City plans Rainier Valley facelift, neighbors upset

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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SEATTLE —

The city of Seattle is planning a massive makeover for the Rainier Valley, but not all its residents and neighbors are happy about it. 

The city wants to rezone a 26-acre swath between Bayview and Byron streets to make it more attractive to potential developers. 

It would change the area to mixed use, allowing apartments and retail, and increase heights from 65 feet up to 125 feet, or 12 stories, at the Lowe’s site. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” Bux4Gold pawn shop owner Patrick Kane said. 

With graffiti, closed stores, and rundown buildings easy to find, Seattle urban designer Lyle Bicknell told KIRO 7 that the city is looking to kick-start the area somehow. 

“The city can set the table,” he said. “That is really our job. We can't necessarily guarantee the guests will come.” 

That’s where the controversy comes in. If the city rezones, some are wondering who will move in.

“If they're going to make a big building, who's going to live here, who's going to work here?” Susan Moore, who lives in the Mt. Baker neighborhood, said. 

“The plan is going in reverse,” Jeannie O’Brien said. “This is backwards.” 

O’Brien grew up in the Rainier Valley.

She said rezoning without a high-end developer attached could lead to more low-income housing instead of something that would increase property values.

“The only housing that has come in has been low-income housing,” she said. 

O’Brien predicts without a high-end developer, all of the new ground-floor retail will sit empty like other storefronts farther down in the Valley.

But Kane is more optimistic about any new construction. 

“I would only think that it has a positive opportunity [for] our business,” he said. 

The city’s planning and land use committee is meeting on May 20 at 2 p.m. to discuss the plans. It could vote to approve the rezoning and send it to the full City Council.