(See previous Sisleyville Post Sisleyville in Roosevelt / Ravenna)
8/4/2010 2:56:00 PM
Up goes the neighborhood?
Large, vocal turnout at meeting on proposed 'towers' next to Roosevelt HS
Nearly 200 community members attended a meeting July 21 on a proposal that could include towers up to 160 feet high next to Roosevelt High School.
The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) held the public scoping meeting about the proposed rezoning and development plans by the Roosevelt Development Group (RDG) in the five acres directly south and east of the high school.
As community members entered the meeting, many were shocked to learn that public statements would be given, one at a time, to court reporters stationed at far ends of the Calvary Christian Assembly gym. They immediately protested, saying they felt that the process was “unfair” and being “manipulated.”
One community member requested that they revert to a “situation where we can speak to the meeting and listen to each other’s ideas and opinions.” This request and many others like it were met with loud applause from the crowd. But meeting organizers refused, saying that the meeting was not a public hearing or debate.
Richard Weinman, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) consultant contracted with DPD, defended his decision to format the meeting in such a way. “People are interested in talking about the scale [of RDG’s proposal], and I understand that, but this is not the forum for that. There will be public hearings; there will be plenty of opportunities to make comments [in the future],” Weinman said.
The meeting provided the community with a chance to make comments on the scope of the EIS. The EIS is a tract that is being drafted as part of the review process that RDG must undergo as it pursues its contract rezone of the area located north and south of Northeast 65th Street, between 12th Avenue Northeast on the west and the east side of 15th Avenue Northeast on the east.
A similar meeting took place in June 2009. Since so much time has elapsed with little progress, the city decided to hold a second scoping meeting.
“The purpose of scoping meetings is to figure out what kinds of impacts the [RDG’s proposed development] will have,” Weinman said. “This is a process of narrowing down what the significant issues are that need to be studied in the data.”
Shadowing, traffic, bulk and scale, plants and animals, height and noise levels were among the issues already deemed significant by community members in the June 2009 meeting.
The community was also provided with presentation boards that displayed the six preliminary alternatives for rezoning and development that must be considered for the EIS to be produced.
The alternatives displayed spanned a broad range, from no new rezoning (Alternative 1) to the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association’s (RNA) rezone plan (Alternative 2). Alternatives 3, 4 and 5 are zoned NC3, a classification that permits a broad range of commercial uses. They increase in height incrementally from 65 to 125 feet.
RDG’s proposed contract rezone, Alternative 6, also NC3, is zoned as high as 160 feet in areas.
In the rezone area, there are approximately 50 single-family parcels in disrepair. They are all owned by Hugh Sisley, who signed a 99-year lease with RDG in July 2007 to develop and manage the properties.
Jim O’Halloran, chair of the RNA land-use committee, said that a proposal to build 160-foot structures should not be considered until zoning recommendations made by the RNA are evaluated.
Moving the town center
Five years ago, the Roosevelt community worked closely with Sound Transit to influence its decision for the location of a light-rail station, according to O’Halloran.
Sound Transit apparently was prepared to locate the future Roosevelt light-rail station along Eighth Avenue Northeast near Interstate 5. But, the RNA was successful in arguing that the station should be located on 12th Avenue Northeast, at the traditional core of the Roosevelt commercial district.
In 2006, the RNA submitted a Neighborhood Plan update that included a set of zoning recommendations. O’Halloran said the RNA’s zoning recommendations provide the neighborhood with plenty of upzoning.
“The station is going to be on 12th, so we want most of the future growth to be in the western region of the neighborhood, which is already zoned multifamily and commercial,” he said.
The RNA zoning recommendations also upzone the area in front of the high school, but only up to 40 feet.
Members of RDG say that their proposal to develop east of the light-rail station adheres to good urban-planning rules because all of the proposed rezone area is within walking distance of the new station.
O’Halloran disagreed, saying that “creating a new town center” east of the light-rail station would turn the intersection of 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 65th Street into the epicenter of Roosevelt, “instead of a gateway to the future light-rail station.”
Furthermore, O’Halloran is concerned about the visual obstruction of Roosevelt High School that would be caused by “160-foot, looming towers.”
“The public spent $93 million renovating Roosevelt High School just a few years ago,” he said. “It’s a community treasure, and we want to accord it a prominent physical location in the community.”
Roosevelt resident Rosalie Gammelgaard said her friends living in the proposed rezone area do not want the new development. “Can you imagine looking out your backyard and seeing the UW tower?” she said.
Community members were allowed to submit comments concerning the EIS until Wednesday, Aug 4.
Comments can be sent to DPD land-use planner Shelly Bolser, at Shelley.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written comments can also be mailed to her at 700 Fifth Ave., Suite 2000, P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA 98124.
Community members can e-mail Bolser for a PDF of the alternatives that were presented at the meeting.
“After the draft of the EIS is issued, there is going to be a public meeting where [the community] can comment on the specific analysis of those issues,” said DPD land-use planner Shelly Bolser. The date for that meeting has not been set.
Following the draft meeting, a final EIS will be made to describe the preferred alternative and the factors needed to ensure that adverse impacts are avoided.
The next step will be to hold a design review. This will provide community members and developers a forum to review the design of the selected alternative.
Development on the project is expected to begin in 2012 and be completed by 2020.
For more information, visit www.rooseveltseattle.org.