Seattle City Council Plans to Remove the Ave
Seattle City council led by council member Rob Johnson has agreed to remove University Way Northeast from the plan that allows taller buildings and denser construction in neighborhoods across Seattle. It would direct the developers to assist the city in creating affordable housing.
However, Rob Johnson who has led the plan through the council hopes to upzone the strip known as “The Ave” this year. It should be noted that he chairs the council’s land-use committee and represents District 4. District 4 includes the University District.
“This is a win, but we know Rob isn’t done yet,” said Big Time Brewery owner Rick McLaughlin, an opponent.
The new approach by Johnson includes a recent change in his approach. There has been a long battle over what should happen to the street near the University of Washington after the removal. The street is known for books, thrift shops, coffee, and pho — mostly occupying old buildings.
It should be noted that some small business owners convinced the City Council to retain the Ave when Seattle upzoned most part of the University District in 2017. The Ave was spared for the time being by postponing the changes there, and the business owners also persuaded the Council to provide time to study how the policy would affect them. The small business owners were worried that the then proposed changes would initiate redevelopment, and it would lead to demolitions and higher rent.
A survey was conducted by former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, and half of the businesses participated in it. As per Peter, each small business had 5 or 6 employees, and most of the employees belonged to minority and immigrant.
In recent times, the Council again started a debate over upzoning the Ave along with some additional part of the University District. The proposed upzoning would also include 27 other neighborhoods. The business owners again have started objecting.
However, Johnson said that he would try for postponing the upzoning the street as The Ave was included in an environmental analysis of the U District upzone in 2017 but wasn’t included in an analysis for the plan now being considered. He has a solid legal back this time. For the University District, the city council is relying on the older review.
It should be reported that the City Council is scheduled to vote on March 18. This vote would decide the future of the upzoning plans.
“We’ve decided, out of an abundance of caution, to split all the U District changes into a separate bill later this year,” Johnson said. Johnson also added that if the approval comes allowing developers to build up to 75 feet on The Ave rather than 65 feet, it will not lead to anymore displacement than it would have otherwise the original plan.
Referring to a new Target store recently built on the street he said that without the upzoning any developer who builds on the Ave would not be obliged to help the city in achieving affordable housing. “That makes zero sense to me,” McLaughlin responded, arguing the housing requirements in the city’s plan are too low.