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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:

In brief, a developer wants to tear down the two houses between us and Aloha and build a four story 36-unit apartment building.  The city has scheduled a public meeting at Seattle U, 824 12th Ave.on Wednesday, August 27 for the developer to provide description of the proposed development, and for the public to provide input.

Written comments can be made up until the meeting date at sure to reference the project number, 3017655).

While I’m not categorically opposed to a development next door, I am very much concerned about the parking situation.  According to the notice that the city sent out, “no parking [is] required” as part of the proposed development.

If you have any concerns about the development, I would encourage you to make your opinion heard by emailing your comments to the city before August 27, and by attending the meeting on August 27.

Thanks, everyone.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.20.02 PMBradley Khouri has found another corner of the Hill where he won’t be very popular — in the most recent gathering of the review board, his 12th Ave E microhousing project took the stage. At 11th and Aloha, Khouri’s b9 Architects are only the designers. Developer Robert Hardy bought the properties in March for $1.7 million.

Review Meeting: August 27, 6:30 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Building
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number: 3017655 permit status | notice
Planner: Lindsay King

The b9 design calls for “an apartment building containing approximately 34 apartment units centered around a shared courtyard.” The developers say the proposed design will have a reduced sense of mass thanks to an exposed central courtyard concept:

The perceived mass of the proposal is greatly reduced with the introduction of a central courtyard. The special characteristics of this site, with an angled front lot line, also reduces the appearance of mass.

b9 also says the exterior of the building will help make it feel smaller. “The facade will be designed to maximize visual interest by including elements such as private decks, material changes, recesses and overhangs, and varied fenestration patterns,” the packet states.

(Image: Nicholson Kovalchik)

(Images: Nicholson Kovalchik)

On a less gentle grade, the second project in front of the board Wednesday plans to call 736 Bellevue Pl E home.

Designed by Nicholson Kovalchik and developed by real estate investor Preston Walls, the Bellview building will stand five stories tall and contain 40 units on the northwest slope of Capitol Hill. A set of 1904-built “six unit teardowns” await demolition on the lot. The project is planned to include 14 parking stalls. But savvy area bikers will recognize the cycle path passes directly by the property.Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.37.14 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.37.50 PM

The developer lists six slope-centric goals for the project:

  • Provide a visually attractive building from near and far.
  • Provide desirable homes and common areas for residents that respond to site forces, such as views.
  • Avoid construction in the Critical Slide Area.
  • Develop the site to the highest and best use.
  • Enhancing the existing neighborhood character
  • Preserve views from uphill properties

It’s a steep proposition:

The area as it looks today (Image: Nicholson Kovalchik)

The area as it looks today (Image: Nicholson Kovalchik)

The site slopes from 242’ on the eastern edge to 195’ on the west. A large No Build zone is located on the southwest corner. The awkward site configuration coupled with the steep slope and minimal access limit the options for development.

The fun will start, the developer says, with the landscaping:

The project intends to make the most of the unusual topography and site constraints for interesting landscaping. Stabilizing and landscaping the steep hillside presents an opportunity for a semi-private, multi-level landscaped area. The flattest portion of the site is in the “No-Build” zone and will likely coincide with the second level of the building and is intended to provide a semi-public outdoor area.


Review Meeting: August 27, 8:00 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Building
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number: 3017032 permit status | notice
Planner: Tami Garrett
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23 thoughts on “Capitol Hill design reviews: Four stories at 11th/Aloha, five on the slope of I-5 Shores

  1. It’s crazy that the City is approving of “no parking” in many of the new developments. This just makes a parking shortage even worse. I realize some posters here think that not providing any parking is a good idea, and that this will magically cause residents to use more transit, but it’s just not realistic to think that all the new residents will be car-less.

    How about a reasonable compromise on this issue? New buildings would be required to provide at least some parking and the number of spaces would depend on the location and the number of units. We certainly don’t need a 1:1 ratio of parking:units as in the past, but something like a 0.5:1 seems about right for most locations.

    • I think more people would use transit if we had a better system. As of now it’s dreadful and they keep cutting their budget too.
      It’s interesting that the City seems to want to promote more use of transit but they keep reducing their service.

      • The city can’t mint money. Metro cuts budgets because there’s insufficient funding. Even if you think Metro is a colossal waste , the fact remains taxpayers fund Metro. So expecting City of Seattle to increase transit funding if voters don’t support the corresponding funding is a waste of time.

    • The days of mandating parking are dying a slow death in this city and in all other progressive cities in the world. And rightfully so. Making rules to artificially increase the parking supply was a mistake when it started in the middle of the 20th century and it’s a mistake now. Requiring developers to build some arbitrary number of expensive parking spaces just drives up the cost of housing and causes all sorts of unintended consequences. RIP, parking minimums.

      • Only a fucking idiot would think a building with NO parking is a good idea. Same idiot isn’t smart enough to figure out that CARS are funding Metro, so if you take away the license revenue from Metro, you have NO bus.

        Add at least 50% parking requirement and come back to reality.

      • Do you really think a decline in offered parking will lead to a decline in vehicles? And if so, do you think that taxes placed on the remaining vehicles will not go up to compensate?

        In your world it seems everyone should be driving so we can keep Metro afloat.

      • When I lived in New York I never thought about the fact that most apartment buildings didn’t have parking. If you did have parking you likely were not driving anywhere in the city because parking was difficult, inefficient and outrageously priced almost everywhere. Like middle class New Yorkers, middle class Seattlites should not have to pay been more money to live in densely populated, transit rich neighborhoods because they have to subsidize parking for their wealthier neighbors who can actually afford to own a car in those neighborhoods.

        As specific Seattle neighborhoods like downtown and Capitol Hill appear more and more like New York it makes sense for us to adopt parking rules for those specific, high density neighborhoods that recognize that those residents can commute by walking, biking, bussing, taking light rail, using Car2Go, or hiring an Uber or Lyft driver (and will be much less likely than people in cheaper neighborhoods to have the extra money to pay for a car, auto insurance, gas, car maintenance etc. on top of all of their additional expenses, especially if they don’t absolutely need to spend that money to get around).

      • If you have ever been to New York you’d understand that Seattle’s transit is a joke in comparison. If we had half the transit system of NYC no parking buildings would be completely acceptable. But we don’t. If these developers want to build without providing parking, that’s fine, but levy a metro funding tax of say 50k a unit so appropriate transit services can be provided.

    • Donald Shoup in LA has been studying the affects of parking requirements and urban form, and has found that it discourages and slows development, thus slows higher density, due to needing expensive parking structures (like underground parking) or surface lots. Here’s one of his articles with a quick google search:,Parking,CitiesJUPD.pdf,Parking,CitiesJUPD.pdf
      His suggestion, which is the compromise you seek I think, is rather than having minimums is to have maximums.

      He also has done a great paper titled “The High Cost of Free Parking” which has been featured in Freakonomics recently!

    • The no parking requirement sees reasonable to me.

      San Francisco is seeing 90% of new residents car-free — and their public transit is pretty crappy too:

      This is consistent with my experience as a landlord in central capitol hill: the tenants interested in my units that do not have parking typically do not own a car.

      They are choosing capitol hill (and paying a premium) for the ability to have a car-free lifestyle. When a bus is momentarily inconvenient, they grab a Car2Go or an Uber on a moment’s notice.

  2. To me it’s pretty simple.

    If you want a home with parking and the building does not offer it, don’t opt to live there. If a parking space is important, find a building that offers it and live there.

    I have a dog and wouldn’t live somewhere that doesn’t allow pets.

    No one is entitled to free street parking. It’s a nice to have feature. Although I admit some semblance of available on street short-term parking is appreciated, I don’t ever get upset when me or my guests can’t find a space.

    • I think the real issue is that the people already living in the area are using the free street parking and don’t want to share it. If you want to talk about another way to compromise, how about cutting back the number of RPZ decals available per household. Currently in the adjoining neighborhood, each household can have 4 decals and a guest permit for a very low cost or for free starting a bit south of the Aloha project:
      How about allowing 1 decal and 1 guest permit and charging more? Just because you have lived in a neighborhood for a while does not mean you get to hog a communal resource and complain when others want in.

      • Actually, the Aloha&11th project is in the RPZ. The two houses currently have 4 off-street parking spots, plus one unofficial one.

      • You would have a valid argument IF street parking was reasonably available for current residents….but it isn’t, so there is not really anything to share.

        I agree with you about decreasing the number of RPZ permits per household. Four + 1 guest permit is clearly excessive, and makes it easy for one household to have 5 cars (!) if they so choose.

    • Agree completely. I parked my car on the street for over two years, and am very happy to now be renting a spot next door. Definite quality of life improvement.

  3. While the “urban village” no-parking-required approach might work in the areas actually near decent, multiple transit options, this location is hardly that. In fact, this proposed building is literally at the outer boundary of the urban village designation area (across Aloha and across the alley in the back is not in the area). And as others have pointed out, what few transit options there are are getting cut back, so that the only option will soon be the 49 bus, several blocks away. In addition, the lot is directly across the street from Lowell Elementary school, which places additional demands on street parking, particularly in the mornings and afternoons when parents are picking up/dropping off kids, and whenever afterschool or evening activities are going on. And saying that permitting the parking will somehow alleviate the situation won’t cut it. Aloha doesn’t require a permit for parking, and non-residents routinely use it as a location to park long-term with no consequences.

    I’m all for minimizing the use of cars, but as others have pointed out, this is a case of a developer making more money by essentially appropriating public space to his benefit. Why should he get richer at the expense of the neighbors? Oh, that’s right. Because we live in a plutocracy.

    • Hi RMC (and anyone else),
      If you believe non-residents are parking in your neighborhood and making it difficult for residents to find parking, I recommend pursuing an expansion of the Residential Parking Zone to include that area. Here are the instructions:

      The first step requires a letter from your neighborhood community council. If this is something you’d be interested in championing, feel free to email us at for assistance with the letter.

      Mike Archambault
      Capitol Hill Community Council – Treasurer

    • RMC, you are exactly right. Developers are not providing parking in order for their residents to save money on rent (rates are increasing regardless of whether parking is included). They are doing so to save money on construction costs and to increase their profits. As usual, it’s all about the money.

      • I am a little confused. Is the concern that current residents, who live in buildings that don’t have adequate parking and are forced to park on the street, will no longer be able to find parking when additional buildings are built without adequate parking and will be forced to park on the same street.

        Seems like the easy solution is just to move to a building that has off street parking so you don’t have to fight over street parking, rather than impose blanket requirements on the whole neighborhood.

  4. There is no reason these building should be so short. You could easily add more than enough parking spaces to these buildings if they were allowed to build higher. If people don’t use them turn them into storage units. Instead of 30 units why not 60, 90 or a100 with parking or storage ?

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