Tag Archives: zoning

Opinion: It’s about zoning

Neighbors posted comments on zoning and street configurations at the Neighborhood Plan update open house last September. Photo by Wendi.
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.”)

North Beacon plan update appeal is one of three

Frederica Merrell’s appeal filed recently against the Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) of the North Beacon Hill neighborhood plan update (also discussed here and here) is not unique. The Beacon Hill Blog has been made aware that Merrell’s appeal is one of three nearly-identical appeals filed on January 29 by residents in each of the Southeast Seattle neighborhoods that recently went through a neighborhood plan update: Othello, North Rainier (Mount Baker), and North Beacon Hill. (Read the Othello appeal here, the North Rainier appeal here, and the North Beacon appeal here.) The appeals are nearly word-for-word identical, with only a few minor differences (such as the sections describing each distinct neighborhood and the appellants’ connection with them).

The Othello appeal was filed by Ron Momoda, Patricia Paschal, and Jenna Walden. The North Rainier appeal was filed by Pat Murakami and Barbara Marino. Most are well-known neighborhood activists in Southeast Seattle, and several were active last year in speaking out against House Bill 1490 and Senate Bill 5687, which would have created incentives and requirements for transit-oriented development and density near light rail stations.

The three appeals all request the same thing: that DPD’s Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) for each neighborhood’s plan update be vacated, and that DPD be required to take other actions including additional community notification, review, and validation, and environmental impact analyses.

The North Beacon appeal has been the subject of some heated controversy in the comments sections of the BHB posts linked above, with some commenters suggesting that the appeals are specifically intended to cause the entire update process to be scrapped, or that they were filed in order to block any upzoning or increased density, while some others say the update plan was flawed from the start, and that appeals such as this are a necessary and important part of the process of making this update work for North Beacon Hill.

El Centro de la Raza, who have had plans to develop their property just north of Lander Street, have filed their own motion to intervene and dismiss Merrell’s appeal.

The recently published Neighborhood Plan updates (the North Beacon one is here) were developed through a process that began in Fall 2008 and continued through 2009 with community meetings and open houses in March, May, and September.

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

Zoning may keep 13th Ave coffeehouse closed

Art's on Beacon Hill in the old DeVos Grocery building at 13th and Shelton. All photos in this post by Wendi.
Michael Perrone has a dream for an old grocery store near Maple Elementary School. In his dream, the old DeVos grocery store at 13th and Shelton, closed since 2005, would be a neighborhood gathering place, called Art’s on Beacon Hill. It would contain a coffeehouse with art on the walls, a jukebox, a player piano, and a performance studio. The building would be a resource and asset to neighbors in this mid-Beacon Hill neighborhood.

It hasn’t quite worked out as planned. Perrone painted, cleaned and decorated the old building, using vintage parts salvaged from the old grocery store in many places, and it looks just about ready to open. (In fact, an “Open” sign usually sits in the doorway.) But it remains officially closed, as it has since 2008 when the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) notified Perrone that he could not operate a “community theater” in part of the building.

Old objects found when renovating the DeVos building decorate a vintage display unit in the coffee shop. Owner Michael Perrone's reflection appears in the middle.

The building’s history goes back a long way on Beacon Hill. Louis DeVos brought his family to the Hill in 1908, and in 1909, they moved into a house on South Shelton Street. A few years later, Louis bought the plot of land at 13th and Shelton and built a retail building there, first renting it to an Italian grocer, then establishing his own grocery business. The family business was successful, and eventually grew to include three stores including one at 2718 Beacon Avenue South (currently the location known as the empty “South China Restaurant” lot just south of Beacon Hill Station). Though two of the DeVos stores were closed during the Depression, the store at 13th and Shelton remained open into the 21st century, finally closing for good in August 2005. It was sold to Perrone as a “tear-down” in 2006.

Though the building had operated continuously as a commercial building since it was built in 1915, later in the 20th century the site was rezoned to SF5000 — single-family housing. Existing businesses such as the DeVos Grocery are allowed to continue in operation when their zoning changes, as a “non-conforming use.”

A jukebox and Perrone's dog Sebastian in the area of the building that was intended to be a coffee shop.

If the non-conforming use lapses for a certain amount of time, however, the building reverts to single-family, and a new business can’t go back to the non-conforming use. Seattle Municipal Code 23.42.104 B says: “A nonconforming use that has been discontinued for more than 12 consecutive months shall not be reestablished or recommenced.” There are certain exceptions, but it is unclear whether Perrone’s use of the DeVos building was what DPD required to maintain commercial status as required in the code. Perrone believes so; he did acquire a permit to install commercial-grade electrical service in the building, and he states that he also sold salvage from the building’s old contents to maintain commercial status until the coffeehouse could open.

In 2008, Perrone began using the building’s performance studio. In March of that year, the Beacon Hill Times/South District Journal (now South Seattle Beacon) ran an article about the plans for the former grocery, stating that it would be “a coffee shop, repertory theater and eventually an education center” and home to the Seattle Novyi Theatre repertory group.

In April of that year, a complaint was filed with DPD about his use of the building for theater rehearsals and performances. Perrone says that DPD declared the site in violation, and also told him that he could not legally live in the caretaker’s apartment and would be fined $1500/day for illegally residing there, retroactive to when he bought the building in 2006. “I owe the city a million and a half,” he says.

The performance space at Art's.

Later in 2008, says Perrone, he gave up, feeling pushed into a corner. In frustration, he told DPD “fine, turn it into a single-family residence.” Currently, an open application is on file with DPD to do so.

In the meantime, Perrone still fights to save the building for his original intended use, with pro bono help from a lawyer who grew up in the neighborhood. He has a petition signed by over 150 neighbors who support his plans for the DeVos building. “Only one neighbor said ‘no,'” he points out.

Neighbor Dayna Provitt sent a message to the Beacon Hill Mailing List recently, appealing for help for Perrone:

“My husband and I were so glad to see the building purchased, and Mike’s attempts to put something into this part of Beacon Hill that might help bring a ‘neighborhoody’ feel to the street. … Here’s a guy who’s trying to bring some energy and community building to our neighborhood… and getting stuck in red tape. We’d hate to see this building go back to being an empty space again. … Maybe someone in the neighborhood can help him cut through the red tape and get his project going! Something useful in this space would be so great for our street.”

With no way to legally open the coffeehouse, Perrone has been unable to pay the building’s mortgage since August. It is currently scheduled to be sold at a foreclosure sale on April 2, unless fate intervenes and Art’s on Beacon Hill can open.

The player piano, mostly in tune, awaits coffeeshop customers and performers.

(More photos of the building after the jump.) Continue reading Zoning may keep 13th Ave coffeehouse closed

El Centro requests DNS appeal be dismissed

El Centro de la Raza has requested to the City of Seattle’s Hearing Examiner that the appeal of the Determination of Non-Significance filed by Frederica Merrell be dismissed, citing their own involvement in the neighborhood planning process, the impact on their property, and appeal issues said to be ‘not ripe’ for the premature involvement of the office of Hearing Examiner. If not dismissed, they have requested that the appeal be restricted solely to the legal issue of the proper execution of Washington Administrative Code sections 197-11-055 (Timing of the SEPA process), 197-11-060 (Content of environmental review), and 197-11-228 (Overall SEPA/GMA integration procedures).

The full letter as provided to us by Estela Ortega of El Centro de la Raza is after the jump, or available as a PDF here.

Continue reading El Centro requests DNS appeal be dismissed

Car wash near station declared a violation; Grown Folks Coffeehouse closed

Signs at the entrance to the First Choice car wash illustrated problems with having an auto-oriented business in a pedestrian zone. Photo by Jason.
Signs at the entrance to the First Choice car wash illustrated problems with having an auto-oriented business in a pedestrian zone. Photo by Jason.
The city’s Department of Planning and Development has confirmed that the First Choice car detailing/car wash business that is operating at the corner of Beacon Avenue South and 15th Avenue South is not allowed to operate at that site due to light rail station area and pedestrian overlay zoning regulations. The case is being referred to the City Attorney’s office for enforcement action, and the owner of the business has been informed of the decision. Our understanding here at the BHB is that there is a certain grace period for the business to relocate, so the business may be in operation for some time still.

In other local business news, neighbor Chris sent in a tip about an interesting, and saddening, listing on Craigslist today: Grown Folks Coffeehouse has closed, and they are selling all of their equipment. A potential bargain for someone else who wants to open a coffee shop, but a substantial loss for Mid-Beacon Hill. (This closure wasn’t entirely unexpected. We mentioned the land use application for their lot last month, and it was known for months before that the lot owner was looking to redevelop the property. –Ed.)

Car wash compliance deadline extended; sidewalk signs illegal

Two sidewalk signs in the right-of-way at 15th and Beacon. The car on the right is about to enter the intersection (and crosswalk) and make an illegal right turn onto 15th (the light was red by the time they made the turn, and the intersection is No Right on Red.) Photo by Wendi.
Two sidewalk signs in the right-of-way at 15th and Beacon. The car on the right is about to enter the intersection (and crosswalk) and make an illegal right turn onto 15th. (The light was red by the time they made the turn, and the intersection is No Right on Red.) Photo by Wendi.
The First Choice Car Wash at 15th and Beacon has been granted an extension on their compliance deadline for filing permits for the business. The new deadline is June 1. The building currently is permitted for a retail use, not for car washing, detailing, and stereo installation. However, as posted earlier, the building is also zoned NC2P-40 (Neighborhood Commercial 2, Pedestrian-Designated Zone, 40-foot height limit), which means that no drive-in or drive-through businesses are allowed. A change-of-use may not be possible in this location.

There is another minor violation of the law at that site as well, though it’s likely they didn’t realize it was against the law, and several other nearby businesses are doing it too. As it turns out, it’s illegal to put A-frame signs on sidewalks, except in certain business districts that have actually obtained special street use permits to allow and regulate them. Those districts are Broadway, Pioneer Square, and Pike Place Market. Period.

Beacon Hill cannot have these signs, legally, unless a Business Improvement Association, historic district, or Chamber of Commerce is formed here. The district group would then need to get 60% of the businesses in the area to sign on, carry $1 million in liability insurance, and then obtain a Street Use Annual Permit from the city. Who knew?

Even in districts that allow such signs, it is illegal to have more than one sign per business, and they have to be directly in front of the business. First Choice has had up to three signs in front of their shop, and one across the street.

Sidewalk signs are relatively harmless, but one can see why limiting each business to one would be a good idea. The signs are taking up space in the public right-of-way, after all. In the case of the car wash, the signs are right in the entrance to two crosswalks. This is probably not an ideal location for pedestrian safety. (Nor is their driveway, as can be seen in the photo with this post.)

Since Beacon Hill’s Chamber of Commerce has gone dormant, it’s not likely that sidewalk signs will be made legal on the Hill anytime soon. In the meantime, First Choice and several other local businesses are violating a law that most of us have probably never even heard of.

Beacon Bits: Car wash, Lunch Bus, and an Earth Day Work Party

A north Beacon stairway to be improved at this weekend's Earth Day Work Party. Photo by Vicki Grayland.
A north Beacon stairway to be improved at this weekend's Earth Day Work Party. Photo by Vicki Grayland.
  • Dominic Holden discusses the 15th and Beacon car wash, and suggests that whoever filed a complaint about the car wash violating zoning is misguided: “The building, as far as I can see, has no windows facing the sidewalk. No window shopping, candy shopping, or book shopping will be happening in that garage. The pedestrian potential there—at least for now, with that building in this economy—is probably as good as it’s going to get.” Most of the commenters, however, disagree — Slog
  • Sound Transit is hosting another Lunch Bus trip at 11:30 am on Friday, April 17. The Lunch Bus is a guided tour of the Link light rail initial segment construction, followed by lunch at a local eating establishment. You are responsible for buying your own lunch. Tours depart and return at the southwest corner of 5th Ave S & S King Street in the International District. You must RSVP today — see the website for info.
  • Beacon Ridge Improvement Community is hosting an Earth Day Work Party this Saturday, April 18, from 9:00 am until noon. Neighbors will help clean up and beautify the public stairways at South Walker, Hill and Holgate Streets between 16th and 17th Avenues South. Refreshments will be provided. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and bring tools if you have them, marked with your name (weeders, shears, shovels, trowels, rakes and brooms). Questions? Contact David at bricchair@comcast.net. Interested in becoming more involved? BRIC needs committee leaders and board members. See David if you are interested.

(Edited 4/16 to correct photo credit.)

Follow-ups: Daejeon Park’s spelling change explained, North Beacon car wash inspected

Photo of Daejeon Park pagoda by Bridget Christian.
Photo of Daejeon Park pagoda by Bridget Christian.
Following up on the earlier post about the car wash located at an intersection not zoned for auto-centric businesses, 15th and Beacon: an inspector from the DPD visited the business on April 13, and apparently found it in violation, reporting: “‘Violation Alert’. Violation of the Seattle land use and zoning code observed. Change of use permit required for new car wash business. Also help wanted sign for auto detailers, stereo installers & auto tint installers.”

In more cheerful news, Laurie Dunlap at Seattle Parks and Recreation sent us some information on the recent change of name from Taejon Park to Daejon Park.

“A sister-city delegation was recently here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their connection with Seattle, and they brought to our attention that their city is now officially known as Daejeon.

If you look around on the internet, you see the city referred to most places as Daejeon, some places as ‘Daejeon (Taejon),’ ‘Taejon or Daejeon,’ and some places (the online Encyclopedia Britannica) still give Taejon as the primary spelling, saying ‘also spelled Daejeon.’

…In both cases, correct pronunciation of the first syllable is a long “I”, so DIE-john.”

Apparently the Korean government adopted a new romanization style a few years ago: the Revised Romanization of Korean. In this change, Pusan became Busan, Taejon became Daejeon, and Taegu is now Daegu. The new romanization style is intended to represent the sounds of Korean more accurately. So the new sign at Daejeon Park represents the current spelling of the Korean name; the park name hasn’t changed, just its spelling in Roman characters.

New car wash on Beacon Avenue a zoning violation?

Sign in front of the new car wash. Photo by Jason.
Sign in front of the new car wash. Photo by Jason.
The building with the large garage door at 2507 Beacon Avenue South has long been a concern for neighborhood residents. Previously, it was being used as a warehouse, and caused problems for local pedestrians, and for cars and buses right in front of the business, with delivery trucks and forklifts blocking traffic and pedestrian walkways. More recently, the building was vacant and bore a large “For Commercial Space Lease… For: Light mfg., Retails, Office” sign. Month after month went by, graffiti appeared on the door, and there was no sign of anyone moving in.

Until now. A new business recently set up shop in the site, and the activity has picked up. That’s the good news. The bad news? The new business, a hand car wash, is a pretty blatant zoning violation. The site in question, right on the junction of Beacon and 15th, is zoned NC2P-40. (Here is the basic zoning information for the site.) NC2P-40 means Neighborhood Commercial 2, Pedestrian-Designated Zone, 40-foot height limit. (Here is a city document that describes the various commercial zones.) Continue reading New car wash on Beacon Avenue a zoning violation?

Neighborhood plan update meeting March 28 at El Centro

The existing North Beacon Hill neighborhood plan for the light rail station area is in the process of being revised. As we have seen recently, the topic of density and transit-oriented development in the neighborhood is controversial. You can make your voice heard in the process of rezoning and changing North Beacon by attending the City’s neighborhood plan update meeting on Saturday, March 28, from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave South.