‘We won!’ exults Seattle NERD after Hearing Examiner’s decision on 3078 Avalon appeal

(Photo by Long Bach Nguyen – densifying Avalon Way SW is at center)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Appeals of city development decisions aren’t uncommon.

Rulings in favor of the appellants are.

(Keep in mind, the Hearing Examiner has to give more weight to the city’s original decisions, meaning challengers have steep hills to climb.)

Today, the West Seattle-based group Seattle NERD (Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development) is celebrating one of those rare rulings – reversing the city’s Design Review and Determination of (environmental) Non-Significance (DNS) decisions regarding a ~100-apartment building proposed for 3078 SW Avalon Way.

As Paul Haury exulted via e-mail, “We won! 2+ years and tens of thousands later. We won! A neighborhood that pulled together prevailed.”

We covered the three major days of testimony and presentation in the appeal hearing earlier this fall (here, here, and here).

A key point of contention regarding the DNS was one of West Seattle’s most-contentious current issues, parking impacts; this building is proposed with about 60 spaces, and is within a block of one built and two planned “microhousing” projects totaling about 200 living units with no planned offstreet parking.

You can see Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner‘s full ruling here as a PDF, or below:

We are still reading it and will add more to this story shortly.

ADDED 4:36 PM: First, note that this is not a ruling against development on the site. It is a ruling in favor of the challenges to specific decisions made during the process, and sending them back for reconsideration. We have asked DPD for comment on the decision and information on what happens next.

Reading the entirety of the 16-page ruling, key points from the Hearing Examiner’s conclusions, which start on page 11:

In conclusion #6, the Examiner writes that DPD went too far in telling the Design Review Board that it did not have authority to reduce the project by a story if it chose: “It must be remembered that in most cases, the design review process is also the City’s process for mitigating height, bulk, and scale impacts under SEPA. It may be unlikely that the Board would determine a one-story reduction was necessary for the proposal to comply with (a guideline). Regardless, the Board has the authority to do so and to recommend the reduction to the Director.”

Conclusion #7 begins, “It is clear from the record that the Board struggled with the issue of compatibility between the proposal and the adjacent single-family neighborhood, yet felt constrained by the Director’s emphasis on retaining all site development potential allowed under the Code.” (This related to another emphasis point for neighbors, who called attention to a section of the late-’90s neighborhood plan saying that the character of their single-family neighborhood along 32nd SW north of Avalon should be protected.)

Regarding parking impacts, it’s noted earlier in the ruling that an analysis of cumulative parking effects from this prospective project and the three microhousing buildings would result in up to parking usage of more than 130 percent of the area’s capacity. Conclusions #9, 10, and 11 deal with parking, including the declaration “The evidence in the record shows that the Director’s analysis of cumulative parking impacts was incomplete in that it failed to consider the impact of several nearby projects that would likely produce spillover parking into the 800-foot parking shed for the subject proposal.”

In conclusion #12, the Examiner writes that a suggestion that the department wouldn’t require anything to mitigate parking impacts “is not relevant to the analysis of those impacts. Nor is the question of whether or not a proposal would be consistent with City policy decisions on encouraging transit over automobile use.”

The decision, as spelled out on its final page, represents the final decision of the city; if a challenge is sought, it would have to be in court. We’re checking to find out if anyone plans to seek that, and also to see how the Hearing Examiner’s order, sending the project back to Design Review and to DPD staff for the environmental analysis, will be carried out. But the project’s future was revealed during the appeal hearing to have already been at issue, with legal action pending involving the site.

57 Replies to "'We won!' exults Seattle NERD after Hearing Examiner's decision on 3078 Avalon appeal"

  • Alki December 1, 2014 (3:45 pm)

    Congratulations NERDS! Nice work.

  • Tucker December 1, 2014 (3:55 pm)

    As someone who once lived right next door to the location for over a couple of years, I’m still baffled as to how they were going to fit 100 apartments on the lot, even with building upward.

    And having spent much time many a time trying to find street parking when my reserved spot in the back alleyway was occupied, I’d have to fully agree with this finding.

  • Deb December 1, 2014 (3:55 pm)

    NERDS – Congratulations on a hard fought win. I am THRILLED for you and for what you have accomplished. Thank you for standing tall. You ROCK.

  • NERDs not welcome December 1, 2014 (4:01 pm)

    So NERD will be reimbursing the property owner for the property value they selfishly destroyed, right? And I’m sure NERD will be subsidizing the incomes of construction worriers being kept unemployed? How about copensating the developers the immense extra cost of this shortsighted anti-housing activism? NERD needs to pay for the damage they’re doing to our community.

  • Chuch and Sally's Van Man December 1, 2014 (4:30 pm)

    @NERDs not welcome: “selfish” begins and ends at the developers’ doorstep, not the people concerned with the neighborhood they already live in. Nice spin doctoring, though. Really. Top notch.

  • QS December 1, 2014 (4:56 pm)

    NNW,
    About the construction workers “being kept unemployed”, are you reducing this to a ‘jobs versus sustainable neighborhood living’ argument? If so, please tell us what your steak is in this so that we may better understand your position. Thanks.

  • Gatewooder December 1, 2014 (5:06 pm)

    Let’s hope this leads to some major reforms at DPD, which has been allowed to be dominated by developers and become completely disconnected from the residents of this city.

  • cj December 1, 2014 (5:12 pm)

    Perhaps the notion of money spent as a way to override community should be revisited. I don’t think plopping money down should give a builder automatic rights over the area they are moving into.

  • NW December 1, 2014 (5:18 pm)

    Congratulations the wording in all of this sort of lost me but I know the area under concern well and again applaud your efforts and succes SEATTLE NERD! And to the complainer sorry you are in the way minority here!

  • Rick December 1, 2014 (5:21 pm)

    Doesn’t it just rankle ya when the system actually works?

  • West Seattle Hipster December 1, 2014 (5:45 pm)

    Way to go NERDS! Fight The Power!

  • NERDs not welcome December 1, 2014 (5:48 pm)

    QS, “sustainable neighborhood living” to me means housing in Seattle for people who work in Seattle so they don’t have to spend all their time and money on car commuting, to say nothing of the forced carbon emissions and resulting global warming that is caused by car commuting. Since you don’t know, it is my duty to inform you that many people who work in Seattle are forced to live in the suburbs due to our acute housing shortage. All that doesn’t even begin to address the loss of property value that NIMBYs like NERD are inflicting I the rest of us by depriving owners of the use of their property. So, what do you consider “sustainable neighborhood living?” If it’s all about pollution machine parking and forcing working people into the suburbs, that’s NOT sustainable.

  • Diane December 1, 2014 (5:57 pm)

    will read all the wonderful details later; just gotta say, yay yay yay yay yay; way to go NERD’s

  • pffft December 1, 2014 (6:15 pm)

    NERDS not welcome –

    hey.

    so if a person is ” a construction worrier [worker]” and is not currently employed in this construction crazy town, they are not employable.

    nuf said.

  • WS Since 66 December 1, 2014 (6:25 pm)

    While there is nothing wrong with neighborhood activism the knee jerk reaction by many against ANY development is wrong. I wonder how many of you cheering the NERDs would feel the same way if it took tens of thousands of dollars out of YOUR pockets. If the property owners didn’t sell to those greedy developers then the buildings wouldn’t be built. If you are really and truly concerned about fighting it then why not pool your money together (read put your money where your mouth is) and buy the properties and keep them as they are or donate them as parks to be used by all?

  • pjmanley December 1, 2014 (6:33 pm)

    NNW: Most suburban commuters burn more fuel crawling through traffic within the city limits than on the 10 to 12 miles to reach the suburbs. Any many carpool and bus both ways. Hence, that argument fails. And how much carbon are we belching into the sky at rush hour in the city, when traffic barely moves and which worsens by the day due to over-development? One does not have all the answers, so a pro-development, one-track mind ill serves you on this subject.

  • JanS December 1, 2014 (6:51 pm)

    hey…the developers can still develop their land(from the above article: ” ADDED 4:36 PM: First, note that this is not a ruling against development on the site. It is a ruling in favor of the challenges to specific decisions made during the process, and sending them back for reconsideration. We have asked DPD for comment on the decision and information on what happens next”….there just has to be some changes in the way things are done. If one of those things is to provide more parking, and if they, as developers, can’t afford that, then they aren’t very good developers, now, are they?

    NERDS not welcome…have you looked around at all the construction going on? It’s a construction workers dream, for goodness sake…don’t worry about the poor little flowers being out of work. Before you get your panties in a wad, please read the article again…absorb the details…

  • pjmanley December 1, 2014 (6:58 pm)

    WS Since 66: It’s not that simple. It isn’t an all-or-none proposition. People have the right to expect that new development to an area will not destroy their quality of life and property values. That’s what zoning laws and development codes are supposed to regulate, but aren’t up to the task of late, due to a flood of new residents to the area. By your rationale, shouldn’t the developers be liable for any drop in property values of others’ caused by their development? Absurd, no? Yet some argue that a developer should be compensated for the loss of his right to ruin or forever negatively impact other property owners. Situations like these call out for balance and reason. Trade-offs and compromises. Give a little to get a little. Are developers not businesspersons, first and foremost? And can’t they engage and negotiate instead of barging in and pushing the limits beyond the neighborhood’s breaking point all in the name of profit? Or should every new resident’s new enjoyment come at the expense of everyone else’s, when, with a few tweaks and concessions, a builder can instead build higher density that actually fits into a neighborhood?

  • WS Since 66 December 1, 2014 (7:14 pm)

    “People have the right to expect that new development to an area will not destroy their quality of life and property values.” What about the right of the current property owner to sell to a developer? Perhaps laws against selling to developers? As far as the zoning areas are concerned why not go upstream and pick your battle with changing the zoning laws? There is a way to have the evil developers to toe the line with the zoning laws……change the laws. Making the property owners, some who have owned that property for generations and rely on that money to live, lose value for your benefit is the definition of selfish.

    I’ve asked this question many times here on this blog and have NEVER gotten an answer so maybe you can answer it, but I doubt you will. What would be your solution for housing all of the new people that are and will be moving onto our peninsula?? Seriously, what would be your give a little to get a little?

  • Joe Szilagyi December 1, 2014 (7:21 pm)

    No one’s property value in Seattle is in decline because of development and growth. How does that logic even begin to work……..?

  • NERDs Welcome December 1, 2014 (7:50 pm)

    @NerdsNotWelcome: I really don’t think your demographic argument holds water. You’re talking about a building with units under 500 sq ft. If you’re arguing that construction workers are going to nearly exclusively be single renters with no roommates, no bedroom door, and no laundry facilities, then sure, you have one leg to stand on. Otherwise, my “compensated shill” alarm is going off like crazy.

  • ChefJoe December 1, 2014 (9:01 pm)

    You’d think “nerds not welcome” would be OK with the entire area being under RPZ with the new developments without parking spaces barred from obtaining parking permits. At some point, you need a few spaces just for the moving trucks.

  • WestofJunction December 2, 2014 (6:19 am)

    I’m not against development – just stupid development. Right now, intetest rates are low, and housing demand is high. So, NNW and WS Since 66- what happens when we have the inevitable downturn? Those micro units will be way, way less attractive to the remaining pool of renters. There will be lots of these projects half empty, which will make the landlords alot less picky who they rent to. Crime will go up. Properties will go in disrepair. This will impact our quality of life.

    Property rights are not absolute – you cannot build an industrial facility in the middle single-family homes.

    • WSB December 2, 2014 (7:32 am)

      Please note, the apartment project that is specifically involved in the appeal is NOT a microhousing development – two comments so far seem to be a bit confused. The story mentions three microhousing developments on Avalon because of the cumulative parking impact, but the specific project at issue here, 3078 SW Avalon, is not a microhousing project – the plans include studios, 1 & 2 bedrooms (I just re-checked). The appeal included the contention that studies needed to include cumulative parking impacts of other projects in the area – particularly three micro projects (3266 Avalon, the already completed Footprint Delridge, as well as the “twin” building starting construction next to it at 3268 Avalon and the planned 100-unit 3050 Avalon) with no offstreet parking planned. – TR

  • Dawn December 2, 2014 (7:01 am)

    @WS since 66: “I’ve asked this question many times here on this blog and have NEVER gotten an answer so maybe you can answer it, but I doubt you will. What would be your solution for housing all of the new people that are and will be moving onto our peninsula?? Seriously, what would be your give a little to get a little?”

    Providing adequate parking would be a good start. How’s that?

  • shocker December 2, 2014 (8:42 am)

    W-O-W! I’m so impressed… Congratulations NERDs!

  • John December 2, 2014 (9:08 am)

    WSB,
    Thanks for the clarification, but facts are no panacea.

    PJ Manley,
    Do you have any proof to back up your claim that, “NNW: Most suburban commuters burn more fuel crawling through traffic within the city limits than on the 10 to 12 miles to reach the suburbs?”

    I might point out that those suburban commuters just join the urban masses as they approach the city. You apparently are not aware of drive times and approaching gridlock on all roads leading into the city, from Everett to Tacoma, from North Bend to the East to Kitsap County and our ‘ferry highways’ to the West. How does adding tens of thousands more cars coming in from the suburbs and idling on the freeways help?

    Does PJ Manley have any proof whatsoever, like declining property assessments to support his claim that property values are declining? You have stated that your home is close to Junction development, have your property values declined?
    I would bet that PJ’s house values have risen in step with nearby development as most of ours have.

    “With a few tweaks and concessions, a builder can instead build higher density that actually fits into a neighborhood?” – How about an example of such? People that are challenged by change resist virtually any development as so commonly shown here on WSB.

    Dawn,
    Why provide ‘adequate parking’ (whatever that is, maybe three car spaces per bedroom – one for each couple and one for visitors), when there is nowhere to drive them with the streets already challenged with gridlock? Would that even be possible?
    Don’t you anti-new-housing activists in our neighborhood have concerns about traffic?
    Don’t you realize at some point we ALL need to change our wasteful ways of single car dominance?
    How can we get the toothpaste already out of the tube back in, as the traffic problems existed prior to this round of development?

    Chef Joe,
    Once again raising false issues. Have you not seen or heard of the “LOADING ZONES” in front of most apartments?
    And what is wrong with treating parking as a market rate commodity? As I have pointed out, parking permits have virtually wiped out Fauntleroy overnight parking with residents moving their cars off-street rather than paying.
    Why should just the minority of new people pay for the problem caused by all?

    Why not charge for all people that park on the street?

    JanS,
    “If one of those things is to provide more parking, and if they, as developers, can’t afford that, then they aren’t very good developers, now, are they?”
    As someone who so often complains about the existing street parking at her own older apartment, one that does not accommodate her clients’ parking on site, I often wonder?

    Why post comments such as “It’s a construction workers dream, for goodness sake…don’t worry about the poor little flowers being out of work.” Does JanS really have no compassion for those tens of thousands directly working in construction as well as the untold multitudes; Realtors, attorneys, architects, civil engineers, city staff, sandwich shops, printing shops, restaurants, bars, retail establishments, even massage therapists and virtually every business in West Seattle has benefited from this wave of construction?

    None of the “sustainable living” proposals include building car storage to dump into streets already clogged with single occupant vehicles.
    Our only viable option involves changing our own ‘lifestyles’ rather than attempting to place all blame and costs on newcomers, who did not create the problems.

    Once again, what is wrong with everyone taking some personal and civic responsibility to work together to solve the problems we all created?

  • ChefJoe December 2, 2014 (10:19 am)

    59 parking spots in a 102-unit complex is better, but they still estimate spillover into surrounding blocks, especially with the “boarding house (microhousing)” developments going in nearby.

    John, we all have a part in making communities liveable, even for people with automobiles. The SFH purchased lots large enough for a home and some surrounding street frontage. They don’t own the street, but the extra expense (not to mention shoveling, sidewalk maintenance, and ongoing property tax on the land) comes with some expectation of being able to use that street frontage. What the studies found was that these new developments were not creating sufficient off-street parking to meet their own needs and was likely to fill up all the street frontage and then some. Dawn has it right, even if this may be one of the better projects of the several with having some off-street parking included in the design.

    My comment about moving was misdirected with this development, sorry. That was my gripe for the Junction 60 unit/5 spot development mentioned nov 21st.

  • Civik December 2, 2014 (11:46 am)

    John, I think the point you are missing is that DPD isn’t doing it’s job. They are ignoring their own rules and regs to fast track projects and increase density wothout taking community impact into account. Which -is- part of the process.

    Your argument for developers is ignorant of the actual facts of the case. DPD and some investment funds are in collusion to ignore the rules. They were counting on neighborhoods to either be completely ignorant of the laws and regulations for construction and being too poor to put up the funds to fight it.

  • WS Since 66 December 2, 2014 (11:48 am)

    Dawn, “Providing adequate parking would be a good start. How’s that?”

    How’s that??? You didn’t answer the question so I’ll try again. What would you do with the PEOPLE, as in living facilities, moving into WS? The question isn’t what to do with the CARS. Believe it or not many people don’t drive cars and don’t want to.

    I live several blocks west of the Alaska Jct and the building up the hill doesn’t impact my neighborhood. The area being developed has to follow the zoning in place. If you are upset about it then why not work to change the zoning laws??

  • John December 2, 2014 (11:54 am)

    Chef Joe,
    Although agreeing that in fact we all have no more rights to the on-street parking in front of our properties (if there is any), you proceed to argue just the opposite, “They don’t own the street, but the extra expense{what?] (not to mention shoveling, sidewalk maintenance, and ongoing property tax on the land) comes with some expectation of being able to use that street frontage.”

    I argue that until we change your expressed mindset of “expectation” of public privileges that are not legally yours/ours, we will never solve the problems that we have ALL created.

    If Dawn has it right, then why did you dodge the question of what to do with all of these additional cars being encouraged through development?

    Remember we cannot ‘pave our way’ out of this as there are no additional street right of ways to pave.

    If you refuse to believe our driving habits need to change, with our young generations already leading the shift away from cars, are you proposing eminent domain through already developed neighborhoods to continue down this folly?

  • WS Since 66 December 2, 2014 (12:51 pm)

    WestofJunction “what happens when we have the inevitable downturn? Those micro units will be way, way less attractive to the remaining pool of renters. There will be lots of these projects half empty, which will make the landlords alot less picky who they rent to. Crime will go up. Properties will go in disrepair. This will impact our quality of life.”

    And this is based on your opinion or are you a psychic because there are no facts used in your response. People are just going to leave and there will be no one to rent to? If that is the case then rents will go down (as in supply vs demand) and be more affordable won’t they? You sound so concerned for the developers and building owners when the so called “inevitable downturn” hits.

  • Born on Alki December 2, 2014 (1:05 pm)

    This poor horse is about beat to death. Can’t we all agree to disagree, and just respect one anothers opinions? One thing we can all agree upon is we are passionate about our community and its future development. We should all celebrate a small moral victory that DPD is at least listening to neighborhood concerns.

  • John December 2, 2014 (1:40 pm)

    WS Since 66,
    Here, here. You are so correct about such projections.

    Detroit was unique.

    In past slowdowns, the markets have proven themselves adept at changing. Does anybody remember the ‘condo craze’, followed by the ‘condo-conversion craze’, followed by the ‘condo-re-conversion to rent craze’, followed by the present ‘rental apartment new construction craze’?

    What’s next? Any two economists might disagree.
    But they would factor in such unique new factors as the vast increase in rental SFRs managed by large out of state firms who have been gobbling up distressed properties by the thousands for the last several years.

    To West of Junction’s, other concerns. The micro-units would become more desirable as broke people eliminate needless cars. Their prices might also decline, but they would have the advantage of being far newer than older existing stock which becomes ever less desirable (at least until renovated which would drive up costs).

    And the micro-units could easily be converted to larger living space apartments or condos (one multi-bedroom family unit per floor?) if demand exists.

  • debra December 2, 2014 (2:27 pm)

    John you sing the same song..no cars, increase density, no parking
    You think the mico units will be desirable as broke people elimnate their needless cars, bit judgemental arent we
    I live near the junction and my proptery value has gone down
    Some of us live in reality

  • debra December 2, 2014 (2:40 pm)

    BOrn on Alki I agree…this ongoing dialogue really does nothing…we are not going to change the minds of those who are pro density, anti parking and anti single family homes
    And their perspective will not change my mind

  • WS Since 66 December 2, 2014 (2:46 pm)

    debra, Maybe you do live near the junction but you made up the part about your property value going down. You can have your own opinion but facts are facts. Go to any real estate website….go to zillow.com…and look up your address. I guarantee you the graph of values over time doesn’t show a decrease in value. I love a good exchange of ideas but lets stick to the facts shall we?

  • debra December 2, 2014 (4:29 pm)

    Execuse me I am not making this up…I have a three story condo built right to the back proptery line peering into my back yard…and yes it did lower my proptery value…Don’t be acusing folks when you don’t have the specific facts shall we?

  • John December 2, 2014 (5:48 pm)

    debra,
    Please let’s be factual.

    There simply is no place in near the Junction that has “three story condo built right to the back proptery line peering into my back yard.”

  • Born on Alki December 2, 2014 (8:57 pm)

    Wow…..just wow is all I can say. Debra, as my dad used to say, never approach the south end of a northbound horse. They can kick something fierce for no reason. Factual. :)

  • Jetcitygirl December 2, 2014 (10:39 pm)

    I commend Commissioner Tanner for her expertise in evaluating and making her judgment in this case.

    I hope the Seattle Department of Planning and Development and its Planners can learn something by this and by other hearing by King County court.

    Growth is okay but comprehensive plans that were created to support zoning changes and must be considered and upheld at design review.

    What Paul Haury and the NERDS – a single family neighborhood Coalition- have accomplished by banding together as a community is amazing. It took blood, sweat and tears and a bundle of financing to win the appeal. I applaud Paul and the can-do fortitude of the “Neighbors Embracing Reasonable Development’ group for their sense of right and caring for the present and future of their neighborhood.

    The developer and Department of Planning and Development need a refresher in creating balance of development that transitionally compliments existing community.

    I hope the Mayor of Seattle and the Seattle City Council Members take notice.

    BRAVO NERDS!!!

    ********

  • Jetcitygirl December 2, 2014 (11:00 pm)

    ****** W.SEA Strong!!! ******

  • John December 2, 2014 (11:10 pm)

    Born on Alki,
    No need to demonize DPD with celebrations over a “small moral victory” as DPD does not make the rules.
    It is the Mayor and City Council that make the rules, DPD is charged with implementing them.

    As for calling it a moral victory to encourage car ownership, calling for parking garages for all apartment dwellers and allowing unlimited street parking for people who fill their yards and garages with stuff other than cars, how is that a ‘moral victory’?

    Last Spring City Council passed new rules limiting development. They passed laws eliminating hundreds of vacant lots that have been viable SFR building sites for nearly 100 years.

    Why did they do this even though it diminished needed SFR housing and contradicts the long term goals of the city?

    Politics.

    Pure and simple, the politicians were responding to the vocal ‘concerns’ of NIMBYs and their political ambitions. They all have their eyes on the new council districts and how they will survive in their neighborhoods.

    So, in reality the steps being now taken by DPD will worsen traffic, add to parking congestion, raise housing costs and increase flight from the city with its environmental consequences.

    Last July, I was able to arrange a meeting with the Chair of City Council’s development committee who confirmed that the actions they were taking were at odds with long term plans to mitigate Seattle’s growth issues.

    These long term plans have to do with less single car, single occupancy commuting and more rapid transit, biking and local businesses to alleviate the problems brought on by Seattle’s popularity.

    People continue to move here, growth cannot be stopped, but it can be regulated to lessen the burden on all of us.

    Unfortunately, the recent steps taken by the city council will add to more traffic, less available parking and more gridlock.

    The only viable way out is a system less reliant on the automobile. We all know this but are afraid of change.

    Debra and Born on Alki have repeatedly been caught playing fast and loose with the facts as noted above.

    Debra’s bluff has been called. Her response has no factual information, just false characterizations of those she does not agree with.

    I am pro-density for the future of Seattle, not my own selfish interests.

    Debra’s auto-centric mindset is revealed when she snarkly characterizes me as “bit judgemental arent we” when I point out that getting rid of a car and working locally, commuting on mass transit or biking are not pejorative. Why is getting rid of something costly and without need (needless) bad?

    I believe on-street parking should be commodified and controlled through fees. That is not ‘anti-parking’.

    I believe in the sanctity of our single family homes and work to supply more of them.

  • Diane December 3, 2014 (12:12 am)

    FACT; there are many many many new construction multi-story homes (including multi-family/aka apts, townhomes, rowhouses, micro-housing, and giant box houses) built right up to property lines all over West Seattle, including near Alaska junction, Morgan junction, Admiral junction, down on Alki; far too many to list; just drive around any weekend and go to open houses; it is true there have been few-to-none condos built recently; but apts will be flipped into condos as soon as capacity maxes out; and I’m guessing Debra’s point is about massive out of context buildings that are right up to property lines; tonight I drove down to a project on Alki that was fought by neighbors and they lost (unlike the neighbors in this story; it is very rare to get a win like this); I was curious to see what they look like now in progress, in real life, not just the renderings on paper; they are HUGE row-house/townhomes; smooshed together, towering over all the neighbors; they are massive, way out of context, right up to front and back and side property lines; I really feel sorry for the neighbors down there, and on any block when this happens

  • Diane December 3, 2014 (12:13 am)

    there is a 5 story apt project soon to be built in my neighborhood between Hinds and Hanford on California; it’s 400 feet long, and no alley behind the set of 3 apt buildings in the project; so the east facing apts will look down into the homes just across the property line; it’s everywhere; also, this is another project that neighbors who share the property line fought, and lost

  • Debra December 3, 2014 (5:10 am)

    Thank you Diane
    These bulky larger looming ugly buildings peer into yards, diminish value both money wise and value to live there
    Amazing folks don’t get it, and it has decreased the value of my home whether a few folks who don’t have to live with this experience get it

  • WestofJunction December 3, 2014 (5:59 am)

    WS Since 66.. Economies are cyclic – overbuilding less desireable RE during boom times has a negative effect when the local econmoy contracts. I’m not “psychic”. It’s basic economics. All of this construction is spurred by super low interest rates. There is demand, but when these units all come on the market there will be an oversupply, even though we currently have a “hot” economy.

    The initial purchasers of these properties buy based on projected high rents. When demand slackens, and rents decrease, guess what? The cost of owning and operating them doesn’t. Which means that maintenance gets deferred, which degrades the neighborhood.

  • Barb December 3, 2014 (6:09 am)

    Everyone’s bread is buttered on a different side, but EVERYONE need not be the loser. Property owners can certainly sell if they so choose, but it’s not the neighbors’ obligation to ensure they make mega bucks off the deal. When most of us sell our homes, we can only hope the values will have risen with inflation, plus a bit more.
    Affordable housing is a grand idea—we all have kids or friends or employees who would benefit from same. In the past, some attempts at affordable housing have subsequently been referred to as ghettos or tenements. Perhaps a well-built, desirable dwelling can no longer also be affordable. The Devil is in the details.

  • Dawn December 3, 2014 (7:09 am)

    @John: I never said I was against housing. Please don’t put words in my mouth or confuse my specific concerns with others. I know growth can’t be stopped, but yes, I believe it should be mandatory to include at least one parking space per bedroom For new apt/condo/townhouse/microhousing/whatever construction. Of course that won’t help the traffic (growth, remember?), but it should help to ease the growing *parking problem* to which some residents object; myself included. A robust public transit system is badly needed to help traffic. That is a different tooic for discussion.

  • Dawn December 3, 2014 (8:28 am)

    @WS since 66: i said providing adequate parking would be a good (if we’re using all caps) START. It is certainly not the silver bullet. Nothing is. Another good START would be a robust public transit system. I am not against development, just stupid development. Growth is inevitable, but you cannot address growth without public transit being part of the discussion. That would be another good START. Believe it or not, some of us with cars WANT to use public tranportation, but our transit system STINKS. And that is a topic for another thread of angry neighbors e-yelling at each other. Can’t wait!

  • pjmanley December 3, 2014 (10:07 pm)

    “Increased property values” sounds great until one considers that unless you are selling and leaving Seattle, that “increase” only means higher property taxes. People commonly confuse asset values with liquidity. You can’t spend a house. You can sell it and get a pile of cash, but now you’re homeless. Buy another home, and you’ll give whatever “profit” you made right back to the market. The point is that “increased property values” is a red-herring and un-compelling argument for or against development. Any “premium” or benefit is only realized if you can leverage it, which few can do anywhere in Seattle anymore. So, “cash in and leave” doesn’t sound like a viable or desirable option. Nor is it very neighborly.

    And I keep reading and hearing that the younger folks don’t drive cars, yet all around these new, dense buildings, all I see is more and more cars, and lots of young-looking drivers. Could we be over-stating this generational abandonment of the automobile as transportation just a bit? I think so. And let’s see what happens when they start having kids, start leaving their condos, and trade in their Jettas to become shameless minivan-driving soccer moms and dads. Reality always surprises!

  • WestofJunction December 4, 2014 (6:09 am)

    pjmanley makes another good point – fsmily formation may have been delayed due to the last recession, but it is highly likely that those mopeds will be traded in for minivans at some point.

  • John December 4, 2014 (9:19 am)

    pjmanley says, “You can’t spend a house.”

    Perhaps he was unfamiliar with the eviction imbroglio over the homeowner on Gatewood so thoroughly covered by WSB. In that case the homeowner tragically had done exactly that, ‘spent his house’, pulled a half century of assets of the family home value to fund a failed business.

    Seniors wishing to stay in their value increasing (and tax increasing) homes can access their property assets this way.

    Beyond those examples, it is quite common for homeowners to get a second home loan to pull cash out of their house’s growing value.

    And PJ, as far as car ownership and drivers going down I was referring to published statistics.

    Your anecdotal argument weighs in equally with my equally anecdotal statement that I have a niece attending college that still has no desire to learn to drive, much less own a vehicle. I also have a nephew who did not want to learn to drive, and my brother in law is making him learn because he is so tired of chauffeuring his son around. I can’t imagine what kids do these days!

    I just find it more remarkable that some people I know have eschewed cars. It goes beyond simple admiration that I express to those friends who commute by bike and bus out of principle.

    Please see this morning’s Seattle Times,
    `”As two-hour trips become commonplace for Snohomish County commuters going to Seattle, transit officials are taking a few small steps to adapt, by adding a few weekly buses.”

    This is just another indication that people are moving to mass transit.
    But also a confirmation that banning new infill construction is adding to gridlock as people are forced to the burbs and longer commutes.

    The piece goes on to describe how the HOV lanes need to be freed up for buses by increasing to a three passenger rule, but the car supporters (like those insisting on building apartment car infrastructure) are too powerful.

    Also of note for this discussion, this morning’s Wall Street Journal, “the nation’s fertility rate edged down last year to a RECORD LOW, the latest notch in a long decline made worse by the recent recession.” The current ‘fertility rate’ has fallen “below the 2.1 children needed to keep the population stable.” WSJ – Baby Bust Threatens Growth
    The article notes that the decline preceded the recession.

  • Dawn December 4, 2014 (1:27 pm)

    Anyone here from Chicago remember the Robert Taylor Homes project? 28 high rises with a combined total of close to 4500 units with the intent to provide “decent, affordable housing”. Planned for 11,000 residents, at it’s peak there were close to 27,000. In environmental psychology circles, it is held up as an example of what happens when you cram too many people into an urban space. The microhousing projects here in Seattle, of course, are nowhere near the scale of the RTHP, and there aren’t the same issues of lack of green space and access to commercial and civic ammenities, but i feel there are cautionary lessons to be learned. Like, the number of residents “planned for” in low income housing is not necessarily the number of residents there will actually be.

  • JTB December 4, 2014 (4:02 pm)

    Several points/questions:
    1. Does NERD believe the Director acted as a tool for the developer with some degree of bias or was mostly uninformed or misinformed about the authority of the DRB to require further changes to the building’s height? The Director’s findings on parking impact appear to be a matter of interpretation, but it’s not clear if that was intentionally biased or just poorly considered. Does this person need oversight, training or replacement?

    2. More importantly, it is disturbing that citizens had to resort to a private lawsuit to force the Director to conduct a proper review of key issues after a number of public hearings on the project where they voiced their concerns. We would expect the public meeting/review process to provide sufficient opportunity for citizens to have their concerns given fair, honest and competent hearing. That it did not is distressing and will hopefully serve as a wake up call to anyone concerned about how local residents can have a meaningful voice in determining the quality of life in a rapidly developing community.

    3.Engage or don’t whine about the consequences from standing by idly.

  • Bradley December 5, 2014 (1:23 pm)

    Revenge of the NERDs! Thank you for saving West Seattle from at least one beehive-density development.

  • John December 7, 2014 (8:18 am)

    Bradley,
    The NERD’s suit does not save West Seattle or even prevent this project.
    It will go up, perhaps in a revised form.

    Let’s all wait to rejoice until after the ‘fat lady’ sings.

    JTB,
    It is not the job for DPD to respond to public concerns over regulations.
    Rather it is our mayor and city council who address community concerns with directions to DPD who they oversee.

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