Last week STB and a host of advocates sent a letter to the Mayor, City Council and DPD urging them to take a larger leadership role in the Roosevelt rezone process. We believe DPD needs to conduct a more encompassing planning process that includes much higher heights and densities around the station area. As we reported earlier the proposed rezone is woefully inadequate.

Please join us by adding your name to the the letter below.

The Hon. Michael McGinn


City of Seattle

600 4th Avenue, 7th Floor

Seattle, WA 98124-4749

Re: DPD’s Proposed Roosevelt Rezone

Dear Mayor McGinn:

We urge you to take a leadership role regarding DPD’s currently-proposed rezone in Roosevelt.  As you know, several individuals and groups have written to comment on the proposed rezone, which will constrain development capacity within close proximity to the future Roosevelt Sound Transit Station.

The creation of transit-oriented communities supports the significant public investment in transit that will occur in Roosevelt as a result of the new station.  Transit investments are most effective when combined with opportunities for more people to live, shop and work near the stations.  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.

The current zoning plan as proposed by DPD constrains development in the station area, a 5-10 minute walk, to primarily single family housing, with only 2-3 blocks of additional NC-65 zoning in the neighborhood core. The core, areas currently zoned for NC3-65, have no proposed increases in density. Other proposed changes are primarily minor single level “step ups” to transition from the slightly larger core to surrounding single family housing (Ex. LR1 to LR2), or character changes (Ex. LR to NC).

All together the current plan will only result in an increase in housing capacity of only 350 units. A majority of this increase is immediately adjacent to I-5, where Sound Transit originally proposed to build the station.

The Roosevelt community successfully lobbied Sound Transit to move the station closer to the heart of the Roosevelt neighborhood in order to create a vibrant neighborhood center.  DPD’s plan does not properly increase capacity in the correct locations to take advantage of the great work accomplished by the Roosevelt community in moving the station, and the plan fails to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage the creation of a transit community in Roosevelt.

We believe that in order to fully take advantage of the transit investment in the Roosevelt neighborhood, and the work accomplished by the Roosevelt community members in moving the station, 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.

Signatories below the jump.


Chuck Ayers

Executive Director, Cascade Bicycle Club

Stephen Antupit

Cowen Park neighbor of the Roosevelt Station

Adam Bejan Parast

Seattle Transit Blog

Craig Benjamin

Seattle Resident

Dan Bertolet


John Coney

Seattle Resident

Eric de Place

Seattle Resident

Martin Duke

Seattle Transit Blog

Kevin Futhey

Roosevelt Resident

Zach Herrington-Shaner

Seattle Transit Blog

Brock Howell

King County Program Director, Futurewise

Sean Howell

VP, Friends of Seattle

John Jensen

Seattle Transit Blog

Rob Johnson

Executive Director, Transportation Choices Coalition

Sherwin Lee

Seattle Transit Blog

Gary Manca

President, Friends of Seattle

Brice Maryman

Seattle Resident

Dan McGrady

Leadership for Great Neighborhoods

Andrew McManama Smith

Roosevelt Resident

Ben Schiendelman

Seattle Transit Blog

Jon Scholes

Downtown Seattle Association

Catherine Stanford

Chair, Great City

Renee Staton

Leadership for Great Neighborhoods

Roger Valdez

Seattle Resident

Don Vehige

Ravenna Neighbor of the Roosevelt Station

cc:        The Hon. Sally Bagshaw

The Hon. Tim Burgess

The Hon. Sally Clark

The Hon. Richard Conlin

The Hon. Jean Godden

The Hon. Bruce Harrell

The Hon. Nick Licata

The Hon. Mike O’Brien

The Hon. Tom Rasmussen

Diane Sugimura, Department of Planning and Development

Marshall Foster, Department of Planning and Development

Barbara Wilson, Seattle Planning Commission

43 Replies to “Petition: Roosevelt Rezone”

  1. I agree completely and signed the petition, but who would pay for an UDF? DPD certainly can’t afford it. The SLU one was largely pro bono work by architecture firms based in the neighborhood, and I think the Northgate one too (may have been paid work by Mithun).

  2. A couple of things from the Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan (section 2):

    Roosevelt is an attractive and diverse community. New developments are to be designed
    to augment the neighborhood’s special small building character and to augment and
    strengthen a vibrant business district.
    The goal of the Roosevelt neighborhood is to maintain its single-family architectural
    character and scale. New construction should respect and reflect these qualities.
    Design Guidelines. Develop neighborhood-based design guidelines that encourage
    new developments to step down in height at transitions between commercial and
    residential zones.

    Given that ST has positioned the station area on 12th (not identified as a commercial or retail node (see section “Existing Conditions”) and the location is on the NE border of transition to single family (SF 5000) it seems pretty clear this site is not a good candidate for upzoning or even as a catalyst for density via multistory mixed use design.

      1. That’s pretty much the same map that’s in the neighborhood plan. Everything northeast of the intersection of 12th and 67th is single family. If anything I the picture you linked to highlights why this should be a single station entrance fronted on NE 65th. The Taj Mahal made a little more sense on Roosevelt; it’s really out of place on 12th.

      2. I should be a little clearer about what I think this upzone should look like, which isn’t quite the same as what the letter wants (which, among other reasons, is the reason I’m not signing it). What I think makes sense, and doesn’t radically change the character of the neighborhood, is expanding the chunk of mostly 65′ NC a block or so out in each direction, and raising the corridor of 40′ zoning on Roosevelt to 65′ and buffering it with LR on either side.

      3. I live in the neighborhood and I don’t feel the upzone is nearly aggressive enough.

        I’d like to see high-rise (more than 120′) zoning within the 1/4 mile walk circle of the station, stepping down to mid-rise (85′ to 120′) for the area between the 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile circle (or the equivalent NC3 height limits). I’d allow a block or two of transition of LR for portions that abut SF zoning. I’d also make Roosevelt a minimum of 65′ NC all the way from 75th to 50th (South of 50th the limits should be much higher)

      4. @Bruce

        Personally I don’t have a strong opinion of what a more aggressive upzone should look like, more concentrated and tall or more distributed. I think that can be decided later. I think that point is we should start with the desired growth target, a few thousand units and a few hundred thousand sqft of retail by 2030. That is the starting point. Then we work backwards how to make that work.

        Regardless please send a letter yourself or sign our letter but included a comment including what you just said.

      5. What do you mean by “few”; more than a “couple” and less than a 1/2 dozen? As a scale of reference the latest PSRC Regional Growth presentation for the University District and Northgate target growth of 2,3100 and 2,500 households between 2007-2024. What you’re asking for as a starting point is the creation of a brand new Urban Center.

      6. @Bernie I think you misunderstood what I said. When I said “starting point” I mean as a starting point of the planning process, not what the number of units should be. We should starting the planning process by saying what amount of growth should come to the station area, and then figure out how best to make it work, not this block should be 120ft, that block should be 65ft and then at the end figure out how many units it adds up to at the end of the process.

      7. But that’s exactly what the Neighborhood plans are; targets for growth that act as the starting point for the planning process. If you’re starting point is equal to or exceeds the long term planing for Northgate and the U-District then your planing takes on the scale of a new Urban Center and all of the process that entails.

    1. Uh…when you state that “location is on the NE border of transition to single family (SF 5000) ” let’s remember Roosevelt High School is zoned SF and that high density next to a high school is in fact very different from high density next to single family houses, no matter what the zoning is.

      So basically you statement is not relevant.

      1. True in general, but the people in Roosevelt are very fond of their newly-restored high school building, and building highrise there is politically even more dubious than building highrise next to SF.

      2. Ah, so because some people are “fond of (their view of) a building”, we should do economic damage to the region? Fuck that.

      3. Thus illustrating exactly the kind of attitude that will not achieve the desired results.

      4. What economic damage? Nobody said anything about a view of the building; it’s the view of what a SF neighborhood should be. Changing zoning from SF to apartments dilutes the demographic favoring neighborhood schools. Chris’ Modest Proposal to allow 120′ heights within a 1/2 mile of the station replaces over 500 acres (larger that DT Bellevue) of SF with zoning. Seattle is second only to San Francisco in having the fewest children per capita. It’s said that Seattle has more dogs than children. Try taking a proposal to replace the HS with an off-leash area to the next community meeting.

      5. I live in Maple Leaf and use the Roosevelt QFC all the time. One hundred twenty feet (twelve stories) immediately adjacent to a rail station sounds quite reasonable from a planning perspective. I can’t fathom why it wouldn’t be just fine across the street from Roosevelt.

        The things one hears in these discussions…

      6. Maybe it’s the rail station that’s out of place. 120′ is considerably taller than allowed in DT Redmond and their 2024 target density is equal to today’s density of housing units per acre in the U District. 120′ just isn’t needed unless you’re shooting for QA/1st Hill/Cap Hill type density.

      7. Actually I think the area right around the rail station should be higher than 120′. Hell let developers 100+ story towers if there is demand for them. I wouldn’t just apply the zoning to Roosevelt but every rail station in Seattle.

        Remember developers aren’t going to build anything there isn’t demand for so just because the zoning might allow 400′ towers in a particular location doesn’t necessarily mean the land will be built that high.

        I do think Seattle should try to take as much of the region’s growth as is possible in the future. Remember too that not everyone is necessarily going to want to live in Seattle either.

  3. And I am still astonished that anyone doubts feasibility of commercial along 12th Avenue NE from 65th to 67th since commercial ALREADY EXISTS there.

    1. Actually, much of the existing commerical space in the roosevelt neighborhood is current VACANT!!!

  4. I’ll sign the letter. I don’t live in the neighborhood so I don’t really care what the specifics of the zoning are, I just think this was a Beacon Hill-style upzone (Read: WEAK) and it needs to be revisited. A couple of 4-5 story apartment buildings do not justify taxpayers installing a VERY expensive subway station, period.

    I’m surprised the land owners in the 1/4 mile circle surrounding the station aren’t begging for an upzone – it immediately makes their property more valuable.

    1. My understanding is that it boils down to pettiness. A real sleazeball owns a lot of the land near the station, and he wants to develop it, so out of spite the neighborhood wants to restrict the upzone.

      1. Actually upzoning a large area of land around the station (i.e. 1/2 mile circle) would be exactly the way to screw over Sisley. It would dilute the value of his property. Of course it would also push development away from the station area. And the cycle would continue with someone buying up a house in the upzoned area (the most affordable and attractive targets as far from the station as possible) and turning it into a cheap rental that drives down the adjacent property value so they can buy that up until they have a plot big enough to develop.

      2. This assumes that there are alot of Sisleys out there waiting on the wings. I haven’t seen any evidence of this.

        I do like your idea of expanding the upzone as a way to ‘stick it’ to him though, have to try and communicate that to the neighborhood.

      3. From everything I’ve seen I’m thinking the City could seize the Sisley properties on any number of pretexts. Ultimately that might be the best outcome for the neighborhood.

    2. If you don’t live in the neighborhood, i can see why you don’t really care.

      The proposal by Roosevelt Neighborhood Association best represents the wishes of the community, plans for future expansion and best maintains local property values.

      The ideal scenario would be for developers to work within that construct — i don’t think they have given that serious consideration.

      1. dB

        Not living in the neighborhood/not having the same views as the neighborhood does not suggest that one doesn’t care. I live in Seattle and this is a regional investment, thus I care. Furthermore, if we are to expect that neighborhoods never change then we should expect sprawl to the ends of the earth.

        The proposal by the RNA represents a NIMBY effort dressed in a YIMFY costume. The rezone, if you can call it that, does not actually do much to encourage developers to get seriously active in this area, preventing this future expansion that you speak of. For example there are many one story buildings on Roosevelt that are zoned for 40-65 ft, however these properties are unlikely to get redeveloped as they currently don’t present a reasonable ROI for developers. Additionally some of the upzoned areas in question actually present negative value propositions for developers (see Directors Analysis and the attached Economic Analysis that was conducted a few months ago).

        For any properties that do appear more appealing for a developer, outside of the already owned and underutilized Sisley properties (likely the few that are proposed to go from sf5000 to nc-65), would the neighborhood like them to be boxy boxes? If the neighborhood truly cared about providing greater density and maintain neighborhood feel, they should focus on form and allow developers the floor area they need to make the development economically feasible.


  5. I’d like to see more density in the form of townhouses for this area than huge Vancouver style towers. I’m sure Northgate and Bellevue will be able to absorb demand for that.

  6. Bernie – Redmond is a suburb. Of course you would want more density in Roosevelt.

    As for the s school, it’s a high school. It’s drawing kids from miles around. Only a select few are lucky enough to be able to walk to it. If you targeted multi-family housing, far more kids, particularly kids who’s parents can’t afford a half mil craftsman, can enjoy access to one of the premier HS in the city. That would be a good thing.

    Personally, I think we should send a train to Ballard/Lynnwood up 99, another to Lake City/Bothell, and let the NIMBYs in the middle suck the fumes from I-5.

    Lake city has been very willing to take on a lot of density in the form of low/no inome housing, VA and seniors, while getting none of the fancy new transit and infrastructure those communities desperately need.

    We will go to twenty stories, and take a cheaper surface train, if Roosevelt doesn’t want it.

    1. I’m constantly amazed at how often I agree with McSchwinn. Agreeing with any Seattle elected would be one thing but one that’s so left of center even Seattle seems to hate him is truly bizarre. The first comment I found strange:

      The ‘Ave’ area in the U-district is perfect for numerous mid-high rise mixed use buildings, and has scads of deteriorating closely-packed single-family homes that really need to go.

      Really? “scads of deteriorating closely-packed single-family homes” on the Ave? I must be blind (OK, I set myself up; deaf, dumb and blind… two out of three ain’t bad :-)

      1. The thing with single family housing in the U-district, is they aren’t really single family. Just about every house in the U-district has between 4-10 students each. I lived in two “single family” houses on 15th, both between 50 and 52nd. My first house had 10 people in it, my second on which was more apartment like had 7.

      2. Bernie,

        I think the reason you find yourself agreeing with McGinn is that if you start with basic libertarian/free-market principles or you start with the objectives of the modern urbanist/environmental movement and apply them to the current policy environment in cities, you end up in the same place: less subsidy of cars and parking, fewer zoning restrictions, and so on.

        Unfortunately, most Seattle politicians talk the environmentalist talk but don’t follow through when the complaints start.

      3. Well Martin that could be part of it. It’s also hard to not want to pull for the underdog being attacked by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (aka Big Concrete).

  7. In Harvard prof Ed Glaeser’s new book – The Triumph of the City- he posits that efforts to zone and manage growth result in higher prices and more homelessness. Way to go Seattle!

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