The board will move forward with recommendations to commit to some of the city's conditions, such as constructing a total of 450 additional housing units for faculty and staff earning less than the area's median income.
The University of Washington’s Board of Regents voted to reject some of the city’s conditions for its campus master plan, the latest step in a nearly four-year process administrators hope will be complete early next year.
Last month, the Seattle City Council gave preliminary approval to the university’s long-term growth plan, which includes up to 6 million square feet in new development in the next decade. The council’s approval came with conditions, some of which university administrators see as a costly overreach of city authority.
“The City Council is at times pushing us outside of our comfort zone,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said at the Oct. 11 board meeting. “We’re balancing what we take very seriously, our public mission, and also want to be conscious of not giving away our students’ future.”
The board will move forward with recommendations to commit to some of the city’s conditions, such as constructing a total of 450 additional housing units for faculty and staff earning less than the area’s median income. However, the university wants to expand where the units can be built to include areas farther from campus, but near light-rail stations or frequent transportation routes.
The university had proposed developing 150 of these units already, and has plans with the Seattle Housing Authority to develop a site it owns on Roosevelt Way and 41st Street, said Sally Clark, director of regional and community relations. The university hopes to find a way for eligible UW employees to have priority when it comes time to open those units, Clark said. There is not yet a plan for the 300 additional units.
The university will try to stick to the original proposed goal of having no more than 15 percent of students and employees commuting by driving alone by 2028, instead of the city’s proposed 12 percent. It will also reject the city’s proposed 9,000 parking-stall cap in hopes of retaining its original proposal of 12,300 stalls. The higher cap is important to prevent cars from spilling into neighboring areas, which has been a past concern, Clark said.
The university also hopes to retain zoning heights taller than the city proposed at two west campus building sites, one to the west of Condon Hall and one to the west of the University Bridge, Clark said. The university’s proposed heights were approved by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection, according to a board staff report.
The university also wants to cap its contribution to transportation projects to $10 million and modify requirements for developing the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Board Chair Constance Rice will oversee the final response to the city, due Oct. 26. The city will take action on the plan again at the end of the year or beginning of next year, and the Board of Regents hopes to take final action in the first quarter of 2019, Clark said.
At the Oct. 11 meeting, the board also approved universal transportation passes for UW Tacoma students starting this winter and celebrated news that the university’s fundraising campaign had surpassed its $5 billion dollar goal, with more than 380,000 donors, 70 percent of whom gave less than $500.
Board members spent much of the meeting listening to updates on compliance with financial stability plans. The university has faced significant debt, including a $75 million operating deficit at UW Medicine last fiscal year and more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance to aging buildings, according to previous reporting by The Seattle Times.
Some regents expressed concern during the report from UW Medicine, as Northwest Hospital and Medical Center has spent $3.35 million more than its budget so far this year, according to the report.