Saturday, January 17, 2009

More Zoning Questions

Since looking into the land use violations at 2510 Beacon Avenue South, I've wondered about other properties nearby. After all, the whole area is supposedly zoned Neighborhood Commercial 2 ("A moderately-sized pedestrian-oriented shopping area that provides a full range of retail sales and services to the surrounding neighborhood").

Including this property right across the street at 2507 Beacon Avenue South.


Hmm. It doesn't look terribly retail-ish. Does the lease sign explain that the business will have to be a purely retail one?


Nope. It's advertising the space as potential light industrial. Let's double-check to make sure that this warehouse building without a single window out front really is zoned NC2, or retail-only.



I don't know what to think about this. I would love for the center of the Beacon Hill business district to be a dense retail area, and I do think zoning enforcement can help turn things in that direction. However, some buildings just don't look like they were meant to be retail spaces. I guess business owners are supposed to try and make retail work in these awkward spaces, or the property owners are supposed to remodel the buildings to better suit that purpose. I don't know.


Anonymous said...

There's a place up the street from us at 15th/Lucile and we're pretty sure they aren't the type of business the land is zoned for. How do I find out?

Anonymous said...

I've also wondered about both the featured site and surrounding area described in your blog. At times I believe that the city has explored the loading/unloading and parking issues created by these businesses (sometimes commercial vehicles park in the street in front of the bus zone causing the backed up traffic to miss a few chances at a green light, but I don't think anything has ever come of it.

JvA said...

To learn about Seattle zones and how to find them, check out the first Q&A on this page:

15th and Lucile is a little island of NC1-30 zone in a sea of SF-5000.

NC1-30 means Neighborhood Commercial 1 with a building height limit of 30 feet. NC1 is described this way: "A small shopping area that provides primarily convenience retail sales and services to the surrounding residential neighborhood, such as small grocery stores, hair salons, and coffee shops. Building types are small commercial structures, multi-story mixed use and residential structures. Non-residential uses typically occupy the street front. 10,000 square feet is the maximum size for some commercial uses."

And SF-5000 means single family residential, with one family residence (plus detached accessory dwelling unit, or DADU, if you're in the South End) per 5,000 square feet.

You can see the area zoning map for 15th and Lucile here:

And you can find definitions of the zones here:

JvA said...

And if you're talking about the stone and gate store, no, I don't think that sounds like NC1.

Anonymous said...

Should we start a light rail count down? I'm hopeful that will start some type of property churn in the district since present owners seem unwilling or uninterested in developing the neighborhood. Meanwhile i'll continue to spend my money in Georgetown and West Seattle.

tlp said...

When building changes are made related to a new business taking on a lease, they are called "tenant improvements". This is also the name of the building permit class a business owner would have to satisfy with DPD.

Typically, the costs of the permit are paid by the tenant, while the actual cost of the building changes are negotiated between the owner and tenant. The owner usually pays a substantial percentage since they are the ones who keep the building. But it all comes down to the lease negotiation.

As to whether these buildings can become pedestrian oriented, it wouldn't really take that much. The structural openings are there, it is just the infill that needs to change. A simple start would be to put a glass door in place of the solid swing door (say $200). Voila - a great little import shop could go in with lots of shelf space. To give it natural light, put in a couple of skylights (another $400). I've seen it done in Toronto (I'm thinking of Blue Banana in Kensington Market). There just needs to be a critical mass of people, and cheap enough rent. Come on light rail.

litlnemo said...

It's not just an NC2-40 there -- it's NC2P-40. This means it's in a pedestrian zone and has additional requirements:

"The P designation preserves and encourages an intensely pedestrian-oriented, retail shopping district where non-auto modes of transportation, both to and within the district, are strongly favored.

"Street-level Uses
"Limited to pedestrian-oriented nonresidential uses that have the potential to animate the sidewalk environment, such as retail, entertainment, restaurants, and personal services. Drive-in or
drive-thru businesses are prohibited. "

litlnemo said...

Oh, I just noticed that in their zoning "Transparency (is) required for 60% of a street-facing facade." Of course, the non-conforming facade probably predates the newer zoning and so they don't necessarily have to change it yet... but it would sure be nice if they did.

Would be nice if the ABC market across the street had some windows, too. That building once did have more windows, I think, but has been closed in over the years.

Anonymous said...

I believe this owner has had offers from potential tenants that don't match the current use or the listed use. I think one guy wanted to open an art supply store or something similar. My memory is a bit fuzzy on the specifics, but I have heard that he was basically turned down.

I hope I am wrong, but I think this building and the building across the street will be immune to "transit oriented development", at least for a while. There have been opportunities to develop and rent these buildings that have been pushed aside. I think they will remain as is until after other lots are developed and these lots become worthy of offers that are too good to turn down. Unfortunately, that may take a while.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, did you hear why the offer was turned down?

steve said...

I have really been blown away with the lack of investment in property improvements along the entire light rail line that has occurred thus far. I thought by now things would be really rolling, but the ball has only just begun to roll in many areas, and it looks like in the central biz district on BH, it hasn't begun to roll at all--is there anything besides the interior remodel at Red Apple and the townhomes a little south on Beacon Ave? Anyone have any theories why? Are the property owners just so unwilling to invest in their property, regardless of what improvements are going on in the neighborhood? Maybe they're just happy keeping things as-is and not dealing with change; I suppose that's easier and requires obviously no capitol expenditures. I hope for the best, but my guess is this process will be incredibly slow, like every other change on Beacon Hill.

Anonymous said...

First, to respond to the question from Anonymous, I don't know exactly what happened with the proposed tenant other than the deal fell through. My point was simply that this building, and the pink building across the street, have had opportunities to change and improve that have not been sought after by the owners.

I think this passive property ownership throughout Beacon Hill will continue for years until property taxes catch up and start to force sales. That is frustrating for those like me who use the few Beacon Hill services as much as possible, but regularly leave the neighborhood for something as simple as a decent burger or slice of pizza. Hopefully the current property owners see the opportunity and make changes themselves in the short term that will benefit the neighborhood rather than sitting on low rents and marginal businesses for the next 10 years and then just cashing out.

tlp said...

I don't know if its good news or not that property taxes have skyrocketed for commercial properties. The value of the tiny house across the street from us (which is an NC2-40 zone) went last year from $78k to $330k...

litlnemo said...

Our house is NC2-40 also, so that can be a bit scary.

litlnemo said...

Note that a business has now opened in the 2507 building... a car wash. Which would seem to be a fairly cut-and-dried zoning violation, because of the P designation on that site.

Someone filed a complaint with DPD just today about this site, it looks like. (Wasn't me! I was looking for something else on the DPD site and thought I would see if any complaints had rolled in about 2507. And there it was.)