A standing room only crowd at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Wallingford Community Council heard from representatives of the Department of Planning and Development, the developer Skanska and a large number of neighbors concerning a proposed office building on Stone Way. While there was overwhelming support for the concept of a Living Building, Wallingford neighbors expressed a wide variety of opinions regarding the proposal (particularly its size and height) and potential benefits and detriments to the community.

Skanska said it was only in the early stages of deciding what the development would look like. However, of immediate concern to the Community Council is a pending amendment to city law which would increase the height limit on the site from 45 feet to 65 feet (plus roof top features up to an additional 15 feet), whether or not the development ultimately met the minimum requirements for the Living Building Pilot Program. This change would be inconsistent with existing zoning, the height limits on surrounding properties and comprehensive and neighborhood plans.

In proposing the change to the law, DPD characterized the amendment as a general legislative change rather than a “project action” in order to limit its SEPA impacts analysis. The WCC was faced with a Thursday deadline for filing an appeal to the city’s Determination of Non-Significance regarding the proposed changes in the ordinance. After discussion, the WCC Board voted unanimously to file an appeal to DPD’s SEPA Determination of Non-Significance.

After the meeting, representatives of both Skanska and WCC expressed the hope that differences could be worked out and the project  go forward in some form.

Lee Raaen, WCC President

  • http://[email protected] cata

    insane
    inappropriate
    has anyone stopped to nitice the other ‘projects’ along Stoneway/ the apt building on 42 and the OOm Yung Do building are slated for removal for’projects’. it is not just about thsi one building plan- its about making a neighborhood into a downtown concrete jungle.

  • NorthWallingford

    Every time a developer wants to build something, it seems that they ask the city to change the zoning (see developments around Roosevelt). Why does zoning even exists, if it so easy to get around it? Not really fair to people who live around there/here. 45 feet height seems plenty of me.

  • http://[email protected] cata

    yep
    why dont people ‘get it’ ?

  • Anne Martin

    so glad the appeal was filed. it’ s just wrong to increase the height, and troublesome that the city was giving it a pass. where’s our green-loving mayor in all of this?

  • http://www.fathiainseattle.com Fathia and Jerry

    I am glad to see that in Wallingford our Comminity is aware and awake !!!

    “Skanska said it was only in the early stages of deciding what the development would look like.”
    This is hard to imagine the lack of interest and lack of imagination of the developers !
    How can you propose to build something without honoring what it’s around?

    The members of our Community have many interests and imagination to make sure that Wallingford-Fremont Area is not a taken for a dumpster to build a giant concrete something that will bring some juicy revenues and with it all the healthy consequences. All of us know how this sort of businesses(developers) can get really wild and difficult to correct when all those favor permits are given (why?) bypassing the concerns and the interests of the Community.

    This project is a awake up call for our Community to continue to pursuit what makes our Neighborhood vibrant and well advance in many ways and its impact on other areas of Seattle. Wallingford is a respected and admired Neighborhood because of the way we think. When a group of people look at and have in mind the big picture of things, this “out of the box” thinking bring the more accurate solutions to any situations.
    Thanks to Mr. Lee who is playing his role !!! Thanks to all of you who make this place well loved(Ask anyone) !!
    Thanks to all those wonderful organizations that bring so much joy in our lives:
    The Tilth, Just gardening, the Spokespeople, Mosaic place, Community kitchen, the Fruit harvesters, the university House with their art events open to all,the Fawn group to keep us safe, the Family works, the Boys and Girls Club, the Wallingford Tour Homes, the beautiful W. Center, the owners of shops, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s a delight to live in Wallingford because of all of you !!!

    let’s keep our way of thinking to keep a balance and healthy community.
    Who said that a small group of people can change the world ?

  • http://www.fathiainseattle.com Fathia and Jerry

    UNHEALTHY CONSEQUENCES !!!
    The members of our Community have many interests and imagination to make sure that Wallingford-Fremont Area is not a taken for a dumpster to build a giant concrete something that will bring some juicy revenues and with it all the UNHEALTHY consequences.

  • Michael H.

    Calling an office building a dumpster is bizarre, especially one that is literally replacing a compost dump. The plans seem to fit quite well into the surrounding area, from what I’ve seen. There is already a building two blocks away that is as tall as this one, and people hardly notice it.

    NorthWallingford: In the case of Roosevelt, the city decided to rezone the area around a new subway station. In this case, the developers are allowed to ask for more height under existing rules if they create a “Living Building.”

  • http://blog.protectedstatic.com/ protected static

    They hardly notice it because it’s under the Aurora Bridge.

  • Eric

    The rezone provides skanska with the ability to add extra floors in exchange for energy efficiency, which is great for them. The community should similarly be compensated since we are taking the impact of an outsized building, but we get nothing- we get impacted but receive no benefits. Unless we’re compensated for the rezone, we have to oppose it.

  • Chris W.

    Thank you, Lee! I was disappointed to miss the meeting, and very glad the WCC appealed the Determination of Non Significance. I support a Living Building and making lower Wallingford more dynamic (have you ever walked through there in the winter? I always feel isolated), but I think that the full impact of a building this size should be carefully considered.

  • chuck

    Yeah, we get nothing. Well except a new, well designed building (aesthetically and functionally) to replace a parking lot and a subway, the potential for some better retail and more amenities in that part of the neighborhood, and maybe several hundred jobs that could more easily be located in the suburbs which is even more environmentally damaging.

    For some people no change is the only solution, as if the day they arrived in the neighborhood is the way it’s always been and the way it always should be.

    I just think this neighborhood is being incredibly myopic.

  • Eric

    As far as I know nothing about the rezone makes it more likely the building will be well designed. After rezone Skanska could put up an energy efficient concrete block if they like. While I know it’s unamerican to say so, I don’t think we should get in the business of giving away our quality of life to multinational corporations so that they may bless us with their presence.

  • Chuck

    There was a lot of great information in the proposal that was submitted, including massing and shadow studies and 3 initial designs for a really nice building.

    The only people that seem to think this will be some sort of hulking block are right here on this site, and I would question how many of you have taken the time to carefully consider the ACTUAL proposal, not the one someone so fearfully pasted on a flier and put on everyone’s door. No one said anything about giving away quality of life or a multi-national corporation, none of you have any idea about who the tenants might be because no one knows that yet.

    Let’s put down the pitchforks and un-jerk our knees for a minute.

  • http://[email protected] cata

    I agree with Eric.
    We do noticew those ugly concrete buildings ever moment we driv eby them and remember the beautiful water views we used to have and sunlight on our bodies. The concrete jungles eat air, sun, water views, healthy aspects of living in neighborhoods. Concrete negates watershed necessities. concrete replacing trees, gras, weeds, air, water eats communities and creates wasteland of concrete with no life.

  • Chuck

    But it’s an asphalt parking lot right now!
    This building is literally replacing no trees, grass or any plantlife whatsoever and could arguably be better for the environment than what’s there now. And while I appreciate the sentiment, this is a city. A big one. It’s never ever going to be grassland and forest again. So let’s use it wisely.

  • Junipero

    It should be clear that the so-called “Community Council” does not speak for everybody in the neighborhood. I live at 35th and Wallingford and have no objections whatsoever to this building. Heights shouldn’t be the issue. Instead the questions should be about what the design looks like, whether it is energy efficient, whether it will bring jobs to the neighborhood, etc.

    Focusing on heights ensures we get badly designed buildings that don’t fit in well with the neighborhood. It’s an absurd and obsolete way to consider how to improve our community.

  • iyqtoo

    Good for WCC for challenging the SEPA decision, without action on the part of the neighborhood, DPD sometimes feels forced to succomb to pressure from the more organized and powerful developers.

    We have to be selective with these things though. Unless you own the land, saying ‘NO WAY!!’ to every proposed redevelopment will get you nowhere. All the neighborhood can do is ask for mitigations through collaboration with the owners, the developers and support from the City. And we better be learning how to do it well and soon. Much of the land in south Wallingford is currently zoned for industrial use. Anybody who thinks that won’t be changing in the pretty near future needs to take a good look at Seattle’s growth forecasts.

  • Eric

    Thanks cata. Over 50 people came to the WCC meeting and the vast majority of residents stood opposed to the rezone. The initial designs are are just possibilities, just like the concrete block is a possibility. Good or bad design could happen within existing zoning or after rezoning.

    Not to demonize corporations, but unlike the school system or local business I don’t think we should double over backward to accommodate them. Clearly Skanska and the outdoor lifestyle company requiring 5 floors of office space are massive corporations.

  • Gregf

    The land use process is SUPPOSED to be about mitigating impacts. This is all part of the design process. Speaking up should not be perceived as either PRO or CON, but about identifying impacts and developing mitigation.

    The current approach by DPD to label a project with obvious impacts as DNS in order to apparently dodge the SEPA process, however, does not do the public (or the project) a service. We ran into this maneuver on the Hamilton project, Roosevelt is running into it with the rezone, and now this project.

    Neutering the SEPA process should not be routine. If the project is a good one, it can stand up to public review and comment.

  • Gregf

    It was also my understanding that there was no commitment to actually implementing the “Living Building” aspects of the design.

  • Chuck

    What outdoor lifestyle company? Do you know something the rest of us don’t?

  • Lee

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. Just a quick reply to a couple of items. Regarding the information submitted by the developer, they have said many times that the drawings do not represent proposals of what the building will look like. They are a long way from the design stage. At the WCC meeting they referred to the designs as “lumps of clay” just representing ideas of the size of the buildings. As for the shadow studies, you will note that they were all represented as being a high noon. I understand that the standard for doing shadow studies is at 10 and 2, when there are usually shadows. That submission alone should raise some good faith questions.

    With regard to the Living Building proposal, there is nothing in the proposed changes to our land use code that would require that they actually produce a Living Building. To take advantage of the changes, they only need to “attempt” to meet 60% of the programs standards. If they do not, they get to keep the building, but they “may” have a penalty of “up to 5%” of construction costs “depending” on the extent of non-compliance. Even if a penalty was imposed, 5% for an additional story on a building seems cheap.

    The purpose of the WCC appeal is to ask that the city engage in a good faith SEPA review and not do an end run around the law by calling it a non-site specific proposal.

  • http://www.dougsvotersguide.com/ DOUG.

    Height is not everything. Some of this neighborhood’s biggest eyesores are short buildings. Taco Time and Key Bank being two of them.

  • Eric

    Chuck- Regarding the tenant, I’m just paraphrasing what the Skanska rep said at the WCC meeting.

  • Chuck

    @Eric – Ah, thanks. I was hoping someone knew something though. :)

    Just for the record folks, I’m not trying to be a shill for this thing. I just bristle at the fact that any time anyone wants to build anything in this city people go off half-cocked with even less information simply because it’s new.
    Whether that’s the case here, I don’t know. I’d just like everyone to keep an open mind, it could be a really great thing.

  • JoshMahar

    I’m just so confused about the opposition to this. The site in question is currently a parking lot and a subway. Of all the places in Wallingford that could use some rejuvenation, this is it. It would be a wonderful way to connect Wallingford to Fremont.

    And we really couldn’t ask for a better developer, this is no AvalonBay. Having recently added development to their services, SKANSKA is looking to build some showcase pieces. I have no doubt this building will be of the highest quality. Lisa Picard, executive director, has extensive experience working on urban and pedestrian issues through the Issaquah Central Plan, so I’m sure she understands how to make buildings fit into the urban fabric and add to the human environment.

    Just two block north in Fremont, there are 65ft zones along the water and Fremont seems to be doing alright. The views down the massive street that is Stone will remain, as will the wonderful views from, you know, the parks and trails all along the water. The community council would do better putting their energy into creating rather than blocking neighborhood improvements.

  • Jack

    Thank you, JoshMahar. Well said.

  • TRW

    Well said indeed, JoshMahar. The site is indeed an oddly sloped parking lot and Subway NEXT TO A DUMP. We should encourage and welcome investment and redevelopment of this space.

    I live 2 blocks from the site and have long felt that S. Stone Way has been a neglected corridor, with Fremont and Wallingford both claiming it is part of their perspective neighborhoods only when it is convenient or controversial (transfer station redesign, festering pit, lane diet).
    I hope the majority agree that the area should be invested in, the only issue being in this particular case the height of the project.

  • prop3

    This is a great site and I can understand why the “outdoor lifestyle company” is interested. Close to transit, the BG and Lake Union. Also within walking distance of downtown Fremont and Wallingford. The tenant surely isn’t REI, so that only leaves one or two other companies that fit the bill. It’s not like they’re ripping down a charming brick building. This site cries out for redevelopment. Adding an extra 20 feet just won’t make much of a difference as far as I can tell. The public has the right to oppose the zoning change. At the end of the day, I hope that the WCC, the developer and the tenant can come up with a mutually acceptable resolution. If not, I really don’t see much chance of the rezone not going through. It would be a shame to let this opprotunity slip away.

  • Donn

    These calls for “rejuvenation”, “redevelopment”, the hand wringing about the Subway, seem in my view to come from a somewhat misguided idea about how good urban environments happen, and indeed what seems to be slowly but surely happening down there.

    With enough money, you can create any amount of glossy urban scenery, but it would be very disappointing to me to see that happen in at the south end of Stone, instead of what I see happening as it develops into something with its own unique character. If you doubt me, get on down there and poke your nose into the places along the street. As dozens of small business choose to locate there because it’s a good fit for them (and for that matter, haven chosen to leave when it wasn’t), they’ve woven a kind of urban fabric that makes sense in the context of that place. It isn’t “no change”, it’s changing all the time, but it changes at a realistic pace. Honestly, it takes time – maybe generations – but it’s the way you get a great neighborhood, the way we do it in a real city.

    Yeah, that corner is idle. It won’t be forever. Who knows, maybe we have to wait until the owner dies of old age, but that’s nothing in the city’s time line. Ideally, once it becomes clear that the community won’t support the variance, that plot will be allowed to find some use that fits with the developing business neighborhood.

  • http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/Design_Review_Program/Overview/default.asp WallingfordDad

    I like the idea of this project, its just too big! But here’s the thing: Regardless of any action by the City Council or DPD, this project is required to go through the Design Review process. Before applying for a permit, the project has to be approved by the Design Review Board (five of your fellow citizens, volunteers, no connection to the developer or DPD).

    The first Early Design Guidance meeting was September 19th, at which the Board strongly objected to the unmitigated increase in height and asked the applicant to return for a second EDG (there is usually only one before moving on to a Recomendation meeting). These meetings are open, and a significant piece of the program is dedicated to hearing comment from the public. This is a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on the design of this project. You can check out the details of the DR program on the DPD’s website here:
    http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/Design_Review_Program/Overview/default.asp

  • walkinroun

    Kudos to WCC for appealing. Variances to neighborhood zoning restrictions should be very carefully evaluated for their impacts and unintended consequences. Neighborhoods that do not have strong advocates and residents who do not look out for quality of life issues tend to get whittled away. Imho, the unfriendly unyielding concrete canyons lurking along the Fremont Canal are no pleasant substitute for the small, diverse and viable blue collar, industrial and marine businesses here and in South Lake Union that could not keep pace with these big well-heeled bankrolled new neighbors. I second #30 Donn.

  • http://[email protected] cata

    the WCC never returns phone calls, so their’supposed’ representation of the ‘neighborhood’ is .. supposed.
    Ok, its a subway and a parking lot now, there is air right above the lot and views- not tall buildings of concrete.
    Finally what is this shit effusive non-meaning talk..” Fremont seems to be doing ok with concrete buildings?? Yes Fremont is still there but where we once had trees, views, air water views we have CONCRETE, shade much less parking and dull ugly grey stone to see and no sun on our skin. Fremont is nOT doing ok.

  • Chuck

    Cata, have you ever been down to Fremont on a sunny day? TONS of people feeling the sun on their skin. Especially on those steps just South of PCC.
    It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

    We can build buildings in the city, or we can build buildings out in the exurbs.
    We can rip up blacktop to do it, or we can rip up farmland.
    That IS an either/or proposition.
    Which one will do more damage?

  • JoshMahar

    @Donn,

    I think you make some great points. You are right that the area has already started to foster some great stuff. (This is going to show my bias but the Fremont Brewery, hidden around the corner is a huge neighborhood asset.) And you’re definitely right that great neighborhoods take a long time to develop and even huge amounts of capital can’t change that. Perhaps my call for “rejuvenation” was a bit much.

    But I do think the area has reached a critical point and inevitably will move to the next level. This isn’t a SLU where the government is trying to artificially “create” a great neighborhood. It is a place that’s organic growth has attracted natural investment. I would argue that SKANSKA project is a manifestation of the exact process you suggest and will only continue to encourage those small, funky businesses that everyone loves.

    @cata,

    Sure, saying Fremont is “doing alright” is total opinion. But let’s see: a new theater just opened while ones in other hoods struggle to survive. One of the first boutique hotels outside of the central city recently decided to open in Fremont. Restaurateurs with local and national praise have regularly made Fremont their hood. Oh, and the Fremont Market continues to be one of the most successful outdoor markets in probably the entire state. I stand by my statement.

  • Jen

    I agree with JoshMahar. This is next to a DUMP. Stone Way will change. I’m not sure what too big means. The scale of the DUMP is one thing. Too big would be if the view corridor down stone was blocked (its magical). The opportunity to finally see Stone Way revitalize is a blessing for those of us that have watched the paint peel. I think there is never a project good enough when you don’t like change.

  • Neighbor To You

    Very much appreciating that this discussion is, for the most part, continuing in a civil way. {“Points” conveyed with, or through, insulting language and profanity don’t carry much weight with me….I much prefer content and thoughtfulness.}

    In any case, I continue to feel very favorable toward development at this particular intersection, which is very close to where I live. I do understand the height concerns, and am looking forward to the next steps in the process to see how it evolves. But overall, the notion of new structures at 35th and Stone Way makes me enthusiastic for a great opportunity in the area, and the healthy growth of our community overall.

    Let’s keep talking. Thanks, everyone.

  • Lee

    I would like to reply to the post regarding the Wallingford Community Council not returning phone calls. The WCC is a non-profit corporation formed more than 40 years ago and its membership is open to anyone that lives or works in Wallingford. We meet every first Wednesday at the Good Shepard Center at 7:00 PM. We encourage anyone in the neighborhood to come and participate. We are also looking for people to become involved in neighborhood activities and issues.

    WCC is an entirely volunteer organization with a limited budget. We do not have a telephone number of our own, but the Wallingford Neighborhood Office generously allows us the use of its office. That office is staffed by volunteers and one part time administrator who is out of town during the month of October. The WCC only gets phone messages when someone at the office picks them up and passes them on.

    The best way to reach us is through email. My WCC email address is [email protected].

    Lee Raaen
    WCC President

  • John

    FYI, the Outdoor Lifestyle Company is Brooks Shoes. They are moving from Bothell to Seattle.

  • http://[email protected] cata

    I left 4 messages about a neighborhood problem 2 for each agency. No on ecalled back . A few days later I called and asked if anyone go thte message an dwas told no. If no one gets messages why have the phone message voicemail make it sound like you do?

    Re concrete buildings.. the Research Center is completely empty right overlooking Gasworks. Why do we need a new office building when we have a 5 story empty one?

  • http://[email protected] cata

    We can build buildings and USE them instead of empyting them and building new ones.

  • http://blog.protectedstatic.com/ protected static

    The former ISB building is a specialized facility, designed for biotech. You can’t just move any random company in there.

  • Neighbor To You

    @Protected Static. Agreed.
    And along those lines, if there is a new development being planned (and again, I recognize that the height and scale issues need to be resolved), and a strong prospective tenant like Brooks that would bring jobs to the area, that sure sounds good to me in these tough economic times.

    Same goes for the notion that people could live in Wallingford and Fremont and not have to commute to Bothell for work. I like it.

  • Ralph

    The new Transfer Station( coming 2012-2013) will be no taller than the existing station which means that the proposed building will be approximately two stories higher.

    For those of you who do not live near Stoneway please consider the impact of cars on S. Wallingford. Bastyr University has caused a parking nightmare… more buildings more people parking on our streets. I hate to say it but we are going to need a several story parking lot on Stoneway if it’s going to be developed.

  • Ted Lockery

    Check out today’s article in the Seattle Times, “Ultra-green Seattle office project draws corporate HQ, complaints” and see what you think of Brooks and the proposed development.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016552908_skanska20.html

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