By Kris & Dustin Blondin
My husband and I bought our first home here in Central Tacoma in 2001. We have stayed in this neighborhood for many reasons: 1) the homes were affordable, 2) this is a thriving working-class neighborhood with a great mix of older and younger families of varied backgrounds and 3) we all love and respect our neighborhood.
In 2007, the property across the street with six rental houses were re-zoned from residential to commercial mixed-use (CCX) by the City of Tacoma and then sold to a foreign investor. With the exception of a few homes that were occupied, the rest were left to languish to the point of demolition in 2018.
For years leading up to this demolition, we had to deal with fires caused by homeless individuals, drug dealing and usage, excessive amounts of trash and feral cats we took upon ourselves to spay and neuter.
Fast forward to the second half of 2018, when the property is in the process of being sold to an out-of-town developer and is slated to host a four-story, 920-unit storage facility. What the developer didn’t realize is that the proposed site, and the surrounding neighborhood, are governed by a legally-binding, decades-old covenant that restricts the development of parcels to be residential and limited to two stories in height.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of proper notification as outlined in the Tacoma Municipal Code, the neighborhood was never offered the opportunity to appeal the proposed land use and the plans were approved by the City of Tacoma’s Planning Department. This ultimately led to the neighborhood and adjacent Gloria Dei Lutheran Church being sued by the developer, in an attempt to be released from the covenant restrictions and gain unrestricted ownership of the parcel to build their 4-story, end-to-end, storage monstrosity.
While the area in question is currently zoned (CCX) for Community Commercial Mixed-Use District, the “City of Tacoma Zoning Reference Guide” notes that, “mixed-use center districts are intended to create spaces where people can work, live, walk, shop, play, and eat all in the same area. Mixed-use center districts accommodate and support alternative transportation such as walking, transit, and bicycling to reduce reliance on the automobile.”It also specifically states, “Residential uses are encouraged in all mixed-use center districts”.
Although there are other commercial businesses nearby, nothing on the north side of South 19th Street is of this magnitude. A 4-story storage facility is a striking use of the land, positioned adjacent to residential, single family homes. With the light-rail projected to go down South 19th Street, doesn’t it make more sense in the long-term to develop the land under current zoning, with retail and residential units co-existing within a residential mixed-use center? How is the City encouraging residential use here, by rubber-stamping a storage facility without considering the impact on the neighborhood or long-term growth and urban density?
In addition to the covenant violation, there were numerous concerns about the proposed plans including overall height impact on adjacent parcels and residential structures, insufficient street width for moving trucks, lack of sufficient parking for office and retail spaces, ingress/egress facing residential properties, garbage spill-over, and potential for people living within the facility; the latter, already a well-documented issue in both King and Pierce Counties and corroborated by Code Enforcement Officers within Tacoma. These issues also did not have the opportunity to be considered, due to the lack of project notification.
It is unconscionable, that the failings of the City of Tacoma have resulted in an entire neighborhood of residents who have invested their lives and hard-earned money are being sued by a developer to impose their will. We are hoping that in bringing enough awareness to this situation, we can petition the City of Tacoma to rescind the approved land-use permit and provide residents the full appeals process we were denied.
A Go Fund Me account has been established to help with legal costs. Please consider donating today – any amount is welcome: www.gofundme.com/no-4story-storage-in-Tacoma-Neighborhood.