The Seattle Department of Planning and Development has published a draft of its recommendations for the Roosevelt Station area rezone plan. The rezone is a substantial increase from what current is currently zoned, but is quite far from what the increased transportation options can bear. The DPD estimates “the proposed rezones would increase total development capacity by 348 residential units and 215,209 commercial square feet” from 269 units and 10,604 feet of commercial space with current zoning.
I personally feel this proposed zoning to be woefully inadequate. With substantially more aggressive zoning, the Northgate station area has already accommodated that much housing and commercial space on a single block long before the station opens. Most of the proposed height limits in the Roosevelt corridor are just 40 feet, which really isn’t all that different from 65 feet from a sunlight and massing perspective, but would allow a far smaller amount of development.
The Roosevelt station is one of just nine subway stations that will be built in our region, and as taxpayers I feel we are owed the right to get as much from these stations as we can. I wrote this about the Beacon Hill station area a few years ago:
I’d also like to appeal to everyone’s sense of civic fairness. We’ve all been paying sales tax for the past dozen or so years to build this light rail line and this subway station. Now that’s almost done, shouldn’t we try to get our money’s worth and encourage the most riders possible? Increasing density around the stations will mean more people using the system and a better value for all of us. Increased use will also make the station safer: there’ll be more eyes watching for muggers or other predators.
As Matt Yglesias correctly pointed out the other day (with a bit of hyperbole thrown in) when writing about the upzone in the South Downtown area, nobody will take transit to work unless you build tall buildings near stations. The residential portion of the entire rezone generates only an extra 1,922 riders per day for the light rail system, which will have a fully grade-separated, 16 minute ride to downtown Seattle and just an eight minute ride to the UW. This is a case of Seattle zoning itself to death.
Bellevue seems to get how transit can unleash a lot of development demand and both increase tax revenue and make infrastructure a better value. Leaders there see a surface line and imagine 12-15 story buildings with 4.5 million square feet of commercial space and 5,000 housing units. Seattle sees a subway and envisions just 215,000 square feet and 348 more units. Those of us who desperately want more urbanism and great value from our investment are looking forward to be disappointed again.