So, you really want to save the Royvue?

Here’s a tip. You should tell the Seattle City Council’s Select Committee on Mandatory Housing Affordability all about the 94-year-old gem of a Capitol Hill apartment building and why it should be preserved and not have its insides ripped out and converted into microhousing.

Just make sure to save time in your public comment to also voice your support for raising building heights and allowing a wider diversity of uses in Capitol Hill’s core. The District 3 and District 7 MHA Public Hearing is Monday night.

If you are unable to attend, you can send your comments via email to

The proposed MHA zoning changes for Capitol Hill and the Central District include transitioning Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to beyond Roy to 75-foot height limits and “neighborhood commercial” zoning that would allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout. Some of the bigger changes would also come around the Miller Community Center where planners are now proposing a less aggressive upzone than one potential alternative had originally proposed. Moving toward the Central District, most proposed changes are focused on the area around Madison and 23rd with notable exceptions around 23rd and Union and 23rd and Jackson where surgical upzoning has already been approved. Under the MHA framework, affordability requirements chained to the upzoning vary by “scale” and developers can choose to pay fees instead of including the rent-restricted units.

Critics have dinged the proposals from all sides. If fears that the changes threaten Seattle’s neighborhood fabric don’t get you, maybe the concerns over developers piling up affordable housing in less desirable areas of the city will work to scare away your support. We heard from both critics and supporters here at a recent open house held at Washington Hall. But if you really want to push back on an economic market where it makes more sense to convert a well-maintained, popular Capitol Hill apartment building into space for small efficiency dwelling units, you’ll probably want to have something positive to say about making more room for the thousands of people who want and need to move to Seattle. They are coming whether you like it or not.

District 3 and District 7 MHA Public Hearing

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15 thoughts on “So, you really want to save the Royvue?

  1. Thank you for the info. Everyone here should be in favor of building taller along transit corridors. People want to live on Capitol Hill and that desire is not slowing down. As a result, buildings like Royvue are being looked at for gutting so we can squeeze folks in. Small dwellings on side streets are being razed to make room for small boutique apartments that few can afford.

    At our current pace, Capitol Hill will be a canyon of 5-6 floor buildings built block to block. New buildings should be built to scale that meets demand so Capitol Hill can retain quainter, quieter areas on side streets.

  2. More housing! Keep the Roy facade, and add more units. This keeps the Hill’s street character and houses more people. The best of both issues. I honestly don’t understand why a few select tenants should keep 4-5room apartments simply because . . i actually don’t even know the reason.

  3. Some people have families. Some have roommates. Some choose to live alone. There is no law in Seattle that says a two bedroom apartment must have more than one occupant. Someone may use the second bedroom for a home business/art space/anything they want because they are paying rent. And the other reason people “get to keep” things is when they pay rent, they “get to keep” it for that month, until the building changes. Also, the word facade is fitting as it also means: “an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality”. Character is not just for the viewer from the sidewalk, but the occupant.

  4. So if things continue at the current pace Capitol Hill, the first neighborhood outside the core commercial high rise district, will be like, well, a city. Yeah, guessing that will be what will happen.

  5. “a canyon of 5-6 floor buildings built block to block”.

    Sounds like the description of a city to me! Indeed, you’ve basically just nailed Paris or Barcelona in ten words. And those are two of the most vibrant and well-loved cities in the world.

    I’m actually in support of preserving the Royvue (at least the facade). But when people use a city comprising all 5-story buildings as a form of scare tactic, it makes me less interested in joining forces with them.

  6. Steve, those cities have structures of architectural significance. Not like the pressboard boxes that are being assembled on Capitol Hill. Its a shame you can’t tell the difference.

    I too am for preserving the Royvue’s facade. I’m also in favor of higher quality new builds, variations of style and scale – given we’ll never have structures like Paris and Barcelona on Capitol Hill.

  7. Architectural significance, sure, but the structure is essentially a stack of blocks of rock glued together. Pretty, but quaint. Isn’t it possible that humans might find more economical ways to build a dwelling, and tbat those new types might come to be considered of architectural significance as well?

    Good luck getting the seismic retrofit done on all the precious stacks of blocks of rock, by the way.

    I am hoping to start seeing some buildings that hang from a central mast rather than being stacked up from the ground. Efficiency can be gained from this better balance of tension and compression, suggested by R. Buckminster Fuller. The building code might need some updating though.

    I do agree with you that the denser areas should be scaled much bigger. Similarly to First Hill, for as start.

  8. Timmy, there IS a serious problem with developers demolishing smaller, well-maintained homes on side streets, and building ugly, expensive boxes. But I don’t think allowing taller buildings on Broadway will impact this problem in the least. Rapacious developers will build wherever they can get hold of a property, unfortunately.

  9. Timmy73 – I can tell the difference. But now you’re moving the goalposts — changing your original point (5 story buildings are bad) to a different one.

  10. @Timmy73 – Of course I can tell the difference. But now you’re changing the goalposts. You implied in your first post that cities of 5-6 story buildings are inherently bad, and made no mention of your concern about materials or significance. Your use of the word “canyons” was meant as a scare tactic regarding the size of the buildings specifically. And your reference to building to scale on residential streets was also about size.

    In terms of building to scale – do remember that pretty much all of those sections of Seattle that you now think of as worthy of densification were at one point areas of single-family homes — going all the way back to the original settlers around Pioneer Square. (Check out the plaque for Carson Boren’s log cabin on the Bank of America building at Second and Cherry for a cool example). If we always insisted on building to current scale, then we’d never have a city in the first place. The same is true in every non-master-planned city on Earth.

    Given our growth pressures, i strongly support densification of large swaths of Capitol Hill and beyond up to 6 stories, with occasional exceptions for architecturally significant buildings. And even higher by the LR station. Like you I’d love higher construction quality. But I also recognize that constructions costs are much much higher now than they were in the past (some of which is for good reasons, like the fact that labor costs are much higher because the working class is much better off). And if we only build with expensive materials, we exacerbate the problem that only the rich can afford to live here. So there is a trade-off. Everyone loves to complain that it’s just about development greed, but it’s more complicated.

  11. My bad, Steve. I assumed you lived on, near or have visited Capitol Hill and that the state of what is happening and the quality of what is being received is apparent. I’m not moving any goal posts, just provided an expansion of detail which was not obvious to you – much like the context of my first post.

  12. @Timmy73 You completely ignored his entire post. Of course we’ve all been to the area. You seem to want to freeze time in a big city to the particular point in time when you live. It doesn’t work like that. As Steve pointed out, if we did that we’d still have log cabins. Cities grow and become more dense. You need larger, denser buildings to accommodate the new people. Scare tactics like “5-6 story walled canyons” just proves you don’t understand how cities grow.

  13. Kwall, did you read my post? I am advocating for building tall in areas that it makes sense such as along transit corridors. How is that freezing time? I’m actually one of the few here who want towers built on the hill. Our zoning needs changes so we can fit people in without having to loose character buildings. 5-6 floor canyons should be received as a scare tactic – unless you want to raze buildings like Royvue and replace them with 5 floor boxes. I’m in favor of building 30 floor towers so we can increase housing capacity, allowing us to take pressure off of our historic buildings and we can have architectural diversity. You may be okay razing everything for low quality, low rise structures, kwell, I am not. I think we deserve better and you should too!

  14. oh man, do you realize that the level of energy efficiency and detail that goes into those “pressboard boxes” are high? – I totes agree they are ugly (usually REAL bad proportions), but in terms of energy and safety, they are WAY better than the unreinforced masonry buildings!!

    I def think we can do both!