If you followed the issue of the development at Beacon and Horton, or any other development issues in Beacon Hill, you may be interested in a new zoning rule affecting some properties in the Beacon Hill Urban Village.
In response to some recent low-rise commercial projects with lots of surface parking (CVS pharmacies) proposed within pedestrian overlay zones, Council Member Richard Conlin drafted emergency land use legislation last month, which passed full council. The new rules aim to prevent further projects that under-utilize properties and attract more car traffic within higher density, pedestrian-oriented zoning. The main tool of the legislation is to set minimum FAR requirements for projects on neighborhood commercial lots within urban villages, station overlays, or pedestrian overlays. There are also further parking restrictions in the new rules that actually limit the number of parking spaces. The FAR refers to the floor-area ratio; for instance, 50% lot coverage and 4 floors would have a FAR of 2. See here, here, and here for more specifics.
While not specifically called out in the rule language or discussions I have read, I confirmed with Richard Conlin that this is a city-wide rule and the properties surrounding the Beacon Hill Station zoned NC2P-65, and -40 are affected by this new rule. The minimum FAR set by the new rule is 1.5 for the NC2P-40 properties and 2.0 for NC2P-65.
View Larger Map. This Google Street View shows the building currently at 3227 Beacon Ave. S.
by Robert Hinrix
A developer is proposing a project at 3227 Beacon Ave. S., three doors south of Victrola Coffee. (Ed. note: see the the permit activity for this project on the DPD website.) The property has been occupied by a derelict and vacant apartment building, so in the most general sense nearly anything built there will be an improvement. However, the project as proposed does very little to improve the commercial district of Beacon Hill, in spite of the supposed requirements of the property’s NC1-40 zoning (meaning commercial property, to a 40-foot height).
While the developer could in fact be building a commercial/residential building that would nearly fill the lot, the proposal as it stands is for five townhomes and parking. The one townhome facing the street will be designated a “live-work” space; this fulfills the legal requirement to make a commercial space. It also means that there will be no actual design review and very little opportunity to influence the nature of this project. For Beacon Hill’s commercial district, this is most unfortunate. Instead of a possible restaurant space, or several decent shop spaces, we are likely to get a barely viable space that’s part of someone’s home, facing the street.
But it is not too late to influence the course of this project. If you are interested in making a comment, it can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, cc’ing email@example.com; she is the designated planner. You absolutely must include the project number in the subject line: it is 3014661.
Because DPD has allowed the developer a “streamlined design review,” it appears that, for a key commercial property development here on Beacon Avenue, the city’s (two week) comment period is already over, but that is not the case. If enough people respond to this proposal, it can still be changed and improved, as permits have not been issued and review is happening right now. It is recommended that comments focus on the lack of commercial space, the fact that the zoning is NC1-40, and that there is only one proposed commercial entry on Beacon Avenue, our principal arterial. For a 5000-square-foot commercial lot in nearly any other area of the city, multiple commercial entries would be required.
By skirting design review the developer will be able to sell his five townhomes and never think about it again — but we on Beacon Hill will have to live with this development forever. Please send in your comments!
Robert Hinrix has been involved in many neighborhood projects and groups, including the North Beacon Hill Council.
Do you have something to say? Send us your own opinion pieces on this or other Beacon Hill-related topics.
On Tuesday, February 10, the Hearing Examiner’s Office conducted a prehearing conference regarding the appeal filed by Frederica Merrell to vacate the Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) for the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan update. There was also a prehearing conference for the appeal against the Othello update. The North Rainier (a.k.a. Mount Baker) appeal will be heard by the Hearing Examiner on February 16.
These meetings are the first of many steps to examine the merits of the identical appeals filed by separate individuals against the Neighborhood Plan updates. These meetings are costing City of Seattle taxpayers money and taking staff time away from other DPD business. They are also delaying any progress on the work plans associated with the Neighborhood Plan Updates and halting any development and/or design plans for the sites involved.
El Centro de La Raza has lost $75,000 in funds offered to help them begin preliminary community outreach to discuss design and development ideas for their property. They cannot begin to move forward on developing their site until there is some indication that zoning issues will be resolved. El Centro is a valuable community partner. They would like to develop their property in the best interests of the neighborhood. They cannot begin the conversation about how to do that until the zoning issues are resolved.
Let’s be very clear: the Neighborhood Plan Updates are totally, completely about zoning. The entire point of the Neighborhood Plan Updates—the only reason they were ever developed—was to discuss zoning in the specific areas around the light rail stations. They were not intended to be and will never be replacements for the extensive Neighborhood Plans our communities have in place.
All other issues are red herrings. Concurrency is a completely unrelated issue to the upzone conversation—apples and oranges. The Neighborhood Plan validation process is also completely unrelated—a completely separate process.
This is the core of El Centro’s counter-appeal. DPD can clearly demonstrate that these appeals are too general and many of the complaints are outside the jurisdiction of the Hearing Examiner’s office and outside the scope of the update.
From El Centro’s Motion to Dismiss:
“El Centro de la Raza makes a motion to dismiss this appeal because Ms. Merrell appears to be raising issues related to the passage of the North Beacon Hill Plan, rather than the adequacy of the City’s environmental review. The North Beacon Hill Plan has not been adopted by the City Council yet. No changes to the Comprehensive Plan, nor to the zoning code, have yet occurred. Therefore, any issues related to the North Beacon Hill Plan itself, or related to any potential future zoning change, are not ripe for the Hearing Examiner’s review. In addition, any issues related to the Growth Management Act are not properly before the Hearing Examiner and must be dismissed.
In the alternative, El Centro suggests to the Hearing Examiner that the appeal is essentially limited to a single legal issue: whether the City properly exercised its discretion under WAC 197-11-055, 197-11-060, and 197-11-228 to complete proper environmental review of comprehensive planning documents. We ask that the Hearing Examiner dismiss all other issues raised by Ms. Merrell, as such claims are related to the unadopted plan or possible future zone changes. ”
Unfortunately, it’s going to take weeks (if not months) of public employee time away from actual projects to address these appeals. These appeals are an expensive time-wasting strategy with an end goal of keeping things in limbo.
Development will happen, but it’s going to take years and millions of dollars longer because a very simple zoning question—one that has received a significant amount of community feedback—is not being answered. That’s a shame.
(Melissa is a columnist for the Beacon Hill Blog and recently wrote about speeding drivers on the Hill in her column “Walking with Tica.”)
The North Beacon Hill Council meeting this Thursday will include discussion of the Transit-Oriented Development bill, HB1490, and the changes and density that the light rail station may bring to North Beacon Hill.
The meeting and discussion, as with all NBHC meetings, is open to all residents of Beacon Hill.
Time and location: 7:00 pm, Thursday, March 5, in the basement of the Beacon Hill Lutheran Church, 1730 South Forest (just east of the Library). Ample parking is available.
Here’s the full agenda:
7:00 Hellos and announcements
Jefferson Park Festival, June 27 – volunteers?
Picnic and Piñatas, July 18 – volunteers?
7:10 Light Rail and Neighborhood Changes:
HB1490 Pro and Con, Update
Bill LaBorde, Transp. Choices Coalition
Jenna Walden, Community Activist, Othello Neighborhood Council
7:20 A time for questions and answers
7:40 Lyle Bicknel, Seattle Department of Transportation, and leader of the SDOT and Dept. of Neighborhoods team which is working with the Neighborhood Policy Advisory Committee (NPAC) – an update on what’s happening
7:50 Questions and answers
8:10 Seattle Police Department and/or Shelly Bates
8:20 Comments and concerns
Thanks to Judith Edwards for sending out the agenda!
(We recently asked a few people to write their opinions about House Bill 1490 and how it relates to Beacon Hill. The bill was altered and no longer directly affects the Hill, but Andrew Smith still has a few things to say about density in our area.)
By Andrew Smith
Recently House Bill 1490 has started a discussion in our region over density and transit-oriented-development. Originally the bill required cities to create zoning packages that would have allowed increased density in a half-mile radius around all light rail and commuter rail stations. In a recent revision, that requirement was scaled back to apply to only communities defined by the Puget Sound Regional Council as “growth centers”: Auburn, Downtown Bellevue, Overlake, Everett, Federal Way, Kent, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Puyallup, Redmond, Seatac, Capitol Hill, Downtown Seattle, Northgate, the University District, Downtown Tacoma, and Tukwila. I imagine many in Southeast Seattle breathed a sigh of relief when they read that, as many in that area were very concerned about increased density changing their neighborhoods. However, I’d like to make the case for increased density in these areas, focusing my argument on Beacon Hill, and point out that while increased density could change the neighborhood, that change might be a better change than what will happen if density is prohibited. Continue reading Reader Opinion: North Beacon needs higher density→