Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin gave a generally glowing review of the proposed South Lake Union rezone in an interview with KUOW radio host Steve Scher this morning.
Conlin said, “I’m excited about it,” and added that the proposal to permit buildings up to 400 feet tall is “exactly the kind of density we should be encouraging.”
The sweeping rezone proposal has the support of Mayor Mike McGinn, but has drawn criticism from City Council member Tim Burgess, who is challenging McGinn for mayor in 2013, and from former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, who is considering a challenge. Both have questions about whether the public benefits are substantial enough to allow the developer to exceed the current 85-foot height limits.
Concerns have also been raised about whether the proposed office and condo towers would block views of the lake or sunlight to existing buildings and parks. Steinbreuck is a paid lobbyist for a neighborhood coalition opposing the rezone.
The proposed deal would allow Paul Allen’s real-estate firm, Vulcan, to build three towers 24 stories tall near the lake. In exchange, Vulcan would transfer almost an acre of nearby property to the city. The city could develop a block of affordable housing and social services at the site.
Conlin suggested that workforce housing in the neighborhood was more likely than city-subsidized low-income housing. He noted that South Lake Union already is designated an urban center that the city has targeted for greater density and growth.
He said workforce housing would allow employees in the high-tech employment center to live near work and to walk, bike and take transit to jobs. The added density also would help the city meet its Growth Management Act targets, he said.
The City Councl has hired a consultant to review the proposal. Conlin said he was interested in that review and what it found about light, shadows and views. But he said Vulcan’s offer to transfer an acre of land to the city is extraordinary.
Construction estimates to develop that block range from $60 million to $100 million, according to preliminary plans by nonprofits and Vulcan. Critics also note that the city sold the land to Vulcan 11 years ago for $3 million and is now effectively being asked to buy it back for $10 million to $12 million.