City Hall

Afternoon Jolt: Density in Roosevelt

By Afternoon Jolt July 6, 2011

Today's winner: Density in the Roosevelt neighborhood.

Mayor Mike McGinn plans to send legislation to the city council this month that will increase the allowed density around the Roosevelt light rail station and encourage pedestrian-oriented street uses like coffee shops, retail and restaurants.

The proposal comes in response to a chorus of calls to revisit the zoning in the neighborhood from city council member Tim Burgess, transit advocates, neighborhood residents, and the city's planning commission.

Under a the original proposal negotiated between neighborhood activists and the city, zoning would have allowed buildings as tall as 65 feet immediately adjacent to the station, and as tall as 45 feet a quarter-mile away. That proposal, however, would have allowed only about 350 new housing units---a number many transit advocates called far too low for a major transit hub like the Roosevelt station.

McGinn's proposal would allow buildings up to 85 feet high near the station, and up to 65 feet high a quarter-mile away. It would also create a new station-area overlay district where new buildings would have to meet a higher level of design, including active ground level uses, transparent facades, and no auto-oriented uses (like gas stations and parking lots).

Sensible as it may seem (who doesn't want to concentrate density and shops near transit stations?), McGinn's legislation could run into opposition from city council president Richard Conlin, who wrote in his newsletter that it would be premature to move forward with more density in Roosevelt without going through a negotiation process with neighborhood residents.

Although there is "a valid question about whether the neighborhood recommendations achieve ‘enough' density to fully take advantage of the regional investment in light rail," Conlin wrote, "in the near term I think we should honor the work of the community and take it as the starting point for legislative action." If the city decides Roosevelt needs more density, he added, they should "create a comprehensive strategy that develops targets for each area that will have major transit investments. Then we can go back to each neighborhood and engage them in an honest dialogue as to how to meet those targets."

We have a call out to Conlin to get his reaction to McGinn's proposal.

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