Monday, February 20, 2017

Give Input Now On Proposed University District Upzone, Council Vote Tomorrow

The City Council is voting tomorrow at 2pm on the proposed University District upzone.  

The potential upzone includes taller building heights of up to 320 feet (32 stories), plus another 15' for mechanicals.

The affected area would be the main University District core (15th  Avenue NE to the freeway and 41st to NE 50th Street) and potentially 240 foot buildings in other areas of the core area.

A neighbor commented that Lisa Herbold has proposed amendments that will help create more affordable housing and support small businesses.

Alex Pedersen, a Northeast Seattle neighborhood advocate, who published a monthly newsletter said:
Unfortunately, our Northeast Councilmember Rob Johnson is plunging ahead at the urging of lobbyists to cement this ill-conceived, poorly planned overhaul of our neighborhoods that must be fixed. Without sufficient notice, Johnson played a last-minute game of "Monopoly" and "Risk" with our neighborhoods by engulfing several blocks into the upzone scheme -- jeopardizing nearly 200 units of existing affordable housing. This U District upzone is poised to create the mold for future changes in Northeast Seattle neighborhoods from Wallingford to Wedgwood and throughout our City. The Council needs to hear from you now!

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) said:
Housing advocates and resident organizations from the U District strongly urge the public to attend and speak against the City’s proposed plans.  Within “ground zero” of the area of the upzone there are over 1500 units of existing low income and affordable housing (go here  for inventory), historic buildings and dozens of small businesses which are in jeapordy (go here for letter from small businesses placed at risk and opposing these upzones) by proposed plans driven largely by large property owners and the UW.
The old Safeco Building, now owned by UW, is 340 feet high, and some development plans include copying those heights along the highest part of the UDistrict, of which some would be taller than any South Lake Union buildings.  The natural views of the beautiful Olympic Mountains will be blocked out forever by these concrete rectangles along the "new" skyline, not to mention the creation of a dense and darker streetlife in this old neighborhood. 
Share you comments about:
-preserving the eclectic, small businesses community that relies on inexpensive, small scale rents
-reducing the heights to a more human scale-under 120 feet.
-retaining the housing units that are truly affordable-1500 are slated to be destroyed
-requiring infrastructure-better transit connections, better flow in roads, and adequate freight/loading access to all new buildings
-requiring public open space to be embedded in any plans
-requiring tree protection, and planting new, larger trees
-retain and add to parking in all types of new buildings-not pretending that cars do not exist
-retain existing historic buildings
-require existing viewlines be maintained, especially mountain and water views
-require developers to pay impact fees to build schools resulting from greater residential population 

The U of WA wants the City's approval on 320 foot towers so they can match that height with THEIR 320 foot towers. All of this would sit on a tall hill already, which would change the skyline to concrete rectangles instead of the natural beauty of the Olympic skyline. Take pictures of your neighborhood's views and send them in asap.

Numerous other issues are at stake with the proposal, such as displacing existing housing with "new and taller" which means "more expensive", and lots of folks cannot afford it, nor want to live in such tall buildings. It forces a lifestyle change in the entire district which has the diversity of many smaller, locally owned businesses.

The gradual upzone should be allowed, but permitting silos of concrete is not the right scale for the diverse fabric and livability of the U District The only infrastructure improvement offered is for impacts on transportation is the LIght Rail system with its 2 or 3 cars, in a corridor that only runs north and south. Not much else is guaranteed by any developer. And those who talked about living there with families are out of luck-no larger units offered, and there is no operating public school. and there is no green space planned in area that already has a parkland deficit.

Do not complain, write emails and help make the upzoning more livable! Voice your concern over the poorly planned, profit driven upzones. This is taller than the buildings in South Lake Union (SLU) and will essentially make an SLU in the U District.


One neighbor said about what the upzoning will do, both at the UW campus and in the U District:
  • Remove most of the currently affordable housing in the U District and replace it with expensive highrises.
  • It will also get rid of most of the small businesses in the U District due to increases in rents, taxes, etc.
  • The UW wants to create an innovation, high-tech zone which will bring in high-end companies, further raising land values and other costs.
  • Change the whole nature of the U District, not just from taller buildings, but with encroachment/expansion of the UW onto what has always been separate from the UW.       

Go here for more detailed information posted by the Laurelhurst Blog.         

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