If residents in new Pike/Pine buildings weren’t aware of both the fun and the noise of the nightlife-focused neighborhood they moved into, they certainly got a full dose of it during the weekend’s 18th annual Capitol Hill Block Party. With hundreds more apartment units slated to come online in the dense nightlife corridor, existing bar and club owners are hoping their new neighbors will be down with the sound. Even with soaring rents, turns out building developers aren’t doing much more than hoping the same thing, too.
Architects and other experts tell CHS that few, if any, new developments within Pike/Pine are especially equipped to dampen street noise from rattling inside units. With few affordable solutions and no regulatory mandates, there seems to be little incentive to equip units with high performance windows or soundproof insulation or to design the buildings to better serve the existing neighborhood.
Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos, who’s currently working on plans for the Rancho Bravo property at 10th and Pine, told CHS that most people moving into Pike/Pine will know what to expect when it comes to noise from the area’s active street life. “People self-select where they want to be,” she said.
The city’s design rules don’t provide any guidance on what architects and developers could do to mitigate outdoor noise. East Design Review Board member Dan Foltz, who also designed the Pike Motorworks project, said developers may choose to add higher-end windows, but most of today’s mixed-use buildings are not built with materials that are especially soundproof.
“Most of these projects … are not getting esoteric building materials. It’s not that type of construction,” he said.
The city’s building code has no regulations aimed at dampening outdoor noise, either. However, the city code does set rules about noise levels between units. Mohamed Ait Allaoua, managing partner at SSA Acoustics, said indoor noise is usually a far greater nuisance, even in busy nightlife areas.
“With exterior noise, many people adjust to it,” he said. “People tolerate it much more than interior noise between the units.”
At SSA, Allaoua consults with architects and developers to mitigate noise in residential units, and has worked on several in Pike/Pine including the Pike Motorworks project. In order to make recommendations, Allaoua will take sound level readings from inside and outside apartments. In projects that need additional noise mitigation, he said about 80% will upgrade windows and only 20% will also upgrade exterior walls.
“Windows are the weakest link,” he said. “Exterior walls always perform higher than then the windows.”
Seattle Police spokesperson Drew Fowler, who used to work out of East Precinct, said the city’s noise ordinance does not differentiate between different types of neighborhoods or zones, and officers respond to all noise complaints regardless of neighborhood.
It should get especially interesting on 11th Ave where four new residential buildings are being built or planned.
“Anecdotally, I saw more of noise complaints where your going from that dense area to residential, like 15th and Denny,” he said. “Some neighborhoods are going to be quite loud.”
In the end, it seems bar owners, developers, and police alike are hoping common sense prevails among Pike/Pine’s new residents.
“I don’t think people living on Capitol Hill are looking for dead quiet spaces,” Allaoua said. “I think living in the neighborhood is more important.”