Got a Capitol Hill construction gripe? Growing city team makes sure developments follow rules

The dancing stop sign holder is part of the solution, not part of the problem (Image: CHS)

The dancing stop sign holder is part of the solution, not part of the problem (Image: CHS)

Good news. It appears the City of Seattle is no longer trying to kill pedestrians.

“We want to hear from people about what is working and what needs to be improved,” Brian de Place tells CHS.

And, by “people,” de Place says his hub coordinators also want to hear from you — whether you own a Capitol Hill business or not.

The Seattle Department of Transportation manager says the biweekly Capitol Hill Construction Hub meetings are working to help bring neighborhood business owners and city officials — and, hopefully increasingly, residents and community members — together to keep pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle traffic moving through the area even as the waves of continued development tear up streets, block sidewalks, and create myriad getting around issues expected and unexpected.

At one recent Friday morning meeting, the proceedings were interrupted by phone messages and texts after a chemical toilet contractor began its regular pump-out session in front of Bowie Salon just as the business’s owner described the very problem to SDOT representatives present at the meeting. Continue reading

Why does *jseattle* think Capitol Hill’s Weatherford building is so ugly?

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(Image: CHS)

The story is as old as the recent development boom on Capitol Hill. A small, quirky building gets torn down. A new one goes up (often these days, the new one is four or five stories, often with ground floor retail). Longer-time residents bemoan the lack of architectural flourish in the new place as it quickly fills with people eager to live here. Those people, in turn, bemoan the lack of architectural flourish in the next lot that undergoes the process, and the cycle of life continues.

UPDATE: OK. OK. Ugliness is arbitrary. We’ve updated the post to reflect a cold, hard truth — the editor thinks The Weatherford is ugly. In true CHS style, we now risk throwing more wood on the ugly/not ugly fire with a brief survey featuring some of the most recently completed developments around the Hill. We’ve tried to be fair with imagery by using marketing photos or pictures from the CHS Flickr Pool. Please let us know your arbitrary ugly/not ugly thoughts.

REO Flats and The Lyric are CHS advertisers

One of the newest cases is The Weatherford building at 14th Ave East and E John. The building had been the site of a Victorian-era home, albeit one which had been much modified over the years, which housed an antique shop. Before that it was the home of Ella McBride, a photographer, mountain-climber and all-around super-interesting person.

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Proposed developer fees could drastically expand city’s affordable housing efforts

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Areas where the fee could be implemented (Image: City of Seattle)

The Seattle City Council moved one step closer to implementing a long-discussed program to place a fee on new construction in Seattle in order to expand the city’s affordable housing efforts.

On Tuesday, members of the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee unanimously passed a resolution stating the council’s intent to draft a so-called linkage fee program and instructs relevant city departments to start drawing up the plans. The resolution will go before the full council on October 20th. It will likely take several months for a draft ordinance to surface, council members said.

The linkage fee would replace the city’s existing incentive zoning program and could generate multiple times more funding for affordable housing projects. Under the initial proposal, developers in certain area could either pay a per-square-foot fee or dedicate at least 3% – 5% of the units in their project to those making below 80% of the area mean income.

The proposal has drawn serious ire from developers and their attorneys, some of whom were present at previous committee meetings. Council member Sally Clark said during Tuesday’s committee meeting that it was not lost on her that perhaps dozens of attorneys were listening in, but she said the plan would move forward. “This deals with a good problem to have, an affordability crunch due to the strong desire to develop in the city of Seattle,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray has tapped the expertise of Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos and others for his housing affordability advisory committee. The flurry of affordable housing activity comes as Seattle recently became the 10th most expensive U.S. city for renters with rents rising faster than any other major city.

First-of-its-kind Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing building breaks ground on 12th Ave

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(Images: CHS)

As the area ponders two new developments on the edges of Capitol Hill, a one-of-a-kind project in the heart of the Hill moved forward last week with a few little scoops and a big milestone.

Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing, a communal development where each resident is an equal member of a company that owns the entire project, broke ground Friday night next to the old 12th Ave masonry building that will be demolished to make way for four stories of co-ownership, co-construction, and co-management.
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Final designs unveiled for four-story Stencil at 24/Union, six-story Decibel at 11/Alder

You can someday walk across the street to Uncle Ike's from the planned Stencil building (Images: Johnston Architects)

You can someday walk across the street to Uncle Ike’s from the planned Stencil building (Images: Johnston Architects)

Two development projects in neighborhoods on the edges of Capitol Hill undergoing significant change will take what could be their final steps in the Seattle design review process Wednesday night.

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Look, a violin shop :)

2407 E Union
The second of two projects near 23rd and Union from developer Lake Union Partners had a pretty smooth go of its first East Design Board review earlier this year.

The four-story Stencil project is being planned as a 39-unit apartment building with 3,000 square feet of retail and two live/work units at ground level. The building will contain parking for 21 vehicles. In April, the board seemed amenable to the project’s few zoning departure requests and public comment was mostly about details like bulk, privacy and landscaping. Continue reading

Planners: Capitol Hill has room for 71% more residential units


Above, a 1906-built house on Malden Ave E awaits the start of its move a few dozen yards to make space for a new townhouse project

Under current zoning, Urban Centers like parts of Capitol Hill, have lots of room for growth, city planners say (Source: City of Seattle Development Capacity Report)

Under current zoning, Urban Centers like parts of Capitol Hill, have lots of room for growth, city planners say (Source: City of Seattle Development Capacity Report)

Think Capitol Hill is a densely populated, bustling urban neighborhood? Just wait.

The Department of Planning and Development earlier this month released a revised Development Capacity Report as part of its every 10-year review of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The full report is embedded at the bottom of this post.

According to the report’s estimates, under current zoning, Capitol Hill could add more than 19,000 residential units to its existing 26,600, an increase of about 71%. In the report, Capitol Hill includes the sub-areas of Capitol Hill, Pike/Pine, First Hill and 12th Ave.

The commercial side could see an increase of more than 950,000 square feet of space, in addition to the existing 11.9 million square feet. This would translate into enough space for about 3,200 more jobs, above the current 40,100, an increase of almost 8%.

The forecasts and estimates will play a big role as Seattle sets about updating its next 20-year plan by mid-2015. In the meantime, rents in Seattle are rising faster than in any other major U.S. city — and, as any renter was probably sad to read on CHS, they’re rising even faster on Capitol Hill.

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Judge’s decision on Capitol Hill development puts brakes on Seattle microhousing projects

Footprint Eleventh is one of seven microhousing developments from the company already built around Capitol Hill

Footprint Eleventh is one of seven microhousing developments from the company already built around Capitol Hill (Image: Footprint)

A King County Superior Court judge’s decision on a Capitol Hill microhousing project has brought permitting for the housing type to a halt across Seattle. In a statement, the Department of Planning and Development said that the judge’s ruling that rooms with “private bathrooms and food preparation areas” inside a planned congregate-style 49-bedroom building at 741 Harvard Ave E near Aloha should count as living units has caused it to “re-examine” other “similar projects” under review around Seattle.

“DPD has concluded that the individual rooms within any proposed development having an identical or substantially similar arrangement also must be regulated as separate dwelling units,” the DPD statement reads.

A DPD spokesperson said 21 Seattle projects already in the planning process were notified of the change in requirements.

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Capitol Hill’s Hugo House makes mixed-use plans to stay on 11th Ave

(Image: Hugo House)

(Image: Hugo House)

Cramped in its longtime residence inside a 1903-built former mortuary, literary-focused Capitol Hill nonprofit Hugo House announced Monday that it has begun work on a plan to build a new center as part of a mixed-use development at the site of its 11th Ave home.

“What’s great about this new project is that Hugo House can operate as usual during the design phase and we will still be able to stay where we are after construction is completed —but in a new, more functional, efficient and community-friendly space,” Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson said in a statement.

The new development will include 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of ground-level commercial/retail space, as well as up to five stories of multi-family housing right across the street from Cal Anderson Park. Zoning in the area would allow the building to reach 65 feet — good enough for six stories (or more if you’re good with words.) Its location in the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District could open the project up to additional height if portions of the original structure were to be preserved. A 2013 hearing determined the former Manning’s Funeral Parlor should not be protected as an official city landmark.

UPDATE: We asked Swenson about her thoughts on being part of the Hill’s continuing wave of mixed-use development and Hugo House’s part in planning what comes next for the parcel. She was unassuming about any hopes of influencing the project beyond the future center’s home. The big decisions, she said, belong to the developers and the landowner.

“It’s only through their good graces that we’ll be lucky enough to stay here,” she said.

“I’m just grateful that we can stay.”

In the announcement, Hugo House and the longtime property owners of the more than 100-year-old building said they are now working with a developer to determine “the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process.” The announcement notes the property owners have “generously supported all facility costs, including rent” for Hugo House throughout its history. Continue reading

Seattle rents rising faster than in any other major U.S. city — even faster on Capitol Hill


Numbers from the Census Bureau are about as official as it gets for calculating nationwide trends. So call it official: Seattle’s rent is the 10th highest in the U.S. and its rising faster than any other major city.

According to data released by the Census Bureau this month, median rents in Seattle reached $1,172 in 2013 — an 11% increase from 2010. Seattle surpassed Long Beach, CA and Oakland, CA in its rise to the top 10.

The Seattle Times wrote about it here, but buried one important stat: the renter population actually outpaced the rent increases as the city added 13% more renters in the same time period. In 2013 some 307,000 people were renting in Seattle.

On Capitol Hill rents are rising faster.

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CHS Community Post | Capitol Hill business owners to Sound Transit site developers: Make it unique

Panel Members Left to Right: Karen True (Pioneer Square Alliance), Moderator Michael Wells (Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce), Binko Chiong-Bisbee (Kobo), Tracy Taylor (Elliott Bay Book Company), Michael Oaksmith (Hunters Capital), Linda Derschang (The Derschang Group), Chip Ragen (Ragen Associates), Tim Farrell (Tarragon).

Panel Members Left to Right: Karen True (Pioneer Square Alliance), Moderator Michael Wells (Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce), Binko Chiong-Bisbee (Kobo), Tracy Taylor (Elliott Bay Book Company), Michael Oaksmith (Hunters Capital), Linda Derschang (The Derschang Group), Chip Ragen (Ragen Associates), Tim Farrell (Tarragon).

2014_9 Broadway Retail Panel 2As a reminder, anybody can post to CHS. You can find our latest contributions in the CHS Community section. Posts of high quality and interest may be shared on the CHS homepage. Thanks to all community contributors for being part of CHS! CHS reported on the “transit oriented development” process at Capitol Hill Station here: Developers vying to build Capitol Hill Station housing+retail say properties are overvalued

By Michelle Hippler, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, the Capitol Hill Champions hosted a Broadway Retail Panel Luncheon at the Capitol Hill Library where neighborhood business owners spoke candidly to the developers who will bid on the prime real estate above the Link light rail station on Broadway. The resounding message was that developers have to get it right, and that means thinking more creatively about the retail spaces.

The bottom line, as Linda Derschang (Linda’s, Oddfellows, Smith, et. al.) put it: what really created the thriving Pike/Pine corridor business district was the high rent on Broadway. Pike/Pine happened because “nobody small and new could afford Broadway anymore.” Fast-forward to 2014 and even she is nervous about signing a long-term lease for Linda’s Tavern on Pine where the rent is expected to triple within a few years and the landlord refuses to make any improvements. “Will the renters filling up all these new apartments come to Linda’s? Will all the indie rockers move away?”

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Capitol Hill developer with knack for making room for more has plans for addition to 91-year-old 13th Ave apartments

The proposed project will neighbor 13th Ave's St. Nicholas Cathedral which went through some construction of its own in 2013

The proposed project will neighbor 13th Ave’s St. Nicholas Cathedral which went through some construction of its own in 2013

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 2.59.45 PMA Capitol Hill developer experienced in squeezing new units into some of the oldest apartment buildings in the neighborhood brings a new project to the East Design Review Board Wednesday night that will add an entire apartment building next to the 1923-built Washington Irving apartments at 13th and Howell.

With the continued demand for apartments on Capitol Hill, it’s not surprising that prolific Capitol Hill real estate investor Morris Groberman and development partner Dan Ronz Ron Danz are making plans to demolish an old garage and construct a new apartment building just south of the existing 39-unit, 1305 E Howell building. What might be more surprising is that the developers and architect Neiman Taber are proposing a two-story building where they could build four. Continue reading

Seattle’s new regulations leave space for densest microhousing to continue in Capitol Hill’s core

UPDATE 10/6/2014: The full City Council Monday afternoon approved the new microhousing rules passed by committee and detailed below. The mayor had threatened a veto of the bill if it resulted in changes that would force developers to increase rents in microhousing-style apartments. In the meantime, a judge’s decision has prompted DPD to kick 21 microhousing developments back in the planning process.

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This 12th Ave microhousing project will have room for a Basque restaurant. This one will have beer. Put that in your regulations! (Image: CHS)

34 pages of legislation ( here in PDF) — plus a few possible last minute additions related to elements like defining exactly how many sinks an aPodment-style unit should have — are ready to move on from City Council as Seattle seeks to complete a long, drawn-out quest to regulate microhousing developments. Meanwhile, a legal battle that had a seeming happy ending for neighbors fighting a Capitol Hill microhousing development near the tony Harvard-Belmont Historical District will have a judicial epilogue.

DPD "congregate housing" related permit activity, 2010 to present. Big clouds of microhousing headed your way!

DPD “congregate housing” related permit activity, 2010 to present. Big clouds of microhousing headed your way!

Tuesday afternoon, the City Council’s land use and planning committee is expected to unwrinkle a final set of amendments before sending the bill onto the full council.

“People living in smaller units is a choice,” planning committee chair Mike O’Brien said. “What we really care about is how big the building is on the outside.”

UPDATE: The committee approved the legislation Tuesday afternoon and the bill will move to the full council for a vote on October 6th.

The new rules pounded out after over years of debate will continue to allow microhousing development in dense areas like Capitol Hill while setting a new average size requirement for the apartments built in lowrise-zoned areas. Under the compromises forged by O’Brien, Seattle will end up with two types of microhousing. In areas zoned lowrise where you’re more likely to find single family homes or small apartments, microhousing units must average 220 square feet — though Tuesday’s amendments may adjust size thresholds.Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 4.19.29 PM

But buildings within “urban centers” like the western core of Capitol Hill and “urban villages” like E Madison, Miller Park, and parts of the Central District will be open territory for good ol’ fashioned microhousing with shared, congregate elements and units that can average smaller than 180 square feet.

But we're only talking about 100 or so projects and no massive uptick through 2014's partial year tally

But we’re only talking about 100 or so projects and no massive uptick through 2014’s partial year tally even as Seattle still doesn’t have a plan in place to tackle housing affordability. It’s OK, though — at least somebody is thinking big

“My proposal will allow these to continue to be built as congregate housing, but specifies that they can only be built in higher density zones in our urban villages and urban centers,” an O’Brien statement on the legislation states. “These are the places that most likely have access to transit and amenities to support a higher density community.” Continue reading

CHS Video | Capitol Hill + gentrification + power pop = Bridge to Hawaii

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.29.11 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.28.53 PMScreen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.30.01 PMIt’s dark and it rains all the time
I’m guessing not the destinations that you had in mind
Your brain’s unraveling, the endless traveling
And you can’t go up, jump into the ocean

Tacocat’s newly released video for their song Bridge to Hawaii is a Capitol Hill classic: Bummed out people in the rain bitching about buildings getting torn down get together for a Rav 4 Geo Tracker Hawaii party. Happens. All. The. Time.

h/t to @whitnud and, of course, @TacocaTs.

It’s not every day you see 19th Ave E in a music video.Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.28.23 PM