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Zoning changes intended to prevent “suburban-style” development apply to Beacon Hill, too

October 18th, 2013 at 4:45 am | 4 Comments | Posted by admin

Does this type of development belong in urban villages such as Wallingford, Lower Queen Anne, and Beacon Hill?

Does this type of development belong in urban villages such as Wallingford, Lower Queen Anne, and Beacon Hill?

by Chris Bailey

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.

The emergency legislation appears to be in effect for a year, but the goal is to make it permanent. A public hearing is scheduled for October 30 and written comments will be accepted. More information on the hearing is available here.


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Beacon Bits: Movie lights and skate park lights

March 16th, 2012 at 5:59 pm | 4 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Jefferson Park sidewalk. Photo by Joel Lee in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.

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Local group Blue Scholars have a short film contest in progress to promote their album Cinemetropolis. See this video for details. Deadline is April 6.

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The Seattle P-I has a photo series, “What Seattle neighborhood are you?” Beacon Hill is represented, but we daresay they don’t know us very well: “BEACON HILL: You were happily climbing the social ladder until you found out the love of your life was two-timing you with then-grungy South Lake Union. Forget Amazon. You can do better than that, Beacon Hill.” Love of our life? Bah. They wish.

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Apparently the lighting at the new Jefferson Skate Park is less than ideal. But Seattle Parks is working on getting it right.

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Former Beacon Hill resident Roger Valdez published an article recently in the Seattle Transit Blog with a radical anti-zoning suggestion: “Beacon Hill: The Revolution Won’t Be Measured in Feet.” But then he followed up with another Beacon-centric post: “Zeroing in on Beacon Hill.” What do you think of his suggestions?


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Beacon Hill neighbors opposed to “significant upzones”?

October 24th, 2011 at 8:15 am | 7 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

A post by Roger Valdez in the Seattle Transit Blog today discusses the proposed four-story, 30-unit residential/commercial building currently planned for part of the Beacon Hill Station block.

Valdez, a former Beacon Hill resident, would prefer more density than a 30-unit apartment building would provide, and suggests that Beacon Hill needs “big changes” to get where it needs to be.

He is pessimistic about tomorrow’s Early Design Guidance meeting for the project, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at WellSpring Family Services’ community room, 1900 Rainier Ave. S: “I’m really hoping that isn’t the case, but my sense of land use politics tells me that, like most design review meetings, neighbors will emerge with all kinds of reasons why this project is wrong for Beacon Hill.”

But Valdez expects such responses to be only a small roadblock, and the new development on 17th and McClellan to be “a wedge for more development” on Beacon Hill.

Comments recently on this blog seem to indicate a fair amount of support for more density around Beacon Hill Station, in contrast to Valdez’ perception of Beacon Hill neighbors as people who have “vigorously opposed significant upzones around the station.” What do you think?

The empty lots around Beacon Hill Station look desolate. (This photo has been sepia-toned.) Photo by Wendi.


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Neighborhood Plan Update moves forward

April 18th, 2011 at 5:52 am | 7 Comments | Posted by Melissa Jonas

Part of the Beacon Town Center concept plan as seen in the proposed Urban Design Framework.

On Monday, April 11 the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 117114. This bill moves the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan Update “action plan and goals” into the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. (There’s other stuff in there, but this is only a summary of changes relating to Beacon Hill. Read it; it’s interesting. Really.)

Here’s the proposed Urban Design Framework for North Beacon Hill Town Center, created with input from you and your neighbors. Here’s the Neighborhood Action Plan.

Some of the “Key Action Items” include:

  • Maintain the remainder of parcels and storefronts north and south of the immediate station area along Beacon Ave. S. for new and small businesses.
  • Rezone key opportunity sites to encourage redevelopment of parcels around the light rail station in a manner that incorporates housing, commercial services (such as a grocery store and small businesses) and amenities.
  • Evaluate a height increase within the Town Center for some but not all properties that have a current height limit of 40 feet, allowing up to 65 feet with required street and upper level setbacks.
  • Where land use changes are considered, give particular attention to zone transitions.
  • Change the land use and zoning to support the envisioned mixed use development on the El Centro site.
  • Develop neighborhood design guidelines and an urban design framework plan for the North Beacon Hill station area. Framework elements could include building height options, incentive features such as affordable housing, open space, and pedestrian connections.

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A difficult road still ahead for Art’s on Beacon Hill

April 6th, 2010 at 5:42 am | No Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

A jukebox waits for customers in the coffee shop at Art's on Beacon Hill. Photo by Wendi.

Michael Perrone sent us an email about the status of Art’s on Beacon Hill, the old grocery store site at 13th and Shelton which Michael owns (we’ve posted about it previously), and he gave us permission to post his message:

I am writing to let you know what’s up with Art’s.

The City of Seattle has re-instated my continuous use retail zoning and I will be working directly with them so that I can open my doors to the public. They have granted me the month of April to raise funds on this project and MIXED: FIRST PERSON is on display to the public Friday and Saturday nights through the month. I also received a phone call from a law student in Wisconsin, who for a class, is member of a law team representing Art’s vs. The City of Seattle. Interesting, huh? Thanks to those on your blog who forwarded my plight to the world. At least I know someone in Wisconsin gives a rat’s ass (LOL). I need to raise $25,000.00 to make this all happen. I do not have a lot of time, and if I cannot raise this money this site will be lost as a place of business. The City will not continue the use if I lose this property to foreclosure, due to the predatory loan I got into. I cannot express my Gratitude enough to Jeff Jones, my attorney and Lucas DeHererra DPD, who have both diligently found ways to work together to preserve my dream. Please post this as I need now more than ever to find a solution that will keep this community project going. This has pushed me into Chapter 13, and that light at the end of the tunnel seems far and distant… Thanks for listening, etc., and the opportunity to publicly announce this story; Art’s Gallery will be a grandfathered retail space by late summer 2010, and another neighborhood community based local business can be saved.

If you want to contact Michael, you can reach him at 206-861-6260 or egodd1@msn.com.


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Neighbors invited to discuss future of ART’s on Beacon Hill coffeehouse

March 26th, 2010 at 6:09 pm | 5 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

ART's on Beacon Hill at 13th and Shelton will host a community meeting this weekend and fundraising performances during April. Photo by Wendi.

Owner Michael Perrone sent this letter about the future of the ART’s on Beacon Hill coffeehouse in the former DeVos grocery at 13th and Shelton:

Dear Neighbors,

Thank you for all of your recent and generous support, as we are working hard to provide a community center that supports and reflects the diversity and rich history of our Beacon Hill and Georgetown neighborhoods.

On Saturday March 27, 2010 between 5 and 7 p.m., you are invited to attend a special community meeting at ART’s to discuss upcoming events and options for further community involvement and support. All neighbors are invited so please spread the word!

As you know, we have been working closely with the City of Seattle to renew historic licensing allowing for the reinstatement of ART’s as the community corner where neighbors gather, share a cup of hot beverage, a tasty delight, and news of the day. It is our aim to continue this tradition and reopen the corner coffee shop as a community hub and center of creativity. To assist in this endeavor, ART’s has recently partnered with CULTURE FORUM, a non-profit Culture and Arts organization dedicated to artist and cultural exchange through community building.

ART’s current offering opens April 1 running through May 1, and is entitled MIXED: First Person and is a 42 minute multi-media stage play developed with the Evergreen State College, CULTURE FORUM, and of course ART’s.

We are very close to achieving our goals, but cannot do it without your input, involvement, and support. So please accept our invitation to attend this special meeting, and we hope to see you very soon at ART’s! If you have any questions, please feel free to give a call or just stop on by!

Sincerely yours,
Michael Perrone
ART’s on Beacon Hill
4951 13th ave south 98108
phone: 206-861-6260

Christian Ryser of CULTURE FORUM tells the Beacon Hill Blog that the city has agreed to reinstate the building’s original historic status and zoning, including retail and gallery use, and that they are allowing fundraisers to be held. The Mixed: First Person show is functioning as a fundraising effort for ART’s. He adds, “The bad news is that ART’s is suffering from the same banking malpractice as the rest of the world. Culture Forum has partnered with ART’s to provide artistic direction as well as an avenue for tax deductible donations. We are attempting to find a way to modify and or buy out the absurd loan on the building. ” They are working with an attorney from Beacon Hill in this effort.


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Neighborhood planning with SPUNC

March 12th, 2010 at 3:00 am | 7 Comments | Posted by Melissa Jonas

On Tuesday, March 9, the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUNC) agenda included a review of the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan update.  You can watch the committee meeting on the Seattle Channel website.

Some points of interest in Tuesday’s meeting:

(approx. 20 minute mark) Brief discussion of the goals of the presentation, including mention of the recent appeal of the plan update process, and how the appeal may affect Council actions on the plan (basically, the Department of Planning and Development advising the Council to honor whatever decision the Hearing Examiner makes on the appeal).

(approx. 43 minute mark) Richard Conlin and Sally Clark discuss the idea of easing the transition between the “Urban Village” and the surrounding single family area, perhaps by changing the zoning of the single family area around the station. There’s also an interesting discussion of the definition of “Urban Village” and “Urban Core” — “it’s a thing.”

(approx. 51 minute mark) Lyle Bicknell describes an idea for collecting community input and making the work plan section of the neighborhood plan. Council members discuss the pros and cons of this new format versus the existing matrix.

Overall, committee members showed interest in supporting the community desires for continuing public input in neighborhood planning and implementation of specific goals.

After the committee meeting, Dennis Saxman approached me to discuss the three appeals to the SE neighborhood plan updates. He mentioned he had helped draft the appeals and stated that there is nothing notable in the appeals being identical.  Saxman also expressed concern about media coverage of the appeals.  (We agreed that comments on some blogs went too far and became personal attacks.)  Saxman is familiar with challenging DPD via the Hearing Examiner’s office, most notably in this case on Capitol Hill.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is the SPUNC chairperson. This committee is responsible for legislative matters including:

  • Water, drainage, wastewater and solid waste services provided by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), including SPU environmental services and utility rates, regional water resources and endangered species recovery plans
  • Neighborhoods, including neighborhood plan updates and implementation

If you are able to attend SPUNC committee meetings and/or City Council meetings in person, it’s a fantastic way to engage with our local elected officials and play an active role in shaping our community. Feel free to contact Esther Handy in Councilmember O’Brien’s office with questions about the neighborhood planning process: esther.handy@seattle.gov, (206) 684-8800.


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The Stranger weighs in on SE Seattle appeals

February 25th, 2010 at 7:03 am | 24 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Organizers set up tables at the Festival Street opening last December in front of El Centro's empty south lot. Photo by Jason.

Cienna Madrid at The Stranger has written a story about the recent appeals filed against the North Beacon Hill, Othello, and North Rainier (Mount Baker) neighborhood plan updates. The article discusses El Centro de la Raza’s plans to develop the land just south of their building, plans which are—for now—on hold. State law allows neighborhood plans to be amended only once a year. Whether the appeals are upheld or not won’t be determined until it is too late to meet the deadline for this year, so the appeals are automatically forcing a one-year delay to any plan changes.

Madrid interviewed Estela Ortega from El Centro, Bill LaBorde of Transportation Choices Coalition, City Councilmember Sally Clark and David Goldberg of the Department of Planning and Development, and also attempted to speak with North Beacon appellant Frederica Merrell and the appellants from the other Southeast Seattle neighborhoods—for the most part, however, the petitioners aren’t talking. (The exception is Jenna Walden of the Othello group, who suggests that the reason for her group’s appeal is that it is a protest against marginalization of neighborhood groups.)

The resulting article pulls no punches; it concludes, “…Merrell and her cohorts appear to be more concerned with winning than pursuing the best interests of their neighborhoods and the city.”

Responses from The Stranger‘s readers on the website have been mixed.

The article is here. Seattle Transit Blog also posted about the Stranger article.

(ed. note—Frederica Merrell occasionally contributes opinion articles to the Beacon Hill Blog.)


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Opinion: Beacon Hill vs. Georgetown

February 20th, 2010 at 2:37 pm | 53 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Drawing by Joel Lee of a potential woonerf or active alley in the Link Station Block, with El Centro de la Raza in the background. Please click through to see a larger version.

By Joel Lee

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. — Eleanor Roosevelt

All of this recent rezoning talk has gotten me thinking about North Beacon Hill’s business district. I’ve lived in many different areas of Seattle and although I love Beacon Hill, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that does not work with our business areas. I love our coffee shops, funky grocery stores, and ethnic restaurants and I do my part to make sure that I spend money locally, but why do I so often find myself leaving the hill for other services? Some of the answer is obvious: when I want to go see a movie I head over to Columbia City Cinema or the Admiral Theater, since this is a service that I just can’t get in our neighborhood. But I also find myself going to Georgetown just to eat dinner or grab a beer after work. If you have been paying any attention you will have noticed that Georgetown has been booming for the last ten years, with many new restaurants and shops and just funky things going on. What do they have that we don’t?

First I decided I should look at available data to see if I could find some truths. According to Zillow.com, Beacon Hill has 4104 residences, our median income is $45,965 (above Seattle’s median income), our highest percentage age group is people in their 30s, and our average household size is 3.107 people. Add to this mix an awesome underground light rail station, stunning views, a large brand-new park coming soon, convenient freeway access, and a location that is a stone’s throw from downtown, and Beacon Hill has been dealt a winning hand.

Now let’s take a minute to look at Georgetown. If you can dodge that freight train and try to concentrate over that low flying plane noise for a minute, let’s try to take a look at their numbers. Depending on where you draw the line, Georgetown has a mere 379 residences, their median income is $33,654 (almost the lowest in Seattle), their highest percentage age group is people in their 20s, and their average household size is 1.94. Add to this mix a few Superfund sites, eclectic zoning, and some disjointed industrial areas, and it’s a wonder that Georgetown survives at all. Despite all of this, Georgetown is not only surviving, but thriving. Their vibrant business district has added new bars and restaurants almost yearly, and their events such as Artopia attract people from all over the region. Music stores, bakeries, multiple coffee shops, pet supplies, a beer store and antique stores have all opened in the last few years.

The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) recently released a study focused on retail in Rainier Valley. Although the study didn’t focus on Beacon Hill, one of the study’s main finds was “leakage,” which is roughly defined as people leaving their own neighborhoods to buy products and services in other areas. Just as Beacon Hill clearly suffers from leakage as many people leave the area for basic services, neighborhoods such as Georgetown clearly capitalize on this, since there is no way that the 379 people that live there could possibly support their range of businesses.

It’s hard not to conclude from this data that zoning alone will not fix our business district. Neighborhoods like Georgetown and Columbia City have certain less-measurable qualities about them that have helped them thrive. Chief among them has to be neighborhood pride, creativity, activism, long-term vision, building owners willing to take chances, investors with vision and tough as nails entrepreneurs that are brave enough to swim against our economic current. None of these are qualities that we can zone for; they are qualities that we must earn with a lot of difficult risk, vision, community participation, cooperation and tenacity.

Joel Lee maintains the Beacon Hill Public Art website and previously wrote about a vision for Beacon Hill’s “Post Alley.”

Do you have an opinion? We welcome opinion articles on topics related to Beacon Hill. Please email us your articles.


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Beacon Bits: Bees, bandwidth, and Buddhist temple fire

February 15th, 2010 at 3:20 pm | 5 Comments | Posted by Jason

Temple fire — The February 9th fire at the Buddhist temple on South Juneau Street near MLK resulted from a furnace malfunction and caused an estimated $75,000 in damage and displaced several people, but thankfully resulted in no injuries.

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Slow video — Perhaps the most obvious sign that your broadband isn’t quite up-to-snuff is that streaming video stuh-stuh-stutters and re-buffers repeatedly. Sometimes this isn’t entirely an effect of the quality of the lines or the speed your provider is capable of providing to you; sometimes it’s the result of your ISP deciding that, rather than spend the money to improve its switching and delivery infrastructure, it will instead artificially limit how fast you’re allowed to receive high-bandwidth content like internet video. Google now provides a little insight into this situation with YouTube Video Speed History graphs, showing the average delivery speed for YouTube videos to your ISP (and, if you visit YouTube enough, your IP address) compared to the average speed for your city, state, country, and the world.
From BoingBoing via Joel Lee. Thanks Joel!

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Local honey — Spotted on Craigslist:

…I keep bees. I have honey for sale. This is pure, raw, unfiltered honey. It has never been above bee hive temperature, it has never had anything added, and it has local Beacon Hill pollen in it. It is DELICIOUS! (If I do say so myself). I have two kinds: a lighter honey which is mostly maple and mild in flavor, and a dark fall honey which is complicated in flavor and almost spicy. If you plan to buy a bottle or two, I do have a sample jar of each so you can taste it before you buy it and decide which you like best. :) Comes in 8oz oval squeeze bottles. $6/bottle. Providing your phone number will make it faster to arrange pick up.

The only contact information provided is the Craigslist reply email.

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Food health inspections — The Health Department inspected a number of north Beacon Hill establishments recently, visiting Amazon, the Amazon coffee shop, El Delicioso (inside ABC Market), La Bendicion, La Cabaña, Chinatown Cafe #12 (inside the Red Apple), and Golden Daisy. Special congratulations to La Cabaña and the Amazon coffee shop for a perfect zero-violation scores. Anyone know if the Amazon coffee shop is open to the public?

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Attention on appealsPublicola points back here, covering the Hearing Examiner appeal strategy and the opposition to it.


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