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City Council hears appeal against Seattle U’s plan for growth

Two members of a Citizen Advisory Committee that worked for more than five years to help shape Seattle University’s new Major Institution Master Plan will come before the Seattle City Council’s planning and land use committee Friday morning to argue that the plan will allow the school to build too high, will eliminate too much non-university housing and does not do enough to concentrate future growth of the campus.

The appeal brought by Squire Park residents William Zosel and Ellen Sollod seeks to turn back approved rezones for portions of the plan, curtail expansion of the SU campus along 12th and 13th Ave and require the school to be responsible for developing non-university housing to replace any residential structures removed in future school developments:

CHS reported on the sprawling plan for the 6,000-student campus at the southern edge of Capitol Hill here: What Seattle U will look like in 2028: School brings its future plans before City Council

The MIMP outlines an expansion of the school’s boundaries by 2.4 acres by 2028, with 2 million square feet added to the campus for new development.

Some of the planned long-term additions to the school include:

  • Underground parking lots 
  • Pedestrian paths along 12th
  • A more defined school border on Madison St
  • A new academic/housing building incorporating a new structure combined with the 12th and Madison Self-Storage building
  • A new building at 1313 E Columbia
  • A new mixed use building on 13th Ave

The City Council committee session comes after the Hearing Examiner upheld the Department of Planning and Development’s approval of the plan. 

We will update this post as the appeal plays out. You can watch the proceedings live via. Documents from the appeal process have been posted on the city web site:

Supporting Documents:

a. Zosel and Sollod Appeal

b. SU Response to Zosel Appeal

c. Zosel and Sollod Reply

d. Seattle University Citizens Advisory Committee (SUCAC)Letter

e. October 15, 2012 Notice to SUCAC

f. Central Staff Table of Appeal Issues

g. Seattle University Master Plan Presentation

h. Council Central Staff Memo

i. Attachments to Council Central Staff Memo

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9 years ago


Andrew Taylor
9 years ago

Bill Zosel is a long term resident of that neighborhood, who was involved in the neighborhood plan in the 90’s and in neighborhood groups for ever. He’s very careful and thorough and would not have undertaken these actions lightly.

9 years ago

Seattle U is the best thing to happen to that neighborhood.

We should be supporting the expansion of higher education in Seattle. I hope it continues to grow. I know lots of Seattle U alumns, and they contribute greatly to our local economy.

Kristin O'Donnell
9 years ago

All those meetings of citizen advisory committees, where a lot of us give many hours of unpaid time and much thoughtful consideration to coming up with institution plans that won’t mess with the neighborhood too much, and then — the 2000 pound gorilla sits. Anywhere it wants to.


Second the motion, Andrew. Bill Z. knows the territory. And hey guys — Are we wasting our time? Although without all this citizen-advisory stuff, I’d have missed meeting some fine people. Maybe that makes it worth the trouble?

9 years ago

As a long time First Hill resident and SU alum i fully support the SU expansion plan and MIMP. SU has done great work in expanding the campus in a thoughtful way that has completely revitalized the surrounding neighborhood.

Bill Zosel is a neighborhood crank

9 years ago

As a long time First Hill resident and SU Alum i fully support the growth plan and MIMP. SU has done great work expanding the campus in a thoughtful way that has made significant improvements to the neighborhood.

Bill Zosel is a neighborhood crank who has opposed many SU projects to the detriment of the school and the neighborhood. I truly hope the City Council does not give him much credit because he does not represent the community only his own interests.

Andrew Taylor
9 years ago

Why don’t we all use our real names?

9 years ago

Having worked with Bill Zosel for several years I can say he is one of the most thoughtful and reasonable citizen activists in Seattle. He never opposes something without a credible position (see his land use win over Sabey/Swedish) and he is always willing to hear other perspectives. He does not fight just to fight, as many in Seattle do. He fights to make institutions accountable to the neighborhoods they are in.

Moreover, if you think SU is the reason 12th is the way it is now, think again! Bill has been working since the 80s to get SU to view 12th as their heart not their back door (like the law school treats it) he championed the plan that installed the historic lights and special crosswalks all the way down to yesler. He championed the up zones on 12th to revitalize it. He embraces density. He just wants SU to be transparent about their future plans in the neighborhood where they are expanding.

9 years ago

Andrew, that’s not going to happen. There is a tendency to give more credibility and weight to the comments of those who do use their real names, and that’s too bad…sometimes those who use “screen names” have valid and insightful things to say too.

9 years ago

I think when attacking someone personally, one should be required to use real names. On the west Seattle blog, which receives on average many many more comments than CHS, this type of thing is not allowed. And it makes people feel safer to engage and share.

Again, Bill represents way more than his own interests. Anyone who knows him knows this. He is a tireless advocate with heaps of integrity and kindness.

9 years ago

First all who have indicated that both have been long involved here are correct. There is no reason to believe that when someone testifies, requests, or appeals for improvement in a plan that somehow that means that person is against the institution or project as a whole. I know that Bill has respect for SU. Neighborhoods and the people who live there are important considerations. It is not in the best interest of the neighborhood when there is either “you are completely with us” or “you are against us attitude.” Major Institutions are an issue for all neighborhoods. They can be great neighbors. It is also good for them, for the city, and for the residents if the neighborhood retains it vitality. Residents are an important part of the decision making.

There is a necessary balance. Those who use and work at major institutions do not necessarily have the same long term investment in the quality of life in the neighborhood that residents do unless they choose to live there. However, a good quality of life for the residents allows for a pleasant experience for individuals using (in this case many students) or working at the institution and encourages the workers and users to live nearby. Often a large institution is major economic driver and employment center for a region and will be encouraged to grow in ways and beyond what is healthy for the surrounding area and its residents. Involved residents are absolutely necessary to ensure a good experience and the safety for all.

9 years ago

Kgdig, we actively moderate comments. The “real names” thing comes up all the time. It’s not practical in a real, city environment. The few “successful” attempts at sites like CHS exist in relatively small, much more insular areas. Facebook comments also do not solve the “real names” issue — FB is full of impostor accounts created just to circumvent attempts.

We’re sensitive to personal attacks but we are also realistic about it. In this case, calling Zosel a crank is rude and not fair but it’s not something we feel is worthy of removal from the site. Do you really think it is?

9 years ago

I’d also invite either of the appelants to contact us to tell us more about their efforts. [email protected] or (206) 399-5959

9 years ago

I respect your position to run the blog the way you do j, but personally I think that all personal attacks (even crank) should be banned. Then, people would have to criticize the action, not the person. Maybe then people would read bill’s appeal and would criticize based on merit of appeal not on some random idea that he is a “crank”.

9 years ago

A commonly accepted definition of a crank; an eccentric person, especially one who is unduly zealous. Possibly too harsh of a term but also possibly an accurate description of a person who continually try’s to block development of an institution that has many positive benefits for First Hill and Seattle as a whole. Some of you think blocking SU after completing the MIMP process is a thoughtful and reasonable action, I do not. Mr. Zosel put his name out there in objection to what I consider a thoughtful and positive development plan for the neighborhood – by doing so he and his ilk should be able to accept a little criticism.

For the past 10+ years Mr. Zosel has opposed SU development outside the boundaries of SU’s initial MIMP (beyond 12th) and apparently continues to do so. Including buildings like the recently developed Douglass residential complex, built on what was a surface parking lot. A building specifically designed for upper class undergraduate and graduate students with rental terms that work for students allowing them to live closer to campus. Less driving, less cars, and less fighting for parking is a positive neighborhood benefit. Also having a concentration of students who support the many new businesses along 12th is a positive. Replacing a surface parking lot with an active building is another positive.

Mr. Zosel’s current and continued objection to the proposed SU updated MIMP is that development goes beyond the existing boundary of the original MIMP. When I look at the recent buildings SU has built beyond the hard boundary of 12th – I believe that development has had positive impacts to improving the neighborhood and is the exact type of building that should continue. The Law Clinic/Annex, Temp Library/Facilities building, Alumni Building, and Athletic Administration Building were all built beyond the hard line boundary. They are broadly accepted as positive neighborhood attributes and replaced long-term vacancies or light-industrial uses. I fail to see any negatives of having SU buildings, with SU user groups integrated into the neighborhood replacing vacant buildings and Qwest shops.

SU is not the only reason there has been positive development along 12th. Many private developers have built multi-family housing, and also many small business have located along 12th – coffee houses, restaurants, pubs, small markets and the like who view a concentration of residential students as a positive for development and business. Kdlg is right to bring up the neighborhood involvement to push for street improvements along 12th including; bike lanes, pedestrian scaled lighting, and improved cross-walks. However that was not Mr. Zosel’s work – a long time Squire Park/First Hill resident and architect did the initial street lay-out and doggedly pursued the plan with SDOT until it was realized. I forget her name but she is the one primarily responsible for that improvement.

Other positives of SU proposed MIMP and past development practices;

By allowing for expansion beyond the strict boundaries of the original MIMP allows SU expansion possibilities and the ability to maintain open space (a benefit to the neighborhood and students).

The 2028 plan at capacity results in a Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) of 1.79. Broadly held planning principles call for FAR in Urban Center Zones (the first ring of development before the Center Core) between 1.50 to 2.99. Putting SU maximum development in the lower end of the accepted range and less than what a private developer could build on the same land.

SU builds architecturally significant buildings. The new SU buildings outside of campus on 12th are of a higher level of design than what most private developers build. The main campus Law School building (Olson/Sundberg) is a great example of a contemporary institutional building. Mr. Zosel and his group have long criticized this building – by stating that it turns it’s back on 12th. I wish they would take a closer look and understand that the primary façade is along E. Columbia traffic circle and the adjacent pedestrian plaza. The sides of the building are on 12th and interior campus pathways – both sides of the building have significant detailing and transparency. This positioning acts as a public space creator at E. Columbia and a ‘draw’ into campus from the surrounding neighborhood. Similar planning and placement method for the Chapel of St. Ignatius (Steven Holl) was used as a ‘draw’ from 11th across Madison into campus.

Several positives about past SU development and the proposed MIMP from my view as a long time First Hill resident and SU Alum are listed above. Also I believe that a vibrant growing city needs to have vibrant, growing institutions – I want to live in a community that has exceptional higher education institutions and hospitals. I do understand that development of these institutions requires input from a mix of university administration, design professionals and neighborhood groups – which is exactly what the MIMP process is about and exactly what occurred. But after that process has taken place and certain individuals did not get their way the process should not be allowed to continue to try to delay progress that benefits the neighborhood and city as a whole.

9 years ago

I don’t have a problem with a slight expansion of SU, but tossing a 5000-7000 seat “Event Center” – read basketball arena to the corner of 14th and Columbia is unacceptable. For one, another arena is the last thing we need at this point, and for two, traffic congestion to this neighborhood would overwhelm it. I support them for many reasons, but this is my main concern. Really?! An arena on 14th?!