Wednesday’s Seattle Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee meeting agenda contained one appointment to the design commission and an initial briefing on two zoning issues, one apparently minor and the other controversial. The North Rainier Rezone dominated the other items during public comment. Chair Conlin and members Burgess and O’Brien were there; Clark was not.
For those of you not familiar with the area, the crossroads in the shadow of Mt. Baker station is officially known as “North Rainier.” The actual Mt. Baker neighborhood, heavily represented at this meeting, is an affluent single family area immediately east of North Rainier. This upzone, in progress since 2008, concerns North Rainier. The public comments came first, a lively mix of proponents and opponents of the upzone.
The pro comments, which included most of the institutional representation, focused on arguments for density well-known to readers here. Beyond the general case, North Rainier is one of the major public transportation hubs in the region, with not only Link but three frequent bus lines (7, 8, 48) and three minor ones (7X, 9X, 14).
The negative comments, which I’ll try to state in as value-neutral a way as I can, were as follows:
- there has been insufficient notification and opportunity for public comment, so the process should slow down;
- growth will make it much harder for residents to park their cars; and
- an influx of renters and low-income housing would harm the close-knit, publicly involved character of the adjacent single-family Mt. Baker neighborhood.
I’m unmoved by the process argument. Officials should comply with the law in public processes, but no one ever complains that something they like is moving too fast. I’m more interested to hear what actual concerns are driving them to complain about process. For a response to those substantive concerns, see Councilmember Burgess’s exceptional opening statement just after public comment. His monologue begins at the 49:15 mark:
[UPDATE: The meeting has been delayed until 2014, location to be determined.] The next opportunity to comment on the North Rainier rezone will be
Friday, December 20th, at 9:30am in the Council Chambers. If you care about the fate of this neighborhood, and more people and jobs there, I advise you to make the time to show up.
The briefing itself (fast forward to about 81:00) was not as passionate. The upzone proposal – which the committee won’t pass to the full council until sometime next year – mostly consists of certain 65′ zones changing to 85′ or 125′. Beyond height, many commercial zones would become “Seattle Mixed.” (See an explanation of zoning codes here).
Part of the discussion was about height and outreach concerns raised in the comments, but the emphasis was on street-level issues, especially the pedestrian environment, upper-level setbacks, and the potential of MLK as a bike corridor. The presenter, planner Lyle Bicknell, mentioned their awareness of the jobs at the 13-acre Lowe’s site (the 125′ parcels above). He expressed the policy intent for Lowe’s to remain as a tenant (but “in a more urban format”) or be replaced by a like number of jobs.
The Committee also discussed adding an additional public meeting in the evening sometime next year, considering the high interest in this subject, but did not settle on a date.