Construction controversy

We mentioned last week that work has begun across the street from Gatewood Baptist Church, where land sold by the church is turning into “townhomes” (first noted here almost 3 months ago, then re-noted when multiple permits were issued just before Thanksgiving for four addresses all assigned to the one site – 7200 Cali, 7202 Cali, 7206 Cali, 7208 Cali). Now, with yet another permit JUST assigned to a fifth address at the site (7204 Cali) and the heavy equipment having arrived (photos below), neighborhood watchdogs have uncovered the magnitude of the project — contending this is ONE semi-big development that should have been subject to public hearings and a more intensive review process, instead of sliding through under the guise of multiple small projects. They’re conferring frantically about what they can do to get construction put on hold. They also say the work has opened “a natural spring” that’s causing water trouble at the site and may be reason alone for city review. They’d be interested in hearing from any land-use experts with thoughts on all this. (Side note, the house hidden in the trees at the upper right of the top photo is described by neighbors as an old “hunting lodge.” Who knew?)

constructionwithlodge.jpg
constructionleft.jpg

10 Replies to "Construction controversy"

  • GenHillOne February 5, 2007 (12:56 pm)

    Is the “natural spring” what made the big stink a last week? When driving by (Thursday?) morning we wondered if they had hit a sewar line… wouldn’t want to bottle that spring water!

  • MW February 5, 2007 (1:13 pm)

    Here’s the link to DPD’s “CAM 238: Design Review: General Info…”

    http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/dclu/Publications/cam/cam238.pdf

    Looks like this project falls ouside of the thresholds for a public design review (page 2) – 8 units for this type of zone. Often unfortunate, but DPD can’t review them all, and they have to choose between the fewer, but much bigger, projects and the lots of relatively small ones.

  • nancy February 5, 2007 (7:38 pm)

    MW,
    Uh, actually, if you look at the permit applications, you’ll see that there are multiple units under each permit. By my count they add up to 21 units. WAY over the threshold for Design Review. The builder duped DPD and the public to slip these through. IMO this is an incredible breach.

    I happen to be familiar with the work of this builder and he is as bad as they come. This is a disaster in the making.

    I strongly encourage everyone to get involved and bring pressure to bear: city council, DPD, the WS Herald, local associations. We can’t allow illegal projects to slip under the radar like this.

  • Mike February 5, 2007 (9:57 pm)

    Nancy,

    Clarification please.

    “I happen to be familiar with the work of this builder and he is as bad as they come. This is a disaster in the making.”

    Are you referring to Dan Duffus/Soleil or are you talking about the builder/contractor doing the actual construction on the Duffus/Soleil owned sites at 7200>7208 Cal. Ave?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  • MW February 6, 2007 (10:12 am)

    Nancy –
    I believe the thresholds are for each individual parcel. It looks like most of the parcels have two duplexes, so four units each. I haven’t checked this, but I believe this is the case. The large parking lot parcel was split up. This is an LDT (Lowrise Duplex/Triplex) zone, so the project going in there is what is expected. It’s a slightly different zone than the L2 zones just to the north that have mostly townhomes.
    And I found this about Soleil:
    http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2003/10/27/smallb1.html
    Doesn’t sound like they are the best developers out there, but it also doesn’t sound like they are slackers – probably making an average product for an average market.

  • MW February 6, 2007 (10:41 am)

    Last clarification:
    Looks like LDT zones aren’t required to go through mandatory Design Review.
    Here’s the link to the wonderful Seattle Municipal Code:
    http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~scripts/nph-brs.exe?d=CODE&s1=23.41.004.snum.&Sect5=CODE1&Sect6=HITOFF&l=20&p=1&u=/~public/code1.htm&r=1&f=G

  • nancy February 6, 2007 (3:38 pm)

    Mike, MW:
    You’re right, I stand corrected: the LDT zoning means Design Review isn’t required.
    Which doesn’t mean that the situation doesn’t suck!
    IMO the City badly needs to make 3 changes to the Design Review requirements:
    1-Lower the threshold for multifamily development from 8 to 7. Reason: many projects have 8 units and so skirt design review–but their impact is every bit as much as say, a smaller commercial project that does goes thru DR.
    2-Apply DR to ALL multifamily (L) zones. After all, why should an 8-unit project in a LDT zone be treated differently than an 8-unit project in an L3 zone? Makes no sense.
    3-Make the language clear that DR cannot be avoided by procuring separate building permits.

    As for Duffus/Soleil, you found a nice puff piece on their business model. But if you look at their work (i.e. product) you’ll see what I mean. They use stock plans almost exclusively or hire out hack designers willing to work on the cheap. I’m in the business and these guys fall squarely into the category of “builders who are screwing up the city.” BTW they flip a lot of their projects to builders after buying “plans” and getting permits.

    One very conscientious developer who I work with calls Duffus “the antichrist” when speaking of the design & quality of their projects. I don’t mean to take cheap shots or to spread mean-spirited rumors. I’m just telling you how it is.

    Is it all ok since Soleil builds “affordable” housing? Not to me, because in this case, we’re really talking about “cheap” housing.

  • Dawson February 6, 2007 (5:57 pm)

    I don’t have any experience with Soleil so I’ll take your word Nancy that they build cheaply. However, I’ve seen a number of builders in the area that follow questionable practices. If cheap building practices are the issue then perhaps we should all be contacting our elected officials and urging them to support the following bill be proposed in the WA state senate.
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/302442_housing05.html

  • Vlad Oustimovitch February 12, 2007 (10:07 pm)

    The development on the 7200 block is illegal under the State Environmental Policy Act of 1971. SEPA anticipated that developers would try to circumvent regulations by “piecemealing” a project like this and forbids the practice, this has been affirmed numerous times by the higher courts. There is no question that a 13 unit development would have required a Master Use Permit from the city at the very least. I have seen the plans and they are indeed a blight on the neighborhood. As for those who say that the city doesn’t have the resources to deal with projects of this size, you should know that permits are actually a profit center, there really is no excuse. The resources are there.

    If you are interested in the letter our community association has written to the city, check out our website at http://www.orcaseattle.org.

  • MW February 13, 2007 (8:34 am)

    Great stuff, Vlad. And a very valid point. Happy to help however I can.
    Mark

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