Wait, you won

What was publicly billed as a hearing of the Seattle City Council in at Roosevelt High School last night quickly devolved into a bullfight of sorts, with Roosevelt Neighborhood Association land use committee chair Jim O’Halloran as the matador and the proposal for more density in the neighborhood as the bull. We all know what happens to the bull. After a presentation of the proposal by City staff most of the meeting was spent hammering the nine members of the City Council over and over again with the reasons why near by neighbors think increases in height near the high school would be a terrible thing.

The neighborhood’s reasons stated over and over, came down to three stated and one unstated one. First, neighbors feel that any changes from their plan would be an abrogation of the sovereignty of those who live “near by.” That is, there is privilege that comes simply from living down the street from a proposed project that should afford those people the right to veto changes to zoning in their neighborhood. And let’s not forget the “many hours in meetings” neighborhood planners invested. Rejecting that would be a slap in the face by the Council to hard working citizen planners.

Second, the views in and out of the high school would be blocked. On the few days a year when cloud cover breaks, local neighbors want high schoolers busy at work on reading Moby Dick perhaps, to be able to look up and see the tip of Mount Rainier. And they want to be sure as they walk their dogs on 65th they can gaze up at the iconic high school after scooping. I’m not sure why it is so important to keep an eye on the school so intently. Is someone trying to steal it? I thought David Copperfield was retired, had he threatened to make it disappear? More after the jump.

Lastly, as just as strange, is the phrase repeated again, and again, that “Roosevelt is taking lots of density” or “we’re taking 85 feet for crying out loud!” Density for the Roosevelt neighbors in the high school theater see density as bitter medicine that they are willing to take as sacrifice for the rest of us. Thanks guys. I am glad that you’re willing to “take” all that density. Various quantitative forays were made to explain just how painful all this density was going to be. Nevertheless, Roosevelt can take it!

The verse left unsung by the We Got Here First Choir last night was the one about how angry the neighbors are at developers in general. When a friend of mine who works for the Downtown Seattle Association got up to earnestly share her views she made the mistake of saying “I work with mixed use developers.” The chortles and heckling and booing were audible. Neighbors seem to think that developers, especially the ones in their back yard, are really horrible. I guess they never read The Fountainhead. While neighbors continue to claim “this has nothing to do with Sisley,” their demonstrations at my friends comments say otherwise.

Sadly, Committee of the Built Environment chair Sally Clark allowed this show to unfold in the name of democracy, I guess. But while I don’t mind raucous debate, many of the people in the audience who came to speak in favor of density were intimidated. As one of them said, “I’m not used to doing this.” But surrounded by what sometimes became a mob they managed to make some good points. Meanwhile one member of the neighborhood was allowed to go on for 8 minutes (the limit was 2) calling on members of the Planning Commission to fire themselves. Let’s hope if, as rumor has it, Clark is indeed slated to be Council President next year that she takes some lessons on managing debate from Betty Boothroyd.

In the end the Council is truly considering incremental not exponential change for the neighborhood. What’s unfortunate is that the people, as one pro density speaker put it, aren’t here yet. She made a valiant effort on appealing to Councilmembers not just to listen to the baying of the angry people in front of them last night, but the thousands and thousands not in the room that will take light rail, be looking for affordable housing, and hoping to start new businesses in the neighborhood. Leadership is hard, because some times it means making decisions in favor of constituencies that aren’t just silent but don’t exist yet. Let’s hope Council rises to the occasion and supports the proposal for more density in Roosevelt.

122 Replies to “Ole! Upzone proposal gets skewered in Roosevelt”

  1. I think the fastest way to solve this problem and protect Roosevelt from transit and community amenities is to cancel the Roosevelt Station. Sound Transit can build a shell station in case they change their minds, but at this point it looks like Roosevelt is not prepared for modern transit.

    We should first and foremost protect them from destruction. Stop this station!

    1. Or move the station over to Green Lake.

      Green Lake already has a big hole in it’s business district, and that hole and the other Vitamilk parcels really need to be redeveloped.

      It’s a win-win.

      1. The initial preferred station location was on vacant WSDOT land along the freeway, right on the edge of the Roosevelt business district and a short walk to Green Lake. And $40 million cheaper….

        Maybe Sound T made a mistake back when they yielded to local political pressure.

    2. Yeah, I think this is an excellent idea. Just think of the money that will be saved. Sound Transit can use that money to avoid service cuts or, better yet, improve service in an area that embraces density and all the positives that come with it.

      1. We’ll take a station at Bitter Lake if Roosevelt doesn’t want theirs. They can build 2000 foot high buildings next door to my house if it means getting rid of the hookers and drug dealers.

      2. I can just see how much cheaper it will be when it crosses the Federal Interstate Highway and has the mandatory clearances required …

        As in much much more expensive …

    3. I don’t really support this idea, although I have proposed it in the past. This light rail station is a gift to the neighborhood, and it should have strings attached. As a taxpayer who supports investment in public transit, I want Link to be successful. One of my personal definitions of success is high ridership, driven by an increased local population of density-seeking, public transit-embracing people. For this recipe to work, we need to increase the density of the neighborhoods around rail stations. Yes, this is social engineering, just as freeways are.

      My neighborhood (Beacon Hill) should serve as an example of what not to do: Build a subway station and then kindly try to get the neighborhood to upzone a little.

      Neighborhoods: If you want a very, very, very expensive train station, you’d better support a significant upzone.

      1. What are the plans for the property around the Beacon Hill station? I saw some work being done. Will we see any new development there any time soon? My wife and I just moved within a .5 mile of the station and would love to see some new development up there.

      2. johnny, please join your neighborhood organization and push them to support upzoning. Otherwise development will not happen.

      3. Johnny – sorry to say, the “work” is grading in preparation of a gravel parking lot. Which is an upgrade over the completely unused empty lot, I guess? El Centro does plan to build in the area north of the station eventually, but I think that’s still several years out.

        As for participation, a good place is the North Beacon Hill Council meetings – usually the first Thursday of the month at the Beacon Hill library.

      4. Development is currently not happening around the station because one of the landowners doesn’t seem to be interested in developing. It’s not a zoning issue, though I imagine that if I were one of those owners, I might want to wait until the rezone is completed before deciding what to do with the property. There are three property owners on the station block, and all the parcels are apparently too small to do much with, and so the one owner who isn’t interested in developing or selling is keeping the others from getting anything done. (This is what we have been told by DPD, Sound Transit, etc.)

        The El Centro lot is a different story — they are planning development there and have been working on it, but there is a parking lot going in for a maximum of three years while they get the plans together and wait for the financial environment to improve.

        Anyway, at the moment people up here on the Hill seem reasonably OK with the rezone. There hasn’t been any strong opposition. There was one person who filed an appeal. But in general, I think people are expecting a rezone, and are hopeful for development around the station.

        It irritates me that people (and this includes Roger, even though he’s a former Beacon Hill resident himself) keep portraying Beacon Hill as a NIMBY area that doesn’t deserve light rail. I think that’s incorrect. It certainly doesn’t match the reality I see here on the Hill.

    4. I don’t understand what you are ranting about AJ…..

      the community around Roosevelt has been doing neighborhood planning work for more than 20 years and every bit of “work product” has always been pro-density.

      in the wake of the light rail station decision the neighborhood started its own neighborhood plan update to encompass station area planning issues — the the community did this with little or no support and/or encouragement from the city or sound transit.

      the first upzoning report the neighborhood generated (in 2006) proposed upzones that created THREE TIMES more capacity than the city’s goals…. and those aren’t my numbers, that was DPD’s calculation.

      Perhaps more importantly than simply looking at the cold density numbers, consider that the community –by consensus– created a re-zoning strategy which allowed that development and all that increased density – AND – it was crafted with the knowledge and experience of local residents so that a sense of scale and quality of life will be maintained for the community as a whole. That is no simple balancing act…..

      DPD tweaked that first Up-zone proposal to actually provide LESS density than the neighborhood proposed– and then in June the mayor asked for the density to be pushed up further. Unfortunately, these newest upzones were overlaid onto the community with no consideration of scale, character, neighborhood planning, or even geography.

      But the city was saying “more density” — “we want to meet these numbers” so the neighborhood went back to work, and has AGAIN crafted an upzoning plan which AGAIN beats the city’s goals (there’s more density in the so-called SLR plan than there is in the June proposal from the city).

      and AGAIN, the neighborhood got to their plan through consensus building, and with a knowlege of the community, the current built environment, the land form, etc.

      Face it, these new “Urban Transit Villages” we all seem to want are only going to succeed if a smart-growth BALLANCE is found that encourages transit-oriented-development WHILE MAINTAINING the livability, character, and scale of our surrounding neighborhoods.

      the new RNA plan provides all the density the city has asked for — and then some. We should applaud them for not selling their soul or ruining their neighborhood in the process.

      1. The RNA plan only provides for a 10% increase in density over what is currently zoned. This is insufficient for the investment represented by a LR station.

      2. Lazarus, I see your point about wanting much more density than currently zoned to justify the LR station being there (considering how expensive light rail is). However, the choice will be down to two relatively similar options (DPD vs SLRP), which both provide upzoning but not huge amounts of it. And of course ST does not meddle into any zoning stuff.
        So basically this is a level of upzoning that’s fine from the city’s (or city council’s at least) point of view, and from the neighborhood point of view. But there are no large entities pushing for much greater zoning at this point – and even fanciful thoughts of moving the station to another neighborhood wouldn’t get you that much more of an upzone in those neighborhoods (I doubt Green Lake would go for 125′ for instance)

      3. Speaking of the green lake neighborhood… I live right next to the east green lake business district, within a couple blocks of where all the new development recently went in (near Woodlawn & Ravenna). I am disappointed that all these sites were limited to only four or five floors – and I am worried that now Roosevelt is going down the same path.
        The new green lake buildings are nice looking, and I love the ground floor retail. However, the business district of a desirable neighborhood with fantastic transportation connections, including transit (16/48/26/316), bicycle (green lake/ravenna), and I-5, should have been able to do better – and now these buildings are going to be there for the next 30-100 years.
        I can’t complain too much because I never made time to be part of the planning process (is worth noting that nobody asked me), but consider me part of a silent constituency for building a great city that supports its businesses with plenty of customers, uses its transportation infrastructure wisely, and helps do our part to accommodate the constant stream of people that want to move into the Puget Sound region without paving our way up to the top of Mt Rainier.

    5. Let’s not be spiteful. Even in the absence of density, the Roosevelt station will play a key part in building up Seattle’s rapid transit *network*. I think that Roosevelt will end up being a major transfer point for traveling between downtown and many parts of North Seattle. (For example, the fastest way from downtown to Greenwood will probably be Link to Roosevelt, then the 48. From downtown to Ravenna, take Link to Roosevelt, then the 71.)

      If we were still in the early planning phase of North Link, then I’d totally agree with you and Brett; find a neighborhood that’s willing to accept a major upzone, and put the station there instead. And for future projects, we definitely need to be more explicit about working with neighborhoods to come up with an adequate zoning plan *before* committing to the station set.

      But my understanding is that we’re far enough along in the process that deleting Roosevelt will simply leave a hole. I don’t think there’s anywhere else along the route that we can build a station without a significant amount of design work, which we don’t have the money for. So it’s either Roosevelt or nothing, and there’s no way you can argue that the region would be better off with nothing.

      1. Yeah there is no way the alignment is moving. This is why we as transit advocates need to get engaged now in planning around future stations. At this point the North Corridor needs the most attention.

      2. If we don’t cancel the station and let the train continue unmolested from the U-District to Northgate, perhaps we just shouldn’t do any upzone at all. That way we won’t get stuck with buildings that aren’t tall enough to be ideal but too tall to tear down should the neighborhood change its mind later.

  2. “Baying.” “Mob.” “Angry.” “Intimidated.”

    Yet the picture accompanying the post shows a very placid audience.

      1. It was barbaric because the stupid people who actually live in the neighborhood dared to tell the urban planners to shove it.

    1. I was there, and a snapshot of the audience cannot capture the audio of the crowd booing, hissing and heckling people who spoke in favor of pragmatic, reasonable growth on properties directly adjacent to a future light rail station.

      Every single person who spoke in favor of DPD’s proposal (with the exception of the last two) got booed and hissed, and there were people positioned right by the microphones that heckled speakers during their testimony. Unless you were there, you have no idea. And if you were there, and suggesting that this didn’t happen, you are excusing the poor behavior of many in the audience.

      Frankly, this just reconfirmed my suspicion that the “wonderful” neighborhood activists in the room were really just a bunch of self-appointed bullies who think they should be entitled to everything they want and everyone else can go to hell. Perhaps Roosevelt should incorporate and leave Seattle if they are so smart, efficient, and full of people who know how to govern and plan better than the experts and electeds at Seattle. This wouldn’t prevent my ST tax dollars from building them a light rail station they don’t deserve, but it would prevent any future Seattle staff person from having to spend one minute of their time placating a bunch of arrogant bullies.

  3. Roger,
    The fact that 500+ folks took time out of their schedules on a Monday night and the majority didn’t agree with your position clearly irks you. I wish you’d treat the neighborhood with a bit of respect. The crowd which clearly disagreed with the few pro DPD proposal was hardly impolite. There was scattered applause after every speaker and the one time there was some hissing (in a 3 hour marathon) folks clearly chided their neighbors. If by intimidating you mean the cheers were much louder for pro-RNA positions and several got standing ovations then I have to ask do you believe the democratic process or not?

    1. If you people should be able to voice their opinions then yes. If you some sort of direct democracy, then no I don’t believe in it. We elect leaders for a reason. As Robert said “Leadership is hard, because some times it means making decisions in favor of constituencies that aren’t just silent but don’t exist yet.” That I agree with.

      1. Yep, I think it is time for the greater city and our leaders to tell the Roosevelt Neighborhood that a 10% increase in density in exchange for a $B investment simply isn’t acceptable.

        At some point the greater good has to trump local parochial interests, and I think that time is now.

      2. lazarus says: “it is time for the greater city and our leaders to tell the Roosevelt Neighborhood that a 10% increase in density in exchange for a $B investment simply isn’t acceptable….”

        I don’t know where that 10% number comes from. the RNA’s 2006 upzoning proposal, tweaked by DPD, took the current zoned capacity of 269 units and 10,604 feet of commercial space (DPD numbers)

        and proposed increasing them

        by an ADDITIONAL 348 residential units and 215,209 commercial square feet (again DPD analysis)

        that’s a more than doubling of housing density, and a 20-fold increase in commercial space — not “ten percent”….. did you leave off a zero? its a more that 100% increase.

        and that’s before the latest round of planning and proposing upzones. the “Sustainable Livable Roosevelt” plan presented last night calls for an ADDITIONAL 346 housing units on top of the 348 the RNA had already proposed.

        The neighborhood residents proposing upzones to allow at least 700 additional units in an area which currently hold a zoned-for capacity of 270 units is not the work of NIMBYs or obstructionists.

        and it sure ain’t 10%.

      3. [andy] You are repeating misleading and irresponsible numbers. Probably unintentionally, but repeatedly. Please stop.

        The 3x number you’re citing both in your comments and in your link is comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing existing units to future zoned units. Comparing existing zoned units to future zoned units (apples to apples) gives you a 10% upzone. There is no way to get to the future zoned unit number without bulldozing every building in the area to the ground, and building the maximum number of units allowed by code. This will never happen – it just isn’t how zoning or development works.

      4. Matt is definitely right that gross buildout is extremely unlikely unless as he says the whole place is bulldozed and rebuilt…or burns down as the trend were. NET units is what matters and I think I understand why people see the 65th Ave lots as key because they are effectively greenfield properties ripe for redevelopment. Of course, that’s where most of the contention lies. I think it will be interesting with the numbers game. At this point, i think all the numbers are very raw, although DPD’s is likely to be more accurate (i haven’t rwad the economic analysis, but im sure it’s worth a read.) I think both alternatives are worth serious analysis though.

        Also, I posted a link to The Roosevelt Bl

      5. og and I’m not confident in the numbers I quoted. I’m not sure where they’re coming from because the pop. number doesn’t add up to the units (even though that’s a set of highly theoretic, perfect circumstances numbers.) Sorry about that!

      6. [matt] I am not the one quoting misleading figures.

        you and [lazarus] keep quoting a potential growth of 10% based on something about “….an increase from 9,350 zoned units to 10,350 zoned units….. ”

        I have no idea what you are talking about or where these numbers are coming from.

        The Roosevelt Neighborhood, as of 2004, had 1260 households.

        [ NOTE: this figure, like others I’m about to cite are from the April 2011 DPD analysis of the zoning proposal: “Director’s Analysis and Recommendation on Roosevelt Neighborhood Association Rezone Proposal”. see:


        for the household count I cite, see page 79. ]

        There is currently a zoned capacity for 269 additional housing units.

        [ see DPD April 2011 report, page 80 ]

        The initial Up-Zoning plan proposed by the RNA, and tweaked by DPD, which is the basis of the April 2011 Report– shows that to apply the proposed re-zoning would create an additional potential capacity of 348 housing units.

        [ again, see DPD April 2011 report, page 80 ]

        an existing capacity of a potential 269 additional housing units, plus 348 more units is increasing the capacity for potential new housing units by 129% to a total zoned capacity for new units of 617.

        Or would you prefer comparing to existing households? Currently, as zoned, there is a potential for 21% growth. (1260 existing housholds increasing by the zoned capacity of 269 up to 1529 total units)

        BUT applying the original neighborhood proposal for up-zoning there would be a potential for 49% growth. (1260 existing housholds increasing by the proposed zoning increases of an additional capacity of 617 units up to 1877 total units)

        So the neighborhood ASKED, unprompted, to more than double their growth target from 21% to 49%.

        BUT WAIT > there’s more:

        so far we’ve only considered the proposals as of April 2011.

        In June the DPD published a new report reflecting the Mayor’s desire for more density.


        [ side note: dunno why, but the DPD numbers changed a tiny bit between the April and June analysis reports. for example, the “current capacity” of 269 units in April is now 272 units in the June report. go figure….. ]

        So with the increases in the June proposals, instead of increasing the current capacity of 272 with 410 units to 682 as was proposed in April, we’re now increasing the existing capacity of 272 with an additional 607 for a total capacity of 879.

        [ see DPD June 2011 report, page 93 ]

        just for the fans of percentages who are still with us, increasing zoning capacity from 272 to 879 is an increase of 223%….

        And it would allow Roosevelt to grow from the existing 1260 households to 2139, and growth rate of 70%.

        And THEN, there is the new plan that the neighborhood has proposed: the “Sustainable Livable Roosevelt Plan” (“SLRP”). It has met — and exceeded — the numbers the mayor proposed in June, but does so with some different strategies.

        see the plan:

        and the map:

        and a matrix:

        So now under the RNA “SLRP” proposal we’re looking at the current capacity of 272 units being increased by an additional 756 units to 1028 units.

        [ see the SLRP Matrix, page 1 ]

        this equates to a 278% increase in capacity; And it would allow Roosevelt to grow from the existing 1260 households to 2288, a growth rate of 82%.


        okay, so a 278% increase in capacity is not “three times greater” as I stated.


        its a lot closer than that 10% canard that keeps being posted with no explanation or citations.

      7. [andy] I don’t know where to start with this. Either you aren’t understanding what you’re reading, or you’re just pulling random numbers together.

        P 79: You’re using numbers for the Urban Village, not the walkshed of the light rail station.

        P. 80: That’s 269 existing zoned units in the areas proposed for rezone. That’s not 269 potential new units with existing zoning.

        P. 80: You’re correct there.

        (your analysis) You are adding the existing zoned unit in a specific area to the existing number of households in a larger area, therefore double-counting. Your analysis gets worse from there.

        I really don’t know what else to say about this. Your numbers are bad. Check out my link near the bottom of this page for numbers of current residents within 1/2 mile of the station, current zoning for that 1/2 mile, and future zoning. The difference in zoning is 10%.

  4. I don’t get why you’re so bothered, Roger.

    There were clearly two plans being supported at the meeting: the DPD plan (with input from the mayor) and the new “SLRP” (they should’ve chosen a better acronym) proposed by the RNA. The latter had more support (especially from the locals), but the DPD plan had supporters too.

    (There are people who want more density than any of those plans, but almost all people were commenting in favor of one of those two plans).

    Now, those two proposals are quite similar (with 85′ zoning at the center). The difference is that the DPD plan puts 65′ zoning on the “high school blocks”, while the SLRP puts some more density west of the station while keeping the zoning to 40′ in the high school blocks. The SLRP plan seems to provide for a little more density overall, though the numbers are not that different in the end. However your post implies that the SLRP plan is for anti-density NIMBYs, which is not the case.

    So in the end – the SLRP provides just as much density as the DPD plan (actually a little more), but reconfigures it a bit differently. That’s basically it.

    I live in the area, and while I prefer the SLRP plan I wouldn’t object to the DPD plan either. But it’s true that the neighborhood has issues with Sisley, and that plays in to things. In the end the neighborhood prefers keeping those blocks at 40, and adding density to the West.. Is it really something worth fighting the neighborhood over? While I don’t think a neighborhood should have full control over its own zoning, I think it’s good that it has input over elements of the zoning, and that their thoughts be heard.

    1. On an additional note, I’m not from the US, and it was pretty cool to go to a meeting hosted by the city council, where people express their views on issues that affect the neighborhood. I know things can get bogged down in a lot of process, but coming from a place where decisions like this would be made away from any citizenry input, it was a good experience to go to the meeting.

    2. Roosevelt High School isn’t going to suffer one bit from having 65 ft buildings across the street from it.

      The view of the HS from the street isn’t going to be any different with 65 ft buildings than it would be with 40 ft buildings. And if the concern is the view from the HS, then I’d propose that 65 ft buildings are actually better. (I.e., maybe if those students spent more time studying instead of staring out the window, then maybe their test scores would go up a bit).

      This “view issue” is just a made up issue by NIMBY’s who don’t want to accept any change.

    3. The problem with SLRP is that it concentrates the tall buildings in an area along the freeway. Who wants to live in a tower next to a freeway? The noise and fumes would be terrible. The best place to have transit-oriented development is right by the station and as far from the freeway as possible.

      1. @aw
        It’s not “better”, but it’s the only thing that’s likely to happen. The real solution is to get rid of the freeway of course.

      2. the proposed upzones on the blocks toward I-5 are at just as close, or closer, to a transit station entrance as the planned development at 15th + 65th……

        and having lived for years in a house on those blocks next to the highway (yep, already working-class single family housing, thank-you) I can tell you that it would not be such a bad thing to be UP in a modern-built highrise in those blocks — insulated from noise and above the level of the traffic…..

      3. Glenn, the housing in Capitol Hill is set back from the highway quite a bit and the highway is way down in a trench. In Roosevelt the highway is elevated, so lots of people in high-rise buildings will have their windows directly facing the highway. It’s completely different.

      4. I did live on Melrose, the first street up from the freeway on Capitol Hill. My ground-floor side window got occasional traffic noise when closed, and moderate noise when open. My second-floor neighbor had significantly louder noise, and she had to keep the window open most of the time because of heat rising. Where you really heard it was walking to the apartment: Melrose Avenue is pretty loud. A block away on Bellevue it’s much quieter. After five years I moved to a place on Bellevue because I’d “done my time” with freeway noise.

        I looked at another apartment on Eastlake, just below the freeway. You’ve probably seen the beautiful old Carolina Court from the bus. It was built when there was no freeway. It still has the classic finishes and nice courtyard with rose bushes, but the freeway noise in front is so loud you can hardly use the door-phone. Inside with the windows closed it’s fine, but you can’t do anything in the courtyard without the constant loud roar of the traffic.

      5. I’ve stayed at a hotel at Heathrow Airport overlooking the runway and lived in an apartment 1 block from LAX’s runway, both were pleasant experiences. You can design and build very soundproof buildings that make living next to a highway a pleasant experience.

      6. I live in Eastlake in an apartment building on the 4th floor facing I-5 and can tell you I’ll never do that again. It was so loud you could hardly have a conversation if a window was open.

        I think there needs to be a look if a MR building right next to I-5 is even interesting to developers, if not the up zone is essentially useless. MR buildings use concrete construction so they generally need to command a premium and I see that being hard right next to the freeway.

        I think the it is important to note that the RNA proposals all push density where ST was originally going to build the station, not to where the community convinced ST to build it.

    4. Two points. The new RNA proposal shifts *all* zoning increases to the west of Roosevelt, with most of the additional development capacity directly adjacent I-5. This is mostly done with with the new RNA proposal with a new mid-rise zone just next to I-5. Whether a mid-rise development would ever be built here because of the noise certainly is a valid and important question to ask, because realized capacity will always be less than zoned capacity. http://bit.ly/pxMxlX

      Second I think focusing higher development on the west side of the Sisely properties with less as you get to 15th could do an effective job of not “shadowing” the high school while realizing the important development opportunity.

      1. I think eventually something will be build to MR-scale, even if it’s by the highway – as long as there’s demand for housing in the area.
        I like the idea of tapering down on the East side – for instance the Westernmost “high school block” could be at 65 while the Easternmost would be at 40. However the Easternmost (“fruit stand”) block is the one with the contract rezone, and because Sisley/RDG own the entire block they are far more interested in rezoning it than the other blocks. I wouldn’t be surprised if the contract rezone gets it up to 65′ in the end.
        Neither 40′ nor 65′ on that block would be the end of the world..

  5. The SLRP plan will be approved. the RCG plan will go to a contract rezone; they will get 65/85 in exchange for benefits with the neighborhood. Done and done. I don’t understand why this issue is worth getting blue in the face over on either side, unless you are the developer. 40′ on the HS blocks would also not be the end of the world from a sustainability standpoint – given the capacity in the area that neighborhood will likely take 10-15 years to build out at fastest

  6. The tone of this piece is, honestly, pretty offensively dismissive. I imagine that the Roosevelt neighborhood has local mailing lists (I’m on a couple for Beacon Hill). I imagine the various competing proposals were mentioned endlessly on those lists and in other meetings. People were probably encouraged to come out and speak at this meeting on neighborhood lists and community meetings. And, yes, I imagine a lot of people were “convinced” that the City and ST is trying to screw their neighborhood over because no doubt the local discussions skewed towards people outspokenly upset by the process (or by individuals involved such as McGinn or this property owner everyone apparently hates). So I imagine you saw the crowd against a significant upzone because … that’s what the local residents have been hearing for months.

    I doubt the upzone advocates made their case (previously to this meeting) in a way that made it seem positive or in enough intensity, so obviously the public meeting is going to be skewed towards those who aren’t as enthusiastic on the topic. The tone of this piece thus reads to me as sour excuse-making. How dare they not understand how critical and important these plans are! If the zoning plans are what we need and are so obviously a good thing, then we should be able to make the case better.

    So, to repeat, this kind of tone is insulting and doesn’t help. This piece will no doubt get linked on neighborhood blogs and sent to those neighborhood lists and some residents will dismiss everything STB advocates for in the future. An argument over 40′ vs 85′ zoning is not the time to risk losing potential supporters for things like better transit funding, better pedestrian infrastructure, etc. The zoning can be changed and tweaked in the future as people become more accepting (the construction is years away). We can’t go into the past and get better transportation funding before our infrastructure crumbles.

    As an aside, what is 40′ and 85′ in approximate floors?

    1. figure about 10 feet per floor,
      so zoning of 40′, 65′, 85′
      translates respectively into 4, 6, & 8
      story structures.

      1. Yeah and 85 is generally 7 stories, especially if it is part of pedestrian overlay because of the high ceilings need for commercial spaces.

  7. 4 floors versus 8 floors. And I agree. This post is seriously sour grapes, whinging rant. STB will continue to look like density bullies/nazis among community members. That’s a shame. Should have left it to Valdez’s blog only.

    1. There we have it. You just compared advocates of 8 floors to Nazis.

      I’m fine with either proposal, but the way in which the anti density crowd has ratcheted up the rhetoric is getting just plain annoying. First it was commentors on the Seattle Times saying the cyclist that died on SLU deserved to, then the Weekly columnist comparing cycling activists to KKK members, then you.

      Who are the real bullys? The ones wanting density or the ones howling, hissing, and booing in that meeting?

      1. You’re trying to connect my points. That’s unwise. I’m saying Valdez’s rant comes off just as that, a rant. I’m nat validating residents as moderates or champions of density themselves. But going to the blogosphere and lambasting them does make yourself come off as an angry extremist (whether or not your are) when you use strong langauge as Valdez has. The comments that will follow on this post will also come off condescending as we have already witnessed today. Density is a reasonable position, but that has to be balanced with many of the needs and desires of residents. I don’t. Think most here are taking that into consideration. What about the larger planning conext? This isn’t just about height or density, but we’ve turned it into that when it’s so much more.

        Also, I was merely repsonding to Rachael’s question on height. I don’t think 4, 6, or 8 storeys is scary at all. That’s medium density for a neighbourhood centre. But location and context does matter. DPD was unwise to do a broadbrush, simplistic approach. A longer-range masterplan/design code could have lead to way better discussions. Live and learn!

      2. It makes them come off as an angry extremist? Calling someone a Nazi makes you come off as an angry extremist.

        Look at the people in the meeting. They were extremely condescending. I don’t hear you saying anything about them. Only the people you disagree with are condescending? And what about telling me to “Live and Learn?” That’s not condescending?

        People with glass houses shouldn’t…

        Also, DPD has already taken the concerns of the RNA into consideration. Cities like vancouver, san francisco, portland, Toronto and DC zone much higher than 8 stories around major metropolitan train stations. DPD lowered that to 8 stories to appease the community. Yet someone who is frustrated with RNA’s refusal to accept and middle ground is a Nazi? That’s just weird.

      3. I’m sorry that some of us are actually urban planners and have to work with the public. (Yes, that is condescending, and rightly so.) But, the rhetoric has been all about density. People on this blog have turned a secondary issue into the primary issue. We have to approach the issue in its larger scale–even outside of a new light rail station (although it is a piece). Many of these residents don’t seem to mind density. Many of them are concerned about issues like park space, their local view corridors, cycle routes, historic preservation, new neighourhood services from development, and other public services/infrastructure that ought to come out of development. What are they going to get out of new investment? It’s a fair position, they’re not new. That’s all not to say that the “new” is unimportant or wrong or foreign or whatever. It’s all part of that equation. Instead, I think Seattle was wrong to approach this as simply a rezoning exercise. That’s not good enough, especially since it’s a neighbourhood centre. It’s messy and complex. Therefore, it requires a comprehensive response.

        Unfortunately, DPD is likely to have failed miserably because of its approach. Like I was getting at before, a full neighourhood plan update would have had a longer process of engagement and could have worked out many critical issues. Who knows, perhaps even a landmark tall building could have found its way into the plan. The issue of views from the high school could have been easily mitigated through masterplanning (which rezones never get at). This process was horribly botched. If I were a resident, I would be peeved. Not because I think the DPD’s rezones are terrible (they’re not), but because it isn’t really planning.

        Also, neighbourhood planning has costs. Roosevelt has shown that well. Seattle decided to define neighbourhoods and give them power. Then Seattle comes back and says that their planning efforts aren’t good enough. You’ve partially parsed out authority and ownership to a small group of people, then you want to take it back when what they’re doing as a neighbourhood isn’t “up to snuff”. When people are organised, you *have* to address their issues. Working above them is inherently condescending, even if it is for the “greater good”. It’s a classic problem in planning and as planners we have to be careful when playing in that sort of regime.

        Also, I can’t help but feel that there are elements within the neighbourhood that feel DPD/City has betrayed them when it comes to the Sisley properties. I don’t know how you rectify that, except costly eminent domain on a guy who has an axe to grind…with everyone.

        Ultimately, I stick by what I said earlier.

      4. [ to stephen fesler ]

        FYI, what you are suggesting SHOULD happen actually DID happen…..

        once the station alignment was decided the neighborhood went to the city and sound transit and try to get “station area planning” started. there was no money/support for that, so the neighborhood tried by themselves to go straight to suggesting rezones to help encourage/facilitate TOD.

        at this point it was(then councilmember) Peter Stienbrueck (sp?) who said (correctly) that we were getting the cart ahead of the horse– and that neighborhood planning had to come first, and then that “master plan” would inform potential re-zoning decisions.

        so the neighborhood spent several years, and thousands of volunteer hours, updating the existing neighborhood plan. That work did indeed identify neighborhood amentities, landmarks, priorities…..

        It was only after this work was complete that the examination of the existing zoning began, and changes were studied and considered as suggested by the urban planning that went before….

        frankly, that why there is a bit of push-back to recent proposals which seem to want to rezone in very broad strokes with little or no consideration of the urban planning which has already been done.

        see the updated neighborhood plan at:

      5. Not to be argumentative, but that’s more of an adendum/supplement to the Comp Plan. It’s very weak policy, I’d hardly call it a “framework” and it’s certainly not a masterplan. This is indeed a precursorto formal discussions and considerations to a rezone process, but nothing more at this point. Still horse before the wagon.

      6. I always like to go back to Bothell’s FBC because it embodies one of the best styles of masterplanning, http://www.ci.bothell.wa.us/Site/Content/Planning%20and%20Development/Downtown%20Revitalization/Web_revised_Part1.pdf

        The UW offers up a private version of masterplanning, maybe not exemplar, but good for local context: http://www.washington.edu/community/category/seattle-campus-master-plan/

        Shreveport’s 2030 masterplan is also good, although, it’s quite long since it’s for a whole region… http://www.shreveportcaddomasterplan.com/

        Galway City Council has a decent framework plan in 4 parts: http://www.galwaycity.ie/AllServices/Planning/ProjectsandSchemes/FrameworkPlan1LandsatBallyburkeMincloon/

      7. It makes them come off as an angry extremist?

        Chetan, that should be either “It makes him (or her) come off as an angry extremist,” or “It makes them come off as angry extremists.” Subjects and pronouns need to agree in number. But maybe I’m just one of those people.

    2. People who believe in better urban environments with better transit connections and lower carbon foot prints are not “Nazis”. This sort of rhetoric needs to end and doesn’t do anything to further the discussion

      And the debate isn’t 4 vs. 8 floors; it is 4 vs. 6 (near the school). Calling someone a “Nazi” because they support allowing an additional 2 floors of development is clearly a bit over the top.

      1. You dummies, it was used like the soup nazi on Seinfeld. Holy cow, no wonder your side got creamed. You really have a tough time dealing with anyone who doesn’t bend over the smooch your khakis on command, don’t you? Sheesh. You’re hopeless.

        And yes, Roger Valdez, your posting was insufferably arrogant. I don’t know enough to have a position on the underlying issue, but after reading the rant I am finding myself highly amused that you people got your asses handed to you. Maybe if it keeps happening, you’ll learn a thing or two.

    3. Well, the use of the term “Nazi” is a bit out of bounds in my mind. :)

      Though no doubt some people who read this post will actually react with an assessment pretty close to that (see also: “authoritarian”, “we know best”, “arrogant”), which was my point. You can be disappointed at what the community consensus seems to be and even express that disappointment, but doing so in a dismissive and arrogant tone only makes people upset and confirms their belief that the people advocating density don’t care about the community’s opinion.

  8. Sorry to pile on… but I’m with the folks who say this borders on offensive.

    A neighborhood meeting turns out 80+ folks. Who say they have participated in a neighborhood planning process and support more density.

    Their complaints are to respect historical view corridors and their neighborhood process. That is not NIMBYism. Not even close!

    1. the meeting turned out something like 600+ folks.

      there were 80+ who took the time to speak.

      ….just sayin’.

  9. What a petulant and fussy little rant. I hope the STB folks are finished giving Valdez carte blance to insult anyone who disagrees with his narrow point of view. As several commentors above have made clear, an editor is a terrible thing to waste.

  10. Roger, this was a very poorly-worded rant. And this is coming from someone who agrees with your premise.

  11. I agree that the tone is too harsh and is not a good fit with STB. I give the Roosevelt neighborhood credit for being in favor of density at all, and I’m glad they did develop a new plan with more density (SLRP). The debate we are having is really about where the density should be, and whether the neighborhood is sabotaging development right next to the station in their lame effort to punish Sisley. 65 foot buildings would be way better than vacant boarded-up homes and slums. Indications are that Sisley is willing to hold out for 65 feet rather than develop at 40 feet. I’m very concerned that in 10 years when the station opens those properties will still be the same as they are now, all so neighborhood residents can stick it to Sisley.

    1. Well there is a cost to leaving land vacant. Taxes on the land still have to be paid. The value of this land is probably about to skyrocket. At some point holding out becomes financially stupid.

      1. That’s not how property tax works. Total tax collections from existing properties can’t go up by more than 1% per year. No matter how much the land value goes up, Sisley is not going to pay much more property tax if any. In fact, his taxes are probably decreasing as he lets his properties deteriorate. That’s the essence of slumlordism. If we taxed the unimproved value of the land, then he would have more of an incentive, but that’s not how the taxes work. They are on the improved value, but the taxes can’t rise by more than 1%.

      2. What on earth are you talking about? They DO tax unimproved land!!! (take a look at any privately owned vacant property in King County’s parcel viewer.) As light rail comes closer, the value of this land will go up, along with the tax bill!!

      3. They DO tax unimproved land!!!

        You’re misquoting/misunderstanding zef’s point. Property tax is currently based on improved value, which is to say that you pay tax both on the land and on anything you’ve built on it. The more valuable your buildings, the higher taxes you pay. Thus, there’s an incentive (if a small one) to let your property fall into disrepair, since it means that you’ll pay less tax.

        A land value tax, i.e. a Georgian tax, is a tax only on the value of the land, not on any buildings it contains. The nice thing about these kinds of taxes, compared to regular property taxes, is that there’s no disincentive to keeping your buildings in good repair.

        (Amusingly, the board game Monopoly was originally derived from another game, The Landlord’s Game, which was created to teach children about land taxes. At any point during the game, players could decide to switch from property taxes to land taxes, at which point it wouldn’t matter how many houses or hotels you had built, everyone would pay the same for landing on a space. Suffice it to say, this game must have been even more boring than Monopoly.)

    2. Honestly its very likely that these properties won’t be developed the day the station opens. But I don’t think obsessing about a few blocks out of the total which contains a lot of development opportunity is very healthy. If a reasonable percentage of the up-zone properties gets developed (where ever they may lie in the zone) are you going to declare TOD in the area failure? Or alternatively if everyone waits to start developing and things show up 12 years from now does that may a large difference in the long run?

      In particular, the developer/owner specific circumstances probably don’t bode that well.

      * RDG keeps referring to specific stipulations from the owner that prevent if from building certain configurations but won’t disclose what they are. Previous conditions on development by Sisley were fairly unrealistic so it wouldn’t surprise me if they still prevent normal redevelopment. Note: for sure they are only leasing the land for 99 years and don’t own it.
      * They are separately pursuing a contract rezone and still are shooting for 120 feet. So its hard to believe they would be satisfied at 60′.
      * I wonder about securing the financing for anything they would like to build.
      * Sisley has never compromised in any fashion and preferred to let his holdings moulder (literally burn down).
      * I’d wager this particular site is heading for a time consuming lawsuit.


  12. For those complaining about the content, have you asked to submit a guest post explaining how limiting growth in the Roosevelt Neighborhood would be good for transportation, good for the environment and good for the city as a whole?

    As to tone, when the people on the otherside are calling you Nazi and demonizing you at every opportunity, I can understand how that would get old quick. Combined with booing and hissing at the meeting I’m not sure how he could not have mentioned it.

    As to the post itself, I agree with it. I especially liked: “Leadership is hard, because some times it means making decisions in favor of constituencies that aren’t just silent but don’t exist yet. Let’s hope Council rises to the occasion and supports the proposal for more density in Roosevelt.” The City Council were elected. It’s also their job to be knowledgeable of the subject, to realize how long it takes for new upzones to occur, how zoned density never translate to actual density, how half measures end up being permanent, etc. Hopefully they ignore the current NIMBYs and focus on what is best for the city as whole long term.

    1. Since the neighborhood’s plan calls for higher density than the City’s plan, I assume you’re referring to some third party that opposes density but didn’t bother attending the hearing?

  13. Brett and Chris are correct.

    If they try to downzone TOD at the station, developers will just replace the current single-family housing with max lot limit 45 to 65 buildings that the entire neighborhood is already zoned at, anyway.

  14. I’m not sure why it is so offensive to have a cluster, maybe about 5 square blocks, of 65′ buildings around LRT stations. Since Seattle is going to be absorbing many more people over the next two decades or so, wouldn’t it be better to build a few taller condos/apartments in a dense area so as to preserve the single-family homes in say, Greenlake, Greenwood, Maple Leaf, etc.? I’m not sure why some people are so upset at the sight of of multi-story buildings. If they are built properly, they can be rather beautiful. Take a look at the architecture of buildings in Vancouver, BC. Now, take that and make it 8 or 10 stories instead of 20-25 and you can have a beautiful, pedestrian-oriented area.

    1. Hi Cinesea,

      The neighborhood isn’t protesting higher buildings and more density. The neighborhood plan calls for more density than city’s own plan. It just places that density closer to the center of the neighborhood and I-5. Since the property owner’s property falls out of that zone, they’re lobbying the city to change the zoning just for them—for a property owner who has been a slumlord for over 30 years.

      The Roosevelt neighborhood is supportive of placing 10,000 more units within a four-block radius of the rail station. In addition, there’s a new high rise set of housing and mixed use going in just 3-ish blocks from the light rail station, just over I-5—an entire city block of high rise development. They break ground in November. There’s a lot of places where similar development could happen and the neighborhood is advocating for these locations to get the bulk of development, increasing to over 10k in units. The neighborhood plan is pretty badass, including pedestrian walkways between the station and Green Lake (where now, there’s a dangerous dash to avoid cars), and plenty of mixed use.

      1. “The Roosevelt neighborhood is supportive of placing 10,000 more units”

        Factual correction: The neighborhood plan doesn’t propose 10k new units (I think most of us here would be thrilled if that were true). It proposes an increase from 9,350 zoned units to 10,350 zoned units – a difference of about 10%. If we assume the zoned:actual ratio stays the same as the current neighborhood, this upzone will only add about 359 units.

  15. I don’t find this blog post to be very accurate of what actually happened at the meeting last night. Just because you were outnumbered (at about 15 to 1), doesn’t mean you should write up inaccurate assessments of the meeting.

    Some thoughts on the meeting:

    1) The developer group shipped in young people to say they were the future of Roosevelt. Plenty of young people live here, and if these fake neighbors wanted to live here, they could. They would even find Roosevelt has affordable (Seattle-affordable) housing. Why weren’t there more young people at the meeting? They’ve got lives, young families, and low income jobs to attend to.

    2)The neighborhood isn’t ant-development or growth. They’re debating the location of growth, and supporting more density than the city’s plan.

    3) The pro-Sisely development advocates said, “oh, you can’t have housing near the freeway.” Bah. I’ve lived near I-5 for 10 years, I’m 31. The noise is not bad, and the air quality within 1.5 miles of a freeway is virtually the same. Sorry, but it’s true. So, there’s no reason to *not* place housing near i-5 other than the developers won’t get as much money for them—-making it actually affordable housing.

    4) If you actually looked at the neighborhood plan, you’d find a lot of transit and density-supportive elements. If you’re going to quibble with a slight location change and call it NIMBY-ism, and refuse to listen to the people who live in the impacted area, maybe you should get out the the public policy game.

  16. The post has an aggressive tone and is a little whiny. But the points made are valid and relevant to transit advocates as we plan future light rail expansions.

    My problem is that Sound Transit is getting skewered because ridership on Link is below expectations. As a taxpayer who supports transit investment in general and ST’s light rail plans in particular, I want future segments to have healthy ridership. Not only does this mean the taxpayer’s investment is worthwhile, it means that the Seattle area can rely less on SOV trips to move people around.

    ST’s job is to build/operate transit systems. If they build a subway from downtown to Northgate but ridership is low, people will blame ST. But if the real problem is that land use changes only resulted in another ~350 residential units within the walkshed of one of the new stations, is it really ST’s fault? Meanwhile another untold thousands of residential units (each on 1/2 acre) are built in the burbs resulting in another (2 x untold) thousands vehicles on our region’s roads. And Mother Nature weeps…

    1. Sound transit should be building mixed use and density on top of the station, they’re currently planning just one to two stories without so much as a bathroom. Roosevelt, regardless of density being immediately adjacent, will be a feeder area for transit. The trick will be having enough room on the trains once they get into Roosevelt.

      1. The plans for a lot of Link stations do seem inadequate (not putting retail space in, big open dead areas, poor interaction with surrounding space, etc). Are they really not even planning a restroom for this one?!

      2. Even if the station box was built on it wouldn’t result in more than maybe 30-50 units.

      3. Please let the restroom thing die. Link doesn’t need public restrooms.

        Why not?

        Of course, I think that we need public restrooms everywhere — like, one every few blocks — but why not start with Link?

      4. Read Toiletby Harvey Molotch. Then you might understand how important public provision of sanitary facilities are in a modern city. Or just google. I’m sure there are plenty of articles. If not at transit stations, then where?

      5. How about nowhere?

        The toilets were ripped out of the NYC subway because they provided a place on public infrastructure for drug use, prostitution, and other crime. This discouraged use of the system even more.

  17. Sure seems to a lot of numbers being thrown about, with little to back them up with. This is the Internet – use links to support your numbers and “facts”.

    1. Sadly, most of the numbers come from the irresponsibly bad numbers in this document. It isn’t a hard trick to realize their “mistake” was to compare existing units and compare them to zoned units. Apples to apples would be current zoned units to future zoned units. I find it hard to believe the authors didn’t know this. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to derive the real increase in zoning (10%) from their numbers.

      1. I don’t know what boundaries you are using to define existing units, but DPD’s analysis for the plan put out in april showed an existing capacity for growth of something like 272 housing units IF all zones in the station area were developed out to their currently existing zoning.

        the plan put forward by DPD in April (based on the upzone strategy developed by the neighborhood) proposed upzones which would a result in adding 410 housing units of capacity to that.

        so our baseline was then 682 housing units.
        (more than doubled current capacity)

        the report issued in June at the Mayor’s direction showed additional upzones, which would add another 197 potential housing units for a total capacity of 879.

        the RNA newly generated “SLR” plan proposes upzoning which would add
        346 units for a total of 1028.


        yeah, if you compare all the housholds in NE Seattle, 1000+ new units of density doesn’t seem to make much difference. But I seem to remember something like 1800 households currently within the official Roosevelt neighborhood boundaries (I-5 to 15th NE; Ravenna Blvd to more or less Lake City Way) — and if you just stick to the “station area” there are probably less than 800 households (anyone got more accurate guesses?).

        So the roosevelt neighborhood is asking to get up to 1000+ additional housing units — in an area currently holding 800.

        hopefully someone out there has a better count on existing housholds in the station area so that we can calculate a percentage — but the is no way it is anywhere near the 10% that Matt offers.

        likewise, you can keep repeating “NIMBY” all you want, but ‘that dog don’t hunt….’

        a neighborhood that has spent 7 years leading the way toward a more than tripling (272 to 1028) of the potential units of housing they are looking to add are pretty solidly in the “pro-density” camp, and there is no other seattle neighborhood that even comes close to the leadership they’ve shown.

      2. You’re reading that document wrong. See my comments above. The area looked at in the paper I linked to is looking at 1/2 mile radius around the new station.

    2. [ matt ] — you keep refering to that document and saying that its numbers and assumptions and calcs are incorrect. frankly I don’t follow or understand some of it– it hardly seems possible to jump from the 1260 households in the Roosevelt Neighborhood (DPD’s number) up to 9,350 household units, even if you do extend the area discussed to 1/2 mile from the station.

      so let’s not even look at those numbers or that document.

      Do you accept the DPD’s numbers? (from their june report)

      1260 households in Roosevelt.

      current zoning allows additional capacity of 272 units.

      the mayor’s plan of june ups that capacity to a total of 879.

      the neighborhood “SLR” plan ups it to 1028.

      can we work from these numbers that everyone seems to accept?

      or if you question these numbers, and can suggest new ones and explain how you arrived at these figures?

      Personally, I’d really like to know the actual number of households currently in the “urban village” where all the rezoning is occuring…….

      1. The 1260 households number you’re using is in the Roosevelt Urban Village. That’s not really the best number to use if you’re talking about how much density “Roosevelt” is taking on. Saying you’re tripling the density of “Roosevelt” is far from honest. Even saying you’re tripling the density of the Roosevelt Urban Village is far from true, but at least we’re starting to talk about the same thing.

        The 272 units you cite are existing zoned units in a very small subset inside of the Roosevelt Urban Village. These are not the additional zoned units. Please read page 79 again – I think you are really misunderstanding it.

        I stopped following your analysis a bit after that point, and am out of time at the moment for these calculations, but can give you my thoughts. It’s all about where you draw your boundaries.

        I think if you draw the boundary around the Roosevelt neighborhood, density will increase by less than 10%. If you draw it in a 1/2 mile circle around the station you’re right at 10%. If you draw it around the Roosevelt Urban Village it will be somewhere well over 10%. If you draw it around the specific upzoned properties you can then probably start using the “times” symbol instead of the % symbol.

        But as you tighten and tighten that boundary you’re wandering further from the truth when talking about how much Roosevelt is densifying.

      2. If you draw it around the specific upzoned properties you can then probably start using the “times” symbol instead of the % symbol.

        Yeah, they’ve just started building on the vacant lot next to my house, and they’re increasing the density by infinity times! :)

  18. Tone of the article aside, it seems like the problem is actually pretty straight forward. Roosevelt currently has much more zoning capacity then is currently being used. In addition, both the SLRP and DBD will increase zoned density by about 10%. However, regardless of how much zoned density is increased, actual density will surely increase (as well as percentage of zoned density used) with the positive change in property values resulting from the Link station.

    Because of these facts it seems to me that there are two separate issues at play. The first is whether density next to the freeway is better than density closer to Roosevelt High School (i.e. whether the SLRP plan is better or worse than the DBD plan). While there are positives to both plans, I personally lean towards the SLRP plan because I don’t think density near the freeway is inherently inferior from an urban planning, or environmental perspective and because, all else being equal, neighborhood plans are superior to top down plans.

    The second issue is whether EITHER upzone is sufficient. This has nothing to do with either plan as a new plan would be necessitated for a large upzone. Personally, I would support a plan to upzone the neighborhood further, but only on the condition that at least some neighborhood planing is included.

    On a final note, isn’t the most pertinent question ensuring that a reasonable amount of density is actually built and built well (i.e. good architecture, people spaces etc.) instead of whether there is some additional theoretical capacity for density years before the station is built.

  19. Roger,
    You obviously did not listen to the RNA proposed SLR plan. You say, “Let’s hope Council rises to the occasion and supports the proposal for more density in Roosevelt.” If you listened to RNA speaker you would have heard that RNA’s SLR plan proposes more density than DPD’s proposal (just in slightly different location). Get a clue and stop spreading misinformation about the neighborhoods motives and stance. It does not matter if density is less on one block and moved a couple blocks away where the neighborhood wants it.

    One last point regarding the view cooridor from the high school: It turns out that the “view” was a major factor in designing the UW Husky Stadium station. The city and Sound Transit made sure to protect the coveted Rainier VIsta that UW enjoys of Mt. Rainier. So why is too much to ask that Roosevelt High School is afforded a similar view? Ask any UW student if they would support 6 story buildings in front of Rainier Vista. I doubt it. Also, was there a ton of density added at the Husky Stadium Station and tall buildings? Very little.

    It is strange that you are so hostile to the residents of Roosevelt that are excited to have light rail and a dense urban village.

    1. For the most part, I agree with you, but I want to respond to one particular point:

      Ask any UW student if they would support 6 story buildings in front of Rainier Vista. I doubt it. Also, was there a ton of density added at the Husky Stadium Station and tall buildings? Very little.

      Be careful when you’re making accusations about inconsistency and/or hypocrisy.

      I can only speak for myself, but personally, I’m extremely unhappy with UW Station. It’s not well-designed for transfers to/from Eastside buses, or any other buses, for that matter. It’s not well-situated for density of any sort (thanks to the lack of the street grid from UW). And you have to cross a busy street to get to any destination other than the stadium.

      And as far as the view goes, while I may not benefit from the Rainier Vista, my apartment is just about on the top of Capitol Hill, and so I have a great view of Seattle, Bellevue, and occasionally Rainier. And I would trade that in a second for more density. I’m not saying that everyone would (or should) want to make that trade, but I would.

  20. As a resident of Roosevelt I was embarrassed to see people booing and yelling at people who were there to give earnest testimony. Sad day for Roosevelt and I was also perplexed that no one in charge of the meeting put a stop to it until a man at the very end had to stop and ask for quiet while he tried to finish. I think many people like me where there to listen because I got an email through our PTA list essentially saying that the City was trying to ruin the neighborhood. Obviously I felt compelled to go and hear what this was all about.

    After the presentation by both groups (City DPD v. SLRP) it seemed there was not a whole lot that was different. After listening to the testimony I went home and looked at both proposals. It seems to me that both proposals are pretty darn similar other than WHERE the new housing density and taller buildings will occur. Seems like one proposal puts a small amount east of the station and near the school but most to the west of the station (city). The other proposal by SLRP puts all the density to the west of the station only.

    One woman made the point that higher density housing should go close to the school and park because it makes the higher density housing more desirable and livable. That makes a lot sense to me. I live in an apartment with my daughter west of 12th. I would love to be able to live in an apartment closer to the school and park so my daughter could run around on the field or just go a few blocks south and be at Cowen Park. She’ll be in high school before I know it so it would be great to stay in this neighborhood so she could walk to school and I could get to my job at the UW on the train.

    It’s just nicer for those of us with kids, living in apartments that don’t have yards to be close to that open space instead of closer to the freeway. I am going to support the city plan for that reason. But what can I do to support that?

    1. Janice –

      Thank you for your post! The best way you can help is to call or write the council members who will make the ultimate decision.

      I hope this wasn’t your first time to one of these meetings as it was a very poor reflection of the civic process.

    2. I keep feeling like I must have attended a different 3+ hour hearing that night. “…..people booing and yelling at people who were there to give earnest testimony.”??


      I was in the middle of the main floor of the auditorium, and that certainly isn’t what I witnessed. I think anyone who watches the documentation of the entire meeting would tend to question the validity of the reporting in blog posts and comments which claims a negative environment with booing, heckling and yelling (?).

      see the video of the hearing here:

      Yep, early on (see time mark 39:30) there was a woman who later identified herself as working for a developer (40:30) and she got some boos + hisses — BUT — Councilwoman Sally Clark immediately spoke to the room and called for quiet. At the end of her statement, that woman –and every other person who spoke– recieved at least polite applause, regardless of their position and statement. Later on there was also some speaker who was bugged by someone sitting nearby who was continuing to talk. Dunno exactly what that was about, but others basically told him to shut-up.

      Even with these couple incidents (in the course of a 3 1/2 hour meeting), outbursts and disrespect from the audience were much more the exception rather than the rule. There was certainly not the heckling and “poor civic discourse” that some people describe. Again, don’t take my word for it: watch the tape. See if you can spot any of the “intimidation” of opponents which has been described.

      yeah, I was just in one spot. maybe there were areas of the auditorium where people were not so respectful? On the other hand, a number of audience members were very actively “shush-ing” anyone who even began to audibly boo, hiss, or heckle.

      And frankly, it all got very confusing anyway, and some people had trouble knowing who they wanted to applaud….. It was sometimes hard to know where some of the speakers stood and what they supported. A number of them stood up and said something about being ‘for the plan’ without designating which. (there are at least 3: the April DPD plan, the June DPD plan, and the community-consensus “SLRP”).

      But that’s okay– general comments that ‘they support the plan’ are at least verbal “votes” that ‘yes, Roosevelt should be upzoned’, which isn’t a “slam-dunk” for everyone– there were a couple people ( but just a very few ) who stood up and said they wanted NO upzone, No growth…..

      But anyway, much more confusing –and almost comic– were the people who stood up and said that:

      #1. they supported the current DPD/Mayor’s proposal (the june plan).


      #2. they supported density and wanted to see the most density possible….

      Well, those two things contradict themselves, since the fact is that the community’s latest proposal (the SLRP) calls for MORE density than the current legislative rezone plan.

      These folks either didn’t hear and understand the first part of the meeting
      they were attending in support of the developer of the property at the corner of 65th and 15th. There were very obviously some of these folks, and their statements of being “pro density” was just their pre-programmed ‘talking point’ to try and push for a plan that would benefit those specific owners/developers.

      you cannot be “for the maximum density” and then be AGAINST the community-consensus plan which allows for MORE density than the current city proposal.


      So now the ‘spin’ online to try and push-back against the neighborhood plan is to suggest that its proposal is a false and ineffective strategy — claiming that the SLRP lays claim to a bunch of density capacity by suggesting high-rises next to the highway where no one wants them.

      Well, this is a canard, and false on several levels.

      Examine the reports, and the maps. What everyone is pointing at are the three blocks west of Roosevelt Way, between 65th and 68th. Currently this is NC65 facing 65th, and then stepping down in half-blocks through the “low-rise” (LR) zoning catagories to single family (SF). BOTH of the city reports and proposals (April and June) are ALREADY calling for the entire block between 65th and 66th to be made the same NC65; and ALREADY PLAN TO UPZONE all the rest (66th – 68th) be made a “consistent” L-3.

      The changes that the community are proposing is to make that block of 65 foot zoning up into 85 feet; and upzone the other two blocks to “Mid-Rise” ( MR ) rather than (just) L-3. This is not gaining their plan too much in density capacity, but it fits with the Neighborhood Plan, it matches what the property owners want, it encourages development, it fits with current growth patterns, and it does allow for (some) additional density.

      Consider in detail–

      The blocks from 66th to 68th:
      by leap-frogging an area currently developed with detached single-family houses to Mid-Rise rather than Low-Rise there stands a greater financial gain for developers to convert the properties, and therefore this area will stand a much better chance of being re-developed sooner, better, and with more density. And both these blocks are in a great spot — well within the 1/4 mile radius around the station, and also bordering the commercial ‘spine’ of Roosevelt Way, and adjancent to the Green Lake neighborhood with all it has to offer. I used to live on these blocks, and its a very convenient place to be. As for being near the highway: yep it is. But new, higher construction will make for quieter, safer living spaces than the current SF houses.

      The block between 65th and 66th:
      the other plans call for this to be 65′, but the community’s “SLR” Plan says to go the rest of the way to 85′. Not a big difference, but if there is to be more density capacity zoned into Roosevelt, this is one of the areas it should be put. The landform is all downhill here, and its bounded to the west by I-5, so the “massing” won’t be so noticable — but more importantly, it matches the Neighborhood Plan and the traditional development and pattern of the community.

      Look on the zoning map (current or proposed), or maybe better yet, google earth. This community is defined by two intersecting commercial arterials: NE 65th & Roosevelt Way NE. As much as transit fans might want the new station to become the center of the Roosevelt “universe” — it isn’t, and it won’t be. The “center point” of the community is the crossroads of 65th and Roosevelt. The effort to move the station alignment to 12th was to bring it closer into the business core, not to create a new center. So the community’s “Consensus Group”, once it accepted that 85′ buildings were now part of the equation, has chosen to group blocks with that highest zoning catagory around the business-core crossroads, and step down zoning and development from there. Smart.

      There is nothing underhanded or nefarious about this — its just thoughtfull urban planning done by people who live and work here and want to maintain a workable, livable community as it grows. The SLR Plan represents experience with the area’s growth patterns, and recognition of the neighborhood’s layout and landform.

      The SLR Plan offers the most density capacity of anything proposed — and it works the upzone increases into the neighborhood in the smartest way possible. Anyone who is pro-density and for “smart-growth” should be supporting the community’s “SLRP” proposal.

  21. Too bad you have an agenda that causes you to twist things so. The SLURP plan increases density. The real change is the block in front of the high school. Numbers are still there with some movement of the 85ft. How does it serve anyone to misrepresent the community’s response?

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