Two big items on Sound Transit’s agenda for lots of affordable housing on Broadway, First Hill — UPDATE

UPDATE 3:35 PM: The Sound Transit board approved both motions Thursday afternoon paving the way for a “no cost” transfer of two First Hill properties to nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing and, in the second vote, putting in place a memorandum of understanding between the transit agency, Seattle Central, and Capitol Hill Housing for a swap of Capitol Hill properties. Details on the plans are below.

In public comments, Bellwether’s CEO Susan Boyd called the joint proposal with Plymouth “a bold plan” that will create much needed affordable housing on First Hill.

Board member and Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson called the First Hill proposal “very consistent with what the community asked for” and said the neighborhood’s “YIMBY” spirit was reflected in the plan.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said affordable housing is now central to Sound Transit’s mission as it also works to provide transit to the region’s growing population. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, meanwhile, voted against the motion saying he was troubled by the “no cost” aspect of the plan as a “dangerous precedent.”

Additionally, the board also approved a motion on a plan for “Central Transit-Oriented Development” near the Roosevelt light rail station that will involve Bellwether and Mercy Housing Northwest.

Original report: Sound Transit’s board is scheduled to make two key decisions on property it owns across First Hill and Capitol Hill that will potentially open the way for big deals around affordable housing and and expanded Seattle Central.

The Sound Transit Board will vote Thursday whether to move forward with two land deals.

One motion paves the way negotiate with Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing in a purchase of Sound Transit land at 1014 Boylston Ave and 1400 Madison meant for high-rise affordable housing, up to 160 feet.

“We thought in viewing their proposal that their numbers were reasonable,” said Sarah Lovell from Sound Transit. “It is an expensive project. It’s expensive to build a high-rise. But stacking two housing project increases their ability to get subsidies. They’re trying to be really efficient with their design.” Continue reading

How Seattle ‘shared parking’ proposal could help renters — even if you don’t drive

Rendering of the future parking garage entrance to 11th Ave’s under-construction Kelly Springfield building

With a push from Capitol Hill and the neighborhood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for parking, Seattle is moving forward with a plan that could create pools of shared parking in buildings across the city, reducing the need for developers to create large parking structures, and allowing more buildings to offer parking on the open market.

“If a building has unused parking stalls, we shouldn’t block them from renting those spaces out to someone who needs a place to keep their vehicle,” Mayor Tim Burgess said in the announcement of the legislation his office has sent to the City Council for consideration. “I hear complaints about the on-street parking crunch in our densest neighborhoods, and I’ve experienced it myself. It’s the reason I’m advancing this comprehensive package of parking options, ranging from making car share parking more available to changing parking requirements for income-restricted housing.”

Here are the details of the new proposal: Continue reading

75 feet up and down Broadway — Seattle ‘Preferred Alternative Zoning’ plan released

With reporting by Kelsey Hamlin

With Mayor Tim Burgess’s noon press event in a Capitol Hill park to kick off the next phase in the process, officials have released the first look at the “Preferred Alternative Zoning” proposal at the core of Mandatory Housing Affordability, citywide changes intended to help create some 6,000 units of “rent restricted homes” across Seattle by connecting affordability mandates to upzoning parts of around 6% of the city.

“Today we continue our push to address Seattle’s housing affordability crisis,” said Burgess in the city’s announcement (in full at the bottom of this post. “With this plan, we will extend our requirement that new developments contribute to Seattle’s affordable housing supply. We’ve already implemented this requirement in the University District, downtown, and elsewhere. Now it’s time to bring this requirement to other high-opportunity neighborhoods so that we can hasten our progress in building a more inclusive and equitable city.”

“The MHA is not just about affordable housing,” said Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson. “It’s about the terms of those units.”

The City Council will consider the proposal and hold public hearings before the plan is finalized. New affordable housing units created under the plan must maintain their rates for 75 years.

“It’s a very long piece of legislation,” Johnson said. “Each of these individual neighborhoods requires some TLC [Tender, Love, and Care].”

You can view the newly released map here and navigate to specific addresses. Hashed areas indicate proposed zoning changes. The proposal comes after months of public feedback after the framework for MHA was first set last fall.

Additional public feedback is expected to run over the first six months of 2018. Johnson predicted legislation for these changes wouldn’t actually happen until July or August 2018.

The proposal released Thursday morning includes 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 — Continue reading

City planning Broadway Hill Park rollout of Seattle Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal

Broadway Hill Park (Image: CHS)

A Capitol Hill neighborhood park born thanks to a failed multifamily housing project is the planned site for City of Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess’s rollout of the citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal.

City Hall departments are planning for the Thursday announcement at Capitol Hill’s Broadway Hill Park but neither the mayor’s office nor the Office of Planning & Community Development have yet confirmed the event. In a city struggling with intense affordability issues and only a short time left on the clock before the new Durkan administration moves in, the announcement of rezoning proposals in neighborhoods across the city is a sensitive one.

UPDATE: Confirmed!
Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s turn for upzoning: HALA process to begin next month

Earlier this month, Mayor Tim Burgess signed off on the Uptown neighborhood’s rezoning but that was only one part of a 30-year plan. Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), which sits under the larger Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) program, puts Capitol Hill and Central District up next in the Seattle City Council process.

The mayor’s office will hand Capitol Hill, Madison, Ballard, and the Central District over to City Hall next month for the start of the rezoning process. This is when the Council will work out the upzoning details and timeline. The majority of zoning slated for Capitol Hill will change to Low Rise 3 and Neighborhood Commercial 3 and 2 zones (or NC3 and NC2, at 75 feet or 55 feet height maximum). They mostly permit one more story. These categories have square footage limits codified in them as well.

The City Council will likely vote on Capitol Hill zoning changes in 2018, but Jesseca Brand with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods said we’ll see housing built under the framework before 2021. Continue reading

O’Brien and Harris-Talley: Tax Seattle businesses for homelessness

In a press conference Thursday morning, Seattle City Council members Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley announced the core of a new proposed budget for the city: making the top 10% grossing businesses pay a tax of less than five cents per hour per full-time employee. The H.O.M.E.S. proposal — Housing, Outreach and Mass-Entry Shelter — would gather $20 to $25 million every year which to be applied to homelessness services, permanent housing, and vouchers.

“I’m afraid our current budget sets us up for failure,” O’Brien said. “This is not enough to solve the crisis. We will be asking the new mayor, whoever she is, to come up with a new plan in the first few months.” Continue reading

Plans for Africatown Plaza rise at 23rd and Union

Garrett, center, with Forterra’s Michelle Connor and Chris Persons of Capitol Hill Housing (Image: Africatown Plaza)

The newly formed Africatown Community Land Trust entered an agreement with Capitol Hill Housing and Lake Union Partners, the Seattle development company that bought the Midtown Center block in May. The announcement cements the project surrounding Lake Union’s $23.25 million deal to purchase the Central District shopping center land.

UPDATEWe have updated this information to correct an error regarding ownership of the site.

“We’re working to maintain fertile ground where a Black community that has been here for over 130 years can grow and thrive in place, K. Wyking Garrett, president of the land trust, said in an announcement of the agreements. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station development designs finalized

By the end of 2019, you might be living above Capitol Hill Station. The development projects to create four new buildings and a public plaza above the bustling transit terminal passed through the final step in design review Wednesday night.

Still, not everybody is satisfied.

One man stood up during public comment to say, “I think this project should’ve been built yesterday.” He then urged the board to reduce the number of parking spaces. “This is a transit-oriented development, right? Like, y’all, come on guys.”

The four building designs finalized Wednesday night will create more than 400 affordable and market-rate apartment units and 59,000 square feet of commercial and community space — and, yes, more than 200 new parking spaces below ground for residents and shoppers. Continue reading

Spring analysis shows Capitol Hill rent rise has… slowwwed… dowwwn…

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Analysts say all the construction may be making a mess of Capitol Hill streets but it might, indeed, be making a small dent — or at least slowing down — the juggernaut that is rent across the area’s neighborhoods.

Overall, rents across Capitol Hill and Eastlake are up 3.9% compared to spring 2016, according to Mike Scott of industry analysts Dupre+Scott Apartment Advisors. The firm’s seasonal reports based on interviews and tracking continue to be one of the city’s most watched indicators through an ongoing affordability crisis — and a boom for landlords and City Hall’s coffers thanks to an around 75% leap in taxable activity in Seattle’s construction sector since 2010.

While the continued rise in rents is further hardship for tenants — up some 48% compared to 2012 and a whopping 88% since 2007 — the rise has moderated. Continue reading

You might be able to move into your new Capitol Hill Station apartment in 2019

Earlier this month, Sound Transit and Capitol Hill Station celebrated one year of service carrying thousands of riders every day on the light rail line connecting downtown to Montlake by way of Broadway. The two acres of so of pavement around the station, you might have noticed, remain empty but there are big plans. Here is what comes next after December’s first design review — and why the one-year celebration didn’t include a ribbon cutting from the project’s developer Gerding Edlen for the some 400 affordable and market-rate apartment units and 59,000 square feet of commercial and community space planned to rise around the station.

Destined to begin construction in 2018 and open for new residents late the following year, the architects behind the largest buildings and the key central plaza above Capitol Hill Station are refining plans following the project’s first step in the special streamlined design review process set up for the community-guided “transit oriented development.” As part of its application for the critical land use permit, Hewitt Architects submitted a roster of planned design changes based on feedback from the design review board for the project’s main Site A building along Broadway and the pedestrian plaza that will sit above the busy light rail station below and is hoped to create a central gathering place, a home for the Capitol Hill farmers market, and a new gateway for the adjacent Cal Anderson Park.

Here are some of the changes being planned for the next and final round of design review expected to take place this summer:

  • Parking: The developer’s rep told the crowd at the December design review that there was likely to be fewer parking spots than included in the design plan. True… kind of. The big lot is down to 158 spaces: Site A was previously showing 183 parking spaces on 3 below grade parking levels. This has been reduced to 158 spaces. 
  • Broadway pass-through: The plan for a passageway through the development to connect Broadway through to the internal plaza will be de-cluttered and the quasi-public space will hopefully be more inviting and provide small retailers with a more active environment: The pass-through for Site A has remained at 15’-0” minimum width and all bicycle racks have been removed. The residential lobby no longer lines the entire south side of the pass-through allowing for further activation of the retail spaces. Retail is now visible at both the west and east. Continue reading