Saturday, December 15, 2007

Free Georgetown! (By Monday, Please)

Hey, Beacon Hill. The time has come again for us to help out our neighbors across I-5. Or, if you feel (as I do) that the heart of our neighborhood is Airport Way South, then the time has come to help ourselves.

As you all know too well, we're starved for dining / drinking / art-viewing / concert-going / theater-going / antique-browsing / shopping / etc. options on Beacon Hill. But luckily we live next to Georgetown, where independent businesses are starting to fill all those needs for us. (I've got love for Columbia City too, but I have to admit, days that I don't have to contend with the madness of Rainier Avenue tend to be better than days that I do.)

I'm not sure how you folks up north by the Red Apple feel, but I swear to God, down here near Graham Street, proximity to Georgetown is pretty much the only thing we've got going for us right now.

Which is why it's so important to me that the City Council exempt the area around the residential sections of Georgetown from industrial zoning Bill 110690, which is up for a vote on Monday. The bill would limit future development greater than 25,000 square feet in Sodo -- including the area around Georgetown -- to industry only. In my understanding, this means that large buildings outside a very small slice of Georgetown could not be used for things like full-size grocery stores or drugstores. Or places that rent out artists' studios and practice spaces for bands. Or cool independent retail like that place in Fremont that houses Impulse, The Industry, and Lamb's Ear Shoes. And while I wouldn't even dare to hope that great stuff like that is on the way for us, I certainly don't want it prohibited by law!

Bill sponsor Peter Steinbrueck, whom I've admired in the past, has said this about the proposal: "You do not want big-box retail moving in to Georgetown. It would kill the place."

Thanks, Peter, but Georgetown has fought off much worse (real) enemies than (pretend) ones like Target before. We certainly don't need your protection from big-box right now.

Anyway, please help protect the South End's future by asking the City Council to exempt the residential areas around Georgetown from industrial zoning. Let them know you support Richard Conlin's efforts to amend the bill to exempt Georgetown. Ask them to at least put the brakes on this process (as Drago, Rasmussen, and Conlin have already recommended) -- this legislation is too important for Steinbrueck to just railroad through in his last weeks in office. Let them know that you live up on Beacon Hill, and you care about the future of Georgetown because it's a shared treasure for the whole South End. Tell them that a blow to Georgetown is a blow to all of us.

Here are the addresses of the City Council members. If you don't mind, please use the subject line "Free Georgetown" to help our voices all be heard in unison on this. And please mail them before Monday, when this all comes to a vote. Thank you!

Here are some places to read more about this issue:

Slog discussion at The Stranger
"Exempt Georgetown Residential from the Industrial Rezone" at Blogging Georgetown by The Paper Noose
Another post at Blogging Georgetown
Seattle P-I article
The text of the bill itself

1 comment:

NoneoftheAbove said...

The letter I received from the City Council

Ms. Thompson,

You are one of a number of Georgetown residents who have emailed my
City Council colleagues and me, urging that we delay passage of the
industrial lands legislation, and that the Industrial Buffer zone around
Georgetown be expanded. This past Monday, December 19, the Council
voted 6-3 in favor of the legislation. I voted with the majority. I
believe this was among the most important land use issues to be voted
upon by the Council during my eleven year tenure here and critical to
the continued financial strength of the city.

If Seattle is to continue to have a diverse economy that includes
industrial and maritime employers, we must ensure that they can find
affordable land within the City limits where they can operate.
Unfortunately, the amount of industrial zoned land in Seattle has been
shrinking. There are currently 5,142 industrially zoned acres in
Seattle, which is 12% of the total land area in the city. This is a
decrease from 5,698 acres (14%) in 1984. This trend must be stopped.

Real estate speculation drives up prices, making it ever tougher for
industrial users to find affordable land within the city. Speculators
have bought a number of parcels in SODO, Interbay, and Ballard in hopes
that they will be permitted to convert these parcels into residential,
commercial, and office properties on which they can reap far greater
returns than if the land remains in industrial uses.

This disturbing trend is evident in the development project
applications received by the City’s Department of Planning &
Development (DPD). In 2007, DPD has received applications for almost
800,000 square feet of office and retail space of over 10,000 square
feet in the IG1 (General Industrial 1) and IG2 (General Industrial 2).
(This doesn’t even include applications for IB (Industrial Buffer) or
IC (Industrial Commercial).) By contrast, in 2006, DPD took in permits
for less than 240,000 square feet of commercial space in IG zones.
These figures speak to the need to act now.

It is projected that some 90,000 jobs in industrial sectors will be
created in King County over the next thirty years. The Mayor and City
Council believe that this legislation will ensure that many of these
jobs will be located in Seattle.

A companion piece of legislation passed by the City Council along with
the industrial lands ordinance was Resolution 31026, which lays out a
number of steps and studies to be taken by city government to ensure
that our zoning and regulatory actions are indeed producing the desired
results. A stakeholder group will be included in the process, and
language of the resolution specifically calls out that Georgetown
residents are to be included.

I am sorry that the Council’s action falls short of what you might
desire. My colleagues and I have acted in what we believe is the best
interest of the city in its entirety. We certainly realize that you are
among those who feels otherwise.

Richard J. McIver
Seattle City Council