Commentary: Does the Westgate rezone plan match your vision?

Lora Petso

Lora Petso

Did you know that the Edmonds City Council is considering a rezone for the Westgate commercial area that would allow up to four-story “Commercial Block Mixed-Use” buildings on properties now occupied by Bartells and QFC?

Some other building types that would be allowed in the Westgate area under the proposal include “Rowhouse,” “Loft Mixed-Use,” and “Stacked Dwelling.”

The code is complicated, but seems to permit standard Puget Sound mixed-use (residential over commercial) on almost every parcel in the entire Westgate commercial area. These buildings, up to 45 feet tall on some parcels, need only be set back 12 feet from the right of way along SR 104 and 100th.

With no other required setbacks, the buildings could, in theory, be physically adjacent to each other. I can imagine a canyon along SR 104 formed by continuous walls 12 feet from the right of way and extending from the car wash to the McDonalds. Will parking garage or courtyard entrances be the only break in the SR 104 canyon walls? Will the highway noise echo back across the road?

Unlike prior City efforts to minimize the apparent bulk of large buildings, it looks like the Westgate proposal states that the “Commercial Block Mixed-Use” building type “is required to appear to be one building.”

I believe that the proposal requires 15 percent “amenity” space for all building types, but the amenity space may be entirely private. For example, a private deck above a parking garage or a private interior courtyard could be used to meet the requirement for amenity space. Such spaces need not be available to, or even visible by, the public.

Will the detailed requirements applicable to public spaces under this proposal actually be a deterrent to the provision of any public space?

An effort has been made to encourage storm water sustainability, but the language is permissive not mandatory. Sidewalk runoff “should” be conveyed to planted parkways. Perforated curbs “may” also be provided, “wherever feasible.” We know from experience that “should,” “may” and “wherever feasible” are words that have little effect on development.

The proposal includes a section titled “Green Open Space,” but that section does not seem to require any particular amount of Green Open Space. It does require tree retention “wherever feasible.”

Some vision statements regarding this proposal speak of creating a “destination” at Westgate, but instead the proposal uses small parking minimum standards to “promote density.” What “destination” fails to provide parking, particularly in an area where on-street parking is unavailable?

The proposal requires just 1.2 parking spaces per dwelling unit regardless of the size of the unit. Elsewhere in Edmonds, the 1.2 parking requirement is used only for studio units, with larger units requiring up to 2 parking spaces per unit depending on the number of bedrooms included in the unit.

Required commercial parking will also be very minimal, with parking at just 1 parking space per 500 square feet of commercial space. Based on a little Internet research, this appears to be less than half the parking ordinarily provided for grocery stores.

Does the proposal require real commercial space on the first floor, or just along the street front? Will the commercial space occupy the entire street front, or is a small coffee shop sufficient to allow the rest of the street front to be used for parking for residences on the upper floors? Could we have below sidewalk commercial or insufficient commercial ceiling height?

What is your vision for Westgate? Why? Will the code, as drafted, implement your vision?

Please learn about the proposal, and provide comments to the City Council. I can be reached at Lora.Petso@Edmondswa.gov.

– By Lora Petso, Edmonds City Council, Position 7

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Councilwoman Petso for asking all these questions about Westgate developement. I think it is very important how our town allows some development in this area, as it is still a neighborhood. It is important to talk about any tall structures that will be right on that highway. “Canyons” is a good word for what I have seen in development in Seattle at many, many areas. Two neighborhoods that I am famaliar with in Seattle are the U-district and south Greenlake. One can walk those areas now post development and see how those “canyons” change an area from light filled to dark, almost ominous areas. People that I know that work in those areas lament the feeling of it now with those dark “canyons”. One can look at the statistics for high incidents of crime in areas such as this also. Not a whole lot unlike Chicago (high crime), New York City, etc. South Lake Union is another great example of what can happen fast with the wrong (canyons) type of development.. South Lake Union is now a high crime area, particuarily for drug dealing, gangs.

    Perhaps with Westgate, if there are any taller structures, they can be located at the back, against those tall hills, where it would blend in with the environment and not change the feeling of an area negatively. Young people do not want crime where they live anymore than anyone else. I believe some taller buildings (if a trade-off for more affortable housing) is fine if handled correctly and thoughtfully.

    Besides parking spaces, could the planners please make sure there are sidewalks for people to safely walk on. It is not worth throwing safety for the public out the door to fit in a few more structures. Also, a need for public spaces is always important…..public not all private.

    And last but not least, it is wonderful to hear that “affordable housing” may be part of this development. and part of Edmonds as a town. This should be an area for all, not just those with the most money.

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