Seattle’s microhousing rules — including design review for aPodments — finally moving forward

The Cortena micro-style apartments stand at 227 Boylston Ave E (Image: Matthew Gallant Photography)

The Cortena micro-style apartments stand at 227 Boylston Ave E (Image: Matthew Gallant Photography)

A legislative process to regulate microhousing that has played out over the past year will move forward Monday with a public hearing at the Seattle City Council chambers in City Hall.

In February, CHS reported on a decision by the Seattle Hearing Examiner to reject an appeal of the Department of Planning and Development’s approval of the new regulations designed to define and provide some level of environment and design review for the density-friendly, congregate housing type. The Examiner rejected the appellate’s argument that intensive development will overwhelm Seattle’s environmental and civic resources and that the new legislation proposed to further regulate the housing will open the floodgates for aPodment-type developers.

SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL
PLANNING, LAND USE, AND SUSTAINABILITY COMMITTEE*
AGENDA – SPECIAL MEETING
Monday, May 19, 2014
5:30 p.m. 

Monday’s hearing will be an opportunity for developers, urban density advocates and slow growth groups to have their say — once more — on the topic that has dominated much of Seattle’s public discussion on affordability and density even as developers continue to build microhousing and other topics like rent control have yet to find a larger audience in the growing city.

As part of the new rules, the city is proposing to institute a trigger of the design review process based on the size of the proposed development, not the number of dwelling units that currently trigger the process.

A memo from City Hall staff on the proposed legislation is below.

27 thoughts on “Seattle’s microhousing rules — including design review for aPodments — finally moving forward

  1. The photo of this building —The Cortena micro-style apartments stand at 227 Boylston Ave E — is not appropriate for the neighborhood and MUST not be repeated in any areas of the city neighborhoods that have single home nearby.
    Development needs to be consistent in design and size with the surroundings. Please realize that Capital Hill, Queen Anne, and many other neighborhoods are becoming “un-live able” due to structures not “fitting in” and lack of parking is causing problems with and towards neighbors! Stop overcrowding our neighborhoods. Wonder what kind of neighborhood that the people who pass laws to build live in. Do they have such structures?

    • Bonnie, this building fits into the theme of this neighborhood. Directly across the street is nearly a block long three-story wood apartment. At corner is a four-story brick apartment. The next block over is a half-block long 5-story apartment — by all means, it fits the density characteristic of this portion of Capitol Hill. To your other points: most tenants who live in micro-housing don’t have cars; having a parking spot on a public street is not a right; overcrowding is subjective, and largely a perspective of generational attitudes. I, for one, think Capitol Hill could and should be much more dense. I welcome microhousing, the people residing in the building consume much less (environmentally friendly/smaller carbon footprint), walk and are more apt to taking transit (this correlates to improved public health). Not everyone subscribes to the need of having a 1,500-square-foot-house and think a car is a necessity.

        • “Maintaining neighborhood character and aesthetics” is often code for screwing over nurses, teachers, police officers, social workers and any other middle class Seattlite who want to live in Capitol Hill but can only afford to live in Apodments.

          If you want to live in a highly restricted area, where everyone is upper middle class, white and has a white picket fence then please sell your house in Capitol Hill to an apodment developer and move to Mill Creek so that we can get better neighbors. Thanks.

          • I am not opposed to Apodments, microhousing,etc., and think they fill an economic and social need in Seattle’s denser neighborhoods. I also think there are places they should not be allowed and that they should be subjected to design review and other requirements as are other developments.

            Some can disgaree with my opinions, and that is ok, But do we really have to cast others into Mill Creek purgatory and assume they are bad neighbors simply because they disagree? Dioesn’t seem like an enlightened way to discuss the issues.

      • I’m considering moving into an aPodment, myself. I like my current apartment, but when I travel a lot I don’t need to space at home.

      • I disagree with Kun. Yes, there are apartments nearby, but still the Cortena towers above them., and so is clearly out of scale. And there are similar apodments in purely residential areas, such as the one in the 400 block of 11th Ave E, which sticks out like a sore thumb.

        Also, just how do you know that “most” residents of apodments don’t have cars? This is a point which is often mentioned, but is there some kind of survey which proves it?

        • Yes, surveys conducted by the city, and used for the studies leading to these proposals, show that 30% of residents have cars. Since many of the apodments have 64 residents, this equates to roughly 20 cars on the street per building.

          The Cortena, the project at 13/Mercer, and the one at 18th/Olive are a few of the projects that took advantage of loopholes to build higher and larger than foreseen by city planners. Hopefully, the legislation will keep these in check. It does not need to be a this or MillCreek scenario as “Bill” can only see it.

          • So, another way of looking at your point is that 70% of people living in micro-housing do not have vehicles. The Cortena, for example, saves the Seattle metro an additional 44 cars from being put on our infrastructure. Imagine if this same ratio was mandated and applied on all dwellings, including traditional apartments that do not provide X-amount of parking, condos and townhouses, and single-family homes — latter of which, probably has close to a 100% car ownership rate, and which size easily takes up a majority of the city’s land-use acreage. Again, public parking is not a right. And personally, I think the hysteria over having a right to park on a public street is ridiculous (only in America is the car > people), and hopefully gives car owners pause to think of alternative modes of getting around. Try your feet for example — if one uses the latter, they might lose some weight, and reduce their blood pressure, which will help when their blood vessels explode over the next post about micro housing and how it takes away their parking and subjectively towers like the Columbia Tower over their little 2000-square-foot bungalow.

          • 20 new cars in a congested area like the Cortena will decrease parking availability a lot. Do you really think residents there will give up their car? No, they won’t….but they will have an additional headache to deal with.

            A 1:1 ratio of units/parking is certainly not needed these days, but some parking is needed. If the Cortena had just 20 spaces, that would be a lot more respectful of those who have been living there and need to find a parking place after a long day at work.

  2. I do not know what not “fitting in” means, C.Hill, First Hill, Q.Anne and Belltown are the most densely populated parts of Seattle, where else should a single person(generally) accommodation go?

    As for parking, that’s your problem. If you want to use a car everyday, great but it’s not a developer’s problem to create additional parking unless they are building a parking lot. We should be encouraging greater density, which in turn will create more non-car transit options.

    • That is a problem, solution? Spin off Seattle’s transit system as was done with the library system.

      If the Eastside and South-end want to be like Southern California and sit in traffic, have large suburban sprawl…well they can do what they want.

      Seattle should be doing everything to encourage density, which is more “green” anyhow.

  3. I agree that the scale is totally out of whack. The assumption, I’m sure; is that the adjacent properties will be soon to follow. The bigger issue, for me, is the complete lack of connection to the sidewalk. It’s horribly cut off with no real “eyes on the street”. Imagine a whole block of those? I’d hate to walk down that block.

  4. Its about time. I’m not sure why the city has been so slow to respond and I hope that aPodments finally get the same treatment (from a design review and land use perspective) as conventional apartments. Just because developers have gotten crafty with floor plans should not make them immune to the same criteria as apartment buildings.

  5. I apologize for these comments in advance because I recognize the need for affordable housing in my neighborhood of 20+ years. But every time I walk by the Cortena, I am struck dumb by its epic hideousness. Its size, its materials, its complete lack of human scale or rapport. It is a textbook example of aesthetic fail.

    • The materials used look cheap and terrible. There’s no way that building is going to look halfway decent five years hence. What is with the front façade? From afar it looks like cinderblock (so klassy, amirite?) but when you get closer, it’s actually a strange form of siding. Gag-inducing.

  6. Heads up to the people on Capitol Hill that dislike the changes of our little fishing village. This city is prosperous and needs more housing, this is a change for the better. Perhaps you should move to Mill Creek where it’s inexpensive. Or perhaps Brooklyn, which is just a larger cap. hill at thrice the cost. I’ve lived here since 99 and own property here so, the denser the better. For me and the rest of the city, Seattle ‘hang overs’ be damned.

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  8. Pingback: The small unit: Review board looks at 15th/Howell microhousing project | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  9. Pingback: Judge: Microhousing bedrooms count as ‘dwelling units’ in Capitol Hill project, must go through design review | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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