The semiweekly city Land Use Information Bulletin has just arrived, and the site shown above — 4103 SW Edmunds, proposed for teardown-to-five-townhomes (as first reported here in February) kitty-corner from the south side of Jefferson Square — is the only West Seattle project on it; the city has ruled that its land-use permit application doesn’t require environmental review even though it’s technically in an “Environmentally Critical Area” because of the steep slope. Its construction and demolition permits are still pending. Nothing unusual given that it’s in the densifying area around The Junction, but it comes at a time when the city is about to start reviewing “multifamily zoning” (as reported here). Related to that issue, a West Seattle resident just cc’d us on her letter to a councilmember expressing opposition to the changes – we’ve had some glowing reviews of them already, so we’re sharing this counterpoint – read on:
The new townhouse regulations proposal is an outrage!
(http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/news/20080710a.asp) These new regulations do not ensure that multifamily houses are attractive, or sensible, or fit in the neighborhoods. Instead it allows for larger, in essence â€œmore,â€ townhouses and less parking guised by a very sheer veil of â€œgreenâ€ building policies.
One way townhouses impact our neighborhoods is through quadrupling (or more) the number of vehicles associated with a typical single family lot. Reducing the required parking does not inspire townhouses owners to use public transportation; rather it just means they crowd already crowded residential streets with more vehicles. In turn, this impacts the neighborhood in a negative way. So by reducing the required number of parking spaces, your proposal perpetuates and amplifies this negative impact.
Another, extremely significant way townhouses impact our neighborhoods is by increasing the amount of use and demand on our sewer and storm-water infrastructure. In neighborhoods where there are drainage issues and flooding in heavy rains, the increased sewage use means there is even less storm-water drainage. Higher rooflines and additional square footage create the potential for even more demand on infrastructure than what is presently allowed. It is a ridiculous situation where the city has allowed for increased density without ensuring that, or making improvements to, the sewage and storm-water drainage infrastructures are sufficient to handle the combined increased density and rainstorms.
Also, because in many cases the infrastructure would have to be improved, it makes it cost prohibitive for developers to add basic amenities like sidewalks, curbs, gutters, paved alleys, etc. If it werenâ€™t necessary to improve our sewer and storm-water drainage, the cost for simple improvements like these could easily be outweighed by the increased marketability of the townhouses. Instead the impact is more particulate air pollution from unpaved alleys, more wear and tear on our roads, more traffic, and less walk-able communities for increased populations. And the cityâ€™s current and proposed policies do absolutely nothing to address this negative impact.
Further, speaking of quadrupling (or more), the tax base for the properties that convert from a single family house to multiple townhouses, also dramatically increases. So, while communities are paying significantly more taxes, the city services provided to these communities are not increasing. Rather they keep being cut. Sewer and storm-water systems are not being improved. Utilities are not being put underground. Streets and sidewalks are not being improved or even adequately maintained. Streets are literally crumbling apart. Staircases are overgrown. Parking strips that are not adjacent to privately owned properties are overgrown. And, in the ten years that I have owned my current property, I canâ€™t remember ever seeing, on the street adjacent to my property, road maintenance such as sealcoats and overlays , or even a street sweeper! Compared to some cities that get their streets swept on a bi-weekly basis, this is appalling.
Perhaps instead of spending your time, and our tax dollars thinking up bogus regulations for townhouses, you could channel it into providing basic services and making improvements to our communities.
A stack of info on the new zoning proposals is available from links at the right side of this city page. So far as we can find out, no hearings are scheduled yet, but we will keep you updated throughout the process.