Neighbors appeal zoning exception for Capitol Hill apartment project

Correction: We’ve updated this post to correct an error regarding the zoning exception that allowed the project to go forward. This post has also been updated to remove information about a nearby Malden Ave project that we mistakenly conflated with the details of the E Republican project.

We’ve seen a rise in rhetoric around slowing growth and pushing back on the relentless pace of development on Capitol Hill. We also might be seeing an increase in action to reshape specific projects. A group of Capitol Hill neighbors has appealed a city board’s decision to grant developers an exception to the zoning code for a new 36-unit building going up at 1406 E Republican.

Screen-shot-2013-04-16-at-5.12.25-PMAt issue is the building’s length along its north property line. In April the East Design Review Board granted a zoning departure to the developers of the project, allowing them to build the building closer to the edges of its lot than is normally allowed. The board was concerned about bulk on top of the 4-story building blocking too much sunlight, according to architect John Schack of Schack a+d, working on behalf of the development company Revolve.

In order to preserve the number of units, Schack said he submitted a new design with less square footage on the 4th floor, but added extra building length in order to preserve the number of units. The design was approved April 17.

Nicholas Corff, who submitted the appeal, said he was concerned about developers continuing to expect zoning departures during the design review process.

“If you’re going to change the code, then change the code. Don’t pretend like it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Corff is a resident-owner of a four-unit building adjacent to the site and said he represents several neighbors in the area.

In the appeal, Corff also said the East Design Review Board was not prepared to approve the design.

The project had previously gone before the board three times. By the fourth meeting, membership had changed thanks to new board members coming on as others ended their terms. At the fourth session, the project was approved. Corff said the new board was unfamiliar with the previous issues surrounding the project.

Zoning departures are only intended to be granted if they make the building better — in the judgement of the design board — for the neighborhood. In this case, the specific departure dealt with the ratio between property size and building length. A building’s north facade in this particular zone is supposed to be no longer than 65% the length of the property line. The review board allowed the developers to surpass this by about 10%. The building height still comes under the hard limit set for the area.

The project is located in an area that has been a center of anti-development pushback as it undergoes increasing change as an area zoned for multiple-unit housing.  CHS called the neighborhood “Capitol Hill’s least development friendly” neighborhood earlier this year.   Zoned “lowrise-3” and open to apartment and condo style developments up to three stories tall, these connective areas between the dense Pike/Pine and Broadway cores and Capitol Hill’s single-family home zones are frequently at the heart of much of the debate around slowing development in the area.

The city’s Office of the Hearing Examiner is scheduled to hold a hearing on the appeal July 9th.

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6 thoughts on “Neighbors appeal zoning exception for Capitol Hill apartment project

  1. Well, we’ve approved how many billions of dollars for trains, including the remarkable line under Capitol Hill from downtown to Montlake, with one (1) stop, just down the hill from this development. So, we do need more density near the one (1) train stop, on a line that’s costing in the billions of dollars to build. Other sacrifices are being made because the voters have decided that building this very expensive train system (including several miles under Capitol hill with one (1) train stop) — for example, we now have less money for education and obviously less money for fixing our bridges and pot-hole filled streets, for example.

    Neighbors may have some legitimate reasons to oppose larger, more dense projects, but the fact is, to invest billions in trains and oppose greater density near the train lines is pretty absurd. I personally believe a much better bus system would be a far more economical and effective solution to our traffic problems, but we’ve decided otherwise, by voting for trains and voting in politicians who’ve made funding trains our highest budget priority (well, trains and tunnels). Now that the decision is made and we’re spending so much money on trains, I hope everyone, and especially our city government, realizes that this means a commitment to much higher housing density near train lines, and giving a little on design and zoning issues so that we can have higher population density near the train station. (I would say, train stations, but on this particular extension of our train line under Capitol Hill there’s only one (1) station.) Please, let’s not spend billions on trains and then stick by rules designed to keep density, and therefore usefulness of the train system, low.

    • This isn’t really that close to the train. More density near the train station is a great idea. Focus on the issue!

      • I think most people would consider half a mile plenty close to the train. If I were looking to move to the hill in 2016 I would consider its proximity to the light rail station an asset and would use it regularly. The ~8 minute walk will be more than offset by the unimpeded train service and headways, as well as the fact that almost any bus stop is probably at least a five minute walk from this location too.

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