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Miller Park Neighbors make call to ‘protect’ neighborhood from affordability proposals

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-4-13-52-pmAs the city rolled out its Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda roadshow last month, CHS reported on a split on Capitol Hill — those living in already dense areas generally support the proposed upzones and changes, while those living in less dense areas generally, well, don’t. That fault line is especially apparent around the Miller Park neighborhood where the area around the Miller Community Center is slated for a boost to mostly 40-feet for townhouses, row houses, or apartments with 7 to 10% affordability. Near the southeast corner of the Miller Playfield a 50-foot zone and 11% affordability is proposed.

Other areas of Capitol Hill that sill have a strong presence of single family-style homes like North Capitol Hill are insulated from the HALA proposals. But many Miller Park residents, apparently, are feeling exposed. A longtime neighborhood group is being rejuvenated as the Miller Park Neighbors have organized a “critical meeting” on the HALA proposals next week:

Join Your Neighbors to Protect Miller Park Neighborhood!

6:45 PM, Holy Names Academy Auditorium, 728 21st Ave E, Seattle

The City is planning significant zoning changes
Your Help is Needed to Shape Those Changes

As part of the City of Seattle’s HALA & the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, the City proposes to rezone ALL Single Family areas to Multi-family in & near Urban Villages (see map here) and to add 10 FEET to the height limit in ALL the multifamily areas (apartments, townhouses and condos in the NC and LR areas between Madison and John).

We need to organize as a neighborhood to develop a balanced plan that:
Preserves Neighborhood Character
Encourages Diversity and
Truly Supports Affordable Housing Goals

Our Neighborhood currently exemplifies what an Urban Residential Village (URV) should be. The proposed rezoning promises to make all streets in the urban village look like this:


Join Your Neighbors to Protect Your Community
at Miller Park Neighborhood Meeting, February 15,
7:00 pm, Holy Names Auditorium, 728 21 Ave E.

Just so we’re clear on the their thoughts on the situation, the organizers called the image (above) used in the meeting invite “ugly by SF. jpg”

The Miller Park group is meeting in advance of the Madison-Miller Urban Village Community Design Workshop on February 28th. The city is using the workshops in areas across Seattle to gather feedback on and, likely, refine the HALA proposals.

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38 thoughts on “Miller Park Neighbors make call to ‘protect’ neighborhood from affordability proposals

  1. I am in one of the areas slated for rezoning – and yes, I am against it. We are in a RSL (residential small lot) area, that *already* allows for a great deal of density. The zoning change would allow 40ft (that’s 4 story) buildings on our blocks of mostly vintage 1 and 2 story homes. I cannot say I find the idea at all appealing, it sounds like a proposal to tear down our neighborhood and replace it with off Broadway style apartment blocks.

    Currently our lot sizes are so small, that unless a developer could acquire 8 of them (many of us have only 1/4 of an originally platted lot.. just enough space for a house and about 10 feet of front and back yard) it probably would not be possible to build a LR2 building here anyway… That size building along 23rd would make sense, but wouldn’t integrate at all in the existing neighborhood behind the larger street. We have tiny streets that can fit only one car at a time and as we’ve got very small lots, few of us have off street parking. Trying to shove 4 story apartments in here (with no requirements for on site parking) would just create more of a mess than we already have….

    So yeah – I agree with the Madison Miller people and will definitely be going to their meeting. Please don’t destroy my block..

    • Look at the bottom of that LR2 page.. the size right now is 30′ + 5 for roof lines, but the proposal not only changes the zoning, but also changes the sizes of buildings and lot coverage allowed in the LR2 designation and yes… it does change it to 40′ + 5 for roof lines. The proposal also allows for no minimum parking spaces within urban villages – which this is. We’ve already got problems with too many vehicles for our streets..

      I don’t know where you are looking, but on my street that would be huge compared to the existing houses. Most of the houses on my street are 1 story and 2 story and more 1 than 2 (that’s about 20′-25′ tall), there are no 3 story houses on this street at all. All but two lots, that have been redeveloped under RSL, have well cared for vintages houses on them.

    • Ah I see, you’re saying your going to LR2 not RSL.

      Urban villages are meant to be urban. Not suburban. It’s about time we up-zoned them.

      I don’t think we should leave any RSL inside urban villages. The the city should more boldly rezone areas outside urban villages as RSL to help with the height transition, rather than forcing areas inside our very limited urban villages to be at suburban level densities.

      Let Seattle be a city.

    • You can’t build LR2 in and RSL zoned lot. Max height is 30ft and lots can be subdivided to 2,000 SF max with side setbacks.

    • My street is certainly NOT at suburban level density – our lot, not our house, but our lot is 2,100 square ft…

      Median lot size for all single family homes in the western US is 6000-7000 square feet… if you were to look just in suburban areas, I’d bet a 7,000 square foot lot would be considered to be

      Attitudes like yours are what we, the people who are actually living here fear… it certainly sounds to me like you are advocating destroying the historic neighborhood that exists here…

      Alonso – Yes – that is what RSL allows now, but the proposal is to change the zoning in this area from RSL to L2 and change L2 to allow up to 40′ structures…

    • Interesting. I live near the Mt Baker light rail station and there are single family areas being rezoned to RSL. I spoke with a planner from the city and they mentioned that currently, there are only small pockets of RSL and that generally, it’s a new designation for most urban villages. I assumed incorrectly that your area was getting the new RSL designation.

    • Indeed -we are already RSL. I think this area was among the first to receive that designation and it does fit in with the current mix of housing we have. We even have cottage housing that has been here since the turn of century. I think it’s been quite successful at allowing some redevelopment (though many lots, like mine are too small to even redevelop under RSL much less LR2) without overrunning the current character of the blocks.

      40′ apartment housing, on the other hand, would be vastly out of scale for the small lots and small streets. I can’t imagine what the thought process was – they skipped completely over LR1, right to LR2… that is double or more (if they consider my house to not even be 2 stories tall – and it is one of the tallest on the block) the size of all the existing houses.

    • The intention of the rezone is to allow for tens of thousands of new housing units to be build over the next few decades for the purpose of maintaining a healthy ratio of new units to new residents. If you freeze development, you end up with a fixed quantity of housing with an increased number of people competing for that housing. If you do not upzone, in the short and medium turn, there probably is enough capacity to absorb growth but at increasing cost as land that can be developed gets built up. The intention here is to build capacity for growth through I believe 2035.

      The problem is that there is serious opposition to upzones, particularly in single family areas in urban villages and in single family communities in general. People have an aversion to change, especially when it impacts something as personal as the home… and that also serves as a financial asset and a means for wealth generation.

    • We already have had and did not object to a fairly recent upzone, from single family to RSL… We are now being asked for is to absorb yet another upzone from RSL to RL2… The surrounding neighborhood has seen and will continue to see a great deal of growth, in the right places – on Madison street, on 23rd, on Union, on East Olive.

      From the information that I have read there is more enough capacity to handle growth through 2035 – 3x the amount that was set as a target – already…

    • Numerically yes but in practice, no. The closer you get to the maximum, the more exorbitant the value of the land becomes. Having extra capacity ensures that we (as a city) can manage growth while controlling costs. Right now we are in the 9-12% year over year increase in value of property and that’s with the zoning capacity we have. We are starting to level out a little so I’m crossing my fingers that we can get to more predictable and reasonable housing prices so that first time home buyers who make the median in this city can buy a home… if they so choose. I believe we have 20k units coming online in the next year or so and we are exceeding our Puget Sound Regional Council growth targets by a long shot. The point is… our population is booming and we need an additional 100k – 150k in capacity to temper the market over the long haul. That housing needs to go somewhere. It’s either in the city or we strong arm our first ring suburbs like Shorline and Renton to up their growth. Wherever this growth goes, people will complain and put up roadblocks. My opinion is that close-in neighborhoods in Seattle should take the lead (as they have been) and add density (beyond what we have now).

    • I can’t agree with you that it is a good idea to create a situation in which certain vibrant neighborhood areas will inevitably, even if slowly be bulldozed to put up apartments… not even the kind of housing you are talking about when you are talking about home buyers. In reality though it would increase the density a little – mind you we’ve already got quite a bit because of our tiny lots, it would likely decrease home ownership and as others have pointed out likely not families – as developers generally look to maximize units and will put in small apartments meant for singles rather than family sized housing. RSL where we should stay manages to both increase density and increase homes that families.

      From looking at the maps, I don’t even see this as the city as a whole becoming being affected, but rather being force into certain small areas and I don’t agree that we should bear the brunt of growth just because we were wise or perhaps foolish enough to buy a property a few blocks closer to a bus line or supermarket..

      Not to mention that changing the zoning here isn’t going mean any sort of quick increase – the lots are very small and any developer would actually have to get their hands often on 4 or more of them to get to 10,000 square feet needed to develop a LR2 building in the first place. So in practice what could happen is developers speculating and buying up houses that come on the market, fencing them off and leaving them vacant until they can obtain the surrounding properties then tearing them down and putting up a structure 4X or more larger than the surrounding houses, until eventually we all either pass away or end up like the lady in Ballard.. surrounded. Call me a NIMBY if you like, but I really like my neighborhood and I would hate to see these wonderful old houses destroyed and for this area to become another Ballard.

      I suppose though that all the junk mail offers to buy my house right now are starting to make more sense.

  2. I find the CHS reporting on this story a bit disingenuous. The Miller Park people are clearly opposed to this up-zoning for reasons of density, but the CHS article is worded such that it makes it seem like their opposition is based on the affordable housing requirements. So rather than it being about people opposed to more density on their small streets, it’s a click-baity title that suggest the snobby rich people in north CH don’t want the rabble to infest their block.

    • The headline is very biased, as it attacks the neighborhood group for being against affordable housing. What’s even more egregious, the headline puts the word “protect” in quotes, as if this were the words of the group opposing the zoning change.

      The article does not support the headline. The meeting notice. quoted in the article, actually says:

      “We need to organize as a neighborhood to develop a balanced plan that:
      Preserves Neighborhood Character
      Encourages Diversity and
      Truly Supports Affordable Housing Goals”

      There is nothing in the article to support the unfair claim that the group has called to “protect” against affordable housing. I don’t live in the area, but I know people who do and they are all big supporters of measures for affordable housing.

      CHS should retract this headline and apologize for the inaccurate statement.

    • Agreed – very misleading headline doesn’t match the content of the article, if you read the content of the meeting notice. Shameful example of “journalism”. Affordability is not the problem. It’s they way the City is trying to achieve it that is problem — the blanket rezone that doesn’t reflect the existing neighborhood character. This can be done more thoughtfully, and, hopefully, that will be the outcome of the neighborhood meeting and the City’s Design Workshop.

    • For the record, “protect” is the group’s language, not mine –>

      Join Your Neighbors to Protect Miller Park Neighborhood!

      • The word “protect” isn’t the problem. You clearly made it appear as though the neighborhood wants to protect itself from affordable housing. That is false and an attempt to raise ire. You should change the title and apologize for misleading readers.

      • Sigh. Yes, the headline said “affordability proposals” — this is why it is misleading. The concern that the neighbors have isn’t the affordability proposal. It is the blanket zoning increase that comes along as the Grand Bargain. If there were just requirements to build affordable housing without the rezoning (or more thoughtful rezoning), there would not be a problem. I know that the affordability can’t be required without giving those poor housing developers something in return, hence the Grand Bargain to avoid a lawsuit that the City would lose. But affordable housing is something this neighborhood has — both natural affordability of some existing units and Capitol Hill Housing and Seattle Housing Authority buildings. They are great – they are consistent with the neighborhood and family-sized units. The headline clearly accuses the neighborhood of fighting affordability, which is not true.

      • “The headline clearly accuses the neighborhood of fighting affordability, which is not true.” — Not really.

        Maybe: “The headline clearly accuses the neighborhood of fighting affordability proposals…” though I’d quibble with the “accuses” part :)

        Anyhow, like I’ve said elsewhere in these comments, we will be at the meetings.

    • Wow, JS. Nothing the group said can be fairly read as asking for protection from “affordability” You are just twisting their words. Do you really think using “affordability proposals” makes your headline say, they aren’t opposing affordable housing? Oh, please. It’s not affordability they oppose.

      Imagine for a moment, that you were one of the people who had a small home in one of the last affordable areas in Capital Hill and the city announced this upzone. Imagine, you favor the goal of affordable housing, but you yourself may be pushed out by higher land values / taxes, or that your house would suddenly be in the shadow of an apartment building due to a zoning change, where 9 out of 10 of the units would be for market rate (that is, higher income) people. If a 10 unit apartment building with 1 affordable unit displaced 1 home with a lower income homeowner or renter, how would this support affordability? If you were in the shoes of the current residents, wouldn’t you be looking for an alternative way to support affordability? I’m pretty sure that’s where they’re coming from.

      You’re taking their words out of context and that’s not good journalism, and it’s unfair.

    • I agree. This has been the case with the Madison Valley issues as well. “Madison Valley residents still not satisfied” was the title of one article. The “still” implying that the residents were unreasonable when in fact they’re going through the City’s prescribed process regarding community involvement in local development.

  3. The intent of this meeting is to get the word out — the City hasn’t done a great job of it based on the shock we see when people learn of the proposal and on outcry that has resulted in City Council now telling Dept of Neighborhoods they need to start going door-to-door (and do that displacement study). The City’s meeting on the 28th is intended to get input, but people need to learn about it and process it before they can give the meaningful input the City says it wants.

    The single family and RSL areas proposed for upzoning are small lots (many 3,000 sf or less), with narrow streets, and little off-street parking. The character of this neighborhood is important – early 20th C homes more modest in size reflecting its working class history. These are not the grand homes north of Aloha, which are not being proposed for any change. Most neighbors would support more density in the form of RSL or changing the definition of Single Family to allow existing structures to be subdivided into duplexes (there are many in the area now that are very well done, although non-conforming) or triplexes. Anything over 30 feet with the minimal setbacks proposed will loom over these mostly small houses, with small lots. Increased height in the existing multi-family areas is also acceptable except for the concern over displacement. This is not a wealthy fancy-pants neighborhood. Step away from Google Earth on the computer screen and take a walk. It already supports more density than people assume with the SF5000 designation. There probably isn’t a 5000 sf lot anywhere in the single family area proposed for rezoning. This area also has affordable (older but nicely maintained) multifamily apartments as well as homes rented by unrelated people. The proposed rezone could displace them, reducing neighborhood diversity in terms of age and income. This area includes a middle school, opening this fall, and an elementary school, so family-sized housing makes sense. Instead, we get boxes full of Amazon and other tech company employees who have higher incomes than the single family homeowners do, have no intention of being a part of the community, and move on once they find a home to buy or start families. Oh, and they do keep their cars, even though new construction doesn’t include parking.

  4. Here’s some reading for people to do before the meeting. The character of Capitol Hill is more than buildings, it’s the people that reside in those buildings.
    Our country and city has a history of developing property to only benefit a small portion of citizens. I’ll be at the meeting to ask what efforts this “Protect Miller Park” group is doing to be inclusive in our community if they don’t think rezoning to allow more people to live in our city is the answer.
    And before you jump in to defend yourself, I’m not calling anyone a racist. I’d ask why you feel it necessary to defend yourself personally when I’m talking about societal problems. Ignoring the reality of the past in defending your restrictive zoning doesn’t benefit your cause.
    “Some covenants designated properties as white-only, while others explicitly barred certain races and ethnicities. Here’s a racial covenant from Capitol Hill: “No part of said premises shall ever be used or occupied by or sold, conveyed, leased, rented, or given to negroes or any person or persons of negro blood.””

    • The people that live here do not support the covenants you quote. The rezoning does not have anything to do with such a covenant. I realize that such old, stupid things like that have a legacy even after they are gone. I don’t know that those covenants applied to this area — keep in mind that “Capitol Hill” is a big area. The Capitol Hill that is the subject of this post has historically (since at least the late 1940’s) had numerous black families owning the homes, including my street. Some are still here, some have passed. We are south of the large lots north of Aloha that was known as Catholic Hill.

      We don’t need more density for people — the City’s own data show that there is more than enough to accommodate projected growth with EXISTING zoning through 2035. The rezoning is a trade-off — Grand Bargain, a term the City uses — because it can’t add a limit to private property (require affordable housing) without giving back something of generally the same value – it is somewhere in Washington State law and most states don’t have it — on the east coast, anyway. We aren’t trying to keep people out — there is plenty of space and units that can be built. The problem is affordability, which I agree is an issue and does have the potential to reinforce segregation, but the way the City is trying to fix it with blanket rezoning has some significant repercussions (including displacement of people in buildings that are now affordable when new buildings with much higher rent are constructed). We don’t mind affordable units built within the current zoning, much of which is already low rise residential, or even modifying the definition to single family to broaden what is allowed a bit. I greatly prefer a mix of ages, races and incomes in my neighborhood — this rezone will result in new, very expensive apartments rented out to people with plenty of income.

    • Not to mention that at least some portion of the area (where I live) in the Madison-Miller urban village is south of Madison and is most certainly Central District… As the person above said -these are not the large homes of North Capitol hill- this is a neighborhood of small streets, with small lots and small houses.

      Right now the zoning here still makes sense – larger buildings and commercial buildings, along the larger streets where they belong, not next door to little one story homes. It could start to resemble Ballard and the “Up house”… (note that the building surrounding that house in Ballard is 1.5 stories and the surrounding construction is only 1 story taller than the zoning would allow here…

  5. I am dismayed at the your coverage of this issue. This is a complex issue that affects many families including mine. I am a 2 mom family with 2 young children that have lived in the area for 25 years. I agree with the need for increased density but don’t want it done in a way that will make it unaffordable for families like mine to live here. I believe this will push out middle and low income families and decrease diversity. Why? The current plan does not require any of the new housing built in the upzoned areas to be for families. Contractors can pay a fee to get out of providing any affordable housing in the area. The end result is that there will be more high rent single occupancy housing. I want more mixed and diverse housing that is truly affordable. I’d also like to see housing density increases driven by the community and not contractors driven by the market. I want Seattle to b a city of thriving active communities.

    • Thanks to you Andrew! And yes it seems odd to say this but for those who don’t know this on the CH blog Andrew Taylor has been helping our neighborhood in a multitude of ways. Mayor comes Mayor goes and Mr. Taylor has been there to help us primarily in Miller Urban Village. Selflessly, I might add as he isn’t paid by the City. And I might add one who is fact driven.

      Now from me. I agree let us find a balance approach to protect our homeowner interest as that is what drives our community. But first let us make sure it is change that isn’t just making some developers rich. No one wants to wake up to realize their new neighbor is going to be an apodment. Our block seems oddly outside of all of this. Yet like they said : first they came for the jews and I was silent…

      I think single family blocks should be just that. I also think that this up zoning idea is going to be rough for many as the dividing line is actually between streets. How is it ok for the lot across the street be multiple family and the other to not be?

      (Oh and I read the CH blog all the time but this is a dig to those folks who support you and biased reporting IMHO)

  6. NIMBYs do as NIMBYs do. Lets no beat around the bush. Its same kind of NIMBY, exclusionary, mostly white, affluent, homeowners who temporarily took over the Capitol Hill Community Council when the City was involved in legislating micro housing.

    Thank god the Mayor has been trying to make moves to make neighborhood councils play less a role in how citywide zoning policy is made.

  7. “Naturally affordable housing” LMAO aka “Look! There’s an affordable house over there. We already have affordable housing, we don’t need any more! Now give me my city-subsidized on-street parking!”

    • You could try reading the entire post. The point is not that we have enough affordable housing. Any idiot can see that. The point is that what gets displaced will be the more affordable of what we have now. Take a walk, with a map – this is not the Capitol Hill you think it is. Or you can continue to assume things about other people’s’ homes.

  8. The various standards elude me but my eyes don’t. By that I refer to the end result aesthetically and structurally of much of the upzoning that I see around the city. When I drive on I-5 and look at the new housing right around 45th Street, especially just to the south, I am flummoxed by how helter skelter it it, how ugly, how thrown together, with no visual integration and clearly the cheapest construction possible. I know that this is largely student housing but it is a horrific eyesore for the community and will become slum quality in short-order. Downtown Ballard looks similarly bloated and sad.
    Perhaps this is a bit off topic but if we are to allow upzoning anywhere, that there should be conditions, including design standards that prevent this from occurring. I am not a design professional but know good and bad design when I see it.
    I live on North Capitol Hill in one of those wonderful homes that has been mine for 30 years. I sure hope my street is spared, but I can tell you that the homes around me were made with love and kept up with love. I don’t expect 1906 building or design and do not eschew modernism. But if the tradeoff in any neighborhood moves from high quality construction to low, no thanks. And this is not a matter of affordability. There are lots of beautiful low-income and affordable housing. But it might mean a bit less rentable square feet, a few more dollars spent on a real architect, a few bucks more on materials – all of which pay off in desirability and return on investment over time.
    And finally, lose the NIMBY meme when someone objects to a change that will diminish their quality of life. Those engaged in promoting these changes have their own agendas, often economic. There are always options that the NIMBY label works to avoid addressing

    • Consensus at this meeting was really about addressing the negative & positive impacts of significant upzoning on: displacement of current affordable housing, providing scale transition into neighborhoods, and providing additional affordable housing (HALA principles developed through the focus groups). The developers will be allowed NOT to build affordable housing in this neighborhood by paying to have it somewhere else, outside of the neighborhood. We have seen this happen repeatedly in Seattle. The neighborhood meeting showed consesus support for affordability in our back yards, while addressing serious concerns whether the proposals will actually create Affordable Housing in our neighborhood; as well as, serious concern about deforestation in the Urban Village and displacement of existing affordable housing.

      Additionally, voices that are advocates for density at any/all costs are really not relevant to this dialogue, which is not about density, but IS about affordabilty, diversity, growth management and preservation of what already makes Seattle a great place for so many people to live.

      It is unfortunate to see these articles “spin bias” so transparently, and draws to question their integrity and intention.