Afternoon Jolt

Today's loser: Crappy suburban-style developments.

In response to plans by the CVS pharmacy chain to build three generic, one-story buildings in Queen Anne, West Seattle, and Wallingford (the latter at the site of the beloved Moon Temple restaurant), city council member Richard Conlin has proposed interim legislation to require developers who build in neighborhood commercial zones that are also in urban villages (in English: Dense areas like Wallingford’s 45th St.) to build more densely. Those areas are supposed to be pedestrian-oriented; a one-story, block-wide drugstore, obviously, is anything but.

The short-term legislation would last a year, and be followed by a permanent city ordinance.

The proposal, which Conlin says has council support, would require a certain amount of housing above any retail space; the exact amount of density (known as the floor-area ratio, or FAR*) would depend on the underlying zoning, Conlin’s legislation probably won’t prevent CVS from building its three proposed stores as planned, but it could prevent CVS, which reportedly has major expansion plans for Seattle, or other big retail companies from building suburban-style developments along neighborhood commercial strips in the future.

“The goal really is to lay down a marker and say, look, we have urban villages and urban centers that are designed to be pedestrian-oriented and these are not compatible with that,” Conlin says. He says he hopes to “talk to” CVS and possibly convince them to build developments that are more compatible with neighborhoods. 

That optimistic-sounding idea isn’t unprecedented. A similar scenario played out when Walgreen’s wanted to build a store at Broadway and Pine Streets on Capitol Hill in 2007; ultimately, the store worked out a deal with a low-income housing developer to build apartments on top of the property. 

* Wonky extra Jolt credit to Conlin, who explained the confusing concept of FAR in language even the math-averse can understand: “FAR is the amount of floor space developed on the parcel compared to the size of the property. Therefore, an FAR of 2 represents twice the floor space of the size of the property."

Today's winner: Mayor Mike McGinn. 

In a press release this morning, McGinn's reelection campaign announced sole endorsements from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925, which represents 18,000 education, local government, and nonprofit workers; and SEIU Local 6, which represents janitors, security officers, and retail workers.

McGinn (who asked the city council to deny Whole Foods a street vacation in West Seattle because he opposes its non-union labor practices) already has six other local labor endorsements, including the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21, which has given $15,000 to the pro-McGinn independent expenditure campaign Working Families for McGinn.

Another union that's endorsed McGinn, UNITE HERE Local 8, (which hopes McGinn will take a similar stand against Richard Hedreen's non-union downtown hotel development), has put $50,000 into the pro-McGinn IE group UNITE HERE TIP.

His other sole labor endorsements are: American Federation of Teachers Local 1789 Executive Board, Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28, Laborers Local 1239, and Machinists Union District Lodge 751. 

McGinn shares two labor union endorsements with Murray: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46 and  Teamsters Local 117. Murray has nine sole labor endorsements of his own, including Laborers Local 242, Northwest Marine Trade Association, and United Transportation Union/SMART. Most recently, he gained the support of five labor unions last month, including the Washington State Council of County and City Employees.

Other county SEIU groups in the county, including SEIU Local 1199 Northwest and SEIU 775 Northwest, haven't yet endorsed in the mayor's race. Nor, as we mentioned in a Mini Jolt late last month, has the King County Labor Council. 

At that August 21 meeting, the KCLC membership rejected a recommendation from its board for a dual endorsement after two of the group's biggest members—the machinists and Teamsters 174, McGinn supporters, used their weighted votes to block the move.