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Capitol Hill gets ‘efficient’ as two new-era microhousing projects face design review

"It doesn't feel like microhousing at all!" -- Guy in rendering

“It doesn’t feel like microhousing at all!” — Guy in rendering

As CHS reported last fall, Seattle’s new microhousing rules left plenty of room for aPodment-style development on Capitol Hill. One of the biggest asks for microhousing critics was to subject the “efficiency unit” building type to the Seattle design review process. Critics — and the rest of us — can see their dreams become reality at Wednesday night’s meeting of the East Design Review Board.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.13.46 PMBoylston Flats
1404 Boylston is familiar territory for the board. The seven-story “affordable” apartment building with 105 units averaging around 440 square feet a piece and slated to replace the 1905-built Emerald City Manor apartments took its first run through early design guidance back in November.

At that meeting, the board didn’t like what it saw and kicked the project back to microhousing developers Tyler Carr and Kelten Johnson and architect S+H Works to sort out the issues for another EDG round.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.24.09 PMWednesday night, they’re back with a plan that they say addresses the board’s issues with the project’s massing and relationship to the surrounding neighborhood. The new preferred plan includes “4ft. of additional height added, to step building with topography,” “recessed portions of upper story to establish shadow line,” adjusted amenity areas to better connect with the neighboring buildings, and reconfigured entry points.

Review Meeting: January 28, 6:30 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Community Building
Review Phase: EDG–Early Design Guidance past reviews
Project Number: 3017075 permit status | notice
Planner: Beth Hartwick

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.16.26 PM1420 E Howell
The other project on Wednesday night’s docket is even more efficient. Its planned 57 units will weigh in at an average of 341 square feet. It also only took one pass for the project to make it through early design review last summer.

This fourplex is about to get optimized (Image: King County)

This fourplex is about to get optimized (Image: King County)

Here’s how developer Greenbuild — who paid $800,000 in 2014 for the old duplex that will be demolished to make way for the project — and architect Caron have described the development:

The proposed development will create an urban apartment building with 57 small residential units in the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village. This development is not required to have parking, as it falls within Urban Center Village neighborhood. There are several bus routes on 15th Ave., and the new light rail station is within walking distance.

With encouragement from the good turnout at the early design guidance session for the project, the board recommended the developers come back with a plan that includes “a more sympathetic façade” for E Howell and “a strong street wall on 15th Ave.” They also told Greenbuild to nix the rooftop deck in favor of a “ground level” amenity area.

Wednesday night, neighbors will get to see if that “sympathetic” facade was delivered as well as get to add their $0.02 about the project’s plans for finishing and materials.

Review Meeting: January 28, 8:00 pm
Seattle University
824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Community Building
Review Phase: Recommendation past reviews
Project Number: 3017142 permit status | notice
Planner: Lindsay King

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.31.06 PM


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16 thoughts on “Capitol Hill gets ‘efficient’ as two new-era microhousing projects face design review

  1. I actually don’t mind the E Howell project. At least it uses brick.

    Was the rooftop deck nixed due to privacy concerns? That would be a nice amenity…

  2. It’s about damn time that microhousing developers had to play by the same rules as everyone else. Hopefully, this change will result in buildings which are more harmonious with their surroundings, are not shoehorned into too-small lots, do not push the boundaries of height restriction, and are more aesthetically pleasing. If these things happen, then even I will accept the reality of microhousing.

    But, then, there is still the parking issue….

  3. I’m surprised at the restraint in limiting the E Howell property to only 4 floors when they are squeezing 6 floors out of other developments. You think the goal would be to build higher on our arterials and lower on residential side streets, not the opposite. Regardless, the brick veneer on this project looks good and is in keeping with the street. Still sad to see the duplexes go :(

    • Unfortunately, most of Capitol Hill east of Broadway (except for Pike/Pine) has 40′ height limits. It has little to do with being on an arterial or not.

      • Considering this post is about the new microhousing rules, enforcement of the lower height limit is likely a direct result of that.

        15th is technically a lower-tier arterial, but 65′ buildings aren’t really appropriate here. The street is pretty narrow. Broadway and 23rd are more appropriate for that height scale. Or even 12th.

  4. Parking is already an issue around 15th and E Howell, certainly not made any better by Seven Hills Park which has heavy use during the summer. I don’t understand how a developer is allowed such density with no parking facilities. I estimate at least 50% of residents will have a car. That’s another 28 cars trying to fit into on street parking. Can the design review board stop acting like an Ostrich, take its head out of the ground and address the parking problem?

    • But parking is not a right… why do people assume they can have free parking? People will be taking mass transit. Stop your whining, sell your car, and take the bus

      I know that will be the response from a bunch of people and everytime someone says that…it makes me want to scream and bash my head against the wall. I live on a street with an apodment and parking has become markedly worse since it opened. Same thing. More units…no parking built for it and guess what?? OMG! A bunch of their tenants HAVE CARS! But apparently I’m not allowed to complain because I have no right to street parking and I’m a jerk for mentioning it.

      • You have every right to street parking, every resident does. My gripe is with developers that exclude facilities needed in urban development to maximize their profit and this has a detrimental impact to the cities residents :( And I do catch the bus, the number 10 route is very convenient but that doesn’t stop people from owning cars and needing to park them

    • I guess it’s true that there is no legal right to on-street, free parking….but it is an amenity that cities offer their residents. Even Manhattan, with its extensive subway network, has street parking! I am lucky and have a little driveway for my car, but I feel for those whose lives are now made more difficult by the lack of any parking at the new apodments. It’s rude and selfish for developers to not build at least some parking….maybe not one space for each unit, but something like one space for every 2 units would be a reasonable compromise.

      Doesn’t the Design Review Board have the authority to mandate some parking? If not, she should have!

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