For opponents of Mayor Mike McGinn’s efforts to accelerate the wave of development reshaping Capitol Hill — and get it flowing across the rest of Seattle — this summer’s “regulatory reform” package has been the gift that keeps on giving.
“There’s quite a bit of energy,” John Fox, operator of 18th Ave E’s Foxglove Guest House and a participant in the newly formed Capitol Hill Coalition tells us.
The coalition is one of at least three groups CHS has spoken with in recent weeks organizing around strengthening the community’s position and doing more to shape the waves of development. Meanwhile, Seattle’s anti-City Hall sentiment has grown to strengths great enough that another John Fox — *that* John Fox — has unleashed a plan to fight for district-based city council elections. On Capitol Hill, at least, it’s more than just another NIMBY freak-out.
Here is a list of the coalition group’s recent efforts to build its base and organize for new challenges provided to CHS by steering committee member Kathryn Malý:
Here is a list of activities that several coalition members have been involved with since the regulatory reform work.
- We formed a steering committee of 10 to try and clarify our mission and decide how we may want to grow our group. This steering committee has been meeting twice a month. The steering committee works on a consensus basis, realizing that neighbors feel passionately about different projects and that we don’t always agree. We strive to connect people with information via the website and email updates, but we only take a stand on an issue when we have built consensus. An example of this was our May 2012 fight against the commercialization of our multi-family, residential zone.
- We have continued to build our website
- We have been studying a variety of different projects planned for the neighborhood, with the goal of advocating for density that incorporates good design, historic preservation, parking, sunlight access for all, “age in place” options, tree preservation, and ample green space (provided by setbacks, courtyards, roof garden, etc).
- We have been educating ourselves about the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Proposal and the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Plan, 1997 with the goal of better understanding how different groups are envisioning sustainable growth on the hill.
We are networking with other groups on the hill… the Capitol Hill Community Council, the Champion group working on light rail… as well as community groups in other neighborhoods that are facing similar growth, building height and zoning challenges in their urban villages.
Fox said the group is rapidly maturing, moderating and making plans to be a real force in the neighborhood. His current focus, by the way, is the landmark nomination process for the 18th Ave house planned to be demolished to make way for this four-story apartment building. Fox wrote about the house in this CHS community post over the summer. We’ll have more on the nomination process soon as the project comes before the board next week.
For a group that first made clumsy steps aligning with a neighbor’s beef against a 12th Ave cohousing development, the latest Capitol Hill Coalition agenda is downright reasonable.
Quite a few in CHS comments didn’t find the work of another NIMBY 2.0-style Capitol Hill group to be all that reasonable when we introduced them on this post where Reasonable Density Seattle helped us map microapartment projects across the Hill. The group includes the individuals behind the infamous “ATTENTION DEVELOPERS” warning signs posted near homes for sale near 15th Ave E.
“I don’t want the whole domino effect where the entire block is built that way,” a member of the group told CHS during a recent meeting at a 15th Ave E coffee shop.
The people with Reasonable Density, at this point, would rather not be identified publicly because of the brutal criticism they say can come along with being aligned along NIMBY lines. Not all the RDS people we met are homeowners. They say about 25 members showed up at a recent Capitol Hill Community Council meeting to show support. Their common bond is, mostly, a desire to preserve the feel of the quieter streets atop Capitol Hill. Oh yeah — they also said they’re dedicated CHS readers.
“Everyone is sharing the burden but not everybody is sharing the benefits,” one member said of the aPodment developers continuing to exploit a zoning loophole that allows their projects to be built without public environmental and design review.
Here is the group’s written response to our question — what are you trying to accomplish?
We are not opposed to apodments® or other forms of micro-housing. We believe that the height increase that allows 40+ feet apartment buildings in LR3 zones that were previously limited to 30 feet should be rolled back. We also believe that plans for all multi-unit buildings should be subject to the same regulations as already exist in our laws and that any loopholes in counting methodologies should be eliminated. Once buildings are constructed they will affect a neighborhood for a long time, so we are asking the City to impose a moratorium on all such projects until the zoning language can be clarified and the overall impact of such housing can be assessed more fully.
The group’s near-term goal is a moratorium on microhousing-style projects like the one brought to stop the proliferation of “tall skinny” houses in the city earlier this summer. Representatives for the group say they’ve made progress connecting with City Council members including council president Sally Clark.
“We’re going to continue working with the ones that show interest,” one member said.
With what you might call the radical (but reasonable) fringe being formed around the Capitol Hill Coalition and Reasonable Density Seattle efforts, the most powerful centrist in the neighborhood these days might not feel NIMBY at all. Made up of land owners, architects and developers, the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council’s participants are not your typical anti-development community group.
But even PPUNC is re-energized.
“There was kind of a quiet period — in part coinciding with economic downturn. The group was not as active,” says PPUNC co-chair David Dologite of Capitol Hill Housing. “In response to some of the development proposals that are coming down the pike, people are getting reengaged.”
He said pike, not E Pike — though PPUNC’s geographic focus keeps it mostly centered on things Pike/Pine, the group has also been influential in the Capitol Hill Station development process as some leading participants overlap with the community Champion group formed to help guide the transit oriented development of Sound Transit’s parcels.
Boasting a membership including popular local developer Liz Dunn, PPUNC’s major focus is strengthening the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District designed to provide developers with incentives like an extra story of height in exchange for preserving the “character” of existing buildings.
PPUNC brought its energy to bear on this massive 10th and Union project this summer and won a commuted death sentence for at least one auto row-era Pike/Pine building.
Right now, when Capitol Hill developers say there is community support for a project, they are talking about PPUNC.
“There’s a fair amount of work to be done,” Dologite says of building up the renewed group. “Between the leg work on figuring out what about the overlay needs to be strengthened, the advocacy work to get broad based support legislatively, and fundraising, we’ll be very busy.”
The group’s plan to hire a land use attorney will effectively turn some of PPUNC’s power toward lobbying at City Hall. It’s a move that could make the community group an even more powerful player on Capitol Hill while further shaping the development framework of the entire city.
“Seattle has a generally development friendly entitlement process,” Dologite said. “PPUNC positions itself as trying to take a pragmatic approach to thsese issues. We’re pro density, pro development.”
Want to connect?
- The Capitol Hill Coalition / capitolhillcoalition.org / Next meeting: Thursday, October 18th, 6:30p at 11th Ave Central Lutheran Church
- Reasonable Density Seattle / reasonabledensityseattle.wordpress.com / Next meeting: Contact for info
- Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council / Google Groups: PPUNC / Next meeting: First Thursday of the month, 5:30p, Agnes Underground