City In Case You Were Wondering if Plans to Rezone South Lake Union Are Being Driven By Developers
posted by September 10 at 14:58 PMon
At last night’s meeting of the South Lake Union Friends and Neighbors Community Council (SLUFAN), the group assigned to draft a new neighborhood plan for taller buildings, the city’s Jim Holmes gave an update. Under three incremental proposals, developers could construct taller buildings (the tallest plan would allow 400-foot towers), allowing them to build more sellable square feet.
But before the council enacts such a proposal, the city must study the effects of increasing density—estimating traffic impacts, demands on utilities, blocked views, need for public facilities, etc.—in the South Lake Union neighborhood. That impact study will cost $350,000. So who will pay for the city’s study?
“We are going to be asking property owners,” says Holmes, a planner for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, which reports to the mayor’s office. He told the group, “There are some property owners who want to see the work done and would benefit from it.”
The SLUFAN board seemed taken aback. Vice-chair Dawn Oliver expressed her concern about “private funds going into a city function.”
“I was surprised to hear it,” said board member Noel Franklin when contacted after the meeting. “As a nonprofit professional, it concerns me to have the city in the fundraising mix.”
Normally, if property owners want the city council to allow building above current height limits, they must independently pay for an impact study. So this proposal essentially allows them to pay for the research up front (Holmes says a similar practice was applied downtown). But the private funding of a public planning appears to create a conflict of interest.
I asked Holmes after the meeting which land owners, exactly, would be asked for dough. He wasn’t sure. “We will look to the logical ones to be contributors—major and small,” he said. Paul Allen’s development firm Vulcan has amassed approximately 60 acres of land in South Lake Union.