Mayor Mike McGinn's office announced a new "zoning proposal for South Lake Union" yesterday in a press release that, strangely, didn't explain what that zoning proposal would be (or acknowledge that it will cause some neighbors to shit cinder blocks—which I'll explain in a bit). However, his office did boast that the plan would provide capacity for as many as 12,000 new housing units and office space for 22,000 new jobs. So I got a copy of the proposed zoning map, which would raise heights up to 400 feet high along Denny Way and 240 feet throughout most of the remaining neighborhood.
Here's an autumnal-hued diagram:
Brace yourself for renewed howls from residents on the western slope of Capitol Hill and other neighborhoods who could lose their views of the Space Needle. (I've written about this view controversy, the earlier proposals, the community board stacked with real-estate interests, and assorted outcry when the planning began more than four years ago under former mayor Greg Nickels.)
The inevitable howls can and should be ignored. There are three reasons why:
First: This proposal won't create a wall of buildings. It would limit development to two towers per block, and it would, in buildings over 160 feet, limit their floor size to 10,500 square feet. Furthermore, residential towers could not cover more than half the property. This is to say, taller buildings will be set back from the street with many bright, view-friendly gaps between them.
Slog tipper Ryan spotted this new development sign posted in the Eastlake Neighborhood:
Here's a closer look at the proposed plan, if you can't read it in the above photo:
And why do kittens get four times the floorspace of Dynamic Fort Construction? Kittens are tiny and they practically shit dander; many people are allergic. Wouldn't a succulent adoption center be more appropriate? And couldn't we then turn that center into more of a shelf—a succulent adoption shelf—and expand the Fort Construction?
And will the Pillow Pile Pavilion feature feather pillows or cotton? Because I guarantee that some people in Seattle—especially the ones with kitten allergies who spend their evenings attending public design meetings—are also allergic to feathers. And wheat/gluten. And pavilions. And heights. And fun.
This morning, the city council's land use committee discussed legislation to allow retail, restaurants, cafes, neighborhood corner stores, and other small-scale, pedestrian-friendly commercial businesses in select residential areas.
Of course, these types of small shops already sparingly exist in Seattle neighborhoods—the problem is, currently they must be located within 800 feet (or roughly three blocks) of a commercial district.
This legislation, which is part of an eight-part regulatory reform package being debated by the committee (including abolishing sexy, sexy parking requirements), would streamline city regulations to allow 2,500-square-foot commercial spaces in residential areas near urban centers and light rail stations. It would also allow larger retail and grocery stores (up to 10,000 square feet) to open up in a few select areas where they are currently prohibited.
“What we’re talking about essentially is the corner store,” says committee chair Richard Conlin, “it’s the ecological approach. It’s about not restricting uses that are quite compatible” with multifamily residences.
If approved, this reform would allow commercial retail to open up on roughly 90 new blocks on Capitol Hill, for example (look! A map!), further activating foot traffic in the already dense and popular neighborhood. It would also help small business owners around the city set up shop without committing to the pricier overhead of renting in business districts.
On April 9, the city Hearing Examiner's Office was packed tighter than a GOP vagina, as four groups filed appeals to block a Department of Planning and Development (DPD) recommendation to allow a family of Northgate property owners to raise their buildable property height 25 feet without committing to replace all of the 207 low-income apartments currently located there.
Currently, the property owners would have to replace all of affordable town homes on the site (plus some) if they wanted to redevelop the property to its maximum height. But if the DPD's recommendation holds, they could redevelop several stories higher and build up to 3,128 new units, while only preserving between 94 and 156 units of affordable housing*. (Exhaustive backstory here for your nap-inducing pleasure.)
In their appeal statement, the Seattle Displacement Coalition argues that the DPD failed to assess the ramifications of losing 207 affordable apartments adjacent to the Northgate Mall and within walking distance of a transit hub and future light rail. "This rezone will cost the city $15-$20 million to replace them," says coalition leader John Fox. He estimates that each unit would cost at least $200,000 to build elsewhere, which the city would subsidize 30-40 percent.
The Seattle Displacement Coalition—which always advocates for one-for-one replacement of affordable units during redevelopment projects—wasn't alone in lodging complaints. Three other groups of also appealed the DPD's decision, including the property owners themselves.
*Housing considered affordable for a family of four living off an income of $33,500 to $52,244.
UPDATE: I've confirmed with a spokesperson for Madison Development Group that the company is under contract to buy the property and has filed a proposal with the city to develop a seven-story apartment building on the site. The spokesperson says that construction is slated to begin in June 2013 and will last for roughly 18 months. All told, the development will consume roughly half the city block (the two buildings on Pine and one property behind them) and "There will not be a tanning salon," the spokesperson added, while explaining the type of retail they hope to attract will remain characteristic with the Pike/Pine neighborhood.
"We are Capitol Hill fans—we love the neighborhood and we understand how important it is to get this block right," says Jim Gallaugher, a partner in the Madison Development Group. "Our goal is to keep the character of Pine Street the way it is today—and to build on that culture with a project the neighborhood will embrace."
Madison Development has constructed several developments that fuse apartments and grocery stores, including the Safeway on 23 and Madison.
Here's the original post: Right now, there's no confirmation—despite calls to the rumor generator and the property owner—but according to the Facebook page of Spine and Crown Books, the beautiful warren of shops on Pine Street between Melrose and Bellevue has been sold:
Yep. They sold the building out from under us. June 2013, the whole block closes. That's Mud Bay, Edies, Le Frock, Wall of Sound, Spine and Crown, Scout, Vutique, and Bauhaus. Our spaces will be a hole in the ground thereafter.
After two years of neighborhood in-fighting, city lobbying, and torturously long debate, today the Seattle City Council granted El Centro de la Raza's petition to build a 65-foot mixed use building on its Beacon Hill property—right next to the Beacon Hill light rail station. The development will include 115 units of affordable housing, a cultural performance center, and office and commercial space, according to the civil rights organization's executive director, Estella Ortega.
"We've seen the [building] designs, they look very neat!" enthused council member Richard Conlin. All eight present council members (Rasmussen was absent) voted to approve the change today, prompting eruptive applause in the Council Chambers.
"This decision comes just in time for us in celebrating our 40th anniversary," Ortega explained. "We're meeting with architects next week."
Neighbors famously fought the change in 2010 by arguing that giving El Centro an extra 25 feet of building height (the former limit was 40 feet) would result in a "loss of breathable space" as well as "other aesthetic impacts."
The Funhouse—known to tourists as "that creepy clown place"—has been a popular, divy punk rock club operating in the criss-crossed shadows of the Space Needle and the monorail since Halloween night, 2003. But the building may soon be bulldozed for condos:
The proposal is for a seven-story mixed-use structure containing 106-112 dwelling units and four live-work units. Parking for 85-87 vehicles to be provided at and below grade. Existing structures to be demolished.
Last night, over 100 Funhouse fans packed a meeting* of one of the city's design review boards, held at the Queen Anne community center, to hear plans to replace their club and a two-story office building on the corner of 5th Ave North—a desolate block punctuated by a McDonalds and Ride the Ducks HQ—with a 70-foot condo project, courtesy of NK Architects. The room was very Jets vs. Suits. Check it out:
Unsurprisingly, the crowd was not appeased by the news that their punk club would be sacrificed to give yuppies stunning city views.
*Roughly 100 more people than usually attend design review meetings.
She married the warehouse. But can the warehouse reciprocate her love? Will her lady-on-warehouse matrimony truly "stop gentrification," as her signs pleas? These questions weigh heavily on our minds.
Seattle Transit Blog digs into the US Census data showing that multifamily units make up the majority of housing stock in Seattle, while the city's pool of single-family houses has shrunk over the past decade. What's more, that gap is bound to grow:
Just because a majority of the city is zoned for single family housing doesn’t mean that it makes up a majority of housing, which is makes sense when you think about what density actually means, more housing in less area.
The housing trends over the last ten years have seen growth in the medium/large multifamily housing (50+ units) and townhouses, which make up 4.5% and 1.4% more of the housing stock in 2010 than they did in 2000. This growth in their market share came overwhelmingly at the expense of single family housing representing 3.4% less of the housing stock in 2010 as it did in 2000. More importantly, this trend will never reverse, because Seattle essentially has no new buildable land for single family housing. As the city continues to grow, single family housing will continue to represent a smaller and smaller percentage of the city’s housing stock.
The whole post is full of good talking points for when various neighborhood groups squawk about the city shoving density in their pie holes and down their throats.
If you're looking for some light Friday afternoon reading, The Atlantic has a fascinating, pic-heavy article about the Dockside Green development project in Victoria, BC—what could arguably be called "The World's Greenest Neighborhood." Dockside Green is a former industrial site currently being developed into a 26-building mixed-use community that will eventually house 2,500 residents (including low-income families). The project, which is far from complete, has already earned scores of accolades, including LEED platinum ratings for green building development—in one case "setting a new world record for the highest LEED building score ever achieved."
But that's not all:
Dockside Green is host to a biomass gasification plant that, along with additional renewable energy technology including on-building windmills and solar panels, enables the development to be carbon-neutral. Each residential unit has a real-time meter showing energy and hot water usage along with associated carbon emissions, which can be easily compared with the development as a whole or the unit's history.
It's rare to see a dense urban neighborhood being deliberately built from the ground up in this way, instead of being the product of patchworked history. (Even though Seattle's Yesler Terrace rebuild isn't comparable, YT generates the same sort of excitement, in my opinion).
The article's pictures and design sketches are lovely but I especially appreciate author Kaid Benfield's breakdown of how the project succeeds—and fails—as a neighborhood. "Dockside Green certainly isn't yet the kind of complete, mature, multi-generational neighborhood highlighted by Scott Doyon's "popsicle test" (can an eight-year-old go get a popsicle on her own and return home safely before it melts)," he writes. "Now, there is a sense of isolation, in that it feels much more walkable internally than externally..." The article is definitely worth a read.
An uncrewed Soyuz rocket that was supposed to carry food and supplies to astronauts on the International Space Station crashed shortly after it took off today, continuing a long late- and post-Soviet Russian tradition of technological and scientific debacles. There isn't any word yet on the technical cause of the rocket failure, but it seems, happily, that no one was harmed.
Also, the astronauts on the ISS will be fine—they have lots of food reserves on the station already—but you have to wonder if it's wise to keep populating, repairing and supplying the ISS with only one kind of outdated spacecraft (the US got out of the low-orbit "humanned" space travel game with the end of the Shuttle program—Soyuz rockets will be the sole transportation for ISS-bound astronauts and supplies).
Thousands of Seattle residents celebrated the 4th of July by lighting off a few fireworks or enjoying the grand, choreographed fireworks display at Gasworks Park. And for most people, the celebration ends there. But each year, an unlucky few are branded by patriotism, such as one woman admitted to a Seattle hospital for treatment of a fireworks burn to her face, according to a police report.
The incident happened following the fireworks show at Gasworks Park. According to the report, a crowd of forty or fifty people went to a nearby alley to continue their party at which point one reveler, who witnesses described as "very intoxicated," tried to contribute to the party by shooting off a firework.
Sadly, his aim was off. Instead of firing the explosive into the air, the man allegedly fired four volleys from a firework into the crowd of partygoers and "struck [one victim] in the face, causing burns." Specifically, the report notes the victim suffered a "dime size burn with broken skin to lower left side of face" and "powder burn marks surrounding dime size burn."
The report also notes that, "the suspect apologized." One witness speculated that "because of [the suspect's] intoxication level, he did not have full control of the fireworks."
Following the incident, the suspect's girlfriend drove a carload of people—including the suspect and his alleged burn victim—to the emergency room, where she was treated for her face burns. The victim later told officers that she didn't want to press charges, she only wanted the suspect to cover her medical expenses. The report doesn't state if the officers were able to locate the suspect.
The mayor's office and the Seattle City Council are working together over the next month to craft legislation that would streamline onerous city development regulations, which they say will encourage small businesses growth—such as home businesses and mobile vendors—and create up to 2,400 new construction and trade jobs citywide.
The city will be examining a range of options—such as eliminating parking requirements in specific sections of the city, allowing for commercial uses in multifamily zones, and expanding mobile food vending—recommended by a panel of developers, neighborhood activists, design professionals, labor leaders, and environmentalists to reduce the regulatory burdens that hinder job creation.
Here's the panel's full list of suggestions:
· Encourage Home Entrepreneurship
· Concentrate Street-Level Commercial Uses in P-Zones
· Reduce and Eliminate Some Parking Requirements
· Allow Small Commercial Uses in Multifamily Zones
· Expand Options for Accessory Dwelling Units
· Expand Mobile Food Vending and Temporary Uses
· Improve State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Implementation
The mayor's office says that reforms to the State Environmental Policy Act review process would expedite up to 40 new construction projects each year. Meanwhile, the Seattle Building Trades Council estimates that as many as 2,400 direct, skilled construction and trade jobs could be created.
Slog-tipper Sara reports that THE EASTSIDE IS EXPLODING. The Twittrz back her up—they are all abuzz with the news that power is out in large areas of Bellevue, Kirkland, and other Eastside municipalities. KOMO radio tweets that an exploding (!) Puget Sound Energy substation is to blame.
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 stark contrast to other neighborhoods, Roosevelt neighborhood residents and transit-oriented progressives are lobbying the city to step up and increase density zoning around the future Roosevelt light rail station.
In a letter sent to Mayor Mike McGinn and City Council today, stakeholders argue that the Department of Planning Development's current plan "constrains development in the station area, a 5-10 minute walk, to primarily single family housing," and "will only result in an increase in housing capacity of only 350 units."
Here's an excerpt from the letter (.pdf):
The Planning Commission’s recent Transit Communities Report identified several communities, including Roosevelt, as areas in which more housing and infrastructure should occur to take advantage of the investment in transit. Futurewise’s Blueprint report made similar recommendations related to the Roosevelt neighborhood.
...DPD must undertake a full station area planning effort complete with an Urban Design Framework Plan, similar to the planning efforts in South Seattle, South Lake Union, West Seattle, and other transit-oriented locations. Such a planning effort must include much higher heights and densities than currently exist in the DPD plan, which will ensure the appropriate level of development in close proximity to the public’s $300 million investment in the Roosevelt Light Rail station.
What a fucking joy it was to read that letter (cue the anti-density NIMBY squawking in three, two, one...). The DPD has not yet returned a call for comment.
This afternoon, in a parking lot clouded with rain (and Molly Moon's ice cream), Mayor Mike McGinn, city council members, and community stakeholders announced that the city and Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) have reached an agreement to develop the Seattle Police Department parking lot near the corner of 12th Avenue and Pine Street into a low-income housing complex with street-level retail, two theaters, arts space, and secure underground parking for SPD.
City council member Nick Licata was on hand to generically praise the project, saying it "can help the neighborhood be something better," while council member Sally Clark said that the new development symbolized the "vitality and health of the neighborhood." Michael Wells, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, declared Capitol Hill an "urban wonderland" in a moment of poetic fancy.
The underutilized SPD lot covers 29,000 square feet of prime real estate on Capitol Hill's bustling 12th Avenue corridor. Neighborhood activists have long lobbied the city for a change, but until recently, the city was reluctant to develop the site due to the police department's need for secure parking for police cruisers. Funding has also been the primary sticking points in the development process. The city wouldn't sell the lot without providing replacement parking for the police, which necessitates excavation (an extremely expensive process). Thus, the lot has remained undeveloped for years as Capitol Hill grew up around it.
But funding for the project isn't yet secured.
The building, at Broadway and Thomas Street (a half-block north of the future Capitol Hill light-rail station), is being torn down to build this:
Virginia Felton, a spokeswoman for the SHA, says a final development plan won't be approved until the organization has a chance to digest the project's environmental impact study (EIS), which is slated for release this Thursday. The SHA still hasn't committed to one-to-one on-site replacement of its extremely low income units, as some critics have demanded. Felton says that between 70 and 83* of those units could be relocated two blocks east of the current Yesler Terrace site, closer to the International District. "But we're proposing adding almost 1,000 workforce housing units to the site for people who aren’t super affluent or very low income, which is a big deal," Felton adds.
Some affordable housing advocates are still critical of the plan. "It’s hard for me to understand the emphasis on workforce housing when studies show that the biggest gap in affordable housing availability is on the lowest end of the scale—30 percent and below median income level," says Tim Harris, director of Real Change newspaper. "That said, I think that any addition of affordable housing is a step in the right direction."
Specifically, the housing breakdown looks like this: 561 extremely low-income replacement units (for example, a two-person household would have to make less than $20,600 to qualify); 290 very low-income units (two people making less than $34,250); and 950 workforce units (two people making less than $51,550). The remaining units—3,199—would be higher end market-rate units for families who earn Seattle's median income of $85,600 or above.
*This post has been updated to reflect a new range of extremely low-income units proposed for off site development.
Near 17th and Fir...
If you have unanswered questions about the Fukushima nuclear diaster, the Earthquake or Disaster preparedness, head over to QuestionLand and ask away. Starting a little bit after 1pm (Pacific time) today, I'll do my best to answer them in an honest and unbiased way, linking to the sources of information that I've been using to struggle my way through this situation.
Sorry to alarm folks, but the BBC is reporting a third explosion at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, this time at the previously intact, but failing Number 2 reactor.
The explosion is feared to have damaged the reactor's pressure-suppression system, Kyodo says. It adds that "radiation tops legal limit" after the explosion.
It was the Number 2 reactor whose fuel rods were twice exposed today, raising fears of a potential meltdown. A Tokyo Electric spokesperson says that the company has started to evacuate staff from the plant, but that 50 workers were staying on. More details as they come.
UPDATE: Initial reports seem bad. The BBC is reporting that "Radioactive materials are feared to be leaking at Fukushima," while Japan's Kyodo News agency says that Tokyo Electric detected "radiation of 8,217 micro sievert per hour, 8 times annual limit."
There are unconfirmed reports that the evacuation zone is about to be expanded to 75 kilometers.
UPDATE KYODO: "URGENT: Meltdown possible at Fukushima reactors: Tokyo Electric"
A critical situation called ''meltdown'' in which fuel rods melt and are destroyed is possible at the troubled nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday.
The cores of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant's three reactors are believed to have partially melted following Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit northeastern and eastern Japan.
I can't be sure, but this sounds like they're distinguishing between the "partial meltdown" believed to have happened and the total meltdown they now say is "possible."
Pace Goldy, Watching the footage of the tsunami in Japan, thousands of miles inland, where only the New Madrid fault could fuck us up, this Chicagoan had one thought about Seattle: hope to God I'm not visiting to see a Mariners game when the impending Big One hits.
And it's just a matter of time.
And don't forget the Last Big One here, one that is estimated to happen every 300-600 years and happened 311 years ago. Enjoy the beaches that are the legacy of its tsunami. . . one that went and hit Japan with enough severity that their records of it (along with First Nations' oral histories) helped scientists figure out exactly when the earthquake hit the Cascadia region, and how strong it was. The Japanese called it the "Orphan Tsunami" since it hit them without an earthquake there as its obvious source.
There's a song just for this occasion! And it is the most wonderful thing ever!
If you don't want your head to explode, absolutely don't watch this video of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) defending federal tax subsidies for Exxon-Mobil, by arguing that without them "they'll go out of business."
Exxon-Mobil. The largest publicly traded company in the world. Raked in over $30 billion in profits last year. Will. Go. Out. Of. Business. Unless, US taxpayers lavish it with billions in tax credits and subsidies. $45 billion worth, over the next decade. Really.
Also a potential risk factor for spontaneous cranial detonation? Rep. Barton's insistence that federal tax subsidies should be maintained "so long as you believe in the free market capitalist system." Because nothing exemplifies free market capitalism better than federal tax subsidies.
It turns out that alleged Spokane MLK Jr. Day parade backpack bomber Kevin Harpham is not only a racist, a neo-Nazi and a crappy bomb maker, he also fancies himself a bit of a music critic:
I just found out Rob Halford is gay, this is terrible news. I don't know if I will be able to listen to Judas Priest the way I used to. :(
Quick, Grant... sign him up for Line Out!
Natural selection in action, Alabama style:
(BAY MINETTE, Ala.) The Baldwin County Sheriff's Office said a small child accidentally shot his mother, after finding the gun near his injured father's side.
And how was the father injured? He tripped and fell, accidentally shooting himself in the leg with the loaded Glock he was carrying.
I know it pisses off the 2nd Amendment fundies every time I point this out, but study after study shows that the number one risk factor for death or injury due to firearms is availability. I'm just sayin'.
Slog tipper Paige took this footage around 9:40 this morning. "First Hill smelled like hell," she wrote. "You can see an explosion partway through."
coming in a moment here.
All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122