Press release: City Council begins review of UDistrict HiRise Upzone Plan Fri 930AM & Mayor to present UDistrict Hi-Rise Upzone plan Monday noon at UHeights School

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Ethnic shops and low income housing removed at 50th and the “Ave’ in UDistrict – upzoning means a lot more of this is on the way

City’s plan threatens 1500 affordable housing units and dozens of small businesses

The Coalition says “you’re encouraged to attend and oppose this plan driven by large property owners and the U of W: a plan to turn the district into a hi-tech ‘incubator hub’ with zero regard to how it affects the Districts existing diverse and affordable character”

This Friday morning, 9:30AM in Council Chambers, the City Council’s Planning Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee will get a briefing on the Mayor’s plan to upzone the University District for 320′ Towers.  It’s not clear yet whether additional specifics of the plan will be released at that time.  Or perhaps that will occur Monday at noon when Mayor Murray will hold press event at University Heights School to hype what now has become his “prodeveloper highrise plan”.

We’re told also that the Mayor has handpicked so-called “stakeholders” to join him Monday to lend the appearance his plan has community support.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  At forum after forum over the last 2 years, including two the Coalition sponsored – the only two forums where every resident received an invitation by mail to attend and comment – each drawing over 200 attendees – nearly all residents – both tenant and homeowner – and small businesses voiced strong opposition to this upzone.

CM Rob Johnson for Friday’s City Council meeting is doing the same thing.  He’s invited four handpicked “stakeholders” drawn from the property owner’s and U of W created “UDistrict Partnership” to join councilmembers around the Council table. But predictably he’s excluded small businesses, low income tenants, seniors, homeowner representatives.   It’s emblematic of the entire process – the community’s vast majority, their ‘input’ has been cynically manipulated or ignored.

Johnson’s handpicked panel includes the head of the “Partnership” managing the area’s BIA and receiving small business tax dollars for that purpose.  By city ordinance, no BIA funds are supposed to used to lobby for passage of the UDistrict upzone – but that’s exactly what will happen Fridaymorning when the head of the Partnership paid with BIA funds to manage the BIA participates in Johnson’s panel. 

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One of every three properties along the Ave would be redeveloped and small businesses displaced according to one study

The Displacement Coalition, Livable UDistrict, UDistrict Community Council and others will be present at the Council meeting Friday and on Monday at the Mayor’s event to speak out against this highrise plan – a plan the Displacement Coalition describes as “nothing more than a blueprint for the destruction of our community and it’s rich unique, historical, and socially and economically diverse character.  The future of the UDistrict is at stake”.

The University District is one of the first neighborhoods planned for upzoning accompanied by adoption of the Mayor’s HALA mandatory housing requirement.  But opponents of the upzone say the amount of housing that will be destroyed by the upzone would greatly exceed the expected number of units produced by the mandatory housing requirement.

The area that is proposed for significant height increases is roughly from 50th to the Ship Canal and from I-5 to the University of Washington’s main campus.   The University of Washington has its own separate institutional highrise overlay plan for its west campus also now underway.  Together the upzone proposed by the U of W and the City would basically transform the UDistrict into a highrise office and expensive residential enclave equal or greater in density than South Lake Union. The majority of this area is currently zoned 45-65 feet tall with a few exceptions and would be upzoned for 240′ to 320′ towers.  The Coalition says:

  • The University District as we know it would be wiped out and replaced with another hub similar to Downtown or South Lake Union.
  • Concerns of possible spillover of zoning changes (“transition zones”) into surrounding areas.

We urge you to attend and OPPOSE this plan and instead call for measures to preserve existing small businesses and low cost housing already hard it by runaway growth as a result of the current zoning code.  As it is, the area is overzoned and has nearly twice the zoning capacity it needs to accommodate 2035 residential and job targets. There’s a backlog of infrastructure needs due to runaway growth now such as added transit capacity, a need for more open space, parking issues, preservation of several dozen historic buildings.  Put first things first.. let’s address issues and concerns caused by growth under current zoning.   No more upzoning until neighborhood needs heavily impacted by levels of growth under current zoning are addressed!

Attend if you can or call/email to oppose the city/UW/big property owner “displacement agenda”.  

For more information from the community click on following links or call 206.632.0668 or email us here at jvf4119@zipcon.net :

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About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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