PRO AND CON: Yes on Interbay

The following is an abridgement of a letter sent June 29 to Mayor Greg Nickels by Vic Barry, president of the Magnolia Community Club.

The Magnolia Community Club (MCC) generally supports the application of the Interbay Neighborhood Association (INA) to create a special Overlay District near 16th Avenue West and West Dravus Street in Magnolia's Interbay neighborhood.

This area is a true "urban node" on the vital transportation corridor of 15th Avenue N.W., with direct bus routes (and possible BRT route via the Transit Now initiative) to Seattle Center, downtown and Ballard.

One of only three entryways into Magnolia, this area is also the only direct connection point between Magnolia and Queen Anne. It is a gateway spot that is an ideal location for workforce housing, light industry and manufacturing, as well as small businesses.

There appear to be two main points being discussed regarding the INA's application: 1) a change in the area's zoning designation; and 2) an increase in the building height limits.

Changing the zoning is clearly the correct move. The current C1 and C2 zoning, if not changed, will attract auto-oriented shopping centers dominated by big-box retailers. This would congest the streets with single-occupancy vehicles and create an environment that would not attract homeowners to the area or create a pedestrian-friendly environment.

This is not how we see our urban neighborhoods developing, and indeed, it is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan. Changing the zoning from the current C1 and C2 zoning to NC3 zoning will allow this area to develop into the kind of walkable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood Seattle is known for.

MCC generally supports the INA's Master Planning proposal to increase height limits in their neighborhood. The current limit is 40 feet for the entire commercial zone. Their proposal is for a package of stepped building heights from 45 feet along Dravus Street to higher for some of the buildings north and south of Dravus. We see this as a positive move.

Because Dravus is one of only three access points into Magnolia, this community needs to be sure that infrastructure improvements will be made to mitigate traffic impacts brought on by the new zoning. This is critical to the livability of our community.

In its presentations to the MCC board and MCC membership, the INA has been consistent in acknowledging the increased street use and the need for mitigation of this impact. The INA has pledged to self-fund street infrastructure improvements to mitigate impacts and to improve the aesthetics throughout the area.

In supporting the INA's proposal, MCC asks that the city link the rezone to an assured means of non-taxpayer-funded transportation and infrastructure improvements such as a local improvement district financing (LID) or developer contributions.

While the type of mechanism should be determined by the city and INA, MCC is adamant that whatever mechanism is employed assures that the promised transportation improvements are built near the beginning of the area-wide buildout under the new overlay, rather than piecemeal as each parcel develops over the next 20 years.

We hope this Overlay District proposal will be granted with appropriate height limits based on the public re-zoning process. The Interbay area presents a unique opportunity to turn Magnolia's blighted yet valuable urban node into a vibrant neighborhood that will contribute a great deal to the entire city.

Victor Barry is president of the Magnolia Community Club.[[In-content Ad]]