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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Burgess Calls for More Density in Roosevelt; Roosevelt Residents Push Back

Posted by on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 2:49 PM

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."


Comments (18) RSS

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Matt the Engineer 1
That is great news, and shows a great attitude from the neighborhood. I don't care how Roosevelt fits more people in, just that they do it. Whether that's a one mile circle of 4-story buildings or one massive tower surrounded by single family homes doesn't matter much - they both meet the goal of providing more people access to the station. I'm absolutely fine with Roosevelt choosing the exact urban form.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on June 8, 2011 at 3:07 PM · Report this
He's right, they shouldn't just draw a half mile circle around the station and upzone everything in it.

It should be AT LEAST 3/4 of a mile and probably a full mile circle. That would make the most sense.

Sell your stupid house and go buy one somewhere else where density isn't needed... I hear Bellevue is nice.
Posted by SeattleSeven on June 8, 2011 at 3:08 PM · Report this
Hernandez 3
"You can't just draw a half-mile circle around Roosevelt's light rail station and upzone everything in it"

Uh, why the fuck not? You can agree to higher maximum density in a smaller radius now, or you can watch as your entire neighborhood eventually gets swallowed up in low-rise development. Which one do you want?
Posted by Hernandez on June 8, 2011 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
Too bad the City is broke due to the Tolled Tunnel of Terror and can't leverage needed TDO improvements near ST stations ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 8, 2011 at 3:18 PM · Report this
It must be really nice to get a shiny new light rail station in your neighborhood (and the increase in home value that comes with it) and also get to dictate the zoning that comes with that station.

How can Madrona get a sweet deal like that?
Posted by justinf on June 8, 2011 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
@3 for most insightful Post Of The Day
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 8, 2011 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Kinison 7
Sounds like Mayor McGinn isnt LISTENING to the people.

You know the horrible thing about allowing taller buildings nearby, loss of reception. AM/FM/Digital TV. Most were gone in my studio apartment behind Dicks Drive-In (Broadway) when they re-zoned the area for taller buildings. I was forced to subscribe to limited basic TV just to get local channels.
Posted by Kinison on June 8, 2011 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Eminent domain every property owned by a Sisely and zone them maximum density. Then be selective, block by block.
Posted by SoSea Resident on June 8, 2011 at 3:51 PM · Report this
"We don’t want 125-foot towers anywhere in Roosevelt. We’ll push back against maximum density. Not all transit stations are the same."

McGinn and Burgess both took towers off the table. The maximum that would be built is 85 feet and in real life that translates to 65 feet (due to building materials costs).

So, there will not be towers in Roosevelt.
Posted by Roosevelt Neighbor on June 8, 2011 at 4:03 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 10

Because the Siselys want to build towers encompassing entire blocks to replace their slums. Their plan is the very antithesis of good urban planning and what makes density livable. Anyone living the Roosevelt area has a vested interest in smothering that plan in its crib.
Posted by keshmeshi on June 8, 2011 at 4:14 PM · Report this
Cascadian 11
I don't see what the problem would be with one or two towers surrounded by mid-rise development. And I don't see a better place than across from (and on much of the border of) the high school. Those Sisley properties are abandoned. So long as the new high-rises are good at street level, go ahead and put in a 12-18 story tower, in a block of buildings 65-85 feet tall. There's a subway station going in after all. It will suck if that results in Sisley making money because of his irresponsibility, but if the alternative is that he keeps sitting on his properties then of course the neighborhood should add taller buildings.
Posted by Cascadian on June 8, 2011 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Fnarf 12
85 feet isn't a problem if the buildings are designed correctly -- with small footprints, built to the curb, with usable retail frontage where appropriate. But you can achieve fantastic densities with lower-rise (four stories) buildings. The key is SMALL FOOTPRINTS -- no megablocks. All they have to do is restrict any development to the existing lot lines, with no combining of any kind allowed.
Posted by Fnarf on June 8, 2011 at 4:54 PM · Report this
dont be stupid people, the point is that buildings are nice. and try to show me a condo that fits that description. you cant just allow for tall buildings and then turn around and bitch about condos, it just doesn't work that way. also, who the fuck are you to tell these people how to build their neighborhood? where are the people going to come from? bellevue? get real, it'll be new assholes coming in from california or omaha. have any of you actually walked around that shitty part of the u district with all the student apartments? it sucks. anyways, bell town, pike/pine, the id, south lake union, the regrade, and the central and u districts should all get more density before any other neighborhood.
Posted by dangwyne on June 8, 2011 at 5:13 PM · Report this
sheschemes 14
I don't think they need the taller buildings, just less vacant lots.
Posted by sheschemes on June 8, 2011 at 5:35 PM · Report this
People are our most valuable resource. Taller buildings = more people = better community.
Posted by archie on June 8, 2011 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Roosevelt needs more economic diversity--more apartments for section 8 poor people.
Posted by neo-realist on June 8, 2011 at 7:10 PM · Report this
Kudos to the City and RNA for having this dialogue. Sounds like a process that is on a good track.

While more density (and good urban design) is needed at Roosevelt, and towers appear to be off the table at Roosevelt, there are two great options for towers in either direction on the light rail line: The U District and Northgate. I predict developers will be lining up to build high-rise apartments in both of those districts close to the rail station by the time those stations open, in 2020. The U District is 8 minutes from Westlake on this line and there are already towers there. Any up-zoning needs to be done with great attention to the details about preserving all that is worth preserving, but it would be a shame if there ends up being no place for true high density development until the line gets up to Lynnwood. A lot of other great cities around the world have solved this problem well already.
Posted by J-Dub on June 8, 2011 at 11:29 PM · Report this
Glenn 18
Lot's of great ideas, I imagine Roosevelt went through them all during the 10 year planning process...but thanks for all of the quality input.
Posted by Glenn on June 9, 2011 at 11:29 AM · Report this

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