South Downtown: The not so purloined letter

In Crosscut a few weeks back I wrote about the chance Seattle has to build some bridges (or tunnels if you must) between urbanists, environmentalists, labor, and the business community on land use. I think the South Downtown rezones presents just such an opportunity.

Like many land use questions, this one is pushing friends onto opposite sides–or at least into camps of different opinion. Preservationists seem to be favoring the more conservative DPD proposal being offered and likely debated next week, changing the variable height of 100 feet and limiting heights beyond that to 120 feet.

The letter I am reproducing below (in its entirety, including weird spacing from the PDF) is pushing for more than that in Pioneer square. Those of use who signed it are a motley bunch. Three of us–Dan Bertolet, Chuck Wolfe and myself–could be considered “area bloggers.” Others are sort of usual suspects for this sort of thing.

When it gets down to it, it’s the Council that has to make this tough decision. Nobody wants to obliterate Pioneer Square. On the other hand, there is an interest in giving the area a boost by taking advantage of new developments in transit and new development potential.

I think a heartier and citywide TDR program for historic buildings would help in this situation, and could garner the support of many of the preservationists concerned about new development. I think. I don’t know. I’ll write a bit more about TDR soon. I also plan to write more about the incentive zoning program mentioned in the letter that intends to address housing affordability, but, in fact, doesn’t do anything of the sort, in my view.

Mostly though, I think what is most interesting about the letter is the diversity of the people signing on. I think the coalition I wrote about in Crosscut is possible, but we need preservationists on board to make it more effective.

April  12,  2011

Councilmember Sally Clark
Councilmember  Tim  Burgess
Councilmember  Sally  Bagshaw
Councilmember  Tom  Rasmussen
Seattle  City  Council
PO  Box  34025
Seattle,  WA  98124- ‐4025

Thank  you  for  your  continued  thoughtful  review  of  the  proposed  Livable  South  Downtown  Legislation   and  for  the  time  you  have  put  in  working  with  and  listening  to  stakeholders. We  strongly  support   adoption  of  a  rezone  proposal  that  prioritizes  market  rate  and  workforce  housing,  maximizes  housing   and  employment  density  near  transit  stations  and  corridors  and  encourages  public  and  private   investment  in  South  Downtown. We  believe  the  following  modifications  to  the  legislation  are  necessary  in  order  to  achieve  these  goals:

Increase  maximum  heights  and  densities  in  Pioneer  Square. Additional  height  and  density  in   Pioneer  Square  will  result  in  more  market  rate  and  workforce  housing,  which  means  more   residents  supporting  local  retailers,  activating  parks  and  providing  eyes  on  the  street. Today,   hundreds  of  new  employees  are  making  their  way  to  Pioneer  Square,  but  they  have  limited   housing  options  if  they  desire  to  live  in  the  neighborhood  where  they  work. We  urge  you  to adopt  the  maximum  height  and  density  limits  studied in  the  EIS  for  Pioneer  Square.

Increase  the  maximum  floor  area  ratio  south  of  South  Charles  Street  to  5  in  order  leverage   transit  oriented  development  opportunities  and  permit  greater  development  flexibility.    In  2009,   the  City  of  Seattle  had  30,000  fewer  jobs  than  in  the  year  2000.    We  urge  you  to  provide   property  owners  greater  flexibility  to  attract  major  employers  to  Seattle  and  maximize  transit   oriented  development.

Require  a  review  of  incentive  zoning  provisions  in  2011  and include  a  wide range  of   community  stakeholders  in  the  process. The city’s current incentive zoning, bonus and amenity programs are confusing and don’t acknowledge the unique needs or market conditions of individual Seattle neighborhoods. We urge the City Council to require a review of the program within the South Downtown resolution that is currently before the Committee on the Built Environment. The current draft resolution does not go far enough in its commitment to analyze and address the IZ program. We  believe  the  review  should  be  guided  by  the  recommendations made by the Seattle Planning Commission in its 2007 report titled “Incentive Zoning in Seattle: Enhancing Livability and Housing Affordability.” In the report the Commission writes: 

In  order  to  ensure  that  the  developers  take  advantage  of  density  bonuses  while  also   ensuring  the  public  receives  significant  benefits,  the  City  should  take  great  care  to  create   programs  that  make  economic  sense  for  each  zone  or  area  being  considered.  What   works  in  one  place  might  not  make  sense  in  another,  particularly  when  construction technology  is  factored  in.  Seattle  should  ensure  that  the  upzones  it  provides  are   significant  enough  to  provide  real  benefit  to  developers  and  a  substantial  difference  in  its   effort  to  increase  density.    (Incentive  Zoning  in  Seattle,  Seattle  Planning  Commission,   2007)  

The City’s Comprehensive Plan establishes future goals for housing inventory in SouthDowntown.  In  order  to  reach  these  goals  of  balanced  housing  in  South  Downtown,  incentive   zoning  requirements  must  be  structured  appropriately  and  reflect  the  cost  of  development  in   South  Downtown  relative  to  other  neighborhoods  in  the  City.  The  review  of  the  program  should   also  explore  a  new  definition  of  affordability  that  accounts  for  improved  transit  access  and   reduced  transportation  costs  within  South  Downtown  and  other  dense  Seattle  neighborhoods.

We  believe  a  serious  review  and  revision  of  the  incentive  zoning  program  is  required  in  order   to  achieve  increased  densities  and  additional  workforce  and  market  rate  housing  in  Seattle.      

Thank  you  for  your  continued  hard  work  on  the  South  Downtown  rezone.    We  appreciate  your   consideration  of  our  comments.


Mick  McHugh  – ‐ FX McRory’s
Tamara  Murphy  – ‐  Owner,  Elliott  Bay  Café
Tomoko  Moriguchi  Matsuno  – ‐  Uwajimaya
Jen  Kelly,  Pioneer  Square  resident
Dan  Greenshields  – ‐  ING  Direct
John  Bisbee  – ‐  Owner,  KOBO
Renee  Staton  – ‐  Leadership  for  Great Neighborhoods
Phil  Bussey  – ‐  Seattle  Chamber  of Commerce
Tyler  Moriguchi  – ‐  Member  of  CIDBIA  Board
Binko  Bisbee  – ‐  Owner,  KOBO
Dan  Bertolet  – ‐  Citytank
Bryan  Yeck  – ‐  Zeitgeist
Kate  Joncas  – ‐  Downtown  Seattle  Association
Ron  and  Diane  King  – ‐  Property  Owners
Ferdod  Haghighi  – ‐  Designs  by  Ferdod
Rick  Cocker  – ‐  Cocker|Fennessy
Richard  Thurston  – ‐  Grover/Thurston  Gallery  Inc.  and Pioneer  Square  resident
Jerry  Cohen  – ‐  Co- ‐owner  of  Ebbets  Fields Flannels
Karli  Neale  – ‐  Designs  by  Ferdod
Tomio  Moriguchi  – ‐  Uwajimaya
Charles  Royer  – ‐  Pioneer  Square  resident
Roger  Valdez  – ‐  Researcher  and  writer
Assunta  Ng  – ‐  Owner/Publisher,  Northwest  Asian  Weekly
Susan  Grover  – ‐  Grover/Thurston  Gallery   and  Owner/Publisher,  Seattle  Chinese  Post     Inc.
Jeff  Reibman – ‐ Architect,  Leadership  for  Great Neighborhoods
Randi  Pierson  – ‐  CB  Richard  Ellis
Marianne  Pulfer  – ‐  Architect and Pioneer  Square resident
Denny  Onslow  – ‐  Harbor  Properties
Natalie  Quick  – ‐  Leadership  for  Great   Neighborhoods
Andy  Yip  – ‐  Hong  Kong  Association of Washington  and  Board  President,   International  Examiner
Larry  Larson  – ‐  American  Hotel
Allegra  Calder  – ‐  Downtown  property  owner
Brian  D.  Scott  – ‐  Downtown  resident
Jeff  Schoenfeld    – ‐  Property  owner
Brad  Tong  – ‐ Sheils|Oblitz|Johnsen
Rita  Brogan – ‐ PRR
Chuck  Wolfe  – ‐  Attorney and board member  of    Great  City
Dirk  Park   – ‐  Resident  and  Business  Owner
Anne  Fennessy  – ‐  Cocker|Fennessy and Pioneer  Square  resident
Dan  McGrady  – ‐  Leadership  for  Great Neighborhoods
Lei  Ann  Shiramizu  – ‐  Owner,  Momo
Thomas  Kleifgen  – ‐  Owner,  Momo
Scott  Shapiro  – ‐  American  Hotel
Gabe  Grant  – ‐  HAL  Real  Estate  Investment  Inc.
Jessica  Clawson  – ‐  Leadership  for  Great  Neighborhoods

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One Response to South Downtown: The not so purloined letter

  1. Pingback: Pioneer Square Zoning Changes: Citywide TDR for historic buildings would help | Seattle's Land Use Code

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