Video: Benchview battle’s new tactic – projection protest – as City Council’s small-lot vote nears

May 18, 2014 at 1:44 am | In Development, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

On Monday afternoon, the City Council’s expected to take its final vote on changes to what can be built on “small lots” in single-family zones. Councilmember Mike O’Brien – who chairs the Planning, Land Use, Sustainability Committeeexplains the changes on the city website, and points out, that type of development is not being banned. Instead, restrictions are proposed, as well as new rules for how and when neighbors will get notice of changes.

Small-lot development has been a sore spot for some neighborhoods around the city, including one in West Seattle that has been caught up in it for more than a year and is trying to get out a last-minute pre-vote message – by projecting it onto a new house to which it objects, using a new nickname for these types of houses: “Billboard boxes.” (And a Facebook page spinning off the nickname.) We shot the video above as the messages scrolled through around 10:30 Saturday night.

Benchview is on northwest Charlestown hill (map), near the upper reaches of Schmitz Park. We told its story last year, starting in January, as neighbors slugged it out with the city over a lot-splitting plan that followed purchase of a house whose longtime owner had died, and that sought two larger homes next to that original house. The highlighted area below was the site as shown in the county system in July 2013, pre-split:

(3650 55th SW is the original address of the site; map is from King County Parcel Viewer)
Here’s how the trisected site appears in the system now:

The somewhat-L-shaped lot beneath the shrunken 3650 55th SW is where the protest projection was made onto the south side of a new house. (Added Sunday morning – the daylight view:)

(back to original report) Neighborhood spokesperson Dave Allen was outside when we stopped by Saturday night, and had done an interview with a TV station.

Back to the background: Allen and other neighbors took the fight to court and won one round, believing the ruling would limit the site to one new house, but then, late last summer, the city approved boundary revisions enabling two houses.

In the ensuing months, the city has been working through changes to the rules/conditions that have led to similar situations around the city. The Benchview case has been cited by multiple sides of the debate. What’s going to be voted on Monday has already been amended and tweaked, and Benchview’s contention is that it just creates “new loopholes,” with hundreds more homes still to be allowed on smaller lots around the city. Councilmember O’Brien, meantime, writes: “I believe that the new provisions the City Council is considering will help new single-family developments on under-sized lots fit into existing neighborhoods.”

The council meeting is at 2 pm Monday; the council will take public comment at the start of the meeting, which is in their chambers at City Hall downtown, and according to O’Brien’s explanation of where this stands, will be considering some amendments before voting.

9 Comments

  1. - 3 stories is ridiculous on small lots. The city should put a 2 story limit on small lots – the same 2 story limit we already have for “backyard cottages.”
    - City council should throw out the developer’s “100 / 50%” rule. It would let developers cut a lot in 2 and build 2 houses on lots that are only 2,500 s.f. (50% of the “minimum” in 5,000 s.f. single family zones. )

    Comment by Seattle Paul — 8:21 am May 18, 2014 #

  2. I think the small lot house at 47th and Admiral/Waite is an example of good placement of such a house.

    Comment by neighbor — 10:11 am May 18, 2014 #

  3. damn, wish I’d known about this last night, to go see; will this be up again tonight?

    Comment by Diane — 10:41 am May 18, 2014 #

  4. funny how this house is surrounded by trees and green (no other houses) in the rendering on the Blueprint website; looks like it’s out in the countryside

    Comment by Diane — 10:45 am May 18, 2014 #

  5. I think that’s standard for these renderings. They have one about to go up a few houses from ours and it is represented the same way, even on the side where it’ll be steps away from another three-story (created via addition, not from-scratch building).

    Comment by WSB — 12:00 pm May 18, 2014 #

  6. More NIMBYs. It’s totally ok to put up 10 story monstrosities in the Junction, but keep them out of my swanky neighborhood!

    Comment by Willie Murderface — 4:22 pm May 19, 2014 #

  7. It looks like there is a lot of history here, and I have not read through all of it.

    However, can anyone explain if the house was permitted under the original zoning laws or the interim small-lot ordinance?

    As I understand, the interim ordinance should have prevented a height of 30 feet, due to the ‘L’ shape of the lot, unless the largest quadrilateral in the lot was > 3750 sq feet. Which, somehow I thought the entire L shaped lot was barely over 3750, meaning the quadrilateral would not qualify.

    Comment by HarryChronic — 10:21 pm May 19, 2014 #

  8. The lot on 47th off Waite now has five, count em FIVE, 3 story units on a single family home lot. That is rediculous. They are all to be sold for $600,000 + while completely devalueing everything else in the neighborhood. We are completely boxed in on all sides by gigantic white monstrosities. They are RUINING our neighborhood with these ugly pieces of s–t.

    -Irate Homeowner

    Comment by Scooter — 8:50 am May 20, 2014 #

  9. They’re right! Going from 19 to 21 houses on a block in an urban neighborhood is just OUTRAGEOUS!

    Comment by Ian Crozier — 8:09 pm May 20, 2014 #

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