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Letter to the Editor: Shoreline Loves Trees, But It Loves Developers More

Letter writer concerned that neighbors concerns over loss of trees is being ignored by city planning department

To the editor: 

In 2007 when development of the Overland Trailer Court property at 152nd and Aurora was first proposed, there were 32 trees on the site (Brent Spillsbury, public testimony City Council hearing, Dec. 17, 2007). There have been several proposals for the property (SHAG, 2007; Brighton Court, 2011; now Shoreline Star. 2012) all of which involve paving the 1+ acre lot virtually lot-line-to-lot -line. No chance for these trees. 

A major concern throughout the lengthy development process, evidenced by letters in Planning and Development Services (PDS) files, has been for the twelve mature pine and cedar trees on the adjacent privately-owned, residentially-zoned property.

In the August 2011, “neighborhood meeting” the then “owner” (5/27/2011 PDS pre application information for Brighton Court), Patrick Carroll, was very supportive of and attentive to neighbor concerns, including the trees. He assured us the underground garage would be set back 20 feet from the property line and that an arborist would be retained to insure preservation of the privately owned trees.

On August 21, 2012, thirteen months after the “neighborhood meeting” Mr. Carroll submitted the meeting report to support the development application of Shoreline Star.

“We stated that we would hire an Arborist to help us protect as many trees as possible. This plan will be submitted to the city for their approval,” he said.

By letter (6/17/2011 Levitan, PCD to Matt Driscoll, architect for the three proposed projects), “. . . property owners are encouraged to retain trees where feasible, especially when adjacent to single family residential zones.”

Perhaps Mr. Carroll misread “retaining trees where feasible” to include trees on his property as well as trees on all property in the vicinity of his project? In his Report, Mr. Carroll presented other neighborhood concerns inaccurately and treated them with as much indifference as he did our concern for the trees.

In five years dealing with PDS, my neighbors and I have lost confidence that it represents community interests.

Now there is a new owner (4/30/2012 e-mail Links to Eernissee), John Links, developer, and Trent Mummery, project manager (7/26/2012 e-mail Eernissee to Hall).

Who knows what they have in mind for this property - and ours? PDS declared that the August 2011 neighborhood meeting met regulatory requirements. With the exception of continued meetings with city staff, which have been for the most part unproductive and frustrating for five years, our neighborhood is at the mercy of developers. 

That in July city councilman Will Hall entertained Mr. Mummery in a private box at a Mariner’s game (PDS e-mail files) hardly inspires confidence that the anyone in the city has any interest in our neighborhood, much less our privately-owned trees. 

Links and Mummery are connected with other proposed Shoreline development projects. Are you really sure your neighborhood and your property aren't next?

Susan Melville

Parkwood

kndnm September 11, 2012 at 03:50 PM
This stinks
Tu-Ha Nguyen September 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Dear Kndnm: Why do you say that? Please unroll your thoughts. Tell us why you think the article "stinks?"
Janet Way September 11, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Thanks Sue for this detailed letter and for doing the research into the public records. You've uncovered some very big areas of concern, including statements of the developer and contacts with council and staff. Those trees deserve the complete protections in the spirit of the laws of this city.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 11, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Sue did some good research and trees are no doubt important to the environment and health of the city. But considering the other side of things here, isn't a healthy economy also important, to a majority of citizens? Protecting trees, again, is important, but at some point is the process getting too bogged down at the expense of getting stuff done on the business end?
Karla Fay September 12, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Interesting that Mr. Dondero decided to omit the negative audit the City of Shoreline received last year from the Washington State Auditor in awarding over $350,000 in work on a city hall that the city does not own without any competitive bids. Better yet, what about the City of Shoreline surface water management utility under charging the school district over $150,000 since they have assumed control? If the city wants to prove it can responsibly manage taxpayers monies, then they need to be able to manage their accounts properly. Under Washington State Law, utility customers are to be treated fairly by class, and the school district is a commercial class customer - if the city wants to promote economic development yet gives a tax break to the school district (which already is generously supported by the property taxes payers in Shoreline), why would a developer want to build here?
John Behrens September 12, 2012 at 05:21 AM
What do people think when they hear the word development? It should have a positive connotation in that implies improvement. The question is whether lining Aurora with 5 story apartment buildings of 500 square foot units benefits anyone other than a developer. Consider all the costs, economic as well as social. Economically they make little sense in that these residences cost the city more to maintain than they generate in tax revenues. Consider things like traffic problems, fire suppression costs, and police calls and a partial idea of what these costs are come into perspective. People living in 500 square foot units do not raise families or participate in a community. They work elsewhere and spend their paychecks surviving. During this election campaign, it is appropriate to ask WHERE ARE THE JOBS? The Growth Management Act targets both population and job growth. Accumulating large numbers of marginally employed people along a central city corridor is what people in other parts of the country call slums. In 25 years poor planning may create the same effect.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 08:00 AM
Patch did report the deal the district got from the Council on the surface water management utility. http://shoreline.patch.com/articles/shoreline-council-gives-shoreline-schools-reprieve-on-surface-water-fees The amount in fact was $180,000. By the way, "Karla," if you used your real name to stand behind your posts instead of hiding behind a nom de Patch, you might have more credibility. Of course you have a right to remain anonymous. If you really believe in what you are saying, put your name on it.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 08:15 AM
I have no illusions that developers are out to make a buck and everything else is secondary, but incentives and the GMA can force them to do something that serves the community better. I've looked at the apartments at Echo Lake and they are expensive between 1000 and 1600 a month, if I recall. You might as well have a mortgage and buy a small house, townhouse or condo if you can (and probably in Snohomish County since it'll be less and the taxes will be less). Shoreline's apartments for the most part are either mediocre or are way too much. There's virtually nothing moderately priced in decent condition. By the way, John by your definition most retail workers and the former local newspaper, the now defunct Enterprise and Weekly Herald, paid marginal, slum wages. By that I mean in most cases less than $30,000. Even the Apple Stores pay about $30,000 per worker annually although there's some pressure to change that. There are very few good paying jobs out there in the current economy. A government job, if you can get one, is a pretty darn good deal with the pay and benefits.
Tracy Tallman September 12, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Now I'm really curious. Who is the true "Karla Fay"? And I agree with John when he says "People living in 500 square foot units do not raise families or participate in a community." I don't see anything wrong with a University Village type development at Aurora Square, but I don't think we need to entice more residents. Where did this yearning for more residents arise? Emmett Watson please return from your grave to defend "Lesser Seattle."
Janet Way September 12, 2012 at 05:17 PM
There is a fine line between "Lesser Seattle" and quality development that enhances a neighborhood and adds good jobs and housing. And a very bright line between a "slash and burn" project proposal, which this one may be and one that makes an honest effort to protect the surrounding neighborhoods and is not just a another way for the City to cave in to the latest developer with deep pockets. This location has over 30 huge conifers, that are at a premium, and called for specifically in the Comp Plan as a part of the Vision for Aurora Ave. They are a shield and transition feature now for this sensitive single-family neighborhood. This developer could go a long way towards decreasing the anxiety and impacts to this neighborhood and truly contributing to the quality of life for his future residents, by retaining some of those trees and designing a building that truly offers a "transition" which is also called for in the City Vision and MUZ zoning. We need some areas of new density, but only those placed and designed to protect these single family neighborhoods. Otherwise, you will continue to have endless pain and "block by block skirmishes" as one former councilmember put it, in every effort to promote Growth Management.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 06:14 PM
This comment is from Les Nelson, due to some system issues he was unable to post: Living in a single family neighborhood and paying taxes on a home here for the last 37 years, only to be overwhelmed by the new development codes, zoning revisions, and City penchant for catering to developers is really a sad and upsetting experience. Our neighborhood will be adjacent to this proposed 129 unit per acre monstrosity, and although the City design review process could choose to reduce the size, height and bulk of this development, given the developers desire to build to the maximum economic return possible, and the Council alignment with the developers, its not likely that our little neighborhood can be protected. The base zoning density of 48 units per acre and 35 foot height gets expanded to 150 units per acre and 65 foot height if the developer constructs the ground floor to Commercial standards so the neighbors can benefit from retail business availability. Except there is no requirement or intent to look for retail customers, so this floor will be converted for dwelling unit use, which was probably the plan all along.
Tom Jamieson September 12, 2012 at 06:53 PM
The Shoreline School District billing 'oversight' was $180,000 just for the current year. The City's Staff report to the City Council on June 4, 2012 states "Over the last sixteen years staff estimates that King County [who bills ratepayers on behalf of the City] has credited between $1.7 and $2 million of surface water fees from the Shoreline School District." The notion that the Council voted to "continue to waive" the fee is erroneous. The non-collection of the fee was due to a billing error by King County, who performs surface water management billing on behalf of the City of Shoreline. To the Editor: Whether Karla is using her real name or not is no excuse for goading, ad hominem attacks by the Patch Editor. Try to stick to ths issues, and stop baiting the contibutors, if you wish to promote a rational discourse.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 08:29 PM
The city's audit is a legit news story, which I don't believe Patch reported, but it was not an intentional oversight, Karla.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 08:44 PM
The Census showed virtually no change in Shoreline's population from 2000 to 2010, so the city is not growing at all or adding net residents. Even with some development, really redevelopment as John Behrens likes to say, there's not going to be a huge net gain in population like on the Eastside or Renton, or Snohomish County where annexations or major developments have been happening. I think there are some exceptions to the rule that people in apartments or "500 square foot units," don't raise families or participate in the community, but it certainly is harder, having been a young person, myself who lived in that situation for a long time. Adding development that brings jobs that pay a living wage, $40,000 and up would be a start.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Thanks, everyone for the different and diverse, perspectives, let's keep this discussion going, it's a good one.
Janet Way September 13, 2012 at 04:35 AM
I agree with Tom Jamison on the matter of Karla Fay's posts. It is irrelevent Tony, with all due respect whether she is using her real name or not. She is clearly someone who is keenly aware of this issue and many others and contributes valuable points of view. If you want to have this type of exchange on Patch, then you need to allow pseudonyms. On many issues, there are people with very valid reasons not to disclose their names. I hope that PATCH will respect that in order to promote civic conversations. Thank you.
Tony Dondero (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 10:16 AM
From Patch terms of use: "We ask that the e-mail address you provide when you register be a valid e-mail address for you. We encourage, but do not require, that the user name you provide be your real name." Although the terms of use "encourage" people to use their real names, "Karla" has a right to be anonymous, which I did say above. Tom and Janet seem to agree with each other that my attempt to encourage or "goad" to use Tom's word, the person to use their real name overstepped, but I think it's hardly an ad hominem attack. The Federalist Papers, which helped shape the U.S. Constitution, were published as serials anonymously for political reasons in New York newspapers, so there's obviously significant precedent for this type of anonymous communication, although I'm not sure it's always necessary.
Tracy Tallman September 13, 2012 at 03:04 PM
What is a good reason not to use your real name?
Janet Way September 13, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Hi Tracy, I would suggest that there are many reasons a person might not want to use their real name. For instance, (depending on a particular issue) a person may be employed somewhere that publishing a specific comment might be too controversial, such as a teacher, police officer, government staff, elected official, or a neighbor affected by a particular issue. That person may not wish to identify themselves, because of concerns about threats or innuendo. These are just a few examples, but as Tony says above, even the Federalist Papers were published anonymously. If Karla Fay wants to use a pseudonym, it's no harm to anyone.

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