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New microhousing regulations can move forward

DPD's "Example 4" -- "A micro-housing development that did not undergo any design review. The development contains more than 12,000 gsf in all three buildings, so it would have been required to undergo Administrative Design Review (ADR) if these recommendations had been enacted at the time"

DPD’s “Example 4” — “A micro-housing development that did not undergo any design review. The development contains more than 12,000 gsf in all three buildings, so it would have been required to undergo Administrative Design Review (ADR) if these recommendations had been enacted at the time”

In a decision released earlier this week, the Hearing Examiner has sided with the Department of Planning and Development’s decision to move forward proposed legislation to further regulate microhousing in Seattle.

CHS reported on the hearing’s two days of testimony in January as Capitol Hill land use activist Dennis Saxman and neighborhood activist Chris Leman took their fight against microhousing into the appeal process in an attempt to overturn a DPD decision to sign off on the proposed regulatory legislation — Does microhousing cause blackouts? Slow growth groups take cause to Seattle Hearing Examiner

Their argument: The intensive development will overwhelm Seattle’s environmental and civic resources and new legislation proposed to further regulate the housing would open the floodgates for aPodment-type developers.

“The evidence fails to show that the proposed legislation would spur new development of micro-housing or congregate residences, compared with what occurs under existing regulation of micro-housing,” the Examiner Anne Watanabe wrote in deciding against Saxman and Leman. “Clearly, the Appellants fear that this will occur, but the record does not demonstrate that this impact would likely occur.”

DPD documents submitted as part of the hearing showed that about 10% of all living units permitted or under construction were microhousing — a number DPD contends is likely to stay steady or drop when if the new regulations the appellants were fighting against are approved:

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 4.25.24 PM

DPD was also able to show that the arguments Leman presented regarding fire danger for microhousing development were groundless:

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While the defeat of a slow-growth effort might please the city’s urbanists, the decision is a double-edged sword as it moves the probable regulation of the housing type back onto City Hall’s agenda. The Hearing Examiner’s decision places the proposed microhousing legislation on track for the City Council to take up later this year. In addition to defining exactly what “microhousing” means, the legislation includes better triggers for environmental and design reviews for the projects and updated development standards to address issues around quality of life for those living in — and nearby — the congregate residences.

Meanwhile, developers in the area haven’t been waiting around. Permitting is underway for a new project from aPodments developer Calhoun Properties on an empty lot near 23rd and E Madison. Down near 14th and Yesler, there’s an even more ambitious project. Weighing in at 159 rooms, the five-story structure will “contain” four “congregate residences” plus two live-work units. The project also includes 1,147 square feet of retail space plus storage for 42 bicycles.

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18 thoughts on “New microhousing regulations can move forward

  1. It is frustrating that the process to tighten up the regulations on microhousing is moving so slowly, because meanwhile unscrupulous developers (especially Calhoun Properties) are continuing on to exploit the loopholes. But at least the process is happening and should result in some needed changes, especially disallowing additional height and bulk in LR-3 zones and requiring design/environmental review as well as at least some parking. But I sure hope the City Council acts in a timely manner, otherwise all the available lots will be filled up with cheap, ugly apodments by the time the new regulations are in force.

  2. The apodment in the photo is frankly a lot better looking than a lot of stuff that does pass design review. But with more regulations, we’ll be able to keep the poor out, which is probably the goal. Oh, and also to ensure that the city owned street parking is kept for the neighbors. Heaven forbid we don’t subsidize their on street parking!

    • There are still poor people in Capitol Hill? I figure the aPodments are for the Amazon receptionists and janitors, who will never be able to own the overpriced condos.

      • What overpriced condos? There are not any to buy and what you can buy hold a cheaper mortgage than renting.

        What we have are $2k 500 sqft apartments everywhere. We have to wait a few years for them to convert to condo – then we’ll have overpriced condos ;)

  3. Most of the apodments around town appear to look very cheap. Given the rent they are getting on a per square foot basis, one would think they might spend a little bit of money on architecture. You know….should you give a damn about the neighborhoods you are building in.

  4. The example pictured isn’t that bad and given it’s on a mass transit corridor, it makes sense.

    Unlike the 6 (six) floor aPodement building going in on 13th and Mercer.

  5. The so-called “neighborhood activists” who are attempting to find new ways to slow down and stifle the construction of micro-housing appear to be older people who do not have jobs in this economy and don’t see how Seattle’s rapidly growing economy helps them. (They don’t see the connection between the value of their own homes, purchased back in the 1970s and 80s, and the young people who are trying to live in places like Capitol Hill and want to see more housing built.)

    And if these neighborhood activists have children of their own, they are probably struggling in some other city, not in Seattle.

    In other words, we know these people already. They are our parents. Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Can I borrow the car tonight? No, I don’t want to move home and live in your basement, even if it’s rent free. But maybe I’ll come visit you for Christmas.

    When these neighborhood activists talk about subjecting micro-housing to more regulations and reviews, what they really mean is, they just want to stop micro-housing. After all, they are the only ones who have the time to attend all those meetings, since they bought their homes in 1971 and got a free ride on their mortgages with the inflation of those times.

    The people who actually need housing are too busy working two or three jobs at once. They don’t have time to go to all those design review meetings and listen to the elderly neighborhood activists.

    Would you want your mom to control what housing can be built on Capitol Hill? Not me. Sorry mom. I also don’t want somebody else’s mom telling me how I should live.

    Let’s get these neighborhood activists out of their homes and into nursing homes where they belong, so that we can knock down their houses and build the kind of housing that new economy workers really need.

    Those baby boomers are getting old awful fast. If we don’t build more housing in Seattle, where do we expect that the people who are going to work in nursing homes looking after our elderly neighborhood activists should live?

    • Yours is just about the most ageist comment I’ve ever read. And please don’t tell “neighborhood activists” what we “really mean.” Very few want to stop microhousing completely…we just want it to be done in a careful way that preserves the character of our residential areas.

      You must not have attended the community/DPD meeting at Lowell School last month. If you had, you would have seen that it was attended by a wide range of ages….it is a falsehood to say that only the “elderly” object to what has happened in our neighborhood as far as the microhousing issue.

      • Thanks Calhoun

        I have also never seen such an obnoxious rant against “older people.” I myself am only 48 which must seem ancient to this smug self entitled young punk.

        Perhaps everyone should be executed at age 35 like in Logan’s Run? If you start now that would really lower the rents and open the floodgates for everyone (35 and under) to move to the neighborhood!

        Hopefully his rent doubles tomorrow………………….

        Mom and Dad probably wouldn’t have him back!

    • I’m 34, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to support letting developers run roughshod over design review and other housing regulations just because they want to. Why is it a fate worse than death to ask aPodment developers to play by the rules?

  6. Not everyone against these apodments has money or is retired or a homeowner. I don’t make much money, and I know that apodments have been causing other rents to rise. I also don’t want these closet-sized apartments to be the only affordable housing–I’m not a young college student, and I don’t feel I should be stuffed into a shoebox without even a full kitchen–great development for restaurants, bad for people.

    • This right here. Apodments are quickly becoming the face of low income housing. Developers hate the city requiring them to have so many units in their shiny new condo buildings devoted to low income housing. If there are a glut of apodments, they can point to those as a reason to be able to sell/rent all their units at the overpriced market rate.

      Apodments are soon going to be filled with people who don’t want to pay $600+ for a bed and toilet with a a kitchen share by up to nine strangers, but that’s all they can afford. There’s some fantasy of all these baristas, servers and other industry workers living in piece and harmony together in these boarding houses, with rainbows and unicorns. Of course the people that claim this would never want anything to do with an apodment, they don’t understand the realities of low income housing.

      The handful, but very loud “density or bust” fetishists are completely blind to this fact, whereas the more responsible, but still pro-density folks are very cautious of it.

    • This explains the real issue I find with microhousing. The previous lowest standard (small studios) will see an increase in rent simply because a kitchen is contained within the unit. This then is translates into everyone’s rents increasing (including the ones who can afford it).

      I think it’s a fallacy to believe that microhousing provides affordable units for people. It may have a minor impact in the market now, but in the long run people will continue to move to Capitol Hill and the rents will still go up to what the market will pay. In the future we will still be paying out the nose and we’ll have a substandard housing stock in our community.

      I know there are people are for and opposed to microhousing (I’m not interested in a shouting match), but I think this moment reflects our values as a city. Do we value a loss of some independence for people living in our city because the market has made developing and housing expensive at this moment?

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