would be profitable enterprises but for the fact that the buyer overpaid on the assumption that the public would bail them out.

Posted by Brendan | March 5, 2008 9:24 PM
26

25 comments about a 23rd and Union post and NO ONE makes a Sir Mix-A-Lot reference? What's happened to the Slog?

Posted by AlkiT | March 5, 2008 10:03 PM
27

The buildings in the area may only be one or two stories, but that is an extremely busy intersection. The streets are wide, the traffic zips by way above the speed limit, I don't see what the neighborhood stands to lose by increasing the height limits for that one building.

Posted by keshmeshi | March 5, 2008 11:12 PM
28

Michael wrote:

The community should have a discussion about what it wants at the site

They already had that discussion.

A reflexive opposition to height will probably reduce [the community's] options.

Any reflexive opposition to height should have happened long ago when height limits were set. Reflexive opposition you're seeing now is, I think, better classified as opposition to arbitrary enforcement of those limits based on the level and effectiveness of a property owner's whining about the limits.


Brendan wrote:

Sayng a 40-foot building isn't viable on the site is [like] Howard Shultz saying the Sonics were losing money. Both would be profitable enterprises but for the fact that the buyer overpaid on the assumption that the public would bail them out.

Not exactly, but it's still a pretty good analogy. However, Mueller is not using this lot to host games played by men who are paid millions to do so. I'll admit his claims hold more weight with me than Shultz' do.

Posted by Phil M | March 6, 2008 8:54 AM

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