Category Archives: Urban Planning

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

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.

Opinion: Beacon Ave development needs viable commercial space

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, cc’ing; 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.

Plaza Roberto Maestas update: Design Review meeting postponed

A possible design for the entrance to the plaza at Plaza Roberto Maestas.
A possible design for the entrance to the plaza at Plaza Roberto Maestas.
El Centro de la Raza Executive Director Estela Ortega sent the neighborhood mailing lists an update on the Plaza Roberto Maestas project today. Among other things, it mentions that the Design Review meeting scheduled for next week has been canceled. Read on:

Estimadas/os Neighbors:

It has been a busy spring and summer and I wanted to provide you with a brief update on Plaza Roberto Maestas, the redevelopment of our south parking lot into a vibrant mixed-use project next to the Light Rail Station.

We are currently preparing for submission of an application for public funds to the City of Seattle in September. As such, we are also spending time this summer making sure we understand and incorporate all of the policy changes afoot right now with the City of Seattle and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, both likely to be major sources of funding for Plaza Roberto Maestas. Unfortunately, Seattle affordable housing projects did not fare very well in Olympia this year – none made the priority list for the State Housing Trust Fund, including our project, Plaza Roberto Maestas. As we indicated on our last blog post in the spring, we do have feasible back-up funding scenarios and are in conversations right now with funders about these financing options.

However, we have unfortunately decided to cancel our August 13th City Design Review Meeting. We realize that this meeting had already been rescheduled twice, and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused in the community. As you can tell, we are eager to begin this review process with the neighborhood and to start permitting Plaza Roberto Maestas. At this point we hope to return to the community in the fall, when the North Beacon Hill Council is meeting again regularly, for a more comprehensive update and check-in before moving on to the formal Design Review process later this year.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Kate de la Garza at or 206-860-2491 ext. 202.

Again, gracias for your patience with us, and we look forward to meeting again with you in the fall.

-Estela Ortega

Executive Director
El Centro de la Raza
The Center for People of all Races

Status update: PacMed building plans

Seattle Central Community College is proposing locating its Allied Health programs in Pacific Tower, the former hospital and Amazon headquarters building more commonly known as PacMed. Photo by Wendi Dunlap.
Tom Byers of the Cedar River Group sent a notice this week about the current status of the proposed Pacific Tower/PacMed Building project in which Seattle Central Community College would lease part of the former headquarters of to host Seattle Central’s Allied Health programs including Dental Hygiene, Nursing, Respiratory, Surgical Technology, and Opticianry. Remaining space would be leased to local nonprofits such as Neighborhood House and Fare Start. For the project to move forward, the Legislature needed to include funding in the State budget.

Byers’ message reads:

Dear friends—Here are the most recent developments in the effort to establish the community health college and innovation center at Pacific Tower:

  • Amazingly, supporters of the Pacific Tower project in the legislature were successful on all fronts!
  • The State operating budget includes funding for the lease of the tower as well as provisions enabling the State to enter into a long-term lease for the building.
  • The capital budget included $20 million in funding for the tenant improvements for the community health college and other improvements at the tower.
  • State officials led by Rep. Jamie Peterson have been working with the PDA and its lawyers to agree on the terms of a draft lease.
  • Although all parties agree that a great deal of progress has been made in the last 10 days, the executive director of the PDA has indicated more time is needed to negotiate several points before the Governing Council can make a decision between our proposal and the other option they have in hand.
  • Therefore the hearing and Council vote scheduled for July 9th has been postponed. The new date is 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25th at Pacific Medical Center’s Beacon Hill Clinic. Please mark your calendars and plan to be there!
  • In spite of all this positive news, the success of our proposal will ultimately be determined by a vote of the PDA governing Council. Your letters of support are making a big difference, but we can’t stop now! We need to continue the out-pouring of community support.
  • Those of you who have not yet have written to the Public Development Authority in support of the proposal are urged to do so now! You can address your letters to Rosemary Aragon, Executive Director, Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority, 1200 12th Ave. S, Quarters 2, Seattle, WA 98144; or by email at She will forward your letters to the members of the Board.

Thank you for all of the support you have given this effort. We will look forward to seeing you at the hearing, and will keep you up to date on any significant developments that occur during the next three weeks.

Tom Byers
Cedar River Group

Plaza Roberto Maestas project moving forward

A proposed design for the plaza and stage at the Plaza Roberto Maestas project.
A proposed design for the plaza and stage at the Plaza Roberto Maestas project.

To the community from El Centro de la Raza:

In late February El Centro de la Raza presented to the community its latest designs for Plaza Roberto Maestas (PRM). We have been delayed in getting this post out to the wider community by the significant fight for State housing resources for this project in Olympia right now. PRM is the mixed-use community-inspired transit oriented development project that will be built on El Centro’s currently vacant south parking lot, next to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station. It will be 113 units of affordable housing over 30,000 square feet of daycare, multi-cultural community center, retail/restaurant and office space. The latest design renderings incorporate feedback gathered from over ten community meetings and focus groups that took place in 2012. ECDLR just scheduled its first City of Seattle Early Design Guidance meeting for June 25th at 6:30pm at Wellspring Family Services on Rainier Avenue. This meeting will kick off our permitting process and is open to the public.

A rendering of a design for the 17th Avenue South side of the project.
A rendering of a design for the 17th Avenue South side of the project.
Plaza Roberto Maestas will be built in the spirit of Dr. King’s “Beloved Community.” It will be a physical place that honors the history and culture of El Centro de la Raza, while serving as a “town center” gathering place for the larger Beacon Hill community to utilize and enjoy.

For those that have not been able to attend community meetings to date, we have compiled this post and the following Frequently Asked Questions to maximize information sharing and community awareness of the project. In the near future, El Centro de la Raza hopes to co-host a meeting with the North Beacon Hill Council, Beacon BIKES and SDOT to talk about parking, traffic and pedestrian safety in the Beacon Hill neighborhood around this project. We will announce a date for this meeting soon.

Please feel free to contact Kate Gill de la Garza, Project Manager, with any questions about PRM. She can be reached at 206-860-2491 ext. 202 or at

Read on for the FAQs about the Plaza Roberto Maestas project:
Continue reading Plaza Roberto Maestas project moving forward

Station block project completes design review

This artist's rendition of the southwest corner of the proposed project at 2721 17th Ave. S. was included in the November Design Review presentation.
This artist’s rendition of the southwest corner of the proposed project at 2721 17th Ave. S. was included in the November Design Review presentation.
The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) director has issued a decision on the project at 2721 17th Avenue South (the southeast corner of the Beacon Hill Station block), approving the project’s design as based on the final recommendation of the Southeast Design Review Board, with certain conditions. The conditions include designing additional lighting for the sidewalk along South McClellan Street, improved treatment of the ground-level residential units to increase privacy and reduce light pollution, and specifications for the artwork along the alley façade.

Previous conditions already met include designing the top floor along 17th to be set back 10 feet from the property line, and a revised lighting plan for additional lighting.

The complete report and analysis may be read here. The architects’ presentation from the November 2012 Design Review meeting may be read here, and the Design Review Board’s report after the November meeting is here.

View Larger Map

Opinions wanted on Plaza Roberto Maestas project

This preliminary view from an earlier version of the Plaza Roberto Maestas design is seen from the corner of 17th and Roberto Maestas Festival Street on the southeast side of the site.
This preliminary view from an earlier version of the project is seen from the corner of 17th and Roberto Maestas Festival Street on the southeast side of the project.
El Centro de la Raza and the Plaza Roberto Maestas design team are hosting a community meeting on Thursday, February 21 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at El Centro’s room 309.

This is the next in a series of community meetings to discuss the redevelopment project on El Centro de la Raza’s south parking lot located on Roberto Maestas Festival Street next to the Link station. Plans for this meeting are to review the feedback so far and to present the latest design for additional community feedback. The intent is for the project to enter the city’s Design Review process this spring.

Childcare and translation will be available upon request, and refreshments and light snacks will be served. El Centro de la Raza is located at 2524 16th Ave. S.

Community invited to give input on new plaza

On Monday, December 10, at 6:30 p.m. El Centro de la Raza is hosting a community meeting about the public gathering spaces in the planned Plaza Roberto Maestas (PRM) development, to be built in El Centro’s south parking lot, just north of Beacon Hill Station.

Representatives of El Centro and Beacon Development group will present and discuss ideas for 10,000+ square feet plaza and the adjacent community center, including how the two spaces will work together on the site and with the surrounding community.

Monday’s meeting is the latest in a series of community meetings about the PRM development project. Community opinions and concerns stated at a meeting last June are viewable here.

The meeting is at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave. S. There will be refreshments available, and translation will be offered. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to to confirm attendance for planning purposes.

This preliminary design shows a possible plaza in the PRM development project.

Beacon Hill bicycle and pedestrian plan honored with award

Photo by Wendi Dunlap.

The Beacon Hill Family Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, a project of Beacon BIKES and the City of Seattle, has won a 2012 VISION 2040 Award from the Puget Sound Regional Council. Vision 2040 Awards honor real-life examples of sustainable growth and improvements to quality of life in Puget Sound communities.

The Beacon Hill Family Bicycle and Pedestrian Circulation Plan has been designed as a ten-year plan to develop a network of pedestrian and bicycle routes to connect important and well-used locations with neighborhood greenways, cycle tracks, intersection improvements, and other solutions to increase safety for walkers and cyclists of all ages. Among the proposals is a crosswalk and “median refuge island” at South Spokane Street and Lafayette Avenue South, a location that leads directly into Jefferson Park from a neighborhood greenway but is currently very dangerous to cross.

Read more about the award here.

Get a closer look at station block development plans

This artist’s rendition shows a view of the planned building from the southwest, including a view down the alley toward El Centro de la Raza.

More information is now available about the McClellan Apartments development proposed for the southeast part of the Beacon Hill Station block at 2721 17th Ave. S. The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has posted the Design Review compilation from the architects of the project which will be presented at the November 13 Design Review meeting.

The PDF contains a wealth of information about the project, including artists’ renditions of the building, floor plans, shadow studies, cross-sections, and more. The project will be a six-story building with residential units ranging from studios to two-bedroom units, including three units designated as “affordable housing.”

The Design Review Board will meet on Tuesday, November 13 at the Wellspring Services Community Room, 1900 Rainier Ave. S. to discuss the project and how well the design addresses the priorities established at the previous Early Design Guidance meeting. At this meeting, the public will be allowed to comment, but the comments are limited to design considerations.

Thanks to Matthew for the heads-up!