The Great Greenwood Rezone Debate (and where I weigh in)

I am one of the many people feeling incredibly disappointed about the pending closure of the Greenwood Market, so that Fred Meyer can remodel their current store and take up the entire lot.  Greenwood Market, a staple in the neighborhood, is my favorite place to grocery shop and will be serously missed when their lease ends at the end of 2011.  I for one think there’s enough giant Fred Meyer stores in the Seattle area and don’t need to see my favorite grocery store become a Home and Garden Center for the Freddie’s next door.

But there’s more to the Greenwood Rezone than just the David & Goliath story of the Greenwood Market.  The Rezone is split into three parts:

1) The current C1 zone is currently zoned for large single-story structures, with extensive surface area parking. The proposed change for this zone is more pedestrian-oriented, mixed use zoning that provides a full range of retail sales and services and residential options.  It allows for neighborhood commerical and mixed use developments up to 65 feet tall. 

This first part of the rezoning is the area that includes the Fred Meyer remodel, and while it seems a majority of the comminity is upset about the loss of Greenwood Market, most actually support this first rezoning proposal as it helps make the area more pedestrian and transit-friendly.

2) The second subarea is one of the controversial issues – it would take a parcel of land along NW 87th Street from 1st Ave NW to 3rd Ave NW, and part of 3rd Ave NW from NW 88th St to NW 85th Street, from the current single family only zoning to mulifamily, including low-rise buildings.  Why are people upset about this?  Neighbors in that area that currently own single-family homes could start seeing houses torn down to build condo or apartment developments. 

3) The last part of the proposed rezone takes another chunk of the neighborhood, from NW 85th Street/3rd Ave NW, to south of NW 85th Street between Palatine Ave N and west of 3rd Ave NW, from the current 40-foot height limit to a 65-foot height limit. 

All three of these proposed re-zonings are being considered separately – so one can be approved without the others.  The city council has held several public meetings to get opinion on this, and won’t have a final recommendation until sometime this month.  There’s a few issues that people are concerned with –

  • One argument is about the ability to develop more multi-family housing.  For anyone that has driven down Greenwood Ave between about 105th and 85th, “For Rent” signs in the windows are a common sight.  The argument is that with so much vacant multi-family space (and retail space, for that matter), building more in the coming year will just do more damage and cause more vacancies to sit. 
  • Another argument is that the rezone will drive up property taxes and cause more people to leave the neighborhood that can no longer afford to be there.  These people will supposedly have to sell cheap to developers.
  • Neighbors that are immediately affected by the rezones, especially #2 and #3, have fears about living next to a tall, multi-family building.  It will ruin their view, overcrowd their neighborhood and cause more traffic congestion (like we don’t have enough already).

I have an opinion!

While I think the arguments against the rezone are good, I don’t see too many people looking at the rezone from a positive angle or trying to see how it can help.  Multi-family buildings bring in more residents, who spend more money locally – and why does everyone assume these will be apartment buildings?  New, mid-rise condominium buildings, although they might still block views, could actually drive up surrounding property values and bring some additional income to the city.  Also, developers generally have to put in sidewalks and curbs when they build new construction, so that area of Greenwood, which frankly is looking quite shabby lately, may get a nice facelift. 

I think there is a fear out there that as soon as the rezones are approved, everyone’s houses will be torn down to make way for new apartment buildings.  But developers are having a tough time getting financing to build these days (it’s a tough market out there, in case you didn’t notice), so I think it would be years before anything was built new. 

No, I would not want to occupy a single family home that suddenly has a 20-unit apartment building built next to it.  But I don’t think that will happen, at least not for a long time.   In fact, I don’t think the proposed changes will have much effect at all!

That’s my two cents on this issue.  If you’d like more information on the proposed rezone, visit www.seattle.gov/dpd/planning/greenwoodrezone

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