The Mt. Baker Community Club is hosting a meeting tonight about the new neighborhood plan, which involves (surprise) more density around the Link station. The MBCC tells me some DPD folks will be there to talk about the plan and solicit comments.
Word has it that the usual NIMBY suspects are organizing, complete with Facebook page with the usual scaremongering. As if “pawn shops” and “payday loans” are the only possible businesses (and jobs, by the way) that come with density.
If you live nearby (as I do) I’d encourage you to show up tonight at 7, at 2811 Mt Rainier Drive South.
58 Replies to “Mt. Baker Planning Meeting”
Reading their Facebook page. Seems like nobody has any idea what is going on or any facts to support it. IDK about you folks here, but the area around Mt. Baker Station would be improved with a pawn shop, let alone some massive redevelopment.
Whats wrong with upzoning? It will allow for the private investment that the area wants (according to their FB page).
I also note they have exactly ten “Likes” so I suspect this post just raised their traffic by an order of magnitude.
Feel free to mark this as off-topic, but this is a great post on planning process:
Less “Plans,” More Actions
Ironically there already is a pawnshop “Pawn X-Change” right there. Presumably a business that would be at risk given the kinds of proposals being thrown around for upzoning the area. Hate to see that or the Auto parts store forced out–we already lost our Tire store–how are we supposed to get around without car parts, tires, or goods of questionable provenance–Oh wait…
Oh man that is ironic…
I will be there with several neighbors who want to see an urban village blossom there. I will try to call upon everyone’s sense of what the Olmstead parks and parkways did for Mount Baker, and ask everyone to imagine a similar kind of quality to the kind of urban village that can grow around the Mount Baker Link station.
Would be happy to meet anyone else going. You can see a picture of me on my twitter page, TomLean
I suspect some people would see/saw an upzone as the polar opposite of the Olmsted boulevards…
Does that map mean the #7 and #9 will be routed further away from the station?
I’m guessing they’d route regular traffic along the dotted blue line but buses would continue on Rainier and stop along the street half a block from the station. And by getting through traffic off of Rainier, it would be a lot more pleasant to cross the street to get between the northbound bus stop and Mount Baker Station.
I was unable to attend, but would love the scoop.
Thanks for posting this.
This was billed as an informational meeting. But a ranting faction showed up and was very rancorous, showing terrible listening skills and full of misplaced venom for a comprehensive plan that could really make a new town center out of the area around the Mount Baker Link station.
The ranters did prove to be loud but neither unified nor outrageous, while the City urban planner was informative and patient.
A key insight for me is that the development zone is within a Rainier Valley boundary (from I-90 to Henderson), and neither Mount Baker nor Beacon Hill is within that boundary. So ranters from outside the boundary can have input but are not the direct participants in the plan. A lot of Mount Baker residents are excited about denser development around the Link station, and they were there also.
“Mount Baker nor Beacon Hill… can have input but are not the direct participants in the plan.” – I can see the reasons why it’s structured this way, but this is frustrating. I’m on Beacon Hill a quarter mile from the back end of the QFC lot and it will impact me a whole lot more than what happens “on Beacon Hill” south of Jefferson Park.
It appears from the Facebook page that their main concern is that the entire thing will be affordable housing towers. Where’d they get that idea, exactly?
Probably just scaremongering.
I don’t think this is a NIMBY issue, there is nobody I know that doesn’t want to see that area be redeveloped into something that is vibrant, pedestrian friendly, has good retail. I love the lightrail, take it every day to work, and often to/from the airport. My wife and I recently decided to drop down to 1 care because of the lightrail. We did it as an experiment at first but now we love it.
The concerns about low income housing are reasonable giving the history of the Rainer Valley. For the last 30 years, now multi-family development has been completed that hasn’t been low-income non-profit developed. In the past, there was something called redlining, and now the city has an informal policy of congregating the poor in one area, where they don’t have access to better schools, etc.
My collecting low income housing in one region, instead of spreading it around the entire city, it creates poor demographics for retailers. If we want to know why there is no Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, no Target, no Tom Douglas restaurant, etc., its because retailers will often use demographic data including median household income to make a decision. These people don’t bother visiting a neighborhood to understand its unique character, they site behind a computer and play with a spreadsheet.
SE Seattle has more low income housing units than the rest of the city combined. How is that ethical? Placing more low income housing in the area will further pull down the median household income and retard interest from retailers (who could also be a source of jobs).
They just approved a 51 unit affordable housing unit. Yes, its ArtSpace, and I love Art, but if you look at the ArtSpace policies they prefer artists but it isn’t required that a resident be an artist. And no matter how much I want to support artists, the mathematical reality is that it keep the median household income down which is the excuse retails and others give for not investing in the neighborhood.
I think it is not accurate to say the folks with criticisms of the plan don’t want density or an urban village, I most certainly do. I just want to know why every other station stop (e.g. Roosevelt) will not be up-zoned to 125′. I work in an 8 story vulcan owned building, 290,000 square feet with office and retail. It is freaking huge. The idea of something 50% bigger than that down on Rainer is something I think folks should ask about, especially since the city appears to have no interest in up-zoning other station areas to 125′. The just voted 9-0 to keep Roosevelt area to 4 stories (and they don’t even have a station yet). Why is that? Its the same train.
A lot of people have kids and are worried about safety on 31st. Personally, I’m not so sure the bow tie is a bad thing. Some folks say it will increase traffic others say it won’t. I’m not a traffic expert so I don’t know. But certainly its something folks have reason to question.
Some of the ranters are people who have reason to be concerned. While I love lightrail, it has come at a cost for some people. Over 100 houses were claimed via eminent domain, many businesses were lost, etc. It is easy to say lightrail was for the great good (and I believe it was), but if you are a 70 year old lady who has lived in your house and are forced out (even if you are paid market rate) – that’s got to be traumatic. Put yourself in the shoes of the 100 people who were forced out of their homes. Some of the “ranters” as you call them are concerned something like that will happen again. The city planner said it won’t, which is great, but he should put that in the document and have the city council vote on the document with those assurances in the plan. That way people have no reason to be paranoid.
lastly, it doesn’t matter if the areas doesn’t cross into Mt Baker. If an argument can be made that Mt Baker residents will be adversely impacted, then that is grounds for a lawsuit. My wife is a land use attorney and does pro bono work for the center for housing justice (helps protect low income residents from unfair eviction) and any Mt Baker resident could make a claim even if the development is not technically in Mt Baker. That’s why the city planner is doing more outreach.
I think most of his ideas are good and the overall vision is exciting, but there are a few pieces here and there that could benefit from healthy debate. Writing folks off as “ranters” or “NIMBY” types just makes it hard to have a reasonable discourse.
A lot of the people on here are very upset that the city is only going with 40′ zoning in Roosevelt, just as they screwed up the Beacon Hill station area upzone. If I lived in Mount Baker, I’d want the 125′ zoning, because the higher the area gets built the more retail/office/residential space you have, so more jobs and more housing.
I don’t get what you’re saying about affordable housing and artists. Any affordable housing is going to bring down the average income in the area where it’s built because that’s the criteria for getting an “affordable” unit. It doesn’t matter if they’re artists or otherwise.
As to eminent domain, that isn’t even in the cards here. This is zoning plan that loosens the restrictions on what a property owner can do with the property. No government agency is going to demolish anything.
Finally, I wasn’t at the meeting, but most of the complaints I’ve read online seem to be based on bad information or are coming from people who don’t seem interested in rational conversation. Some well-meaning people have qualms about this, but some of it is coming from the same old complainers who tried to stop Link in the first place. We’re just calling them what they are.
I agree with you on the artist thing, but I wasn’t clear. What I was trying to say is that the concept of affordable housing for artists is attractive to me on the surface. Artists bring culture and vibrancy to a neighborhood. Unfortunately, since the ArtSpace development is targeting lower income residents it brings down the median household income. I feel bad about that cause I like the ArtSpace mission in general, but South Seattle has been the dumping ground for low income housing for so long I’ve gotten to the point where I’m against any more of it; I’m concerned we’ll never get the retail in I believe we need.
I think the 125′ issue might touch the same “South Seattle Gets Dumped On” nerve. If all the other stations were being up-zoned to 125′ then folks around here wouldn’t feel like they are being treated differently.
If the buildings are quality, have nice architecture, not cheaply constructed like many of the lower income housing developments along Rainer, then the 125′ buildings could work out fine. The Central District has done a much better job with development than Rainier Valley.
If eminent domain isn’t in the cards, then have the city planner put that in the plan so it is a non-issue. Otherwise folks will at best worry for no reason and at best use it to manipulate others via misinformation. They can just point to the 100 homes taken for the link. Again, for the greater good but likely pretty tough emotionally for some of those people. They are human beings and if it happened to any of us, even if we understood the reason, some might find the experience difficult and draining.
Well, it is my Facebook page, and I never had a problem with Link and I ride it almost every day, take it to the airport, and give my employees a pre-tax ability to buy passes that is partially subsidized by my company cause we want to promote public transportation. I can’t wait for it to complete its build out to UW and the east side. My biggest complaint is that the expansion is taking too long and I’ll be too old once its done.
So, I ask you, do I fall into the well meaning camp or am I one of the same old complainers?
I’m posting on this blog cause I see some intelligent comments, but some rants too, so I’m challenging some of you guys to try putting yourself on the other side of the table and see if some of the “other guy’s” concerns are reasonable.
Just trying to encourage some healthy debate around this topic, and in the process, educate myself a little more too.
On the strength of what you’ve written here, you seem to be in the well-meaning camp. I share some of your concerns — for what its worth, I wrote to the council to complain about the Roosevelt upzone. And you may have a point about affordable housing being concentrated in one place — I don’t know enough about the stats to comment on that.
But I would encourage you not to think of upzoning as getting dumped on, for the reasons I mentioned earlier. In the long term, your neighborhood will ultimately benefit more than Roosevelt from light rail because of the city’s choice here. Upzoning is a multiplier that a neighborhood can use to capitalize on the rail investment that the region has made. Rather than fighting this upzone, I would suggest you direct your energy into making sure DPD encourages the ground-floor retail your neighborhood needs, for example.
The “irrational” people I’m referring to are the ones saying that this upzone will bring nothing but pawn shops etc. to the Ranier Valley. There’s one on your Facebook page, although I see now that you have responded to her comment.
Bruce, the Roosevelt station area rezone has 65′ zoning.
I’m very disappointed at how modest some of the station area upzones have been. I’d have no problem with zoning every station area to 125′. Heck I’d go even further and remove all height and density caps in station areas. I’d love to see a cluster of towers marking every Link station like ther is a cluster of towers marking every skytrain station in Vancouver.
@Bruce – I think when people talk about Pawn Shops it is really partially a joke and frustration at our inability to acquire quality retail. Its sarcasm born out of frustration. Let’s be honest, we’ve all done that online from time to time.
Regarding fighting the up-zoning, my wife who is a land use attorney, is concerned that the city will just hand that land over for more low income housing. She feels the best way to ensure the community has a voice on the tenant/developer is to upzone to say 65′ and then have an option to go high on a specific project basis. That way the community has some leverage to ensure there is quality retail and housing that isn’t exclusively or overwhelmingly low income.
Just to put people’s mind’s at ease, I grew up in a low income environment and my mom would have definitely qualified for low income housing. So I have a lot of empathy for these residents and some of the sad stories I hear from my wife about evictions, most of which are due to language and cultural misunderstandings, are truly heart breaking. I’d be for ensuring there is low income housing and affordable housing at all the stations since many of those residents would appreciate lightrail too.
I just feel like we have a ton of low income developments up and down Rainer as it is, and another was approved for right next to the lightrail near Mt Baker. I kinda feel like we’ve done more than our fair share and low income residents should have choices of where they want to live.
Alex, can you elaborate on why a 65′ zoning with options to build higher is less likely to result in low-income units than a 125′ zoning? My understanding is that taller builds tend to have a higher cost per square foot.
I’m trying to figure out your (wife’s) statements that “the best way to ensure the community has a voice on the tenant/developer is to upzone to say 65′ and then have an option to go high on a specific project basis. That way the community has some leverage to ensure there is quality retail and housing that isn’t exclusively or overwhelmingly low income.”
Alex, one comment on Whole Foods, Tom Douglas, etc looking at “demographic data including median household income to make a decision”. I’m not an expert on placing businesses, but my understanding is that they do not look at medians, they actually look at education levels and absolute numbers of people:
For example I live in South Lake Union where over a third of housing units are low-income, but I often see some people who live in those units shopping at Whole Foods because they value high-quality food instead of other expensive things like, for example, car ownership.
Every retailer has a different financial model, they are all not the same. But many most certainly do use median income. SLU is different because there are so many ultra high end buildings Vulcan put up that is might work out to a higher median income even is 30% of the units are low income. I’m not totally sure of that number though, as I was going to buy one of those units as an investment and the building was very expensive ($350-500k for a 2 bedroom) and had no low income.
You do make a good point, which retailers often overlook with their precious spreadsheets, that low income people still appreciate quality and healthy food. My wife has been shocked to realize that grocery stores on Rainer often have higher prices than the east side and she has noticed a difference in the quality of fresh produce too. We actually drive from Mt Baker to that Whole Foods.
The Ross on Mt Rainer is the highest grossing location per square foot in the nation. There was a time that conventional wisdom said “black people won’t frequent Starbucks” which also turned out to be true.
So I am not agreeing that the retailer models are correct, but rather I’m accepting the reality for how they do business. They view it as a big investment and look to reduce risk.
In the end Vulcan plowed so much money into SLU, that Paull Allen could ensure it would be successful. People may like some aspects of SLU and argue with others, but overall I think it has been a net positive for the city.
Maybe we need to wait until Paul Allen gets around to Rainer. (joke)
Thanks for the reply Alex. While Vulcan does have some mixed income apartments, I don’t think the condos are. There are also several dedicated low-income buildings. I am a little surprised that you think $350k is “ultra high end”… sounds about right for home ownership in Seattle these days! (Take my opinion with a grain of salt though, I’m a lifelong renter.)
“why there is no Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, no Target, no Tom Douglas restaurant, etc., its because retailers will often use demographic data including median household income to make a decision. These people don’t bother visiting a neighborhood to understand its unique character,”
There’s an opportunity for a local retailer who does know the community or would take the time to visit it.
The planner said that the “North Rainier urban village” is different from the “urban centers” at Othello and Beacon Hill. Urban centers just have housing and neighborhood retail. Urban villages also have larger businesses, and thus larger buildings. Or as some people at the meeting said, “We want the next Amazon to locate here.”
Hey, I’d love a cool local retailer to come in. But retail is a brutal business with thin margins and cash flow is generated based on having scale. So the only small retailers that can thrive need to have a unique and somewhat premium product. Then you get back into the household income thing again.
Even if a retailer knows the neighborhood, then they need to get a loan from a bank in many cases or money from investors. Those people will look at local demographics.
If it were easy to fix, we wouldn’t be complaining about pawn shops. ;-)
Most of the Roosevelt “upzone” is a nothing burger — a majority of the land within the “urban” village with be unchanged SF zoning. That’s the most egregious part. There is one long corridor of low-rise commercial and a tiny handful of higher zoning just west of the station. It’s a joke.
I don’t mean to write people off as ranters, but I did ask two gentlemen in front of me to be more civil, and they said hell no. These guys had an agenda, and showed little ability to compromise or listen. One of the gentlemen claimed he’d never heard anything about any of this, *never* raised his hand but always just shouted out his questions or complaints. That’s ranting, by my definition. It wrecks the discourse. I was really turned off.
Alex, I hear a lot of your concerns. And I see how the “South Seattle gets dumped on theme” is really important to address.
That said, I’d note that 125′ buildings won’t come cheap. Building to 4 stories is a lot cheaper per square foot than building to 12.
Agreed on the South Seattle getting dumped on sentiment. I’ve got a (half joking, but only half) south end chip on my shoulder too.
But this proposal is the sort of increase in density and activity that can help increase the South End’s relevance and clout. I’d say us getting 125′ zoning while Roosevelt bumbles about is a gift. Rainier Ave can be something better than what it is today and the upzone is what will help lure private developers to make that happen.
Actually developers don’t really like 40′ zones. It is hard to make mixed use structures pencil out at only 3-4 stories. By far they prefer 65′ zones which allow 5-over-1 and 5-over-2 construction.
Above 6-7 stories higher structures I believe start penciling out again at around 12 stories and above, though the per-square foot cost is higher than 5-over-1.
The funniest was when the main speaker was circling for parking after having given the same presentation on Beacon Hill. Somebody shouted, “He should have taken light rail!” and everybody laughed loudly, both rail fans and opponents.
Yes. That was the funniest part of the entire evening.
Yeah, that was me — the crazy “Pawn Shop” ranter on Facebook. I guess if you don’t live here, you won’t get the reference. We have lots of pawn shops, nail saloons, malt liquor.
I guess we’re terribly selfish folks because we want half way decent schools for our kids (Rainier Beach, Cleveland, etc. aren’t exactly the path to Harvard and Yale, or even UW these days). And we would like just 1/10th the amenities that most other Seattle neighborhoods take for granted. SBUX is a Seattle company, but they opened many stores in Asia, Europe and S. Africa(!) before they’d open one in SE Seattle. And it took Magic Johnson “bribing or guilting” them into doing so. Our one ghetto movie house just shut down becuase they couldn’t afford to raise, beg or borrow $40K to install fire sprinklers.
Yes, I’m a NIMBY. Say it loud, I’m black and proud and NIMBY!
And you hope to get these things by fighting this upzone proposal, which would bring new businesses, new jobs, new people and more tax revenue to your neighborhood?
Bruce, yeah, b/c fighting change is the best way to get change. Don’t you know? “!”
I know this is intended to be a broader, neighborhood level plan, but does anyone know if this plan (or something else in the works) would address the transit connections to the Mt. Baker Link Station? Or is the Mt. Baker Transit Center as good as it’s ever going to get?
Not to my knowledge but I think that is one other way to increase ridership. Right now it can be a bit of a long walk to the station from many places within Mt Baker. The walk, curiously, seems much longer to me at night, in the rain, while going up the hill.
I’d love to find a way to have a shuttle bus that can hit 2-3 main locations in Mt Baker and take people to the Link stations.
Alternatively, I’d like to see Metro and ST work better together to have the bus that goes up the hill leave after the Link arrives. I can’t tell you how many times I arrive at the Link station, walk over to the transit center and see my bus drive off. Then I have to wait another 30 minutes or so.
Also, paying a full fair for going up the hill seems expensive. ST and Metro should work something out so I can take a Metro to and from the Link stations. It would get more people from Mt Baker using the Link.
They could also use a place to pick up and drop off. Sometimes when it is raining my wife will come down and pick me up. But it is hard to find a place
“Also, paying a full fair for going up the hill seems expensive. ST and Metro should work something out so I can take a Metro to and from the Link stations.”
This problem is already solved. Using ORCA you can freely transfer between Link and Metro (within 2 hours) and pay only the difference in the fare.
If you’re referring to bus 38, the bad news is that bus is slated to die, so in future you may be getting off at Beacon Hill and walking downhill in the rain.
@keith: The plan does not directly consider transit routes. (“Not my department”, as they say.) However, the “pedestrian priority” corridors may improve access to the station.
A few people said that walking to the station from the east was a significant issue. The gas stations, streets, traffic, long signal timings, and fear of muggings (both real and paranoid), combined with the location of the station and TC, make it more difficult to walk to than it should be. In that sense, the pedestrian priority corridors may help.
@Mike – I believe there has been one shooting and one stabbing at the Mt Baker station already. I’ve noticed increased ST police at the station and haven’t heard of any more muggings or violence at the station since those initial incidents. I’m a fairly young/big guy at 6’3″ and am familiar with the inner city from my youth in Miami, so it doesn’t bother me much as I figure I can protect myself. But a female rider or an older rider has reason to be fearful. I’m not saying something happens every week or every month, but it doesn’t take too many stabbings and shootings for people to be scared.
So far, the only thing the public has been clamoring for around LINK stations are parking lots.
I wonder if we should give Mr Bailo a guided tour of the Link route and station areas, and some of Seattle’s other streetcar suburbs. Then we could be 100% sure he has actually seen them firsthand, and that his rants are actually based on a differing set of values rather than ignorance of what’s in the city.
How will we show him the “underground” Columbia City station?
@Bruce: I can bring a shovel.
The meeting was one of several regular meetings by the Mount Baker Community Club, which seems to be a combination neighborhood organization (“the oldest in the state”) and owners of the club building (“the second-oldest after Lakewood”). The meetings normally discuss land-use regulations and the like, but this meeting had a higher attendance than normal because many residents had not heard of the plan, and only heard about it via a door-knocking campaign.
At least 95% of the attendees had lived in the Mount Baker area for more than ten years, some being second or third generation.
The plan is called “the Mt Baker town center”, although Mt Baker proper is the residential area east of Rainier, all single-family houses and a park and a small row of “streetcar suburb” businesses. (There’s an Italian pizza place, a dog-toy shop, a yoga-ish place, and a couple other shops on Mt Rainier Blvd, a 7-minute walk east of the station off McClellan St, if anyone wants to visit it. The Olmstead boulevards and park are across the street.)
A few people said they wanted more small east-west buses to the train. One woman commented that her service (presumably the 14 tail) had gotten worse the past two years; it’s now hourly evenings.
More people said they wanted park n rides at the stations. Martin pointed out there are already private pay lots charging around $3/day. People seem to think that if it doesn’t have a “P&R” sign, it doesn’t exist. The speaker from the city said that P&Rs are not the best use of the land, garages are expensive, and they would bring car traffic to the area — contradicting the attendees’ goals of reducing traffic congestion.
I couldn’t get a complete feel of the “growth” vs “no growth” factions. But there were several times where people booed or said “That’s false”, on both sides. The no-growth faction was willing to go up to four or six stories but not twelve. But their argument wasn’t “it’s out of scale with the neighborhood and will reduce my property values” as you usually hear on other neighborhoods (Beacon Hill). Instead it’s, “the twelve-story buildings will inevitably be low-income housing”, which they think Rainier already has its share of. One person said, “Not one multifamily building has gone up in N years that wasn’t built by the city or a nonprofit, except one.” (The Station at Othello Park?)
I was heartened by the fact that many people in the neighborhood wanted more local transit and pedestrian access to the station; they looked forward to “the next Amazon” locating there; they wanted a vibrant pedestrian village with more “market-rate” multifamily housing and retail. There’s room for compromise on the exact shape of this growth.
I actually don’t know a single person who is truly against growth. We can argue around the details, e.g., how tall, and re-routing traffic, etc., but I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t want that area re-developed.
I ride the lightrail multiple times per week and often to the airport. I’ve never seen the parking lot!! I’ll look harder for it next time. I actually prefer the walk cause I find it relaxing and enjoy the fresh air, but sometimes I’m in a bit of a rush or it is raining.
For people who live farther away from the station than I do, the parking matters more. I agree we don’t want to go overboard with big garages and such, but I think the word I’m looking for is balance.
Also, those Mt Baker homes are old and the owners are involved in a seemingly endless task of maintaining them. Hence, the fixation on the Lowes. If I lived in a newer condo, I wouldn’t give a rip about Lowes. But if you live in an older house, have a hard, have older plumbing, electrical, etc., then you care about the Lowes.
I’m not saying I love big boxes everywhere, but I’m not anti every single big box. I think they need to be placed thoughtfully in a way that can lure traffic to smaller and independent retailers in the neighborhood. Lowes, as it is constructed today, doesn’t do that.
The pay lot is in front of the old Grocery Outlet. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a new post about the meeting. I admit to great bias but I think I summarize the anti viewpoint pretty fairly.
I don’t have an issue per se with the upzone, although I think 6-8 stories would be better for a neighborhood scale development, given the areas abutting the station center (Mt Baker and Beacon Hill, versus Downtown Seattle or Stadium/Int’l District).
The materials that were provided to us included a design concept where the project priorities were listed out. Of course this is non-binding or part of the official plan to be voted upon by the Council, but it was provided by Lyle Bicknell of DPD so I can only assume that it shows the general framework that the Plan’s drafters have in mind.
The very first priority listed in the document, under “Economic Development” is AFFORDABLE HOUSING! No where does it say anything about jobs, incentivizing private economic development or companies (like Amazon or Adobe), and so on. Just the usual laser focus on affordable housing to the exclusion of all other considerations. I’ll send the link to that in my next posting.
They seem to have now backed away from that. But that was where we got that idea, coupled with 30 years of history (per Lyle, since 1973, no new private commercial development has occurred in Rainier Valley). Doesn’t seem like an illogical leap or scaremongering.
Also, frankly, the City and federal incentives are structured such that — as a practical matter –the only kind of construction that will likely pencil out for any developer (private or nonprofit) in the SE is one that is heavily weighted towards subsized low income housing, given the current demographics resulting from 30 yrs of very active social engineering. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Would Vulcan ever choose to build even $300K condos in SE Seattle? Would Target want to run that gauntlet again, after the last 5-yr goat rodeo over the Goodwill/Target project on Dearborn?
As a developer and owner of land in the Station Area, which is a better deal? Spend $$ to build a high quality project that may fail to attract anchor tenants and market price buyers? Or reap millions in subsidies from feds, state, city and every other potentate and principality to put out another Hideous and Depressing Monolith of Blah, with profits assured once the building is complete, whether they come or not…
Well now you have at least brought real potential concerns to the table as opposed to waffle about pawn shops. I haven’t been in Seattle long enough to address some the things you mention (in fact, I dropped my U-Haul trailer off at that location about 10 months ago) so I will leave the to others.
One thing I can tell you for a fact is that, as a potential market-rate tenant, I would absolutely be interested in renting a new unit within walking distance of Mount Baker Station and I know plenty of others who’d like it too. Which brings us back to the point, namely that the higher you allow the building, the more market-rate units you can get in there, and the more developers are likely to give you the mixed used development you want.
I hope you’re right. I made it very clear at last night’s meeting that I was not against the upzone, although my personal preference/input would be to consider capping at 8 stories or less (with possibility for variance), so as not to dwarf or shadow the surrounding areas. Note, this is said by someone who has an undergrad and grad degrees in architecture/urban planning, and designed (beautiful, not crappy) high rise buildings for 6 years in LA/Century City.
I don’t beleive I’ve ever tried to be indirect about my concern. I have lived in the Valley for about 18 yrs, the last nine in Mt Baker. I also lived in Greenlake for 2-3 yrs when I first moved to Seattle. I see the difference, although I won’t bother trying to convince anyone.
For the first 15 yrs, I refused to accept what I kept hearing about the City’s treatment of SE. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I know that people do what’s in their best interests, path of least resistance, self-perpetuation, etc. — that includes DPD, Mayor, City Council, Developers, Social Service Agencies, Businesses, and yes, us Residents.
Roosevelt, Northgate, and even Pioneer Square have risen up and fought against the upzone. With varying degrees of success — curiously seeming in direct proportion to median income — the more wealthy and white the neighborhood, the more the City seems to quickly come to their way of thinking without a nasty protracted fight. I have seen this over and over in my 18 yrs in the SE — whether the issue is school closures, location of dangerous or undesirable developments that no other neighborhoods want, and so on.
I’d be much obliged to know what to call residents of Roosevelt, Montlake, Lake Union and other world-famous activist neighborhoods (some, including a PUBLIC SCHOOL in Madison Park, have a team of land use attorneys on standard retainer at all times) if we in the SE that have absorbed all of this for all these decades are nasty NIMBYs because we want assurances from the City that we will get the FIRST ever commercial development (that is not low income housing or social services) since 1973.
I think most people here would grant that a large number of low-income units would be bad for the neighborhood. What the pro-density people here have a problem with is the aversion to tall buildings.
Maximizing the number of market-rate units, by allowing height, creates potential customers for business, creates eyes on the street, and increases transit use while reducing sprawl. Those are very important objectives for most basically progressive people, and subjective arguments about scale seem inadequate to advocates of loose height limits.
By the way, doesn’t NIMBY mean Not In My Back Yard?
For those of us who SUPPORTED the only private developer who has ever wanted to build in the SE in 40 years, and spent almost a decade and tens of millions of dollars being tongue-lashed by the same people who are now proponents of progress. Very rich.
The fact is there are two different views of growth here in Seattle. At one extreme is the current Mayor/Cascade Bicycle Club view, which (1) any big boxes are automatically bad, (2) cars are bad, bikes good – hence, road diets, punitive parking policies, (3) density for its own sake, etc. We all know that mindset — most work in nonprofits and don’t understand or care too much for economic development.
At the other extreme, we have the “Kemper Freeman” view, which of course is huge malls with even huger parking lots, cars over bikes, and so on.
I believe the majority of people (THE SILENT MAJORITY) are someweher in the middle. The philosophical struggle is that the first group (via the City) has had a stranglehold on the SE for so many years because of our relative lack of power/status amont City neighborhoods. And so any project they disappprove of is a dastardly perjorative (Mall, Big Box).
Any oppposition to their plans to force everyone to agree with their utopian worldview is heralded an NIMBYism and racism or worse (consider the poor, the babies, the orphans, the widows, the immigrants). Forget about the fact that none of these folks actually know any of the foregoing, except as clients.
I heard someone at the meeting ask if there could be a moratorium on low income housing for the urban village. If they make it clear as part of the Plan that no more than (I think Lyle the DPD Planner said) 8% of any building in the village would be subsidized housing of any type, it would go a long way in getting neighborhood support for the Plan.
Also, it would be appropriate to get some infrastructure benefits from developers and the City. I believe part of the frustration of the residents is that the City and feds continue to fund thousands of units of affordable housing, without increasing the community infrastructure accordingly.
Somebody said at the meeting that Mt Baker residents have to pay for a private security firm to patrol their neighborhood, at the suggestion of the SE Police Precint, which told them they just don’t have the resources to handle all of the addiotional housing projects coming to the area.
Does anyone know if this is true?
@Martin, to answer your last question. Residents would rather have a great project. But we’d prefer nothing (status-quo) over 15 stories of LIH. As you’ve noted, over-concentration of LIH in one small strip of the City reduces median income and makes it impossible for the kind of market rate development that you describe to ever occur. Currently, the zoning allows for 65 ft and I don’t see Vulcan or Martin Selig or anyone else parachuting down here to buy up the land and build 6 story mixed use condos.
The city is not building or purposely imposing these fast food joints, payday loan and pawn shops on us. But their dog-wag-the-tail actions of saturating the area with LIH results in these kinds of places being all that pencil out as far as retail and jobs. That is simply the sad truth. If we get the moratarium, I’d be surprised if any reasonable resident will oppose the Pla.
My priority is the height. As a resident, higher incomes mean better retail options for me, so I’m certainly fine with market-rate housing.
If you’re fine with 125-foot market-rate construction I think there’s a pretty good coalition of density advocates and neighborhood groups to be had.
Sign me up for the coalition. Where is the meeting of the coalition (I’ll be there :)
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