Are “things” looking up – or, is it just everyone?

I recently ran into a post on the DiscoverSLU site titled “Things are looking up.”
They seemed pretty excited about the recently commissioned “Environmental Benefit Statement” (EBS) that they had attached to their newsletter. I can’t wait for growth and vitality in South Lake Union so I took a look and, at first glance, was pretty impressed. The first question I asked myself was about “who” had actually commissioned the document and the answer I found (or, didn’t find..) got me to read it a little more critically.

Who commissioned this?
Both the document and the post sited an organization called the “South Lake Union Property Owners Group.” I own a couple properties in South Lake Union and I had never heard of them so I did what anyone might do – I googled ’em. Google disappointed with only 2 results so, loyal Seattle’ist that I am, I Bing’ed but that cut the results in half. I then checked the State and County to see whether I could find a registered entity carrying that name. Nothing.  So, back to look more closely at my initial web-search to find what I suspected: I had already accessed both hits! One for the EBS document itself and the other for the post where I originally found it – both carrying the DiscoverSLU URL. Said website, incidentally or otherwise, is run by Vulcan, which either does or does not answer my original question. I guess I may never really know. <snicker> <cough>

So, I started reading the South Lake Union Environmental Benefit Statement…
After just a couple pages I decided this was a document in need of some serious commentary so I began looking for how to post a reply. All I got was this: “Posting to Discover SLU is currently by invitation only. If you’re a fan of South Lake Union or a business owner and you’d like to contribute to this site, please contact us.” (Email link to SoAndSo@vulcan…) As it happens, I’m both a fan of SLU and a business owner – but I’m not in the mood to jump through the hoop!

The problem I face now in trying to summarize my commentary on this document is that I’m not sure where to begin – and whether I would be able stop!

Should I start with inflated and unapproved growth targets that put SLU on pace with being assimilated by Downtown? Do I start by talking into the over-dependency on the idea of “car-free-living” throughout the document and how the use of non-correlated transit illustrations (p7) softens the traffic issues SLU will likely face? Or, possibly how the EBS completely ignores that fact that SLU is currently zoned for mid-rise residential and commercial buildings when it draws correlations for (1, on p6) potential  tax revenue by comparing DEIS Alternative 1  to surface-area parking lots, and (2, on p10 and 11) decreased greenhouse gas emissions and more efficient energy consumption by comparing DEIS Alternative 1  to single family homes?

Since it seems that I’ve actually started, I’ll continue with the fact that the EBS actually provided some very nice examples of some great things that have already been done in SLU under current zoning (see the margin of page 11), but continually discounts them by saying the only way to do these things is through the adoption of DEIS Alternative 1. There is also the non-stop references to “the real world” while advocating DEIS Alternative 1 by showing us pretty pictures from Vancouver BC that look nothing like what anything would under any DEIS Alternative, and frequent citations of the outdated and irrelevant 2004 report by Sommers. They talk about how “the tower/podium form typically has reduced shadow impacts” when, throughout a significant portion of SLU, DEIS Alternative 1 prescribes base podiums that are equal to or greater than, existing zoning – which is referred to as the “bulkier alternative” – and then adds towers to them.

Yeah, I could go on, but I’m tired (you may be as well) and I am compelled to stop here.
It seems that under DEIS Alternative 1, using the most aggressive methodologies to arrive at the most optimistic conclusions, everyone in SLU will be doing nothing if not LOOKING UP!

Feel free to read the sales pitch at your leisure. (It’s not too long.)
I’ll leave you with a few pics related to my last point:

The green is current zoning and the red is the potential of DEIS Alternative 1 with a commercial tower.

The green is current zoning and the orange is the potential of DEIS Alternative 1 with a residential tower.

Since the EBS illustrated Mirabella (seen under construction on the right) as the "bulky form," here is the potential of DEIS Alternative 1 right next door - with its "tall, slender towers atop relatively short podiums" with one residential tower and one commercial tower - not illustrated at full build-out.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by joshuadf on March 28, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    At the SLUCC/LUOA joint meeting Dan Foltz (architect) heavily criticized the EIS renderings because they do not accurately model the incentives in the various alternatives, or the UDF requirements for that matter. Of course, if you stick with existing zoning we’ll probably just get a bunch of contract rezones to taller building without any incentives.

    Also, the EBS is a sort of form letter that GGLO fills in for various neighborhoods. Search for Roosevelt “Environmental Benefits Statement” and you can see the same generic charts.

    I’d bet the South Lake Union Property Owners Group includes Vulcan, Seattle Times, Blume, and Alexandria Real Estate. But yes, it would be nice to know.


    • Posted by Chris G on March 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      Good points Josh – thank you for chiming in!

      Dan did a great job last night at the hearing. There were a lot of good comments made but I was a little surprised that there weren’t more comments directly related to potential shortcomings in the DEIS. Much less surprised, of course, to see all the generic (and likely premature) Alt1 support from electricians, contractors, architects and the like who stand to make more money with every square foot of increase…

      One main source of contention right now is that so much seems to be left undefined and vague. On top of that, the DEIS is such a daunting document that by the time most people hit page 17 and read that the are no substantial, unforeseen, adverse impacts outside of transportation, they are willing to accept that statement at face value without digging any further.

      I don’t really think there are many out there who want to see more of what the neighborhood is strapped to under existing zoning. Growth, height, density and all the rest leading to a vibrant SLU are needed and wanted – it’s just a matter of the how, what, why, and where. The rezoning conversations and decisions to come should be interesting!

      Thanks for sharing the Roosevelt-EBS!! Not sure whether knowing it’s a boilerplate form makes me feel better or worse about its production. Seattle has committed a lot of tax dollars to this process and all we have is a DEIS that is very tough for the vast majority of taxpayers to get a handle on, and an “EBS” that is full of sales hype from a fairly anonymous source. (Granted, it’s not too tough to imagine the potential composition of SLUPOG…)


  2. I’m concerned that even if we get pocket parks, open space, and a transport hub into SLU, they will all be dwarfed by very tall and bulky buildings. I’m OK with some tall skinny buildings, but not the massive bulk block-to-block that shadows the neighborhood. However, the EIS is so convoluted and confusing that I don’t know if any of these will happen or not.


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