RBCA’s letter to Councilmembers regarding the Roosevelt Rezone

November 28, 2011

Councilmember Sally Clark
Councilmember Tim Burgess
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Seattle City Council – Committee on the Built Environment
PO Box 3405
Seattle, WA 98124-4025
transmitted via email

RE: Legislative Rezone for the Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan
Sustainable, Livable Roosevelt

Dear Councilmember Clark:

The Ravenna-Bryant Community Association and members of our neighborhood have been part of the Roosevelt neighborhood planning process for more than 5 years. When Ravenna-Bryant talks about the “neighborhood” in the context of the Roosevelt Legislative Rezone, we construe us to be part of the neighborhood. We are troubled by recent and current attempts to change the course of the neighborhood planning process via pressure to adopt a backroom deal with a specific, private developer. Time is not a friend in this case: over a period of time, it is easy to overlook the original constraints and how they came to be but it is paramount that everyone remember that destroying values that a neighborhood holds dear for the perceived short term benefits of the City makes no sense when the neighborhood has gone above and beyond its civic duty to provide a viable solution that simultaneously achieves the stated goals of the City and still preserves a neighborhood’s patterns, mores, and characteristics. If the Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan Update, once touted by the Department of Planning & Development as an example of well crafted planning, and the Sustainable Livable Roosevelt plan offered up as a solution to the Council’s political concerns are both tossed out, the precedent this sets for all other neighborhood plans in the City would be breathtaking.

The neighborhood has been consistent since the 1990’s that the blocks to the south of Roosevelt High School stay lower scale. From Ravenna-Bryant’s perspective, we believe that 40 feet is an appropriate height not only because it is the gateway to our neighborhood, but proven planning concepts dictate that more intensive zones should transition to less intensive zones – this is not an original Seattle construct but one that has served civilization for millennia and one that the City has embraced as far back as we can remember. Roosevelt cherishes their existing patterns and landmarks and they too have been consistent about no height taller than 40’ on these blocks.

It appears that the Mayor interjected his ideas of height (not density) after being influenced by a private developer and its consultants and colleagues. The result was a ‘line in the sand’ that put the City Council on the defensive to respond to absurd claims that he was more progressive, transit oriented, and environmentally friendly than the Council if they did not step up to his plan.

However, Roosevelt, with assistance from Roosevelt High School and Ravenna-Bryant came to the rescue and created a plan that not only met the Mayor’s density challenge, but surpassed it by a rather large magnitude. That plan, Sustainable, Livable Roosevelt (SLR), made a lot of concessions in exchange for only one major stand – that the blocks to the south of the High School remain at 40’ in height. Not a bad trade off for the Council, the density critics, the High School, Ravenna-Bryant, and the other neighborhoods watching. It should have been a no- brainer. It appears to have had only one opponent – RDG, a private developer with an active Contract Rezone on the property for a 12-story highrise building on the corner of 15th and 65th – an absurd gesture to the neighbors and the City of Seattle planners.

Interestingly, other developers are active in Roosevelt without asking for rezones. This clearly demonstrates that if others can make things work and RDG cannot, the problem is with RDG, not the neighborhood. For the Council and the Department of Planning & Development to insist on a negotiation to upzone specific properties for the benefit of a specific developer is both ill- conceived and a dangerous precedent. The Council should walk away from this entanglement because 1) the developer has a Contract Rezone on the property and there should not be contact with the Council – this is being openly flaunted, and 2) the Council should not be interfering in land lease contracts for private individuals: the deal RDG struck with the underlying land owner is their deal, not the City’s and not the neighborhood’s. If the Council pushes Roosevelt to solve RDG’s problematic deal, then the document and its terms should be made public and debated. It feels to us that the Council has crossed a line, and we are unclear how the gain is worth the risk.

DPD should not be dropping threats on the neighborhood that if the Mayor wants 65’, then it’s a done deal and not negotiable. First, that is not the process, and second, this goes back to the argument over the summer – if the Neighborhood Plans are called intelligent, purposeful plans, and then are summarily tossed aside on a whim, then why elicit Neighborhood Plans in the first place – let us instead just all work by last minute uproar and an ever changing cast of elected officials and neighborhood leaders and have the progress of the City stalled for decades. Setting the precedent that intelligent planning by a neighborhood can be easily dismissed is what garnered the attention of other neighborhoods that showed up at the September 19th COBE meeting – they see that if the Mayor and Council can trounce on Roosevelt’s forward-thinking plan(s), then the same can happen to them.

The Legislative Rezone should be completed with all due haste. Councilmember Clark has said that this could be completed, if not by the end of 2011, then by January 2012. We should stay that course and quit forcing an arranged marriage between a private developer and a steadfast, clear-headed neighborhood. From our perspective, the Ravenna-Bryant neighborhood wants 40 foot heights on the High School blocks.

Ravenna-Bryant Community Association

j. Andrew Miller
Land Use Committee