Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hurray for the Pike/Pine Overlay

I have way too much fun at community meetings. I run into friends, I talk up new projects - it's the nerdy Seattle version of a Hollywood cocktail party.

Councilmember Rasmussen told us all about the Pike/Pine Overlay, which came out looking just like Liz Dunn's (local developer and neighborhood advocate) idea of it a year and a half ago. Not surprising, since she's a prominent member of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council, the group that proposed the project to Rasmussen about two years ago. PPUNC has also been the only neighborhood group to give input for this project, something I hope will change now that it's been presented to the public.

The goals for the new PPO are nifty, as you will see below. The Capitol Hill Arts Crisis (i.e. the great migration to where housing is affordable) is being addressed by the Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee (CODAC), and affordable/workforce housing isn't being addressed at all. There will be another piece of legislation concerning the PPO next year, so I guess we'll see what happens then.

Pike/Pine Overlay Legislation Outline as taken from the City of Seattle website:

Objectives of Amendments
The proposal calls for amending the Pike/Pine Overlay to accomplish the following:

  • Continue to promote new mixed use and residentially‐oriented development as
    intended under the original provisions of the overlay;
  • Expand the scope of the overlay to promote new development that is more compatible
    in scale with existing conditions in the area;
  • Provide incentives to retain “character structures” ‐‐ buildings that are 75 years old or older‐‐as part of new development;
  • Increase opportunities and flexibility to encourage the continued use of existing
  • Promote conditions that allow small, diverse local businesses to continue to operate in the area; and
  • Provide incentives for retaining existing art and cultural uses and attracting similar new activities to the area.
Highlights of the Proposal
The following actions, described in more detail in this report, are
proposed to achieve the objectives listed above:

  • Rezone the NC3 areas within the current boundaries of the overlay to a pedestrian zone designation (NC3P), while retaining current height districts.
  • Adjust the boundaries of the Capitol Hill Station Area Overlay District to exclude areas that overlap with the Pike/Pine overlay to eliminate redundant and potentially
    conflicting regulations.
  • Designate E. Pike/Pike Street and E. Pine/Pine Street, which currently require
    commercial uses at street level, as principal pedestrian streets, as well as segments of 10th, 11th, and 12th Avenues east of Broadway and north of Pike Street, which currently do not require street level uses.
  • Expand the boundaries of the Pike/Pine Overlay District to include existing NC3P and NC3 zoned areas in the Pike/Pine neighborhood along Broadway and east of Broadway and south of E. Pike Street.
  • Establish a maximum lot size limit for all new development [18,000 sq.ft. according to Rasmussen in the meeting] and a maximum limit on structure width for new structures with frontage along Pike and Pine Streets.
  • Provide incentives through exemptions from floor area calculations and/or limits on
    non‐residential use to:
    + retain existing character structures and “envelope” portions of existing
    character structures on a development lot;
    + encourage development on small lots of 8,000 square feet or less;
    + include space for small commercial uses at the street level of structures;
    + include arts facilities in existing structures and new projects; and
    + maintain economic viability of character structures by allowing the maximum
    range of uses to fully occupy these structures and limited additions to these
  • Allow a height exception [and/or development area] for projects that retain existing character structures [buildings that are 75 years old and over] and portions of existing character structures on a development lot.
  • Limit street frontage width of street level uses in new structures on Pike and Pine
  • Restrict certain types of signs that are incompatible with the local business character of the Pike/Pine area.
  • [From the meeting] Require large developments with commercial area to have half the commercial space split up into small bays (in order to encourage small businesses)
Here's the biggest question: Will anyone pay attention to the Pike/Pine Overlay once it's created? Will is have "teeth", or will it languish in oblivion like its unfortunate cousins, the Neighborhood Plans?

The other main questions raised were:
  • Where the hell is the affordable housing? (Me, though I didn't say hell at the meeting)
  • Why didn't you talk to renters when you put together this plan? (Dennis Saxman, East District rep. for NPAC)
  • What are you going to do about outdated use requirements that are assigned to buildings? (Lise Stone, local business owner)
  • Why didn't we receive more notification about this process? (Brad Augustine, local building owner)
  • Where are the open/green space incentives? (Robin Peale, Member of the Braeburn condo's homeowners association)
  • Where are the tax and infrastructure incentives for the community minded (often small & independent) developer? (Chip Wall, formerly of Capitol Hill Housing)

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