Three Things We've Learned

We love downtown Seattle and we wanted to live peacefully and enjoy the close proximity of all of the activities, entertainment venues, and dining opportunities that downtown offers. And we were doing just that until, as they say, “all hell broke loose”.

Our first reaction when New York developer Douglaston announced a 500’ residential tower, as tall as the Space Needle, right across our 16’ alley was: “That’s not possible. Is there no fairness and justice? We live in Belltown where there is an 80’ tower spacing requirement.”  Then we learned, much to our surprise and disappointment, that we were part of only 2-1/2 blocks in Belltown zoned DOC2 with no tower separation requirement. Right across Virginia St. from us there is 80’ tower spacing.

There is also a second 500’ residential tower proposal on the opposite end of the same ½ block.  These buildings, as presently proposed, will severely degrade our livability by depriving us of air, light, privacy and safety.  There are no open spaces in these proposals and the transportation plan for our 19th Century alley simply will not work.

Now that we are fourteen months down the road from this disappointing discovery, and after much study and thought, there are three lessons we have learned:

1.     Seattle’s downtown land-use code is flawed and needs a major fix.

2.     This is a “global, not local” issue. Other downtown condo residents have reached out to us expressing similar concerns about the future of downtown livability and joined in this effort for reform.

3.     Alley problems are universal downtown and are in desperate need of new standards.

Out of every disappointment comes an opportunity…and the Mayor’s HALA proposal offers a window of opportunity to fix land-use code flaws, bring our alleys into the 21st Century, and raise the much-needed funds for Affordable Housing at the same time. As Joel Connelly so eloquently stated in the Seattle PI online on February 13, 2016, “The Murray solution is to appoint a task force, load it down with people who normally don’t get along, and hammer on it to work out an answer at least barely acceptable to all.”

Mr. Mayor: We are waiting for an invitation to sit at the table and work out an answer that is acceptable to all.