West Seattle, Washington
6:15 PM: Two issues related to the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) are being presented for your comments at an open-house-style meeting under way until 7:30 pm at High Point Community Center (6920 34th SW). We’ve already counted more than 60 people in the main room, checking out the easels set up for proposed changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan – here’s our preview on that issue – and for potential rule changes regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (“backyard cottages” being the best-known type) – here’s our preview on that. We checked and they’re still planning on a presentation at 6:30 on a screen at the front of the room, although otherwise this is NOT a sit-and-listen type meeting.
6:25 PM: On the “comprehensive plan amendment” side, the Q&A/comment stations deal with specific urban villages where, as noted in our preview, the city is seeking to eliminate neighborhood-plan-related language that seeks to “protect” or “preserve” single-family zoning, which HALA’s Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning would be removing from urban villages. Three West Seattle urban villages are potentially affected here – Morgan Junction, West Seattle Junction, and Westwood-Highland Park.
You’ll have opportunities to comment online – we’ll add those when the meeting’s over – but while here, you are also offered the chance to write yours on paper; one attendee from Morgan Junction showed us his. He’s worried about ongoing displacement of low-income renters in the older housing stock that already is being torn down and replaced by new for-sale residences.
6:50 PM: The presentation is over – about 10 minutes on the comprehensive plan component, five on the accessory-dwelling-unit component. (
We recorded it all on video and will add to this report when we have it uploaded and processed later at HQ. Full unedited video below:)
Both were basically primers; there was no Q&A, and the only bit of impromptu feedback came when, in the comp-plan section, city senior planner Geoff Wentlandt (opening by thanking people for turning out for “complex and wonky” topics) said amendments were needed because neighborhood plans shouldn’t be inconsistent with overarching city policy.
“Why not?” someone called out. No reply. Meantime, in one possible sign that the turnout exceeded expectations, the sparkling water bottles are all empty already. The sandwiches, however (chicken and tofu, described as “from a banh mi place on Delridge”), are still abundantly available.
7:08 PM: Still about 30 people talking in small groups, but the crowd definitely thinned after the presentation.
8:10 PM: Back at HQ. Had some signal trouble toward the end, so catching up on images now. First and most importantly, here’s how you can comment on both these issues, regardless of whether you were able to get to tonight’s meeting:
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENTS: Choose your urban village and comment via this site, by December 8th.
ADU/DADU ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT SCOPING: This phase of comments closes on November 1st; there’s an online comment form linked on the right side of this page (scroll down the left side for the full timeline).
While the next major step in citywide HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) upzoning is not expected until the final Environmental Impact Statement comes out next month, you’re being asked at a West Seattle meeting this Tuesday night (October 17th) to weigh in on what ultimately is a proposal to override parts of three local neighborhood plans to pave the way for upzoning.
The city wants to put language in the Comprehensive Plan affecting parts of the West Seattle Junction, Morgan Junction, and Westwood-Highland Park Urban Villages, to remove language that calls for protection of current single-family zoning in those areas. The HALA upzoning proposals so far already had called for changing those areas in urban villages, but that raised a conflict with parts of the existing neighborhood plans which were included when the comprehensive plan was recently revised. So the proposed “comprehensive plan amendments” are an attempt to replace the existing language, and they are asking for opinions at Tuesday night’s meeting – 6-7:30 pm at High Point Community Center (6920 34th SW), “open house” format before and after what’s described as a short presentation at 6:30 pm.
The city’s materials for the meeting are now available online, and while they offer an option for writing your own language, they very specifically suggest not saying you want to preserve any particular kind of zoning, single-family or otherwise. From the last page of the document:
Policy Language to Avoid
Direct references to specific zones. New policies should avoid references to all specific zoning
designations in a neighborhood plan policy. General discussion of housing types, land uses, scale, and
character effectively communicate a neighborhood’s vision.
Protection. The Comprehensive Plan’s goals and policies focus on shaping and guiding change for the future. Policies that emphasize protecting or preserving existing conditions limit our ability to reach these goals.
Superiority of single-family housing or zoning. Policies that connote the superiority of single-family housing compared to other types of housing should be avoided. Terms calling for maintaining qualities such as “integrity” of single-family areas should be avoided.
Here’s what they do want you to focus on, if you want to suggest your own comprehensive-plan language:
Examples for Revised Policies
Focus: Character and scale. Modify the policy language to focus on maintaining compatibility with or complementing the character and scale of single-family housing areas, rather than calling for preservation of single-family zoning.
Focus: Location and development pattern. Modify the policy language to describe the preferred general pattern for land use or urban form. This can include identification of certain areas that are relatively more appropriate for certain kinds of development.
Focus: Housing choices. Modify the policy language to emphasize housing choices or opportunities, such as housing for families or ADA accessible units.
Since the meeting document includes pages for other neighborhoods outside West Seattle, with the current language and suggested replacements, we’ve broken out the local pages below, each one with three city-suggested options plus the possibility of crafting your own. First, for the West Seattle Junction:
Next, for Morgan Junction:
And for Westwood-Highland Park:
If you can’t get to Tuesday night’s meeting – which, as previously previewed, is also addressing “backyard cottages” (a citywide issue, not just urban villages) – here’s how you can still participate, with the city taking comments on this through December 8th – use seattle2035.consider.it.
P.S. Again, the urban-village-specific pages above are taken from the full city document prepared for upcoming meetings. You can see it, including an introductory page, in its entirety by going here.
Five West Seattle development notes:
DESIGN REVIEW FOR 5242 CALIFORNIA SW’S NEWEST PLAN: The commercial building at 5242 California SW has a new redevelopment plan – nine 3-story townhouses, with nine offstreet-parking spaces – and it’s tentatively scheduled to go before the Southwest Design Review Board at 6:30 pm November 16th (Senior Center/Sisson Building, 4217 SW Oregon). The newest site plan in city files shows these townhouses on just part of the current building’s site, it should be noted, with a lot-boundary adjustment in the works as a separate action.
About two miles north on California, a milestone for a mixed-use project:
2749 CALIFORNIA SW: Major demolition for the 108-apartments-plus-new-PCC Community Market (WSB sponsor) project has been awaiting permit approval, and the notice of approval was issued this week. The last step is a window for appeals, open until October 26th.
Yet another California SW project got a similar notice this week:
5458 CALIFORNIA SW: A notice of key approvals for the six live-work units planned on this site. Its appeal window is open until October 23rd. Meantime, we’re checking on the status of the plan announced back in March to sell and move (most of) the old log house on the site rather than demolish it.
Elsewhere in West Seattle, two more rowhouse projects are in the pipeline:
2000 SW ORCHARD: An 18-rowhouse project is in the early stages for this site east of the busy Delridge/Orchard intersection [map]. It appears from the site plan on file that each will have a one-vehicle garage.
5053 FAUNTLEROY WAY SW: An eight-rowhouse project is in the early stages, proposed to replace a duplex on this site two blocks south [map] of the intensely redeveloping Fauntleroy/Edmunds intersection. The site plan shows eight offstreet parking spaces.
The city is looking to change the rules regarding backyard cottages and in-law apartments, but is under orders to do an environmental review of the process first, as the result of a challenge by a community group in Queen Anne. The review process has just begun, according to a city announcement today requesting your comments – via e-mail as well as an upcoming West Seattle meeting. Here’s the announcement:
Today we announced the beginning of the environmental review process to study the potential effects of removing barriers to building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in single-family zones. ADUs include backyard cottages, known as Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs), and in-law apartments, known as Attached Accessory Dwelling Units (AADUs).
The first phase of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is to determine the scope of the study, and we want your input on what to consider and analyze as we explore allowing more ADUs in Seattle’s neighborhoods.
ADUs are small, secondary dwelling units inside, attached to, or in the rear yard of a single-family house. The City’s proposal involves allowing both an in-law apartment and a backyard cottage on the same lot, removing the existing off-street parking and owner-occupancy requirements, and changing some development standards that regulate the size and location of backyard cottages. Based on a decision from the City’s Hearing Examiner in December 2016, we’re preparing an EIS to review the potential environmental impacts of this proposal.
During the scoping phase, you can help us determine the alternatives we’ll study, potential environmental impacts to consider, and possible measures to avoid or reduce the effects of the proposal. Comments are due by 5:00 p.m. on November 1, 2017. You can give us your input in several ways:
by email: ADUEIS@seattle.gov
by mail to Aly Pennucci, Council Central Staff, PO Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025
in person at our two public scoping meetings.
One of those meetings is in West Seattle: Tuesday, October 17, 6:00-7:30 pm. at High Point Community Center, 6920 34th Ave SW.
An important thing to note: The meeting is NOT going to be a deep dive into the proposal – as noted here, it’s been added to the agenda for what was already an “open house”-style meeting about an even-more-complicated issue, whether to change the city’s Comprehensive Plan to remove language that, for some neighborhoods, conflicts with proposed HALA upzoning. That part of the meeting affects three specific “urban village” areas of West Seattle – The Junction, Morgan Junction, and Westwood-Highland Park – but the dwelling-unit part of the meeting involves neighborhoods citywide. We first wrote about the city’s plan in July.
Back in June, we brought you first word of a then-early-stage proposal which at the time carried the address 6721 California SW – replacing the century-plus-old house shown above with a 7-unit rowhouse and 5 offstreet-parking spaces. The project address has since been changed to 4300 SW Willow – it’s at the corner of California/Willow in south Morgan Junction – and today’s Land Use Information Bulletin brings the official notice of the developer’s land-use-permit application. This opens a two-week comment period focused on environmental aspects of the proposal; you can use this form to comment – the deadline is Monday, October 9th.
That’s the view from the roof of the north tower at The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW; WSB sponsor), where a grand-opening celebration this afternoon marked the completion of both towers. Here’s what’s on the roof:
Another view looks down to the common area:
This time of year, the fire pit will get some use:
Someone who’s no stranger to the outdoors, mountaineering legend Jim Whittaker – the complex’s namesake – was at the party:
Inside the building, here’s a look at the kitchen of a studio unit:
Sun streamed into this 1-bedroom:
The Whittaker has 2-bedroom units as well, and property managers say they’ve already leased 70 percent of the complex’s almost 400 units. As for the commercial space, no news yet about the area originally intended for Whole Foods. Except for MOD Pizza (next June), the ground-floor business tenants are expected to be open within the next month or so. One more thing: the mural on the west side that’s a digital recreation of the one that used to be on the Huling Brothers building that sat along Fauntleroy where The Whittaker’s south tower is now:
You might have noticed some other features along Fauntleroy – the building was set back to make room for a bicycle lane, and there’s art all around, including a water feature by Fauntleroy/Alaska, where the developer-funded crosswalk was recently completed. Today’s celebration is almost ten months after last year’s ribboncutting party marked the south tower’s opening.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When SDOT‘s last major review of West Seattle Junction parking resulted in this July 2009 announcement that it wouldn’t recommend metered parking, you could almost hear a huge collective sigh of relief.
That review had begun more than a year earlier, and months after the no-paid-street-parking news, ended with what we described at the time as “a relatively minor set of changes” – some tweaks to time limits.
But The Junction has had metered parking before – and the city’s new review has rekindled concerns that it will return. A lot has changed since the 2008-2009 review – primarily a dramatic amount of redevelopment adding hundreds of new apartments to the heart of The Junction – and some projects including fewer parking spaces than units, or even none, with the city changing its rules in 2012 to say that nearby “frequent transit” means parking might not be needed. (As reported here last week, those rules might be loosened even more.)
So with all that setting the stage, two SDOT reps were at last night’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting at the Senior Center/Sisson Building.. They weren’t the only speakers of interest – the next Junction park and a HALA update were part of the agenda too – but we start with the parking discussion:
City records show another change in plans for 3078 SW Avalon Way [map], which has been through a lot of change – on paper, at least – in the last five years. We first reported in August 2012 that it had an early-stage development proposal for a “7-story building with 65 residential units and 77 underground parking spaces.” One month later, dozens of neighbors filled the room at its first Design Review meeting. When its second one was scheduled almost a year later, the plan had changed to what city files described as an “8-story, 108-apartment, 61-parking-space proposal.” After the Southwest Design Review Board gave its final approval in January 2014, neighbors appealed a subsequent city determination that the project would have no significant environmental impacts. The city Hearing Examiner’s ruling in December 2014 went their way. Then, this past July, after an architect change, the project returned to Design Review. The current board, entirely different from those who reviewed the project previously, felt they didn’t have enough information for a final decision and decided another meeting was in order.
And now – the apartment project’s been scrapped, with a new plan for the site, according to documents in online city files: 8 townhouses with four offstreet-parking spaces. A new preliminary site plan was filed less than a week ago. This would be the second apartments-to-townhouses plan change on the block – at one time 3062 SW Avalon Way also was proposed for a 100+-apartment building, but nine townhouses are now being built.
For the first time in almost a decade, SDOT is reviewing parking in The Junction. Department reps will talk about it at the Junction Neighborhood Organization‘s next meeting, tomorrow (Tuesday, September 19th). Here’s the “fact sheet” for the review, just added to the city website today:
(Click image for full-size PDF on city website)
Q&A is promised, too. (Whether or not you’ll be there, the city’s just opened this online survey as part of the review.)
Also on the JuNO agenda: Next steps for the future Junction park in the 4700 block of 40th SW, following the recent “open house” – Seattle Parks reps including project manager Karimah Edwards will be there. And with the final HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability Environmental Impact Statement and its proposed upzoning maps due soon, the JuNO Land Use Committee will present an update, too. All welcome at tomorrow night’s meeting, 6:30 pm, at the Senior Center/Sisson Building (4217 SW Oregon).
The Southwest Design Review Board calendar now has one project set for a fall meeting, just added – the second review for 2715 California SW [map], “a four-story, 48-unit apartment building with one live-work unit and retail to be located at street level” with 46 underground parking spaces. The project, called “Admiral Station,” passed the first phase of Design Review on its first try six months ago (WSB coverage here). Its second and potentially final review is penciled onto the SWDRB calendar for 6:30 pm Thursday, October 19th, at the Sisson Building/Senior Center (4217 SW Oregon).
P.S. If you’re interested in the proposed changes to the Design Review process, see our coverage of the citywide public hearing earlier this week by going here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When city staff booked a Queen Anne movie theater for a doubleheader public hearing before the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee, they seriously underestimated the amount of time and space they would need.
Last night’s hearing at SIFF Cinema Uptown was scheduled for an hour and a half of public comment on the HALA upzoning proposal for the Uptown area, and then two hours of public comment on proposed changes to the city’s Design Review program.
The former turned out to be the hottest ticket. When we arrived around 6:40 pm, planning to cover the Design Review hearing, we found dozens of people waiting outside the theater – not for one of the movies in the other two auditoriums, but for the upzoning hearing. The theater had declared Auditorium 3 at capacity and was only letting people in to replace those who left; we had to argue our way in.
As it turned out, though, we might as well have waited, as the Uptown hearing ran an hour extra. It was a standing-room-only crowd, with four councilmembers – committee chair Rob Johnson, vice chair Mike O’Brien, Tim Burgess, and Sally Bagshaw – present for that hearing, while only Johnson and O’Brien stayed for the Design Review hearing. (West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who is a member of the committee, was not there.)
Uptown testimony finally wrapped up just after 8 pm, and Johnson ordered the proceedings to move immediately into the Design Review topic. A very quick overview was given by Christina Ghan from the Department of Construction and Inspections, and then it was on into the ~40 people who had signed up to speak. Seattle Channel was there, recording, but as of this writing, its video of the marathon hearing hasn’t appeared online, so here’s what we recorded. There’s literally nothing to see after the first couple slides, as our angle didn’t get the speakers (who were almost all down on the auditorium floor anyway), but you can play it as audio in the background.
Below – highlights of each speaker. Not full transcriptions – you’ll want to listen, to get the entirety of what was said. In summary, the criticism was wide-ranging, and not necessarily along the lines you’d expect. Criticism of the proposed “early community engagement” component ranged from leaving the fox in charge of the hen house to adds even more unpredictability for project teams; last-minute amendments led to a variety of concerns about changing the thresholds for design review, either raising them or lowering them. And several people suggested that adding staffing to SDCI would be the best way to speed up project reviews, expressing doubt that the design-review process was really a major factor in delays. Only a few people alluded to the amendments brought up last Friday (see them here). Ahead, the toplines:
We were already planning to publish a reminder about a City Council committee hearing Monday night that’s of citywide importance to everyone interested in development – the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee‘s hearing on proposed changes to the Design Review process. Then, just now, a local community group that closely watches development-related issues sent an alert with new last-minute information. From the Morgan Community Association:
The city has proposed some major changes to the existing Design Review Program. MoCA President (and past Design Review member) Deb Barker was on the stakeholders group who worked with the city on possible changes earlier this year. The city just released their final proposed version in a package sent to the City Council in August. Several MoCA board members have been reviewing those changes to see how they would impact our neighborhood and if we wanted to make additional comments at the Public Hearing tomorrow, Sept 11. But to our dismay, on Friday (Sept. 8th), the City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee proposed 9 additional amendments of modifications, some of which have multiple new options. In their discussion, staff was not able to actually describe what the full changes are and admit it is confusing and more information is needed.
In a nutshell, we don’t know what’s on the table any more!
The PLUZ committee has said they plan to vote this out of committee on Sept 19. We are asking anyone who has an interest in good design happening in our neighborhoods to write to the PLUZ committee and request more time for Council to solidify their amendments and have time for the public to review and comment on the final package. Please send a short note to city council by 7:00 pm Monday, Sept 11.
Email addresses for the PLUZ committee
Link to the Mayor’s proposed changes to Design Review (Director’s Report summary)
Link to the City Council proposed amendments (as of last Friday)
The council committee has been discussing the potential changes (pre-amendments) in recent months; we wrote about one of the discussions in mid-August. In general, reasons cited for changing the program include shortening the time it takes to get projects through city vetting, and also an alleged overload/backlog for the city’s Design Review Boards (although right now, for example, the Southwest Design Review Board has zero projects on its upcoming calendar).
MONDAY NIGHT’S HEARING: If you’d like to comment in person at the committee’s hearing on the Design Review changes, the Monday night hearing is on Lower Queen Anne, at SIFF Cinema Uptown, in Auditorium 3, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N. The meeting starts at 5:30 pm with an hour and a half scheduled for the Uptown rezoning proposal, not related to the Design Review proposal, which is then scheduled to come up at 7 pm. The meeting’s full agenda, with document links, is here.
Three weeks ago, we reported on a City Council committee approving a “street vacation” requested for the West Coast Self-Storage project on the way to 3252 Harbor Avenue SW, in partnership with Nucor, because of that company’s use of undeveloped right-of-way for adjacent train tracks. This week, the council gave its unanimous approval to the proposal. When it’s finalized, the undeveloped sections of 29th SW and City View involved in the request (see the map above) would be sold to WCSS and Nucor at fair-market value. The final version of the ordinance includes the 12 items, valued at $305,000, that would be provided as “public benefit,” required for right-of-way to be given up in this way. The project will be a 56-foot-high building with 850 storage units.
MICROHOUSING PROJECT SITE FOR SALE: There’s a new commercial-real-estate listing this week for 5952 California SW, which – as first reported here in May 2016 – is planned for a microhousing project. The listing itself is titled simply “SEDU Site”; as you might recall, SEDU is the city’s official name for microhousing, small efficiency dwelling units. The last official description on the city website says the project will have 29 microunits and 6 apartments, which is also what the listing’s online notes say: “Property in process of being permitted to build 35 units (Small Efficiency Dwelling Units) and also being approved to go up 5 stories …” County records show the site was sold last December for less than half its current $2 million listing price.
DEMOLITION PLANS: The following list shows West Seattle demolition permits/applications dated within the past two weeks, as found in the city’s online files:
-3276 California SW, one-story commercial building to be replaced by live-work units
-3045 California SW, one-story commercial building to be replaced by building with ground-level commercial under 3 apartments
-9211 15th SW, house to be replaced by townhouses
-2950 Alki SW, house to be replaced by 3 townhouses
-4214-4218 30th SW, two houses to be replaced by 8 townhouses
-5033-5035 Delridge Way SW, houses to be replaced by townhouses
-5016 Fauntleroy Way SW, house to be replaced by two new houses
-8802 9th SW, house to be replaced by 8 townhouses
-7926 34th SW, house to be replaced by new house
-4725 SW Dawson, house to be replaced by new house
-6314 49th SW, house to be replaced by new house
-4415 48th SW, house to be replaced by new house
There’s one West Seattle project in today’s city-circulated Land Use Information Bulletin – 4417 42nd SW [map]. We first reported on the plan last December; it passed the first round of Design Review in May (here’s the city report). It’s currently planned as a “four-story apartment building containing 58 units and 4 live-work units” with 26 underground parking spaces, to be built where three 1930s-built houses currently stand at 4417, 4421, and 4423 42nd SW. Today’s notice says you have until September 11th to comment on the land-use application for the project; here’s how.
The only West Seattle item in today’s city-circulated Land Use Information Bulletin is the one marked by this sign (in the city’s new format) – 1709 Harbor SW, where it’s comment time on the application for this project:
Land Use Application to change the use of an existing building from office and residential to all residential. The project includes a five story residential addition on the south side of the building for a total of 17 apartments. Parking for 17 vehicles proposed. Existing two-story single family residence to be demolished.
The official notice says comments will be taken until September 20th on various aspects of the project, including its environmental impacts (including traffic, and the fact it’s close to the shoreline). Here’s how to comment.
That century-old house at 3027 59th SW in the Alki area [map] will soon be demolished to make way for a three-townhouse building. First, the Seattle Fire Department plans to use the site for training exercises, with the owners’ permission. SFD says the training is scheduled for Sunday through Tuesday (August 20-22). The announcement adds, “This training will not include any live fire burning and every effort will be made to not impede traffic and/or access to the area. Observers are welcome! Areas will be marked off for safe viewing.”
(Seattle Channel video of PLUZ committee meeting Tuesday. Design Review discussion starts 1 hour, 53 minutes in)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If the city’s Design Review process is dramatically overhauled, as currently proposed, it could cut one or two months off the time it takes a development to get through the permitting process. The speed-it-up aspect was touted at the start of the mayor’s announcement earlier this month that the proposal was ready to go public.
But is that the most important goal? That’s one of the questions being considered by the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee, which got its second briefing Tuesday on the proposed Design Review changes.
They were told the all-volunteer Design Review Boards around the city have a backlog (although here in West Seattle, for example, as of this writing, the Southwest Design Review Board has only one project on its calendar, the September 7th review of 2222 SW Barton (the official notice was published today, but we reported on the scheduling two weeks ago).
One reason for scrutiny of the proposed changes: Design Review remains the only part of the project-vetting process that requires public meetings for some projects. If these changes pass, fewer projects will have to go through Design Review – and most of those that do will have fewer, if any, meetings. The overall changes are summarized in this council-staff memo:
1. Require early community engagement by applicants with the community;
2. Modify the thresholds above which design review is required. To ensure consistent application, thresholds will be based on the total square footage in a building instead of dwelling unit counts, use and zone;
3. Establish new thresholds to determine the type of design review required based on site and project characteristics;
4. Change the composition of design review boards (DRBs) to replace the general community interest seat with a second local residential/community interest seat and allow more than one Get Engaged member to participate on the boards; and
5. Modify and update other provisions related to design review.
At Tuesday’s briefing, city staffers focused on two components – the “new thresholds” and the “early community engagement.” The latter would in effect replace the first public meeting for some projects – with a new type of “outreach” that developers will be expected to arrange.
A full City Council vote in September is the next step to a street vacation for the West Coast Self-Storage project planned at 3252 Harbor SW. Today’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee hearing/vote – previewed here on Monday – was unanimously in favor of it (with two of the three committee members – chair Mike O’Brien and Rob Johnson – present) – first item in the Seattle Channel video, after open public comment:
SDOT’s point person on street (and alley) vacations, Beverly Barnett, explained that Nucor’s interest in an adjacent 25,175-square-foot section of unimproved 29th SW – added to the self-storage project’s request for 2,029 sf of unimproved SW City View – dated back to 20 years ago, when tracks were built there as part of a plan that ultimately fell apart. As noted in our preview, the self-storage company is promising a $300,000+ “public-benefit package” including improvements to the Alki Trail, such as moving utility poles. If the street vacation gets final approval, the land also would have to be purchased from the city at fair-market value.
Only one person spoke at today’s hearing, and his concerns involved the 850-storage-unit building’s projected 56-foot height (almost 30′ below what the site’s zoned for), not the street vacation itself. But if you have comments, you can still send them to the council before its September vote – find all councilmembers’ contact info here.
Remember the saga of that house in South Delridge, which stood for months after the third fire in five years? It was a reminder of city rules that make it difficult for nuisance houses to be dealt with – by the city and/or by their owners. Rule changes have been making their way through City Hall, and today, they won approval from the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee, after an extensive discussion and some amendments. In the Seattle Channel video below, it was the first item after a half-hour plus of public comment on various agenda items:
This has been an issue for many years – in 2009, North Delridge neighbors led a tour of problem properties, with City Councilmembers and department heads in attendance, and there was talk of changing the rules. No major changes ensued; at least one of the vacant houses featured in that tour is still standing, still vacant. The current proposal is summarized as:
Summary of the Proposal
Vacant Building Maintenance (SMC 22.206.200)
Strengthen the standards for securing the windows of vacant buildings to require slightly thicker
plywood and fastening with screws rather than nails, and add the option of using clear polycarbonate
panels or other approved materials instead of plywood.
Establish an expedited process for removing garbage, junk, or other debris from a vacant property if the owner does not respond to a notice of violation.
Demolition of Unfit Buildings (SMC 22.208.020)
Establish an expedited process for ordering the demolition of a vacant building that can be documented
Demolition of Housing (SMC 23.40.006)
In instances when a final redevelopment permit has not yet been issued, reduce the length of time that
rental housing must sit vacant before a demolition permit can be issued … and expand this provision to apply in commercial, industrial, and multifamily zones (in addition to single-family zones).
(That’s from the start of the Director’s Report document you’ll find, along with other documents related to the bill, by going here. Among the docs is the following map, showing vacant-building complaints around the city:)
One concern long voiced has been that making it too easy to tear down vacant houses will reduce available housing stock. West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said it would be helpful to know more about the 200+ vacant buildings that are on the city’s radar, and which ones might be usable for housing. She also offered an amendment to try to toughen the scrutiny of demolition review for structures that might contain a “dwelling unit,” but it wasn’t approved.
Meantime, there was a compromise in a central provision of the new rules, reducing the waiting period required for demolition from 12 months after a building was last used for rental housing, to 6 months. (The original proposal was to cut it to four months; then there was a counterproposal for eight months; and six months was today’s compromise.)
After today’s committee approval, the rule changes move on to the full Council, likely in September, so if you have something to say about them before a final vote, there’s still time – you can start with Councilmember Herbold at email@example.com, and/or contact all councilmembers via the info you’ll find here.
This morning’s City Council briefing meeting included a reminder of a major West Seattle item that’s on the calendar for the Sustainability and Transportation Committee tomorrow afternoon (as announced last month), including public comment if you have something to say about it – a “street vacation” sought in connection with the West Coast Self-Storage project proposed for 3252 Harbor Avenue SW. Above (or here), you can scroll through the slide deck that shows not only what’s proposed and where – one slide notes they expect the building to include ~850 units – but also what’s being offered in exchange for the “vacation.” It’s a request for the city to “vacate” what is currently publicly owned property, technically part of the street system but not being used as such. These requests have to include a “public benefit” package – the slide deck includes a list of what West Coast Self-Storage is offering, valued at more than $300,000, from moving a utility pole off the Alki Trail to including art panels in its building’s exterior. Eventually, the property that’s approved for vacation is sold at fair-market value. Also of note in this case: Nearby Nucor is a party to the vacation request for land that’s technically part of 29th SW and SW City View, seeking “to accommodate” railroad tracks. The proposed “vacation” area otherwise would be covered by the new 4-story self-storage building.
If you have something to say about the vacation request (see the full 81-page document here), be at City Council chambers at City Hall (600 4th Ave.) downtown at the start of Tuesday’s 2 pm committee meeting. If you can’t be there, you can e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org – Councilmember Mike O’Brien chairs the committee.
Four and a half years after the final Taco Thursday, it’s Farewell Tuesday:
1:14 PM: Thanks to Carolyn Newman for the photo! Last week, we showed you the start of ground-level demolition for the mixed-use project at 1307 Harbor SW that includes the site of the former Alki Tavern, which closed in March 2013; its fans have been coming for a last look as the demolition equipment got closer. (If you’re new here, the tavern was long a popular spot for riders, especially on Taco Thursdays; the last one before the tavern’s permament closure was in March 2013.)
ADDED 4:53 PM: And now, the rest of the story … as the building came down. It’s part of this “video obituary” courtesy of Mark Jaroslaw:
COMMENT DEADLINE TOMORROW: The extra two weeks for commenting on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the MHA upzoning – and its alternatives for how that might be achieved – is tomorrow (Monday, August 7th). That, you’ll recall, was a two-week extension from the original deadline. In her latest online update (second item), City Councilmember Lisa Herbold says she asked Office of Planning and Community Development director Sam Assefa for three more weeks, but he said no. He did, however, respond to her continuing concerns about displacement risk, she added:
(H)e did agree to significant new analysis on the displacement risks associated with the proposed upzones. I am specifically seeking more detailed quantitative analysis of displacement impacts on people-of-color and a more qualitative analysis of cultural displacement, both disaggregated to the neighborhood level. Director Assefa has also made an important commitment that the draft Final EIS will be shared with Council prior to publication. If the analysis for the FEIS is not sufficient to quantify disparate impacts, I may consider commissioning additional analyses either through a peer-review of the FEIS or other measure.
Whatever your comments, if you haven’t sent them yet, again, tomorrow’s the deadline; here’s how to send a comment.
ANOTHER REAL-ESTATE LISTING REFERENCING HALA: Last week, we reported on a $5.6 million real-estate listing in Morgan Junction offering 7 single-family parcels “bundled” in anticipation of HALA MHA upzoning, which could potentially, the flyer said, allow 148 apartments or 30 townhomes on the currently single-family-zoned site. This week, we discovered another West Seattle real-estate flyer with a HALA reference – this one, though, geared toward buyers who might want to avoid MHA (which would either require part of a project to be “affordable housing” or a fee to pay for some elsewhere). The flyer is for 3039 SW Avalon Way, seeking to sell the site where a proposed 71-apartment project passed Design Review last January, and has a Master Use Permit (MUP) “imminent,” per the flyer. Part of the flyer’s pitch: “The MUP allows a developer to break ground by the end of 2017, and equally beneficial, would not be subject to proposed HALA/MHA development fees scheduled to take effect in 2018.” Also from the flyer:
Avalon West is permitted for 71 apartment units, with a mix of studios, open 1-bedrooms, 1-bedrooms, and 2-bedrooms, and an average unit size of 525 square feet. Units will have high-end fixtures and finishes, including dishwashers and washer/dryers, with many units featuring views. Garage parking will be available for 18 cars, creating a premium on space and an opportunity to charge more than $100/space.
The listing doesn’t show an asking price.