by Shirley Nixon and Nancy Bocek, co-leads of Livable U District
Increasing allowable building heights in the U District by 400% to nearly 500% in many cases (current 55’, 65 and 85'maximums to 240’ and 320’) is a too massive and unnecessary upzone!
The U District is indeed to become a sacrifice zone, with its unique character destroyed forever. We need to tell our elected officials that this upzone proposal is unacceptable, unsupportable and unfair. But Council Member Rob Johnson seems determined to vote it out of his PLUZ Committee and adopted by the full council in just a few short weeks.
If this is to be prevented, City Council members must hear now from residents and independent business owners who want a more Livable U District and First Things First instead of an upzone ordinance that will only blanket the community with taller densely packed buildings, less livability, and more displacement.
Where do we fit in all this? Dispelling the myth that this upzone is what "the community" wants and needs.
The West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Organization, JuNO, sent a letter to City Council requesting a six month delay on the HALA draft proposal before proceeding to an Environmental Impact Study or EIS. Please see the attached letter for an outline of their concerns, which include a lack of neighborhood outreach by the city and not enough time for the neighborhood to responsibly study and respond to the proposed rezones.
If you would like more info on JuNO and how to get involved, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Lisa Parriott
In 2012, Dianna McLeod, a senior citizen, called the City of Seattle’s DPD and asked if her side yard was a buildable lot. She was told no. Immediately following, developer Dan Duffus bought her property, split the lot in 2, built and sold a towering toaster box house on the new lot for a large profit.
Our neighbor, a senior citizen, contracted with a professional real estate agent to sell his home with a large side yard. His north Admiral (West Seattle) property sold for $505,000 less than 14 months ago to developer Cliff Low. He now lives in a trailer park in Puyallup. On January 12, 2017, 9AM @ Seattle Municipal Tower in Parriott vs. City of Seattle, the neighbors will make the case to the City’s Hearing Examiner that the side yard is not a separate building site, based on a 1957 City LU Code loophole – Historic Lot Exception. If unsuccessful, Cliff Low will have secured a vacant lot in Seattle for little to no money. He will be allowed to squeeze a towering toaster box home onto the side yard and walk away with over $400,000 profit.
by Jon Lisbin
The Seattle City Council is considering massive upzones in the University District as the first implementation of it's "Inclusionary Housing" strategies throughout the city.
Truth is, if I was Mayor, I may have taken the same approach. Put together a panel of experts and stakeholders to come up with strategies to address Seattle’s affordable housing crisis. Unfortunately, that’s where intelligence ended and corruption began. The composition of HALA (Housing and Livability Agenda) Committee was heavily weighted toward developers and their interests. The resulting skewed report was biased towards special interests.
I know, at this point you are saying “another conspiracy theorist”. However, the facts behind my assertion are quite compelling. Maybe I can speak in a language city officials are familiar with?
I know the train has left the station. I know it would take true courage to stop it now. I ask that our city leaders have that courage!
* Seattle's current plan calls for 3 - 8% Set Asides, significantly below other major cities, but not set yet.
by Linda Nash and Jim Hanford
2016 will be the hottest year on record. Atmospheric carbon levels are now higher than they have been in 4 million years. Seattle has admirably made the commitment to carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Locating new housing and businesses near transportation is an important step. But that alone is not enough. One-third of Seattle’s energy use comes from buildings.
In order to achieve carbon neutrality while continuing to grow, the City will have to transition the vast majority of its building stock away from the consumption of electricity and fossil fuels. Yet high-rise construction, as proposed here, is a high-carbon option. Seattle’s own data show that high-rise multi-family buildings currently consume 45% more energy per square foot than mid-rise multi-family and 64% more than low-rise multi-family. In the case of tall buildings, the emphasis on small efficiency improvements and “LEED” certification merely serves to make wasteful construction slightly less unsustainable.
There are significant obstacles to making tall buildings energy and carbon efficient: they require more elevators and air-conditioning; they have more exposure to wind and sun and have higher rates of heat gain and loss; they have a small roof-top area limits the potential to use solar and other renewables. To make matters worse, tall buildings exacerbate the effects of very high temperature days (which we are now experiencing in the summer) by raising surrounding air temperatures and decreasing air flow between buildings. Their long shadows also limit the potential for solar energy on adjacent sites. If Seattle truly wants to mitigate climate change, it will need to prioritize energy considerations in zoning and the design of buildings.
Modern, tower-dominated downtowns emerged in an era of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, and they do not obviously serve the needs of the twenty-first century. Buildings last for many decades and will shape the city’s design and energy needs far into the future. We can’t afford not to get it right.
Read more by Jim Hanford: High-rises are energy hogs, not climate solutions
A series of documents have been posted on the “What’s Happening” tab, and under the “Growth with Affordability” link. In the Citywide Implementation of MHA box on this page are the following three documents related to the EIS scoping.
by Shirley Nixon
Attached is a map for the U District rezone showing areas to be upzoned under the new ordinance. Dozens of MR and NC blocks zoom from a max of 65’ to 240’ or 320’. All of the rezone is north and west of the UW Campus “Institutional Overlay Zone”.
As if this increase in density (without concurrent infrastructure improvements) isn’t bad enough, a few weeks ago the UW released its draft Campus Master Plan that calls for adding – in the next ten years – 3 million net gsf of new space and 22 buildings on its West Campus alone; and 12 million net gsf campus-wide.
The U District simply cannot accommodate all of this new growth and retain affordable existing housing and livable neighborhoods. Special interests and the UW have been steadily working toward this skyscraper rezone of the U District and campus expansion for many years: long before the HALA Grand Bargain idea ever came to be. They now try to miscast opponents of this exponentially out-of-scale upzone as opponents of affordable housing. Not true. Not even close.
by Susanna Lin
The city has released draft MHA zones Click here to view the proposed zoning changes. Click on the pull down menu to view the map you are interested in viewing. Under this draft proposal, there would be no single family zoning left inside the urban village boundaries. The website includes instructions on how to interpret the map, which I recommend you read. In general, when you look at each zone on the map, our current zone is on the left and the new proposed zone is on the right (Example, LR1 | LR2 (M)).
In Wallingford, for example, the most dramatic changes, where the city wants to change some of the Single Family (SF) zones to Low Rise 3 (LR3), are mostly found west of Stone Way. Anyone remember that time when the city told us that zoning changes would just be “one more floor”? Well, this zoning change increases the height limit from 30’ to 50’ (and if you read further, the end product may be even higher). In general, 10’ is equal to one floor so a 50’ building is usually five stories high.
More common are blocks that are going from Single Family to Low Rise 2 (LR2), with a height “limit” of 40’. These zoning proposals can be a bit confusing to wrap your head around. The city is really changing the zoning twice. For example, the draft map shows a change from SF to LR2. But in addition, the defining characteristics of LR2 are also changing to allow for increased density, in the case of LR2 the heights will increase from 30’ to 40’. So first they change the zoning, then they also change the definition of the zone.
As if that was not enough, these specifics that define each zone in regards to height and setbacks are not as set in stone as you might think. Developers can request height “bonuses” for such things as being partially below grade, roof features, or green building components, although it is questionable how green these buildings really are in the end, but that’s another story (get it, “another story”?) And just so developers know how to take full advantage of these height bonuses, the city has kindly distributed instructions…
Notice that the height limit is 40’ but it says: Total perceived façade height from sidewalk level is about 57’. Nice job, city officials. Very transparent. Are you confused yet? Maybe that’s the point.
Last month the Mayor came to the U District to tout his upzone plan and the reception got chilly rather quickly. According to displacement activist John Fox, CM Rob Johnson and the Mayor don’t feel that upzoning the UDistrict from 240′-320′ highrises from current 45′ to 65′ heights would “stimulate any increase in the amount of new residential and commercial development over what we’re already getting under current zoning.” That’s when the bullshit meter spiked, the residents howled, and the Mayor took a quick exit stage left. Please read the entire article .