I want to commend the efforts of the Roosevelt neighborhood. At a time when we hear “NIMBY” tossed about so flippantly, these neighbors did exactly what we wanted of them, and what we asked of them. They created a Neighborhood Plan, accepting–even enhancing–growth and density in Roosevelt, not fighting it. I extend a genuine and heartfelt “thank you” to all who have worked so hard for this neighborhood and with the city over these many years.
This has been an intense conversation, to say the least. And reaching a good result is a tight-rope act. We come together today wanting to find balance between the neighborhood’s wishes to preserve what we have, and the vision and needs for our future. We take into account the historic landmarks while also knowing that millions are being invested in a major transit hub. My goal is to honor the desires of the neighborhood of today while also preparing for the needs of a neighborhood 20 years from now.
And with balance there is give and take.
For many months, we have listened. We have evaluated options. We have asked questions and heard answers. We have debated and discussed. And today we meet in Council Chambers, ready to decide.
To be honest, the Roosevelt decision has been challenging. I want to honor the hard work that so many have put forth over the years. I have met with many neighbors, repeatedly driven through the neighborhood, walked the high school halls and the sidewalks between 15th NE and Roosevelt, and heard what so many value. I have played out various scenarios trying to find a way to give everyone a win, while understanding that no group will get everything they want. Easier said than done.
Give and take.
The elements that are most important to me –and I believe most of the neighbors with whom I have spoken are these: a Greenway along 66th NE from NE 15th connecting to Green Lake; widened sidewalks all around the “high school blocks;”reserved views of the high school; secure and predictable traffic flow; sufficient parking available under the new structures so that neighborhood parking is preserved; interesting design and construction incorporating stoops, stairways, and modulation in the design; more green space and public space around the buildings; family-sized units that are truly affordable. And finally, confirmation that Council wants to preserve the property east of NE 15th at 40’ as well as the single family neighborhoods further east from there.
To obtain all of this, I am in favor of the 65’ height increase in the “high school blocks”. Originally, the developers were asking for significantly higher structures. Increased height might accomplish many of the city’s density goals, but would be unacceptable to the neighborhood. By contrast, limiting growth in the high school blocks to 40’ would not address the need for more families in and around our transit-oriented community. Neither would 40’ provide all the amenities for the neighborhood that neighbors want.
With the 65’ compromise, we can put development standards in place, and those standards will create setbacks, open space, and the pedestrian friendly community we all want. The Roosevelt neighborhood has referred to these principles time and time again. I want to insure that those values are honored and incorporated, and by increasing the heights in the high school blocks, we have more to work with, literally and figuratively.
I understand that many neighbors hoped the blocks by the high school could remain at 40’. Because of the advocacy of the neighborhoods, this proposal has evolved and, in my opinion, improved. Thankfully, we are at the point where the discussion has shifted solely from a debate about height to conversations focused on good design principles, enhancements on the ground, and the future of the neighborhood.
I expect the conversation to continue in good faith and an agreement reached between the developers and the interested neighbors. We expect to hear that agreement has been reached before a final full council vote is taken early in 2012. I will vote yes for a project only if the desired design elements are incorporated and honored. I will be watching, and applaud those who work to reach a solid and fair agreement.