Proposed Interbay Rezone
Proposed Interbay Rezone

On Monday, April 29th, from 5-7 PM at Q Cafe, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development will hold a community open house to obtain feedback on their proposal to rezone a portion of Interbay:

For the past six months, city planners have been studying possibilities for the future of Interbay. Metro has introduced Rapid Ride frequent transit, and new apartments and offices are under construction in the area. Newcomers, ranging from small craft distiller Sound Spirits to large retailer Petco, have joined long-standing businesses like GM Nameplate and Keller Supply to become part of the business community. And more change is likely.

Some background: the public process for this rezone has been underway for some time, and of the original three concepts — an urban village, an industrial area, and a “local production district” — the choice appears to have been winnowed to down to some variation on the third. You’re probably wondering what a local production district is, so here’s the blurb from the DPD concept:

Industrial lands develop in ways that support growing opportunities for locally-produced, customized, specialized, small lot production. […] Integrates retail and production uses. Small parcels accommodate independent businesses, and large parcel offers centralized management of campus-like environment.

What this translates to in policy is a rezone from Industrial General (IG), which is what most people would think of as industrial (e.g. much of SODO, the Ballard docks) to Industrial Commercial (IC). The best example of IC zoning that I know of is the area of Ballard just northwest of 15th & Leary, which hosts an eclectic and growing mix of microbreweries (which retail on-site), car mechanics, bike shops, bars and other businesses, all housed in a jumble of buildings of various vintage and quality. This is, I believe, what DPD is aiming for in the part of Interbay west of 15th Ave NW. One minor code change, to create a neighborhood retail area at Dravus & 14th, is also proposed.

Ship Canal Connector
Ship Canal Connector. Map from Our Interbay.

At this point, the urban village concept having been rejected, this rezone doesn’t seem to hold out the possibility of increasing housing availability in any meaningful way, rather it’s mostly about allowing more productive non-residential use of a swath of the city that’s well-served by transit, which seems like a good idea in as far as it goes.

One transportation investment in this area that strikes me as forehead-slappingly obvious, and would aid the success of the proposed local production district, is to connect the recently-built Ship Canal Trail to Thorndyke, via a short section of trail, on existing public right-of-way underneath the Emerson St ramp, as shown on the map at right. Today, the trail passes within a hundred yards of the proposed rezone area, but the only safe and sane way for a bicyclist to get into the area is by detouring more than a mile through Magnolia. Anything DPD could do to move this connection forward would be highly desirable.

The proposed changes seem unlikely to be controversial, but it’s always good to have pro-transit, pro-bike, pro-density comments so DPD’s public feedback isn’t all just whining about parking. If you can’t attend Monday’s meeting, take the online survey here. Finally, if you’re interested in Ballard zoning, a similar rezone process will begin in May for the 15th & Market area of Ballard, an area now dominated by very car-oriented development, so I’ll try to keep an eye out for that.

12 Replies to “Monday: Interbay Rezoning Community Meeting”

  1. We should totally build a light rail line to this area with so much growth potential that an urban village has been rejected for it in favor of downscaling the existing industrial uses instead of the actually existing urban village in Fremont, so much so we should build a semi-redundant streetcar to Fremont and Ballard on top of that for long-haul trips to SLU and Downtown that are precisely what streetcars aren’t good for!

    1. Agreed! Isn’t it wonderful that no one has any actual affordable plans for putting the Ballard light rail through Fremont?

    2. Long range possibility–how about extending some south Sounder trains to the BNSF facility west of the Interbay parcel and building a passenger rail station stop on the spur at Dravus or Emerson Street? There’s plenty of transit service that already goes through the weave at Dravus Street. Ballard, Magnolia, Fremont and the new Interbay area would be a quick bus connection away from an Interbay Sounder station. I don’t think that people going to downtown Seattle would make a transfer there, but commuters from Tukwila, Kent or Tacoma going to the new Interbay industrial area and the north end of Seattle might use the station.

      There will be some operational challenges with adding more trains through the train tunnel and some questions about who would service the trains (BNSF or Amtrak), but if the ridership is there, an Interbay Sounder station might be a relatively inexpensive project.

  2. That particular area is really small and really isolated. The area just northwest of 15th and Leary is a lot less isolated, and the various uses that exist there are to some degree extensions of the various surrounding areas.

    What’s the zoning/land use situation south of the golf thingy, along 15th and then along Elliott called? There’s a mixture of light industry and other businesses of various kinds, and it’s not so great for pedestrians or cyclists at this point either. Actually sidewalk conditions are pretty good now… the crossing situation, the width of the highway, and the big up-front parking lots make general access harder than it could be.

  3. Seattle is lucky to have industrial districts that are still productive. People need housing but they also need jobs. Local manufacturing is gradually coming back, and it’s good insurance in case oil spikes or a war cut off long-distance shipping. I think it’s ingenious for the city to rezone a large-industry district into a space for small industry. Seattle could rezone a tiny fraction of its single-family blocks anywhere and create an urban village this size, but industrial zones go mainly one direction: smaller and then gone, because residential developers can pay more per square foot than companies can. But companies are the basis of the economy. A city needs a diversified employer base, not all paper-pushing or video-game making. Other cities have completely eliminated their industrial districts through residential conversion, and that makes them more vulnerable to economic shocks because they’re depending on a narrower range of jobs.

    When industrial districts close, companies have no choice but to locate in outer suburban sprawl or outside the region. If they locate in sprawl, people have to drive to them because there’s probably no bus within a mile or it would take over an hour to get there on transit. If they locate outside the region, the jobs are just gone.

    1. Agreed 100%. It seems like every time a new mixed-use mid-rise building replaces an old low-rise one, the number of storefronts drops — and half of them are vacant, too.

      I think it’s great that we’re really starting to appreciate the benefits of residential density, but I hate to see it come at the expense of commercial density. We need complete communities, not “towers in the park”.

    2. The Insourcing Boom: GE revives large manufacturing plant in Kentucky (Atlantic)

      Mr China comes to America: US poised for a new wave of manufacturing innovation (with examples of small manufacturers in San Francisco) (Atlantic)

      There’s also a good book on clusters of small manufacturers in cities, but I can’t remember the title or author. The author was a colleague of Jane Jacobs whose life was a concrete example of some of Jane’s theories. Her father owned a drycleaning company in Manhattan’s west side that was displaced by urban renewal; the family moved to Connecticut where the author grew up. She married a metal-parts manufacturer who (if I remember right) set up shop in Manhattan, then again was displaced again by urban renewal and relocated to Brooklyn. In all these areas, a cluster of small, diverse companies in the same building or neighborhood allowed a synergy and quick turnaround time and cross-pollinization of ideas that couldn’t have happened if the companies had all been isolated in suburban office parks. It wasn’t just “heavy” manufacturing, but also theater companies with their makeshift set designs, clothing designers, etc.

      To this we can also add Bailo’s observation that startup companies need an inexpensive place to start up. They aren’t going to find that on Broadway, but they might be able to find it in the remaining industrial areas of Ballard, Interbay, and SODO.

    3. I agree; we need to preserve our industrial land base. As liquid fuel gets more expensive (anyone here ever hear of Peak Oil?) we’re going to rue the day we let BINMIC land turn into more housing, commercial, and retail. Big mistake.

      1. Probably been hearing about peak oil since before you were born. It was 1967 after the six day war, err no wait it was 1973, the OPEC oil “crises”; or was it crises II in ’76. You kids just don’t know the horror of having to wait in lines and odd even rationing to buy that constitutionally protected right to buy gasoline. Well, I’m ready… I’ve been investing heavily in whale blubber futures in anticipation. Seriously, the atmosphere and it’s effect on ocean pH is the limiting resource not fossil fuel.

  4. As a local, born and raised in Seattle, it would be nice to see my home LEFT ALONE by developers, and out of state transplants for a long while. I have had to endure (as many local born citizens) the heartbreaking display of my cities landmarks and neighborhoods be razed to the ground for unsightly and souless condos, parking lots, and chain stores. It has devastated our culture here, and sadly pushed our locals out of their own homes in many cases. While a city by its very nature, is ever growing, it is essential that our “new” inhabitants embrace a sense of true stewardship, as is more intrinsic to our local born population, before its too late (as many fear it already is). Stop trying to make Seattle an offshoot of California. You’ve torn down enough. Leave our home alone.

    1. I find this post highly offensive. The circumstances of a person’s birth, be it class, race, location or anything other factor, should have no bearing whatsoever on their political or social participation. The poor, minorities, and yes even transplants have just as much right to be involved with the shaping of this cities future as the rich, whites, or ‘local born.’

      One Man (or Woman), One Vote.

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