Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood


Government Affairs and Labor Committee

Public Hearing on UW Lease Lid Options

July 27, 2004


            The Laurelhurst Community Club appreciates your efforts to attempt to comply with the mandates of the Growth Management Act regarding the University of Washington Lease Lid.  One of the goals of the GMA is to “[e]ncourage the involvement of citizens in the planning process and ensure coordination between communities and jurisdictions to reconcile conflicts.”  RCW 36.70A.020(11).  As with last year’s flawed process, one of the problems that continues is the University’s unwillingness to consider a compromise—increasing the lease limit square footage, rather than outright elimination of the lease lid.  This makes it difficult for you as a Council to reconcile the conflicts as required by the GMA. 


            We believe the solution lies somewhere between the two options before you.  Option 1 eliminates the lease lid.  But, this option includes important provisions to protect pedestrian overlay zones from University leasing at ground level thus retaining the character of The Ave and commercial business districts in the University District and other communities and protecting small businesses.  This option also includes express provisions to protect the 18-acre Battelle property in the Laurelhurst community from University lease or acquisition.  This is consistent with the Land Use Code, which prohibits major institutions in single-family zones.  It is also consistent with the 1991 Settlement Agreement that runs with the Battelle property that prohibits lease, purchase or control of the Battelle property by a major institution. 


            Under Option 1, a review of elimination of the lease lid would be mandated after five years.  With elimination of the lease lid, however, the City would have no leverage to reinstate the limit after an assessment of the impacts should that be necessary or desired.  This is because the University would have to agree to reimpose the leasing restrictions and it is unlikely that this would happen.


            Option 2 retains the lease lid but substantially increases the square footage—from 550,000 square feet to 750,000 square feet—sufficient to accommodate eight years of leasing to meet the University’s needs.  This option addresses the goal of the City University Agreement to balance the University’s need to grow to meet its needs while at the same time maintaining the livability and vitality of communities located in the Primary and Secondary Impact Zones.  The option provides leverage to the City in addressing possible adverse impacts resulting from University leasing.  The option does not, however, include provisions of Option 1 restricting leasing in pedestrian zones or protecting the Battelle property.


            The Laurelhurst Community Club supports Option 2 with the following amendments:


1.      Provisions included in Option 1 restricting UW leasing in pedestrian overlay zones;


2.      Provisions included in Option 1 protecting the 18-acre Battelle property from University lease or purchase, with added wording to protect the property from University “control.”  The additional language would track the wording of the 1991 Settlement Agreement and address other such possibilities as the property being donated to the University.


3.      Provisions to incorporate the Heartland UW lease lid recommendation that the City amend the City University Agreement to expressly prohibit University leasing in properties zoned single family or low-rise residential for non-residential purposes.  Although the Code prohibits major institutions in single-family zones, the Department of Planning and Development has insufficient resources for enforcement.  This amendment would provide added protection to residential communities located in the Primary and Secondary Impact zones.


4.      Provisions to reinstate the requirement that amendments to the lease lid proceed through the major amendment process—formerly a part of the City University Agreement prior to changes last year.  This will ensure involvement of the City-University-Community Advisory Committee in addressing and evaluating the issues.


The lease lid has worked well for the past 25 years.  It has been modified on occasion to address changing needs of the University and new conditions.  Those changes were only made in consultation with the impacted communities.  We believe that retaining leasing restrictions is the best way to provide the balance necessary to allow the University to meet its needs while addressing the impacts upon surrounding communities.  The generous square footage increase provided by Option 2 will provide the University with the flexibility that it desires to fulfill its educational, research and public service mission.


We hope you will consider our recommendations and incorporate the amendments suggested above to Option 2.  We appreciate the opportunity to comment and will submit written comments on the recent Heartland report.


Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631