Updated 12:04pm. See (*) below for additional content.
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin has introduced new legislation to implement minimum density requirements to Neighborhood Commercial Zones. You can read the entire legislation here) but here’s the gist:
“The legislation requires a minimum density for Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zones in urban centers, urban villages and station area overlay districts that have a pedestrian designation overlay. The minimum density level, measured by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), would be based on the maximum allowable height in the NC zone. The requirement would only apply to new buildings or modifications to existing buildings that add or remove more than 1,000 square feet or 10 percent of the gross square footage currently existing on the lot, whichever is less.”
A Full Council vote will be held this Monday (September 9) and “if adopted, the legislation would take effect immediately after the Mayor signs the bill. Permanent legislation will be developed with stakeholder input in the Council’s land use committee in 2014.”
The current proposed design for 2100 N. 45th St.(which we’re all presuming will be a CVS) falls short of the minimum density requirement in the new legislation. But before you get too excited about that, here’s the bad news: since the project has already gone through the design process, if passed, the legislation won’t have any bearing on the current design.
I spoke with Conlin in email and here’s what he told me:
You are correct that the legislation would have no legal impact on the project. In land use, we are often in the situation where projects that we are concerned about get vested before we can legislate possible changes in the code. Our goal is two fold, first to lay down a marker that prevents other such projects from applying and vesting, and second to provide further encouragement for the dialogue among community, city, and project proponent that could stimulate changes in the project. Can’t guarantee success in that, but I am confident that it will get their attention. CVS has done urban drug stores in many other cities, and hopefully, this will be one more step in the process for them to move towards that in Seattle. While we cannot in any way guarantee that Wallingford will benefit, we are hopeful that there might be some progress in the right direction.
I asked him if he thought that if enough neighbors rallied together and made noise, would we still have a chance to convince the developer to re-design? He replied, “That will be part of it. I am also planning to engage in dialogue with them.”
*Another small beacon of hope is the fact that the Design Review Board actually rejected the proposal and asked the developers to come back with something that was a better fit for the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that’s going to have any practical implications. As Diane Sugimura of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development notes in The Stranger, “That would be a question that I don’t know that I’ve ever had raised, where [the review board] is asking for more than is being proposed,” she told me. She noted that design guidelines are technically “only guidelines,” and that “the requirements in the code do not have a minimum right now.”
So, this doesn’t necessarily mean the legislation is meaningless. In fact, Holly wrote the following call to action in the comments section of a previous post:
HOWEVER, this is still important legislation to support. 1. Because it will impact all future projects, which is a good thing. 2. Because it gives us leverage (and the council and city staffers) to push for changing “our” designs to be more aligned with the new rules. I do think that this gives us added leverage, which is why I hope everyone can encourage the Council to support it. Then we just need to continue to put pressure on!
Wallingford resident Jenny Brailey also wrote the following and asked us to share in this post:
Hi,Thanks for attending the August design review meeting on the proposed CVS building in Wallingford. I am contacting you because I also was at the meeting (I was the first one to speak during the public comment period) and want to make sure that we do what we can to help voice the community opinion about the building. I was inspired by the passionate and articulate testimonies and want to invite your continued participation.The purpose of this email is two-fold:
(1) To let you know about “emergency legislation” proposed by City Councilmember Richard Conlin that may impact the CVS project on 45th; and
(2) To invite you to periodic updates about the project.
If you would like to URGE THE CITY COUNCIL TO PASS THIS LEGISLATION, please contact them right away. Again, the vote is this coming Monday, September 9, so there’s no time to waste. I have included a sample message that you can cut and paste into an email to the councilmembers, with their emails below.
Periodic UpdatesI want to use this email to invite you to participate in ongoing community efforts regarding the CVS development. Please let me know if you would like to be removed from this list. If you know someone who would like to be included, forward this email and/or let me know.
I think if we stay connected we can make a difference, which is why I took the liberty of contacting you.
Your neighbor,Jenny BraileyWallingford resident
Sample message to councilmembers:I support livable, walkable, vibrant neighborhoods in Seattle. Please vote YES on September 9 in favor of Councilmember Conlin’s proposed emergency legislation to set minimum density requirements in our urban centers and urban villages.(Elaborate as much as possible in your own words…!)
Councilmember emails:[email protected]; sally
[email protected]; tim. [email protected];jean. [email protected]; bruce. [email protected]; nick. [email protected];mike. [email protected]; tom. [email protected]