The city council's land use committee just voted to raise maximum building heights on three blocks adjacent to Roosevelt High School to 65 feet, rejecting an amendment by council member Nick Licata to limit heights on the so-called "high school blocks" to 40 feet.
The committee's vote to upzone the blocks, part of a larger vote to change the zoning around the planned Roosevelt light rail station, came after a lengthy round of testimony from supporters and opponents of the upzone.
Andrew Miller, a Roosevelt resident, said allowing six stories (instead of four) across from the recently renovated Roosevelt High School would tear "the heart and soul" out of the neighborhood, which he argued would be "like a body without a heart---you can't live that way. .... You told us we were being emotional. How would you defend your own heart and soul?"
On the other side, Planning Commission member Josh Brower argued that putting housing for families (three bedrooms or more) across from the high school would breathe new life into the neighborhood. "It will be a wonderful day when parents can walk to the train station and take the train to theri jobs... and kids can walk to the high school," Brower said.
And Roosevelt Neighborhood Council leader Jim O'Halloran, a longtime opponent of the upzone, said he'd come to accept that the council planned to adopt the 65-foot proposal, and noted that his group has met with the Roosevelt Development Group, which plans to develop the now-dilapidated properties into six-story apartment buildings, with positive results. "I wish I was feeling warm and fuzzy today," O'Halloran said. "That's not the case. But neither do I feel cheated by the council or the process."
This morning's debate was brisk and lively, thanks in part to the fact that council member Bagshaw had to leave just before noon. Arguing against Licata's amendment, council member Tom Rasmussen raised the specter of a "7-11 or a Subway or a pawn shop" being built across the street from the high school, a fear Licata quickly dismissed. "I don't think they would put in a 7-11 or a pawn shop," Licata said. "I have that much faith in design review." However, Clark noted that the design review process can't bar specific businesses from opening on a site, making Licata's objection irrelevant.
Council member Bruce Harrell, who initially appeared to be leaning toward the 65-foot proposal, said he decided to oppoes it after looking around the city and finding "lots of pretty cool stuff" (buildings) under 40 feet "I think what sort of is skewing our decision a little bit is just this fear that we're going to get crap," Harrell said.
With regard to design, council member Tom Rasmussen pointed out that Licata's proposal actually did not include any required setbacks or design standards to protect the neighborhood from a badly designed development---unlike the 65-foot proposal. Although Roosevelt Development Group has promised to build a project in keeping with the neighborhood, "we could end up with a new developer who won't be as sensitive and will not negotiate with the community," Rasmussen said.
Ultimately, the vote to raise heights was five in favor, with three abstaining (Jean Godden, who initially voted for the measure, apparently believed the committee was voting on Licata's amendment until Clark corrected her) and one---Richard Conlin---absent.
Under the Growth Management Act, the full council can't vote on the legislation again until January 17.