Battle brewing over South Lake Union zoning proposal

SEATTLE -- A proposal that would allow for taller buildings in South Lake Union has many who live and work in the area worried that the nearly 400-foot-tall structures would hurt their quality of life.

Vulcan Real Estate officials insist the neighborhood is ready for growth, and they say their new proposal will create more homes, jobs and opportunities.

But one former Seattle City Councilman says the new development plan is all wrong for the area and called it a "rezone on steroids."

On Wednesday, the City Council Land Use Committee was briefed on a proposed high rise project that would allow Vulcan Real Estate eight additional stories on buildings in several blocks of South Lake Union.

"South Lake Union is poised for more growth and is ready to bring in more residences and jobs," said Vulcan's Lori Mason Curran. "And building densely in that neighborhood would help achieve those goals."

In return for the rezone, Vulcan would set aside a small site called block 59 for uses such as affordable housing, job training and other social services.

Former city councilman Peter Steinbrueck, who's also an architect and member of the Lake Union Community Coalition, isn't a fan of the high-rise project.

"I haven't even had a chance to review it, and yet they're holding a public hearing this evening on that and the rest of the legislation," he said. "And no one's seen it."

Steinbrueck and others from the Lake Union Community Coalition say they'll voice their concerns at a Wednesday meeting on the proposal.

"It's of concern to hundreds and hundreds of residents who live in this area and are here all day every day," he said.

Among other things, Steinbrueck said taller buildings are a bad idea because they cast longer shadows and would alter many views.

"We need sunlight in our city," he said. "We have 200 days of overcast skies."

Vulcan officials insist they're not planning to disrupt public views, but not everyone's convinced.

"You can actually see the water from the uplands. Why mess with that?" Steinbrueck said.