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On the Agenda for Tomorrow

On the Agenda for Tomorrow

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Published by: Chs Blog on Nov 14, 2012
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11/19/2013

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On the agenda for Wednesday’s City Council Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS)committee is the discussion and possible vote on the proposed Seattle University Major Institution Master Plan (MIMP). CHS and CD News have written about the MIMP and theappeal and recently noted that I am the spokesperson for an appeal of some of the proposedMIMP. While the CHS and CD News coverage included links to almost all of the relevantdocuments, the on-line discussion started by an anonymous person may have, I fear, contributedto some misunderstanding about what is at issue here. There are several issues about which therecan be legitimate disagreement. However, it’s useful to understand what is being appealed andwhat is not. (Maybe it’s not reasonable to expect the anonymous commenter kg will have any better opinion of my crank-ness (crankiness?) but at least I should try to defend my “ilk”, as(s)he puts it.) Anyway, the following is an attempt to summarize a kind of complicated set of arguments that are included in the appeal of the proposed SU MIMP. Ninety-nine percent of the proposed SU MIMP is not at issue in the appeal. The first sentenceof the story on October 26 might have unintentionally contributed to a misperception. In thatsentence CHS and CD News state that the appellants “argue that the plan will allow the school to build too high, will eliminate too much non-university housing and does not do enough toconcentrate future growth of the campus.”The first phrase “allow the school to build too high” might have been read out of context bysome. In fact, the heart of our argument on appeal is that the proposed MIMP does not, in mostlocations, plan for buildings that are high enough (to encourage “concentration of futuregrowth”). The Land Use Code for Major Institutions attempts to balance the needs of institutionsand surrounding neighborhoods by allowing institutions to build much taller buildings thanwould be allowed to other developers. A major reason for this is to encourage institutions tosatisfy their needs without displacing, too much, the capacity of surrounding neighborhoods for non-institutional growth. A healthy neighborhood will serve a diverse population, student andnon-student.When S.U. developed its existing Master Plan it requested and received from the City zoningquite a bit higher than the pre-existing zoning. In several areas S. U. was given the right to buildnew buildings up to 160 feet and, in others areas, up to 105 feet. However, in this year’s proposed MIMP S.U. plans three buildings in areas zoned for either 105 or 160 feet, that will beno more than 65 or 75 feet. While failing to take advantage of significant capacity to build onthe core of its campus, between Broadway and 12
th
Avenue, S.U. instead is now asking for greater height for new developments along 14
th
Avenue on the site of the landmark Coca ColaBuilding and for most of the block to the north of the Coca Cola Building (currently the site of the hospital laundry building and parking lot.)Our appeal does not object to the possibility that SU might develop on 14
th
Avenue. Rather weare asking that the City Council not approve the height increases for the sites along 14
th
Avenue because of potential impacts of new taller buildings on the landmark Coca Cola Building and onthe relatively smaller scale residences across the street or immediately adjacent to SU’s potentialdevelopment. Instead, we are asking that the City Council require S.U. to satisfy its needs for additional development by building taller than is set forth in the proposed plan on severallocations west of 12
th
. We also hope that the final MIMP, when approved by the City Council,
 
encourages SU to take fuller advantage, by building bigger buildings on a block currently withinits Major Institution boundary east of 12
th
--- on sites facing Cherry St. and 13
th
Avenue. It is
not 
the case that the appeal opposes all development east of 12
th
Avenue. On the above described block there is significant opportunity for future development by S.U. on all of that block’s sitesnot occupied by the Rianna apartment building. The proposed MIMP does not take fulladvantage of all of those opportunities. We believe future SU development there on 13
th
andCherry would not have a negative impact on the vitality of the neighborhood as a whole, whilethe proposed taller buildings on 14
th
would have a negative impact.There are three possible uses mentioned in the proposed MIMP for the landmark Coca ColaBuilding site: student housing, academic, or an event center. An event center which, to be clear,includes the possibility of an intercollegiate basketball arena, is of concern to those who livenearby.The appeal is concerned about the proposed height of new buildings, but actually the argument isfor some new buildings in some locations to be taller. S.U., it should be said, argues thatacademic buildings that are taller are too expensive and impractical to consider. We believe, that,for an institution in a dense urban neighborhood this argument of S.U. should not be accepted atface value.The expansion of the campus boundary in one location also is at issue in the appeal. The proposed MIMP seeks an expansion of the campus boundary in several places, including sites onBroadway and also between 12
th
Avenue and 13
th
Avenue on either side of Marion. Our appealasks that the boundary expansion to include the Photographic Center Northwest site at 12
th
andMarion not be approved. The proposed MIMP, states no planned use for the Photo Center site.All of the expected space needs of the University are described in the proposed MIMP as beingmet in locations other than the Photo Center site. Consequently we believe the S.U. argument for including this location in its new boundary is weak.Twenty years ago, the City adopted what is known as the “12
th
Avenue Development Plan”. Thisis a plan whereby S.U.-owned property the institution was holding for future development wasacquired by the City of Seattle (mainly through a land swap for the former Seattle Transit sitethat is now the S.U. soccer field). Through that plan, sites that had been surface parking lots or the like were converted into new housing and new retail space. These sites include the twoRianna Buildings on 12
th
Avenue, the Homesight condos on Marion and 13
th
with nineteenaffordable homes for qualified buyers, and the recently completed Capitol Hill Housingapartment at 12
th
and Jefferson targeted for about forty workforce-income renters. The goal of theCity has been to revitalize the “main street” of a business district on the edge of the CentralDistrict that, many decades ago had had an array of housing and retail space but subsequentlylanguished for decades for several reasons. One of those reasons, according to the 12
th
AvenuePlan, is that institutions, including S.U., King County Youth Services, and others, had control of land which they were holding for some undetermined future development.Most of the new mixed-use buildings on 12
th
Avenue south of Union in the last twenty years have been built on land that was acquired by the City of Seattle from S.U. While the City, by sellingthis land at a low-market price to private developers, has been able to provide an incentive to the

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