West Seattleites Say No Thanks To Rice's Urban-Village Proposal

Mayor Norm Rice's proposed comprehensive plan for the city won't do what West Seattleites want.

And they're worried it will bring more of what they don't want: government-assisted housing.

Packed into the Lafayette Elementary School lunchroom last night, more than 250 mostly Admiral-neighborhood residents applauded vigorously as several dozen speakers criticized Rice's plan for a city of urban villages.

The villages would concentrate population growth into Seattle's multifamily-zoned areas around some 30 community business centers throughout the city, including three villages around the business centers along California Avenue Southwest, West Seattle's main artery.

Many of those attacking the plan - a version of which must be approved by the City Council before July 1 to comply with the state's Growth Management Act - said the mayor's proposal was designed to increase population density in urban villages by increasing low-income housing.

The plan's call for at least 25 percent affordable housing in urban villages refers in part to units a person making $18,000 per year or less could afford, said City Council President Jim Street.

Street and councilwomen Jan Drago and Jane Noland attended last night's town meeting, which was sponsored by the Neighborhood Rights Campaign, a group formed earlier this year in the Admiral and Alki neighborhoods to fight the comprehensive plan.

The planning department says all three proposed West Seattle villages already have their share of government-assisted affordable housing.

However the plan calls for 10 percent of new housing to be affordable.

The plan has many good points but contains "neighborhood-killing viruses," said Charlie Chong, an organizer of the Neighborhood Rights Campaign. In another reference to assisted housing, he said planners should consider "whether or not we are moving our city toward the urban villages the (comprehensive plan) describes or are moving toward the creation of urban slums."

Motivating the speakers' criticisms of the plan, however, were two other concerns not directly addressed in Rice's document. One issue was schools; the other public safety.

Several who spoke felt mandatory busing had destroyed West Seattle's schools and much of the community's cohesiveness along with them. Alluding to the plan's vision of urban villages where residents can walk to stores, services and schools, one speaker said, in a remark greeted by thunderous applause, "They've already destroyed our schools."

"In my opinion, the comprehensive plan is the worst thing that's happened to West Seattle since mandatory busing," Chong said.

Others complained about the perceived lack of police presence in West Seattle, an area of 70,000 people which should have a police precinct, according to one speaker.

Still others complained about traffic problems, and some said the city should deal with the traffic, public safety and schools before asking the area to accept any more population as the plan does.

The council members agreed with these sentiments. But the plan doesn't deal with schools, which are not under the city government's control, and public-safety issues won't be dealt with for a year or two.

Complaints were also directed at the council members because the plan does not designate urban villages around the business centers serving several notably well-to-do neighborhoods, particularly Madison Park and Magnolia.

The planning department says this is because those business areas are not surrounded by multifamily zoning.

And, as council members stressed last night, Rice's draft makes no changes in single-family zoned areas, with one exception - allowing mother-in-law apartments.