Residents near Everett Station skeptical of rezone plan
EVERETT - Neighbors are questioning Everett Transit’s push to rezone the area around Everett Station to allow housing units to encourage public transit use.
Everett Station is currently surrounded by industrial buildings. Everett Transit owns the land.
The request, proposed by Everett Transit director Tom Hingson, asks for the rezone of approximately 10 acres around Everett Station. The request is being studied by the planning commission under this year’s comprehensive plan amendment proposals, city planner Mary Cunningham said last week.
Transit users in the Port Gardner Neighborhood, though, say the parking lot at Everett Station isn’t safe enough for the plan to work. If the area is changed to allow residential zoning, neighbors worry more people will park in their neighborhood because people are leery of parking at Everett Station.
The neighborhood stretches across the middle of Everett.
How safe is Everett Station?
Police Chief Kathy Atwood reported to city administration that there has not been an increase in police issues at Everett Station, according to an e-mail obtained by the Tribune. Atwood reported she “noticed that there’s been an increase in property crimes to include vehicle thefts, thefts and vehicle prowls,” she wrote in December. “We have asked that a plan be developed with the Transit Center to help address this issue. It will likely include a combination of extra patrols and crime prevention education.”
Atwood’s overall perspective was the area is safe to frequent, she wrote.
Neighbors say the east parking lot behind Everett Station is sketchy at best.
That area is the highest crime area in the Port Gardner Neighborhood, Cunningham said last month when she spoke about Everett Transit’s plan to the neighborhood.
Resident Margaret Mullin lives a few blocks away and refuses to walk past closed shops along Broadway at night to get to Everett Station. She drives instead.
“Those blocks are no man’s land,” Mullin said. Resident Anthony Moore, who walked the more dangerous streets of Washington, D.C. agreed. “I wouldn’t walk there either,” Moore said.
Transit director Hingson proposed the idea of rezoning the area to residential in order to make the parking lots at Everett Station more valuable to redevelopment, according to an April document he wrote.
Everett Transit tried to sell part of its west side parking lot last year to developers to create a transit-oriented, mixed-use development, but no bidders came forward.
While this rezone plan is different from that plan, it still encourages transit-oriented development.
Hingson is asking for higher building height limits, allowing multifamily residential zoning and to consider implementing a less than one parking stall per unit ratio under the assumption people will use transit over cars.
The planning department can’t agree to the one stall per unit request unless a developer proves transit-oriented development truly will work, Cunningham said last week.
The area would be eligible for multifamily tax credits to spur development, with bonuses for building affordable housing and below-grade parking, Cunningham said.
The rezone idea has received mixed responses from industrial companies already in the area. When the idea was presented to the City Council months ago, some companies in the area worried bringing in residents would cause them to complain about being next to industrial uses.
City planners found that industrial companies west of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks support the idea because it increases their property values, while industrial companies east of the tracks don’t support it because they’re not ready to redevelop, Cunningham said.
Some industrial property owners said they could build residential units above their buildings, Cunningham said.
Where will people park?
Neighbors are concerned Everett Station’s location and parking lots encourage people to park in their neighborhood to catch a bus quicker.
Cunningham said the transit center’s parking lot is not at capacity, which is a fact transit users challenge.
Councilman Paul Roberts, who was in the audience at the Port Gardner Neighborhood meeting, said it’s difficult to find parking after 7 a.m. at Everett Station.
The west parking lots in front of Everett Station often get filled during transit hours, the Tribune has observed. The east parking lot often has parking available.
The west lot is typically at 80 to 90 percent capacity while the east lot is at 30 percent capacity, long-range city planner Dave Koenig said last week.
City engineer Ryan Sass, who manages the traffic engineering division, said parking around Everett Station would need to be considered under Everett Transit’s plan.
“It would make us have to take a good look at that — it would change the area,” Sass said.
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