Monday, July 6, 2015

A More Vibrant 35th Ave NE - Understanding the City's Proposed Changes for 35th Ave NE

REMINDER: The City is collecting feedback through July 2015 on their proposed changes. We strongly encouarge you to provide feedback (both pro or con), although we also highly recommend you understand what is being proposed rather than commenting on misinformation. For this reason, please read on before providing your comments by mail or email to Ryan Moore, Senior Planner, PO Box 34019, Seattle, WA 98124-4019 or ryan.moore@seattle.gov. There's also a very brief survey you can fill out HERE.

By now, you hopefully are aware of the grassroots, proactive 'neighborhood planning' effor that neighbors surrounding 35th Ave NE have been undertaking since the start of 2012.  If not, you can find a summary on the About page or find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the linked tabs above. However, here's a very brief history.

In January 2015, the 35th Ave Committee published our final report titled the Future of 35th Ave NE Plan. This plan is the culmination of an enormous amount of data and opinions collected from the community over 3 years. All voices and opinions were invited to the process and those who participated had their opinions presented in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan. By no means was there uninaminity, but that was not achievable. However, both the Wedgwood Community Council and the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association endorsed the plan and based on this support and the extensive and forthright community feedback we collected, the City council approved funding at our request for the City's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to review the zoning recommendations included in the final plan and present their revised proposal. The zoning recommendations were only 1 of 3 important land use elements included in the final report which work together to provide the neighbohrood planning the 35th Ave Committee set out to achieve.

On Wednesday evening, June 24th, DPD unveiled their proposed changes for 35th Ave NE to a packed and sweltering room at Congregation Beth Shalom. More than 100 people attended the meeting which started off with attendees milling around and looking at images of the proposed changes. A brief presentation followed where we provided some background to the planning process with DPD highliting their proposed changes. There was a short amount of time for general questions while the remaining time of the meeting was spent around the images of the proposed changes with DPD staff on hand to ask specific questions.

Following the meeting, we heard some concerns about the format of the meeting. Undoubtedly in a meeting that well attended, there will be questions that go unanswered. However, we are very grateful for DPD to be undertaking this review and developing this proposal as it represents the first real proactive urban planning for the business district!

This post explains some of the key features to the City's proposal recommendations. While we have included a link to the City's presentation for those who couldn't attend, we're also providing a summary of what the City proposed which can be broken into 3 main changes.
The City's Proposed Plans for 35th Ave NE.
(Click to download PDF)
  • 1. Additional Pedestrian Zones
    (P-zones)

    The City recently adopted new legislation that expanded pedestrian zones to more neighborhood commercial areas throughout the city, including the commercial nodes along 35th Ave NE at NE 75th St and NE 85th St. This legislation requires any new development to include specific design features that prioritizes the safety and comfort of the pedestrian environment. In fact, many of these design recommendations were included in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan so that future developements at the NE 65th St and NE 95th St nodes were more likely to include these pedestrian-focused design elements into their design too.

    You may recall us writing about this legislation HERE and us presenting the data showing that nearly 70% of the respondents to the City's survey thought the NE 75th St and NE 85th St nodes should be designated as pedestrian zones. Got questions on what P-zones are or are not? HERE is a handy cheat sheet.

    Under the City's plans (Pages 1 and 4), parts of the NE 65th St and all of the NE 95th St nodes would be officially designated as P-zones ensuring this prioritization for the pedestrian occurs at these locations too.  This strengthen many of the pedestrian-focused designs at these commercial nodes included in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan as it would codify several of the design standards included in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan.
  • 2. More Neighborhood Commercial (NC) Zones
    Under the zoning recommendations within the Future 35th Ave NE Plan, the Seattle Audubon property was recommended to be rezoned from lowrise residential (LR2) to neighborhood commercial (NC-30) to better suit their current and future operations. Meanwhile, the remaining LR2 parcels from the USPS property to the Seattle Audubon property was recommended to remain as lowrise residential while allowng for commercial on the groundfloor (LR2-C).

    As shown on the City's plans (Pages 3), the City proposes to change all of those parcels between NE 82nd St to NE 80th St to NC-30 while leaving those parcels south of NE 80th St as LR2.  Both the LR2 zones and NC-30 are allowed to build up to 30 feet in height, which is the same height allowed for single-family residences. So the allowed height of future development on those parcels would not change, just the potential use of those parcels (e.g., more commercial on ground floor).

    Additionally, the City is also proposing to change some LR2 parcels between NE 70th St (north of Grafeful Bread) and NE 73rd St (south of Starbucks) to NC30 as shown on Page 2 of the City's plans. Two single-family houses were recently demolished in this area to make way for four townhomes, which is allowed under the exisitng LR2 zone. Under the proposed zoning, these townhomes would not be allowed. It also now appears, based on a recent and pending permit application, that another lot may be redeveloped into 3 new townhomes.
  • 3. Increased Height at NE 75th St
    The zoning recommendations included in the Future 35th Ave NE plan included height increases to nearly all commercial lots at NE 65th St, NE 75th St, NE 85th St, and NE 95th St nodes. The height increases were recommended based on community feedback and data collected during our public workshops. The proposed height increase for the NE 75th St node was from 30 feet (existing) to 40-65 feet. The 65 foot height recommended in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan was only recommeded on the Safeway parcel to encourage very expensive below-grade parking when/if that lot is ever redeveloped. Otherwise, the allowed height at NE 75th St would only increase to 40 feet, which is the same height allowed currently at NE 85th St.

    After reviewing the Future 35th Ave NE plan, however, the City scaled back the height increases throughout the Future 35th Ave NE Plan significnatly.  Instead of height increases at all nodes, the City is only proposing a 10 foot height increase at NE 75th St, from NC-30 to NC-40 as shown on Page 2 of the City's plans.  As mentioned above, the proposed 40 foot height is the same height currently allowed at NE 85th St.
Hopefully, the expanation above and the images linked to this post provide you with a better understanding of what currently exists, what was proposed by the community, and what the City has proposed.  With this in mind, we again encourage you to provide your feedback through July 2015 to the City using the methods described above. Don't forget to take the survey!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Upcoming City Legislative Rezone Public Meeting - Wed, June 24th, 5:30-7:30PM

SAVE THE DATE: 35TH AVE NE REZONE PUBLIC MEETING, Wednesday, June 24th, 5:30-7:30PM, Congregation Beth Shalom (6800 35th Ave NE)

This is the first time the zoning for 35th Ave NE corridor has
been reviewed since the City's original zoning plan.
UPDATE 1: The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has posted on their Building Connections blog a bit more about the public meeting and some general ideas of what their zoning proposal includes.  You can read that HERE.  Also, postcards from DPD have arrived in the mail today (6/12/15). On them is a link to a survey. You can access and fill it out HERE.

If you recall in late 2014, the 35th Ave Committee requested the city include funding for a legislative rezone of the 35th Ave Business District following the zoning recommendations that were presented in our final Future 35th Ave NE Plan, which was approved by the Wedgwood Community Council and Ravenna-Bryant Community Association. The zoning recommendations presented in this plan were developed following significant community feedback and engagement.

As part of our request to the City and the City's legislative rezone process, the Department of Planning and Development was to review our zoning recommendations and revise them based on their technical analyses and zoning standards. Therefore, please note that the City's proposed rezone does differ from the recommendations presented in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan. On June 24th, DPD will present the results of their review and solicit additional feedback on their legislative rezone proposal. We encourage everyone interested to show up and participate in the process.

DPD has issued the following Save the Date, which will be accompanied by a postcard mailing to many residences within the vicinity of the 35th Ave NE business district.  
Are you interested in a more vibrant 35th Ave NE?
Would you like to see more retail at the 65th, 75th, 85th, and 95th Street business districts? 
Come discuss your thoughts with representatives from the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) on June 24th from 5:30-7:30pm at Congregation Beth Shalom (6800 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115).
DPD staff will provide a brief overview of potential zoning changes intended to foster a more eclectic retail environment along 35th Ave and be available to both answer questions and take individual comments.
To sign up for our (e)mailing list and receive email updates click here: http://eepurl.com/bn15Af. For more information contact Ryan Moore at 206.233.2537 or ryan.moore@seattle.gov.
Please help get the word out by letting your neighbors know about this upcoming meeting and opportunity to be involved. No matter how hard we try, we can't notify everyone who might want to know. See you there!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

There's No Mistaking It. Change to 35th Ave NE Has Arrived.


Goodbye, Green House!

There's no mistaking it, change is occurring along 35th Ave NE.  Two "tear downs," including the Green House, are currently ongoing along 35th Ave NE to make way for new townhomes. The Theodora is going to be remodeled soon. And the Bryant Heights development on the former Children's Home Society of Washington property will begin construction soon.  Technically, all of these projects are occurring in the Ravenna-Bryant neighborhood, since they occur south of NE 75th Street which is the border of Wedgwood and Ravenna-Bryant.

One might look at these recent developments along 35th Ave NE and think it's the result of the community-led planning that occurred in 2014 and which resulted in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan. However, those who share this perspective are mistaken. In fact, the changes we're seeing unfold now were anticipated and is what triggered the the Future 35th Ave NE planning to begin with.  It's why this community-led planning was proactive and not reactive. All of the projects that are going on now began their design and permitting process a few years back (or many years ago in the case of the Green House), before the Future 35th Ave NE planning began.  In fact, we wrote about all of these projects as reasons justifying the proactive, community-led neighborhood planning process, despite how difficult we knew the conversation might be:
In January, we published the final Future 35th Ave NE Plan and subsequently published the Supplemental Design Guidelines Handbood for 35th Ave NE thanks to the excellent work of our consultant team (Makers Architecture & Urban Design and SVR Design). The hope for these documents is that they provide early direction to current land owners, future developers, designers, and architects so that future projects help meet the needs for the overall community while still allowing developers to meet their own financial objectives. Each project is unique and different and we are not trying to criticize any of the projects currently proposed or being constructed.  But, the hope is that this early direction and hopefully early coordination with the representative community councils will lead to improved projects more generally, provide the developer and neighborhood with greater predictability, and result in an improved business district that better serves the surrounding community.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

THE FUTURE OF 35TH AVE NE - Final Report

FINAL REPORT
Click to Download (5MB)
In January 2012, the 35th Ave Committee kicked off a proactive community-driven planning effort for the 35th Ave NE Business District. After 3 years of public meetings, field trips, data collection, Coffee Talks, surveying, being awarded a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoodsselecting a consultant team, hosting public workshops, collecting more data, and receiving the endorsements from the Wedgwood Community Council and Ravenna Bryant Community Association, we have finalized the Future of 35th Ave NE Plan final report.

This Future of 35th Ave NE Plan final report includes the following elements, which together, are intended to provide a foundation and direction for future development of the 35th Ave NE Business District as change occurs.
These three elements are intended to work together to shape the future of 35th Ave NE into the type of walkable business district desired by the community, improve the conditions which support the businesses that occur in the district, and provide improved predictibility for landowners and future developers. Therefore, considering only one of these elements in isolation does not provide the context and complete picture intended by this plan. If you have questions or concerns regarding this plan which are not addressed in the final report, please review the FAQ prepared.

There are many who we, the 35th Ave Committee, need to thank for helping to complete this report and playing a critical role in the quality of this document.
Engaging discussion between
neighbors during a public workshop.
TO ACCESS THE FUTURE 35TH AVE NE FINAL REPORT, CLICK HERE (PDF, 5MB)

Monday, November 24, 2014

EXCITING NEWS! The Seattle City Council is set to approve funding for a Legislative Rezone of 35th Ave NE!

UPDATE: As expected, the City Council officially passed the budget. We will provide details on the 35th Ave NE Legislative Rezone when more in known sometime in 2015.  PLEASE MAKE SURE TO TELL YOUR NEIGHBORS AND KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR NEWS SO THAT EVERYONE CAN BE HEARD.

The City Council is set to vote on a budget for 2015 later today. In the budget package, Council has included budget for the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to implement a Legislative Rezone for the 35th Ave NE Business District, between NE 65th Street to NE 95th Street, following the 35th Ave Committee's request.  A "Legislative Rezone" is a corridor or area-wide analysis and rezoning process conducted by the City.  The funding ($67,610 in 2015 and 2016) to be approved for DPD's includes budget to review and analyze our final zoning recommendations (the final formal report is to be issued soon!), conduct additional public outreach to the community, and develop legislation to approve any rezones.

After both the Wedgwood Community Council and Ravenna-Bryant Community Association endorsed the 35th Ave Committee's final plan (the final formal report is to be issued soon!), the 35th Ave Committee met with many councilmembers and request some modest funding to DPD to review our zoning recommendations and implement a formal legislative rezone.  Councilmembers Mike O'Brien, Sally Clark, and Jean Godden were gracious enough to sign on to a "Green Sheet" (e.g., budget request) on behalf of DPD for this work.  This Green Sheet was taken up by the Budget Committee on November 5th for discussion.

Click Image for Link to Nov. 5th Budget Committee Meeting Video.
(We couldn't turn off "autoplay" on embeded video.)
At the November 5th Budget Committee meeting (link to video above), Per Johnson, the Chair of the 35th Ave Committee, provided public testimony to provide some context for the Council regarding the Green Sheet starting at minute 4:04.  Tony Provine, current president of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, also spoke on behalf of the Green Sheet starting at minute 9:50 in the video below. (Note: there are 2 speakers in between Per and Tony with some relatively explicit language.) The City Council then held an interesting conversation about the merits of our Green Sheet starting at minute 17:50 and ending at 26:10.  Part of their conversation gets at the process the City has set up for their formal neighborhood planning processes and typical legislative zoning for other neighborhoods.  Part of the conversation also gets to questions, concerns, posturing by councilmembers as the City is adjusting to new District elections. Without this specific budget request and Council's approval, there is no opportunity for neighborhoods and communities such as ours for any formal legislative rezone assistance from the City given our status within the City's Comprehensive Plan.

IMPORTANT: We, the 35th Ave Committee, have tried to be clear throughout this grassroots planning process that we have been seeking community concensus, not unanamity.  Certainly there are those who disagree with the zoning recommendations developed through the public workshops and our planning process, no matter how modest the changes are. This is inevitable. As the City analyzes our zoning recommendations and listens to the community, they may reach slightly different conclusions on the zoning needs for the business district.  These differences are also expected.  We trust that the City's planners, along with our great community input and continued involvement by the 35th Ave Committee, Wedgwood Community Council, and Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, will achieve the conditions desired for the business district and our community in the future.  

The 35th Ave Committee is very, very appreciative to the city council for taking up this budget request and approving it.  A special thanks goes out to Councilmember Mike O'Brien for formally proposing the Green Sheet (our budget request) as the chair of the City's Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Commitee, and to Councilmembers Sally Clark and Jean Godden for co-signing the Green Sheet.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Revised Streetscape Guidelines, Supplemental Design Guidelines, & Zoning Recommendations

UPDATE: A BIG THANKS to both the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association and Wedgwood Community Council for endorsing the revised 35th Ave Plan as described below. Please stay tuned as we'll post the next steps for this plan as they become clearer.

On July 31st, the 35th Ave Committee held its 3rd public workshop and unveiled the draft streetscape guidelines, supplemental design guidelines, and zoning recommendations. The participants at the public workshop were given the ability to float around and look at specific parts of the proposal and discuss the proposal with their neighbors, the consultant team, and the 35th Ave Committee. Participants were then asked to provide their feedback.

Following the public workshop, the proposal was then posted online for those in the community who couldn't attend the public workshop. The 35th Ave Committee held a public comment period from August 1-15 so that the community could provide their feedback.

Based on the feedback received from the 3rd public workshop, the public comments, and the data gathered from the previous workshops, the 35th Ave Committee made revisions to the supplemental design guidelines and zoning recommendations.  No revisions were made to the streetscape design guidelines.

In writing the last post and reading through the public comments one thing became clear though, writing about planning concepts and designs that are interrelated as a nonplanner for other nonplanners. Therefore, instead of posting standalone documents for the streetscape design guidelines, supplemental design guidelines, and zoning recommendation, we have prepared the following presentation to help explain the revisions and give context to the overall project.

The presentation below has been added for convenience, however, it does not include animation that may make it easier understand the revisions. CLICK HERE to see the whole presentation with its intended animation.


Over the upcoming week, we will be presenting the revised streetscape guidelines, supplemental design guidelines, and zoning recommendations to the boards of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association and the Wedgwood Community Councils. Anyone is welcome to come and listen in.
  • Ravanna-Bryant Community Association Board Meeting: Tuesday, September 9th, 7-9PM at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center.
  • Wedgwood Community Council Trustees Meeting: Monday, September 15th, 7:30-9PM at the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church Fireside Room.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Review Our Zoning Recommendations & Streetscape Design Guidelines

UPDATE 3: Public comments were accepted through Friday, August 15th. Therefore, mentions of the public comment period within the post below have been crossed out.  The streetscape design guidelines and zoning recommendations described below will now be revised based on the feedback received, which includes:
UPDATE 2: A FAQ (frequently asked questions) has been put together to dispel some misinformation about this proactive grassroots planning project, which you can read here. Alternatively, click on FAQ tab above.
UPDATE 1: To make it easier for review, below is an itemized list of documents to both illustrate and understand the proposed streetscape design and zoning recommendations.
  • Zoning Cheat Sheet (PDF, 1MB) - A summary of what the City's zoning codes mean to help understand the current and proposed zoning.
  • Supplemental Design Guidelines (PDF, 1MB) - Guidelines intended to help shape the design of future development beyond what the city-wide design guidelines.
  • Streetscape Design & Zoning Recommendations (PDF, 5.5MB) - Illustrations depicting our proposed streetscape design guidelines and changes to current zoning. Sheets 1-2 summarize our streetscape guidelines between the major commercial areas (e.g., connectors) and at the commercial areas (e.g., nodes). Sheets 3-6 summarize the proposed zoning changes at the commercial "nodes."  Please note that the current zoning is shown in the top right for comparison and brief descriptions of the changes are provided along the right edge.

Last night, 70 people attended the 3rd and final public workshop where the 35th Ave Committee unveiled the streetscape guidelines and zoning recommendations developed based on the community feedback from the previous two public workshops.  After a presentation summarizing the zoning recommendations and streetscape plan, participants visited workstations where they could review the zoning recommendations at each node (NE 65th St, NE 75th St, NE 85th St, and NE 95th St) or streetscape plans to ask questions and provide feedback.  Excellent feedback (for and against) was received which is still being processed. As noted above, feedback is encouraged from those who couldn't attend last night's public workshop through Friday, August 15th. Comments can be sent to 35thplan@gmail.com.  The Questions or Comments box to the right of this post can also be used.


Each person who attended the public workshop was provided this handout (PDF, 1.3MB) which included the workshop agenda, an evaluation, and a summary of the zoning recommendations.  An illustrated summary of our proposed streetscape plan zoning recommendations is provided here (PDF, 5.5MB).

Click Image to View Our
Proposed Supplemental Design
Guidelines (PDF, 1MB)
Also included on Page 4 of the handout and within the presentation above (starting on Slide 42) are Supplemental Design Guidelines developed to accompany the City's recently updated Citywide Design Guidelines. These supplemental design guidelines will be provided to the Department of Planning & Development and the City's Design Review Board.  These supplemental design guidelines will likely not be codified by City Council, but they are intended to be instructive to future developers about what types of design features our community supports in exchange for the increased height and zoning.

Click Image to View Our
Zoning Recommendations &
Streetscape Design
Guidelines (PDF 5.5MB) 
The streetscape features recommended are intended to provide interest and invitation to pedestrians while creating a greater level of safety for those walking to and along 35th Ave NE.  The streetscape design features will ultimately be prepared in the format required by the Seattle Department of Transportation's Right-of-Way Improvements Manual so that future developers are aware of the sidewalk typology, treatments, and features requested by the community.

Our streetscape design proposal didn't focus on the travel and parking lanes due to a potential separated bike facility along 35th Ave NE as approved in the City's Bicycle Master Plan. This decision was made as any separate bike facility constructed in the future would necessitate its own significant design completed by the City.  Nevertheless, our plan makes a few specific recommendations to improve the intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 75th Street while also making it safer to cross 35th Ave NE throughout the corridor.  This recommendation is illustrated on Slide 41 in the presentation but can also be summarized as follows:
  • Relocate the Metro bus stop at the SE corner of the 35th/75th intersection to the NE corner of the intersection, in front of the "I Heart Bento" building.  This would also require eliminating a load zone in front of the building.  
  • Install pocket left turn lanes for north and south bound traffic, as was done a few years back on NE 75th at that intersection for east and west bound traffic.  
  • Eliminate the peak hour parking restrictions throughout the 35th Ave NE business district corridor which will turn 35th Ave NE into a 2 lane road with permanent parking versus a multi-lane road with temporary parking as it is now.  This would allow more crosswalks and potentially curb bulbs or other intersection improvements to reduce the crossing distance and improve pedestrian safety.  
Our zoning recommendations were focused at the four most prominent "nodes" along the 35th Ave business district: NE 65th St, NE 75th St, NE 85th St, and NE 95th St.  The proposed height increases and zoning changes were developed based on the feedback received during the Public Workshop 2.  These preferences are illustrated in the presentation.  The recommendations are summarized on the attached illustrations.  Most of the recommended zoning changes are height increases, although some are zoning changes.