The neighborhood advocacy group SQAUCh (Save Queen Anne’s Unique Character) is fighting hard in a battle to ensure Aegis Living builds its scheduled facility at Third Avenue West and West Galer Street within current zoning limits. At this time, Queen Anne civic groups have recommended that Aegis be given permission to rezone. Aegis says rezoning will help the Queen Anne neighborhood; SQAUCh disagrees.
“We want current zoning so our neighborhood doesn’t become another Capitol Hill or U-District, where it becomes impossible to park, which decreases the quality of the neighborhood,” said lead SQAUCh member Richard Gordon, adding that Queen Anne may soon become just another example of citywide trends, such as higher density, less parking and graded exceptionality.
SQAUCh formed as a result of Aegis’ plans to build the facility in Queen Anne with a requested rezone. Members say they aren’t against Aegis’ building; they would prefer it be built within current zoning limits. Tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 24), the Department of Planning and Development’s Design Review Board will meet to discuss the rezoning permit.
“In our opinion, zoning elements get determined by the input of the neighborhood,” Gordon said. “That’s what the Design Review should be doing: looking at it in terms of the neighbors.”
Gordon said that, at the first Design Review meeting a year ago, the reviewers ignored what the neighbors wanted.
“Unfortunately, in this very political game of pushing projects forward, this neighborhood has fought hard to be heard,” said fellow lead SQAUCh member Maria Clabeaux. “It has been a relentless struggle for us, in which many dedicated individuals have given their free time to in an effort to preserve this neighborhood and work toward a project we can all be proud of.”
Fighting to the end
SQAUCh said the proposed Aegis development threatens the neighborhood specifically by adding another story (four, instead of the currently zoned three), changing the landscape of the area, providing inadequate parking for its residents and building a parking entrance and loading zone on residential Third Avenue West, instead of on West Galer Street.
The group contends the rezone will add more parking congestion to the only residential parking zone (RPZ) in Queen Anne and threatens local pedestrian safety and traffic by way of staff shift changes, medical supply and service deliveries and emergency vehicle traffic.
The proposed entrance also threatens to cut down cypress trees that the city arborist has deemed essential to the urban canopy, according to SQAUCh.
“Aegis also plans to build another facility — also with a dementia unit — at the other end of Third Avenue, near SPU (Seattle Pacific University),” Clabeaux said. “The Land Use Review Committee/QACC (Queen Anne Community Council) gave their nod to the West Galer project with knowledge of the other project near SPU, and despite the fact that we have many assisted-living facilities in Queen Anne, which remain not at full capacity.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Design Review meeting, Clabeaux said the fight will go on: “My colleagues and I will be at the meeting as we continue to represent the ideals of SQAUCh. And we plan to continue to follow through on the project until well after the hearing examiner reviews the proposed rezone. And if need be, we will then appeal.”
‘Seeing the math’
However, Aegis said that SQAUCh’s fears are unfounded.
“As far as parking is concerned, right now, there are five parking spaces serving the building,” said Michael Derr, vice president of development at Aegis. “We are going to put in 20 or 21, 22 parking spaces in the site. Not only will we be employing fewer people [than the former building did] but will be adding more parking. Hopefully, when people see the math, they’ll know we will improve parking.”
Derr also said neighbors’ worries over an increase in the amount of feet Aegis can build up is not well-grounded, given that the height of neighboring buildings are higher and have the lawful potential to be built even higher.
“We’re trying to protect the value of the property in the future,” he said. “If every building around us develops as to what they’re allowed to develop, all of a sudden, our citizens will be living in a shadow. We think we are not asking for a condition that is unusual.”
Derr said the load/unload area would be used only three times a week; at all other times, it will be made into a parking space.
“The neighbors’ concerns are legitimate concerns. We are addressing them,” Derr said, adding, “We’ll be a much nicer neighbor than would an apartment building.”