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

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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

Developer says Capitol Hill apartment building ready for tenants despite $500k+ construction lawsuit

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

IMG_5425A color problem briefly brought one E Union development project to a halt earlier this year – a $500,000+ problem has put the development of another E Union apartment project into what the developer says will only be a short limbo even as the more than $11 million construction of the six-story building is mostly complete and marketing for new tenants already started.

CHS has learned that a King County judge ruled late last month that a construction company holding a major lien on the mostly completed Evolve Apartments project at 10th and Union is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars and can proceed with a foreclosure on the property if the developer behind the project does not pay up.

Despite the ruling, the developer tells CHS the building is open and already home to tenants. Continue reading

Sound Transit issues clarifications for Capitol Hill Station development proposals as cost concerns mount

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the "transit oriented development" around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the “transit oriented development” around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

As the projected start date for construction of the apartment complexes and businesses that will populate the area surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station approaches in coming years, Sound Transit has released clarifications of many of the rules governing how the short-list of potential developers will outline project proposals for the developments. According to Cathy Hillenbrand of the Capitol Hill Champion community group, Sound Transit has provided new information about how the proposals will be graded and selected as well as aspects of the design process.

“What I’ve been hearing is that the developers will be having to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars if not more just to complete these proposals just because of the level of design-detail Sound Transit wants,” said Hillenbrand. “So if you’re one of the six teams competing for Site A, that’s not a great percentage of chance for winning, so are you going to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for that?”CHStation-TOD-area-600x467-1 Continue reading

Will Capitol Hill’s new stock of luxury apartments one day become luxury condos?

On E Union, these will *not* be condos... yet (Image: Joe Wolf via Flickr)

On E Union, these will *not* be condos… yet (Image: Joe Wolf via Flickr)

“Condo Hill” is a term that seems to be popping up with increased regularity in reaction to the rapid construction of new, high-end buildings on Capitol Hill . It turns out, the nickname misses the mark by at least a decade as the vast majority of projects built on Capitol Hill today are for new apartments, not condos. Developers and building owners say, like anything in real estate, it comes down to what’s profitable.

That’s not to say Capitol Hill’s new apartments could never become luxury resident-owned units, but if recent trends are any indication, apartment-to-condo conversions aren’t coming to Capitol Hill soon, either.

In the past three years there has not been one single condo conversion on Capitol Hill, according to city data obtained by CHS. In that same time period, only seven apartment units were converted to condos city-wide. New condo construction has also slowed dramatically in recent years. Continue reading

Ruling allows pro-development group to pursue push to halt height rollback in Seattle’s lowrise neighborhoods

In a victory of process though not yet substance of argument, a Seattle pro-development group has won the right to continue its challenge to efforts to roll back lowrise zoning heights in the city.

An announcement from Smart Growth Seattle sent Tuesday afternoon says the group “has prevailed in the first round of it’s (sic) appeal of the City’s proposed massive downzone of the city’s low-rise zones.”

Here’s the “too long, didn’t read” version of the decision:

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While not exactly a first round victory on the merits of the group’s arguments that lowrise heights shouldn’t be lowered, the decision does allow the appeal to the Seattle Hearing Examiner slated for later this month to continue.

Earlier this summer, CHS reported on the efforts at City Hall to roll back height increases made a few years back:

The groundwork for the lowrise conflict was laid in 2010 when Sally Clark spearheaded an update to the multifamily zoning code that included allowances for higher buildings. With the first generation of buildings under the new code constructed, many neighbors have complained the buildings are too big and too tall. Where lowrise development is generally thought of as three to four-story townhouses and apartments, some developers have used incentives to cram five stories into tightly packed apartment and microhousing buildings.

In addition to what will surely be riveting Hearing Examiner drama later this month, expect Smart Growth Seattle and its opponents to be increasingly vocal this week leading up to the re-start of City Council negotiations over regulating microhousing in Seattle.

Capitol Hill apartment boom getting new ripples as 15th Ave E development moves foward

The Salal sign went up in 2010 as the Group Health Credit Union got a new brand (Image: Prima Seadiva via Flickr)

The Salal sign went up in 2010 as the Group Health Credit Union got a new brand (Image: Prima Seadiva via Flickr)

There are more signs that developers expect Capitol Hill’s building boom to continue and demand for apartments to remain steady if not continue soaring. CHS has learned details of a project moving forward to create a new four-story, 60-unit apartment building on 15th Ave E.

According to filings with the city, developer John Links of The Metropolitan Companies is moving forward on a plan to redevelop the lot currently home to Salal Credit Union in the 100 block of 15th Ave E across from Group Health. The planned building will stand four stories, be planned for 60 units and could have two levels of underground parking.

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Capitol Hill theater company stages one final performance before move to 12th Ave Arts

Inside the future home of the Main Stage at 12th Ave Arts (Image: CHS)

Inside the future home of the Main Stage at 12th Ave Arts (Image: CHS)

Ali el-Gasseir's WET will be one of three theater groups resident in the new development (Image: CHS)

Ali el-Gasseir’s WET will be one of three theater groups resident in the new development (Image: CHS)

By Rayna Stackhouse with reporting by Justin Carder

Greg Carter and Strawberry Theatre Workshop aren’t about to get rich. But the company is putting on one last show on Capitol Hill the old-fashioned theatre way.

“Our industry doesn’t work very well in a capitalist model,” says Carter. “The rich get rich, while the poor get poorer.”

While the city’s behemoth performance and arts organizations like Seattle Opera have a full staff to raise money, sell tickets and can support and pay their performers, small theater companies around Capitol Hill typically barely scrape by. The money they make is mostly from tickets and booze, Carter says.

The 12th Ave Arts building, slated to open in early November, should help change that equation for Strawshop and its two companion theater companies, Washington Ensemble Theatre and New Century Theater Company, teaming up to form a new kind of arts organization resident in the new Capitol Hill Housing development.

Capitol Hill Housing and Black Box representatives were on hand this week for a “hard hat” tour of the new building. The $38 million, 29,000 square-foot 12th Ave Arts project is creating 88 affordable apartment units, office space, retail space and a theater facility above parking that will also be utilized by Seattle Police’s East Precinct.

The project is the result of a two-decade push from community groups and organizations to create something greater with the East Precinct parking lot that used to call the land home.

Capitol Hill Housing’s Michael Seiwerath said it was community pressure that finally moved the project through the mire at City Hall.

“These citizen volunteers went down there and said there’s a better use for this,” he said about the old, barbed wire-ringed police parking lot.

In a most unusual twist on the typical “mixed-use” development around the Hill, 12th Ave Arts will also have two fully tricked out, state of the art performance spaces totaling nearly 6,000 square feet: one with room for 149 seats, the other Studio Stage with an 80-person capacity. Hardcore theater geeks will nerd out at the catwalks above and sound suppression enveloping both venues. Continue reading

12th Ave community group votes for apartment development over city ‘pocket park’

Reverb-Spectrum-11th-And-AlderIn response to a condemnation order placed on a site owned by real estate firm Spectrum Development Solutions at 11th and Alder in order to build a new pocket park, the 12th Avenue Stewards community group has voted unanimously to rescind the order and allow the construction project to continue rather than begin design on a new public space.

Following the vote, Mayor Ed Murray officially withdrew the proposed condemnation order, representatives tell CHS.

“This issue is something that has been difficult for the group,” said Bill Zosel, vice-chair of the 12th Avenue Stewards told CHS in a statement on the vote. Continue reading

Capitol Hill design reviews: Four stories at 11th/Aloha, five on the slope of I-5 Shores

The Bellview will guard our western I-5 shores (Image: Nicholson Kovalchik)

Winter is coming. The Bellview will guard our western I-5 shores (Image: Nicholson Kovalchik)

Two Capitol Hill projects coming before the East Design Review Board Wednesday night share some characteristics peculiar to the neighborhood. Both will replace early 1900s-era wood frame houses. Both will be perched on parts of the Hill’s sloping grades.

748 11th Ave E

(Image: B9 Architects)

(Image: B9 Architects)

This four-story, 36-unit apartment building is destined for the gentle sloping curve of E Aloha at 11th Ave E  just down from Lowell Elementary where the old homes have stood for more than 100 years.

But neighbors are mostly concerned about the parking:

Hi, everyone.  You may have recently gotten a notice in the mail about a proposed development next door.  For those of you who didn’t get the notice, details can be found here: Continue reading

What the development that will won’t yet replace Rancho Bravo will look like

(Images: Schack A+D)

(Images: Schack A+D)

It’s a modern Capitol Hill condition. Looming over every plate of delicious, cheap, Rancho Bravo tacos is the knowledge that here, too, will someday rise a six-story apartment building. But it’s not going to happen soon.

“We have decided to postpone development of this property for a couple of years,” developer Maria Barrientos tells CHS about the E Pine parcel home to the Mexican fast food joint that is envisioned — eventually — as a “gateway development to Pike/Pine.” Continue reading

Judge: Microhousing bedrooms count as ‘dwelling units’ in Capitol Hill project, must go through design review

The proliferation of microhousing throughout Capitol Hill and Seattle may have hit its first major snag after a judge ruled that at least one of the dorm-style projects must go through a public design review before construction can begin.

On Wednesday a King County Superior Court judge reversed the city’s characterization of a proposed microhousing project on north Capitol Hill after a neighborhood group filed a complaint against the city, arguing the bedrooms should count as stand-alone dwelling units.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 10.11.11 AMThe proposed 49-bedroom building at 741 Harvard Ave E near Aloha had been characterized as having only eight “dwelling units” because the dorm-style bedrooms were clustered around eight shared kitchens and living spaces. Each bedroom will now count as a separate dwelling unit, meaning it passes the dwelling unit threshold for going through a public design and environmental review.

In her decision, Judge Laura Gene Middaugh wrote the Department of Planning and Development’s characterization of the microhousing project as having only eight dwelling units was “clearly erroneous.”

“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,” the judge wrote.  Continue reading

Developers vying to build Capitol Hill Station housing+retail say properties are overvalued

Screen-Shot-2014-04-16-at-9.31.23-PMSiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1Shortlisted firms vying to buy and develop four parcels of land above the future Capitol Hill light rail station are raising concerns that Sound Transit’s asking price for the properties is far too high, possibly even double what it’s worth. Sound Transit officials say it’s fair market value for some of the most prized property in the city.

The parcel most in question is the Broadway-facing Site A, where a large portion of the site must be reserved for a semi-public plaza to accommodate events like the Broadway Farmers Market, as stipulated in the project’s community forged Development Agreement.

At a Monday meeting with Sound Transit officials inside King Street Station, several developers said a potential $18.7 million price tag for Site A should be cut in half since only half of the parcel can be developed for residential and retail uses. Continue reading

Welcome to Capitalist Hill: This studio apartment available


Jason shares the latest Capitol Hill street art commentary on the state of the neighborhood, above. He found it on 12th Ave though we’re sure it also appears at several other nearby locations. It makes a companion piece to this witty wheatpaste poster in the blocked-off doorway of the classic old building at 11th and Pine destined to become not another new apartment project but offices. CHS has been sent notes about the doorway art all summer but had hoped to wait to post it after we found out more about what happened to the young woman that called the doorway home in recent months. We haven’t been able to track her down. But here’s the painful poster anyhow. As we’ve noted before, Capitol Hill seems to die a lot. It’s true. And we get some funny art out of it. Again and again.

Newly built 12th Ave apartment project sells for $9.9 million, Gatsby sells for $35.5 million

The former Olympic athlete who developed a 12th Ave property into this four-story, 37-unit apartment building appears to have produced a gold medal-worthy return on the investment.

According to King County Property Records, the recently completed 1711 12th Ave building has sold for $9.9 million. Gramor Development CEO John Graham, “a three time Olympian competing in both track and field, and bobsleigh,” according to his Linked In profile, purchased the property just above Cal Anderson Park for $850,000 in July 2011.

Calculating costs based on one CHS source’s estimates of $160,000 per unit, Gramor would have spent around $5.9 million on the construction. The $3.15 million or so profit sketches out to a 370% return on the initial purchase of the property, by the way. Olympian performance!

Like 11th Ave south of the park where a sixth new building is planned, 12th Ave has been a hot bed for new apartment and microhousing projects large and small.

The happy new owner of 1711 — the entity paid $268,000 per unit for the building — is listed in county records as Capitol Park, LLC. A check of state records reveals no governing persons listed for the recently formed limited liability corporation. If you’re the proud new owner, let us know.

The high-end Gatsby Apartments on 10th Ave E would have cost you an even larger arm and a leg. The project sold this week for $35.5 million — $507,000 per unit. Of course, the buyer also gets to own one of the most notorious building brands in the new wave of Capitol Hill development.

All in all, owning multifamily properties on Capitol Hill seems like a pretty profitable venture. Though, during this latest boom, owning Hill real estate of any type might make you a buck or two.

Capitol Hill Housing to purchase Squire Park building at center of affordability fight — UPDATE

Tenant-leader Linda Johnson (Image: Tenants Union)

Tenant-leader Linda Johnson addressing the media in July (Image: Tenants Union)

Squire Park Plaza at 18th and Jackson (Image: Central Area Action Committee For Affordable Living)

Squire Park Plaza at 18th and Jackson (Image: Central Area Action Committee For Affordable Living)

Last month, tenants at 18th and Jackson’s Squire Park Plaza were joined by two Seattle City Council members to protest the sale of their building to a private company — a move tenants feared would reduce the number of affordable units currently offered by their nonprofit landlord.

Their calls for a new nonprofit building owner were answered on Friday when Capitol Hill Housing announced it would partner with Jonathan Rose Companies to purchase the 60-unit workforce housing building and even “enhance the existing affordability guarantees” at the building.

UPDATE: In a statement released Monday, a Squire Park tenants group said they were still highly skeptical of the sale and the private-nonprofit partnership. The group Central Area Action Committee for Affordable Living: Squire Park Plaza Tenants said the building’s current nonprofit owners, Central Area Development Association, failed to ensure CHH/Jonathan Rose would agree to a seven-point covenant drafted by tenants for a new owner.

Without a commitment for a 50 year affordability covenant, the property could be resold for a windfall as soon as 3 to 5 years, as the real estate market continues to climb. Neither CADA nor CHH gave us information on who is controlling the partnership between CHH and the Rose Companies. Nationally, there have been many examples of nonprofit and for-profit partnerships that do not serve the interest of low- and moderate-income tenants.

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The small unit: Review board looks at 15th/Howell microhousing project

1420 E Howell's future

1420 E Howell’s future

The future of 1420 E Howell

G’bye fourplex

The next two Capitol Hill apartment projects slated to come in front of the East Design Review Board starting Wednesday night share common frameworks: nimble projects squeezing as many highly coveted, small units as possible onto land where old single family homes or underutilized fourplexes stand today. They also share a common reaction from some neighbors in the area: complaints –

Will there be any restrictions on car ownership by residents of these buildings? Will they be eligible for zone 4 permits?
Even if there was parking provided for these units, the very high density would be a stress on the neighborhood parking just because of their guests parking on the street. While we have parking for our car, our friends do like like to come to visit us in Capitol Hill specifically because it is difficult for them to park.
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Capitol Hill developer sues homeowner for stalling 15th and Mercer project

The future Stream 15th

The future Stream 15th

A Capitol Hill developer has sued a homeowner for breaking a property lease agreement and stalling construction of a new 15th and Mercer mixed-use project, according to court documents obtained by CHS.

Stream Real Estate, developers of the Stream 15 project at the former Chutney’s Grille on the Hill site, filed a lawsuit in June against Chris Rugh, claiming the landowner prevented construction crews from rightfully accessing his property adjacent to the project site and bringing to a halt the construction of the four-story, mixed-use apartment building with 33 units, 3,400 square feet of retail or restaurant space and underground parking spaces.

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Though it’s a battle over a laurel hedge and a temporary utility pole, the situation is causing a rare pause in the somewhat relentless pace of development around Capitol Hill.

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