More Thoughts on the Mt. Baker Rezone

There’s been lots of discussion and debate over the proposed rezone surrounding the Mt. Baker light rail station. I’ve posted about the proposal a few times before (here and more recently, here), but wanted to let readers know that the South Seattle Emerald (another, new South-end news source worth checking out) has some new commentary to add to the dialogue. Be sure to click here to read the whole thing.

The rezone would change the existing zoning to a designation called Seattle Mixed-use and raise height limits to 65, 85, and 125 feet, depending on the parcel of land in question.  I attended to testify strongly in favor of thismt-baker-rezone proposal, as it represents the best way to develop Rainier Valley in a way that is inclusive, attractive, and future-focused.

The reason for the proposed rezone has its roots back almost 15 years.  Back in the late 1990s, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, in tandem with neighborhood residents and other stakeholders, developed a vision for the northern corridor surrounding Rainier Avenue South.  Through this plan, they envisioned development that was transit-oriented, mixed-income, and walkable.  While the rest of Seattle has continued to change at a rapid pace and Link Light Rail brought much needed connectivity to the neighborhood, the status quo, with respect to zoning, has not led to the kind of development desired there.  Much of the area remains low-density strip malls or underutilized buildings that fail to engage pedestrians or integrate well into their surroundings.  The rezone would create additional incentives and a framework to make this happen, in a way that is consistent with the original vision.

There’s definitely a lot to consider on both sides of the argument…chime in if you’ve anything to add to the discussion

One thought on “More Thoughts on the Mt. Baker Rezone

  1. Ray Akers says:

    There are two issues with the proposed Mt. Baker re-zone:

    First, while the original Neighborhood Plans involved the participation of thousands of residents over several years. In contrast, the update process involved only a handful of residents but with a whole lot of input from an insular group of developers. The update process began behind-closed-doors in 2006, and the resulting engagement with the community occurred several years later, and was minimal at best. Despite claiming there were more than 50 meetings in the North Rainier plan update process, the city has so far produced sign-in sheets for just two meetings, held in 2009 & 2010.

    Second, the new re-zone plan isn’t new at all. It’s the same old formulaic design that has failed in SE Seattle since 2001. SHA admits their ground floor commercial spaces are a failure due to lack of customer parking. Then, there is The Station at Othello Park, which defaulted and has been repossessed by the lender in Texas. The Pontedera received a hush-hush bailout by the city council, paid for by taxpayers. The Claremont was several months behind in mortgage payments and default was threatened. Success? Hardly.

    The Transit-oriented-development (TOD & TED) model has failed not once, but at least six times in the Rainier Valley. The Mt.Baker re-zone proposes more of the same. Worse, the Mt. Baker re-zone is lacking any commercial/retail anchor tenants. We’re told (again) that when they re-zone Mt. Baker, commercial development will follow, and we’ll finally have walkability & jobs. We been given the same promise since 2001. If you want successful economic development, you start with anchor retail tenants, and plan around the needs of business, instead of the needs of housing developers.

    Perhaps city leaders should have fully-implemented our Neighborhood Plan as originally approved by the City Council? What most people don’t know is that the Neighborhood Plans were cherry-picked by the city council. None of the plans were fully implemented. The ‘vision’ of the plans won’t be realized until city leaders respect the residents, and allow development to be guided by residents, not special-interest developers.

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