Last night’s public hearing by the City Council land use committee was remarkable in many ways; indeed there are many remarks on various blogs I have been told. But what struck me most was the incredible attendance – over 500 people showed up for this meeting, which makes it the largest community meeting of the last 10 years, and quite possibly the largest ever. What’s more, the entire Seattle City Council – all nine members – were sitting on stage in the beautiful Roosevelt High School theatre which was practically full. A City Council aide told me that it is virtually unprecedented for the entire City Council to attend a non-budget meeting outside of City Hall. It felt very significant to me, all of the interest and attendance.
If you were able to be there last night, even for a while, thank you very much. The huge turnout made a strong impression on City
Council, as expected. It was a long meeting – over three hours with about 80 different speakers. The Seattle Channel recorded the entire proceedings for online video playback at http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/watchVideos.asp?program=be and for rebroadcast on TV Channel 21 on Wednesday, September 21 at 2PM and on Thursday, September 22 at 5 AM (thank you Ravenna Blog www.ravennablog.com for rebroadcast information).
At the hearing I had the opportunity to outline the work of the Consensus Group which responded to the rezoning changes proposed by Mayor McGinn and DPD in June. If you haven’t seen the work of the Consensus Group you can find it posted here on the RNA website: http://rooseveltseattle.org/LandUseLegislativeRezone.aspx We published a report called Sustainable, Livable Roosevelt but which came to be known as “SLuRP” last night and with various speakers identifying themselves as “SLuRPies”. Who says you can’t have fun at community meetings?
I think it’s fair to say that the verbal comments ran heavily in favor of support for the neighborhood’s rezoning recommendations. Many people explicitly endorsed the Sustainable, Livable Roosevelt plan but most simply made the point that City Council had better respect the substantial volunteer effort of community members. Representatives from several other neighborhood groups from Ravenna, Green Lake, Maple Leaf, RNA-South, Northgate and the Central District pressed the point saying, in effect, to City Council: “If you reject the work of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association why should we invest time in our own neighborhood plan?” Clearly, station area land use planning in Roosevelt is shaping up to be an important test case and/or model for similar discussions around the City.
Of course there were other speakers, more than a few, who spoke in favor of the Mayor/DPD plan as currently proposed with building height limits of 65 feet in front of Roosevelt High School. The Roosevelt Development Group had their PR folks at the meeting and it is clear that they had some kind of strategy with people wearing green stickers and certain speakers who seemed to have been coached. But other pro-density speakers seemed altogether sincere as they spoke about affordable housing and appealing station-area communities. The City Councilmembers politely listened to one speaker after another, with committee chair Sally Clark trying to keep everything on track.
While there were differences of opinion and flashes of emotion during the public hearing last night, the actual range of opinion was more narrow than it might seem. Virtually every speaker was in favor of increased density in the future light rail station area, and seemed to share many of same values for sustainability and livability. The question seems to be, what degree of density is appropriate and where? Clearly the high school blocks are most contentious but even there the debate has narrowed substantially to focus on 4 or 6 story buildings. Going forward, I’d like to focus more on actual objectives for the neighborhood and less on who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys”. It’s time to move on, somehow.
From this point the deliberations will be more quiet with City Councilmembers weighing input from last night and continued, informal interaction with the RNA and other interested parties. We’ll continue the conversation here in the neighborhood with meetings in October and November; please watch for dates and times. No decision will be made by City Council on the details of the Roosevelt Rezone until early December at the earliest; it’s more likely that this will slip into the new year. But there is momentum now and great interest in the outcome.
I’m so proud of this community and our ability to rally around shared interests in an effective way. There used to be a saying
heard around town; something like “Don’t mess with Montlake”. But I wonder if some new expression might take hold. Thank you for your continued interest and support.
Chair, Land Use Committee
Roosevelt Neighborhood Association