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CHS Community Post | Is ‘rolling over’ for big development really the answer to keeping Richard Hugo House where it is?

The 1634 11th Ave project will be reviewed June 24th at 8 PM at Seattle U's Admissions and Alumni building, 824 12th Ave. Learn more and review the design packet here.

The 1634 11th Ave project will be reviewed June 24th at 8 PM at Seattle U’s Admissions and Alumni building, 824 12th Ave. Learn more and review the design packet here.

CHS Community Posts are written by CHS readers. Anybody can submit an article to appear in the CHS Community section — the best will be shared on the CHS homepage. Consider each the start of a discussion and please add your $0.03.

For more on the project discussed here, see Design proposals revealed for Hugo House, Piecora’s developments

By Will Hershman
I would like to begin by disclosing that I am an owner of a condominium unit in a building adjacent to the proposed construction site where the organization now known as Richard Hugo House is harbored.

Here, however, I discuss my public concerns – which I hope reflect the concerns of our community – about demolishing the 1902 Colonial Revival House which, since 1997, has been known as Hugo House, and replacing it with an expansive, 69-foot-high, six-story, mixed-use structure with 80-100 market-rate apartments and underground parking for 90-100 cars. All of this would be right across from the southeastern part of Cal Anderson Park and right across from its main entrance, on what is now on a quieter, residential street.

The benefit is obvious: Richard Hugo House would be permitted to remain exactly where it is. But is that worth all of the costs? Is it worth forever losing part of our history and culture? Is it worth closing in even more of Cal Anderson Park? Is it worth ruining yet another chunk of the park’s quiet, quaint surroundings? Is it worth the gentrification that would accompany the 80-100 market-rate apartments, especially in a prime location right across from the park?

It is crucial to understand up front what this is not. It is not an attempt to in any way denigrate Richard Hugo House. Instead, it is an attempt to advocate for the preservation of what, if lost, can never be regained. It is an attempt to keep big development from using the community’s well-deserved love and respect for Richard Hugo House as a pretext to creep into a quieter, residential area of Capitol Hill – right across from Cal Anderson Park – where most would hopefully agree that it does not belong.

The relationship between Hugo House, the owners of the property and house in which it resides, and the team responsible for the current development plans is a bit confusing at first glance. Richard Hugo House is a non-profit corporation, whose director is Tree Swenson. That non-profit is not playing any part in the design or development of the proposed new structure. Hugo Properties, LLC owns the land and the property, and is a for-profit corporation. They have hired Meriwether Partners, LLC to spearhead development of the proposed project.

(“Swenson is quick to point out that ‘Hugo House is not doing this project’ — that they’re only the beneficiaries of the decisions of the ownership group. She has no idea at this early stage what the new Hugo House will look like.” The Stranger Online, Sept. 29, 2014, “A Hopefully Great New Home (in the Same Spot) for Hugo House,”)

Meriwether, LLC, the developer, is a for-profit real estate investment firm whose website brags that the firm has already acquired, in the Seattle and Portland metro areas, “more than 2 million square feet of commercial real estate, valued at over $330 million[,]” and that it invests in “well-located properties….” See Meriwether Partners, LLC Website, About Us. See also Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Sept. 29, 2014, “Capitol Hill’s Hugo House Makes Mixed-Use Plans to Stay on 11th Avenue” (“We asked Swenson about her thoughts on being part of the Hill’s continuing wave of mixed-use development and Hugo House’s part in planning what comes next for the parcel… The big decisions, she said, belong to the developers and the landowner.”) (Emphasis added).

Call it what you will, but the effect of having a for-profit corporation hiring a for-profit real estate investment firm, to develop a new building to take Hugo House’s place, seems to have resulted in plans for the type of big development to which the community would typically express significantly stronger objections.

(12th Avenue Arts is a perfect example of responsibly fostering the arts in a mixed-use building on a much busier street, 12th Avenue.  The non-profit organization that developed the 12th Avenue Arts project included 88 affordable residential apartments on a much busier street, while this project is seeking 80-100 market-rate apartments on a quieter, residential street (which would likely be quite expensive given their prime location immediately across from Cal Anderson Park).  Also, in stark contrast to the 1902 historical building which would be demolished and replaced here, 12th Avenue Arts was responsibly built on a site which was being used by the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department for refueling and surface parking.  12th Avenue Arts even provided replacement parking for the SPD as part of its plan.)

Should the community give the developer carte blanche vis-à-vis that development? Well, here are the results of doing just that.

If the project moves forward as proposed, the Colonial Revival house which now resides there, and has constituted a part of Capitol Hill’s culture and history since 1902, will be demolished and lost forever. “This large Colonial Revival house, built in 1902, was once used as mortuary. The large south addition was designed in 1957 by architect John Maloney. It is now used as a theater and writers’ center.” See Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Website, Seattle Historical Places.

An expansive, 69-foot, six-story building would take its place and irrevocably alter the site, neighborhood, park, and city. The community should carefully consider whether that is the best thing for the neighborhood, for Cal Anderson Park, and for Capitol Hill. Cal Anderson is a city landmark, and was “[r]ecognized by as one of the nation’s best parks[,]” Seattle Parks and Recreation website.

If the project moves forward as proposed, Cal Anderson’s main entrance will no longer be across from the Colonial Revival house and the charming, quaint building housing the Central Lutheran Church. Instead, all three sets of plans submitted to the Department of Planning and Development call for fully building-out the northwest corner of the building, and in fact, its whole northern side. The “preferred plan” and the first alternate plan also include a fully built-out western side facing the park.

If the project moves forward as proposed, what will happen to the neighborhood along 11th Avenue, across from Cal Anderson Park, and between East Pine Street and East Denny Way? Right now, it has a quintessentially residential feel, with old, religious buildings and single family homes immediately to the north of Hugo House, and low-rise development immediately to the north of those buildings.

Would the proposed project add to that residential atmosphere? An expansive, six-story, 69-foot-high building, with a fully built-out north side and northwest corner, would not provide a smooth transition between it and the much smaller religious buildings and single-family homes immediately to its north. Instead, it would wall-off that corner of the block from those other smaller, quaint buildings.

If the project moves forward as proposed, Cal Anderson Park will be surrounded by yet another large building. Imagine walking down East Olive Street, crossing 11th Avenue into the park’s main entrance, and continuing on the walking path with things as they are now. Now, imagine that walk with a charming church on your right and a six-story, 69-foot-high, fully-built-out wall, spanning nearly 128 feet along the left-hand side of East Olive Street.
Alternatively, imagine playing sports or lounging in the south end of the park. You look to the east, and where the 1902 Colonial Revival House used to be, now sits a six-story, 69-foot-high, fully-built-out wall spanning 150-feet along 11th Avenue, immediately across from Cal Anderson’s southeast side. The proposed building simply does not “fit in.”

The park is already being closed in. It is fortified by tall buildings to its west. Tennis players, basketball players, and others who used the park’s paved areas already experience the shadowing effects of these buildings because they block the sunlight long before the sun “goes down.” To the park’s south is the very busy East Pine Street. Adjacent to northeast corner will be part of the Capitol Hill Station for the Sound Transit Light Rail. There is very little left of the areas surrounding the park to preserve. The proposed project would swallow up yet another chunk of that area.

ArticleCapitolHillBlog060615Notice the shadowing that already occurs from the existing, smaller building that currently houses Richard Hugo House. This photo was taken at 7:27 a.m. on 5/21/2015. Imagine the shadowing caused by a 6-story, 69-foot high, 150-foot wide building in its place. Now imagine that shadow during Seattle’s shorter, colder months when the sun does not sit as high and when it casts bigger shadows. Also, notice the wall of buildings to the park’s west, which already shadow the park on its west side way too early.

Richard Hugo House is an organization for writers which existed before it occupied the 1902 structure. (It was originally housed in a mansion on the north end of Capitol Hill). A six-story, 69-foot-high, mixed-use building can be built elsewhere in Capitol Hill, while still preserving the art fostered and created by Hugo House. Moving where that art occurs would not destroy it. On the other hand, demolishing the 1902 historical building would result in Capitol Hill irrevocably losing an important part of its history and culture.

The quaint, residential character of a street and a neighborhood can be lost forever. The open character of a park can be ruined. The expansive, 69-foot, six-story mixed-use building, which is slated to take the place of the 1902 structure that currently sits across from Cal Anderson’s main entrance, has the potential to do just that.

Some might say that we owe it to Richard Hugo House to acquiesce to allowing big development to uproot one of the Seattle’s important historical buildings, to replace it with 80-100 market-rate apartments which would surely exacerbate the gentrification that many complain about in Capitol Hill, to irrevocably change the part of Capitol Hill adjacent to Cal Anderson Park’s southeast portion, and to irrevocably change the “feel” of the park itself. Perhaps, we should find a different solution which protects these important elements of Seattle’s culture, and at the same time, allows Richard Hugo House’s important work to continue. If we fail to preserve these things, they will be lost to us forever.

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59 thoughts on “CHS Community Post | Is ‘rolling over’ for big development really the answer to keeping Richard Hugo House where it is?

  1. This is a very well thought out and interesting post. However, it’s obvious that you are going to lose your view. I wish that wasn’t the one thing that detracts from an otherwise great article and I agree with all of your statements and hope there is a way to stop this development.

    • Thank you, Great. I hope you focus on whether my words make sense. (Please see my comment posted this evening just before this). Contacting the Seattle Design Review Board (Department of Planning and Development) is the way you can make a difference.

    • Nothing is going to stop this development or the demolition of the 1902 building. The Landmarks Board tours the interior of a property prior to their decision and I am guessing that it is in poor shape if the outside is any indication. It would be cool to save it BUT extremely expensive for a developer.

      In looking at the drawings Onyx will still have a great view from the roof top deck which is a common amenity in new buildings and a nice selling point.

      The Richmark Building to the South is a prized and very valuable piece of property and it WILL get developed also. If they façade-omize the first floor then it would be 7 stories like Sunset Electric (which I personally like) There is only one single family house I can think of between Pine and Denny that is nicely maintained but it will most certainly be torn down as well. I think the owners on the South side of the Onyx should prepare themselves for no view to the South in the next few years.

      Glad that they are including parking here. The way things are going they will be worth $1,000 per month. Can’t park the Tesla on the street right?

  2. I think it’s pretty awesome that a resident in a new-construction 6-story building has such heartburn and concern over the direction of the city when a new six-story building is planned to go up on the same block as his.

    All of this equates to “i have mine, and it’s unfair to me for anyone else to have theirs”.

    The bottom line is that this is all about his view. I’m sure there were people around his building that were not happy when it was built. But it was built, as the zoning allows, and now he has a place he enjoys. God forbid that Hugh House get better digs and other people also get a chance to live on the hill.

  3. The writer must be new to our region. During our shorter, colder months, the sun rises considerably further South (if we even see it!). Buildings East and West of the park have minimal impacts. I don’t frequent Cal Anderson at 8am but doubt there are many sun bathers out at that hour looking to catch some rays.

    Sorry, Will. Private views from condo are not protected and we should always expect that what is here today may be gone tomorrow as our city continues to grow. Its unfortunate that your view may be lost and assume your unit may take a $$ hit but you can’t bank on something you don’t own.

    Agreed with the other poster. This article is a sob story from another NIMBY.

    • Hey, Timmy73, thanks for the first part of your comment. I appreciate that part it is factual; however, I do think that shadowing will be an issue for the park with a significantly taller building.

      I have never claimed that a view is protected, and the only ones who have made that an issue are people who have looked outside the words of my article, instead of addressing them directly. On that subject, however, if I wanted to write an article about what aspects of my building, the Onyx, are protected, I would focus on the parts of the Seattle Design Guidelines which require new construction to minimize shadowing, disruptions to privacy, and disruptions to outdoor activities of adjacent buildings.

      I didn’t mention those concerns, here, because this article was meant to get people thinking about whether the construction, as currently proposed, is the right thing for Seattle, for Capitol Hill, for the part of 11th Avenue across from Cal Anderson Park’s east side, and for the park itself. I felt like plenty of coverage had been given to how this would help Hugo House, but that there had been very few in-depth discussions about whether that large of a building in that particular location was really good for the community. If you think a building like that belongs there, I respect that and respectfully disagree. I just hope that future comments center on that issue.

      • So you’re only concerned about the parks light and protecting the charm of a corner that next to a parking lot and warehouse 1 block off the entertainment core? That corner has no charm. I walk 11th a couple times a week and while it’s a better walking alternative to 12th, its not paradise.

        The fact is the parks border of trees will shield park-goers from the scale of the building and if you were truly advocating for a fully sunlit park, especially the sports courts, you’d be for removing the trees that surround it. And of course we know you’re not advocating for that. Its about the view (possibly other aspects, parking and noise) and I’m not the only one to deduce that.

      • Hi Timmy,

        Perhaps if you’d read what I wrote more carefully, you wouldn’t end up responding to arguments completely different from those I made. In response to your comment that I was advocating to protect my view, I responded that I never said that because views aren’t protected. I then added that, if I had been advocating in my article for the impacts on my building, I would have argued about things that the Design Review Board cares about with respect to adjacent buildings like mine, including shading on my building.

        I don’t get your suggestion about the trees. Are you trying to say that cutting down trees is a better alternative than, for example, lowering construction height, bulk, and scale? Also, it’s buildings, not trees, that significantly shade the west side of the park, and, no, I’m not asking to have the buildings knocked down. So you can “deduce” what you’d like. I’d call it an “inference” because I don’t see the logic necessary to make it a deduction.

        You can also infer that I don’t care about the park, but I have other venues to argue about the impacts on my building. I chose this venue to express my concerns that I thought other members of the public might share, including about impacts on Cal Anderson Park. A lot of us love that park, are worried about all of the construction which has occurred or is occurring on the four streets adjacent to it (10th Avenue, East Pine Street, 11th Avenue, and East Denny Way), and want to protect the two streets that still have a more residential feel where they run adjacent to the park (11th Avenue and East Denny Way). 11th Avenue along the park might not be paradise, but many of us still find it quite charming, and have experienced a serene atmosphere while walking along it. I get that you disagree with that characterization, but like you said, you still prefer it to walking along 12th Avenue.

        Let’s see if, in any future posts, you can stop worrying about your somehow omniscient pipeline into my thoughts, and just focus on the issues.

      • You certainly make a lot of assumptions about my short posts and are quite defensive which tells me you’re frustrated that the real reason for your article has been brought to the table.

        Personally, I will not miss those dilapidated structures and given the proximity to our transit and retail cores, am saddened the proposed development isn’t even taller. You can build it to 20 floors and the park will remain well-lit during its peak usage. The proposal is a much better use of space than two small old buildings with surface parking.

        Neighborhood charm is what we help make it. Short old buildings do not make things charming. As Bob indicated, more residents will help enable additional vibrancy and hopefully safety.

        I’m excited to see this work move forward and while I wish it included affordable housing, I am glad we are making more room on the hill.

      • Will, I guess one thing that makes me worry less about how this development will change the area is that I personally find 11th along the side of Cal Anderson unbelievably creepy and unsafe feeling. I am not a student of urban design, so I can’t put my finger on exactly what is wrong with those blocks, but I find them so unwelcoming that I can’t help thinking that any change bringing more people would improve the vibe.

        But thanks for taking the time to give your perspective. I agree we all need to be paying more attention to how new developments will affect what kind of neighborhood this turns into.

      • Just an FYI, it is now 6:50 p.m., and not only are the tennis and the basketball courts 100% shaded, but the shading expands to the edge of the northwest baseball diamond (it is not shadowed, but everything to its west is), and covers an area of the field approximately the size of the basketball court.

      • Will, I’m not sure why you are continue to talk about the “shading” of the park spaces. There is lots of light in Cal Anderson Park, and there is nothing negative about some shading during parts of the day.

    • I appreciate the time that went into writing this post and am not the least bit surprised that the New Urbanist Taliban resorted to name calling within just a few comments. Heaven forbid you should disagree with THEIR vision for OUR neighborhood.

      As a thirty year resident of Capitol Hill I feel that the Hugo House oozes neighborhood character and in spite of the addition to the South should be saved and incorporated into a new development much like the Pantages House project just a few blocks away. That would be a win win for everyone but I know it is easier to bash it down and start over. Larry Johnson presented this building before the Landmarks Board and it is well known that he is your “go to” guy if you don’t want something to be landmarked. Developers adore him!

      It is pretty sad that people would rather take the side of the developers than listen to people who live in the neighborhood. Will is our neighbor whether you agree with him or not.

      Yes the people are coming and no they are not all going to fit on Capitol Hill. I would imagine many of them would not want to live here anyways. What used to be a great place to live is quickly becoming just a developers ATM. Residents be damned.

      • You are making a false equivalency that is erroneouly put forth all the time. The error you make is to assume that anyone who supports growth (like this project) is “siding with the developer.” That isn’t why we support densification and infill projects such as this. We support them because we believe Seattle should be available to everyone who wants to live here and enjoy the same opportunities those of us who live here already enjoy. Others support these projects because we understand living in a city has a lower environmental impact than in suburbs. So every in-city project that occurs allows that many more people to lower their carbon footprint. And take a minute to think through your statement: why would someone “side with developers” unless they stood to gain financially from development? How many people on these boards do you really think work in the real estate development industry? Probably very few. So no Will, you don’t represent the opinions of all of us in the neighborhood.

      • I never thought that I represented the opinion of everyone. I hope that most people who read the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog do not support unfettered development and getting rid of all single-family homes, as you do (as you said in your other post).

        At least according to some people, we don’t need more expensive, market-rate apartments because the ones we have are not being filled up. Instead, we need more affordable housing, something completely absent in the proposed project that I wrote about.

      • I thought it was already announced that there would be no absorption of the existing building into the new design (a la the Patages), that the building that currently houses the Richard Hugo House will be demolished.

      • Larry Johnson is the go to guy because he is a great architectural historian. He is responsible for writing the reports for well over 40 of Seattle’s Landmarks Buildings, and he has been active the preservation community for almost 40 years.

  4. I am very unhappy about the development of the Richard Hugo House. I would love for it to not go forward. And while there isn’t a legal connection between Hugo Properties LLC and the Richard Hugo House nonprofit, the building was purchased from New City Theater by a longtime Hugo House supporter. It’s disingenuous to completely separate the two. My respect for the organization and its benefactors has gone down.


    The Hugo House battle has been lost, and this poorly written article is exactly the NIMBY angle that density-at-all-costs proponents accuse anyone who wants to preserve anything left in the neighborhood of holding. This article isn’t about the Hugo House. It’s about losing a view and loss of value to the author’s own property – whose building displaced a couple of very sweet, quaint, residential homes, by the way.

    • Hi Genevieve,

      Gosh, I find myself wishing that someone else had written the article, as well, because I would like people to focus on the issues raised in it. However, no one else had written an article seriously questioning whether this proposed construction was a good idea, and the June 24th Design Review Meeting is quickly approaching. I’m hoping that future comments focus on the words of the article so that people can make their own informed decisions before that meeting.

  5. I agree that it will be sad to see this beautiful, yet highly-modified, old building go, but I can agree with very little else.

    First, this is a complete mischaracterization of the the neighborhood. 11th is not a quiet suburban-style residential street. It is in the heart of Capitol Hill, the most dense residential neighborhood in Seattle. Cal Anderson Park is anything but quiet. This parcel is sandwiched between four key arterials… Broadway, 12th, E Thomas, and the Pike-Pine bar district. Most of the adjacent blocks are already apartment buildings, many of which have stood for 90 years. It is two blocks from a major station on a subway line that is about to open.

    Second, what is up with the obsession with building height? Other dense cities build tall, allowing more people to live on less land. You know what is more oppressive than a 69-foot, six-story building (a fact mentioned eight times)? Needing to build two three-story buildings on twice the land, displacing even more housing, and forcing development to encroach on actual quiet residential neighborhoods. If building tall next to parks ruin the character, apparently New York’s Central Park must be the worst park in the world.

    Please just stop and think, and TRAVEL to other places where development is done differently to see how it can be done well. Or we can just stop all development and release the Kragle on Seattle:

  6. Oh please. What about the quaint character building that the Olivian, your condo, demolished? What about the views that were robbed from the homes across 12th?

    NIMBYism really is the worst.

    • Honestly, the house that the Onyx (Oliver Apts before that) ‘replaced’ were delapidated and rundown. A REAL eyesore to the neighborhood. They will not be missed one bit.

  7. Please get your facts straight. I understand that Hugo House has been given free rent in a building owned by a long-time founder and supporter of Hugo House. And that impressively she is providing space in the new building. I don’t know if the space will be free or not. The current building housing Hugo House has a singular distinction of being old, but it is hardly or architectural significance. If people lived there, it would be called a dive. The bulk of the lot is a open parking lot, which is hardly the best use of valuable urban space. If you want to stop gentrification, either find a way to kill the Seattle economy so that high paying jobs leave, or create more housing so that there is less competition for space as the supply increases. Glad to see that readers in largely liberal blog, see the absurdity of the complaints.

    Every building displaced someones precious forest or meadow, or prior building. Get over it already. Unless you want to live a feral life, look in the mirror to see the hypocrisy or ignorance. If a proposal was being made for some major upzoning on a quiet residential street, I could see it. But the horse has left the barn in Capitol Hill.

    Lastly for anyone who wishes to think less of Hugo House, drop by some time. Meet the staff, the management, view classes and readings. This is a place or the love of literature and writing. Great people there, with nobody getting rich. Rather than trash them, help them find temporary spaces for the year or two before the generous founder/donor restores space to the organization in new digs actually designed for optimal use. If you wish to chide anyone, perhaps call out all those normal developers in the city who would not bother with the cost or hassle of providing non-profit space. The owner was perfectly free and ethically permitted to build the new building and send the old tenant packing.

    Perhaps the editors should do a more detailed article on Hugo House and the development project.

    (Disclosure – my spouse is a supporter of Hugo House, spending time in classes, readings and some donations. And we have both met the current administrator and founder/developer. Nobody asked me to write this).

  8. Keep in mind the building you live in now was not there 10 years ago. It was built by “big development” cashing in on the condo boom of the pre-bust mid 2000’s. You wouldn’t have your space if not for big development building that condo building of yours and you willingly buying a unit from them. You lack any credibility to moan about the apartment building going up which will now block your view, you poor thing. The building you live in now changed the character of the street corner it’s on for good. Did you moan then? Probably not. Find something more global to bitch about.

    • Hello. I frequently complaint about more global issues. Shall we discuss them in a different forum? ;)

      Is your argument this? The building which I lived in now changed the character of 12th Avenue and East Olive Street for good (I won’t agree or disagree, because I don’t know what 12th Avenue was like 14 years ago). Therefore, all new development should move forward, regardless of its effect on the city, the neighborhood, the street upon which it sits, and the iconic park/city landmark across from which it sits. I think that, once you remove all of your personal attacks and red herrings from your post, that your logic is pretty weak. See

  9. (Ha, ha, ha
    a chuckle)

    A veil
    worn by greed;
    self interest attempts
    a seduction
    of the selfless.

    As a not unrelated aside:
    The Stranger (existentialism
    on the weekly) published
    a photo of your infant building,
    (The shadow in your image is you.)
    “The Onyx” Apartments
    (3 degrees of gentrification)
    Titled: Attack of the Clones
    Must have been about 2002

    You’re rich
    (not as rich, relatively,
    as you once were
    less so again as you will be)

    God is a building
    like the one you describe,
    bigger, taller, able to accommodate
    more homes
    to the arts, artists,
    patrons of the arts.
    If God does not belong
    there, God belongs

    You build that
    Subway? Park? Streetcar?
    College? View? Community?

  10. I remember a very old house from the 1700s being moved to save it (as the land was sold I think). I’m sure it would be insanely expensive to move the 1902 Hugo House structure (the house I know was moved was smaller), but it’s all I can think of. Otherwise, I’ll enjoy the solace of picturing what this block will be like in 2100 (which I assume is obliterated by acid rain, with everyone living underground or in domes). The only views will be on TV.

  11. I appreciate all of the comments in response to my article, and I understand why some may think that my sole motivation is to save the view from my building. It’s not, and I disclosed my private interests up front in at attempt to be transparent. I hate defending my character, here, because that is not the point. But I will say a few things about myself: I spent nine years representing victims of discrimination and other unfair employment practices (and not making a whole lot of money in the process), and I currently teach at a Title I public school serving a largely indigent student population. I have always chosen careers in which I feel like I am helping others. That doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong, but I’m not a selfish individual with a “NIMBY” mentality.

    My words should stand, or fall, on their own. For example, “RealityBites,” if you think I lack credibility, then please explain how my words do as well. In the same vein, I feel it necessary to point out that those whose comments attack my character or perceived motivation, i.e., NIMBY (or the history of the existing building into which I recently moved), instead of focusing on what I say, are making a well-established logical fallacy by failing to address my words straight on, and instead attacking me as the writer. See (Research ad-hominems if you are unfamiliar with them).

    So, hopefully we can move forward by either agreeing with what I say (thank you, Great and Genevieve), or disagreeing with what I say and leaving out the personal attacks. Let me start by, instead of attacking a speaker, addressing what has been said in your replies.

    Truth Be Told, I appreciate your disclosure at the end of your argument, and think that your words should stand or fall on their own. I agree that Hugo House serves an important mission and that the owner has done many important, selfless things; however, I also believe that 80-100 market-rate apartments would go too far the other way and be much more than is needed to continue to satisfy that mission while still making a huge profit. Of course, we don’t know because we are not privy to the numbers.

    I also disagree that this means that a nearly 70-foot structure, which would be 150 feet wide along 11th Avenue, with 80-100 market rate apartments and below-grade parking for 90-100 vehicles should be built immediately across 11th Avenue from Cal Anderson Park’s east side. I still believe that this would detract from Cal Anderson’s open-spaced concept. I still believe that this would cause too many auto-pedestrian conflicts, including as people cross 11th Avenue from East Olive Street into the park’s entrance.

    I disagree with not-a-nimby that zoning permits all of this to occur. The Seattle Design Review Board exists to ensure that properties are not fully-built-out to potential zoning, for example, where as here, they are next to an area zoned for smaller buildings, especially when such small buildings are actually built there. All of the single-family homes, religious buildings, and low-rise, multi-family homes to the north of the proposed project, all of which share the important feature of running along Cal Anderson’s east side, are zoned LR3, and are much, much smaller that the proposed project. Under the Seattle Design Guidelines, this site should thus serve as a transition to larger construction elsewhere.

    Gabe, you’ve made some interesting arguments. I think the place you go wrong is to ignore the character of the street and focusing on much busier surrounding streets. The character of the part of 11th Avenue, across from the east side of Cal Anderson Park, is a “quieter residential street.” Most of it is zoned LR3, and the buildings there reflect that. It is, in fact, between 10th and 12th Avenue, and between East Pine Street and East Denny Way. I don’t think that it is inevitable that this part of 11th Avenue be transformed into those other areas. Just as Cal Anderson Park is an oasis in a busy area, that part of 11th Avenue is a quieter, residential street surrounded by a busier area. It can maintain its character, and still remain within a larger, busier area. In fact, under the Seattle Design Guidelines, sites like the one for the proposed project are supposed to serve as “transitions” and “steps” between lower zoned areas, like the LR3 area just to the north of the proposed project site.

    If you would like to see how the Seattle Design Guidelines deal with sites such as this one, and what the result should be, feel free to browse them. They can be found here:,d.cGU

    In the meantime, whether you agree or disagree with me, let’s keep the discussion civil and logical. Explain what you think, why, and please avoid the personal attacks. For those who would make them, I think they say more about you than they say about me.

    • I didn’t even read this wall of text but I see that you have responded to a lot of the comments. Sometimes it is better just to sit back and say nothing rather than to defend yourself – it takes a lot of strength. If you are confident in your convictions let the chips fall where they may to your article.

  12. I can think of a least two good things about this proposed development:

    1) It allows Hugo House to stay…the developer was not legally obligated to do this, and the profits would probably be greater if he/she had given Hugo House the boot.

    2) It provides more housing units in a much-desired location, and this in turn results in more “eyes on the street” which helps significantly as far as crime prevention, reporting to the SPD, etc.

    However, I do wish that some affordable units would be included.

    • Bob, thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. If you think the project is a good idea, I respect that. I’m wondering if you have any concerns about how something that big would impact the park and the quieter, residential nature of the street. If you don’t believe that the 1902 structure should remain, wouldn’t something smaller than proposed, with less of an impact, still serve the goals you mentioned above (having more eyes on the street to prevent crime and still allowing for healthy profits)?

      This project really is supposed to be a transition between the smaller, LR3-zoned, single-family, religious, and multi-family buildings immediately to its north, yet it is going to be fully built out across two lots, and fully built up, to the maximum of its NC3-P65 zoning.

      Thanks again,


      • I’m not Bob but I’ll provide my own answer: I use Cal Andsrson all the time and no, I’m not concerned about the scale or bulk of the project. I support maximizing zoning because providing as many homes as possible to in a desirable place like Cap Hill is substantially more important than keeping things the way they are so current residents don’t have to deal with change. This site has no obligation to “transition” to single family. Frankly single family homes have no place in a neighborhood like Cap Hill because they are such an inefficient use of precious space.

      • Thanks, Nick, I appreciate your comments on multiple posts in favor of obliterating the residential nature of a lot of Capitol Hill in favor of building more and more, and higher and higher. But some of us do not want to live in a city like that. Actually, a lot of us don’t. Most of the people I know don’t. We like the residential nature of much of Capitol Hill. You say you want as many people to be able to live in this desirable area, but what exactly makes it so desirable in your mind?

      • Will,

        I’ll move past your sarcasm and address your questions:

        If there is something I want to obliterate, it’s the idea that it is ok for 65% of a city to be off-limits to anything but detached single family housing. Such low-density zoning promotes inequality because it disallows less expensive housing typologies (apartments, duplexes, townhouses) to co-exist with detached houses. So if you can’t afford a single family house, you don’t get to live in this neighborhood. That is exclusivity at its worst. I would assume based on your support of affordable housing that you agree that exclusivity is a bad thing. An inclusive and accessible neighborhood would allow detached homes to co-exist with townhouses to co-exist with small apartments. No one is asking for all single family homes to be razed, but rather for them to simply accept other types of neighbors.

        Allowing more people to live in a neighborhood like Cap Hill (through denser housing) does not “obliterate” anything. It just takes all the great things we love about the neighborhood (and city) and makes them accessible to newcomers. To try to limit access so that we get to keep things the way they are FOR US is selfish and hypocritical. Were we not all newcomers at one point?

        To answer your final question, I’m sure the things that make the area desirable to me are the same things that make it desirable for you: high walkability, tons of shops and restaurants, good transit service, diversity of the population, access to downtown, etc. Incidentally, none of these things would exist without density. The more people move into an area, the more shops and restaurants and transit and amenities open up to serve them. Cap Hill’s population density is its greatest asset. Let’s encourage growth, not discourage it, then.

      • Really? Are you suggesting that the many single family neighborhoods on Capitol Hill should give way to high density? The many blocks north of Aloha up to Montlake, and east of Broadway and 15th? Other places where every home is a single family? Or are you referencing those already upzoned areas? Capitol Hill has a large footprint. I want to make sure I have read you correctly.

      • Yes Lowell that is what I am suggesting. Having the bulk of neighborhoods be off limits to ANY housing type except detached single family housing is destructive and anti-urban. It exacerbates inequality because if you can’t afford (or don’t want) a detached single family home, you are excluded from that part of the city. SF-only zones promote conformity over uniqueness. SF-only zones reduce the amount of people who can live in the city, which forces them into car-dependent suburbs where environmental impacts are worse. SF-only zones hurt affordability because they limit the supply of new homes, which are squeezed into 10% of the city. SF-only zoning is inherently suburban, and last time I checked, we don’t live in the suburbs. We live in a city, and we should accept that that means more neighbors living close to us. Pulling up the draw bridge to newcomers is one of the most selfish things we can do.

  13. If this property were yours and you saw Cal Anderson, light rail, every amenity on the planet within a block radius and a daily influx of willing renters, would you be so altruistic as to keep it exactly the way it is for the sake of the residents of the block and as an effort to keep intact a small piece of Capitol Hill’s character? Or would you build a 6-story, 69-foot high mixed use building with 80-100 market-rate apartments and reap in your astronomical monetary gains?

    I think the people commenting are quick to roll their eyes at you and this article because it seems unlikely that this topic would get a thousand words from you if it were happening twelve blocks away. It would probably only get three words: “that’s too bad”. But there was hardly any perspective from the Hugo House (did you talk to the staff? have you ever?), there were assumed opinions but no hard truths from the little guys you worry about the impact on (people who play basketball in the winter)… Mostly just concern over your own investment under the guise of selfless character preservation.

    Capitol Hill is “irrevocably altered”. Your building irrevocably altered it. My building, built in 1904, irrevocably altered it. The seven story, 260 unit “luxury” apartment building that has appeared like magic directly across the street from me over the last few months, forever banishing sunlight from my life, irrevocably altered it – but walking by it, you wouldn’t have a thousand words to say because it’s not YOUR sunlight.

    So it goes.

    • Hi boozecruise,

      I appreciate your perspective, and the less inflammatory way in which you framed why people were so quick to go on the attack instead of focusing on the issues raised in my article.

      I get your point about every new building irrevocably altering Capitol Hill. But I think there is a problem if, every time someone learns about a project near them and/or that impacts them, and brings it or issues related to it to the community’s attention, then the community becomes divided by discrediting the messenger. The people most impacted will generally be the ones who first learn about it. In fact, I think they are the ones who receive notices in the mail, as I did. Deterring them from questioning whether the development should move forward would be a formula for permitting development to continue completely unopposed, without any meaningful community input.

      I wish that, if the building that cut off your sunlight were not appropriate for your street or neighborhood, or for Capitol Hill, that it had been brought to the attention of the community. I would have hoped that, if you were the one to bring it to their attention, then you would not have been attacked just because you were most affected. I also hope that, moving forward, the community comes together to ensure that future development in Capitol Hill is thoughtful and appropriate. That seems particularly necessary now with the “astronomical monetary gains” that you mentioned, which are driving a lot of new construction. I’m not saying all new construction is bad, but just that the community should be thoughtful about when, where, and how it occurs.

      As to whether I spoke with someone from Hugo House, I did recently meet with the developer. I also relied upon statements made in previous articles during interviews, which are quoted in my article. As to whether I spoke to the basketball players, the answer is, “no.” But I do play tennis on the tennis court there, and have experienced the effects of that shadowing.

  14. I don’t understand how one will lose a view or the sun if one is at least talking about 11th avenue. The slope of the hill is upwards and peaks at or around 15th avenue, blocks away. The morning sun is blocked by land and existing buildings more than a 5 story or so building would do. As to view, unless you are in a multistory building on 12th that took the view from someone else, any building on 11th would seem to be adjacent to or in the same plain as, not behind the new project. All this being said, the project makes a lot of sense and ought only be blocked if we are to allow subjective factors trump local zoning on a project by project basis.

    Unless you own land on the waterfront, or control all adjacent properties, it is reasonable to assume that a view will be temporary if other buildings can be built – they likely will be, at the maximum height permitted.

    • Lowell,

      Thank you for your comments. The Seattle Design Guidelines, and the Design Review process, are not intended to be subjective compared to zoning ordinances. They are intended to ensure that new projects consider the objective criteria in the design guidelines, and adjust accordingly. The Design Review Board is meant to ensure that this occurs.

      I already posted a link to those guidelines, and if read them carefully, you will see which objective criteria I am speaking about. One of the reasons that people have so little effect in making their public comments is that they do not understand that these criteria serve as bases for ensuring that, where appropriate, buildings are not built out to the maximum of their zoning. The project discussed in my article presents such a case.

    • Wow, you’re really grasping at straws in an attempt to make your point. What impoverished residents is this development displacing? And you’re part of the problem – you just don’t see it now that you have what you want.

      • If you are arguing that poorer people are not being displaced, then you are living in willful ignorance of everything that is happening around you. As far as me being part of the problem, you may be correct because I bought in Capitol Hill. However, put an ordinance or law in front of me creating more affordable housing, and I’ll vote for it. So, on a micro level, I’m part of the problem. On a macro level, I always vote to help those less fortunate, and I’m happy to pay higher taxes, locally, state-wide, or federally, to help that happen. What about you? Are you part of the solution?

      • Who is THIS development displacing? Or are you going off topic and speaking in general terms?

        Your building is a condo conversion. It displaced renters who did not have the means to purchase their home. You should feel obliged to help others buy voting for affordable housing and subsidizing via taxes (we all should) so get off your high horse. I always advocate for affordable housing. Doesn’t make me or you any better of a person.

      • I know that my building was a condominium conversion, although I do not know when that occurred, and I’m sure you’re correct that it displaced renters who could not afford to buy. I agree that, for those of them who would have liked to have owned a condominium, and for other renters in similar situations, we should start a dialogue about how to keep them in place and make home ownership affordable to them. Any suggestions?

        In response to an article I posted, which identified Seattle as being the second worst city in terms of displacing people due to gentrification, you asked, “What impoverished residents is this development replacing?” As far as I know, there are no impoverished residents living in the 1902 building that will be demolished, so there is no one to directly “replace.”

        Gentrification is a trend on a macro scale in which an area becomes unaffordable to the poor, and often to the middle class. That includes, for example, people like the police officers and fire fighters who work here. Creating affordable housing is the way to slow, stop, or reverse gentrification, and creating very expensive, market-rate apartments is the way to exacerbate gentrification.

        The project I discussed in my article includes no plans for affordable housing. Instead, its plans are for market-rate apartments. My inference is that, given how expensive market-rate apartments have been in recent construction, and given the site for this building right across from one of the most desirable locations in the city, these apartments would be even more expensive than the very expensive apartments in recent projects. Thus, the project would exacerbate the problem of gentrification, instead of helping to solve it.

        I hope I have made my argument crystal clear. I hope that, if you respond to it, that you stick to the issue, as I directly responded to your question. I hope that you avoid going off topic, as you have done twice in this discussion, by talking about what my building might have done way before I ever owned here. Again, the proposed building could help by creating affordable housing, as 12th Avenue Arts did, as part of its proposal.

  15. The word gentrification is bandied about a great deal. It is defined as:

    “Gentrification is a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders.”

    I dislike the perjorative nature of the term. It is a phenomenon of desirability of a place, generally due to economic growth I would think. The opposite of it would I imagine be slumification, which I have coined and would be defined as: A general term for the arrival of poorer people in an existing urban district, a related decrease in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the flight of the affluent and replacement by the poor.”

    You will note that in general I just flipped a few words, other than maintaining the perception that the decline of neighborhoods when the affluent depart, is not generally seen as a good thing. Detroit is a shining example of an entire city which at one time had the highest income in the US and a solid middle class and affluent class. White flight to the suburbs took place in the 50’s and 60’s and beyond, and urban blight followed. Thousands of homes have been torn down and are replaced by open fields. Homes of scale that would be a million plus in Seattle, in neighborhoods that would be equivalent to Capitol Hill, are surrounded by blight and are worth a fraction of the Seattle values.

    Nobody forces someone to sell their home to a wealthier person. In general, longstanding residents own their homes free and clear unless they were stupid enough to borrow on it. Taxes go up but such is life. We all pay taxes based upon the value of the home. If my taxes doubled, that would mean that my house has doubled in value. I would gladly accept this. And some of these high taxes are going to social programs and low cost housing initiatives for others, so one can’t complain about taxes while at the same time demanding more equity and housing resources for the less affluent.

    Some who move are forced to sell, but many choose to sell and enjoy a tidy profit. Nobody ‘owns’ a neighborhood. The CD was largely Jewish long before it had significant black families. Now it is becoming more white, as current owners of their own free will, sell their homes to the highest bidder, who may happen to not look like them. I suppose there are places with neither gentrification nor slumification; stable places where not much growth or decline is happening. Seattle is not one of them. I daresay that every reader of this blog who is not born in the region, and who has a college degree represent gentrification, especially if we were to expand the definition to class values and not just the size of paychecks. It is incredibly self-righteous and somewhat self-hating to show up in this town and then complain about others who are doing the same thing.

    I think we might do well to lose the term altogether, and be precise about what one means rather than use a term with code meanings of such a negative tone.

    • I’m having trouble understanding your logic. Is it that, we should embrace a trend in areas that eventually make them affordable only to the rich because the alternative is to only have “slums?” Where are the middle class and lower-middle class in your argument? Where are the poorer people and others who are not rich, all of whom work hard, and would contribute (and in Capitol Hill’s history, have contributed) to a vibrant, diverse neighborhood? Where is the equity in a socioeconomically homogenous neighborhood affordable only to the rich? Is that really what you are advocating for, or saying we should accept?

  16. Oy gevalt, so many strawman arguments.

    Longtime small businesses are asking for doubling and tripling of their rents? Leaving of their own volition with tidy profits?

    You really think citizens have no right to complain about huge tax breaks given to developers for providing “affordable” housing that is affordable only by a definition that’s a joke? Those tax breaks increase our taxes without accomplishing their supposed purpose.

    You think displaced renters should just shut up?

    You really think citizens have no right to complain that money from Walmart-in-the-Cloud is destroying much of what makes Seattle an interesting city? You think the gentrification of the ID will not be a loss?

    • People can complain all they want. But they should speak with their dollars. If you buy from “Walmart in the Cloud” it is tough to bemoan the closing of the corner store. If you are willing to sell your labor for substantially less than the prevailing wage for your skill set, then and only then should you criticize the owner of a building for not charging market rent. You rent your time which is the asset you have to sell presumably. The landlord rents their assets accordingly. Easy to criticize others but upon examination, it is the rare person indeed who walks the talk with respect to their consumption choices and other economic behaviors.

      By the way, Amazon makes my life a heck of a lot easier when I can buy something I need without having to consume a gallon of gas to get to the store and an hour of my time. Wish it were not so but value speaks.

  17. Having a development across from a popular park with a large homeless population, maybe a building that accounts for the population of the neighborhood with real views of growth would be a better option. Say, a 20 story building with 30% units for minimum wage employees, another 10% to get people off the street, 20% for families, with 40% at market rate. And put in a thousand parking spaces. Retail on the ground floor, free parking for shoppers.

    80 units is barely a dent.

  18. I’m just going to miss the beautiful and historic Hugo House that I’ve been to for many readings, workshops and performances.

    • I will not miss the cramped black box theater, cramped cafe with obstructed views, cramped lobby, only 2 bathrooms…

  19. I wonder if some confuse old with beautiful. If so, I look forward to my own aging. Old is not more virtuous. There are untold old buildings that are abysmal and new ones that are beautiful. The Hugo House building is tired and the internal spaces are a hodgepodge of rooms that the organization adjusted to, as it long predated Hugo. The new facility will be built in consultation with Hugo as to their actual use and needs. Case in point is the new Capitol Hill Arts Building vs. the dog of an older housing structure immediately to the south at the corner of Pine and 12th. The new building is a delight for the eyes overall. The offset angle, multiple use and by the way, it is not market rate yet of good design standards. I don’t know anything about the older building to the south, but if I woke up one day and found it missing, I would be delighted.

    Hugo House is slated to return to the spot and in the interim will be in temporary quarters yet to be determined.

    Prior writers suggest that only those who can’t afford to buy, choose to rent. This is plainly false. Many choose to rent because they enjoy the freedom, plan on relocating, and/or choose to not lock up their investable cash in their personal residence.

    Many perverse behaviors flow from removing housing from the market. Just the other month there was a hue and cry over their stepping forward program such that it was put on hold:

    How many of the readers of this blog approve of systems that incent people to either keep their income low, or game the system? Who is to decide what is affordable and upon what standards? Suggesting that cops and firefighters can’t afford to buy? In 2011 1 in 6 city workers had 6 figure paychecks, What do you think that is 4 years later:

    Such ill-informed nonsense that appears in these comments.

  20. I’m a huge supporter of Hugo House, but to try to characterize this as the tearing apart of a quiet residential neighborhood is just silly. This is the heart of Capitol Hill, the urban center of the city. While I don’t love all the development on the hill, another condo building is not going to destroy the neighborhood, and more housing density, ugly as it may be, may be the only think that levels off the insane rent prices in the city. Cal anderson is as urban as a park gets.

  21. I’ll point out only 1 thing that I don’t think any other commenter has pointed out: the shadow cast on the park in the photo my the author Will, is 99.9% caused by the olivian, not the existing hugo house building, this is obvious because the roof of hugo house is almost completely IN THE SHADOW. Since so much of the argument made against the development by the author is based on the (summer morning shadow) it feels important to point this out.

    Architects and developers can (and probably will) do a sunlight model to show how the building will actually shade the park throughout the day and throughout the year, which would probably indicated that it won’t have much of a significant effect.

    The buildings on the west side of the park have far more impact on sunlight in the park during hours of peak use than the buildings on the east side will ever have.

  22. Well, Will, I don’t agree with you on this, but apparently you’ve hit the nerves of the pro-density taliban. Thanks for the having the guts to share your opinions and I hope everyone on this blog remembers that it is ok to disagree without name-calling and throwing insults. Apparently it’s not only the far-right that resorts to these tactics.