Category Archives: Agendas

CHS: City considers curbing building heights in response to outcry from neighborhood groups

From Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

A group of neighborhood activists organizing against taller building appear to have landed a major victory despite a year of rising demand for housing on Capitol Hill — and rising rents.

Following a petition and flyer campaign, Council memberSally Clark has called for the City of Seattle to consider lowering building heights in areas zoned for lowrise townuses and apartments.

The code correction would specifically target Lowrise 3 multi-family zones which includes most of the lowrise areas in Capitol Hill. “There is a sense that these new generation buildings have more height than necessary,” said city planner Geoff Wentlandt.

The Department of Planning and Development will hold a public meeting January 14th at 6:30 PM at Lowell Elementary to get public feedback on lowering the height limits. You can also provide feedback via email.

 

According to planners, lowering the height limits would mean fewer surprises for neighbors of new developments and would ensure those developments fit with the character of lowrise neighborhoods.

2013 was marked by a continued rise in housing costs on Capitol Hill as rents continued to soar and solutions like rent control became a serious part of political debate in the city. A recent report touted by the Seattle Times predicts that the city’s soaring rents may “stabilize” in the coming year — but even that report indicates a significant improvement in affordability in the area is unlikely.

In the meantime, CHS has noted a “mini-explosion” of townhouse development activity in the neighborhood.

The groundwork for the lowrise conflict was laid in 2010 when Clark spearheaded an update to the multifamily zoning code, including allowances for higher buildings. Now that the first generation of buildings under the new code has been constructed, many neighbors have complained the buildings aren’t keeping in the spirit of lowrise development. Where lowrise development is generally thought of as three to four-story townhouses and apartments, some developers have used incentives to cram five stories into tightly packed apartment andmicrohousing buildings.

A five-story microhousing building at 17th and Olive St., along with a handful of others, have sparked an outpouring of complaints that developers were pushing the height limits in onerous ways. In the meantime, Seattle’s Hearing Examiner will consider an appeal this week of a decision to approve rules to further regulate microhousing developments brought by some of the slow growth groups and Capitol Hill land use activist Dennis Saxman.

For the process to reconsider lowrise zoning, in an October letter (PDF), Council member Clark requested the DPD reconsider the height limits after meeting with some of the activists:

The concern they raised that I find most compelling has to do with ways some developers are combining incentives and the new approach to measuring height. Bottom line – I never envisioned or intended that developers would be able to achieve five stories in LR3 zones. I think five stories is too big a change in height and scale for the LR3 zone.

You can learn more on the city’s Lowrise Multifamily Code Corrections page.

Lowrise Multifamily Code Correction Community Meeting
When Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 6:30 – 8pm
Location Lowell Elementary School
1058 E. Mercer St.
Seattle, WA
Website Lowrise Multifamily Code Corrections
Event Contact Geoff Wentlandt
Event Contact Email Geoffrey.Wentlandt@seattle.gov
Event Contact Phone (206) 684-3586
What
We are studying recent buildings constructed in lowrise multifamily zoned areas, particularly the lowrise 3 areas. We will be considering code changes to help ensure the new buildings fit into the neighborhoods. To help guide our clean-up of the Lowrise 3 multi-family zones, we’re reaching out to interested groups. In particular we want to hear from neighborhood residents who live in or near lowrise multi-family zoned areas. We also want to hear directly from builders and designers of housing.

DPD Jan. 14th Community Meeting – lowrise zone building heights

The January 14th meeting is a citywide meeting to talk about the citywide issue of building height limits in Lowrise Multifamily zones. (Links to meeting info and project website are below.)  We want to hear from residents and others about how buildings built recently in lowrise zones are fitting into neighborhoods.  Capitol Hill has several areas of lowrise zoning. We’re evaluating possibilities for reducing allowable building height.

The meeting will be held on Capitol Hill at Lowell Elementary School at 6:30PM – 8:00PM. Please contact me if you want to discuss, and please pass this information on to members of your group if you would like.

Meeting info:  http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/aboutus/news/events/default.htm?trumbaEmbed=eventid%3D108385105%26view%3Devent%26-childview%3D

Project Website:  http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/lowrisecorrections/whatwhy/default.htm

Sincerely,

Geoffrey Wentlandt  AICP, LEED AP

 Senior Planner
City of Seattle
Department of Planning & Development
Geoffrey.Wentlandt@Seattle.gov
p. 206-684-3586

Response from Conlin re micro housing

The following is the response from Council member Richard Conlin in regards to our request that he explain the slow process regarding micro housing design review.

Thank you for the message. As you may imagine, my schedule is pretty jammed right now with budget, and we will not take up the legislation until after Thanksgiving. However, I am pleased to report to you that DPD has issued the DNS on the legislation, which it describes as:

“The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is proposing to amend the Land Use Code to establish a definition for micro-housing, apply design review thresholds to micro-housing and congregate residences, and modify certain development standards including:

§ require common spaces in micro-housing and congregate residences;

§ clarify prohibition of micro-housing in single family zones;

§ provide for vehicle and bicycle parking for micro-housing and congregate residences; and

§ modify income eligibility requirements for incentive programs related to micro-housing, congregate residences, and very small studio apartments.”

I will be happy to meet with the Council in November or December when we are ready to consider this legislation. I expect to move it as expeditiously as possible.

Councilmember Richard Conlin

Seattle City Hall

600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2

PO Box 34025

Seattle, WA 98124-4025

(206) 684-8805

Council member Conlin invited to address micro housing issue

On October 7, Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin was asked to attend the October 17th General Meeting to address the issue of micro housing and its exemption from design and environmental review. We will keep you updated as to his reply. Below is the text sent by John Akamatsu asking him to attend:

Dear Councilman Conlin,

Last year, the Capitol Hill Community Council sent a letter to the Seattle City Council addressing the lack of design and environmental review for microhousing. Although there has been some minor discussion, we invite you to the October meeting (10/17, 6:30, Cal Anderson Park shelter House) to address this and the following letter (draft), which we will be sending to the Seattle City Council. We were very disappointed that you acted so quickly on the Single Family issue of new homes being erected on lots thought to be a single lot, and have seemingly dragged your and the PLUS committee’s feet on the microhousing issue.

Sincerely,

John Akamatsu, Vice President, Capitol Hill Community Council

The following is a DRAFT letter to send to the City Council regarding the status of micro housing.

Dear members of City Council~
At a meeting of the Capitol Hill Community Council last October, in response to vociferous complaints and comments from many, many neighbors, we approved a letter which was sent to you asking for a moratorium on micro housing apartments until they could be brought into similar development standards as other, smaller unit-count apartments. Now, a year later, we find that historic homes are still being knocked down in a day with no notice to neighbors and that these types of development are not undergoing the design review we had requested. Units are not being counted properly or tracked accurately for our density numbers. (And the recent discovery by the Neighborhood Planning Commission that residents of 4th and 5th floor units of micro housing would be forced to jump out of windows in an emergency situation raises obvious safety concerns in our city.)
We are aware of the letter the City Council sent to the Department of Planning last June asking for solutions from them that would alleviate neighbors concerns and yet still allow for a range of housing options on Capitol Hill. That letter had requested that draft legislation be sent out from the Department of Planning for consideration by the council this Fall. Where does this process currently stand, and what has been the Department of Planning’s’ response to your request and to the requests of the citizens of Seattle?
We await your reply.
Thank you
The Capitol Hill Community Council

 

Champion meetings with PLUS committee and Public hearings

As a reminder, the Champion has its own official site at http://capitolhillchampion.org

Links to proposed Development Agreement, Site Specific Guidelines, Urban Design Framework, Legislation and other documents can be found on DPD’s website here.

PLUS Committee Briefing

On Friday, June 28, Sound Transit, the DPD, and the Champion will brief the Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use, & Sustainability (aka, PLUS) Committee.

Comments from the public are welcome

Friday June 28th
Council Chamber, City Hall
600 Fourth Avenue

9:30am Begin public comments
10am (tentative) Project presentations/briefings to the committee

Tell our city council members that you support the proposed Development Agreement and Site Specific Design Guidelines implementing our neighborhood vision for the sites that has been crafted over the past decade.

Questions and mailing list sign-up: caphilltod@gmail.com

Public Hearing July 15th at 5:30pm

After being briefed at the above June 28th meeting, the PLUS Committee will hold a public hearing to take comments on the proposed Development Agreement. The hearing will be held at the:

Miller Community Center
330 19th Avenue East

For those unable to attend the public hearing, written comments may be sent to:

Councilmember Richard Conlin
Legislative Department
600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA  98124-4025
or by email to richard.conlin@seattle.gov

Written comments should be received by Monday, July 15th, at noon.