West Seattle development: City, builder seek to dismiss challenge to ’14 units, not 104′ microhousing building at 3050 Avalon Way

(WSB photo from August)
New developments in a neighborhood group’s challenge to what would be West Seattle’s biggest microhousing building, 104 “bedrooms” at 3050 SW Avalon Way: The city and developer Columbia Builders are both asking the Hearing Examiner to dismiss the latest appeal filed by Seattle Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development (NERD), which was founded in the neighborhood just north of Avalon. The group’s fight, now in its third year, continues to center on the city’s definition of microhousing and the reviews that are required, or not required, because of it. In this case, while the 3050 Avalon project will include 104 “bedrooms,” each a unit with a private bathroom, they’re clustered around shared kitchens, allowing the city to consider it 14 “dwelling units.” That means it falls beneath thresholds for environmental and design review, because in both categories, that threshold is 20 “dwelling units” in the midrise zone where the property is located.

This latest appeal relates to an announcement in early August, as reported here – an “interpretation” which Seattle NERD had requested, regarding whether the development really could be viewed as “14 dwelling units” and therefore exempt from those reviews. The city said yes:

The question raised for interpretation was whether the 104 bedrooms in the proposed building should be regulated as separate dwelling units. Each of the bedrooms has a private bathroom. Early versions of the plans showed counters with sinks in each bedroom, outside the bathroom, but those features were eliminated before the plans were approved. The interpretation concludes that the individual bedrooms are not designed and arranged as separate dwelling units, and that the proposed building is appropriately regulated as a 14-unit apartment building based on the plans as modified.

On the environmental front, the site does include what the city considers a “steep slope,” which triggered a limited environmental review, but otherwise, the city issued a “determination of (environmental) non-significance.” A full environmental review would include issues such as traffic effects; this building, like most microhousing buildings, was designed with no offstreet parking.

The appeal currently is set for a November 5th hearing before the examiner, if the dismissal motions aren’t granted. The points on which they are argued are complicated but basically contend that the examiner doesn’t have jurisdiction, and that SeattleNERD made a procedural error by not appealing the “underlying decision” on the issue. You can read all the documents in the case here.

The project has now been in the pipeline for almost three years; we first noticed and mentioned it in November 2012. It’s been almost exactly a year since the city told its developers – among others – that, as the result of a court ruling, they would have to undergo Design Review if they didn’t change their plans. This project, and the microhousing building under construction at 3268 Avalon, did that, and continued on through the system.

32 Replies to "West Seattle development: City, builder seek to dismiss challenge to '14 units, not 104' microhousing building at 3050 Avalon Way"

  • MsD September 29, 2015 (12:45 am)

    So, if there are only 14 dwelling units, that means there are only 14 leases/rental agreements, correct?

  • Neighbor September 29, 2015 (6:45 am)

    These developments are funding the Mayor and at least one D1 candidate… I doubt anything will be done to stop the madness. And at some point people will wake up and say, oh, how short sighted we were to think this density agenda was a good thing for West Seattle.

  • Mike September 29, 2015 (7:46 am)

    MsD, I believe that’s the only way they can legally lease/rent these units. They might have 10 people signed for one unit. If one fails to pay, the others would need to pick up the slack or be evicted. Nothing about this project is good for neighbors. It’s a great way for developers to skirt zoning laws and make a hefty profit from low quality living.

    • WSB September 29, 2015 (7:58 am)

      M & M – No, that’s not how microhousing works. It’s the same rule that affects any other dwelling in the city, whether you’re renting rooms in your house or whatever – up to eight unrelated people can live in a “dwelling unit” (mentioned briefly here http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/Publications/cam/cam604.pdf ) but it doesn’t mean they don’t each have individual agreements with a landlord. They are advertised to individual tenants. You can browse the ads on CL if you’re interested in the fine points. Here’s just one example. http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/apa/5235794895.html

  • Eric B September 29, 2015 (7:55 am)

    This development is insane.

  • John September 29, 2015 (8:21 am)

    New construction is now generating a full 25% of our sales-tax revenue.
    New construction has now led Seattle’s financial reserves to the “historic high of $106 million” (Seattle Times 9/29/2015).
    These developments are truly funding many new and additional services needed for our city including low income housing.
    Enough of this ignorant developer bashing.

  • Joan September 29, 2015 (8:27 am)

    It’s all semantics. 104 beds to me means 104 individuals, 104 “units.” I’d say they are all separate renters. 104 unrelated people, 104 renters, 104 units. Let’s get real.

  • chemist September 29, 2015 (8:56 am)

    “located just 5 miles from downtown Seattle, minutes from Alki Beach and blocks from Alaska Junction, the best of West Seattle is right around the corner when you live at Avalon I.”
    Someone’s put some thought into their craigslist ad. Say it’s just minutes and blocks from Alki and the Alaska Junction. People will not think you mean 10 minutes/blocks.

  • Rick September 29, 2015 (9:02 am)

    104+potential cars. Do’oh!

  • RT September 29, 2015 (9:11 am)

    This project as proposed is rife with flawed and short sighted assumptions. 104 sub- units does not mean the population will only be 104. Just for chuckles think about each of those bedrooms being shared by a couple.

    One kitchen per 8-10 bedrooms….who’s liable/responsible for maintenance, safety, public health considerations, etc.

    No parking does not mean renters will not have vehicles they are trying to shoehorn in to already non-existent or overtaxed street parking capacity. Bus service from that zone is overcrowded at peak hours and this pressure will have to be addressed.

    If Seattle leaders are really trying to find solutions to increase density yet preserve mobility, how about putting multi-unit developments on the other side of the bridge….SODO and south. Direct access to the Seattle core and points north and south without adding to the congested situation we already have trying to get off this peninsula.

  • Sue September 29, 2015 (9:34 am)

    Only 14 “dwelling units” is ridiculous. If you divide that by 104 “sleeping rooms” that means there are over 7 people living in each “dwelling unit.” If you looked at any other apartment building, you would never have an average of 7-8 people per apartment. 104 people who probably own more than 75 cars between them, all competing for the non-existent parking. All competing for the over-full buses. There is a huge impact of 104 more people moving in – way more than “only 14 units” of people. I’m not saying they shouldn’t move in, but just that they need to consider the real impact, not just the one they make up using semantics.

  • funkietoo September 29, 2015 (9:44 am)

    14 units = no more than 14 cars?
    Developers are not paying the actual cost to taxpayers and neighborhoods; we foot that bill through impacts on public transit, congestion, parking, etc.

    Perhaps the developers could pay 75% of the cost for another busline. (fares cover about 25%); and implement a tracking device to ensure no renters own cars so surrounding neighborhoods are impacted; and such. What affordable rent–don’t own a car–guess that’s one way to get people out of their cars.

    Yes..it’s a dream.

    I’m all for density, (in hopes that we quit building homes via cutting down forests and then complaining there are cougars and bears in the backyard). However, be smart about it. There are better ways to provide housing, including micro.

  • wetone September 29, 2015 (12:55 pm)

    John you say “New construction is now generating a full 25% of our sales-tax revenue.
    New construction has now led Seattle’s financial reserves to the “historic high of $106 million” (Seattle Times 9/29/2015).
    These developments are truly funding many new and additional services needed for our city including low income housing.
    Enough of this ignorant developer bashing”

    I would like to know what the people of WS or all of Seattle get from this ? More traffic, Noisier neighborhoods, Darker neighborhoods from larger builds, Increased taxes for infrastructure improvements and transit, list goes on. It’s great the city has some money coming in from these builds, But Where’s It Really Going ? maybe to pay cost overruns in almost every big $$$ project the city/state is involved with ? 520, Waterfront rebuild, 99 tunnel, new transit systems, water reservoir blunders, new ferry builds, WSFWY rebuild that needs constant patching and rework…. the list goes on and on. Maybe if we had a Mayor with an experienced work force under him making long term, common sense decisions they wouldn’t have to sell the people of Seattle out with builds like this one. Mayor is just running a pyramid scheme that will be sort lived and have ever lasting affects in this city. One more thing this neighborhood is soon to have an issue with is the remodel of the old teriyaki joint on 35th as they are going to only have 3 parking spots along with a drive thru exiting onto Genesee st. as shown here from WSB story…on Pecos Pit progress


  • JanS September 29, 2015 (1:33 pm)

    @John..please point out the “low income” housing being generated by this kind of rental? And…do you live on Avalon around these units? I suspect not.Enough is enough…this is a damned dormitory, and nothing more…it’s a boarding house/tenement, period!. And , yes, who cleans the kitchen when some lazy ass renter decides to leave a mess. Who gets their food stolen from the lone refrigerator for 10 people? Will it be ruled by the honor system? HAHAHAHA! Bashing developers? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet ! (The people who run this city have never met a developer they didn’t like!)

  • JanS September 29, 2015 (1:39 pm)

    RT..great idea…these units need to be where it’s easy to get downtown. When it takes an hour or more on a typical weekday morning at 8am to get from Calif. and Admiral to 7th and Madison (by car mind you…there is no bus service from here to there), we have a problem. John who posted above obviously doesn’t commute downtown or live in the impacted area…probably lives in one of those nice neighborhood enclaves of single family homes. Enough is enough. Mayor Ed needs to start favoring another part of town…we’ve reached our limit !

  • jt September 29, 2015 (1:56 pm)

    Funny that more units gets more environmental scrutiny when putting more units here is the environmentally friendly way to go. Dense walkable development near WS’s best transit to downtown. Blocking this development means those people are gonna have to live someplace further out and drive further to work. Hopefully we can do the right thing and welcome these folks to our neighborhood..

  • sophista-tiki September 29, 2015 (2:21 pm)


    • WSB September 29, 2015 (2:48 pm)

      Well, that’ll take a while. One online citation says it’s 130,000 people per square kilometer. Best reference I can find for West Seattle is 7,000 people per square mile (the entire peninsula is about 100,000), somewhat lower than the city as a whole. Still looking for a 98116 breakout, which would be The Junction and points north, denser than 98126, 36, 46.

  • JW September 29, 2015 (2:48 pm)

    There’s tons of people working in service jobs in downtown Seattle (and in WS for that matter) who don’t make enough money to pay for what has been called a “regular studio apartment.” An apodment on Avalon would make a lot of sense for them – it’s cheap, it’s their own space, they can get to their job with or without a car. Less space to clean and maintain and pay for. It might not be where they live forever. If you hate it so much, don’t live there.

    As for parking, I think there will always be parking, it’s just going to get expensive. That sucks if you can’t afford it and depend on a car, but…welcome to the changing city, folks. Maybe time to change your life so you don’t depend on a car. Imagine what it’s like if you live in a city with even worse public transit. There are plenty of them!

    All in all – people moving into apodments are having to make tradeoffs (losing space, paying less, no in-building parking). Reading comments on this blog, you would think that everyone else thinks that life in Seattle doesn’t involve difficult tradeoffs.

    Life could be worse – you could live somewhere that the population is deserting. The only (crappy) hospital in my Midwestern hometown just shut down.

  • Lez September 29, 2015 (3:11 pm)

    I agree with John. Developers are greedy? They’re making a living. Don’t you? Sure they’re taking advantage of a very flawed zoning regulation. Do you take advantage of tax breaks? I think it’s rediculous to cram 104 units into that neighborhood with no parking. I thought the same about the smaller projects in the Junction and Gatewood. If I lived in any of these neighborhoods I’d be very upset. No Parking? This project is the ultimate example of how rediculous this zoning reg is. Hold the Mayor and Council accountable, not the greedy developers

  • Wes C. Addle September 29, 2015 (3:43 pm)

    @JW These Apodments are not that affordable though, and are only maybe a couple hundred bucks cheaper than an actual studio.
    I agree with the comment above that the city should start looking at SODO as a viable location for more of these types of projects. Also these things should be priced at about $500 vs. $900

  • Thomas M September 29, 2015 (7:07 pm)

    How many votes are there in the Homeowners” Association? If there are 140 votes, there are 140 units.

    • WSB September 29, 2015 (7:16 pm)

      These will be rental units, not condos, so no homeowners’ association.

  • Mike September 29, 2015 (7:37 pm)

    The measily millions you mentioned are trumped by the billions in tax cuts we give to developers and companies that prop up these projects *cough* Amazon *cough* *cough* UW stadium entrance paid for with transit tax dollars *cough*

  • John September 29, 2015 (7:57 pm)

    The majority of SODO is being protected as the heart of Seattle’s blue-collar employers – shipping, manufacturing, shipbuilding and hundreds of small businesses. Encroachment into SODO for housing would be displacing many of the working wagers of West Seattle as their jobs would shift to Everett, Tacoma and the Kent Valley, increasing traffic and pollution.

    JW and jt make sense.

    If you don’t like micro-housing, simply don’t live there. As we all know, but are loathe to acknowledge, the parking problems pre-existed all concepts of micro-housing. It is the very people complaining the loudest who have taken up street parking in front of their homes and now feel entitled to it.

    To anyone who has only enough income to rent one of these, and not a couple hundred more to rent a conventional unit, these are by definition, affordable.

    Wetone, good for you to chime in with trademark pessimism. Apparently, you have been underwater to not have noticed all of the street improvements taking place in West Seattle, the transit’s unprecedented increase in service and the funds for all of those other things you listed.

    As far as inane talking points about knife-fights in the shared kitchen and other supposed issues brought up originally on WSB, the first apodments in West Seattle, the micro-housing on Delridge has been there for several years without such incidents.

    As for where I live, I did due diligence before we purchased some twenty years ago. We carefully evaluated zoning transitions before spending the extra money to be a block off of 35th. I am fine with new microhousing being mixed with the apartment zoning a block away. We park off-street, but I support monetizing all street parking which could easily free up the streets.

  • Diane September 29, 2015 (7:58 pm)

    likely these rents will be similar to Footprint, the ad posted by TR, $1,000 for a “room”, NOT affordable

  • H. September 29, 2015 (8:12 pm)

    I live not on Avalon but near it. All the streets in my neighborhood have become one lane and sometimes barely drivable due to parking on both sides. There is already a lot of illegal parking. In one week earlier this year, I contacted Parking Enforcement 4 times in ONE WEEK because my driveway was partially blocked and I couldn’t get my car out.

    RE: Buses – The C line is very overcrowded on many runs. Monday 9/28 it left people behind at the last stop because there wasn’t room, and the bus was so packed the doors had trouble closing, then I watched one lady get pressed up against the door by a guy and his back pack. Glad the doors held. Seems like an accident waiting to happen. How does an elderly or disabled person expect to ride a bus this packed?

    Many have made good points. I have lived with 4 hand picked roommates and kitchen issues were a constant with these friends. How are strangers going to fair?

    Now the question is – what do we do about it?

  • John September 29, 2015 (9:07 pm)

    In this topic of market rate housing, if one can’t afford $1,400 or more, and wish to live alone in this area, $1,000 becomes downright affordable.

    As proven this year with the unprecedented increase in buses, they can be added and adapted easily, as they should in these flush times. I remember the often cited now retired, “How can they cut bus service while allowing development?”

    To try and associate some perceived danger of crowded buses to micro-housing?

    The parking issues could be solved by fees for all, freeing up your driveway and leaving an available space per block.

    I hope you do call Parking Enforcement and request those blocking your driveway be towed, not ticketed, as allowed by Seattle. Also you are allowed to paint yellow the curb clearance area of your driveway.

  • bolo September 29, 2015 (11:28 pm)

    @John says: “As we all know, but are loathe to acknowledge, the parking problems pre-existed all concepts of micro-housing.”
    No John, NOT “as we all know.” Parking problems have gotten MUCH worse recently, microhousing being one of the causes.

    Microhousing does have its benefits and should exist in the mix. What I don’t understand is why can’t it be labled truthfully? We can easily visualize a 10-unit apartment building, a 100-unit apartment building, etc., but what do you imagine a “14-unit” microhousing building would look like? A 104-unit building? Riiiiight. Just call it what it is and get on with it.

  • H. September 30, 2015 (10:26 am)

    John –
    With more people in the neighborhood e.g. increased development so increased density, you don’t think these people will be riding buses? If the buses are overcrowded now and leave people at the last stop, if something doesn’t change, increased density may mean leaving people at the last 3 stops.

    Buses added and adapted easily? I haven’t seen it, esp. with the C line at the end of Avalon. I have been driving more because of C line issues. I “discuss” this issue with Metro about every month.

    RE: Parking yep – much worse esp. in the last two years. Yep fees for all might work. And I did paint my curb yellow which has helped.

  • Denn G October 4, 2015 (1:54 pm)

    I cannot believe people are defending this.

    This is not an issue of density, but deception. In no world should a building with over 100 people living in it be labeled “14 units”.

    Find a better solution. This isn’t even befitting human dignity at this point.

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