Notes from Shoreline Council meeting October 25, 2021 - including discussion with Planning Commission on MUR 70 building

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Pam Cross, reporter
Shoreline City Council Meeting
October 25, 2021

Notes by Pam Cross

Mayor Hall called the remote meeting to order at 7:00pm.
  • All Councilmembers were present.
  • Councilmember Chang was excused for personal reasons.
Approval of the Agenda
Agenda adopted by unanimous consent.

Report of the City Manager’s Office, Presented by John Norris, Assistant City Manager

There is encouraging news: case rates continue to slowly decline statewide. But we are still at a level of high transmission of COVID-19 infections. Shoreline has had a small increase in cases. So we must continue to take precautions.

This Public Health Order takes is now in effect for all of King County and applies› to Spartan Recreation Center.


The PRCS/Tree Board will hold a remote meeting on Thursday, October 28 at 7pm.

Council Reports

Mayor Hall has proclaimed November 1 as Extra Mile Day in Shoreline. This is something we have done in the past to recognize and encourage people to go the extra mile by volunteering in the community and helping to make Shoreline an even better place.

Deputy Mayor Scully and Councilmember Robertson toured The Oaks facility. They relayed Ms Kurle’s concerns as well as other community concerns and had a long conversation with the staff about how their program works, and how it intersects with other regional programs. They feel it is very well run, and a well administered program that plays a vital role in combating homelessness. There’s lots more to do to combat homelessness and to make sure that we get people housed and that we prevent encampments from taking over our public spaces.

Public Comment

Kathleen Russell, Shoreline, Tree Preservation Code Team member
Incentives for tree retention in MUR 70 were discussed at length by Council in 2018, allowing additional height and parking reduction. Now we’re talking about removing those incentives. We request the Council to maintain current incentives for tree retention.

Martha Diesner, Shoreline and an owner at the Echo Lake Waterfront Condominiums
We need to retain as many tall mature trees as possible as the City goes through this period of rapid development. Trees provide both physical and mental benefits. I am dismayed that the mature trees on the 198th lot are slated to come down.

Jackie Kurle, Shoreline
I appreciate Deputy Mayor Scully’s update on the operations of The Oaks. I encourage continued oversight and maximum transparency to the public regarding activities surrounding the shelter. The parking lot adjacent to it seems to have some people camping there as well as garbage and refuse in that area.

Approval of the Consent Calendar
Consent Calendar approved unanimously 6-0

8(a) Discussion with the Shoreline Planning Commission on MUR-70’ Zone Development Regulations

This discussion will begin with an overview from staff and the consultant, followed by a discussion about the issues framed by staff and other related issues about MUR-70. It’s important to stay focused on the agenda topic of MUR-70 development regulations.

With the Planning Commission in attendance, there are 13 people instead of just 7. Everyone is asked to be brief and concise so there will be adequate time for everyone to share their thoughts.

Planning Commission members: Chair Laura Mork, Janelle Callahan, Mei-shiou Lin, Andy Galuska, Julius Rwamashongye, Jack Malek, Pam Sager

Andrew Bauer, Planning Manager, made the staff presentation

The MUR zones were adopted with the light rail station subarea plans. The MUR-70’ zone allows the most intensive development and is located closest to the two light rail stations at 148th Street and 185th Street.

Work began on the subarea plans in 2013 and they were adopted in 2015-2016. This followed substantial community outreach. What emerged was a vision to leverage the region’s investment in light rail and create desirable compact walkable, sustainable and inclusive communities that support the light transit that’s being developed there.

The purpose tonight is to have an in depth discussion of the MUR-70 zones and the issues that are constraining development, and to provide direction to the Planning Commission and staff as we develop future code amendments.

Why are we talking about this now? There has been a lack of development activity in our MUR-70 zone although there is continued interest from developers. We need to assess what, if any, refinements are needed to address the constraints on development, without changing the fundamental vision.

145th Station is now properly called the 148th Station.

MUR-70 is the colored teal area.

The City entered into a contract with FCS Group in 2021. One of the tasks FCS was contracted to conduct included an evaluation of the financial feasibility of new multifamily development scenarios that could be used to inform discussions on the refinement of the Development Code in the MUR-70’ zone.

Todd Chase, FCS Group

We looked at feasibility from the developer's point of view.

The detailed FCS report is available as part of the staff report. Due to time limitations, the presentation at this meeting was very brief.

Andrew Bauer

The topics and alternatives highlighted in the staff report:

Parking alternatives
  1. Expand 25% reduction
  2. Reductions more than 25% when demand can be managed
Catalyst Alternatives
  1. Modify or waive standards for impact fees, parking, height, step backs
  2. Performance-based criteria to qualify
  3. No performance-based criteria
Alternatives for Development Agreement Process and Building Height
  1. 140’ closest to a station without development agreement
  2. 90’ outright
  3. Revise development agreement requirements
  4. No changes
The next steps following tonight’s discussion include the Planning Commission discussion of amendment alternatives in the first quarter of 2022 followed by potential outreach, and further Council discussion.


This whole conversation is how to improve development outcomes in the City. We need to focus on how we achieve Council’s vision. For example, the vision states that the 185th station subarea will transform into a vibrant, transit-oriented village, with a variety of housing choices for people of various income levels and preserving the livable qualities that Shoreline residents cherish. Over time, public and private investment will enhance the village setting creating a walkable, safe, healthy and livable place for people of all ages and cultures. Some of our policies talk about the many things we want. How do we achieve that success? How do we move these ideals into building form? We have to figure out how we can maximize the use of that space.

I’m interested in “parking reductions of more than 25% when demand can be managed.” What percentages are we talking about here?
  • Reply: We didn’t put a number on it because it’s meant for discussion purposes. There are comparison tables in the staff report. Northgate has no minimum parking requirement. At the other end of the spectrum are Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. Shoreline falls somewhere in the middle but we need to know what seems feasible in Shoreline.
About 30% of the Shoreline population rents. If we look at parking through the social justice and equity lens, when we reduce parking for them, where are the places we are earmarking on the streets for them to park? Is that clearly designated? Have we considered designated areas to park and not to park?
  • Reply: These are the buildings that will be located right next to a light rail station. We are assuming some percentage of residents won’t own or have access to a car. Other ways to manage the demand is providing subsidized transit passes.
The base cost of a unit with parking can create an equity issue. I would like to see the Planning Commission take a look at a reduced ratio of parking. Too great of a parking reduction would make the units undesirable.

There is fear that numbers of units equals numbers of cars so there’s going to be spillover into neighborhoods. Is there any evidence of that?

I’m not so keen on further parking reductions than the 25%. We came up with bundle pricing to keep people from parking in neighborhoods. We’re seeing spillover right now. I don’t think we’re at a time to further reduce parking. Maybe in the future, but people are still very auto dependent in our state, county and city. I think that’s just a fact.

I think we should continue to discuss parking reductions. We still have a lot of people driving cars and we have some spillover parking from apartment buildings, but the MUR-70 zone is in the core of the station area, and surrounded by MUR 45 and 35. Any spillover during the transition period is going to be pretty much contained within the station area which is different from what we’ve seen in other areas of the City. So there’s a buffer that will help. Parking reduction also improves the cost of the project, rather than just shifting the cost.

I don’t think we have the commerce and the businesses around to support car-free or mostly-car-free areas. I think 25% reduction is probably the maximum.

A lot of these properties will hopefully be rentals, the others will be the first chance for people to buy. This should invite more lower income people here. My experience of living in cities and working at low income jobs is that you have a car. This could be because you work different shifts or weird hours and sometimes at a location a long ways away from transit. So I am very cautious about zero or even low parking because it don’t think that’s going to match the reality of what is going to happen.

We have changed how we and our children look at transportation. I like the idea of Zip-cars and that kind of concept that may be a way to reduce the need for parking. We also need to consider having parking enforcement.
  • Reply from Mayor Hall: the City has discussed parking management plans several times and established a schedule for future parking enforcement.
The catalyst alternatives were of interest to me. Impact fees were mentioned a number of times, but not which impact fees. Does it matter?
  • Bauer: We have the transportation impact fees as well as the park impact fees.
It’s probably irrelevant to a developer. Council would need to decide if we are willing to under-collect for either of those fees, recognizing that we would still need to fully fund the projects that are funded by the impact fees. We would need to find other revenues.

If we reduce the impact fees, we’re not reducing the costs overall, we’re just shifting the cost of our parks and our roads from the developers (and the principle of growth paying for growth), and moving it to the taxpayers.

The property tax exemption that we already offer is shown to be more effective. The FCS group suggested this as a way to make the projects pencil out because they were unaware that we already offer the MFTE.

Catalyst development thresholds - what was written in the staff report was an example of 100 units or more as a threshold. But we’re talking about over 200 units in each of the four projects that are “on deck” right now. Why the 100 threshold? Maybe that could be increased.

As respect building height, I think we should just take the whole over 70’ height incentives or policies off of the table. It doesn’t sound like anyone is going to build with steel here for the extra height incentive.

Additional height listed as a catalyst may be less desirable because it creates the most visual impact.

There are Incentives currently in the code to preserve trees, but changing from wood construction to concrete or steel is very expensive. It doesn’t even pencil out here. We could say something like, in exchange for preserving more green space at street level for a healthy and visually appealing environment, we could offer more height. The MUR-70 area is already surrounded by tall buildings and from street level the difference between a 70’ building and 140’ doesn’t have much negative effect.

I agree. There should not be additional cost or hurdles to go higher than MUR-70.

I think we need to figure out exactly what our height priorities are and codify them. That way we can take the development agreement out of it to provide certainty to both the public and the developers. We spent a lot of time and money doing the development agreement on Shoreline Place.

With respect to the vision for the development of MUR-70, it is to occur over time or “eventually” recognizing that the development is somewhat organic. It is difficult to define how much it is organic and how much the City wants the area to fill out from essentially a residential area to multi-family. And during this transition time, is there a measure to help determine if the City’s plan is failing? Is there data available for a city of our size? For example, in Sacramento the commercial did not get filled in for quite a long time. It was only after the area became more vibrant that the ground floor commercial started to fill in. How much of a delay is acceptable for Shoreline?

Instead of thinking what’s the time line, I ask is there an emergency here? The timeline was considered at the very beginning of talking about this development. We were told development would follow the arrival of light rail. We were talking about a 50 to 100 year buildout. So before we start talking about getting rid of park and transportation impact fees (which contribute a huge amount to our ability to improve the City so that we can accommodate new residents), or talk about getting rid of parking, (which concerns me because I think we may create a mess if we do too much of that), I want to make sure there is an emergency here and that we really need to move this along faster that it is going right now. (Admittedly, that’s not very fast). We need to think broadly.

I think we need to decide what we are going to do to keep the ground floor available for future commercial. We need to be clear on this.

I too was wondering why “now” we are being asked to consider these issues with action as soon as next year. There are a few projects in the pipeline. MUR-70 is converting mostly single family residences which is one of the reasons that it’s stalling. It takes a lot of work for developers to combine several individual lots. I think this project is going to take patience. It will take a while for demand to get there for urban village development. I think it’s a good idea to look into these things, but I don’t see a pressing need for action. I would prefer a capital project undertaken by the City rather that something like subsidizing development by removing impact fees.

The City could take on surface water and stormwater projects. But instead of eliminating impact fees, maybe we can ask the State to take on those fees. If the State wants affordable housing and increased density, why not ask the State to put this into their economic development program? That way the cities aren’t harmed and State gets the benefit of the transportation (light rail) and the benefit of the housing.

There “is” pressure. There are legislators in our state who have proposed to ban single family zoning statewide. This even made it out of the senate in 2020. This and similar laws have been passed in Oregon and California. If cities like Shoreline along the light rail don’t do our part, we could see pressure on eliminating single family zoning across the rest of the City. And I don’t think that’s what we want. We are trying to reduce the impact from climate change and get people to walk and bike and take transit to work, shop and play. It's harder to do that if you’re living off a transit line. We have the infrastructure and we should make sure we make the most efficient use of that. Especially along the light rail line.

I think we’re short on information. I think a lot of what we did in 2015/2016 was good but it was all process driven. We don’t have any advertising - I don’t think we have any big picture vision to handle this. I love some of the ideas but I don’t think we understand our audience and because we don’t have a big picture vision, we don’t have a lot of marketing. We need to market our vision for this area.

For the most part, development in the station areas is proceeding as we expected - just not in the MUR-70. It will take decades for the entire area to develop. The transition will be awkward as it proceeds. Tall buildings will pop up in what is now a single family neighborhood that is now zoned MUR 70. Many of the properties have been sold to holding companies or LLCs and are being held for development. We don’t want this to go on for too long because the neighborhood will no longer be attractive.

We don’t want things forced - bad things can happen then. But we need to keep things moving along and continue our conversations.

We are in competition with other cities (Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace) and the newly opened Seattle stations. We need to minimize the stumbling blocks to development that we have created per the FCS report. We need to pay attention to that report and not be stagnant because the whole region is changing.

Condo liability reform was passed by the State in 2019 with the hope of spurring more condo development. Has the situation changed since this reform? Can we promote more condo development MUR-70 so people can a chance for ownership?
  • Reply: Developments don’t differentiate between ownership occupancy vs. rental housing. I don’t have any additional information on the results of this reform. We could note that for future analysis.
Mayor Hall: I apologize for not saying this earlier. In terms of the timeline, Council already included this in our goals and our actions steps for the coming years. So clear direction has been provided to staff and the planning commission to modify the MUR-70 development regulations in order to ensure that they achieve their vision. This conversation tonight was intended to provide the details but we were unanimous that we do want the planning commission too and staff to see if we can make some regulations that will make it more likely that we’ll get the vision we want. It’s not an emergency but the legislature is on the brink of eliminating single family zoning. Our approach of concentrating growth near light rail is a better approach. Another thing that is important is visible just south of us. Look how fast it has developed around Roosevelt Station. When the market decides it wants to build it can get vested really quickly. Look at our townhouse development standards: by the time we were able to make some basic changes, there were already dozens of projects in the pipeline. We need to make changes sooner rather later.

Andrew Bauer
I identified key themes for the planning commission to provide more data and analysis:
  1. Parking reduction but not elimination of requirements
  2. Catalyst developments - have infrastructure projects brought to the site by the City
  3. Impact fees
  4. Codify to eliminate development agreement necessity
  5. Building height
This is the beginning of the discussion.



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