Last Tuesday’s Urban Village Community Design Workshop sponsored by the City of Seattle was a success! Over 300 people attended the meeting to participate in a dialogue with a representative of Councilperson Rob Johnson’s office, the Office of Planning and Community Development, and the Office of Housing. I will have to say that I was somewhat shocked and surprised that Councilperson Johnson did not show up for the meeting in that he missed a valuable opportunity to engage in a dialogue with his constituents about some pretty important and long-reaching zoning decisions.
The City started the meeting with a welcome, introductions and meeting overview by the meeting facilitator, John Howell, who did a great job of keeping the meeting on track and on time. Next, a representative from the Office of Planning and Community Development provided the audience with a HALA and Mandatory Housing Affordability Program overviews as well as a review of new zoning proposals with specific reference to Wallingford. The specific reference to Wallingford issues and concerns were a direct result of the Wallingford Community Council’s http://www.wallingfordcc.org community educational meeting held on January 7, 2017.
I was also pleased that the City included a Panel with City Staff which was a Q&A session with written questions from the audience. The volume of questions from the audience was overwhelming and the City promised to go back and answer each question and post them on the HALA website. The City will advise us when this has been accomplished and I will advise you when it is posted. The questions that were posed to the panel reflected a well-educated audience who had very deep concerns about the direction of the rezoning as well as it’s impact on the character of Wallingford and, the panel members tried their best to honestly answer the questions. Many of the questions were centered around the displacement aspect of the Mayor’s affordability strategy and, to be honest, many of the answers by panel members were confusing and did not necessarily reflect all of the facts.
After the Q&A session we broke into small work groups for a discussion of the proposed zoning maps with a goal to register questions regarding the proposed zoning as well as the effect of specific building design and types on the Wallingford community. The session that I attended was well run by an independent facilitator who was not pushing the City’s agenda and who had a goal of capturing the “true” feelings of Wallingford residents. At the end of this session each group was asked to summarize or highlight key issues and concerns. Although I cannot report the other groups’ conclusions, but I can tell you what my group thought were issues and concerns and they are:
- Impose impact fees on developers to support increased demands on infrastructure (parks, sewers, schools, parking, police)
- Increase density along Aurora Avenue and change zoning to Neighborhood Commercial
- Retain front yard setbacks of 15 feet
- Address school crowding
- Encourage family housing
- Shrink Wallingford Urban Village boundaries to include currently zoned Multi-family and Commercial areas only
- Reject height increases on 45th Street
- Require new developments to provide parking
- Respect lake and mountain views
- Minimize displacement
In conclusion the meeting was a big success and a big “Thank You” to Spencer Williams, Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Rob Johnson, Sara Maxana, Lindsay Masters, Geoff Wentlandt, The Wallingford Chamber of Commerce and the Wallingford Community Council for planning and implementing this great dialogue on the future of our neighborhood and the City of Seattle. Once again, my only disappointment was that Councilperson Rob Johnson did not attend this important meeting. What took place Tuesday was a great example of how the dialogue with government improves when the grassroots of a community steps up and gets involved for the greater good. Hats off to all who participated and don’t quit now. Write or call Rob Johnson, City Council and Mayor Murray to let them know your concerns and provide your input and visit the HALA website on a regular basis. It does matter!!