West Seattle, Washington
An Early Design Guidance packet is on file and a date is set for the Southwest Design Review Board’s first look at “Perch,” the mixed-use project proposed for 1250 Alki SW: 6:30 pm October 15th. (Remember as you look at the “packet” above that Early Design Guidance is for size and shape – once those are determined, the details follow.)
We first reported on the proposal three months ago; it’s the first new 100+-residential-unit project proposed in West Seattle in a few years – all the others in the pipeline are under construction or complete. The developer is SODO-based SolTerra, which began as a company focused on sustainability-focused systems such as solar power, and has branched out into housing. Their designs are aimed for LEED Platinum and Perch, SolTerra says, will be designed to that standard “at minimum.”
From the packet, key points of the project:
+/- 125 residential units
Five stories of residential floors over a ground floor of lobby space, support, service and public parking
188 Parking Stalls for residents and visitors, in a below-grade garage
Dedicated space for car-sharing programs
Ample bike storage for residents and exterior bike parking for guests
Extensive vegetated green roof with a variety of seating areas and scenic viewpoints
Solar panel array on the rooftop
Rainwater collection cistern
Potential native marine bird habitat on the rooftop
Public green space along Alki Ave. with multi-purpose programmed uses for the neighborhood
Rear courtyard space at the foot of the hillside with a water feature and lush plantings
Five 2-story residential structures – described in the packet as three multiplexes and two single-family homes – would be demolished to make way for this development. A SolTerra spokesperson tells us that in addition to the Design Review process, they also will be seeking feedback from community members including the Alki Community Council.
It’s a tax-break offer that many developers have long accepted from the city: If your project’s being built in certain areas, and you allot a certain percentage of units to a certain number of tenants at a certain income level, you can get the residential portion of your building (not the land) exempted from property taxes for 12 years. It’s called the Multi-Family Tax Exemption, and the council soon will have to decide whether to renew it for the fourth time since its inception in 1998. That discussion officially starts with a briefing during the end of this morning’s 9:30 am meeting of the council’s Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency Committee. It’s a lead-up to a meeting next month at which the committee will consider legislation renewing the program.
Here’s what the committee will be shown and told this morning – first, the slide deck with stats on the program, which it says involves almost 2,000 rental units now, with almost 2,000 more “in the pipeline”:
Here’s the council-staff memo:
Wondering which West Seattle projects got the MFTE? From the newest list on the city website, dated August 14th:
*Footprint Avalon (microhousing)
*Footprint Delridge (microhousing)
*Youngstown Flats (WSB sponsor)
The list does NOT include under-construction projects that will be getting the MFTE – the program’s annual report included an expanded list that does, but only as of last December, so some might be missing. The additional projects on that list are:
*Spruce (open now so we’re not sure why it’s not on the first list)
*Admiral East Apartments (on the list as 3210 California)
*3050 Avalon (microhousing)
*Footprint’s Morgan Junction project (microhousing)
*Trinsic West Seattle
*Lofts at The Junction
Right now, September 20th is the date for the committee to look at renewal legislation. If you’re interested in watching this morning’s discussion, the meeting will be live on Seattle Channel, cable channel 21 or online stream; it’s the last item on the agenda.
New from the city files today: An early-stage proposal for 10 houses and one duplex at 3710-3722 21st SW on Pigeon Point (map). The north side of the site faces a Seattle Parks-owned slope over the West Seattle bridge; the south side, SW Charlestown. The 12 new homes would replace two single-family houses, one more than a century old, the other, 58 years old. Documents in the online files suggest the site’s been under consideration for development for at least two years. Brad Khouri is the architect.
Four projects in this roundup of West Seattle development notes:
WESTWOOD APARTMENTS: A preliminary “site plan” has just been filed for a proposed 32-apartment, no-offstreet-parking building on a vacant triangle of land at 2221 SW Barton Place, southeast of Westwood Village. Notes in the city’s online files say the project would require Design Review.
ALKI TEARDOWNS: Three century-old beach bungalows have just been demolished on a site long planned for redevelopment in the 3000 block of 63rd SW in Alki, just across the south-side alley from the commercial building that is home to Cassis (WSB sponsor), Cactus, and Alki Urban Market.
An earlier proposal for the site passed Administrative Design Review more than six years ago. Six townhouses and one single-family house are to be built.
1307 HARBOR PROJECT FILES APPLICATION: This is the site that includes the former Alki Tavern, now closed for almost 2 1/2 years. The mixed-use proposal went through the first stage of Design Review in spring 2014; though no date is set, its next Design Review is getting closer, as city files show the developers have applied for their master-use permit. The project is now described as including 15 residential units, fewer than the original proposal.
4122 36TH SW MICROHOUSING FOLLOWUP: When we first reported last month on this proposal to replace a triplex with a microhousing building, the proposal didn’t specify a number of units. Now it does – approximately 24.
From today’s Land Use Information Bulletin: A sloped site in East Admiral that was first proposed for a multi-house subdivision almost eight years ago is moving more deeply into the review/approval process. A 14-house proposal is now in the works for 3601 Fauntleroy Avenue SW, which is hard to find on online maps, but documents in the project file show it’s in the vicinity of 33rd SW & SW Spokane, just northwest of where Admiral Way meets the West Seattle Bridge, and you can get a better idea from this map in the plans filed online:
The land, currently undeveloped, is zoned single-family 5000. The LUIB notice says the application would require “administrative conditional-use” approval because of “clustered housing in a steep-slope area,” and an environmental determination. Comments on the revised application will be accepted through August 26th, says the city (unless someone requests and is granted an extension). It proposes 14 houses with offstreet parking for 28 vehicles, to be developed by West Seattle-based Inhabit LLC, which was also the applicant when this site appeared in DPD records as a possible 21-house project in August 2007, and is shown in county records as owning other undeveloped parcels nearby. You can comment via this form linked to the city notice, or via contacting the assigned DPD planner, Michael Dorcy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(WSB photo from January 2014)
Back on the market: Madrona Glen, the future subdivision site at 2646 SW Holden that now holds one crumbling, vandalized old house and is approved for 18 new ones. It was re-listed for sale a week ago, asking price $2,160,000. The plan for 18 houses (each three stories, with a two-car garage) got key approvals last September, more than a year and a half after going through Streamlined Design Review. The last time the site changed hands was three years ago, with the sale price shown in county records as $470,000.
3:01 PM: Two weeks after Mayor Murray went public with his housing-affordability recommendations, while also releasing the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee‘s report, he is backing off the most controversial proposal – the plan to change not the zoning, but the rules, for most single-family neighborhoods (as detailed in this WSB report). Here’s the news release:
Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement announcing he will not recommend pursuing a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee recommendation that could have changed 94 percent of single-family zones in Seattle. Instead, he is calling for renewed public dialogue on how best to increase affordable housing in denser neighborhoods:
“The Council and I created the HALA process because our city is facing a housing affordability crisis. In the weeks since the HALA recommendations were released, sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets has created a significant distraction and derailed the conversation that we need to have on affordability and equity.
“Fundamentally, this is a conversation about building a Seattle that welcomes people from all walks of life — where working people, low-income families, seniors, young people and the kids of current residents all can live in our city.
“We also must not be afraid to talk about the painful fact that parts of our city are still impacted by the intersection of income, race and housing. Look at a map and take a walk through our neighborhoods. We can move beyond the legacy of the old boundaries of exclusion that have remained largely unchanged since nearly a century ago when neighborhood covenants were used to keep people of color south of Madison Street.
“I have always believed that Seattle can step up and have a difficult conversation about our history of racial discrimination and economic inequality. Our shared vision for Seattle includes affordable housing and diversity in all our neighborhoods.
“To advance the broader conversation about affordable housing and equity, I will no longer pursue changes that could allow more types of housing in 94 percent of single-family zones. Instead, we will refocus the discussion on designing denser Urban Centers, Urban Villages and along transit corridors that include more affordable housing.”
ADDED 6:16 PM: What is still on the table for 6 percent of Seattle’s single-family-zoned area is explained in the second half of this fact sheet issued with the original proposals two weeks ago. But all the discussion remains in the early stages, as no legislation has been sent to the City Council yet – its new Select Committee on Housing Affordability is not scheduled to meet again until August 10th. We reported on its first meeting here.
The week after Mayor Murray went public with his housing proposals – concurrent with release of a report by the advisory committee appointed to examine the issue – the City Council got its first official briefing:
The Seattle Channel published video today of Monday’s first meeting of the council’s Select Committee on Housing Affordability – the creation of which was announced last week, at the same time as the mayor’s proposals and the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory committee (HALA) report.
For this update on the plan, we also sat down with a West Seattleite from the HALA committee, Cindi Barker, to talk through a few of its more-confusing points. (She was not on the committee as a West Seattle representative, but as a member of the City Neighborhood Council.)
First – some toplines from Monday’s council meeting. Early on, a city staffer offered an understatement, saying it will be a “long conversation” because “some of the suggestions do step outside of the comfort zone.”
Much of the briefing focused on the backstory of how this all happened.
One major issue of interest brought up by Councilmember Tom Rasmussen was the oft-quoted contention that the city has enough “capacity” for all the new housing it needs, without any upzoning.
Following up on Monday’s much-discussed mayoral announcement (WSB coverage here) of proposals the city hopes will lead to more housing, particularly more affordable housing: Most if not all of the proposed changes have to go through the City Council. Its members now have a new set of hats to wear while considering those changes: The Select Committee on Housing Affordability. The agenda is now out for its first meeting, next Monday (July 20th) around 2:30 pm (after the regular afternoon council meeting). Linked in the agenda are several documents, most of which went public with Monday’s announcement; one you might want to take a close look at includes this list of proposed multifamily/commercial zoning changes:
While most of this has been widely described as “adding one floor” to current zoning, note what’s proposed for the zone currently known as NC-85 – much of the heart of The Junction is zoned that way, as is part of Avalon, and that generally allows up to 8 floors. If this part of the new proposals is approved, that zone would fold into NC-125 – meaning up to 12 floors, four more floors beyond what’s now allowed. (If you’re not familiar with the term FAR in the table, that is short for floor-to-area ratio, explained here.) This has NOT been written into proposed legislation yet, so public hearings, counterproposals, and votes are still some distance off.
Meantime, we’re working on a separate followup looking at some of the other proposals including (but not limited to!) all the confusion and conflicting statements regarding what’s proposed for single-family zoning.
(What was the live-video window, then a placeholder screengrab, is now the archived video of Monday’s announcement)
11:12 AM: Click the “play” button to see the live Seattle Channel webcast that’s about to begin, with Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Mike O’Brien leading the presentation of the long-awaited report from the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee, created almost 10 months ago. The report is live here, and the “action plan” the mayor is announcing is here (and embedded below):
11:20 AM: The briefing has begun.
11:24 AM: Here’s the full text of the news release from the mayor’s office, hailing a “grand bargain” between developers and housing advocates, which includes a requirement for “affordable” units in all multi-family developments, and also increases allowable heights in certain zones:
Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Mike O’Brien today hailed an unprecedented agreement that will lead to at least 50,000 new homes in Seattle, including 20,000 affordable homes, over the next 10 years. Affordable housing will be included in nearly every residential development across Seattle as the rate of construction of new affordable homes triples.
“As Seattle expands and experiences rapid economic growth, more people are chasing a limited supply of housing. We are facing our worst housing affordability crisis in decades,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “My vision is a city where people who work in Seattle can afford to live here. Housing affordability is just one building block to a more equitable city. It goes hand in hand with our efforts on raising the minimum wage, providing preschool education for low-income children, and increasing access to parks and transit. We all share a responsibility in making Seattle affordable. Together, this plan will take us there.”
“Since 2013, the City Council has called for a robust, citywide, mandatory affordable housing program to help ensure that the people who work in this city can afford to live here. The combination of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and a Commercial Linkage Fee will ensure that as Seattle continues to grow, we are creating housing for all incomes,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien.
At the heart of the action plan to make Seattle affordable is Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, a requirement that developers reserve five to seven percent of units in every new multifamily building to be affordable for residents earning up to 60 percent of King County’s Area Median Income (AMI). Developers could opt to contribute to a fund for off-site construction of the units.
In 2015, 60 percent of AMI is $37,680 for an individual and $53,760 for a family of four. Current market-rate rents in new buildings on Seattle’s Capitol Hill currently average $1,887. In 2015, individuals with incomes of 60 percent of AMI pay $1,008 for income-restricted apartments.
New buildings will have taller height restrictions in existing multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial zones throughout the city. A substantial portion of the additional development will occur within the existing Urban Centers and Urban Villages, designated two decades ago as the preferred location for denser housing. Only single-family zoning within Urban Villages and along major arterials will be converted to low-rise residential.
A map of the proposal, which was negotiated by Murray, O’Brien, developers and affordable housing advocates, shows where the growth could occur.
Here’s the aforementioned map – the mayor’s news release continues after it:
The action plan also includes a Commercial Linkage Fee on new commercial development, phased in over three years, to fund additional affordable housing for the lowest-income families. The linkage fee will range from $5 to $14 per square foot, based on the size and location of the commercial development.
When fully implemented, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and the Commercial Linkage Fee will lead to the construction of at least 6,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.
The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee today delivered to the mayor 65 recommendations after 10 months of work. The consensus-driven proposal was crafted by a 28-member committee of affordable housing advocates, community voices, developers and housing experts appointed by the mayor and Seattle City Council last September.
“Many thanks to all the committee members and staff for an extraordinary amount of work over the past 10 months,” said HALA co-chairs David Wertheimer and Faith Li Pettis. “We were asked by the mayor and council to offer bold, new concepts in our approach to solving the affordable housing crisis. We think this plan fully delivers on that request. We were able to complete our task because we approached the challenge with a single, shared goal: to make Seattle affordable for all families. None of us got exactly the solution we may have envisioned at the outset, and every one of us had to give a little to reach this landmark agreement. In the end, we are confident that our collaboration will result in thousands of new affordable homes across our city.”
Murray immediately responded to the recommendations with his roadmap to make Seattle affordable, a path to reach his goal of 50,000 new homes, including 20,000 new homes for low- and moderate-income people, over the next decade. Some items in the action plan could be completed this year, while others will require at least two years to implement. In the coming weeks, the mayor will transmit to council a resolution to formalize the elements and framework of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.
Today, about 45,000 households in Seattle spend more than half their incomes on housing. An estimated 2,800 people sleep outside each night in Seattle. Currently, about 700 income-restricted homes are built in Seattle each year.
The increased development capacity across the city will ensure increase supply of housing to respond to growing demand, as Seattle is forecast to add 120,000 residents over the next 20 years.
Single-family zones currently represent 65 percent of all land in Seattle. After the proposed zoning changes, single-family zones will still cover 61 percent of Seattle. HALA proposes code changes that will make it easier to build accessory dwelling units and backyard cottages (only one percent of homeowners have done so), as well as allow duplexes and triplexes, while preserving the character of single-family neighborhoods.
Residential development continues to be excluded from industrial areas under the proposal.
The City is currently engaged in a community process to update its Comprehensive Plan, called Seattle 2035. Over the past two decades, the Comprehensive Plan has been successful in locating 75 percent of Seattle’s new housing in Urban Centers and Urban Villages. The update, to be completed in 2016, contemplates expansion of Urban Villages and denser housing around transit hubs and light rail stations. HALA’s recommendations will be implemented in conjunction with the updated Comprehensive Plan.
Doubling of Housing Levy in 2016
To meet the needs of the Seattle’s lowest-income residents, those earning less than 30 percent of AMI, HALA also proposes to double the existing $145 million Seattle Housing Levy scheduled to expire in 2016. Over the past 30 years, the levy has funded $400 million to build and preserve nearly 12,000 units of affordable housing.
In 2015, 30 percent of AMI is $18,850 for an individual or $26,900 for a family of four.
This year, the City will award a record $42 million from the Housing Levy and the existing Incentive Zoning program for the development and preservation of low-income housing. The Seattle Office of Housing will issue project guidelines and invite partner applications later this week.
The HALA report also urges the Washington State Legislature to allow Seattle to adopt a 0.25 percent real estate excise tax dedicated to affordable housing development, as well as an increase in the State Housing Trust Fund.
To support moderate-income families, HALA recommends expanding the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption Program (MFTE) that is set to expire at the end of the year. Under MFTE, developers receive a tax exemption when they dedicate 20 percent of units in new buildings for moderate-income people, typically between 65 percent and 85 percent of AMI. HALA proposes to expand the program to all areas where multifamily housing can be built and incorporate a new incentive for three-bedroom units to extend program benefits to larger moderate-income families.
In 2015, 80 percent AMI is $46,100 for an individual and $65,800 for a family of four.
HALA recommends a range of tenant protections to ensure better access to housing, prevent housing discrimination and minimize displacement as rental and ownership costs increase across the city:
· Prevent displacement as rents increase across the city through a Preservation Property Tax Exemption and other mechanisms.
· Remove barriers to housing for renters with a criminal history that disproportionately impact people of color.
· Strengthen the Tenant Relocation Assistance paid to low-income renters who are displaced by new development.
· Develop new homeownership tools for Muslim buyers who cannot use conventional mortgage products due to their religious convictions.
· Establish new protections to prevent discrimination against renters due to their source of income.
HALA also recommends that the City continue to review parking policies that contribute to the growth of housing costs or inhibit development in single- and multifamily residential zones.
11:47 AM: We’ve added embedded versions of the key documents/maps mentioned so far. Also of note, but not mentioned in the news release above – the mayor mentioned that, as part of the “bargain,” a lawsuit has been
settled. Council President Tim Burgess, meantime, mentioned he’s creating a new City Council committee on housing that will deal with this, starting later this month.
Today you can expect to hear a lot about housing, construction, and zoning, as the long-awaited Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee report is going public at City Hall at 11 am. We’ll have the details when available. In the meantime, new project proposals continue to surface in city files daily, and we have another one to mention today:
MICROHOUSING ON 36TH SW: A brand-new early-stage plan in the files would replace that 95-year-old triplex at 4122 36th SW (map) with what’s described as a “4-story apartment building” featuring “small efficiency dwelling units” (SEDU), the official name for the studios more commonly known as microhousing. The site is zoned Lowrise 3; the potential number of units is not mentioned in what’s been filed so far. No offstreet parking is planned; it’s not required because of its proximity to what’s considered “frequent transit.”
SIDE NOTE: Two SEDU buildings are under construction in West Seattle right now – 5949 California SW (approximately 40 units) and 3268 Avalon Way SW (62 units), which is next to one of the two already-open SEDU buildings, 3266 SW Avalon Way.
Four residential-redevelopment notes this afternoon:
1201 HARBOR SW PROJECT UNDER WAY: Harbor Avenue has had many proposals but not much action for a while. This one at 1201-1205 Harbor Avenue SW is now under way after demolition of two old houses last week (WSB photo above) – city files show a 4-unit rowhouse on the way. (UPDATE: After publishing this, we received a rendering from the architects Allied 8:
REDEVELOPMENT @ 5440 CALIFORNIA SW: From the city files, a new proposal to demolish this 92-year=old single-family house and “accessory unit,” to be replaced by three live-work units, two townhouses, and two single-family homes.
5652 FAUNTLEROY WAY SW: Redevelopment also continues along Fauntleroy Way, where a 101-year-old single-family house and “accessory structure” are now planned for demolition and replacement with three single-family houses.
3026 SW CHARLESTOWN: In the Luna Park area, there’s an early-stage proposal on file for a 10-to-12-apartment building on this site that’s just uphill from Avalon.
Thanks to the many people who’ve sent us this link – if you haven’t already seen it, data reporter Gene Balk at The Seattle Times (WSB partner) says people interested in getting out of the Bay Area are zeroing in on West Seattle – in a BIG way, at least according to one real-estate website. Doesn’t surprise us – when we got here from San Diego in 1991, we found more than a few other ex-Californians in WS. But that was pre-consumer Internet, so, no data-crunching possible! Any recent Bay Area arrivals within sight of these pixels, would love to hear how you wound up here – comments or email@example.com.
4:49 PM: Twice nominated, and rejected, for city-landmark status, the Charlestown Court apartments across from the ex-Charlestown Café are coming down.
Townhouses will replace them, as we’ve reported previously.
5:40 PM: We’re adding images and backstory. Video:
And – thanks to Bryce for the tip that demolition was under way; unexpected at 4 pm on a Friday going into a long holiday weekend. This site has been on our watchlist for many weeks, and we’ve driven by daily to check for signs of impending teardown, but hadn’t been by today, until that tip.
Back in 2008, with a different demolition/development proposal pending for the site, the city Landmarks Preservation Board rejected a bid for landmark status, saying basically that it was nice-looking but not “special.” The proposal to replace it with a four-story apartments-over-retail building was scrapped later that year, and a new proposal emerged, one that would have preserved its distinctive facade:
(2008 NK Architects proposal incorporating Charlestown Court facade; eventually scrapped)
A land-use permit was granted in early 2009 but the project stalled in the economic downturn, and the apartments remained status-quo until early 2014, when we discovered a new teardown-to-townhouses proposal in the city files. Here’s the concept in the files, from architects S&H Works – 4 buildings, 2 townhouses in each one:
Last summer, as part of the process, Charlestown Court was again considered, and rejected, for landmark status. That cleared the way for the project getting under way now.
SIDE NOTE: Its block is about to have a whole lot of building going on – it’s across the street from the former Charlestown Café, with live-work and townhouses slated to fill that site, and a few doors down on the west side of California, demolition is expected soon at 3829 California, with a 29-unit apartment building to replace it. While demolition was under way to the north, we noticed firefighters training in the now-vacant building:
ADDED 9:54 PM: Sent by Jackie (who has also mentioned this in the comment section):
We saved the azalea, though! The kindest operator and my neighbor, who owns the truck, helped get it up and out of harm’s way. Thank you, Cajun Excavating! You made our day.
Meantime, we went back before sunset to see if the south side of the building had been taken down since we left; it had.
Today we’re welcoming 4730 California, new apartments in the heart of the West Seattle Junction, as a new WSB sponsor. Here’s what they’d like you to know:
(Copyright: The Wolff Company / Doug Scott Photography)
Experience 4730 California apartments. Next to amazing restaurants, bars, shops, transit connections, yet mostly undiscovered by outsiders. 4730 California is the quintessential West Seattle address. It’s right smack dab in the heart of West Seattle. Yet at just 88 apartments, it is boutique enough to allow individual passions and living tastes to come through.
What ‘best in West’ means:
*Best Seattle is the sunset over the Olympics from your loveseat
*Best Seattle is sleeping in and grabbing a Low Rider at Easy Street
*Best Seattle is a stroll through Lincoln Park with Fido in tow
*Best Seattle is a year-round farmers’ market darn near in your back yard
*Best Seattle is Talarico’s New York-style slice as big as your head
*Best Seattle is a fat burger and beer from Elliott Bay Brewing
4730 California is available by appointment for tours Mondays-Fridays, 10 am-5 pm. The building is “very pet-friendly” and has special events such as wine tastings hosted by Bin 41 every third Thursday. And they’ve signed on as a major sponsor of this year’s West Seattle Summer Fest. Find out more at 4730ca.com.
We thank 4730 California apartments for sponsoring independent, community-collaborative neighborhood news via WSB; find our current sponsor team listed in directory format here, and find info on joining the team by going here.
If you weren’t at the Senior Center of West Seattle last Thursday for the discussion forum that led to last week’s most-discussed WSB story, now you can watch the Seattle Channel‘s video. Thanks to Diane for the tip; it’s available online (here, or embedded above) and is being shown on SC’s cable channel (21), with upcoming schedule slots listed as 4 pm tomorrow (Thursday) as well as 1 am and 11 am on Friday (May 1st). Though the forum sought to address a multitude of housing issues, they primarily boiled down to affordability, as well as tenants’ rights.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Rather than starting with numbers and trends, this afternoon’s affordable-housing forum at the Senior Center of West Seattle cut directly to the heart of the crisis, with two women telling their stories.
They were introduced by the center’s social worker Holly McNeill: “I’ve had an incredible increase in the number of people coming to me each week telling me they’re homeless, or their apartments are being torn down, or they’re being priced out by the landlord or manager in order to upgrade the apartments and turn them around at twice the amount they’re currently being rented at … it’s just happening to so many people.”
Nancy got two months notice her studio was going up from 650 to 1590 a month. Had to leave. pic.twitter.com/4JdRIlLHF7
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) April 23, 2015
“I lived in a 9-unit mom-and-pop-type apartment complex.” She thought it would “be there forever.” They told her they were selling the building but “selling it to people just like us” – then, “the new owners who came in and bought the building raised the rents anywhere from 130 to 140 percent – “In a studio apartment, my rent went from $650 to $1500 a month” – the audience groans – “Each unit was going to be responsible for the common area utilities like electric and water,” which was another 93/month. They got two months’ notice. “My first reaction was to go into research mode – my kids always say, mom’s on a mission, get out of her way.” She worked to find out, “is this legal … what are our rights … to no avail, really.” She had had surgeries recently, ended up having to take early retirement. “I don’t really have wiggle room to go from $650 to $1590, that’s even more than I make per month.” So she started “an arduous process” to find someplace else to live – “day and night I was on the computer looking for a place to live.” She finally found somewhere, “not my ultimate, ‘isn’t this great,’ but I accomplished my goal. I had to be out on the 28th of February, or else pay $1590 on the first of March for rent. ”
They were going to make some changes, “lipstick on a pig,” she said, but not until the new rent kicked in. She found a two bedroom, one bath apartment with “some guy I don’t know” – she had “a pit in the bottom of my stomach … I took a leap of faith, and moved in, and I’ve been there two months and he decided this month not to pay his rent, and I just found that out two days ago, and I’m going to be homeless again …”
In case you missed our first mention – this is just two days away, 12:30 pm-2:30 pm Thursday (April 23rd) at the Senior Center of West Seattle:
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will host a community forum regarding affordable-housing challenges for senior citizens and options for those on fixed incomes. Rasmussen is hosting the meeting in response to concerns he has heard regarding the increasing cost of housing, particularly from low-income seniors. Representatives for senior citizens, social workers, housing affordability advocates, Seattle Housing Authority, and from the Seattle Utility Discount Program will be part of the presentation.
Forum topics include:
· Increasing housing costs
· Landlord and renter rights in Seattle
· Affordable housing options for seniors
· Opportunities for participation in the Utility Discount Program
Everyone is invited to attend to learn more and ask questions.
The Senior Center’s entrance is on SW Oregon just east of California SW.
Will runaway rents chase (more) people out of the city? With heartbreaking tales like this one emerging, and discussions like this one ongoing, Mayor Murray has stepped up While his affordable-housing advisory committee continues to work on its recommendations, Mayor Murray has just given them a goal with a specific number:
Mayor Murray today directed the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee to meet his new goal for both income-restricted affordable and market-rate units to be created over the coming decade.
Mayor Murray asked the committee to develop specific proposals that will allow the building and preservation of 50,000 housing units over in the next 10 years within the city limits. 20,000 of these must be income-restricted affordable units for individuals and families making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) and below. 30,000 units would be market rate.
“Seattle is facing a serious lack of affordable housing options that displace families and people in this city,” said Murray. “Next week, Seattle’s minimum wage workers are getting a raise as a part of our broader affordability agenda. We need to make sure that those who work in Seattle can afford to live here.”
The increase in income-restricted affordable units is nearly a tripling of the current rate of units being built for those at 80 percent of AMI or less. Currently, income-restricted affordable housing is being built at a rate of around 700 units per year.
“As the HALA enters the last stretch of analysis and discussion of strategies, this target will sharpen our focus,” said Faith Le-Pettis, co-chair of the advisory committee. “No matter your perspective, the target we’ve been given by the Mayor is an enormous number. We’ll need determination, long-sightedness and civic commitment to meet the challenge.”
The Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee was formed by Mayor Murray and city councilmembers in the fall of 2014 to develop policy recommendations for the city. The committee is made up of 28 housing experts, activists and community leaders. They will issue their recommendations to the Mayor in May.
Right now, the Multi-Family Tax Exemption is one incentive the city has been offering developers for some years – if they agree to keep a certain number of units in their projects in certain areas (including West Seattle’s urban villages/centers) at a certain percentage of the area’s median income, they get a 12-year tax break, no property taxes on the residential portion of their buildings.
When we talked to Mayor Murray at his neighborhood-press availability last week, he mentioned he would be announcing an affordable-housing goal and that it would take “a series of tools – not just one tool” to make it reality. He said in that interview that it would be vital to build units for people who will “never qualify for subsidized housing” but are being priced out of the “market” nonetheless.
While Junction leaders were gathered at Husky Deli to launch a survey of the area’s historical character, another development project was ramping up just blocks away. Thanks to Sally and Carl for sending photos from 42nd SW in The Junction, just north of SW Oregon, where three houses are coming down at the Junction Flats site, weeks after the demolition equipment was brought in and parked in the houses’ front yards. This is right across the street from Hope Lutheran School, which has provided an audience of sorts:
It’s been more than a year since Junction Flats finished going through Design Review.
The 4-story building is planned for 80 units (all apartments except for two live-work units) and 52 off-street parking spaces.
(WSB photo from November 17, 2008)
At 4532 42nd SW in The Junction, that house with history – a long-ago hospital, WSB’ers told us – came down in fall of 2008. At the time, a 35-residential-unit, 54-parking-space development was in the works. As happened to some other projects right around that time, it got shelved. Now a brand-new proposal has emerged, a mixed-use building with 84 apartments and 70 underground parking spaces. The project would also include the site of the small brick house-turned-office at 4536 42nd SW, placing the building immediately north of Capco Plaza (QFC/Altamira).
(WSB photo, taken this morning)
According to the early-stage site plan that just turned up in city files, the building’s parking garage would have an entry on the same alley used for the Capco Plaza garage, and the residential entry on 42nd would be just north of the alley. This will require Design Review – no date yet. It’s an NK Architects project, as are the two noted below:
SIDE NOTE: This proposal’s emergence means three projects are now in the works for the two-block stretch of 42nd between Genesee and Alaska in the heart of The Junction. Construction equipment has been parked for a while outside two of the three houses scheduled to come down for 80-apartment Junction Flats on the west side of 42nd just north of Oregon; just south of Oregon, 4505 42nd SW, with 41 apartments and 9 “lodging” units, won Design Review approval earlier this year.
Another new rule regarding microhousing units is about to go before the City Council. With two micro buildings open here, two more under construction, and one in the pipeline, you might find it of interest.
BACKSTORY: Right now, if a microhousing building is eligible for the city’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption tax-break program, the maximum rent and income eligibility numbers are the same as for studio units in non-microhousing buildings. A proposed rule change going before a council committee this week would lower those numbers for microhousing – now formally known as SEDUs (small efficiency dwelling units) –
The MFTE program, explained in full here, currently involves more than 140 of all types around the city. Participating property owners must rent out at least 20 percent of their units at a city-set affordability level, and in exchange, they don’t have to pay property tax on the residential portions of their buildings for 12 years (they DO keep paying the tax on the land and on any non-residential parts of the structure, such as retail space).
The current list of participants of all types, citywide, includes both completed West Seattle microhousing buildings, Footprint Avalon I (3266 SW Avalon Way) and Footprint Delridge (4548 Delridge Way SW). (The exemption is only available in certain areas.)
WHAT WOULD CHANGE: It’s explained in a memo to the council – here’s an excerpt:
What prompted the need for this legislation?
* In 2014, the Council passed an ordinance establishing SEDUs as a new unit type, distinct from other unit types. Because existing Code does not set affordability requirements specifically for SEDUs in MFTE, the MFTE program would regard a SEDU as a studio, restricted at 65% of AMI. This translates to a maximum monthly housing cost of $1,004 and a maximum annual income for a one-person household of $40,170. However, typical SEDU market-rate rents are anticipated to be less than not only market-rate rents but also the restricted, affordable-rate rents for studios.
What would be the result of the lower affordability threshold in terms of affordable rent and annual income limits?
* The proposed legislation would reduce the maximum rent threshold for income-restricted SEDUs in MFTE projects to a level affordable to individuals earning 40% of AMI [area median income], resulting in a maximum monthly housing cost of $772 and a maximum annual income for a one-person household of $30,900.
Again, this wouldn’t cover ALL units in a microhousing building participating in the tax-break program – just the 20 percent required for eligibility. In some areas, this might not mean much of a change – doing a spot check online, for example, we note Footprint Avalon I is advertising rents $800-$899 right now.
Two more microhousing/SEDU buildings are under construction in West Seattle right now, 3268 SW Avalon and 5949 California SW, with another one planned at 3050 SW Avalon. Both of the latter have been approved for participation in the MFTE program, according to this report to the City Council last spring (which also includes data such as how much tax was *not* collected because of the exemption – scroll all the way down the document). The proposed changes will be discussed when the council’s Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency, chaired by Councilmember Sally Clark, meets at 9:30 am this Thursday (February 5th) at City Hall.
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The city’s been running online surveys in abundance lately. This one, though, speaks to topics that we cover often here on WSB, and after going through its questions and open-comment spaces, we thought you might be interested, given its questions about everything from housing costs to your opinions of growth. It’s being presented as part of the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. It’s not the usual basic online-survey format; be forewarned, you’ll find some spots requiring scrolling, and some questions where you can check as many circles as you want, others where you have to settle on one. Start the survey here (and note the open-comment thread at the bottom of the start page, if you just want to say something without taking the survey at all).