Note: Some people didn't read past the first paragraph to notice that the Walmart story is a made up (but not unrealistic) example of the need for neighborhood involvement in commercial rezoning.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. plans to announce a 52,000 square foot store in Seattle's Green Lake neighborhood. "We finally found 20 acres the city council would let us build on," said an unnamed Wal-Mart official. This is the third store planned for the broader metro area; a 74,000 square foot Factoria location and 64,000 square foot Kelsey Creek location are on the Eastside. The city has also agreed to include $3 million in taxpayer subsidies and sales tax rebates to encourage development, density and jobs near the coming Roosevelt light rail station. Said Wal-Mart, "We just asked for what the Sonics got."
Actually, we're kidding (a bit) ... while there are two Walmarts coming to the Eastside, there are no known plans for one in Green Lake. But recently, The Seattle Times highlighted the company's growing interest in the Seattle area: "I'd be very surprised if they didn't have plans to come to Seattle," said UFCW's Tom Geiger.
This is exactly the kind of controversial commercial zoning changes that Initiative 103's Community Bill of Rights is designed to put brakes on, requiring majority approval by neighborhood residents:
"Section 4. g) Rights for Neighborhoods. Neighborhood majorities shall have the right to approve all zoning changes proposed for their neighborhood involving significant non-governmental commercial, industrial, or residential development. It shall be the responsibility of the proposer of the zoning change to acquire the approval of the neighborhood majority, and the zoning change shall not be effective without it."
Says The Times: "The most common complaints are that Walmart drives mom-and-pop stores out of business with its rock-bottom prices and that it depresses wage and benefits standards by creating only nonunion jobs." But, it's not just giant box stores, there have been a number of neighborhood controversies over commercial rezoning in recent years:
- Sweeping changes to the Yesler Terrace community expected to increase gentrification
- Controversial new "green" tower in Fremont which will go ahead
- Mayor McGinn's planned commercial zoning changes to Capitol Hill residential areas
- SODO businesses concerns about increased traffic from the Sonics arena
- Controversial Fred Meyer redevelopment in Greenwood
- Defeated proposal for massive parking garage at Woodland Park Zoo
Initiative 103 just wants neighbors to have a say - rather than be overridden by corporate lobbying and influence. If you don't have a 50 percent majority behind changes to commercial zoning, then you're ramming it down people's throats. Note: I103 does not affect governmental projects related to public health, safety and transit e.g. homeless shelters, halfway houses or rail stations.
Print and Sign i103 Right Now: Help Initiative 103 qualify for the ballot. Print and sign the petition form and mail it in. If you just want to sign it yourself and have a few friends sign it, use the five signature form. Or, if you want to gather a lot of signatures, use the fifteen signature form. Forms must be printed double-sided or stapled. Learn more about signature gathering and drop off points.
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