The Legislative Rezoning Neighborhood meeting took place on this Monday evening Sept 19, 2011. And like most neighborhood events in this activist-oriented area, it was lively. In front of a packed theatre at the recently renovated Roosevelt High School, Seattle City Council members listened to hours of citizen comments and feelings about the issue.
The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association is a very organized group. And they have put a lot of energy and effort into pushing their preferred plan they are calling “Sensible Density” as an alternative to the city's DPD plan. They are pushing for a lesser density to the east of the station to support the new light rail transit station being built in the center of the Roosevelt business district. This is the area of the neighborhood that is underutilized and ripe for development, if appropriate zoning is allowed. And that's where the debate gets heated: What is appropriate?
Many long-time residents don't want to see the area grow at the rate that the city sees as necessary to accommodate future increases in city population. And many of the more recent residents and people who work in the community welcome the growth to have the chance to someday to afford to live in the area, perhaps in smaller and less expensive homes or apartments. The meeting clearly defined the two camps. Now it's up to the City Council to figure out what's best. All of this will play out over a long-term and most of the people making the decisions will be long gone when the wisdom, or lack of wisdom, of their decisions are felt.
It was clear in the meeting that is comes down to 2 competing visions that are not that far apart in theory, but could make a substantial difference in both density and development timelines for the area. The area of controversy was and is about the area on NE 65th Street between Roosevelt Way NE and 15th Ave NE. And the debate is about how high to allow multifamily structures to go with the rezoning. A lot of the feelings and opinions have been formed over the years about this area due to the contentious relationship with landlord and property owner Hugh Sisley. Fighting over 2 additional stories in one part of the rezone seems like a bit of childish sour-grapes to me. The main argument against the 65 ft height change seems to be that some neighbors desire to keep a peak-a-boo view of Mt Rainier from the top of Roosevelt High School, hardly a major concern in my opinion. The city originally planned a 125 ft limit, which would have been much higher. 65 ft seems like a very reasonable compromise on the city's part. And what if the lower height limits make it unattractive to develop for years to come? Then everyone would loose out.
So hopefully the Seattle City Council will take into account all the Seattle citizen's needs and not just the surrounding homeowners or those who voice their opinions the loudest. Either way, I'm really excited about the light rail coming to Roosevelt and the changes that it will bring to one of Seattle's greatest neighborhoods.