While the City Council’s unanimous decision to add the Showbox to the Market Historic District was not permanent, the theater gets a 10-month reprieve and time to come up with a longterm fix
– But what about dozens of existing low cost and affordable apartment buildings; many are historic including three now under landmark review?
We have to chuckle about the Showbox victory. We’ll get to why in a second. While it’s not a done deal – it’s an important grassroots victory because it shows that developers and big business don’t always get their way and people power still can carry the day. This was especially refreshing coming soon on the heels of the City Council’s sudden repeal of the office head tax – a near total capitulation to big business.
However, the Council’s decision to wrap the Market Historic District boundary around the Showbox will last only ten months and it’s not clear, when pressured by development interests, whether the Council has the gumption to come up with a longterm fix that saves the venue. Again it’s people power that will determine the final outcome.
The developer, the Onni Group from Vancouver B. C., is seeking to build a 400′ tower on the site. They’ve hired one of the state’s best land use attorneys (on the developer side) to represent their interest, Jack McCullough, who negotiated the HALA “Grand Bargain” that grants developers enormously lucrative upzones. In return they’ll pay a nominal housing fee or include a handful of so-called “affordable units” in their projects priced hundreds of dollars a month above what truly low income people can afford.
Likely Mr. McCullough is busy right now prowling city hall to negotiate a similar lucrative arrangement for the Onni Group. And, as in the case the Grand Bargain, no doubt he’s seeking the same kind of “win-win” arrangement – one that’s a clear win for his client but not necessarily for the community or one that saves the Showbox.
In many instances, conditions for compliance with historic preservation may require a developer to save only the facade – something that happened essentially on the site of the old Bathhouse and Public Pool on 2nd Avenue just north of Virginia Street (west side) circa 1995. Or it may be nothing more than keeping a record of the old structure like a few pictures and artifacts of the old building in the lobby of the new structure.
One option Mr. McCullough might be seeking for his client could be allowing the developer to build up and over and around the Showbox venue saving at least some or all of the interior. Councilmember Mosqueda’s recent comments suggests this is her idea of historic preservation. There also are rumors out there suggesting McCullough is floating the idea of simply tearing down the old Showbox and replacing it with a brand new venue built into the new 400′ building. (I wonder if this prospect could entice some “Save the Showbox” supporters like those in the music business – especially if the new venue offered space for bigger crowds.)
But back to what I’m chuckling about? Well, it was not long ago that the council voted to raise heights where the Showbox is located to 400′ signaling their clear interest in a massive redevelopment on that site. Oops. Now councilmembers appear to have flip-flopped (kind of like their flip-flop on the head tax only in reverse). It serves to vividly demonstrate that in the end land use and housing policy rests on political bedrock and when it moves so does land use.
In the face of widespread outcry especially from a fairly powerful constituency – the music business and their fans, the city council suddenly gets religion – something that Continue reading