Community Facilities Rezone (Ended)

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The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC), the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) and Herzl-Ner Tamid (HNT) have applied for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezone that would enable a master planning and redevelopment process for their facilities.

The properties owned by the applicants currently consist of four zones, with some of the properties spanning multiple zones. While the properties can be redeveloped under the current zoning, the complexity of the requirements across the multiple zones makes it more difficult to understand what is allowed and to plan for potential impacts of redevelopment. A new zone can better address the potential impacts and provide more clarity to the community around what to expect from redevelopment. The rezoning process will also allow for more community involvement in planning for the future of SJCC/FASPS/HNT sites.

The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC), the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) and Herzl-Ner Tamid (HNT) have applied for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezone that would enable a master planning and redevelopment process for their facilities.

The properties owned by the applicants currently consist of four zones, with some of the properties spanning multiple zones. While the properties can be redeveloped under the current zoning, the complexity of the requirements across the multiple zones makes it more difficult to understand what is allowed and to plan for potential impacts of redevelopment. A new zone can better address the potential impacts and provide more clarity to the community around what to expect from redevelopment. The rezoning process will also allow for more community involvement in planning for the future of SJCC/FASPS/HNT sites.

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This project has concluded

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.


Dear Evan, Planning Commission, Council, and Jessi, please consider these my public comments for the PC's first reading of the draft development regulations for the new CFZ zone tonight. Attached for your easy review is the court reporter's transcription of the council's first reading on October 2, 2018 adopting Comprehensive Plan Amendment 8 creating the CFZ.


Unfortunately the DSG did not release these draft regulations -- that create an entirely new zone throughout the residential neighborhoods -- until last week, which I think is much too short of a lead time for citizens and PC members to read and understand the new draft regulations, which are significantly different than the draft released in January.

During the first council reading on adopting comprehensive plan amendment 8 that created the CFZ Evan promised the council the citizens would be given a minimum 30 days notice between the release of the draft development regulations and the first PC reading. In January the citizens got five days notice, and this time the citizens got five days notice. The number two citizen complaint in the 2018 survey was a lack of transparency in permitting, and I don't think five days notice to read and understand an entirely new set of development regulations is transparency, especially for the lay citizen.


1 2016 JCC Application

In 2016 the JCC met with Scott Greenberg who at the time was dir. of the DSG. The JCC submitted some rough plans for developing the parcels on both sides of E. Mercer Way, including the French American School. Even under the residential development regulations then in effect -- including Greenberg's Administrative Interpretation 14-02 that made a 5% impervious surface deviation automatic -- the JCC's proposed development did not meet the limits in the residential code for impervious surface limits (now called lot coverage) and GFAR, or total gross floor area to lot area ratio. So it was decided at that time to create a new zone, although I believe the original intent was to limit the zone to the JCC/FAS properties.

Subsequently the DSG and JCC determined that a site specific rezone of just the JCC/FAS properties would raise issues with spot zoning, and the DSG determined an Island wide CFZ in place of the conditional use permits (CUP) would allow better master planning of these conditional uses in the residential neighborhoods.

The JCC/FAS then applied to amend the comprehensive plan to create the CFZ, and to amend the land use map to designate the JCC/FAS properties a future CFZ, although no rezone application was concurrently filed.

In late 2017 the council voted to add the CFZ to the PC's 2018 docket, and the PC held many meetings struggling with the particulars of this zone. The council then held three meetings on all 14 proposed comprehensive plan amendments and adopted all 14, including amendment 8, on November 20, 2018, two weeks after the defeat of Prop. 1, along with changing the name of the DSG.

2. Concurrent Development Regulations

Currently this issue is on appeal to the GMHB. The issue is whether the implementing development regulations must be adopted "concurrently" when the comprehensive plan is amended. The Board recently diverted from a court of appeals decision and held concurrent development regulations are not always required although it is the wiser process. On June 12 the GMHB will hold a hearing on the current appeal to determine whether the CFZ needed concurrent development regulations.

The two reasons for concurrent development regulations are: 1. the citizens and council know exactly what this new zone will really look like when it comes to height, GFAR. lot coverage, traffic limits, set backs, tree retention and so on; and 2. to make sure there is consistency between the Plan and development regulations. Right now we have a new zone, and the land use map has been amended to designate the JCC/FAS a CFZ, but the applicable development regulations are still the residential code.

The lack of concurrency was evident both at the PC and council. For example whether housing would be allowed, traffic limits, height, GFAR and lot coverage and so on were unknown and fluid. This created significant anxiety among the citizens. However, Evan Maxim told the council that if the council didn't like the development regulations when they were completed the council could just scrap the entire CFZ, which is the opposite approach recommended by the GMHB considering the city has spent probably over $100,000 to date on this amendment and it has created enormous citizen concern.

3. First Draft Of CFZ Development Regulations

Community Facilities Rezone | Let's Talk Mercer Island
The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC), the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) and Herzl-Ner Tamid (HNT) have applied for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezone that would enable a master planning and redevelopment process for their facilities.. The properties owned by the applicants currently consist of four zones, with some of the properties spanning multiple zones.

The DSG released the first draft regulations for the CFZ in January. I filed lengthy comments and concerns on Let's Talk which I am sure all of you have studied closely. Those regulations were later abandoned, and a three member subcommittee composed of Dan Hubbell, Craig Reynolds and Ted Weinberg was formed. In summary the regulations divided the different potential CFZ's into three groups based on size: small, large and Master Plan. The issue with the Master Plan process -- which not surprisingly applied to the JCC/FAS properties -- is the master planning process had no objective or rigid regulatory limits, and granted the DSG significant discretion, when eliminating discretion for the DSG was a primary purpose of the rewrite of the residential development code.

4. Other Conditional Use Permitees

Due to the publicity around the CFZ other CUP's like the Beach Club and Mercerwood Shore Club became interested in the CFZ, and discovered the proposed development regulations were designed to permit the JCC/FAS proposed development, and could have negative effects on their future development. For example the Beach Club opposed restrictions on alcohol.
The fundamental problem for the DSG and PC is how to write a set of development regulations for an entirely new zone that will be relevant and applicable to every CUP despite each having unique needs and plans.


Since there were no development regulations and the citizens and PC were shooting in the dark the PC and council made some very strong promises to the citizens. The first promise was from PC chair Dan Hubbell who promised any development regulations would have strong "guardrails", and other promises that the regulations would have clearly objective limits on limits like height, GFAR, lot coverage, setbacks, traffic limits and so on, which is the entire point of a developmental code: consistency and predictability.


If there is one critical thing to remember it is every CUP is a non-conforming conditional use in the residential neighborhoods. However the difference between a CUP and the CFZ is a CUP is regulated by the same residential development code as the surrounding neighborhood except some deviations for impervious surface limits, whereas a CFZ will have its own unique set of regulatory limits. SO IF THERE IS ONE BEGINNING POINT IN THE PC'S AND COUNCIL'S CONSIDERATION OF THESE DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS IT IS HOW DO THEY DIFFER FROM OUR CURRENT RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT CODE WE JUST ADOPTED ON OCT. 31, 2017 AFTER NEARLY FOUR YEARS OF DEBATE.

The current development regulations were written in close cooperation with the architect and lawyer for the JCC, and abandon the promises by chair Hubbell, the PC and council, and have virtually no objective regulatory limits. Instead it is a pure Master Planning Process, or as the introduction states: “a range of flexible dimensional standards”, and with great discretion in the Design Commission to choose the limits, with vague and undefined "mitigation" promised for increases in the regulation limits. Here are some initial concerns I have before comparing the residential dev. code to the CFZ code.

1. The contentious issue whether a CFZ can buy adjacent single-family houses and incorporate those into the CFZ is not regulated, and whether a new CFZ can be formed when there was no pre-existing CUP. The primary land use promise in our comprehensive plan is MI shall remain principally a single-family zone, and right now 83% of the Island is zoned single family home. MI, according to the PC, has a shortage of housing, and the PC has and is planning to increase density in the residential neighborhoods to create affordable housing, while the CFZ allows that housing to be destroyed. Furthermore, the houses when incorporated into a CFZ becomes tax exempt, switching the levy cost to the rest of the taxpayers.

2. Under the CFZ, the Design Commission has broad discretion when reviewing actual permits for a CFZ development. The DC's permit decisions will have to be appealed to the Seattle Hearing Examiner, and the PC and council will have no control over the permitting. Since the proposed CFZ is so vague and has so much discretion an appeal before the SHE will be almost impossible. This is going to require extreme citizen trust in the DSG and design commission, and right now I don't see that trust (hence the name change on Nov. 20, 2018).

3. Traffic and parking are specifically addressed and limited under the CUP. In the first draft of the CFZ regulations traffic limits were eliminated by a sleight of hand in the definitions (which is where all sleights of hand occur) because the streets and intersections near the JCC/FAS are very congested, and the JCC/'FAS's development proposals dramatically increase off Island traffic, and both are already over the limits under their CUP's.

In the new development regulations traffic and parking are to be addressed by a traffic engineer selected and paid for by the applicant.

If we have learned anything over the last five years is it is you can hire a traffic engineer to say anything, and DSG practice is to presume any study submitted by an applicant as valid and accurate. The citizens and neighbors won't have the time or resources to obtain their own traffic and parking study, and so effectively the DSG has eliminated any traffic or parking limits from the CFZ regulations. At the very least the DSG should select the traffic engineer.


The new residential development code has very specific limits on regulatory limits like height and GFAR, and eliminated DSG discretion and deviations that had been abused in the past. However the CFZ code provides a wide range of possible regulatory limits, that should be followed, although in the current appeals before the GMHB the city attorney has argued the word "should" in WAC 365-196-805 is never binding on the city and can mean never.

Height 19.04.040(B)
Residential Development Code 30' + 5' for appurtenances.
CFZ 20' – 53' + 10 foot allowance for appurtenances without a provision for measuring lower façade from the lower of finished or existing grade.

Lot Coverage 19.04.040(C)
Residential development code 40%
25%-70% + 9% hard scape

GFAR MICC 19.04.040(D)
Residential development code 40% without deviation
CFZ 10% - 65% with no restriction if 50 – 100 feet from a residential property line

Setbacks 19.04.040(A) The setbacks are unusual in that the setback is not measured from the property line of the CFZ but from the nearest adjacent residential or nonresidential property.
Residential Development Code 25 feet, 20 feet, 15 feet
(Daylight planing)

CFZ Small Site 5 feet – 15 feet – 25 feet – 35 feet (reduced from 50 feet on request from JCC)

CFZ Large site 5 feet – 30 feet – 45 feet – 100 feet

Maximum Fence Height

Maximum fence height is 72 inches and may be contiguous around the entire property. Tall contiguous fences on very large lots was a significant issue during the rewrite of the residential development code because the large lot eliminates the side yards that ordinarily exist between houses and avoid the feeling of a compound.


Land use is politics. The Growth Management Act gives the council broad discretion in land use. However, history has proved that changes in residential development carry very serious risks. Personally, I agree with the 2018 surveyor that past out-of-scale residential development turned off a critical demographic the city needed to pass Proposition 1, in part because the new development code hadn’t yet kicked in, which is a very steep price for greater GFAR in my opinion.

I think it is very unlikely a future M&O levy will be proposed by the council let alone passed by the citizens. Over the next 4 to 5 years I imagine there will be 8 potential levies placed on the ballot: 3 school levies (including the general education levy up to $2,500/student); 3 King County levies including KCLS, parks and art; a possible city capital levy including water and sewer line replacement; and the most imminent a renewal of the parks levy that expires in 2023 and contributes $1 million/year to the general fund that right now I do not think will pass.

I have always said drafting development regulations for the CFZ presented the Planning Commission with an impossible puzzle considering each of the CUP’s on the island have distinct issues and requirements. Since there was a lack of concurrent development regulations, the PC and council made very specific promises to the citizens that there would be regulatory “guardrails” and specific objective regulatory limits on the development in a CFC since it is a conditional use in the residential neighborhoods and will now have its own development regulations.

Personally I worry the risk of the CFZ is greater than the benefit. It may take years to find out whether the new zone and regulations and process work, depending in large part on the loyalty of the DSG and design commission about seriously protecting the adjacent neighborhoods, although I believe the fallout from the CFZ with the citizens will be immediate.

I believe the council’s fundamental duty right now is to return the city to high levels of service, which in my opinion is the entire point of MI, which is providing needed services to those who cannot afford them, from school counselors to lifeguards to our social fabric like summer celebration. When I first met with Julie Underwood shortly after she was hired I told her all of the decisions she would be making over the next several years had to be viewed through the prism of the need for increased tax revenue, and that a high service city cannot exist on a 1% annual increase in the levy.

If there is one thing I have repeated too often it is land use is a political choice: what is the benefit versus the gain. I think everyone now understands that my 5-year process to stop out-of-scale GFAR in the residential neighborhoods and allowing the significant trees during development to be removed was all risk with no benefit.

The issue with the CFZ is risk versus the benefit. A CUP (which admittedly needs tweaking) versus the CFZ, remembering that the risk is to the most vulnerable citizens including school counselors, geriatric specialists, and critical systems including the marine patrol and two firs stations and so on, in exchange for a new zone and development regulations.

I will respect the Planning Commission and Council’s decision if they acknowledge they understand the choice you are making, the fact this code abandons the promises during the adoption of comprehensive plan amendment 8 for guardrails and objective code criteria, and exactly who will be harmed if the CFZ makes it even more difficult to pass any kind of future levy.

Daniel Thompson about 5 years ago

The process taken to this point has been one that diminishes the trust of MI Residents in their government. Instead of thoughtfully considering the feedback from citizens, they press on, tone deaf and belligerent. The same attitude that drove Prop 1 into the ground.

I am concerned that the impacts of this change have not been examined / communicated to a broader swath of the community. Islanders are busy people and it can be hard to catch a moment to truly grok what is happening - especially when it seems transparency is not on the city's agenda.

This is an ill-considered change. I don't care that it is more complex for these facilities to deal with the zoning requirements to develop their properties, the code exists for a reason. I can't just do what I want to my property, why can special interests get away with such things? Amending the code to accommodate these interests will not end here.

Also, I would love to understand how this change increases community involvement in planning - that sounds like complete claptrap. Community involvement needs to start before this passed through / issued, not after the fact when the change is already on the books.

Jon Hanlon about 5 years ago

These are my comments from the January 30, 2019 Planning Commission meeting on the Community Facilities Code Amendment. Comments are limited by the City to three minutes, so Islanders are forced to be brief and leave out details, but you can get the general idea across. I will probably be more detailed at a later date:

"I oppose the Community Facilities Code Amendment, which is the greatest zoning threat to the single-family character of Mercer Island in my nearly 22 years of intense, local political involvement. It’s also one of the best arguments for reducing the City budget, since it’s a huge waste of taxpayer funds in staff time that development fees don’t even come close to covering.

The way this type of amendment comes about is that the Applicants approach the City requesting to greatly increase the density of activity on their property. City staff regrets that current zoning won’t allow the desired density increase. So, what can be done? The City suggests a code amendment.

Then City staff and the Applicants work together in the background to create zoning to the Applicants’ specifications, all the while claiming that the zoning amendment is needed to PROTECT THE PUBLIC. The proposed Master Planning is no protection to the public at all because the same people, the Planning Commission and City Council, who ignored Islanders in passing the Community Facilities Comprehensive Plan Amendment, are ignoring Islanders in passing the Community Facilities Code Amendment, and will ignore Islanders in approving the Community Facilities Master Plan.

Most Islanders who’ve even heard about this process are completely unaware that this new, anti-single family, intense zoning is as applicable to their own neighborhoods as it is to the JCC property.

If staff is challenged for supporting this type of anti-single family zoning, they respond as City Manager Julie Underwood has responded with the completely false claim that the City is obligated by law to do what it’s doing. City staff has written the Community Facilities Code Amendment, which they have absolutely NO OBLIGATION to do. If the applicants wrote an amendment on their own, without intense City staff help, it would be laughed out of City Hall.

The 2018 citizen survey and the 2018 failure of the levy lid lift show that Islanders don’t trust the fiscal responsibility of the City, and with reason. I’ve done public records requests and the City doesn’t keep track of their most expensive resource, staff time, because they don’t want Islanders to know how much money is wasted. We need to greatly reduce the development services budget and the budget for this commission, so we don’t end up wasting taxpayer funds damaging the community we love. "


Ira B. Appelman over 5 years ago

Draft Regulations For Community Facilities Zone

Dan Thompson
Tue 1/29/2019 3:28 PM
To: Planning Commission
Cc: Evan Maxim;;;

Dear Planning Commission, please consider these my public comments for the January 30, 2019 PC meeting on the draft regulations for the community facilities zone (CFZ). I have been a resident of MI since 1970. I believe the three options at this time are:

1. Abandon this Island wide zone altogether as suggested as an option by Evan Maxim at the January 24 meeting;

2. Throw out the draft development regulations and start over;

3. Require the regulatory limits that apply to the surrounding residential properties in the new residential development code to be the same or less in the new CFZ, including height, lot coverage, and GFAR, plus limits on intensity of use that currently apply.


The council sent the proposed comp. plan amendments for this new zone to the PC for review in Nov. 2017. The PC and DSG held numerous meetings on the new zone throughout 2018. The PC recommended the adoption of amendments 1 and 8 creating the new zone and rezoning the JCC/FAS property, and the council formally adopted these amendments on November 20, 2018. (These amendments are currently on appeal to the GMHB).

During 2018 many citizens including me raised the issue of concurrency between the proposed comprehensive plan amendments and the implementing development regulations. Council member Benson Wong had several communications with the JCC lawyer Richard Hill over concurrency. This issue is on appeal before the GMHB. There is no debate concurrent development regulations are the better practice ( or a little more transparency).

Despite this the first draft of the proposed development regulations were first revealed on January 24, 2019, which gave the citizens and PC three business days to review, analyze and comment on an entirely new set of raw and unorthodox development regulations creating an entirely new zone in the residential neighborhood. This is just unconscionable.

The PC repeatedly promised the citizens the ultimate development regulations would assuage their concerns about adopting the comp. plans without concurrent development regulations. This timing and process alone prove that promise has not been kept.


The draft regulations are incredibly raw and unorthodox, which surprises me considering the DSG has had over one year to draft something. Basically they apply the TC code for four story buildings to the residential neighborhoods with the only real regulatory tool being setbacks, which are fungible depending on whether the zone is a small site, large site or master planned, and the surrounding zones and property and street edge, which can change over time. In virtually in every regulatory tool the limits in the new CFZ are more generous than under the new residential development code.

I don't think these regulations overall are good regulations or meet the promise the PC made when it adopted the comp. plan amendments without concurrent development regulations. I was very surprised that Evan Maxim repeatedly stated the PC and council could legitimately decide -- after seeing the draft development regulations -- to abandon the new zone altogether, and I think that is the better approach at this time, unless a totally new paradigm for development regulations is pursued.

That being said I will address my concerns with the draft regulations.


The definition of a CFZ has always been an issue. At first the zone was called a private community facility zone, but since the PC could not define "community" the name was changed to community facilities zone, which seems odd to me. In land use, "community" means surrounding property and neighbors and consistency, because all a development code is really about is equal and consistent use of the property in the zone, at the time of purchase.

The draft regulations have one good aspect and one terrible and dishonest aspect.

The good aspect is the new zone will only apply to existing CUP's, at least according to Evan's comments at the Jan. 24 meeting. This would preclude someone from purchasing a bunch of residential houses, tearing them down, and creating a new CFZ. This needs to be made much clearer in the regs because many citizens were confused by the draft language.

The terrible and dishonest aspect of the regulations is the attempt to redefine "noncommercial recreational area" in order to remove any limits on intensity of use. If you turn to page 26, third paragraph, you will see the DSG is proposing to redefine "noncommercial recreational area" (which is what the JCC is now) to include "facility", and to eliminate any existing limits in the current code on the number of members (which has always been a requirement in past JCC CUP's, if ignored by the JCC and FAS) or limits on the residences of the members.

The number one concern among the neighbors and citizens at the Jan. 24 meeting was intensity of use. According to the neighbors, traffic at the JCC runs from 5 am to 11 pm, when the cleaning crews arrive, and it is like living next to the north end QFC but in a residential neighborhood. When asked by a neighbor Evan stated the DSG cannot regulate intensity of use, which is not true. What he meant is the DSG had amended restrictions on intensity of use out of the new zone.

The JCC and FAS are proposing huge increases in traffic and use, including expanding the FAS, moving the Jewish Day School from Bellevue to the site, and up to 1000 new family members for the JCC.

The PC must reject this proposed amendment to the terms and definition of the CFZ if it is to keep its promise to the citizens and neighbors, and reject this sleight of hand. Intensity of use, and traffic, must be regulatory tools for this new gift of a zone.


The draft regulations allow the new zone to purchase, destroy and rezone existing single family homes. The PC needs to reject this.

Our comp. plan clearly states the primary purpose and use of our residential neighborhoods is for single family homes. The PC has continuously preached that it must upzone our TC and residential neighborhoods in order to meet the city's populations goals under the GMA. It would be disingenuous for the PC to now allow these non-conforming uses to destroy our existing housing stock without limit. These houses would then become tax exempt, and allow a CFZ to grow without limit.

It makes no sense to limit the creation of new CFZ properties, but then not limit the size of existing CUP's when converting to a CFZ.


The new regulations split the regulatory tools into three parts or zones: 1. Small site (less than 4 acres); 2. Large site (more than 4 acres); and master planning (5 acres or more, or "mixed uses" whatever that means) which requires review by the design commission.

The wolf is most of the regulatory tools for large and small sites may be waived or lowered by the code official or design commission during master planning. Remember, these are the same folks who permitted The Hadley. During my questioning Evan stated the "code official" would have no discretion during the master planning process, and the language in the draft regulations giving the code official discretion to waive or exempt regulatory tools was a "typo". But it is equally important that the design commission have no discretion to waive any of the regulatory limits during "master planning" either, or the new regulations are a false promise. A larger CFZ property should not have lower regulatory limits.

Some of the tricks in the master planning process are:

1 Allowing all sites including recently purchased single family homes or separately owned parcels to be considered in the planning.

2 Set back reductions of 50' or 20%, whichever is greater (p. 13, para. 3(b)--this must be a typo).

3. Lot coverages of 80% -- are you frickin kidding me?

4 Reductions in parking requirements which as noted on page 1 is within the code official's discretion anyway.

5. "The code official has the option of adopting supplemental design standards" without formal adoption. page 1, para A(5).

These kinds of exemptions and discretion are everything the citizens fought to exclude from the new residential code. The master planning process is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The PC must require that any regulatory limit in the small and large site regulations be the same or more under master planning. Remember, these uses and community facilities zones are non-conforming uses in the residential neighborhoods, operating under CUP's.


GFAR is a ratio between the total gross floor area of the structures to the area of the property. It is the most significant regulatory tool in our residential code, and the recent rewrite reduced that ratio from 45% to 40% and eliminated many of the abusive exemptions that had been "interpreted" into the code by the DSG and resulted in much larger houses. The TC code on the other hand does not use GFAR as a regulatory tool (although I think it should).

The draft regulations for the new CFZ do not use or require GFAR. Considering one of the main suspicions among the citizens -- as documented in the internal emails between the JCC's architect and the DSG in 2016 -- was that this new zone was created to circumvent GFAR limits in the residential zones (under the old code in 2016). GFAR calculations and limits must be a requirement in these draft regulations, and limited to 40% like every other residential property so the citizens can be assured these regulations and new zone are not just a give away or ruse to avoid regulatory limits in the residential code.

If I remember correctly I remember Evan and the PC telling the citizens that it was likely the regulatory limits in the new CFZ would be greater than those in the residential development code, which I never believed for a second. But you did promise the citizens that. GFAR for the entire properties is a very good litmus test of the honesty of this new code and zone.


Height is limited in the residential code to 30' with an additional 5' for appurtenances like solar panels, although rarely are they 5' in height and the roofs often sloped. Height is often the number one factor in massing.

The CFZ regulations allow a 30' height limit measured from the average building elevation within 150' of a property line adjacent to a residential right of way (even though the lot coverage limits may preclude this) and 43' for properties not "adjacent" to residential properties or more than 150' from a residential right of way", and an additional height of 5-10' for appurtenances depending on whether the building is within 150' from a residential right of way (and as we speak the PC is considering increasing residential building height 5' for roof top railings for roof decks although that was specifically discussed and rejected during the rewrite of the residential code).

Personally I don't understand the increase in height allowance. For surrounding houses 43' tall buildings will look like a castle, especially with 5' -- 10' of appurtenances (what appurtenance is 10' tall?). Second most schools are one story due to earthquake requirements, which is why school zoning usually has low height limits and high lot coverage or impervious surface limits.

I believe the height limits should be 30' throughout the zone, and the restriction on measuring the lower façade from the lower of finished or existing grade should apply. Why should a CFZ get an additional 13' of height?


The required setbacks are pretty much the only regulatory tool that may be greater than in the residential code. But they are so confusing and amorphous they are hard to understand or predict, especially if they can be reduced through master planning.

Although the code language is confusing, presumably from Evan's comments at the meeting the setbacks run from the JCC/FAS property line inwards, but are triggered by the proximity of the neighboring property, and whether the property is a small site or a large site. Thus there is no certainty on the setbacks, or the changes to the surrounding properties that trigger the setbacks. There is also no specific ratio of setback to property line length, like we used for lot lines above 90' in the residential development code.

The set backs for a small site are not that great, and are measured from the edge of the street and not the property line. The set back is 15' from "the existing edge of a street right-of-way" whatever that means, and 50' from non-arterial streets. In many cases this is less than the allowed setbacks for an ordinary residential house, depending on the width of public property from the street edge to the edge of the JCC property. The set back is 50' from the property line of an adjacent residential property, even if it is across the street.

For a large site the setbacks increase to 30' and 100' from the edge of a street, 100' from a residential property, but 5' from a non-residential property.

The only situation I am aware of in which a setback depends on the zoning or use of the surrounding property is under the criminal code relating to the distance drug dealers and pedophiles must stay away from schools. Set backs need to be certain, despite future changes to surrounding property. They must run from the edge of the CFZ property, not some adjacent property that may be across the street or a street edge.

Personally I think using setbacks as the fundamental regulatory tool is IMO unwise. GFAR, height and lot coverage all must regulate the development, with setbacks being one tool. The setbacks in the draft regulations could be fine if they run from the CFZ property, are fixed despite the zoning of surrounding property (if a CFZ is in or near a commercially zoned area then rezone to commercial), and GFAR, lot coverage limits, and height are more consistent with the limits in the residential code.


According to page 4 of the draft regs lot coverage is also dependent on proximity to adjacent zoning, which of course can change. (This also encourages the purchase and destruction of existing single family homes as the FAS has done to allow the new zone designation: without those houses having been purchased by the FAS the JCC's proposed development would not be possible under even these draft regulations).

Not surprisingly the internal emails between the JCC and DSG during 2016 note that avoiding lot coverage limits (or impervious surface limits at that time) was the most significant motivation for this new zone, even under our old residential code and/or the JCC's existing CUP.

This is not surprising since schools which are usually single story and have huge amounts of surface parking create significant lot coverage, which is why usually the overall lot sizes are so huge.

Under the new residential dev. code lot coverage is limited to 40%. In the new CFZ lot coverage is limited to 40% within 60' of a residential property line, 50% 61'-150' from a residential property line, and 60% 150' or more from a residential property line, plus an additional 9% hardscape with up to 80% lot coverage under master planning. How is this consistent with the limits for the surrounding houses that are limited to 40% period?

Either the PC must limit lot coverage to 40% throughout the zone, or use a sliding scale that starts below the 40% minimum for areas closer to residential properties. For example 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% etc., with no additional 9% for hardscape. In any case total lot coverage should not exceed 40%.

Otherwise this new zone is exactly what the DSG and JCC tried to cook up in 2016: an exemption from lot coverage limits in the residential neighborhoods.


Housing was a significant citizen concern and vigorously debated at the council level, mostly over the relationship of the housing to the CFZ use. However the new draft regulations double the amount of housing units, from 1 to 2, the council settled on, and allows structures up to 1500 sf., which is much larger than a visiting lecturer or caretaker probably needs.

If 1500 sf is truly needed then the PC should reduce the number of allowed units to 1, or allow a total GFA for 2 units of 2000 sf.


The draft regulations allow a 6' high solid fence to ring the property. This is an issue we specifically addressed for mega properties in the new residential code. Since these mega properties combine many lots there are no side yards, and a solid, contiguous fence creates an enormous feeling of massing, and basically creates a compound feeling. If the issue is security the fence does not need to be solid, and we do not allow 6' high fences on all four sides of a lot in our residential code and should not in the CFZ. Three sides of the property fence should be limited to 48" and the entire fence should not be solid.


Although the current council and PC believe they can end global warming through parking restrictions that is a very foolish way to approach land use. The draft regulations allow up to 50% of the underground parking to be "compact" in size. As someone who for many years took my two kids to the JCC preschool, I can assure you mothers and families with kids don't drive compact cars. They drive SUV's.

Didn't we make this same mistake with The Aviara where most of the stalls are worthless because the developer wanted smaller stalls to save money but meet the parking requirements?

The JCC/FAS proposal hopes to avoid lot coverage limits through underground parking, for over 1000 students and children. For 6 years I spent half my life trying to find a parking spot in the JCC's outdoor lots. Parents don't simply drop off kids at the curb, especially small children.

Although I don't see any way for underground parking to work in a school setting (imagine Island Park with underground parking) at least be realistic on the cars the parents and patrons will be driving. My guess is less than 10% will be compact. Parking requirements are more about the surrounding properties than the JCC/FAS, or global warming. Be realistic.


In a past CUP application the FAS commissioned a traffic study. As this PC knows from the light rail litigation and the TCO, you can pretty much hire a traffic engineer to say anything you want. Still, the FAS' traffic study precluded their proposed increases in students (which they did anyway). One of the interesting things about CUP applications: they are never denied. The applicant simply withdraws them, and the DSG loses them.

During the focus meetings for the ADMP the bicycle groups said this part of EMW is the most dangerous section of road on the Island (they want a path through city hall). Ironically the draft regulations promote bicycling to and from the JCC (with small children apparently).

It is pretty disingenuous to suggest the JCC/FAS development will meet our levels of surface, and won't require a separate traffic light at the intersection considering there will be over 600 students on each side of EMW. I don't know what there is to say on this. I guess just watch Island Park when school gets out. But you know and I know the proposed development cannot meet the traffic capacity for this site.


I don't think these draft regulations are remotely honest or consistent with the numerous promises by the PC that the development regulations -- that were intentionally adopted after the comp. plan amendments -- would be a good faith effort to truly protect the concerns the citizens and neighbors raised. Otherwise they would not be so much more generous than the limits in the residential development code.

I am not sure the DSG or PC understand how sensitive the citizens are to creating an entirely new zone in the residential neighborhoods that by definition is not consistent with surrounding uses and can apply to any neighborhood. I think this whole process has badly damaged the credibility of the PC and council.

I don't think the PC is experienced or knowledgeable enough to be creating a new zone in the residential neighborhoods, and the applicant and DSG are relying on this, as suggested in the 2016 emails.

I think the PC needs to be very, very careful what it does now. I think there are three choices:

1. Either the PC has to throw these draft regulations with the disingenuous "master planning" out and start over;

2. Or as Evan suggested many times abandon this whole zone idea (which of course would be much easier if we were adopting the amendments concurrently with the development regulations).

3. Or at least require that the regualatory limits that apply to every other residential property will be the same or less for the CFZ, including height, GFAR, lot coverage, intensity of use, etc.. That is what consistency and community mean.

There is no reason I can think of for a non-conforming use in a residential neighborhood to receive greater limits on its development than the surrounding residential properties, and I think that was the fundamental promise the PC made to the citizens when it adopted the comprehensive plan amendments creating this new Island wide zone without concurrent development regulations.

Daniel Thompson

Daniel Thompson over 5 years ago

Dear Mercer Island City Council,
My name is Winky and I am a member of the SJCC and my child participate in a lot of after school activities and camps at the J. I am writing in STRONG Opposition to the new zoning that involve a significant increase in the footprint of these private organizations and the proposed change WILL completely change the dynamic of this residential neighborhood into a commercial neighborhood that we did NOT SIGN UP FOR!!!! I would ask you to please put yourself in our shoes and imagine one day the people who you voted for and paid taxes for their salary decides that now it's a good time to change your little sanctuary from the city, your home into a high occupancy buzzling town center for the off island community of schools, sports fields and other activities. If this could happen in my corner of the Island, it sure can happen to anyone living close to a private entity on the island as long as the entities acquire enough properties around them and petition for a rezoning with the city.
I understand this IS going to go forward regardless of the strong opposition from the adjacent neighborhoods, this is unfortunate but I would ask the city council to consider the following items during the new zone development process so that the IMPACT to Mercer Island as a whole would be minimized and Mercer Island will maintain it's charm and differentiate itself from other overdeveloped neighborhood in the the Greater Seattle area and maintain property value for the Mercer Island home owners.
1. Clear and strictly enforceable rules for maintaining neighborhood integrity during construction phases, including control of noise, dust, lighting, traffic, security, operating hours of construction site. This is likely going to be a long term project that will span many administrations of Mercer Island city council / SJCC/FASPS/HNT - as neighbors, we will have to live through all this and still be here. We demand that there are clear and documented guidelines for these rules that are enforceable!
2. Traffic, engineering, security consultations should be redundant. One study is not enough considering the sensitivity of this area.
3. Building setbacks on E Mercer way (private road section) where my house and 8 other houses ( 3712-3728, 3734-3738 and 3804) should be set and MUST be agreed by said neighboring property owners to minimize intrusion to their privacy with new proposed multilevel school building with underground parking
4. Any buildings along 40th must be low use administrative buildings.
5. Ground floor area at or below that of residential homes.
6. No security fencing. If the applicants want secure sites, heavily setback properties with dense vegetation should provide it.
7. No housing. If the property is so big that the applicants need a live-in groundskeeper or a live-in security guard or a live-in headmaster, then the properties are too big for Mercer Island.
8. No alcohol sales. The properties should not be holding festivals, concerts, galas, or large parties. We understand that the spaces will be rented out and used for their own internal celebrations and fundraising. Mercer Island already has a community center that is beautiful and underused. We don’t need another activity hub for the greater Puget Sound community.
9. No hosting sports tournaments. The applicants will likely have their own internal sports leagues or host some home games. There’s not enough capacity to host a tournament for a third-party organization.
10. Screening trees must be maintained at the applicant’s expense and there must be strong regulatory tools in place to require applicants to keep and well-maintain screening. (This has been a big eye sore for us, the HNT has never maintained the screening shrubberies in the years we've lived in our house - I wish I can attach a picture here to show you what I get to look at every day!)

Thank you for your time, all we're trying to do is to look out for our existing Mercer Island neighbors and hopefully neighbors to be for years to come by protecting this little gem from becoming another overdeveloped town center.


Winky over 5 years ago

Dear Mercer Island city council
My name is Delphine. I attend many events organized by the SJCC on Mercer Island. I am writing to request your support of Comprehensive Plan Amendment 8. I believe this Amendment will allow for wiser, more comprehensive design and development, helping the Stroum Jewish Community Center engage the community in its redesign and prioritize concerns related to traffic management, lighting, and landscape design to enhance the neighborhood. The SJCC is a long-standing community asset on Mercer Island and always works to serve the community’s best interest.
Thank you for your consideration.

Delphine LEMARCHAND over 5 years ago

I live along EMW. I am very concerned that this proposed upzone will worsen Traffic and Safety problems. Vague language recognizing this is not sufficient. We need specific infrastructure improvements designed, approved, AND FUNDED before any increase in density of these facilities moves forward. In my view, the following problems must be addressed:
1. I-90 ramp traffic backing up onto EMW and S 36th. This already happens on occasion and will be exacerbated by this plan. How we will increase capacity of the ramp?
2. Bike and pedestrians use EMW. JCC and FASPS use EMW as overflow parking, forcing regular local users into oncoming traffic. This is a major safety issue. Any upzone should require that these facilities build sufficient parking for their density, as well as providing dedicated bike and pedestrian paths in front of the JCC/FASPS ramps.
3. JCC/FASPS users seem to feel that they have right-of-way over EMW. Cars pulling out of there often cut-off oncoming traffic: both other cars and bikes. They see the zebra-striped cross-walks across EMW (there is not one on entrance to JCC) and apparently conclude that EMW traffic has to stop for them. This creates dangerous situations.
4. Lack of public transit. These facilities are being built nearly 1 mile from the light rail stop, P&R, and more than a half-mile from the nearest bus stop (which has limited service). Off-island users of these facilities will have no choice but to drive. We need to provide transportation alternatives both to Town Center and Bellevue from these facilities to mitigate traffic impacts.

Who will pay for all this infrastructure and these services? These facilities pay no taxes. At present, 80-85% of their memberships are non-residents. It's unfair to have the entirety of the costs borne by our city alone. Given the location of these facilities near I-90 ramp, it's a pipe-dream that they'll somehow patronize other island services at a level that offsets their impact. In fact, these facilities crowd out local businesses (and homes) which would otherwise contribute to our tax-base.

Erik over 5 years ago

Here is some feedback on some of the rules that should/could govern this new zone:

 No access off 40th for construction or future use.
 Traffic, engineering, security consultations should be redundant. One study is not enough considering the sensitivity of this area.
 Current building setbacks from 40th are barely sufficient and should be maintained.
 Any buildings along 40th must be low use administrative buildings.
 Ground floor area at or below that of residential homes.
 No security fencing. If the applicants want secure sites, heavily setback properties with dense vegetation should provide it.
 No housing. If the property is so big that the applicants need a live-in groundskeeper or a live-in security guard or a live-in headmaster, then the properties are too big for Mercer Island.
 No alcohol sales. The properties should not be holding festivals, concerts, galas, or large parties. We understand that the spaces will be rented out and used for their own internal celebrations and fundraising. Mercer Island already has a community center that is beautiful and underused. We don’t need another activity hub for the greater Puget Sound community.
 No hosting sports tournaments. The applicants will likely have their own internal sports leagues or host some home games. There’s not enough capacity to host a tournament for a third-party organization.
 Screening trees must be maintained at the applicant’s expense and there must be strong regulatory tools in place to require applicants to keep and well-maintain screening.
 Lighting should be kept at a distance from homes. How can a family raise a child if large lights are constantly streaming through their bedroom window?

Thank you for this consideration.

Ryan over 5 years ago

I presented two diagrams regarding a few of the safety issues that exist on East Mercer Way.

One diagram pertains to pedestrians walking from the Synagogue to the JCC or French American School using a dirt path - and the "near hit" scenario because drivers cannot see pedestrians emerging from behind the border trees. There are sidewalks and obvious places for pedestrians but most use the informal dirt path. I do not know who owns the land there but previously even cars crossed on this path, but now that large rocks were placed there, it's just used by pedestrians. Even so, I fear that there will be something terrible happen to an unsuspecting pedestrian by an unsuspecting driver. This is a very dangerous situation, even in non peak hours.

The other diagram pertains to the four-way traffic scenario going both ways on E. Mercer Way, the JCC parking lot entrance, and the side street in front of it. An ambiguous place for all drivers. There is no clear right of way for any vehicle and a "near hit" for all cars, even in non peak hours.

I would like to see these diagrams posted for others to view and offer comments and ideas.

I would also like to see how these issues can be addressed in the "current state." This has been a problem for 40 years and has never been addressed.

Finally, I would like to understand how they would be addressed with increased traffic (vehicles), increased activities (more peak hours), and increased facilities that house more people (pedestrians).

I feel strongly that until the current safety issues are addressed and resolved, that the entire rezoning idea needs to be put on hold. I realize this is an impact to your plan, but there must be serious recognition that these safety issues involve serious problems with pedestrians (kids, adults, bikers, dogs) and cars. Once they are resolved, a "Go No-Go" vote should be given to the community to decide if this area can even sustain it's current state of activities, students, worshippers, let alone try to grow.

Please update your plans with appropriate milestones.

Let's do this as both a safety and reality check before we dream for bigger and better, ok? One fatality is too many.

Cheryl D'Ambrosio

LetsTalk over 5 years ago

!. The bottom line - I have lived here for over 20 years. I have always thought of the JCC and Herzl Ner Tamid as good neighbors. All of the traffic problems that I have complained about started after the French American School was started. I am wondering what percentage of the students are from the island. Is this an example of a facility that primarily provides a service to off island residents. That was one of the complaints or items addressed at the community meeting last night (Thursday, October 11).

2. A lot was said about trust last night. I think part of that was the presentation. The meeting was introduced as a time to get input from the residents where the City was there to LISTEN. Then there was nearly an hour of the city presenting their time line and their plan with city responses to the few questions that were being raised. I think if you had listened first, then formulated a response later, and pretty much skipped all your plans people would have felt like they were being heard first.

3. My real traffic concerns are all centered around the French American School. I have come home across I-90 in both the morning and the afternoon to find traffic backed all the way on to the I-90 bridge because of the line of cars trying to drop off or pick up children at the school. And the exit from the JCC/school is a very difficult corner to see around. Plus there have been many instances where the school faculty has parked up and down East Mercer Way creating a hazard for pedestrians - especially kids, moms with strollers, or people walking dogs. I am an old guy, I can dodge traffic, but I think the cars parked on both shoulders of East Mercer Way can be a hazard. There are times when the cars aren't even all the way off the road making it a problem even for cars passing each other in opposite directions. If you actually got out and drove at those times or stood as an observer at the JCC/school entrance , you would have a greater appreciation for the problem.

4. Like many others at the meeting I am wondering who this expansion is meant to serve. Is it for residents or to promote more off island participation? Parking is already inadequate.

5. Before we even have a discussion about re-zoning, we ought to see a proposal of what the property owners want to do. It seems like we have the cart before the horse. We will re-zone, then find out what the plan is.

6. I really appreciated the comment from the gentleman who suggested that the cost of any traffic revisions and traffic management should be paid for by the applicants for these changes.

7. And finally back to trust. The sad truth is that this affects a very small number of residents. The comment was made that if we disagreed strongly with policy, we should express it at the polls. The truth is that very few people on the west side of the island or down in the Lakes on the south end will be affected by this. Perhaps the morning and afternoon users of East Mercer Way on the east side will be affected, but the majority of the island will not notice any real change to their property values or their traffic flow. How can we feel that the City really is concerned about these changes?

Thanks for listening

Mike Post

mikepost almost 6 years ago