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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Does the City Have the Guts (and the Money) to Protect Pike-Pine?

posted by on October 15 at 17:27 PM

About 30 people milled around a room at Seattle Central Community College last night, cocking their heads to read color-coded maps of the Pike-Pine neighborhood. On one of the maps, yellow represented buildings that are susceptible to redevelopment.


The group had come to discuss ways to protect Pike-Pine’s older buildings, low-income renters, and arts organizations threatened by new development. Since 1990, Pike-Pine’s population increased 21.3 percent—mostly residents of new buildings—and 12 more buildings are in the works

“I think what many of us want to do here is retain the character of the neighborhood,” said City Council Member Tom Rasmussen. He commissioned a report, which was released in September, that makes several recommendations. Primarily, the strategies revolve around incentives for property owners to preserve the old buildings and their historic uses, such as payment for not redeveloping old buildings, bonuses for leaving facades intact, and limiting the footprint of new buildings. He expects to introduce legislation next year.

But several neighbors doubted whether incentives were enough to protect the neighborhood. Chip Wall, director of the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council said the proposals lacked “teeth.”

“A lot of incentives are great, but they are not enough to preserve the buildings without land-marking each one of them,” said Betsy Hunter, director of property development for the low-income housing provider Capitol Hill Housing. The neighborhood has 278 buildings over 85 years old.

But Rasmussen wants to avoid landmark preservation as a strategy, even though it is listed as the last of the 10 recommendations in the report. “There could be so much push back from property owners,” he said after the meeting, that “it may not be worth it.” Instead he is trying to find a compromise that satisfies property owners, residents, and arts organizations.

Dennis Meier, a urban designer for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, says landmark nomination “would take a number of years to do, and substantial resources to do it.” But, he says, “there isn’t anything preventing it.”

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The maps and datapoints in the reports and proposals are pretty cool but after last night's presentation, I agree that the studies didn't have enough input from the people who live in the area -- renters. There were also some good questions about green space and how existing businesses can survive without money being set aside to help them through the changes. Bottom line is the report and proposed solutions are all about development and not really about non-development. Needs more conserve.

Posted by jseattle | October 15, 2008 5:57 PM

Gee, I for one hope that Pike/Pine continues to be a filthy shit-hole. No new development!

Posted by Chris | October 15, 2008 6:59 PM

Not saying no new development. Just not 100%, no holds barred, balls to the wall development. I can tell you really love it, Chris. Thanks for your input.

Posted by jseattle | October 15, 2008 8:07 PM

could somebody check city records to see if anyone on the Stranger staff or its publisher has ever invested in property or filed a building permit to "threaten" our economy with investment?

Please walk or bicycle your thoughts to the nearest officer of Seattle Weekly.

Posted by Editor's Note | October 15, 2008 8:41 PM

The problem with landmark status, is that threatening a developer with landmarking a building can lead to it being torn down in the interim.

Don't cry wolf with landmark designation.

Posted by StC | October 15, 2008 8:49 PM

Politicos like Rasmussen have awakened to the fact that the moribund building scene means developers have ratcheted back their campaign contributions. They will continue to find new ways like this to reposition themselves as having always held paramount the interests of individual campaign donors.

Posted by tomasyalba | October 15, 2008 9:10 PM

Nothing preventing it but the gradual departure of almost everyone who gives a shit.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | October 15, 2008 10:40 PM

The Stranger should use this issue to rethink its density-uber-alles, pro-developer biases.

Posted by Trevor | October 15, 2008 11:59 PM

The answer to your question is no. The city is being run and ruined by developers.

Posted by Vince | October 16, 2008 5:58 AM

So where exactly do you want to steer development? This is all near the future light rail station, isn't it?

Posted by Greg | October 16, 2008 7:02 AM

In the good book I believe it says that Savage will part the sea of condos and lead the homos and hipsters out of yuppie slavery and into the new promised land.

So when can we expect that?

Posted by mojo mojito | October 16, 2008 8:30 AM
12 development around light rail stations is a good thing, unless it's on Capitol Hill, in which case it's a bad thing. WTF? Way to be consistent, Stranger.

Posted by Hernandez | October 16, 2008 9:05 AM

@ 12) Nobody is saying no new devlopment in Pike Pine. That would be absurd.

The questions are a) how does the city protect the multi story, 100-year-old masonry buildings in Pike-Pine, and b) how does the city make sure new development compliments the character of the stuff that's already there.

Take the Agnes Lofts on 12th and Pike, for example. That's an excellent use for the corner, and a modern building to boot. But it would be a fucking tragedy to tear down the Portofino building. So how does the city protect it?

Posted by Dominic Holden | October 16, 2008 9:17 AM

Dominic: Part of the reason the Pike / Pine corridor on Capitol Hill was historically so cheap was that most of the old buildings have serious deficiencies with plumbing, wiring, seismic reinforcement, etc. In other words, a lot of those buildings are piles of shit just waiting for the next earthquake to knock them down. 'Protecting' the buildings means fuck-all if it doesn't include renovations to protect them from their own age and vulnerability.

Posted by Greg | October 16, 2008 12:05 PM

The answer is obvious. Commercial community land trusts. (A regular old community land trust that specializes in commercial property.)

The most beautiful thing about CLTs is permanent affordability (covenants are placed on the land-- there's no wishy-washy zoning, or zoning with bad consequences, or City money with restrictions that only last 50 years, etc)

And there's lots more to like.

The only problem is that they take a little more money to fund than other techniques. But it's a MUCH higher quality tool for preservation of affordability, which is usually also tied right into historic preservation.

Posted by blah blah de blah | October 16, 2008 2:52 PM

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