He Said/She Said: Rezoning North Rainier/Mt. Baker

He Said/She Said: Rezoning North Rainier/Mt. Baker

“He Said/She Said” highlights some of the most vigorous civil debates that take place in Go: South Seattle’s Comment section. The dialogue that occurs here between friends, neighbors and engaged citizens is one of the features that makes GSS such a valuable community resource. GSS does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

The Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee is currently discussing legislation that would rezone 109 parcels of land across a 26-acre swath of land around the Mt. Baker neighborhood in the North Rainier Valley. The zoning changes are part of the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan, drafted by the Department of Planning and Development between 2009 and 2010, which was designed as a blueprint for increasing density and walkability around the Mt. Baker light rail station by adding more housing and businesses. The plan has caused a great deal of controversy among south-end residents concerned about the effects the redevelopment could have on the community:

graham: I think it’s fair to be skeptical of large-scale rezones, but if seattle growth estimates hold (somewhere between 35,000 and 500,000 in the next ten years), we’ll need places for people to live. I echo the Ballard comment; the nature of Ballard has changed more radically due to the “compromise” height limits. Gotta go up.

Jeannie O’Brien: The Lowe’s property, zoned C2-65 and NC3-65, has an assessed value of over $35 MM. Wonder what it will be worth when it has C-125 zoning? Wonder if there is any entity willing to invest in SE? Vulcan has set their sights elsewhere.

CBO: The idea that growth must stop because you now own a nice 4 bedroom crafstman with a view in Beacon Hill is immoral. “I got my slice of the valley, now everyone else piss off”. The alternative to growth is watching your property value skyrocket while the working class gets squeezed out and Seattle becomes a wealthy white enclave ala San Francisco. 10 stories? Build 20 Stories!

Real Rainier Valley Girl: Put aside the arguments about greedy elitist homeowners who want to keep the man down. Here’s one of my major concerns: How will the city’s overtaxed, outdated infrastructure support 10 or 20-story buildings? Will the developers who erect these structures be asked to finance an infrastructure that permits growth? Or will the residents – including people on fixed income – will be asked to shoulder the cost? The SPD’s Southeast precinct has six or eight patrol cars in any given moment. Will the SPD and SFD receive additional resources to provide more first responders to accommodate the population growth? Or will the SPD and SFD be asked to do more with less per-capita resources?

Matthew Johnson: I fully support the rezone, with the caveat that it should go further. Between the bow tie calming traffic and getting more people in the area through density there is the possibility of that area becoming a real neighborhood, a place to BE and not just a place to get THROUGH.

Mariana Quarnstrom: We can’t afford to have this adjacent to our single family neighborhoods. What we need are jobs and opportunities that will create jobs. Because of the up-zone we have lost Pepsi… that had union wage jobs to Tumwater and if it goes through we will lose Lowe’s.

Neale: This gentrification can be good for the people who live here. If the retail space isn’t vacant (or filled with newly legal drug shops) because finally we have the quantity of higher-income households required to generate the sales to support retail, there will be entry level jobs for youth to learn job skills in and provide income to pay for additional schooling.

Brian: Definitely out of character with the surrounding area. In addition it would swathe the valley in dark shadows.

Stakeholder: The city’s plan for Mt. Baker is driven by two goals; extreme density to increase light rail ridership & elimination of parking in order to please developers. The plan will fail, on a larger-scale, just as it has already failed on a smaller-scale at Rainier Vista & New Holly. Nobody in city hall is trying to please the residents who will have to live in this engineered mess once it’s completed.

Japhet Koteen: I’m a huge fan of better housing, more jobs, and a stronger economy in Southeast Seattle. I want to maintain our neighborhoods as economically and ethnically diverse. That’s why I want to increase density as much as possible in the Rainier Valley so we can have good, family wage jobs, support small local businesses and keep housing affordable for the people who live here. The logic of this petition is 180 degrees from the truth: keeping density low does nothing but force out small businesses and lower income people, making the whole city more inequitable and homogenous.

Rainier Valley Native: When every existing building along the Rainier Avenue corridor is using its’ 65 foor height restrictions and is at capacity, then it is time to allow private developers the right to exceed 65 feet if they put in “affordable” housing, but not before. We have enough “affordable” housing in the Valley, and not enough jobs to get people into market rate housing.

Anonymous, the lessor: The goal is to screw up the traffic so badly that people will take the train. This is a worthy goal if the train went where I was going, which it rarely does. I realize that town hall is into green but in this case I think the green they got is hallucinogenic.

Your Mama: I like the idea of a tall residential building anchoring that location. I wish they were going to build two more. I am tired of the city treating Rainier Avenue as the Aurora Avenue of the south, a place reserved for the city’s hookers, drug dealers, and petty thieves. Let’s make that stretch of Rainier a safe, walk-able alternative to driving out to the suburban malls or to other parts of town… Rather than focusing on the scale of the building, I wish the petition had focused on keeping the rents in scale with the wages and average housing costs in the south end. We need more buildings with units designed and built for people who already live and work in the south end, not just sleeping pods for highly paid tech workers.

What do you think? Should the North Rainier/Mt. Baker area of the Rainier Valley be rezoned to allow 12-story buildings?

A diagram of the community from the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan Update from the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.


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