“Then, something interesting happened.”

No to no up zone! Perfect sign for an up zone cheerleader.

Here’s what Jim O’Halloran, Chair, Land Use Committee of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association said recently about the discussions leading up to meetings around station area design and zoning in Roosevelt. Everything was going along fine said O’Halloran with neighborhood zoning efforts but

Then, something interesting happened. A number of committed bloggers and organizations started complaining to DPD, Mayor McGinn and City Councilmembers that the rezone plan published by DPD was not enough.  In any light rail station area, they said, building heights should be much higher; 8 stories, 12 stories or more would be necessary all around the station to achieve population density sufficient to “support” the taxpayer’s investment in mass transit.   Never mind the Neighborhood Plan

At last night’s town hall hosted by Mayor McGinn, loud voices from Roosevelt opposing the suggestions of “committed bloggers” never materialized. In fact, the meeting was a pretty straightforward affair. City staff indicated that it was a typical, maybe even smaller than usual, crowd. There were no upset residents of Roosevelt decrying density. The issue never even came up.

Let’s clear a couple of things up. First, I have no problem with Roosevelt’s neighborhood plan or the work the neighborhood did with the Department of Planning and Development on proposed rezones. The issue I have is a rather narrow one and that has to do with the panhandle formed by Hugh Sisley’s properties east of the station. And even there, my hope is that there could be some facilitated discussion that could lead to acceptable up zones for both the developer and the neighborhood and those of us who know that light rail only works when there are lots of people to use it. I left some blood on the battle field of neighborhood planning myself in Beacon Hill and in South Park. I don’t take neighborhood plans lightly. This isn’t about abrogating the neighborhood plan.

The second point is we do all have a stake in what happens in Roosevelt. As I pointed out over the weekend, bloggers or not, we all should be committed to making light rail and our neighborhoods together. Here’s O’Halloran again:

DPD is now trying to decide if the Roosevelt Legislative Rezone process should be “paused” so that a new rezoning process could be initiated, as the density advocates have requested.  This step would be a grave insult to the Roosevelt community, and the countless hours of good-faith volunteer effort to plan responsibly for smart growth.  We need to weigh in now, in numbers and with passion, to ensure that the Roosevelt Legislative Rezone process is continued and concluded.  Here is how to do that for maximum effect…

Of course folks from Roosevelt should express their opinion. But to call what “density advocates” are trying to do an “insult to the Roosevelt community” is absurd and unfair. Our involvement isn’t an insult. It’s called dialogue, discussion, and advocacy. O’Halloran should skip the bluster and take concerns about density for what they are: genuine interest in making our city, light rail, and the neighborhood a better place.

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21 Responses to “Then, something interesting happened.”

  1. If the Sisley owned and destroyed properties were all west of the transit station the Roosevelt and Ravenna neighborhoods would be in full support of zoning to 85 feet. Higher than that is out of scale with this urban village. The problem is one of location. The ¼ radius just doesn’t play here. When you get a handle on that, you will fully understand the issue in Roosevelt. The second problem is that density is not the only way and probably not the best way to solve the problem, which is not how to get riders on the train; it is how to get the commuters of the broader area around the station to the train and then on it.

    • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

      Link isn’t commuter rail.

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

        What is confusing in my statement?

      • How does it apply to the topic? Dis I say something that makes you think that I think Link and light rail are the same?

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

        You seem to be operating under the assumption that Link was commuter rail (focus should be on getting commuters to the station). That is NOT what Link is. Want to see what happens when you build Mass Transit around getting commuters to stations, take a ride on MARTA sometime, get off at almost any station outside the immediate downtown core. There is a reason that outside commuting hours NO choice riders can be found on the train (in fact I’ve heard quite a few people ‘joke’ that instead of Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, it actually stands for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta).

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      (then something interesting happened)

      Link is what our light rail system is called. But Link is not commuter rail.

  2. Neighbor says:

    The neighborhood worked really hard at making allowances for growth and at the same time maintaining character of place – with an inclusive, thorough and thoughtful discussion over many years. It is a good solution and should be approved. If in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years there is need for more upzoning, it will be examined then, Right now this is the right solution.

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      I like this argument, but considering how long the process took should we start now for the 10 year rezone? The zoning being recommended came from a 1999 study, and there was a three year process that lead up to that study. So maybe we’ve already missed out 10 year deadline and should start working on the 20 year rezone.

      (Have the neighborhood needs changed so little in the past 12 years? I know the urban village part of my neighborhood looks nothing like it did just 5 years ago.)

      • It has changed, Matt. Live work units on Roosevelt, The Dwell condominiums, some townhouses in the 800 block of 66th, The 6 story apartment on 9th and 65th, some new townhomes on 64th and 63. You seem to be making a case that dramatic growth is the only acceptable growth.
        And when the decision was made (2005) on where to locate the light rail station, the plan was updated. That DPD chose to sit on it for 5 years was probably because they were too busy…and then in 2008 they started laying people off because they had nothing to do.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        [Glenn] I don’t mean to make the case that dramatic growth is the only acceptable growth. We’re just talking about zoning. Zoning places a maximum on growth, not a minimum, and the levels we set may never be achieved, or only be achieved over a long period of time (like the 10 – 40 years that [neighbor] mentions). Something to be a little bit afraid of though is the fact that it’s tough to change zoning. Upzone a little and maybe old run-down buildings are torn down and rebuilt. Upzone again in a decade and there’s nothing but new buildings. Nobody wants (or can afford) to tear down new buildings, so you’re stuck with the effect of the old zoning for many more years.

  3. Yes, it would be a shame to tear down new buildings and bigger shame to have buildings that you never take care of, but by design you just let them fall into ruin. That just makes the community look like hell. Zoning is hard to change for a reason. Roosevelt has grown pretty well figuring the last 4 years of recession. If you know when the recession is going to end and the population of Seattle is going to increase enough to warrant such development in Roosevelt, then you have an edge on everyone else.
    Why not build a building of 85 feet on the transit station block and we’ll see if it’s even occupied by the time the train pulls into the station. The building of apartments on 65th and 9th took 4 years to fill. They were already redoing some of the units from EIFs structural damage before they were ever occupied.

  4. Walsh says:

    First of all, “density advocates” was just the way Jim O’Halloran phrased it and not necessarily derogatory as he considers himself a density advocate. What more interesting to us, the people who live here, is the following:
    1. It is amazing how many people who don’t live anywhere near Roosevelt feel some need to give their opinion about something they know little about and something that really doesn’t effect them. It is pretty insulting that people who live in Ballard, Queen Anne, Belltown, Bellevue, and other areas who cannot name more than one or two businesses in Roosevelt still believe that they know more about our issues than we. Shouldn’t you be blogging about some neighborhood in Atlanta or San Francisco – I’m sure your thoughts will carry a lot of weight there as well.
    2. It is a slap in the face of those who have worked on the Neighborhood Plan. Why? 99% of those writing comments and opinions don’t live here and have never played a role in this process. Where were these strong opinions when the Plan was drafted and when the City held their meetings? I love the line that Jim’s position is called “bluster” because “It’s called dialogue, discussion, and advocacy”. You don’t get to show up at the last minute, talking about things you don’t know anything about, and derail something that’s taken 5+ years. That not called dialog, discussion, or whatever positive words you might want to use – it’s called lazy reactionism and it doesn’t count. You showed your cards when you chose not to participate these past years. Are you the person who crashes a party and criticizes the host for their food selection, music selection, and decorations? Do you ever get invited back? Were you the kid who never showed up for practice but couldn’t figure out why you didn’t get to play in the game?
    3. No one showed up at the McGinn City Hall last night because we didn’t know about it. But many of us waited on hold with KUOW yesterday morning to tell the Mayor what we thought and he would only take one call on this subject. But if 300 letters this week from our community mean anything, then yes, there is outrage aplenty. Again, you don’t know because you’re not active in this issue.
    4. Doesn’t everyone find it fascinating that the recent batch of letters to the City decrying that our planned density is too low – the majority of those voices can be traced to the developer’s office?

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      1. We’re all paying for your light rail. I think we deserve a voice.
      2. We have another 11 years left until the Roosevelt light rail station opens. Is it really too late to express an opinion? Or did we really have to show up 23 years in advance?
      4. Conspiricy theory or fact?

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

        Should I mention that I’m currently stationed in NC or would that make Walsh’s head explode? 😀

  5. Neighbor says:

    Well said, Walsh!

  6. Pingback: Like the Roosevelt Neighborhood Rezone Plan? Let the Mayor know TODAY. at Ravenna Blog

  7. Walsh says:

    Not a conspiracy theory – fact. We connected the people and relationships within hours of their letter being sent in. If you live here and are involved in local issues, then you already know its’ too small of a town to not know who works for who and where they live and where they work. I could elaborate, but what’s the point.

    Yes – you needed to show up way sooner. You already stated that it will be another 10 years until it opens – so you already know these things take decades. That Plan was finished just over 5 years ago and sent to the City for approval – once again showing how long things take. To go back and revisit things time and time again whenever someone decides they want to express an opinion is what is wrong with Seattle today. This is exactly what is frustrating the State, County, and City about the tunnel project. We’re a laughing stock – the City that does nothing except respond to comments and rehash everything that has been rehashed before. This is called Talkitecture. The time for this discussion was 6 years ago. If we revisit this now, the station will open and nothing will be built except to current zoning codes which are LOWER than what the neighborhood is requesting. I guess if you win the argument and we do go back and start from scratch, I guess we get to keep what we have for the next few decades. Maybe that’s not a bad idea!

    My comment to the Mayor and City was that if you really care about these neighborhoods of Ravenna and Roosevelt and if you really care about the City of Seattle, you will approve this rezone and then the City will take the lead on working in the next round of upzoning via the Comp Plan. It might still be a fight, but the difference with my idea is that, in the meantime, we have made progress in 2011. But to sit back and discuss this another 5 – 10 years…. that’s silly.

    • Bruce says:

      Setting aside the question of whether it will, in fact, take another five to ten years to bring the issue up again (most unlikely), it makes no sense to argue that this excruciating slowness justifies botching the job now: to the contrary, it is an argument to get it right the first time.

      I also have limited sympathy about complaints of interference. I live on the waterfront and I’m not losing my mind over the externally-driving infrastructure projects and publicly funded changes that are taking place in my neighborhood. Of course, there is a degree of difference between the waterfront and Roosevelt, but in both cases, there’s a fundamental fact at work that in modern society, land use is an issue where many people get to stick their oars in.

      Finally, the fact that Roosevelt has spent five years working on this upzone does not bear on its merits, and O’Halloran’s bluster in this respect is unconvincing. If I work hard on something and it doesn’t work, it don’t work and that’s it. The expansion in housing that this zoning would provide is, under the circumstances, horribly inadequate, and that’s that.

  8. Mark S Johnson says:

    @ Bruce- so does that you mean that you believe 2,100 units is inadequate capacity for the next 20 years or so? On what do you base your assessment of the need for more capacity in Roosevelt?

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