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Neighbors speak loudly on Greenwood Town Center rezone proposal

There’s nothing like a discussion on neighborhood rezoning to bring out the passionate crowds. About 100 people came to an open house presented by the city’s Department of Planning and Development at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church on Tuesday night.
The topic was the proposed rezoning of the Greenwood Town Center site (Fred Meyer and Greenwood Market on NW 85th Street), as well as surrounding residential areas. Several months ago, the Greater Greenwood Design Development and Advisory Group (GGDDAG), which includes some members of the Greenwood Community Council, proposed rezoning a 100-foot-deep swath across the street on NW 85th Street, NW 87th Street, and 3rd Avenue NW to allow for multi-family units. The idea was to provide a “step down” between the major development that Fred Meyer has proposed and the surrounding single-family neighborhood.
After hearing from angry neighbors, the council backed off on the part of the proposal that upzoned the residential areas, but the city decided to go ahead and get neighborhood input on the entire proposal.
The proposal is divided into three subareas.Virtually everyone seems to agree on rezoning Subarea #1, which includes the site currently occupied by Fred Meyer and Greenwood Market and their parking lots, from C1-40 (commercial that promotes 40-foot high “big-box” stores and large parking lots) to NC-65 (neighborhood commercial that is pedestrian and transit friendly and encourages mixed-use developments up to 65 feet tall.)
Proponents say rezoning Subarea #1 will protect the neighborhood in case the Fred Meyer development doesn’t go through (their current design for a mixed-use development adheres to the general neighborhood commercial guidelines).
The controversy comes with Subarea #2 and Subarea #3. Subarea #2 would rezone a 100-foot deep parcel along NW 87th Street from 1st Avenue NW to 3rd Avenue NW, and along 3rd Avenue NW from NW 88th Street to NW 85th Street from Single-Family 5000 to Lowrise 3. That would affect dozens of single family homes.
Subarea #3, which includes the old “Checkers” building on the corner of NW 85th Street and 3rd Avenue NW, and the area south of NW 85th Street between Palatine Avenue North and just west of 3rd Avenue NW, would be rezoned from NC2 P-40 (neighborhood commercial, pedestrian overlay with a 40-foot height limit) to NC2 P-65 (increasing the height limit to 65 feet).

“What you’re doing here tonight is very difficult,” City Councilmember Sally Clark told the crowd at the beginning of the meeting. She said talking to neighbors about zoning is hard, especially as a neighborhood grows and changes. The idea is that someday when you leave that neighborhood, “what do you leave behind as a map?”

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark (right) talks to concerned neighbors.
DPD Senior Urban Planner Andrea Petzel started off the meeting by emphasizing that each of the three subareas is being treated as separate entities.
“Each of these subareas is being considered separately. It is not a package deal,” she said.
Two people from the GCC or with knowledge of the proposals were stationed at each Subarea station to answer questions. People wandered around the room, writing comments (mostly negative) on sticky notes and placing them on the appropriate drawing.

Leslie Moynihan’s house on the southwest corner of 3rd Avenue NW and NW 87th Street was featured in a photo on DPD’s presentation board because it will be inside the rezone area.
“We bought a home on an arterial street and we understand the implications of that,” she said. But she says the wide street acts as a natural buffer and there’s no need for a step-down area, especially since it would be just feet away from a single-family home. “Moving the buffer into the middle of a single-family block doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Neighbor Brian Hart agreed. “I think the street is a much more natural buffer than the eight feet to my neighbor’s house.”
Hart’s house on NW 86th Street and 3rd Avenue NW would be just outside the buffer area, meaning his house could be just feet away from a taller multi-family building. He and other neighbors think there’s plenty of empty multi-family space in the neighborhood, and we should fill that up before changing the zoning that could add even more. “Ask me in 10 years. Maybe it will be really different,” Hart said. “Now I don’t think that it’s necessary.”
Janet Dockery lives on NW 87th Street inside Subarea #2 and went door-to-door informing neighbors of the proposal and about the meeting.
“I like my neighborhood and I like the single-family homes,” Dockery said. “I like the character of the neighborhood…and I sure don’t want to live next to one of those things,” she said of taller, multi-family buildings.
She says any stepping down in height should be done inside Subarea #1, with higher buildings in the middle of the Fred Meyer site and lower ones along the edges.
“People say they like their neighborhood. It’s affordable single-family houses and they understand there’s going to be some density in the middle,” she said. “But moving it into the single-family block is really upsetting to some people.”
Neighbor Matt Heilgeist agreed. “It seems everything is a foregone conclusion these days, like it’s going to happen no matter what. And most of my neighbors feel the same way,” said Heilgeist, whose house on NW 87th Street would be just outside the rezone area.
There’s still time to make your voice heard on the proposal. The DPD is collecting feedback through July 15. You can take an online survey (only one per IP address). DPD will then develop a draft of rezone recommendations and will present those to the GCC in August. DPD will finalize those recommendations in September. If DPD does recommend any rezoning, it will then begin a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review, along with an email comment and appeal period in October. Rezoning Subarea #2 would have to go to the City Council as part of a Comprehensive Plan Change to the Future Land Use Map in late 2010 or early 2011, followed by a city council public hearing sometime next spring.