Now a little more YIMBY, plan to scale back new developments in Seattle lowrise areas moving forward

This 5-story microhousing development in a Lowrise 3 zone at 11th and Republican is the type of development new zoning rules would attempt to restrict. (Photo: CHS)

This 5-story microhousing development in a Lowrise 3 zone at 11th and Republican is the type of development new zoning rules would attempt to restrict. (Photo: CHS)

A bill designed to scale back the size of new housing projects, including future microhousing and townhouse developments around Capitol Hill, is finally moving forward with the Seattle City Council after nearly two years of wrangling between neighborhood residents and pro-density advocates.

However, one provision was left out of the bill after members of the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee said it would encourage developers to build wasted space. Then-City Council member Sally Clark initially proposed to remove an existing 4-foot height bonus and another floor-to-area ratio bonus for developers that included basement units in their projects.

The HALA committee, along with the developer-backed group Smart Growth Seattle, argued the bonuses were key to getting developers to build cheaper units and better amenities inside their buildings.

Basements provide space in projects for storage, mechanical spaces, laundry, bicycles, parking, as well as relatively affordable housing units. Removing the FAR exemption for partially below grade basements would encourage developers to create buildings without useful functional features and/or to move features from enclosed space to the building exterior and roof. This change could also discourage creation of less expensive market rate units in the partially below grade story.

Smart Growth director Roger Valdez said he was happy to see the provision left out of the current bill. “It doesn’t do the damage that the previous legislation would do in Lowrise 3 (zones) … It’s better, because its not going to wipe out a bunch of units,” he said.

Council member Mike O’Brien is slated to introduce the bill during Monday’s council meeting. The Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee will have its first hearing on the bill on May 19th.

The plan will establish an upper-level setback on street-facing facades and restrict the size of rooftop structures in order to prevent their use as additional floors. It also makes smaller tweaks to the calculation of the floor-to-area ratio, which compares interior floor space to the size of a structure’s plot.

The proposed zoning adjustments are a reaction to Clark’s 2010 changes to the multifamily zoning code that allowed for bigger buildings in areas zoned for lowrise development. Many neighbors later complained that new buildings were too big and too tall. Where lowrise development is generally thought of as three to four-story townhouses and apartments, some developers have used incentives to create five stories in tightly packed apartment and microhousing buildings. In response, Clark put forward a set of code adjustments that were then approved by the Department of Planning and Development.

In October, the Seattle Hearing Examiner rejected an appeal from Smart Growth Seattle, which argued the new adjustments ignore increasing demands for development in the city.

Last fall, the City Council passed new legislation to better regulate microhousing in a set of rules that left the door open to more of the aPodment-style buildings to be developed in areas of Capitol Hill and the Central District.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee is on the clock for its May deadline for delivering recommendations for a plan to make Seattle a more affordable place to live.

CHS Pics | A Pedaler’s Fair on Capitol Hill

IMG_4984May is Bike Month and Saturday brought the return of the Pedaler’s Fair to 19th Ave E. Bike entrepreneurs, advocates, and creative types gathered for the beer-in-hand opportunity to shop, check out each other’s wares and attend cycling-centered workshops like Bike Fishing — “the art of fly fishing by bicycle.” For more on the annual event, check out

Meanwhile, be ready to share the road with young riders this week:

Bike to School Day is Wednesday, May 6, 2015! Join hundreds of riders in the Seattle area and thousands of other riders across the country on Bike to School Day. Volunteers set up stations at schools to distribute prizes and welcome students who bike on May 6.

Awful traffic, more infrastructure, and better-than-average Seattle weather so far in 2015 might be putting more pedalers on the streets of Capitol Hill this year. By our take on SDOT’s measuring station near E Union on the Broadway Bikeway, trips were up 10% in the first three months of 2015 vs. the same period in 2014.

Pikes/Pines | A surge of spurge in Capitol Hill gardens

Popping up here and there in gardens around Capitol Hill are the flowers of a plant that seems to have come from a Seussian landscape. With beautiful evergreen blue-green leaves and now topped with large clusters of striking chartreuse disks, these spurges (Euphorbia) are popular shrubs for adding a bit of dramatic flair to yards and planters.

The most commonly planted species is the Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias), native to southern Europe, but several other species in the genus, including wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) are occasionally seen.

(Image: John Chau)

(Image: John Chau)

So what exactly are those chartreuse disks? Flowers would be the obvious answer, but take a closer look and they don’t appear quite like what one would expect.

A typical flower has petals, stamens (the male parts producing pollen), and a pistil (the female part producing seeds) inside. The spurge has something that looks similar, but each disk actually holds a collection of multiple flowers. The disk is a bract, or modified leaf, and above the bract are very small flowers and oftentimes a pair of additional bracts, each with its own cluster of tiny flowers. Each flower is highly reduced and consists of just a single small yellow stamen or a single green 3-lobed pistil. The unisexual flowers are surrounded by brown or yellow glands which produce nectar. This very unique arrangement of flowers is called a cyathium and is found throughout the genus Euphorbia.

You have almost certainly seen a cyathium before. The genus Euphorbia is among the largest in the plant kingdom with about 2000 species, and one of those is that favorite Christmas plant, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), which has cyathia above bright red bracts.

Another interesting feature of the spurge is found in the leaves and stems. When they are broken or damaged, they exude a milky-white and sticky sap that offers the plant protection against herbivores. The sap is toxic and irritating, and gardeners working with the plant should take care to avoid prolonged exposure on the skin. Milky sap, or latex, is common throughout the relatives of Euphorbia.

The latex of another species in the Euphorbia family, the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), is tapped to make natural rubber.


This week in CHS history | Crumble and Flake, new apartments, homeless stats, Lost Lake

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Here are the top stories from this week in CHS history:


Police investigating after woman found dead in Madison Valley home

(Image: @AmeliaMayHodgen via Twitter)

(Image: @AmeliaMayHodgen via Twitter)

Seattle Police homicide detectives are investigating after a 30-year-old woman was found dead Saturday morning inside the Madison Valley home she shared with roommates.

Seattle Fire was called to the house near E Denny Way and 29th Ave E around 11 AM Saturday after a roommate reported finding the woman, according to radio dispatches. Efforts to revive the woman were not successful and she was declared dead at the scene.

Saturday afternoon, SPD said it was investigating the death. “Crime Scene Investigators and Homicide detectives are on scene collecting evidence,” the brief on the investigation said.

The woman has not yet been identified publicly by authorities.

The house is owned by real estate investors and, according to police radio reports, is home to multiple roommates. There were no obvious signs of fatal trauma and no arrests have been announced.

Seattle May Day 2015 turns into a riot on Capitol Hill

IMG_4329IMG_4330 IMG_4331 IMG_4332 IMG_4333 IMG_4334 IMG_4335 IMG_4336 IMG_4337There were 16 reported arrests and numerous injuries including three police officers sent to the hospital Friday night as clashes between protesters and police were concentrated on the streets of Capitol Hill for the third May Day in a row.

“This is no longer demonstration management, this has turned into a riot,” a voice crackled from command across the Seattle Police tactical radio channel. SPD later identified the speaker as Capt. Chris Fowler who again headed up the department’s May Day response this year.

CHS reported on the events as they happened — including drone sightings, a man stuck on a basketball hoop, and pictures of people taking Capitol Hill riot selfies. You can view the May Day 2015 on Capitol Hill timeline and reports here.

IMG_4209 IMG_3969 IMG_4238Again, an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 people took to the streets from Judkins Park to downtown in the annual pro-worker and immigration rights march and a Black Lives Matter rally in a peaceful demonstration.

And again in 2015, the violence and mayhem of May Day in Seattle was shoved back into Capitol Hill neighborhoods as police blocked the “anti-capitalist” and “anti-police” crowds that gathered at Broadway and Pine later that night from streaming into downtown with strong lines of armor-plated officers who deployed pepper spray, “less lethal” projectiles, and so many flash bangs that the efforts in East Precinct had to be re-supplied. Continue reading

CHS Pics | This week in Capitol Hill pictures

The CHS Flickr Pool contains more than 26,000 photographs -— most of Capitol Hill images, many glorious, some technically amazing. The pool is a mix of contributions from Capitol Hill — and nearby — shutterbugs. Interested in being part of it? If we like your photo and it helps us tell the story, we may feature it on CHS so please include your name and/or a link to your website so we can properly credit you. Interested in working as a paid CHS contributor for scheduled assignments? Drop us a line –- our roster is full for general assignments but pitch us on an idea.

Continue reading

Ritual House of Yoga moves into longtime theater space on 19th Ave E


(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_2873With all the food and drink activity happening on 19th Ave E, it seemed almost inevitable that the long time performance space vacated by the Washington Ensemble Theatre last year would be the area’s next bar or restaurant. Even the space’s property owner thought so.

It turns out, there is still room for other types of sustenance in the neighborhood.

After 20 years as a theater, a new yoga studio is hoping to tap the space’s creative energy and breath new life into the storefront adjacent to Fuel coffee. Ritual House of Yoga will be holding an open house May 2nd-3rd, where the newly opened studio will offer 30 days of unlimited yoga for $40 to anyone who stops in. Classes officially start on Monday.

After spending years teaching and practicing in the yoga Mecca of Boulder, Colorado, Ritual co-owner Sarah Pohl said she was ready to harvest her range of experiences to create a studio of her own.

“We’re basing it more on a feeling of what we want to create than a certain style of yoga,” Pohl said, who’s opening the studio with her husband, Stuart Pohl. In a departure from many studios in the area, Pohl said she especially excited to offer non-heated and low-heated classes.

IMG_2830Ritual has also partnered with Capitol Hill’s Juice Box to bring a “micro juicery” refrigerator stocked with juices and a selection of raw food.

Pohl signed the lease on 19th Ave E in September after barely starting her search for a new space. The space’s natural light, cozy size, and location on the neighborhood’s commercial stretch sealed the deal for Pohl.

“I wanted this to feel like not just a yoga studio but a community space,” she said.

Last year, Capitol Hill lost a longtime yoga studio when Samadhi Yoga shuttered after 15 years at 12th and Pike. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill’s The Grinning Yogi appears to be going strong with its recent expansion to Portland while 8 Limbs recently marked 18 years and an overhauled studio in the redeveloped Greenus Building. Meanwhile, 10th Ave’s Sweatbox is trying to hang in until Pike/Pine development means new customers, not torn up streets.

Meanwhile, 19th Ave E will also be celebrating a reopening Friday as the Molly Moon’s ice cream window at Hello Robin debuts for the season with free scoops for kids from 3 to 5 PM.

For more on Ritual House of Yoga, visit

Sound Transit: The ‘restoration’ of Broadway and John about to begin

This image of the “conex box” was featured in our January 16th “week in pictures” post

unnamed (49)

(Image: Sound Transit — so don’t blame us for the E Olive Way mistake)

It sounds nearly biblical. With service slated to begin in less than a year and the bulk of tunnel and station construction complete, Sound Transit has announced that its contractors will begin a new phase of work this weekend to recreate the sidewalk, curbs, and gutters around Capitol Hill Station along Broadway and E John. Details of the construction work are below including the planned removal Saturday of the big red “conex box” used for pedestrian safety along E John adjacent the construction site. Removal of the Big Red Wall is also underway along with the art projects that have accumulated on the block over the the past five years. Sound Transit estimates the restoration will take about six weeks.

Meanwhile, we’re told Sound Transit was preparing a response to Capitol Hill Housing’s protest over details of the proposal from Gerding Edlen for the Portland-based developer to lease or purchase — and then develop — the transit agency’s two acres of land surrounding Capitol Hill Station. All sides say the issue is moving forward and that they expect to have a resolution in place before a planned May 16th open house.

Restoration of Broadway and E. John Street starts May 2nd

Sound Transit’s contractor has obtained a noise variance from the City of Seattle to remove the pedestrian conex box on E. John Street between Broadway and 10th Avenue E. from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, May 2, 2015. Residents may hear noise from the equipment used to remove the conex box and from trucks used to load and haul the pieces from the site.

There will be intermittent closures of the eastbound curb lane on E. John Street in order to safely complete the removal. A police officer and flaggers will direct vehicles and pedestrians around the work area.

Following the conex box removal, crews will begin to demolish the red wall at this location, then install curbs, gutters and sidewalks along the east side of Broadway between E. Denny Way and E. John Street and along E. John Street between Broadway and 10th Avenue E.

On-street parking will be restricted along Broadway between E. Denny Way and E. John Street during restoration work. This phase of restoration is expected to take approximately six weeks to complete, depending on weather.
What to expect:

  • Flaggers and detour signage will direct vehicles and pedestrians around the work area. Intermittent daytime noise from demolition and saws and jackhammers as crews break up concrete and repave the area.
  • Sidewalk closures and restricted on-street parking in the work area.

Further updates will be provided as work proceeds in the area.

No ban on sombreros as radio station again brings taco trucks, 5K run to Volunteer Park

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

KNDD, Seattle’s Entercom-backed “alternative rock” station, is once again sponsoring the Taco Truck Challenge and “¡Fiesta 5K Olé!” in Volunteer Park but the station’s management is distancing itself from any controversy related to the fourth year of the event.

With increased awareness of negative stereotypes sometimes reinforced by Cinco de Mayo promotions and events, organizers hope Saturday’s KNDD fiesta mixing taco trucks, booze, and runners won’t represent some of the worst elements of cultural misappropriation.

“Our intention has never been to offend, but to provide a fun event involving food trucks, running, and live music,” KNDD event director Ryan Schroeder told CHS last month. “Following last year’s event we received feedback and are taking it all into consideration as we continue in the planning stages of this year’s event.” Continue reading