From WHCC President – Urban Growth Planning in Whittier Heights

Fall greetings neighbors,

I’m writing to update you on some very significant steps being taken by the City of Seattle related to urban growth in our neighborhood, especially regarding the northwest corner of Whittier Heights and the Crown Hill Urban Village (CHUV).  First, here’s the news about your chance to have your voice heard.  Below you can read further to get more info about the process and the context of this newly announced series of community involvement workshops.  Next Saturday morning, Oct. 13, at Crown Hill Center, the City is hosting the first of four workshops to get input about the newly announced first ever community plan for the CHUV.  This is your chance to provide input about concerns like zoning, transit, parking, infrastructure needs, growth and design of new development, etc.  We urge you to make participation, even briefly, a priority.  For more info, see the City announcement, and read on below…

You likely have already heard about proposed expansion of the CHUV  as a result of what was called the HALA (Housing affordability liveability agenda) which became proposed legislation in 2017 in a bill still before the City Council called Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA).  It is this MHA which has been highly controversial under its description by Councilmembers and others as a “grand bargain with developers” in pursuit of increased low income housing development requirements under current urban growth policy and land use zoning.  The MHA has not yet moved forward, because a number of community groups joined a coalition of neighborhoods to appeal the EIS that is legally required before the MHA changes can be adopted by the Council.    That appeal played out over this past summer in a series of hearings, and the City Hearing Examiner is expected to rule on the appeal in coming weeks before the end of the year.

The MHA proposed zoning changes significantly expand the area of the CHUV further into Whittier Heights.  Those of you who attended our Community Council meetings in 2016 and 2017 will be already familiar with this.  Here is the map of the proposed zoning under the preferred EIS alternative is here.  In response to the major increases in density and building height limits in the proposed zoning, a group of neighbors in the Crown Hill area formed the Committee for Smart Growth.  Most of these folks live in areas of the urban village just west of 15th Ave.  I have been attending these meetings since May 2018.

The primary objective of the smart growth committee has been not to stop the planned growth, which we don’t think would be realistic or perhaps desirable.  What we have been pushing for is a much better strategic approach to accommodating and planning for such tremendous urban growth.  This means a much better focus on the part of the City on things like transit and transportation, urban design, and improved utility infrastructure, to name just a few.

We are very pleased that the City has agreed to support this objective by agreeing to the preparation of a CHUV community plan.  The goal of the community plan will be to give the neighborhood more voice in the specifics of how growth will be implemented here.  The first step of this involvement by the neighbors is now planned to take place through a series of community planning workshops.  There are three of these planned to take place in the coming months.  The first workshop has now been planned for Saturday Oct. 13.  I want to make sure you know about this workshop and urge all of you in Whittier Heights, whether your home is in the boundaries of the urban growth area or not, to attend this workshop and get your voice included.

Like it or not, Crown Hill, Whittier Heights, and Ballard have grown and will continue to grow and change dramatically in the next few years.  No matter how we feel about these changes and urbanization, becoming involved in the planning for how our area grows can only make it better for those of us who matter most–the people who live here!  I want to really urge you to become engaged as a citizen and community member.  A small amount of your time can make a real impact in helping the proposed community plan have real meaning and lasting benefit to all who live here now and into the future.

If you are not able to attend this workshop, the City of Seattle and the smart growth committee still very much want to hear your input.  A survey for gathering a sense of issues and priorities is live now for input.  Find it here.

The Whittier Heights Community Council (WHCC) is trying to play the critical role of facilitation to help make the best of the growth that is coming to our neighborhood. We hope to hold a neighborhood meeting in coming weeks, and the Crown Hill Urban Village will be a central component of it.  Again I urge you to become involved in our community and not just be a bystander. A little engagement can go a long way towards making this neighborhood the best place possible.  Please make plans to join the community planning kickoff workshop on Oct 13.  Thank you. Brent Lackey

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