50-unit small-apartment development lines up for 12th and John as microhousing regulation debate nears end

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.31.34 PM12th and John is destined to be the next place Capitol Hill grows big and small. Wednesday night, the plan for a four-story, 50-unit microhousing-style apartment building will take its first turn in front of the East Design Review Board. Meanwhile, legislation intended to better shape its brethren developments is expect to move forward after months of negotiating and argument as the City Council prepares to pass new rules to legislate aPodment-style construction.

Here is how hyperactive Capitol Hill, Central District, and Eastlake developer and architect Bradley Kouri firm b9 describes its planned 121 12th Ave E project:

The proposed development will extend the desirable aspects of Capitol Hill while introducing housing density to one of Seattle’s most characteristic neighborhoods. The structure will provide approximately 50 units. The structure will be built to the maximum height allowed (44 ft.) with a partially below-grade story…

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.28.20 PMWe noted some of the early, negative community feedback on the super-dense project late last month as another microhousing project took its turn in design review.

The 12th and John project will replace three “single family” structures at the corner and add to a wave of development transforming both 12th Ave and E John as the nearby Capitol Hill Station’s start of operations in 2016 approaches.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.31.16 PMJohn is already home to dormitory-type aPodment-style development while 12th is also getting an injection of congregate-style apartment buildings. While many of the existing microhousing projects were not large enough to trigger design review, what many hope will be better triggers and other changes to how Seattle microhousing is regulated are finally close to being finalized after more than a year of debate. Wednesday morning, the City Council’s Planning Land Use, and Sustainability Committee will take up a set of proposed amendments to city code to finally define and regulate microhousing. Here are the latest updates to the proposals (PDF).

Wednesday night, no legislation will be able to help opponents to small apartment development. After Wednesday night, the new rules will probably be no help either. With the so far unabated demand for places to live in Central Seattle, developers continue on the quest to “introduce housing density” to more and more of the city’s blocks. The city needs alternatives and the developers and tenants seem to be collaborating in the enthusiasm for squeezing in as much as possible.

Review Meeting:August 13, 6:30 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Community Building
Review Phase:EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number:3017532 permit status | notice
Planner:Lindsay King


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23 thoughts on “50-unit small-apartment development lines up for 12th and John as microhousing regulation debate nears end

  1. A correction: It is not true that the existing/planned apodments were not “large enough” to trigger design review. Any new building with more than 8 units must have such review, and apodments typically have 48 units. But unscrupulous developers exploited a loophole and claimed their buildings were “6-unit boarding houses,” and they did this to avoid design review and therefore make more money. Hopefully, this will not be allowed once the new regulations are passed.

    By the way, the architect of the 12th/John building says it will be “built to the maximum height allowed (44 ft.)…..”. Now THAT is a pretty small apodment!

    • Note that the article stated “with a partially below-grade story” . . . NOT that that is any consolation with yet another in a series of these God-awful little closets being built.

      I would really like to know what the actual vacancy rate is for rentals because I’m having a difficult time buying that all of these new apartments and aPodments are actually going to attract tenants. And just what happens when various buildings are unable to attract tenants? Will the initial screening and background checks go by the wayside? I know that only time will be able to answer these questions but I can’t imagine that an over-abundance of poorly-constructed tiny-sized units that are intended to serve as temporary housing is going to help anybody.

      • The aPodments at 13th and Mercer just turned over to available for occupancy about a month ago. It seems their 50+ units are full or close to it.

        I also property manage 2 apartments. It was a stampede of applicants throwing money at me to rent my last apartment and I’m also frequently pinged for availability.

        I’d say there is a huge demand for housing ;)

    • Yesterday, King county Superior Court ruled on
      No. 14-2-05319-3 SEA
      and ruled in the favor of the neighbors, concluding that the “that the application of the regulations to the specific facts in
      this case is clearly erroneous. The DBP found that each of the 49-57 bedroom/bathroom was a
      “dwelling unit” based on the fact that their designs “lend themselves to use as separate dwelling
      units.” The finding of the DPD that the final design of the communal areas makes them
      “sufficient to allow” a resident of a dwelling unit to access the area as a living accommodation,
      does not change the fact that the DPD found that each bedroom/bathroom as designed was a
      “dwelling unit”. The fact that the developer designed a communal area that allows, or even encourages, residents of an adjacent dwelling unit to interact, does not change the fact that the
      individual units were designed, and can function, as independent living units
      2. The Decision of the DPD is reversed. Based on the findings of the DPD the development proposed at 741 Harvard Avenue East under Project No. 6343656 is properly characterized as a 49 unit apartment building rather than an eight unit building. This project requires Design Review and must meet development standards based on a unit count of 49.”

      • Congratulations to those neighbors who are fighting this proposed apodment on a very quiet, residential street, immediately adjacent to the Harvard-Belmont Historic District.

        Hopefully, this court ruling will be applied to other proposed apodments. For too long, developers have been exploiting a loophole which allows them to claim their 48+ unit buildings are only 8 units. It’s about time this loophole was closed!

  2. Interesting that this development will be limited to 4 floors while others in more residential areas (13th and Mercer) are 6 floors. Shame to build a new structure along a main transit corridor so short. We should be encouraging higher (and change laws to allow them) along these corridors. I fear we’re backing ourselves into a corner here unless we plan to tear these buildings down in 10 years and then build higher.

    With all the new developments going in around 12th and John, there will be no street parking. People who say aPodment dwellers do not own cars are fooling themselves.

    • The developers do not even remotely care about the impact on the neighborhood including parking. They are just trying to profit of the housing shortage in any way they can.

    • The 13th/Mercer developer is the worst of the worst. That company egregiously exploits the loopholes and the intent of land use planners and the community.

      • I mostly agree with you. But at least that building is surrounded (on the south and east) by some open space, which is the property of Seattle Housing.

  3. I can’t help but comment on the HIDEOUS design of this POS. Where are the windows for each tiny “cell?” This thing looks like a Nordstrom store in the suburbs!

    And why does it have to be 100 percent microhousing? A mix of unit sizes and a few parking spaces would go a long way to making me feel good about these buildings.

    I am sorry but it has to be one of the ugliest things to come along in this recent crush of development. Makes the county jail look like the Paris Opera House!

    • i think the design is quite nice; much better than a cookie cutter box with evenly spaced, same-sized windows on all sides. i can’t say for sure but from my perspective, the darker “indented” regions of the mock-up are where the windows (and balconies/patios?) will go. i think this might just be a massing model to show how it will fit on the street and not a detailed rendering of the final building.

      • That is correct, this is just a massing model. Again proving how the critics on Capitol Hill love to comment on design when it’s not even fully baked. Massing is required by the City’s Design Review Board before a developer is allowed to present a finished design. It’s just to show scale and potential shape. The real design comes later in the process.

  4. What is it that Seattle architects have against windows? So many of the new apartment buildings have one tiny window in the front and that’s about it.

    • cheaper that way, and clearly people will rent or buy the apartments without ’em.

      I’m so glad I’m not longer on the block by this hideous project.

      • Anyone who is satisfied renting a 200 sq ft apodment (aka “large closet”) probably does not care a whole lot about any kind of view. The developers know this and are saving a lot of money by building their little fortresses.

  5. Finally we are getting what the market truly demands: a cardboard box with holes poked in the sides.

    now available at premium prices!

  6. Aw man, I used to live in one of the houses getting torn down a few years back. I see the developer is taking advantage of the long lot line to the west….where I used to have a giant garden, big parties, and general neighborhood revelry. I actually had my wedding photos take at the house, because I suspected its time, like everything lately, was coming to an end. The life I had while living there is what is truly defined as urban living–not just some schlocky slogan that gets put up on these embarrassing new structures (come one Seattle! Is this how you want your city to LOOK?!). I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would want to live in a place like this and I’m just sad that no one else will have the opportunity to live in the truly magical, albeit run down, house that made so many memories for me. RIP Witchhouse. Grow a pair Seattle. Want something better for your city.