Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households in
Councilmember Judy Nicastro, Chair, Land Use Committee
Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair, Finance and Budget Committee
RE: UW Lease Lid and Housing Resolution
Dear Councilmembers Nicastro and Drago:
The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees appreciates your continued efforts to address issues related to the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate the UW lease lid and to address the housing/jobs imbalance in this area.
We support economic development in this area, revitalization of The Ave, flexibility of the University to meet its growing needs, job creation, preservation of housing and creation of new housing to meet the City’s housing targets. The question is how we get there. We support a compromise that addresses these important issues as well as the impacts on surrounding communities. Your recommendations are a step in the right direction, but we believe further work is necessary to ensure a workable solution that benefits the City, the University and surrounding communities. We urge you to postpone Thursday’s proposed committee vote to allow an opportunity for sufficient review and comment by the impacted communities and meetings with councilmembers.
We offer the following comments on what we understand will be considered by your joint committees:
Lease lid options: We oppose elimination of the lease lid, even if leasing is limited to the northwest sector of the University Community Urban Center Plan. We are concerned about the loss of affordable housing that would result, particularly in light of the housing/jobs imbalance. The University is interested in leasing in new construction projects, rather than in existing buildings. This can only mean redevelopment and loss of existing affordable and low income housing because there is very little vacant land in the area—0.8 acres on eight different parcels.
In addition to concerns about loss of housing, a blanket removal of the lease lid would result in piecemeal development with little or no environmental review or mitigation of the major traffic and transportation impacts. With the City’s current budgetary shortfalls, it is unlikely that funds would be available to provide the needed infrastructure. While we believe it is important to address the University’s leasing needs, other options should be considered.
We support increasing the lease lid to 700,000 square feet within the current permitted leasing zone. We believe this increase along with the 3 million square feet of development authorized under the Master Plan would be sufficient to meet the University’s needs under its current Plan.
We oppose the seven-year temporary elimination of the lease lid as suggested in the May 19th memorandum. The proposal calls for reviewing University leasing after five years to determine whether or not leasing in the expanded area should continue beyond the seven-year period. An increase to 700,000 square feet, according to the Central Staff analysis, should last for about five years. Why not simply increase the lease limit? It has been our experience that Council promises to revisit Code changes never happen. In this case, it would be a promise for further amendments to the City-University Agreement, a more challenging effort due to the involvement of the UW Board of Regents.
Should you move forward with a temporary removal of the lease lid, we suggest the addition of a sunset provision. This would ensure future review of lease lid issues.
Monitoring: We support the provision that requires the UW to report proposed and actual leasing to CUCAC every six months. To ensure adequate oversight, we also support CUCAC review of leasing proposals through the major amendment process, which is not a part of your proposal. This is consistent with the provision in the City-University Agreement that states that a reduction in housing stock within the Primary or Secondary Impact Zone that exceeds the level approved in the adopted Master Plan is a major amendment subject to CUCAC review and other requirements.
Housing Goals: A new section in the City-University Agreement on housing goals stating the University’s commitment to use its influence to create additional housing is laudable, but raises problems. Because there are no enforceable standards or consequences if no additional housing is created, no incentives to encourage housing development and no assurance that affordable housing will be created, the goals have little meaning.
As an alternative, we support incentives such as those listed in the Council Central Staff May 5th memorandum. These incentives include exemption from the lease lid of new development projects that include a housing component of a specified amount such as 30% of floor area, prohibition of UW leasing in new development projects with no housing component—these would be powerful incentives to create new housing, and a prohibition of leasing that results in residential demolitions or conversions, something required of other major institutions. We support your recommendation to continue the current prohibition of UW leases in residentially zoned areas.
UW Property Acquisition: Your recommendations provide protections against UW leasing in some of the single-family zones located in the University’s Primary and Secondary Impact Zones. The dilemma is that the recently approved Master Plan eliminates the prohibition against UW property acquisitions in these areas—a prohibition that has existed for nearly three decades to protect adjacent communities from the adverse impacts of University expansion. We recommend an additional amendment to the City-University Agreement to reinstate this important provision. The University has indicated it has no intention of leasing in single-family residential areas, so why not provide added protections to single-family neighborhoods located within the Primary and Secondary Impact Zones against encroachment and expansion of University boundaries? This will help preserve the character of neighborhoods, preserve housing and avoid adverse impacts associated with UW expansion as called for in the City-University Agreement.
Housing Resolution: Resolution 30607 directs the Mayor to develop targeted housing strategies within the UW’s permitted leasing area. We offer the following two suggestions on this proposal:
Again, we appreciate your efforts to develop a workable solution to lease lid and housing issues. We hope that you will postpone Thursday’s proposed committee vote to allow an opportunity to further refine the proposal. Thank you for considering the views of the Laurelhurst Community Club.
Jeannie Hale, President
525-5135 / fax 525-9631
cc: Other Councilmembers