Last night’s meeting of the Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Neighborhood’s Committee served as a reminder of the challenges of trying to preserve Pike-Pine.
The council is working on a plan to help preserve the neighborhood’s historic character in light of recent development projects that have torn down older, smaller buildings and replaced them with structures that are aesthetically and functionally at odds with the neighborhood’s look and feel. The proposal aims to provide various incentives to developers that would encourage them to preserve the neighborhood’s older and character-forming buildings rather than tear them down and put large, generic structures in their place.
An often-cited example of what doesn’t work: The 500 block of East Pine Street, where several character-defining businesses like Kincora’s, Man Ray and the Bus Stop were lost when their buildings were torn down to make way for a monolithic development that virtually everyone who saw the proposal opposed. Following a lawsuit and the economic downturn, the developer’s plans are on hold and the bulldozed property is a glaring and vacant neighborhood eyesore.
The council plan, among other things, expands the boundaries of 1998’s Pike-Pine Overlay District and renames the area the Pike-Pine Conservation Overlay District. The proposal provides incentives to preserve older “character” buildings, not just landmarked ones, and references the neighborhood’s history as Seattle’s auto row.
The session was devoted to receiving public comments on the land-use proposal. And the vast majority of those comments related to the Polyclinic and its expansion plans, which call for tearing down an old auto warehouse on the 1100 block of Broadway, plans that would be greatly impacted if the plan is adopted.
Lloyd David, the Polyclinic’s executive director, asked that the council exclude the parcel at 1158 Broadway from any zoning changes because the clinic’s plans were based on previous – rather current – zoning. Pike-Pine developer Liz Dunn countered that the changes being discussed were on the table well prior to the Polyclinic’s potential expansion. She voiced a concern many share when commenting that the proposed zoning changes may not go far enough to actually preserve many older buildings.
“These are not landmarked buildings, but they give the neighborhood its character,” she said. “I’m not sure these incentives are sufficient to prevent demolition.”
Dunn suggested the council consider a mandatory review of any proposed demolition of a building more than 75 years old.
As for the future, councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who sponsored the legislation, said that two more meetings will take place before the council takes its vote; that vote could come during the summer. And the current efforts are under the banner of Phase I in the process. Discussing the transfer of development rights, which many consider essential to neighborhood preservation, as well as considering stronger design guidelines, is slated for the chronologically labeled Phase II.