'Green' Safeway wins over Pinehurst
Change of heart by district that fought grocery
Ten years after the Pinehurst neighborhood fought plans for a new grocery store, residents are pushing for the first "green" Safeway in the state.
For years, Safeway has wanted to build an expanded store at its current site on 15th Avenue Northeast, between Northeast 125th and 123rd streets -- considered the center of the neighborhood.
But the proposed development, which included Safeway-owned property zoned single-family, required a change to commercial zoning. Lacking local support and hopes for a building permit, the supermarket chain put the project on hold.
Residents now say the old rancor and controversy are past.
At Pinehurst's urging, the City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows Safeway to apply for a rezoning, paving the way for a larger and more attractive local grocery store as well as Pinehurst's first community gathering space.
Being designed with neighborhood feedback, the store may feature such "green" elements as an eco-friendly parking lot containing less concrete, and energy-saving refrigeration. Other neighborhood priorities are an indoor-outdoor coffee shop with a fireplace, landscaping, bike racks and pedestrian, lighting and safety improvements.
"It's a rare thing for a neighborhood development, but we all came together, put our heads together, and Safeway listened to us," said Renee Staton, a member of the Pinehurst Community Council who spearheaded the effort. "People in Pinehurst are overjoyed."
Adjacent community councils, however, are concerned.
While council representatives call the Safeway project a model for collaboration between businesses and neighborhoods, many take issue with "rezoning by ordinance."
Residents say they fear that the ordinance could set a precedent for the entire Northgate district, potentially leading to single-family zoning changes in the five "overlay" neighborhoods -- Pinehurst, Maple Leaf, Haller Lake, Licton Springs and Victory Heights.
The Seattle Community Council Federation wrote Nov. 30 to Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, chairman of the Urban Development and Planning Committee, urging the committee to reject legislation (such as the ordinance) with proposed land-use code amendments, including the definition of a "block," that related to single-family rezone criteria in the Northgate district.
Calling it a "dangerous precedent," Jeannie Hale, the federation president, wrote that the proposed changes are "contrary to the city's comprehensive plan, the Northgate Plan and most other neighborhood plan policies pertaining to single-family rezones."
The council passed the ordinance Dec. 3, convinced that a staff analysis of legal language was specific to the Safeway project, and unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.
Steinbrueck, who lives in Pinehurst, says there is a great deal of "loyalty" to neighborhood grocery stores because they represent not only food sources but community connections.
In Pinehurst's case, he said, "people also want their neighborhood store -- but no one really likes it the way it is."
Steinbrueck, who believes there was adequate public notification to other neighborhoods, said he and other city officials wish Pinehurst would have supported multifamily or other housing on top of the Safeway, which has been done elsewhere. The new, 50,000-square-foot store will be one story high.
"It's really an ironic situation; our issue is not with Safeway, which is planning to develop a fabulous store based on what people in Pinehurst said they wanted," said David Miller, president of the Maple Leaf Community Council.
The neighborhood groups are considering whether to appeal to the state Growth Management Board.
"We are concerned with the process, the lack of adequate notice to the other neighborhoods about the ordinance -- and the unintended consequences it could have," Miller said. "It's a bad precedent to make a zoning change inside an ordinance."
Even so, Pinehurst is celebrating what it hopes will be an eco-friendly development that will improve livability by giving people a popular place to walk to, gather and "hang out." Residents hope that a new development will spur a few more restaurants and other walkable amenities.
"I'm into single-family residential, but I support the Safeway project," said Brad Green, a 25-year Pinehurst resident. "We want to have a place to meet, and to encourage people to get out of their cars."
What do you think?