Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess is the latest person to jump on the dogpile of civic leaders and electeds pressuring the Department of Planning Development to beef up the density planning near the Roosevelt neighborhood's light rail station, which is slated to open in 2020.
In a letter (.pdf) addressed to Diane Sugimura, director of the DPD, Burgess states that he's "very concerned" the city isn't being proactive enough about increasing the urban density around light rail stations and other major transportation corridors. Specific to Roosevelt, Burgess says:
Given the 12.5-acre size of the rezone area, its location near a future light rail station, and the fact that many of the affected parcels are currently rezoned for low-rise development, it isn't readily apparent to me that we are maximizing our opportunities for clustered density... This policy approach to density is what allows us to maintain strong protections for our single-family residential areas.
But now the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, are pushing back in a surprising way: instead of objecting to density upgrades (as many other NIMBY-centric neighborhoods have done), the RNA says that they welcome more density—under the right circumstances.
"We’ll take the density but we expect to have considerable influence on how and where it’s accommodated," says Jim O’Halloran, chair of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association’s land use committee. Roosevelt residents have a lot of invested in its neighborhood development, perhaps more than most neighborhoods. In 2006, the RNA basically drafted the zoning plan that the DPD chose to recommend in April.
What neighbors fear is that the city will pass a hatch-job rezone proposal with uniform density upgrades that would allow towers and other forms of blanket "maximum density development" in areas neighbors have fought hard to preserve (like around the historic Roosevelt High School, for example).
In April, the DPD released its recommendations for the the area, which amounted to a modest increase of 348 new housing units and 215,209 square feet of commercial space from what is currently allowed in the predominantly single-family-zoned area. Mayor Mike McGinn, Burgess, and others would like to explore zoning up to 85-feet in the neighborhood.
The problem, O'Halloran says, is that residents aren't hearing a smart, block-by-block plan for Roosevelt density development from those criticizing DPD's current proposal. "You can't just draw a half-mile circle around Roosevelt's light rail station and upzone everything in it," he says. "That's not smart growth. It's a crude approach."
He continues: "We don’t want 125-foot towers anywhere in Roosevelt. We’ll push back against maximum density. Not all transit stations are the same."
O'Halloran says that RNA members have a meeting scheduled with DPD on Friday to look at modifying the current zoning plan. Until then, he has a plea for the city: "Please allow us the opportunity to grow our community in the way we think is best. Give us a density target that is reasonable, that we can agree upon, and we’ll eagerly get it done."