For over 100 years Seattle’s Capitol Hill’s neighbors have appreciated the beautiful urban oasis of Holy Names Academy, and for decades residents have tolerated students cars parked in their crowded narrow streets. However, this unspoken agreement of mutual tolerance and respect is about to change.
On February 15th 2018, the Seattle Department of Constructions sent a Notice of Application for a Master Use Permit for the demolition of an existing gymnasium at Holy Names Academy (HNA) ,( Capitol Hill, Seattle), and construction of a five story underground 246 car parking garage with an enlarged gym to be rebuilt atop the new garage. The public comment period for this huge project has only been extended through February 28th, 2018. This short time period is unrealistic and is an indication of the fast tracks that that this project is on.
The initial phase of the project after the demolition of the existing gym will be the 15,000 SF excavation for the garage, of 40,000 yards of dirt. However, the figures from the Transportation Technical Report by Heffron Transportation (a report paid for by HNA) are wildly off the mark.
Under section 3.9 of that report, titled Short Term Impacts , it states “assuming an average of 20-cubic yards per truck (truck/trailer combination).”..This is a huge , erroneous assumption. As an excavation contractor noted, it is simply not possible to use truck/pup dump combinations that total 60 feet in length in these residential streets. This impacts virtually all of the following calculations:
- Dump trucks will be 12 yard, 25 feet
- There will be 4000 truck loads, not 2,050
- Excavation time will be 16 weeks, not eight.
Staging will require a 30 truck line up, 800 feet
- Further, the report calculates 102 truck trips/day with a load time of 13 trips/hour. Anyone remotely familiar with construction knows that you cannot position, load and dispatch a 20 ton 12 yard dump truck on an average of under 5 minutes each. This time line would be at least double.
Finally the claim that “This volume of truck traffic would be noticeable to nearby residents, but is not expected to result in significant impacts to traffic operations in the site vicinity” is simply not believable and calls into question the whole integrity of the traffic report.
The excavation will not proceed with simply digging, but will have to be interspersed with shoring/ temporary concrete pours and tie back rods that will require grouting, with a complicated scheduling of dump and concrete trucks.
The excavation /shoring/grouting part of this project will be likely a six to eight month timeline.
The estimated $30M project which has apparently been in the works for well over a year was a surprise for neighbors. Initial meetings with HNA staff raised issues that were only partially answered, and some neighbors questioned how forthcoming the school was in its apparent deception in downplaying the scope of the project.
Preliminary issues of concern identified to date include:
1. Excavation will require at least 4,000 dump truck loads of dirt (see above) which will produce serious traffic dislocations in the crowded and narrow Capitol Hill streets, in addition to month’s long air pollution, dust and mud in the neighborhood.
The 20 ton trucks will degrade the existing roads to the extent that replacement will be necessary, especially on 22nd street and Aloha Street. There is no indication of how to deal with the disruption and specifically the major traffic disruption on Aloha Street, which will have partial closures and the likely rerouting of traffic to John Street, which is already a crowded commuter and bus route. These two streets are the major east west routes across Capitol Hill. The project will remove at least 30 on site and street parking spaces. This lost parking will mean students will park even further into neighborhoods.
2. The massive displacement of 40K yards of dirt will have an impact on the hydrology of the neighborhood with perhaps serious structural consequences for neighbor’s houses and possible property values. There do not seem to be any ground water or soil surveys. These issues are not addressed in the application.
3. The plans include a parking garage entrance on an established Seattle Greenway used as a bikeway. This will put hundreds of cars exiting and entering on 21st, and the garage venting for the exhausts of 250 cars will discharge into the neighborhood, with the accompanying persistent hum of fans.
4. Among other requests, HNA is asking for an environmental impact waiver on the project. On a project of this scale there are no environmental waivers. This is an astonishing request, considering the environmental points already raised.
5. On The north end, the existing grass and meditation garden, so prized by residents, will be paved over to provide additional parking for cars and busses. In short, a once green and inviting space will be turned into a parking lot, and private interests will trump public concerns.
In addition to the issues raised above, the incongruity of a school adding over 300 car parking spaces in a city that is considering giving students free bus passes is not lost on many people. Students and staff at HNA, instead of being encouraged to car pool, ride public transportation, walk or bike, are being told its ok to drive your one passenger vehicle to school.
The Capitol Hill neighborhood had co-existed for decades with HNA parking, and although the project is being presented as a solution to HNA parking in residential neighborhoods, other solutions have not been followed up on. Meany School and St. Joseph Church, both close by to HNA offered parking. At a public meeting neighbors were told that it was too far to walk.
Even with the parking garage students, unless they are forced to park inside under penalty will continue to park on the street. Additionally parents picking up and dropping off students will still clog neighborhood streets. Visitors will also take street parking if available. If this project goes forward local residents can look for a three year construction nightmare and a permanent and ongoing pollution and traffic headache.
It is difficult to square HNA’s promotion of Gospel values, respect for others or a conscious ethical stance with a project that encourages selfish and irresponsible behavior to the detriment of its neighbors and city. It is an unfortunate situation that the already privileged students who make little effort to interact with the community as is, will thanks to their school be labeled as elitist.
Public comments can be directed to:
John Faley 206 682-7525
Planner: Charles Benson III 206 727-3885
PRC@seattle.gov SDCI Attn: Public Resource Center, PO Box 34019, Seattle,98124-4019, Fax 206 233-7901