Monday, September 12, 2011

Heads Up for Roosevelt Neighborhood Meeting

I wanted to put on your radar a public hearing the City is having about development around Roosevelt High School.  It's next Monday, the 19th at 6 p.m. in the Roosevelt auditorium.  

As you may know, the Roosevelt neighborhood is scheduled to have a light rail station go about 2016 (the year changes all the time) from between 12 Ave NE and Roosevelt from NE 65th to NE 67th.   This is virtually right next to Roosevelt High School.

The neighborhood has known this was coming for a long time.  The Roosevelt Neighborhood is one place that has had a long-term vision for its growth (over 20 years).  The neighborhood has consistently worked with the City in its planning.  (And just to say, this isn't about nimbyism.  Roosevelt and Ravenna have known this was coming and have done what the City has wanted in using their guidelines on creating an urban village.)

However, at the same time, Roosevelt has had long-time land owners (brothers) who prefer their holdings to be in a run-down and blighted state.  They have shown no concern for the neighborhood (at one point a building they owned had squatters in it using drugs and this was right across from RHS). Not to mention the frequent citing and fines leveled at them by the City.  So there isn't a lot of trust for what they might do with their land.

They own the land directly south of Roosevelt High and would like to develop it with fairly tall buildings (at one point it was 18 stories, now about 12).  My thought (and most neighbors) is that it would look ridiculous and would not be good for RHS.  (Naturally there is development to occur all around the station and the neighborhood would prefer most of the density to be at the station area and then "wedding cake" out to other areas.)

So why should you care?  You should care if Roosevelt High will be your child's high school.  That means people at Eckstein and Hamilton and all their feeder elementaries.  

There are several issues.  One is obviously that growth and density is going to happen in that area and it may very well change the boundaries at RHS.  The housing will not be just for single people.   Two, when Roosevelt had its historic rebuild, the district followed some new research on building schools that favors natural light for better academic outcomes.  You can imagine that light would change if RHS was surrounded on two or three sides by taller buildings.  Three, the City doesn't require any certain amount of parking so naturally, traffic, parking and student safety is also a concern. Four, RHS is a City historic landmark and so a focal point for the neighborhood.

Please consider attending to express your concerns.

(There has been talk about this particular issue city-wide as many other neighborhoods are watching to see how the City Council treats Roosevelt.  The thinking is that if a neighborhood such as Roosevelt that has worked with the City and been doing this for decades doesn't get fair treatment from the Council, then good luck to other neighborhoods for your issues.  Is this a City Council that listens to neighborhoods?)


Anonymous said...

USED to have squatters and drugs???
The kids can tell you who comes and goes and from which house(s) currently. It's just amazing to me that the city can't shut these guys down.

Three years to go.

Anonymous said...

I will be attending the meeting. May not voice my opinion but will be there in support of smaller height limits for the development of the property. Anyone who has seen RHS can tell a 12 story building just x the street will affect the light coming into the building.

zb said...

Can someone post links to the areas we're talking about?

I'm generally opposed to tall buildings outside of the U area, and north of the ship canal. I think there's enough high rise development going on in downtown/south lake union and that we don't need more in Seattle. But, I'd want to see what else is around the specific locations we're talking about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll try to get a link up to a map.

But what you have is Roosevelt (ave) itself as the major arterial and business corridor to the west of RHS. Go two blocks further west of Roosevelt Ave and you hit I-5. (One issue here is the social justice concern that the only low-income housing built will be right at the freeway.)

South and east of RHS is Ravenna neighborhood which is largely single-family with Ravenna ravine and Cowen park within it.

North of RHS is more single-family with a small park and reservoir.

That reservoir is also another part of the puzzle because if a lot of density comes around RHS, the RHS playfield is the only playfield in the neighborhood. As anyone who has a child involved in sports in Seattle knows, those fields are getting more crowded and overscheduled. The reservoir to the north of RHS is scheduled to be decommissioned around 2013 and then that land is open to a lot of uses. I hope it will become a playfield (with maybe a small community center) as there certainly is the need for it.

seattle citizen said...

As they were deciding where to put the station, there was one site considered among three or four and that was an alignment that went UNDER I-5 coming in from the south, going north/south along the east side of the park-and-ride under the freeway west of the Roosevelt district. To me, this seemed like an ideal place - it's a park-and-ride! It might even be possible to double the size of the park-ride lot by building a double-decked in the existing location.

What was the problem with this site? I can imagine that Roosevelt might want the business a light rail station brings, but where will commuters park, and there WILL be commuters who don't live in Roosevelt but drive from somewhere, park, and get on the train...

On another note, While I understand the hesitancy to build tall near the high school, 65th and Roosevelt/12th is the center of that district, and if one wants a "wedding cake" radiating out, wouldn't that necessitate taller buildings on the blocks between 12th, Roosevelt, 63rd and 67th?
Is there a lot of light, a lot of sky to the south of the HS now? Would ten stories be just to...in your face? This IS a city...

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, I actually don't know why they didn't go with under the freeway but yes, I agree.

Well, the blocks in front of RHS are to the south so you would block some of the light. One of the issues is that the district was asked by the neighborhood to build the playfield lower so that it wouldn't feel so walled off as it was before. Lowering it and then building taller near it may cause more shadowing on the field.

Don't get me wrong - we know there are going to be 4-6 story buildings at least and the view to the west of the Olympics will go. That's just part of density and being in a city. It's right next to the most visible landmark we have that we care about.

seattle citizen said...

4-6 story seems right, in line with what other nieghborhood districts have been building out. I'm a fan of density (even, I'm afraid, to the detriment of those who had enjoyed wider skies...in fifty years those neighbors will be gone, moved on or whatever, and the NEW residents will know they are in a darker, but more vibrant (one hopes) neighborhood core...) so I personally would vote for taller where possible. IF the units so built are attractive and will be occupied...After all, the students will all be busy at their work and not looking out the windows anyway...right? Riiight...

biliruben said...

To suggest that 12 to 18 story buildings are being discussed in inflammatory and ignorant.

The Roosevelt community, who fought hard to move the station from under the bridge so that they would have a central transit hub in the midst of their urban village, have recommended 65 foot heights (providing zoning for just an extra 350 units), and all but the staunchest density advocates are asking for a small bump for a block or 2 around the station to 85 foot heights.

This is not intended to be a commuter station. This is nearly a half billion dollar investment in transit infrastructure, and the best use of it is to have a decent number of people who can walk to it. Everyone recognizes that.

Also, if you add the possibility of cheaper housing beyond the existing single family homes that are unaffordable for a majority of Seattle's population, you provide a gateway into one of Seattle's premier high schools for those who could not ordinarily afford to live inside the Roosevelt boundaries.

Try to think of Seattle's future a bit when you go and advocate for maintaining the status-quo.

Dig around and do some reading as well. Here is a good place to start:



Melissa Westbrook said...

"To suggest that 12 to 18 story buildings are being discussed in inflammatory and ignorant."

No, it's not. That is exactly what the developer told our RNA rep and showed him the plans. I never make stuff up and I'm not starting now. The Mayor wants to stop at 8 stories which should tell you something.

NO ONE is advocating for the status quo.

biliruben said...

Sure, that's what Sisley wants. But that's not on the table. You should be instead discussing the much more conservative plans that actually are on the table, if you were being intellectually honest.

Benjamin Leis said...

Actually those height limits are exactly what the RDG group has submitted to the city for a zoning change. This is not theoretical.

Jan said...

biliruben: Your posts are very confusing. Both Melissa and Ben state (and I have no reason to disbelieve them -- though I haven't trotted down to the City Planning department to confirm) that there is a specific proposal, set out in written plans, and submitted to the City for a zoning variance -- that proposes 12 to 18 story buildings, and that the Mayor's initial counter-push is to go back to 8.

You talk about "discussing the much more conservative plans that are actually on the table." What table? How is a filing with the zoning folks NOT something that is "on the table?" Are there two proposals? Two discussions? Two "tables?" And then -- you imply that Melissa is being intellectually DIShonest -- by suggesting that she would be discussing something different if she were being honest.

Could you explain?

RHS '05 said...

I attended RHS, and I watched drug dealing going on from Sisley houses. One house, we could tell exactly their routine - they'd hang a sheet with a certain design up in the window, and people would come up, knock on the front door, go around to the side of the house, hand something in through the window and receive a package in return. The whole class would watch these transactions. So I know what I am talking about when I say Sisley is bad, but that we shouldn't let that get in the way of smart development. With a multi-billion dollar transit right there, we should be trying to fit in as many people as is reasonable. With single family 5000 ft lots to the east of 15th, that leaves only a small area available for development. I think 18 stories is obviously ridiculous, but that 8-10 is perfectly reasonable and wouldn't destroy views in the neighborhood. Indeed, it would provide more foot traffic to the small businesses and restaurants on Roosevelt Ave. I don't think that more density is always great, but with light rail (and 15th with all its buses) right there, it's important that we make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to take advantage of our investment, even if not every neighbor agrees.

Biliruben said...

Jan- I pretty sure ben was agreeing with me. It is Melissa who, in this rare circumstance, seems to be misinformed.

Follow my link and decide for yourself.

I'm frankly a bit disturbed by her lack of research here, given she appears to have taken a position on it.

StepJ said...

Here is an excerpt from a newsletter from Councilmember Sally Clark talking about the Roosevelt Rezoning that will be considered by the council...

...Roosevelt currently has about 1,260 residential units with capacity to build another 250 without any zoning changes. The proposed rezones from the neighborhood would increase the heights of many parts of the neighborhood up to 65- or even 85-feet, and could add as many as 400 more apartments and condos over time.

The neighborhood deserves credit for undertaking a neighborhood plan update and for forging an upzone proposal. Zoning and heights can prove to be the most contentious of any neighborhood issues. I think the neighborhood's proposal is sound, accepts new growth, and arranges the zoning map well. I also believe we can add a bit more, whether that's clearing the way to convert some of the remaining single family zoning near the station to multi-family or by stepping up to 65 feet or 85 feet in a couple of areas.

StepJ said...

Also if you go to Sally Clark's website at http://www.seattle.gov/council/clark/

There is a link to all of the various proposals being considered.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"So I know what I am talking about when I say Sisley is bad, but that we shouldn't let that get in the way of smart development."

The key word there is "smart." The people who represent Sisley are controlled by him.

The other lesson here is who does the City choose to reward when density is required? Responsible landowners/developers or those who will torment your neighborhood for decades? No, Sisley should not be rewarded nor his developer. The City should put its foot down for that reason alone for those properties only.

Also, what the neighborhood is proposing goes beyond what the DPD AND the Mayor have proposed but more along Roosevelt and to the west rather than the east. In at least one area to the west, the neighbors have joined together to ask to TAKE the density. We are working together as neighbors on this.

We know views are going away; that's not our fight. Our fight is to concentrate the density around the station as well as protect the landmark that is our neighborhood's namesake - RHS. We have no defining geographically features like other places and this is a City-identified historic landmark. It's worth a little protection for it.

Bilruben, we will have to agree to disagree. I know my facts are correct to the extent that our RNA rep saw the plans at the developer's office. They may not have filed them with the City but this is what they are planning. They may backtrack at some point or, after the Legislative rezone, go for a contract rezone but higher rather than lower is their plan.

Anonymous said...

There was submission by RDG in 2009. Project 3010100.
Land Use Application for environmental review of future anticipated rezone request of properties bounded by 12th Ave NE, 16th Ave NE, NE 64th St, and NE 68th St. Existing zoning ranges from SF5000 to NC2-40.
Anticipated rezone request will be for a range of NC2-30 to NC3-160 zones.

sorry i didnt create a link, just being lazy today.


StepJ said...

So to help clarify what is meant by NC2, NC3 and then the following number...and to clarify this is just from my talking to architect friends, doing a very little bit of research...

NC1, 2, or 3 determines the basic square footage of the foundation of the building, and size of the commercial square footage of a single merchant at street level.

The number following is the height zoning for the structure. To be very simplistic (as this can vary) allow 10 feet per story, or a listing of 160 = 16 stories.

For point of reference in the Roosevelt area...The structure that contains the Whole Foods market is zoned as NC3-65. The building that houses Peaks Yogurt is zoned NC3-65. In Northgate the structure that houses Target is zoned NC3-65.

If you are familiar with Bai Pai Thai in Ravenna, it is zoned NC2-40. Still a significant height, but the commercial spaces on street level are much smaller.

The Sisley brother’s, a.k.a the Roosevelt Development Group (RDG) are proposing a NC3 – 160 structure directly south of Roosevelt High School. That is a big box establishment such as Target, Wal-Mart or Costco, on the street level as the base, then a building extending up to a total height of 16 stories above.

The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) was very proactive in submitting increased density proposals for their neighborhood in accord with the arrival of Light Rail. They propose structures in height from 65 to 85 feet to increase density near the new Light Rail Station.

The difference is where the tall buildings will be located. The Sisley brothers (the RNG proposal) ask for the big box, highest buildings to be located right in front of Roosevelt HS (the block of Sunshine foods.) The RNA (Roosevelt Neighborhood Association) has submitted rezoning requests to have the zoned higher density buildings located further east.

The RNA proposal will not block the light and air from RHS, and is also a density plan in agreement with the current area residents – as in, we’re cool with having these big buildings in front of – surrounding us.

My personal beef with the Sisley (RNG) proposal is that it is an equation for U-District North – or the demise of the charm of the Roosevelt District.

The condo. market is in the tank. Even with easy access to downtown transportation (via lightrail) – do the DINKS (Dual Income No Kids) want to live above a big box store, or do they want to live in a fun kitchy neighborhood above unique boutique shops? I would suspect fun neighborhood/boutique shops. But this is the exact opposite of the proposal from the Sisley's. Which means no condos, but apartments as the most likely/income producing abodes above the big box store directly in front of RHS. With the easy access to the U-District and easy apartment rentals I reason that the most likely outcome for Roosevelt is the evolution to U-District North vs. the retention or evolution of the cool, fun neighborhood of Roosevelt.

If you are considering RHS as the high school for your child, would you like to have a structure directly in front of the high school that is the twice the height of the Target structure in Northgate directly south of your school?

If no. If you favor the plan proposed by the neighborhood to increase density – yet also preserve the neighborhood essence of life, please either attend the planning meeting at the Roosevelt High School auditorium, Monday, Sept. 19th at 6 pm.

Or, if you cannot attend in person please write to write members of the Seattle City Council. Locate their contact info. At, http://www.seattle.gov/council/

Maureen said...

StepJ, thanks for this summary! I do have one question. You say The RNA (Roosevelt Neighborhood Association) has submitted rezoning requests to have the zoned higher density buildings located further east.

It seems to me that it would be more logical to have higher structures to the west--that is closer to the highway. East of RHS is a more residential area, and (irrelevantly?) uphill. Do you know their reasoning?

StepJ said...

Just my poor sense of direction. :-( They are proposing West not East -- sorry.

Maureen said...

Oh good! That makes sense!

marc said...

In looking for followup information to this post, here are just a few links I found (links to other blogs/news stories in these posts):

Roosevelt Neighborhood Association Blog