This week a meeting was held on Capitol Hill to discuss the future of aPodments in the neighborhood but it did little more than leave many attendees bitter and displeased.
“We need more organization,” shouted one. “Check CHS Blog,” came another.
CHS has covered the issues around microhousing housing with more frequency if not more depth than any other media outlet in the city. We’ve had a lot to say about the projects — both good and bad. Monday night, it was all about the bad.
“All they want is more density,” a woman said as Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin, and Diane Sugimura of the Department of Development heard complaints from the community at the December session of the East District Council — an advisory body attached to the Department of Neighborhoods. The meeting drew more people than the Cal Anderson Shelter House could hold and saw hands fly up anytime the two city reps spoke.
“We have no plans at this point to put a moratorium on,” Conlin said to the crowd adding that the council will have to adopt legislation in order to create a moratorium but that he personally “is not ready to do that at this point.
The Capitol Hill Community Council and other community groups have called for a moratorium on the developments until the projects are subject to a more stringent review process. Currently, a developer can build a “four-unit” apartment building divided into multiple dorm-type studios without the need for more stringent design or environmental review. Opponents cry foul — proponents say this is exactly the kind of affordable housing areas like Capitol Hill need.
As the meeting was winding down and most had voiced their opinions, Conlin asked, “What is the concern here?” effectively churning up shouts of “loopholes”, “density”, a need for design review among a swath of other issues.
“I’m not very optimistic,” Carl Winter with Reasonable Density Seattle told CHS after the meeting. He said the meeting was, “a lot of stalling,” and that “more aPodments” are bound to come without the moratorium. RDS recently started a petition to drive for a moratorium.
We asked Winter about what the meeting accomplished. Here is Reasonable Density’s response:
Yes, the positive… Residents’ interest in stopping these projects is on the rise, dramatically so. There were over 100 concerned and upset citizens at this meeting, that’s a big positive. Neighbors are forming groups to get the word out and to educate people about this issue and this is having an effect. Earlier in the year neighbors had no one to turn to, no one that would listen to them, that’s not the case anymore. There is strength in numbers and in neighbors linking together to address this common concern. This tide will rise and as a result our goals will be realized. If neighbors want to voice their disapproval of these buildings and the process that is allowing them to be built in neighborhoods not designed to accommodate them they can sign a petition which is posted on our website: http://www.reasonabledensityseattle.com A final positive, Conlin mentioned he might bring this issue, and our moratorium, to a full City Council session in response to a suggestion from the audience to do so. We intend to hold him to that comment.
Unfortunately there is also the negative… Some damage to our neighborhoods will already be done since many of these projects are built or currently under construction, 19 buildings at last count on Capitol Hill alone most of them in Low Rise (LR) zoned neighborhoods. Low Rise Zones were not created nor envisioned to accommodate such dense structures. Doing so is bad urban planning and defeats the intended purpose of these zones as transition areas. Another negative… Many got the sense that the director of the DPD, Sugimura may not be as interested or qualified as she should be. She demonstrated a surprising lack of knowledge.
Hearing the two of them speak in person was much better than getting the standard brief email reply which is about all neighbors have gotten out of them for the last six months. Please continue your coverage of this issue, residents need to know what is going on in their neighborhoods.
At this point, it’s not clear what comes next. The push for a moratorium doesn’t seem to have picked up any momentum at City Hall and the opponents of the current process around microhousing haven’t yet shown an appetite for attacking the problem through formal or legal challenges.