Density and Proposed Zoning Changes in Wedgwood

More than 150 people filled a meeting room in Wedgwood on June 24, 2015, to hear a presentation about how changes in zoning could help to develop more businesses and a more pedestrian-friendly walking environment along 35th Ave NE.  The meeting marked the completion of five years of advocacy by neighborhood activists to seek preservation of Wedgwood’s business district.  Due to complete lack of action by Seattle City Council, as of the year 2017 Wedgwood’s business district is being destroyed, building by building.

Wedgwoodians want their commercial district to have a variety of locally-owned shops.

Changes in zoning could help protect the business environment along 35th Ave NE in the face of oncoming developments, including replacement of any current buildings when that occurs, at the “nodes” (intersections) of NE 75th and 85th Streets along 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood.  The Neighborhood Commercial Zone which was proposed by the Future of 35th recommendations, would apply to future development in the event that any of the buildings at these corners are torn down and rebuilt.

Participants at the meeting in June 2015 looked at display boards showing the present zoning of the intersections and potential changes. The main proposed change is for more Neighborhood Commercial Zones which would be mixed-use with retail stores along the sidewalk and residential units on the upper floors.  The “retail” specification in the zoning proposal could help bring in more food and coffee venues which is the most-requested type of commercial activity among Wedgwoodians, as surveyed in the Vision Plan and the Future of 35th projects.  The “density” component would be the residential units on upper floors, bringing more people into the neighborhood who would be customers of the retail storefronts.

The meeting began with a review of the process since the time that the Vision Plan was completed in the year 2010.  The Vision Plan surveyed residents of Wedgwood to learn if they were comfortable with more development which would accommodate more retail buildings.  

A grant-funded, coordinated neighborhood design plan for what people want in future commercial developments along 35th Ave NE.

The Vision Project had been launched in part because of the building of the Jasper, the first four-story commercial building to be constructed near the “heart of Wedgwood” close to the NE 85th Street business intersection.

The Jasper at 8605 35th Ave NE has “live-work units” at the sidewalk level. These have been disappointing to Wedgwood residents as the live-work units do not all have retail outlets and the building was not constructed to allow restaurants or coffee shops.  The live-work units do not have the ceiling height needed for the mechanical systems and vent space which is required for a food service business.

With the foundation of the Vision Plan, in the year 2014 neighborhood activists expanded their work to a project called The Future of 35th Ave NE.   The project evaluated 35th Ave NE through the neighborhoods of Ravenna-Bryant, Hawthorne Hills, View Ridge and Wedgwood, with focus on the “nodes” of commercial intersections. When the Final Report was completed, the Steering Committee met with Seattle City Council members, presented the suggested streetscape designs and asked for a rezone to provide for more retail and a more pedestrian-friendly environment along 35th Ave NE.

At left is the present Seattle Audubon Society office at 8050 35th Ave NE. The building was built to be the office of Albert Balch, developer of Wedgwood. Balch’s real estate office at 8044 still has the original C-shaped sign out front, used by the present businesses.

Currently some buildings in Wedgwood, such as the Seattle Audubon Society at 8050 35th Ave NE, are restricted in what they can do because of the inadequate zoning. They would like to expand their building to improve the street-level Nature Shop and create more space for classrooms on upper floors. They will not be able to do this unless the zoning is changed, and this is an example of the kind of expansion which would be allowed in a Neighborhood Commercial Zone, as recommended by the Future of 35th Plan.

In 2015 Wedgwood’s requested zoning changes as per the Future of 35th Plan, were presented at a Land Use Committee meeting of Seattle City Council.  Since the time of that presentation of Wedgwood’s request for rezoning along the commercial district, there has been a complete lack of action on the part of City Council regarding Wedgwood’s request.  City Council started a process called HALA which was to address zoning city-wide, but nothing has come of it.  Meanwhile more buildings in Wedgwood’s commercial district are being torn down and replaced by townhouses instead of retail storefronts.   Completely-ineffective Seattle City Councilmembers may find themselves replaced at the next election, since they have not done anything to address the needs of the Wedgwood neighborhood.

Wedgwood’s commercial district is being destroyed due to lack of action by Seattle City Council.  Wedgwood asked for rezoning to prevent townhouses in the commercial district but Seattle City Council never acted upon the request.


Maid in the Northwest with adjacent new townhouses.January 19 2018

As of January 19, 2018, this business is moving away due to crowding and the City of Seattle’s threatened removal of all parking along the arterial 35th Avenue NE.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for neighborhood history in Seattle, Washington.
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2 Responses to Density and Proposed Zoning Changes in Wedgwood

  1. Karen says:

    Yes, I love Wedgwood and it could benefit from more shops and meeting places.

    I drive by that little strip mall where Van Gogh Coffee is often. That building could be modified to make a great “Town Center” like we have in Lake Forest Park, a large indoor open space with a stage, shops, play area and tables for people to play games, drink coffee, shop and meet. Sometimes politicians don’t have the vision citizens do. I wish you luck with the City Council!

  2. That shopping center at the corner of NE 85th Street is in the heart of Wedgwood’s business district. It contains a QFC grocery, the Wedgwood Broiler restaurant, a Homestreet bank and some smaller shops. The property is in the second or third generation of the same family ownership, the Williams. It is possible that they would redevelop but the problem right now is City of Seattle parking restrictions which are not conducive to businesses.

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