Capitol Hill Community Post | Holy Names Big Dig

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
Written Comments:
PRC@seattle.gov SDCI Attn: Public Resource Center, PO Box 34019, Seattle,98124-4019, Fax 206 233-7901

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50 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Community Post | Holy Names Big Dig

    • “Privileged” home owners living in the neighborhood??

      I have lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years, having worked more than full time for over 40 years to be able to buy a house at all. Nothing was ever given to me. And now the fact that Holy Names has more money than God, means they can disrupt hundreds of lives with 2+ years of unbelievably loud and dangerous construction? Only to end up with two parking lots that do nothing to solve the neighborhood parking problem, but instead add to the pollution, safety and crime in the area? In addition, they want to pave over a prayer garden and much loved green space, used by the community. This plan goes against every single thing this city is proposing in its Comprehensive Plan Toward A Sustainable Seattle.

      This also comes at a time that our Mayor is planning on giving high school students free Orca passes to be used for buses and light rail transportation. So, public transportation is good enough for kids attending public schools, but the more affluent deserve to pollute our streets and air, just because they can afford to?

      Now, you want to talk about “privileged?”

    • My mother had 1 dead parent & her father was a grocery store clerk. She went to Holy Names. Plenty of kids who attend are financial aid recipients.

  1. Wow. That list of concerns is a vast over exaggeration of reality and makes a lot of assumptions. Assumptions shouldn’t keep projects from moving forward.

    • There are also a lot of assumptions on how this will solve anything, assumptions shouldn’t give a project a pass either.

  2. Thanks for the post. You have convinced me to submit a public comment in support of the project to counterbalance this over-exaggerated negativity.

    • Me too. Holy Names keeps track of the kids who drive and disciplines them if anyone reports their driving. Holy Names will make the kids who drive park in the garage. This will ease the traffic on surrounding streets where currently kids circle and circle for parking. To say that this will not ease the traffic around the school seems like a poor, and strange, argument to me.

      • “Holy Names keeps track of the kids who drive and disciplines them if anyone reports their driving.”
        NOT TRUE.

        “This will ease the traffic on surrounding streets where currently kids circle and circle for parking.”

        NOT TRUE. The traffic is expected to be far worse, with almost 300 cards entering and leaving the garage all at once, blocking up traffic for blocks.

        “To say that this will not ease the traffic around the school seems like a poor, and strange, argument to me.”

        THEN YOU ARE NOT WELL VERSED IN THE PROJECT OR PLANS.

    • Don’t worry, they’ll probably pay a rent-a-cop or SPD to direct traffic so the students can get out of the garage while the rest of us peasants have to wait.

      Kind of like Amazon does along Mercer – oh, you sat in traffic for 20 minutes just to get to this point? Oh, well wait for these special folks now! It’ll be the same with the school.

  3. Historically they would have just pushed the dirt down the slope and built some more houses on it. Maybe that’s why so many homes in Seattle have subsidence…

    They should follow wsdot and apply for a noise variance and do the work 24hr a day as they do on 520. That’s a real construction nightmare project…

  4. I hope that SDOT will provide re-routing of the Central Greenway for the many students biking to school. Does anyone know if a route being labeled ‘Greenway’ makes any difference when considering projects such as this?

  5. I’m not a geologist or a hydrologist so I couldn’t speak to those issues, but the suggestion for staff and students to park at St Joseph School or Meany Middle School is not a valid option. Both are in full use during the day as well as heavily used on evenings and weekends. Students and staff already carpool, bike, and take public transportation, but the reality of the geographically diverse HNA community means that driving is the only option for many. This was the case when I attended in the early 1980s when there were half the number of students. One thing that has not been mentioned here is the fact that the neighborhood has become a de facto park and ride for users of the Microsoft Connector, which runs along 19th Ave E. This factor and increased density in the neighborhood has forced HNA to be proactive in dealing with the situation. I certainly think they would prefer to spend the money elsewhere than on parking, but this is just the reality that they are facing now.

    • Carpool? St. Joseph’s parents don’t carpool. I live on 19th Avenue East, and during the school year the line of SUV’s holding one parent and ONE child line up in front of my house each morning and afternoon to drop off and pick up ONE child. I wish the school would give the parents the incentive to carpool with their children. As for parking in St. Joseph’s lot. The lot is used as the playground during the day, and St. Joseph’s also has many evening activities where the lot is filled with the patrons’ vehicles.

  6. “Privileged” home owners living in the neighborhood??

    I have lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years, having worked more than full time for over 40 years to be able to buy a house at all. Nothing was ever given to me. And now the fact that Holy Names has more money than God, means they can disrupt hundreds of lives with 2+ years of unbelievably loud and dangerous construction? Only to end up with two parking lots that do nothing to solve the neighborhood parking problem, but instead add to the pollution, safety and crime in the area? In addition, they want to pave over a prayer garden and much loved green space, used by the community. This plan goes against every single thing this city is proposing in its Comprehensive Plan Toward A Sustainable Seattle.

    This also comes at a time that our Mayor is planning on giving high school students free Orca passes to be used for buses and light rail transportation. So, public transportation is good enough for kids attending public schools, but the more affluent deserve to pollute our streets and air, just because they can afford to?

    Now, you want to talk about “privileged?”

    • Yes, privileged. It doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving or haven’t worked for things. A disproportionate number of Seattle homeowners have some inherent privilege over other people who work hard but face challenging economic conditions, racial disparity, discrimination, disability, and many other things. These are a result of the society we live in and have created. You may/may not face some of these yourself as well.

      It’s nothing to be angry or defensive about, but it’s important to acknowledge and do what you can to help solve it. And yes, a disproportionate population of HNA students, staff, and family are likely privileged as well.

      • Trust me, I know what privileged means. But I do not deserve to be or want to be lumped into a group that was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, far from it. I don’t know you, nor do I feel the need to justify anything to you, but maybe this will help educate some. I will take this opportunity to say that on top of working an average of 60 hours a week, I haved also worked hard for years doing volunteer work for the homeless. In fact, I was the first person in the city to buy a “tiny house” for one (very happy) homeless person and I continue to donate a portion of my income to this particular cause every month.

        This doesn’t mean I don’t also deserve to take care of myself and my own home, doing what I can to prevent the dangers of what Holy Names is trying to do to our neighborhood. This isn’t about me trying to protect a view (I don’t have one.) This is about me trying to keep the air, water, light and noise pollution at bay, as well as the increased traffic jams, which are all going to greatly increase should this project go through.

        It’d be nice if we were all in a room talking about this, you know? My guess is not so many people would be posting the remarks they are, hiding behind the safety of a computer screen. I also have a sneaky suspicion we have more in common than not. Take care, Guitar Guy. (Hey, Ukuleles, too?)

    • Meh – whenever someone says privileged these days what I hear is that they are someone who doesn’t think that working, planning, saving, abstaining from wants to fulfill your needs are things that you should have to do and that those of us who have done these things to actually achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves have somehow cheated the system…

      No matter where you start, you can pretty much always find someone that you think has somehow had it easier than you… but don’t use it as an excuse or try to blame other people for what you have or haven’t done with your own life.

    • I get it, but equally obnoxious is the indignant response that someone could in no way be privileged because THEY worked hard. A lot of people work hard, save money, and plan their lives and many of them fall victim to an unjust system that makes it much harder for them to achieve those same goals.

      Economic and social disparities exist. Everyone should acknowledge them and try their best to to solve them.

    • Shannon: I agree, we likely have much in common, nor am I commenting in any way about the HNA project. It sounds like you do some great things for the community, thank you. Either way, bringing up who is/isn’t privileged (as the main article does) belittles the message.

      And no, strictly guitars, sorry. Specifically, shrieky electric guitar noises amplified for everyone to hear Thu-Sat nights. :-)

    • 30 years in one place that is traditionally a wealthy area (looking at old maps and new) sounds like privilege to me. You are allowed to be proud – you’ve earned it, and we’re all proud of our accomplishments (property as accomplishment – that can be a whole separate conversation!), sure, but as a commenter said above, “Economic and social disparities exist. Everyone should acknowledge them and try their best to to solve them.” Perfectly said. We’re in this together.

      Also….shit changes yo. Did you really expect your city to remain the same? I’m from a big town/small city, and comparing its growth from when I was a kid to now as an adult – it’s so different. I’m sure you as a person has changed as well.

      • “30 years in one place that is traditionally a wealthy area (looking at old maps and new) sounds like privilege to me.”

        Well, you’re wrong. And the presumptions here are astounding. I rented, living with roommates for 30 years, buying my first home in my 50’s. A home that needed 2 years worth of remodeling that my partner and I did before we could move in. So stop with the tiresome projections?

        Yep, we are all in this together. Or are we? Seems like money is sure as heck trumping our rights as neighbors re: air, noise and light pollution.

        What everyone seems to be missing here is that there are so many other options to this retrograde plan.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. Your article does accurately reflect the sentiments felt by many in the area surrounding the school. A 5-level bunker and invitation for students and others to drive is exactly the wrong idea at the wrong point in time. And I have zero doubt it will add to our congestion and bring a number of additional ills, such as continuous noise and emissions. And the proposed erasure of the beautiful park at the north end of school so that large buses can replace that beauty is terrible and a blight which even Holy Names will come to regret. It also completely ignores the wishes and desires of the independent neighbors whom HNA professes to care about and deeply value. Just an ill-conceived idea in its entirely. Hopefully, HNA will take notice of the principled din of so many who oppose the project, which will only grow louder and stronger with time, and reconsider its current path for the benefit of all.

  8. Cathy,

    As for your comments as to why there is so much parking in the neighborhood, then maybe with the $30M budget Holy Names has for this one project, they could afford to address the real problem, which is not the students taking up so mjuch parking?

    As for them not being able to park at St Joes or Meany, that was the original plan (for evening events) when the gym was remodeled last time and we all lived through it, just over 25 years ago. St Joe’s, which is two blocks away, is still a viable solution. As for parking during the day, there are many other options. These include Mt Zion’s parking lot, which is NOT used during the day and is less than a mile from HN; a shuttle could easily run between the two locations should kids or guests have problems walking that distance.

    Oh, by the way? The last three morning and afternoons when we have gone for walks, there have been anywhere from 7 to 9 parking spots open, all within a one block a radius of Holy Names. Pretty much the same as every other day. This is clearly a plan based on wants, not needs.

  9. How anti-urban …. 5 level underground parking is done mostly for posh building types such as high-rises, hotels, convention centers. Our “luxury housing” in the neighborhood doesn’t even go past 2 levels, because of how lavish it is to do. (Underground parking is about from 20k to 30k a stall in today’s construction standards!)

    Sorry kiddos. Learn to share and use public transit. Ask your parents about sustainable urban living.

    • Thanks, Nettle, I agree – except for the part about cost. Underground parking spots for a job of this scale are 100K per spot.

  10. CD Neighbor – HNA students can’t park at “St. Joseph Church” because it’s actually St. Joseph School and the parking lot is the K-8 school’s playground during recesses.

    • The original plans, the last time Holy Names remodeled the gym over 20 years ago, was that they would house the buses and guests for evening events at St Joe’s. Shuttles could then drive people the 2 blocks, if needed.

      In addition, there are a few other large lots around here that are empty during the day: Mt Zion and St Pat’s to name two. We have had heard that both places would be willing to discuss the option of renting out space. Each is less than a mile from Holy Names, and shuttle buses could then take the kids to school. In turn, the funds could then help provide programs for those churches.

      My point is that this is one option, that we as neighbors thought of. There are many more options, as well. This $30M plan came at us quickly, and we feel there should at least be discussions about other, more sustainable options, before something so retrograde is put into place.

    • Don’t try to lecture me – I read the article and I’m going from the information offered there….

      “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.”

  11. This article is breathtakingly ignorant and inaccurate. Your statement regarding “already privileged“ students is simply uninformed. The SNJM sisters have a mission of social justice and educating girls (and, they began this mission when absolutely nobody educated girls, especially girls of color). HNA carries this mission forward today, with one-third of the student body being financially assisted and one-third of the student body being students of color (once again, HNA was promoting this culture long before it was PC). Approximately 90% of the graduating students receive college scholarships, some of these kids are the first in their families to attend college.

    I would argue that HNA takes its mission of Christian and community values quite seriously. The school has had a great relationship with the neighborhood and has negotiated and enforced a mutually agreeable parking policy with the community.

    The necessity for parking garages is an occurrance that is happening all around Seattle. The city’s exploding population can no longer maintain on-street parking. Much of the reason the school is building this garage is to act as a good neighbor. A majority of the neighbors are in favor of the garage.

    An inaccurate, spiteful article. Who is exhibiting “selfish and irresponsible” behavior?

    P.S. A sincere thank you for giving me the motivation to write the city in support of this project ;)

    • I would argue that the majority of neighbors who live within walking distance of Holy Names are most certainly not in favor of this project, given the number of people who are opposing it and being quite vocal about it. I know, I’ve heard from at least 80+ people myself.) Granted, the faculty and alumnae are, but not the people who will have to live with the added air, noise and light pollution, crime (due to the parking lot on Aloha) or the added traffic jams caused by a poorly designed, retrgrade parking garage. It’s a shame, as there are many viable, sustainable options here.

    • Shannon, I live within walking distance – you’ve not spoken to me – and I 100% support this project. Your dramatizations and assumptions are laughable.

      • Perhaps you didn’t read my entire post? I didn’t say I’d spoken to everyone. I have talked to most of my immediate neighbors and can confirm that they, the ones who would be the most impacted by this retrograde plan, are not in favor of it.

        Almost 100 people have been researching this project for over a month now, with the help of architects, planners, builders and attorneys, only to draw the same conclusion: these plans are flawed and will create more problems than they will solve.

        Our intention was never meant to be hostile or oppositional. We remain hopeful we can sit down with Holy Names and discuss options that are more sustainable and neighborhood-friendly.

        My “dramatizations and assumptions are laughable?” My post was neither meant as a slam nor a dig, but was trying to be helpful and informative. Your post, however, reeks of arrogance and ignorance, and is most certainly not funny – or helpful – at all. #yawn

    • So, Shannon. By what percent will crime increase due to this project? Did I miss your environmental studies on air and light pollution and the impact it will have on the surrounding population? I’d love to see the data you’ve procured….

      • Thanks, Timmy73, I’d be happy to share our findings with you. We have compiled most of our data and reports, and are submitting them to the city tomorrow, so you will be able to view in 3 days. Our attorney is helping us with finalizing a few more details, too. For instance, there are statistics re: air, noise, and light pollution, as well as how parking lots are a magnet for crime and vandalism, which means our street will be made less safe by having 32 parked buses there. In addition, taking down trees also hurts the air quality.

        Again, we just want the right thing for our neighborhood, so hoping we can all come together here and find middle ground.

        BTW: I’m surprised I don’t know you, if you live nearby. Or maybe I do, but not by the name Timmy73? : )

    • Thanks, Shannon. I live 6 blocks away. I make decisions based on data and not perceptions. I look forward to learning specific details of exactly what percents air and light pollutions will increase and what negative impacts they will have on the immediate community. And exactly what levels of increased crime we can expect and in what forms. Details are very important when accusations are made.

      BTW, perhaps we have met. One post claims you’ve engaged 80 people. The other it’s almost 100. Perhaps you can’t recall the names of all these people you’ve been counting :) Again, details are important!

      • Oh, ok. 6 blocks away. Well, yes, I probably haven’t spoken with you about this, given you wouldn’t feel the short term or long term impact nearly as much as those who live across the street.

        You’re so right, details are important. And as an accomplished, successful business owner, I am well versed in that area. Here’s what’s even more important to me: kindness, respect and curiosity. You seem to want to quibble and be petty, looking for things to dispute, which I find tedious and don’t really have time for, sorry.

        One more thing. Since you’re so ok with these plans, maybe we can tell Holy Names to do this across the street from you, ya think? Good luck to you, whoever you really are, I wish you the best.

    • Now I understand, Shannon. You live across the street and are an arrogant, classic NIMBY. Your selfish, greedy and stagnant attitude is dated, thankfully. I’ve actually been kind, curious and respectful. So curious that I’d love to know what business you own so I don’t frequent and contribute to an owner who displays the elitism you’ve displayed here.

      I’m glad you’ve gained the support of those “80” individual homeowners who live in a radius that is less than 6 blocks away of HNA and will supposedly be impacted. And are tracking the sentiments of roughly 180 claimed individuals are working against this project. Again, I look forward to reading specific data which you cannot provide, it seems.

      If you need to see petty, I ask you to look in the mirror. And I’m not at all sorry for the inconvenience you’ll experience when this project comes to fruition.

      • When it comes to added pollution and crime, you are spot on when it comes to Not In My Back Yard. Wouldn’t anyone be?

        I have to laugh at being called elite. I am actually a lot more like an adult version of Pippi Longstocking than you can imagine.

        Too bad we can’t have tea sometime. If you want to come out from hiding behind a name, it’s be great to chat and see what we might have in common. I bet it’s a lot more than you think. I truly do wish you well, neighbor.

  12. As opposed to the neighbors, I don’t have any skin in this game. But I do wonder why it is necessary to turn the north green area into a parking lot, when at the same time HNA plans on building a very large garage at the south end. Can’t that facility be designed to accommodate buses?

    It is a fact of life these days in Seattle that many homeowners and renters have to put up with years of construction noise, dust, etc. At my little house, I am about to be impacted by two projects immediately adjacent. Am I happy about it? Certainly not! But I have no choice but to accept the reality.

  13. Bob,

    Holy Names is located in a single family zone. It’s institutional presence is an exception to that zoning overlay. As such, it seems reasonable to expect the institution to behave with deference to it’s neighbors within the prevailing zone. This project does not demonstrate deference but rather indifference to neighbors. It is overly large and disruptive, and will lower the quality of life in the zone over the short to mid-term.
    While it is a fact of life that many residents are experiencing construction fatigue these days, the residents around Holy Names were subjected to another sizeable HN construction project just last year (a partial second story expansion). Dropping a second, larger project in their laps so soon after the first project demonstrates insensivity to the neighbors.
    While the school may have increasing parking needs, their approach disregards much of what is happening citywide. Almost noone is building large underground parking garages, even when they are building large residential buildings upon them. The city is moving in another direction. Why such reluctance on Holy Names part to follow that lead?
    Finally, the fact that the school has such a large amount of money to spend on this optional project is somwhat galling. Tens of millions of dollars for parking? Makes one wonder about the logic of maintaining non-profit tax exempt status for institutions such as this one.

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