The 'other Hill:' MCC president a newly minted activist

Rogers, a Renton native, has her hands full as Magnolia changes at an increasingly rapid clip, something that hits close to home. "I primarily got involved with the community club because I was interested in how they respond to things I can see out my window."

Living in a house on the east side of Magnolia, her view includes the Magnolia Bridge, Terminals 90 and 91, a bit of North Bay and - off in the distance - the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The MCC hasn't taken a position on all those issues, Rogers says, but land-use topics clearly top the list of neighborhood concerns.

That's right up her alley. A graduate of the University of Washington and the UW law school, Rogers is a lawyer who has specialized in land-use and real-estate-development cases for the past nine years at Cairncross & Hempelmann, a downtown law firm.

Still, the MCC doesn't tackle everything. The community club, for example, has not taken a position and doesn't plan to on the proposed Briarcliff housing project, she said.

Rogers said her feeling is thatit's fine since there's "not really that many more houses" than normal allowed under the denser cluster housing zoning. And while NIMBY-ism appears to be a factor in neighborhood objections to the development, that can happen anywhere, she said.

There are also neighborhood rumblings about plans to tear down the Green Mansion near Bartell Drug and replace it with multiple units of housing, Rogers noted. The MCC has a board member looking into the project, but Rogers said she didn't know enough yet to take a position.

Another looming issue for the neighborhood is replacing the aging Magnolia Bridge. Rogers said she's glad that the city decided to build a new bridge just to the south of the existing one, but how the city will pay for it is still up in the air.

Rogers finds it curious that at least partial funding for the bridge wasn't included in Mayor Greg Nickels' transportation initiative, and it would make sense to pressure the city to come up with the cash, she said.

But the MCC hasn't decided yet to do that as an organization, Rogers added. "That's something we have to talk about as a board." Still, she has another worry. "The concern I personally have is if you wait too long, people will want to redo all that [planning]."

Another looming development surge is the plan to upzone the Interbay neighborhood near West Dravus Street. "The community club has taken a position in the past that it seems generally like a good idea," Rogers said. But the MCC's position also included a call for improved transportation in the area, something that would be finance with the formation of a Local Improvement District, she said.

The MCC has also sounded off about cruise ships moving to Terminal 91. "The community club position ... is to make sure they have shore power capacity," Rogers said. "We would like to see all the ships have shore power."

Barring that, she added, the MCC would like to see cruise ships required to burn low-sulfur fuel when they birth at T-91. A traffic study for the cruise-ship terminal shows minimal impact, but Rogers is taking a wait-and-see attitude. "We'll see what happens."

Development plans for Fort Lawton when the Army Reserve moves out is poised to become a major issue for Magnolia - mainly because of housing for the homeless - and the community club has already weighed in on the subject in March 8 letter to the city.

The letter was the result of board discussion and the exchange of e-mails among MCC members, Rogers said. "The letter was intended to convey there's going to be some homeless housing."

But the message was also to make sure any future homeless housing or services at Fort Lawton be compatible with the neighborhood, she said.

Indeed, compatibility is kind of a sore point for the community club and many neighborhood residents. The MCC would prefer to see ownership housing instead of rental housing, according to the letter.

There are other specifics. "We prefer to see housing for homeless seniors above housing for families," according to the letter. The letter also expresses concern about children from formerly homeless families moving in and out of neighborhood schools by the hundreds as their parents "step up the economic ladder and chose market-rate housing," which would almost certainly be outside of Seattle's red-hot real-estate market.

The community club is especially concerned about housing for the chronically homeless, "especially if it is rental housing," because many of the chronically homeless are mentally ill and there are no services for them in Magnolia, according to the letter. "This use should be prevented," the letter adds.

Furthermore, the letter states, residential densities should be limited to minimize traffic impacts and not significantly alter neighborhood traffic pattern.

There is a divergence of opinions in Magnolia about what to do about the viaduct, and the MCC hasn't taken a stand on whether a tunnel, rebuild or surface-street is preferable, said Rogers. "So our position is that whatever you do, you should preserve access in the northwest part of the city," she said of the MCC.

Rogers described the current MCC board as intelligent people who want what's best for the neighborhood. So does she, for that matter, but Roger's position as community-club president does hold one surprise: "It's more work than I expected."

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