Video: DESC Delridge project passes 1st round of Design Review

(DESC project site on Delridge, from “packet” for Thursday night meeting)
9:19 PM: We’re at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, where the first Southwest Design Review Board meeting looking at the proposed DESC homeless-housing project at 5444 Delridge Way has just ended. About 20 members of the public were there; about half a dozen spoke. Board members had many suggestions for the architects, but none were enough to stop the project from moving forward in the design-review process, so it has officially cleared “early design guidance,” which means DESC can apply for its master use permit. Next step: They will have to develop a fully fleshed-out design to bring to a second SWDRB meeting, date not yet set. We have video of the meeting and full details to come.

FIRST ADDITION: Interim update – The six-minute clip above is the very end of the meeting, with SWDRB chair Brandon Nicholson summarizing the recommendations the board is making to the architects and the city Department of Planning and Development. The letters/numbers he mentions right at the beginning refer to the codes on this page (scroll down).

SECOND ADDITION: Here’s the entire meeting on videotape, with two small gaps – between clips 1 and 2, our first camera ran out of power during a public comment; clip 2 picks up during that same commenter, and ends when the room shifted for the board to begin its deliberations, which are done in the open; clip 3 picks up at the start of those deliberations. Click the lower-right area of any clip to watch it either bigger-screen on the YouTube site (the logo will take you there) or fullscreen:

11 Replies to "Video: DESC Delridge project passes 1st round of Design Review"

  • Ronnie Applewhite December 8, 2011 (9:33 pm)

    I could not attend this meeting because of a previous engagement, but I wanted to talk to them about whether or not the entry and parking is going to be from Delridge or the alleyway. I share the alleyway, and we are already having problem with potholes from the new businesses and apartments that have been built in the last couple of years. I hope if there is going to be alot of increased traffic because of this place that they are planning to pave the alley. Do you have any contact info for them please?

    • WSB December 8, 2011 (10:00 pm)

      Ronnie – the city requires parking off alleys unless there’s no alley or it’s somehow out of the question (the Avalon Way development recently approved is one example – the “alley” behind the property, atop the slope dropping down to the stadium etc., apparently doesn’t work). What was discussed tonight included having the entrance to the building from Delridge, though. I’m uploading the Design Review Board chair’s summary of recommendations first as a video clip for those who want to cut to the chase and not await the detailed reports including ours … MOST importantly, you asked about contact. Michael Dorcy is the planner on the project, for the city; all comments go to him, – TR

  • MyEye December 8, 2011 (11:23 pm)

    Shocking, the process that is getting railroaded through the neighborhood got approval. The more I learn about DESC the more it seems they are a band aid for a bleeding artery.

  • Krystal December 9, 2011 (2:42 pm)

    Ditto, MyEye.

  • John December 10, 2011 (1:09 pm)

    MyEye, I don’t understand your claims of this being “railroaded.”
    Although attention, coverage and special meetings concerning the DESC project have now become the norm, some are still dis-satisfied. Remember, this is a private development on private lands and just like you building on your property without unusual constraints so should they be able to.

    The Design Review was part of the public process involving design and DESC had no part in the process last night. Two architects representing the firm that was hired by DESC made presentations. They referenced work they had previously done, mainly the defining work in the Brandon Node. They were there to present their early scheme work, listen to public comments and answer questions.

    To me, the most interesting thing to emerge through the public comments was the desire to remove an exceptional tree, spread the building out over the tree’s quadrant thereby being able to reduce the building’s four stories to three.


    After these people were informed at the Design Review 101 and at this meeting that the Seattle Tree Code was not a viable discussion within Design Review, they managed to discuss the tree at great length before finally being reminded again.

    The fact that it was suggested that the tree be removed alone would generate quite a flow of comments here on WSB, but no coverage of it was included.

    The other remarkable thing to emerge is the success of this strategy. The tree made the building too high next to the alley. The tree has to stay, so the building design is being asked to compromise.
    This is after the building is fully code compliant. If any one’s neighbor decided to build 35′ tall five feet back from their property line, they would be allowed to and no forum exists for the “harmed” neighbor.
    It is incredible that people acquire property adjacent to property of a different zone (property adjacent to higher zones is priced accordingly less), then express outrage when the owners of the other zone exercise their rights to pursue legal development.
    If no development was made and trees planted instead, the trees would grow higher and block more sky than the building.
    In Seattle, there are no Legal Rights to airspace or views in our neighborhoods, yet the Design Review Board is granting them to a few individuals with attendant compromised design for the rest of us.

    • WSB December 10, 2011 (1:54 pm)

      I’m still working on the longer piece, which also includes 99% of the meeting on video, aside from the part where camera #1 ran out of battery during a commenter and the part where things stopped down for a couple minutes before the board deliberated. This remains the short “filed right after it happened” story. The longer will have more lookahead aspects to it, as well as the play by play, which of course will include the tree discussion, which I too found interesting. – TR

  • Creekside December 11, 2011 (10:19 am)

    John – To call, as you do, this project a private development on private property is beyond belief. This is multi-million dollar taxpayer payer funded project.
    The manner by which these type of projects are sited and funded needs to be opened up. Eventually the poorer sections/census blocks of the city will reach a saturation point that no amount of Office of Housing waivers will be able to breach. You will then see efforts to place these types of facilities in wealthier and white neighborhoods. It is then that there will be a serious lawsuit and concurrent wake-up call to how these projects have in fact been shoved into the least powerful neighborhoods which is just disgusting.

  • John December 11, 2011 (11:48 am)

    Creekside, I don’t understand your claims.

    By all legal definitions, DESC is a private non-profit organization devoted to housing and helping the homeless. DESC is supported through private and public donations as well as volunteers.
    It is not a governmental agency.
    To say it is “taxpayer payer funded” might be true in the sense that your house, my house and every other house is taxpayer funded due to the government tax breaks in our system. Such parsing makes this claim meaningless.
    Creekside, your other claims about the “saturation point,” and “wealthier and white neighborhoods” are factually proven wrong and illustrate your ignorance of the facts. There are dozens of these projects in operation Downtown, U-District, Ballard, Capital Hill.

    After so much coverage of the DESC project here (WSB) and with all of the special meetings and their attendant coverage, it is incredible that someone will pipe in with such mis-information.

    • WSB December 11, 2011 (2:08 pm)

      Creekside appears to be correct, according to the project budget as laid out in the documents that Delridge Community Forum procured and posted online.
      Go here:
      and follow the link that includes “Tab 6” (which I was directed to, by the Table of Contents, also linked from that page)
      On page 8 of that section (as labeled on the Google Docs window that is opened upon clicking the link), the project’s projected budget is broken down, as are the funding source.
      $14,780,201 total
      $500,000 from the state
      $1.3 million from the city
      $500,000 from the county
      $12.2 million from Low-Income-Housing Tax Credits, “an indirect federal subsidy” as described here:
      Every dollar an investor puts up as a result of this is a dollar they do not have to pay the federal government – it’s a reduction in liability (aka amount to be paid), not a reduction in income. So whatever amount that private investor puts up is an amount NOT going into federal tax coffers. And as for the comparison to government tax breaks for mortgage interest, that’s not a reduction of liability – it’s a reduction of income – if I pay $4K in mortgage interest this year, unless I’ve missed something, that may reduce my taxable income, but does NOT mean I pay $4K less taxes to the feds.
      The city committed “up to $4.45 million,” the state and county commitments have been around the half-million each as projected; I don’t know if the city commitment reduces the amount that will have to come from LIHTC, but whatever the case, it still tallies up as public funding, direct and indirect. I cannot tell what, if anything, comes out of DESC’s own budget, but will ask them, as it is an interesting sidebar on its own – perhaps the operation of the building once it’s up and running, and perhaps the staff time they are spending now. As for what constitutes DESC’s budget/funding sources, you can refer to the annual report here:
      $13.4 million from “public grants and contracts”; $3.5 million from “rents and fees” – DESC officials said during the two-facility tour this fall that most of the rent their tenants pay comes from Social Security, so there’s more public funding of a fashion – $1.2 million unspecified “contributions” (which for purposes of the discussion here we can guess are private donations, in which case that would be roughly 6% of what they brought in last year).

  • Creekside December 12, 2011 (12:58 pm)

    John, I hope the posting by TR helps you to understand the funding of the DESC. If not, try this. The DESC does not ‘sell’ a product or service to bring in revenue. The DESC is funded predominantly by tax payer dollars to deliver housing, as do many of the other social service providers contracting with the City of Seattle. The tenants of DESC buildings, whom are on tax payer funded disability, do not pay enough in monthly rent to pay for the capital costs of construction of a building, let alone the operational and day-to-day costs of the staff. For example, Director Hobson is paid well over $100K a year. All of this calls to the point that these projects, funded by taxpayers, require much more transparency when being proposed and or built. To say otherwise is extremely anti-democratic.

    The locations you mention that the DESC currently has projects do not meet the definition of white and wealthy neighborhoods in Seattle. You need to get out more. If you show me a supportive housing project on top of Queen Anne Hill, in Seward Park, Leschi, North Admiral District, U-Village, Magnolia, Madison Park, Blue Ridge, Laurelhurst, Windemere, etc, then you are on the way to proving your claim. Otherwise you have amply displayed your ignorance.

  • John December 13, 2011 (3:44 pm)

    It’s time to lawyer up. make this cost prohibitive to the point that DESC sells the land and moves on.

Sorry, comment time is over.