Archives for July 2010

Note from Council President Conlin

This is an excellent sign of things to come on Monday (emphasis mine):

Thank you for your message about the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the Roosevelt neighborhood submitted by developers in the Roosevelt area.  Yesterday the Committee on the Built Environment voted unanimously to remove this amendment from consideration for the 2011 Comprehensive Plan review.  I am confident that the Full Council will agree with the Committee.
I look forward to a Roosevelt neighborhood plan implementation amendment coming forward in a future year with the participation and support of the Roosevelt community.

Council President Richard Conlin
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

I sent off an email to Conlin just last night, and received his this morning.

I still urge those of you who have NOT sent in your thoughts to do so. Contact information can be found by clicking the various Councilmembers’ heads here:

Note from Councilmember Godden

Boy, it’s fun to open up the ol’ inbox these days.

Received the following from Councilmember Jean Godden’s office (on Tuesday, I’d sent her the letter about opposing the Sisleyville rezoning):

Thank you for your letter expressing concerns about RDG’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment #8. As you may already know the Committee on Built Environment passed an amended version of Resolution 31233 which removed Amendment #8 from the proposed docket.

On Monday the full council will likely vote on the committee’s recommendation. It is my intention to vote in favor of the resolution as amended.

Thanks again for taking the time to share with your concerns. It is important for me to understand constitutes feelings on matters as important as this.

My Regards,

Jean Godden
Seattle City Councilmember

Let’s tally them up: Clark, Bagshaw and Burgess (the COBE committee) and Godden = FOUR for removing the RDG amendment.

Now, let’s see what we can do about those other five, shall we?

Note from Councilmember Burgess’ Office

Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess is one of the members of the Committee on the Built Environment who heard the public comments today and voted to keep the RDG’s changes to the comp plan from moving forward.

I sent him an email last night, expressing my views and concerns about the RDG amendment, and received the following in return this morning (post vote):

Thank you for your e-mail to Councilmember Burgess. Last year the Council adopted a comprehensive plan amendment that paved the way for implementing a neighborhood plan update initiated by the Roosevelt community.  That process is underway and is moving forward at a good pace. The neighborhood planning process needs to be honored and Tim voted in committee today not to advance comp plan amendment #8 from the Roosevelt Development Group.

Tim appreciates how the residents of the Roosevelt neighborhood have worked hard to plan for the future. He wants to see that process move forward and be completed before considering any stand-alone proposals. The committee agreed and recommended to the full council that the comp plan amendment not advance. The full council’s decision will come on Monday.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.


Nate Van Duzer
Legislative Aide
Councilmember Tim Burgess

Sallys Clark and Bagshaw did most of the talking in today’s meeting, so it was nice to hear Burgess’ thoughts on the matter as well.

COBE Recommends RDG Amendment REMOVAL

The City Council’s Committee on the Built Environment (Sally Clark, chair; Sally Bagshaw; Tim Burgess) recommended this morning to remove the Roosevelt Development Group’s Comprehensive Plan amendment from further consideration this year.

Here’s a message from the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association’s Jim O’Halloran (Chair, Land Use Committee) on how the meeting went, with thanks for those who spoke out and next steps (emphasis mine; the original can be found at the RNA blog as the entry for July 28):


Only minutes ago, City Council’s Committee on the Built Environment (COBE) voted unanimously to *remove* the RDG Comp Plan amendment from further consideration on this year’s Comp Plan amendment policy docket.  This is exactly what we asked them to do, and I’m thrilled to be able to share this news with you now.

COBE’s vote this morning, from three councilmembers (Clark, Burgess and Bagshaw) is *not final* until the full Council takes a vote, probably on Monday, August 2nd. I am confident, however, that full Council will support this position.

Please understand what we have accomplished.  Two weeks ago, the RDG Comp Plan amendment seemed headed for easy passage. DPD recommended it.  The Seattle Planning Commission recommended it.  Even City Council’s own Central Staff recommended that this amendment be included on the policy docket.  It was only the outpouring of passionate yet well-reasoned, and exquisitely well-timed e-mail from the Community which moved this mountain. There’s a big lesson here for all of us;  please share it with your children!

Thank you to everyone who wrote to our City Councilmembers. Your e-mails were stirring but for the most part struck the just the right tone of reason.  This is what distinguishes us as a neighborhood; not just ranting but taking responsibility for our future, and offering constructive input to our elected officials.  I hope you can see how effective we can be, when we organize around some commonly agreed principles.

Special thanks to those of you who were able to make the extra effort to attend this morning’s COBE meeting:  John Adams (and his capable summer intern architect), Diane Haddock, Melissa Westbrook, Renee Davis, Judith Leconte, Bill Dunning and others I may have missed.  Your presence was influential.  I would have been there but I’m stuck in Oregon on business.

If you’d like to watch the COBE meeting on the Internet, it should be posted by early this afternoon online at  Look for the “July 28 meeting of the Committee on the Built Environment”.

I have one other thought for you at this time.  If your e-mail fingers are not totally worn out from writing to Council, consider just one more quick message, a *thank you* to COBE members, for their recognition of Community input, and for their vote to strike Comp Plan amendment #8.  Please note that Sally Clark took a genuine leadership position on this issue, working behind the scenes with DPD, and that she chose to override the recommendation of all advisors sitting at the table, with her own Amendment to the Resolution setting the Comp Plan policy docket.  Sally Bagshaw was effusive in her compliments for the Roosevelt neighborhood at the COBE meeting this morning; she’s also listening to us.  And Tim Burgess was part of the unanimous “yes” vote which carried the day for the Community.

This battle’s not won ‘till the full Council votes on Monday, but I’ve gone out on a limb with my own notes of thanks, to provide quick, positive reinforcement for our friends on City Council.

Thank you, neighbors, for your interest and support on this Comp Plan issue.  We’ve really made a difference!


Jim O’Halloran
Chair, Land Use Committee
Roosevelt Neighborhood Association

[NOTE: There were Ravenna residents present at the meeting offering public comments (all against). I have heard that the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association is also against the RDG’s plans, but I have no specific information on their stance. Attempts to contact them have so far gone unanswered.]

Opposed to Sisleyville rezoning? Let the City Council know TONIGHT!

Want to speak out about the Sisleyville rezoning mess, but are having a hard time finding the words?


The following is a letter drafted by the Roosevelt Neighborhood Blog and the Ravenna Blog (with credit to Jim O’Halloran, chair of the Land Use Committee of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, for the pieces from his recent blog post on the subject [the July 27th entry]) that you can send on to City Councilmembers. If you oppose the Roosevelt Development Group’s rezoning plans, LET THE CITY COUNCIL KNOW.

Read it over, change it up if you’d like, substitute in the appropriate Councilmembers’ names, and send it off.

The meeting to add the RDG’s Comp Plan amendment is TOMORROW MORNING at 9AM.  If you feel strongly about the proposed changes to the zoning in YOUR neighborhood, we urge you to email the City Council TONIGHT.

[Note about Subject Line: Do NOT use the term “rezone”, because this may cause your e-mail to be screened out of Councilmember’s mail.   The RDG contract rezone process is now considered “quasi-judicial”, which means that Councilmembers cannot have any direct communication with affected parties.  The Comp Plan amendment process, on the other hand, is openly conducted.]

Send to:

Sally Clark,
Sally Bagshaw,
Tim Burgess,
Tom Rasmussen,

Jim O’Halloran, the chair of the Land Use Committee of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, also recommends you write to Councilmembers Jean Godden ( and Bruce Harrell (, who each seem to have taken a special interest in Roosevelt land use issues.  Of course it can’t hurt to contact each of the nine City Councilmembers (individually is best, but it’s OK to “cc” councilmembers).


Subject Line: Reject amendment #8 from the 2010-2011 Seattle Comp Plan

Dear <Councilmember>,

As a resident of the Roosevelt/Ravenna neighborhood, I am writing to urge you and all other City Council members to reject amendment #8 from the 2010-2011 Comprehensive plan policy docket.

The Roosevelt Development Group (RDG) has submitted an application to City Council, to amend the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. The RDG proposal, among other things, would annex several properties in Ravenna near 15th Ave NE and NE 65th St to become part of the Roosevelt Urban Village. Moreover, the RDG Comp Plan amendment does not meet all of the necessary criteria, and would change some of the key provisions in the recently updated Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan, especially as it relates to the preservation of single family housing.

1.      The RDG Comp Plan amendment does not meet Council’s requirement that the applicant has conducted “outreach” with the affected community. A key criterion for docketing this item is to engage the neighborhood in the review process before final Council consideration of this amendment. Neighbors were only aware of the existence and content of the RDG’s 2009 and 2010 Comp Plan amendment applications after they were filed with the City. No Comp Plan outreach has occurred. The applicant listed a series of community meetings as evidence of outreach, but in none of these meetings, or at any other time, did specific discussion of the Comp Plan amendments take place between the applicant and the community. As a resident of Roosevelt/Ravenna, I am offended that this has been misrepresented by the applicant.

2.      An existing neighborhood planning process has already taken place and rezoning recommendations were presented by the community in July 2006. The Community’s land use recommendations cover the entire station area, unlike RDG’s Comp Plan, which would address only a corner of the community. To accept a developer’s proposal—even just for study—ahead of and around a longstanding community request, sends a very discouraging message to neighborhoods across the City about the value of our volunteer efforts in neighborhood planning.

3.      The applicant does not have the neighborhood in its best interests. The Roosevelt Development Group (RDG) and Hugh Sisley (the property owner) have allowed their properties to become run-down to the point where they are an eyesore, a danger to the community, and hurt property values in the surrounding area. They have had little regard for the Roosevelt and Ravenna communities in the past, and cannot possibly have the well being of the neighborhood in mind for the future. This type of behavior should not be rewarded.

I support the position outlined by the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) and strongly oppose further consideration of Comp Plan amendment #8.

Thank you,

<your name and email address here>

Get Your Pirate On

RDon’t forget, me hearties: Pirate P”ARRRRRRRRR”TY today at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center, from 11am-1pm.

From the Seattle Parks and Recreation Northeast Summer 2010 catalog:

Ahoy mateys! We be a meetin’ at 11 a.m. at Ravenna fer adventure as you hunt fer hidden treasure. Lads and lasses, come dressed in yer finest pirate garb and be prepared fer some swashbuckling fun, grub, and kiddie spirits.

To help prepare you for this event, here’s a YouTube primer on “The Five A’s,” brought to you by the originators of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) — Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy:

And here’s Cap’n Slappy again, with some random pirate phrases you may want to use AFTER the party. Or, at least, not around the childrens:

Roosevelt-Ravenna Zoning Issues – Interview with Glenn Roberts

What would you like your neighborhood to look like?

Probably NOT like this:

Photo courtesy

Would you rather see 160-foot-tall buildings? Or perhaps a big box store? Or BOTH?

Ravenna Blog and The Roosevelt Neighborhood Blog (Roosie Hood) have teamed up to try and shed some light on these concerns by interviewing Glenn Roberts, author and administrator of the blog Roosevelt-Ravenna Zoning Issues.

Glenn does not claim to be an expert on all things Sisely property-related, but he’s been following the saga of neighborhood vs. property owner/developer vs. city ever since he moved into the neighborhood (and started talking to neighbors about it in 2005, when then property manager Keith Gilbert was arrested on felony weapons charges). Glenn’s been in the real estate business for 25 years, spending the last 22 with the same brokerage here in Seattle. He and his Realtor wife have been residents of the Ravenna Park area for almost two decades, and his son attended Roosevelt High School.

Ravenna Blog/Roosie Hood: To start off in a place we can all relate to, what the %&$#! are all those boarded up buildings along NE 65th Street and 15th Avenue NE? Do you have an elevator speech answer to that question?

Glenn Roberts: About two years ago, Hugh Sisley offered to lease his properties for a term of 99 years. Another stipulation that the leasee has disclosed is that Sisley can disapprove of the development if the design isn’t to his specifications. What his specifications are has not been disclosed.
You don’t get an elevator speech here.
The buildings are boarded up because the leasee paid off the tenants to leave and then secured the property with the fence. They say they can’t tear them down because if the terms of the lease aren’t met, they will give up their option and return the properties to the landowner as they were when they got them.
I don’t believe them. It costs real money to properly tear down a building and if they were to pay for it, Sisley would surely (IMO) let them. But they both may want them to stay up so that public opinion from Seattle at large will say, “Anything will be better than those buildings.”
The landowner has a bad rep, and he will still be the landowner if any buildings are completed. Our main focus is A) To see that Sisley or anyone else does not own huge multi-unit buildings at this location and B) To allow the neighborhood to develop as needed according to the zoning currently in place.

RB/RH:  So, Hugh Sisley owns most of the properties in question, and the Roosevelt Development Group (RDG) is the lease holder.  Current tenants at the time got paid to leave, and the buildings are boarded up (“secured”).  I’m also seeing this spelled out in a Seattle P-I article from 2007 entitied, “Run-down Roosevelt buildings are goners.”

One would assume the next phase would be planning. What does the current zoning for the area look like, and what would the developers like to see there instead?

GR: Most sensible city zoning including the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) plan call for the tallest buildings to be in the commercial core and taper down to the single family neighborhoods. The Roosevelt core is between Roosevelt Way NE and 12th Ave NE. It’s a small urban village. What RDG is proposing is Urban Sprawl in the village. This kind of development would wipe out the concept of village here.
As for the tapering effect, putting 160 foot buildings up against 27 1/2 foot zoning of single family is ridiculous, ludicrous and inane. Yet that’s what the RDG plan calls for on the Sisely lots. The current zoning has 40 foot limits.
They also want to up the zoning from Commercial 2 to Commercial 3. That would allow for a Costco, Walmart or other monstrosity here in the neighborhood.

RB/RH: And to go back to that first question, it feels as though there are two sides to that %&$#! coin: Why have those properties been boarded-up eye sores for so long, and what does the owner plan to do with them?

Map of the Sisley/RDG properties (from 2009; shown to highlight properties being discussed) Courtesy

GR: They have been boarded up because of several issues that have to do with city regulations.

1. For a long time now there has been a regulation that you cannot tear down a home on a property unless you have permits in place to build a new on. This was the city’s way of preserving taxes. They reasoned that it was cheaper to remodel an existing house than build a new one, but I think the assessed value of the deteriorated house was always more than that of vacant land. This law changed last year, but the tearing down or not is up to the owner, not the city or the neighborhood.

2. When you have existing low income housing (which Sisley can certainly say his were) and you accommodate the renters losing their homes for rebuilding by giving them money to relocate (RDG did that) you get credit to build more units or to build higher buildings, as long as you replace the buildings within a certain amount of time. So, they want to keep them up until they have permits or they could lose those credits.

RB/RH: Have any of the local neighborhood associations weighed in on the issue? Roosevelt Neighborhood Association? Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance? Ravenna-Bryant Community Association?

GR: The RNA has spent years developing a growth plan and it has been accepted by the city and should be sufficient for the next 40 years, light rail or no light rail. It is a good plan. The Ravenna-Bryant Community Association leadership has expressed support for the RNA Plan and opposition to the RDG Comp plan change. I belong to a small group of Ravenna neighbors who oppose the RDG plan and publicize everything we can.

RB/RH: You’ve been following the Sisley/Roosevelt Development Group saga for a while now, most notably at your blog, Roosevelt-Ravenna Zoning Issues. Can you provide us with a general timeline of Sisley’s/RDG’s purchases?

GR: About 30 or more years ago, Hugh Sisley was the janitor at Roosevelt High School. He managed to buy some properties back when Boeing went bust in the early 70s, I imagine. Possibly he learned then that a run down property diminishes the value of the property next door. Eventually his empire grew. RDG has purchased four properties that Sisely did not already own in the zone, in the last two years.

RB/RH: Sisley himself was a member of the neighborhood (perhaps in vocation only), purchased the properties over time, and then left them to rot, essentially, bringing down the value of the entire area?  Has the neighborhood or the City of Seattle tried to do anything about this?

GR: The recent City ordinance concerning registration of landlords and inspection of rentals is in part a means to enforce clean up of properties like Sisley’s. You also might notice that three or four of Sisley’s properties were torn down last year. I wish I knew the mechanism that forced that so I could try to make it happen on the others. Neighbors should write to the city council and to the mayor and insist that those unused, never to be used again buildings be removed. There are a haven for vermin, a fire hazard, a location inviting graffiti, and an eyesore. They have no place in the community.

RB/RH: At this time, what would you advise a concerned citizen to do?

GR: Oppose everything Sisley and RDG want to do until they meet the design of the RNA plan. Citizens should go to meetings and let their voice be heard. They should write to the city council and express themselves. They should be involved.

RB/RH: You yourself are a real estate agent and live in the Ravenna neighborhood.  What do you say to those who may cry NIMBY over your stand (or others’) on the rezoning issue?

GR: If you own, anywhere, NIMBYism is an important part of making neighborhoods better all across the country. If you are a short term renter, you probably don’t have stake in how towns and cities grow and thrive, or how they fall into ruin.
For my part, I’ll continue to be proactive in the future of my neighborhood and be proud of doing so.


Glenn Roberts is a Seattle residential Realtor residing in the Ravenna neighborhood. He writes and administrates a number of blogs, including Ravenna Park – North and Roosevelt-Ravenna Zoning Issues. You can read much more about the Sisley properties, zoning, Environmental Impact Studies and much much more at both of those sites.

Ravenna-Bryant Community Association Meeting TONIGHT

Happened by the NE Branch of the library today where I saw a sandwich board advertising a meeting of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association TONIGHT at 6pm!

And, as it turns out, today is my tenth wedding anniversary. Curses!

So now, a plea to you, dear reader: Can you go in my stead?

I would LOVE to write up a post about the meeting and/or get some current contact information on the group.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go to the meeting tonight, take some notes if you find it helpful, remembering-wise, and then debrief with me via email or at the coffee shop of your choice (coffee and doughnut/pastry on me!).

Here’s your chance to both represent AND support your ‘hood! And me. I really appreciate it.

Interested parties: Just email me here at the blog (rebecca at if you’re interested!