(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.