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Review board approves early design for five-story 13th Ave E development

Developer Bradley Khouri discusses shadowing at Wednesday's design review session (Images: CHS)

Developer Bradley Khouri discusses shadowing at Wednesday’s design review session (Images: CHS)

Saying that they felt the project’s design made a commendable effort to fit into the “changing” neighborhood around it, the East Design Review Board Wednesday night signed off on the early design guidance proposal for a five-story apartment project destined to join a block of 13th Ave E and neighbor landmark co-op The Maryland.

In front of a packed audience of Maryland residents and residents from single family homes and other apartment buildings in the neighborhood, Bradley Khouri of Capitol development and architecture firm b9 made his case that the 614 13th Ave E project planned to add 20 market-rate apartment units to the street had been shaped for the block just north of E Mercer and was respectful of its future neighbor, The Maryland co-operative. “We feel that we are trying to be very deferential to it,” Khouri said.

It was one of many moments that drew mostly quiet groans from some in the crowd who were waiting for their turn to speak during public comment to echo the issues around height, bulk, and scale CHS reported on earlier this week. Others said they were pleased at some of the rapid progress Khouri and b9 had already made to listen to concerns about the loss of trees and greenery and make a project that lives up to the area’s zoning potential without completely altering the block’s character.

Not everybody was satisfied, of course. “There’s an amazing kind of porch transitional zone,” in the area, one speaker said, lamenting the project’s impact to the street’s “neighborly porchiness.”

“I think you’re maximizing profit,” another said, with complaints about the project’s plans to rise to five stories and to not be set back far enough from adjacent buildings.

“You shouldn’t be maximizing. You should be fitting it in.”

The board’s decision moves the project forward in the design review process where the next round will focus on tweaks suggested in the early design guidance session and elements like materials and finishing. The next review is not yet scheduled.

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Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
5 years ago

“You shouldn’t be maximizing. You should be fitting it in.”

Then what you’re wanting is different zoning, which isn’t addressed by design review boards.

Timmy73
Timmy73
5 years ago

We desperately need to change this city’s zoning.

The fact that townhomes were allowed to be built on 13th and John where you can only house 8 or so families and where we have multiple mass transit options just steps away is a problem. That site should have been 30fl tower. That alleviates pressure from quieter areas and better suits the carless folks.

Our current zoning will have everything mowed down so we can build 20 apartments here, 20 apartments there. This does nothing but destroy neighborhoods, limit available units and keeps costs high for everyone. We have to get past our 5 story lot line to lot line mentality.

Eli
Eli
5 years ago
Reply to  Timmy73

Yes. I am so looking forward to being 1-2 blocks from light rail in 9 days. That’ll mean near-instantaneous access to every downtown bus tunnel bus – it’ll be so much easier to get around now.

It’s a shame that we’re zoning away the possibility of having that freedom to more than just a few thousand people in our neighborhood.

Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
5 years ago

Agreed Timmy, but when they made the changes to 65′ along Broadway, people screamed about how Broadway would be a canyon. And everyone loves to hate on the Joule, Brix, Lyric, et al. Because of their density.

I agree 20-30 stories in 5 block radius of the light rail station, stepping down 5 stories for every 2-3 blocks further you go, and we’d have great density, plus preservation of the sacrosanct single family housing neighborhoods.

I’d just suggest before someone purchases a co-op or house in a neighborhood, research what the zoning for your immediate neighbors is. If someone makes a proposal to build to the maximum allowed, you’re not going to get a lot of sympathy from the city when someone tears down a house to build an apartment that meets zoning.

I always say, I’d rather see towers and mid rises in the city than seeing farmland plowed over for development or subdivisions halfway up to Snoqualmie.

Tom
Tom
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

You’re advocating for 30 story towers in areas where everything else is 5 stories or below? I’m guessing you don’t actually live in the area that would be impact by that.

Assuming your name implies you own Prost, I’m going to have to stop spending money there because I don’t want to empower your misguided opinions any further.

Timmy73
Timmy73
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

Tom, we actually have several 12 story buildings on Capitol Hill. One if them is just off 13th a few blocks North of the property I referenced. Building taller is needed if we want to maintain appropriate density and have more affordable housing options. 30 floors is relevant near mass transit hubs.

The problem with many in Seattle is they are terrible at forecasting. They just build for the moment and things are immediately out of date.

matt
matt
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

It doesn’t matter if he lives there or not, we paid for a subway station, we built it and the reasonable thing to do is to build density around it. 65″ is not 30 story towers, even 40″ would double the number of units that can be built.

Seattle will change, Capitol Hill will change; we can refuse the idea but it’s not going to stop happening. I’d rather think that being part of the change, we have better options to influence the final result.

le.gai.savant
le.gai.savant
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

We just invested several billion dollars in a train that has very few stops, which is why Timmy’s suggestion of much more density near the one stop on Capitol Hill is such a good one. For the train to be of value it needs to provide lots of people a car free option, and that won’t happen unless we have high density near the train. The Broadway has grown up without a train but now we have one, so the character of the neighborhood should and will change. (BTW, I’m not a fan of trains as a transportation investment for Seattle on balance, but they have pros and cons, and now we’ve built it, we should definitely allow much higher density nearby the train stops to maximize the benefit we can get from it.)

le.gai.savant
le.gai.savant
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

The Broadway neighborhood is what I meant above, not “The Broadway”

RWK
RWK
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

Pro-tower advocates seem to ignore the fact that we have been greatly increasing density on Capitol Hill now for some years, and this will continue for at least a few more years. Have you not noticed the numerous new buildings going up, and in the planning stages?

It is not necessary to build 30-40 story buildings in order to significantly increase density. And to do so would decrease the quality of life for many current residents.

Bill
Bill
5 years ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

If you look at some of the station areas on the Vancouver, BC Skytrain I think you’ll see that tall towers right at the station rapidly jumping down into the SF neighborhoods isn’t actually a very pleasant or successful urban condition. Poke around on streetview – it’s an interesting place. Different context than Cap Hill, but worth being aware of.

While I think that more height and density than is currently allowed near the station is essential, what is even more important is how that density is achieved. There is an amazing breadth of possibilities in X foot height limits and making sure what is built reflects the neighborhood priorities is almost more important than how tall X feet is.

If you look at Pioneer Square or Georgetown, you’ll find the scale I personally think the streetscape should be built at. Setbacks to reduce the bulk pedestrians experience could allow more stories (and density) to exist without creating an undesirable condition. You would still experience the two to four story street wall despite more height actually being present.

I think it’s all about how you interact with a streetscape and the whether the buildings are pleasant and human scaled or looming and massive. Density is needed to accommodate the people who want to move here and have every right to AND to justify the massive investment in the U Link extension. *How* it’s achieved is critical.

lgytt
lgytt
5 years ago

Why didn’t the owners of the Maryland all go in and buy the property together?

Looks like it sold for 1.25 million, split that among 20 units and it’s about $62k each…not bad for preserving views.

I’m also sure that the city would accept the lot as a park and not charge the residents property tax as a result of donating the land.

Timmy73
Timmy73
5 years ago
Reply to  lgytt

The property sold in less than 2 weeks for 150k above asking. Its unlikely that the owners in the Maryland would have time to mobilize the effort.

A recent sale in the Maryland was 345k for a 2 bdrm, so its unlikely that each resident has an extra 62k available to make the purchase – even if they wanted to.

Tim m
Tim m
5 years ago

Another building without parking. Since the developer thinks these residents have no cars then the city should deny all RPZ permits to that address.

Michael
Michael
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim m

How about the city restrict permits to people who have garages in private homes, but choose to use them for storage instead? Those home owners often feel entitled to complain about the lack of street parking and demand that new units have spaces to accommodate their cars?

parking
parking
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim m

I’ve never understood why they don’t give these out in proportion to lot size. You have a SFH on a lot you get a X, you squeeze 50 apartments on the same lot you also get X.

matt
matt
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim m

@parking can we do it for obligations as well? Keeping the sidewalk of a block costs 5k a year. 50 units in a block, they pay $100 a year, 4 SFH per block, they pay $1250.

We can follow up with transit, police, fire department, sewage…

poncho
poncho
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim m

I never understood why the city doesn’t just charge for parking on all the public streets. The city nickel and dimes citizens over the most trivial things yet allows car owners to store their personal 250 sq ft metal box for free endlessly (or almost free with some absolutely trivial charge for a permit). Meanwhile the same land for human habitation costs a minimum of $1200/mo. Theres cars in this neighborhood that have remained untouched for weeks in prime parking spaces and paying zero like one on Howell & Bellevue I’ve seen thats also been blocking the crosswalk.

le.gai.savant
le.gai.savant
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim m

Poncho is right – the city gives away free parking on some streets, which is a way that people who can’t or don’t use cars subsidize drivers. Even a modest city wide parking fee would make our tax system fairer. Perhaps the tax should be used to maintain the streets and the rate should be set to cover, say 50% of the cost of street repair. (It would be unfair to sock Seattle car owners with all of the cost because the streets are used by people who don’t live in Seattle, buses, etc.) I’ve never heard this discussed in Seattle however, thought they have city wide parking stickers other places. There must be some political angle to it I’m not seeing.

RWK
RWK
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim m

Poncho, city regulations say that you can park your car in a space for a maximum of 72 hours, even if you have an RPZ permit. Please take a minute to report the car you mention to the “abandoned vehicle hotline” (or do it online), especially since it is blocking a crosswalk, and the city will respond (sometimes slowly).

Whichever
Whichever
5 years ago

Amusing about all these buildings being built without parking is that the City loves it (re: City’s war on cars) and developers love it (cheaper to build, easier to get approved (see City’s war on cars)) but it just causes vehicle owners to get more creative with where they park their car. Private lots, driving out to the other side of the neighborhood to park for free, etc. It doesn’t solve the perceived problem – it just relocates it.

Bill
Bill
5 years ago
Reply to  Whichever

There’s actually a *huge* affordability angle and Seattle doesn’t require parking is some areas, specifically ones it believes are suitable for car-free or car-light lifestyles.

Building an underground space costs between $30,000 to $50,000. Per stall. People want affordability, density, aesthetics, and free parking. Something gotta give

RB
RB
5 years ago
Reply to  Whichever

“Building an underground space costs between $30,000 to $50,000. Per stall.” This is construction industry propaganda. What really happens is that, when parking spaces aren’t required, builders simply add more units, thus increasing their profits. They’re going to charge market rate for the apartments, parking or not, so rent prices are not necessarily cheaper. The construction industry adores Seattle’s political left. I don’t get it. Leftists used to fight for livability issues, as a balance to developers’ attempts to maximize height, volume, and profits. In Seattle, it seems the left now favors maximum density at all costs, which is sad.

Bill
Bill
5 years ago
Reply to  RB

@RB what you said is untrue. Here’s some research that collected data from completed projects, published in 2014:

http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/HighCost.pdf

“For example, the average cost of constructing an underground garage in Boston is $95 per square foot, and the average space occupies 330 square feet, so the average cost of a parking space is $31,000 ($95 × 330). Across the 12 cities, the average cost per space ranges from a low of $26,000 in Phoenix to a high of $48,000 in Honolulu, with an overall average of $34,000 per space”

Hutch
Hutch
5 years ago
Reply to  Whichever

@RB – “Leftists” (at least those with proper perspective) value minimizing the amount of sprawling housing built out in the suburbs and requiring twice daily commutes that spew carbon into the atmosphere. And they value affordable housing, which market-rate housing inevitably turns into.

Amy
Amy
5 years ago

We need more of you pro-density urbanists to show up to these meetings in support of more housing stock and the good things that come along with it. Please at least comment online (http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/shapingseattle/map.aspx). Meetings are always skewed towards negative aspects of projects per property owners who have the most at stake and show up.