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Wedgwood: the city’s poor land use planning results in a proposed property that aims to take all it can get

By August 1, 2007


I had to look up Wedgwood on a map so it can’t really be urban living but I think Capitol Hill residents are having similar concerns about the Pine/Belmont project which is why I think this might be of interest to some readers – Matt

By Guest Contributor, Greg Raece – Wedgwood Action Group (WAG) member

Wedgwood is a neighborhood in Northeast Seattle that for the past 20 years has kept itself off the city’s land-use radar simply because no controversial large-scale development has taken place here. However, this situation changed when Murray Franklyn’s proposed a 4-story 86 unit mixed-use development for the corner of 35th Ave NE and NE 86th St.

From the feedback our group has received on our blog, at different design review board meetings, and by appearing at local events – it seems that Wedgwood is ready for additional multi-family and retail development. However it is also clear that our neighbor’s biggest issue is with the sheer bulk and scale of this proposed building.

Unfortunately though, there are three large problems making it difficult for both Wedgwood residents and the developers to construct a Wedgwood-appropriate building. The first is a problem of our own creation, Wedgwood did not use its 20 years of light growth wisely. Back in 1998 while 38 other neighborhoods in Seattle were working with the city to develop neighborhood plans, Wedgwood chose to stay complacent and decided not to put together a plan that would have provided developers, neighbors and the city with some guidance about desired future development. The second problem is much larger, and this one is the city’s making.

Back in 1986 the city rezoned the commercial property around Wedgwood’s main strip (35th Ave NE) as NC2-40 (Neighborhood Commercial with 40-foot height limit). The problem is that although the city has since changed its views towards development, it hasn’t actually applied any of these improvements to Wedgwood. Wedgwood now faces the same bad zoning problems from the 80’s that actually prompted the city to launch a whole new series of neighborhood design guidelines in the 90’s. All of the current NC2-40 zoning in Wedgwood slams right up against single family zoning, there is no multi-family zoning buffer to act as a slope between tall and small buildings. To put this in perspective, for one person to the east, his property is just 8 feet away from 40-feet of new construction!

And finally, although not formally recognized by the city as a Residential Urban Village by the city, we feel that Wedgwood’s zoning makes it a de facto Residetial Urban Village. The reality is that by not having this designation, Wedgwood doesn’t get access to the type of infrastructure, planning, transit and open-space investment that would help mitigate the impact that developments like this one will create.

Murray Franklyn seems to understand how to develop downtown buildings (Hotel 1000 and the Pomeroy), large suburban communities (Snoqualmie Ridge), but it is failing to win hearts with its mixed-use building that it is bringing to neighborhoods with strong personalities (Phinney Ridge’s Fini, Capitol Hill’s Pine and Belmont, and this building in Wedgwood). Murray Franklyn did fare better with its Bagley Lofts building in Wallingford, but after speaking to a Wallingford activist who was involved with the planning of Bagley Lofts, its smart design and sensitivity to its neighbors was largely due to the neighborhood’s good relationships with the property’s owner.

Unfortunately, since it appears we have neither a property owner nor city willing to act in the role that Wallingford and the owner of the Bagley Lofts did, as a group of neighbors we’ve organized to come up with our own solution. We feel that our ideas do the best job of bringing in smart development to Wedgwood under the current zoning while protecting the existing community.

  • Lower proposed building height to 2 stories to reduce shading and improve privacy for single family homes.
  • Increase setbacks on 87th and 86th Streets and to the homes east of the site.
  • Address zoning incompatibility on 35th Ave. NE. to either reduce current NC2-40 zoning or create multi-family zoning buffers around the current NC2-40 properties.

If you want to learn more about what we’re doing, or to become involved with our group, please visit us at www.wedgwoodaction.com.



(Birdseye view looking NW from the SE)

(Birdseye view looking NE from the SW)

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