A new unprecedented upzoning is proposed right in our neighborhood, along NW 60th street. Instead of a few townhouses, what is proposed are 14 row houses, five townhouses and an existing historic home moved to another part of the lot – so, a total of 20 units on 17,800 sq. ft. (3.5 lots). This is currently a lower density L-1 zoned street.
The City of Seattle land use rules for zoning can always be modified by developers or anyone by paying the $10,000 cost of “lot line adjustments”. Density is good land use for cities, to reduce sprawl in rural area, reduce pressure on farmlands to develop, and reduce carbon from commuting from cities to rural areas and back. But the new project applications for downtown-style row houses proposed for NW 60th Street (off 20th Ave) in Ballard ask for a huge increase in density to be allowed on a street currently zoned for L-1 lower density. In order to try and stop this unprecedented upzoning by effectively rezoning, we citizens can ask for a hearing with PRC (City of Seattle Construction permits Public Resource Center, part of the SDCI – Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections). If enough people, say 50 or more, can write in requesting this hearing, we can go in and ask for rejection of this request outright. The lawyers for the developers will be there and the PRC will likely approve it because lot line adjustments are legal and routinely allowed. However, with a big enough hearing, with a neighborhood-hired land-use lawyer advising, and City Council members written passionately about this hearing, some hope may exist for the PRC to delay the decision, request fewer units, or reject it.
For more information check out the Baker street community website:
Placating the neighborhood with a simple short hearing is actually a common failure of public process as, although it gives people a voice and they feel empowered, actual results are often zero, so we all must be on guard. Many of us from Sunset Hill have attended these SDCI public meetings and found that while there were public comment boards, the only questions to comment on were written by the PRC, and the results were pretty mild, and always in agreement with the SCI agenda. Public hearings these days are short in our polarized society and citizens in groups, with a spokesperson presenting the group’s views, have far more power.
Unless there is the threat of lawsuit against the city for many possible reasons, a new precedent will be granted to future developments city wide. Some problems that can be found with this upzoning are: ignoring existing land use ordinances, not following the ordinance intent, the proposed new row house lots are undersized to existing ordinances, the reduction of accepted-as-valuable Light and Space, and that the rezoning is out of character for the neighborhood. As this is residential development, not commercial, there is no Seattle Design Review Board approval required of the architectural look of the row houses.
There are not any direct legal reasons for the PRC not to approve it. It may also be pushed off at a PRC hearing, if one is offered, and given next to the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner, who looks for fraud or illegal city activities. But since the proposed upzoning is relatively legal, the Hearing Examiner will likely also approve of it.
We suggest that residents concerned about this email the PRC, our neighbors, our council member Mike O’Brian, and help fund a land use lawyer. Back in the year 2000, the Sunset Hill Community Association hired an ex-Council staffer land use lawyer who helped the SHCA submit properly written proposed height and setback ordinances to the City Council members, which were mostly adopted with our language a few years later. Thus we do not have five story houses right to the sidewalk in Ballard.
Citizens have prevailed before over land use changes with the generation of city wide attention. You can easily help.
Please send the following email to the PRC to request a hearing:
The proposed lot boundary ‘adjustments’ are designed to subvert the intent of existing land use code and erode the potential for affordable family housing in the Ballard neighborhood, and would result in density that is more in line with L3 than L1.
Thank you for your consideration.
(You must put your name & email address here)
Also, CC the city council members here:
‘Nathan.firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <Nathan.email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <email@example.com>
Sunset Hill Community Association
Land Use Committee
(The Sunset Hill Community Association Land Use Committee is gathering and getting active. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved.)