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Holy Names reaches agreement with Capitol Hill neighbors after long fight over underground parking garage

There is peace along E Aloha. In a letter to the school’s Capitol Hill neighbors sent out this week, Holy Names Academy announced it has reached “a mediation agreement” on the City Hall tussle over construction of a new, two-story gymnasium and a new parking lot on the school’s 21st Ave E campus.

“I extend thanks from our HNA community to these neighbors and to everyone involved who worked in good faith to reach this settlement,” Holy Name head of school Liz Swift writes in the brief letter outlining the settlement.

According to HNA, the agreement with a group of neighbors over the project to create a new gym and underground garage, and a new 32-space surface parking lot on the northern edge of the E Aloha at 21st Ave E campus will put construction on track for a June start.

But a few sacrifices were made.

“As part of the agreement, there will be no surface parking lot constructed in the foreseeable future on the north end of the Academy property, adjoining East Aloha Street,” Swift writes. “The agreement also includes considerations of sustainable development, energy efficiency, and other construction and operational considerations.”

In January, CHS reported on an appeal to halt the approval of the planned 237-car underground parking garage below a new, two-story gymnasium brought by neighbors of the North Capitol Hill academy. The appeal based inState Environmental Policy Act requirements followed a 2018 decision by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections allowing the project to move forward.

With the agreement, a May session of the city Hearing Examiner to consider the neighbor’s appeal has been canceled and the case is now dismissed, according to city records.

Holy Names enrolls around 700 students and completed a recent 9,000 square-foot addition to its beautiful dome-capped northern Capitol Hill campus.

School officials had said they needed both the new garage and the new 32-space surface parking lot to relieve parking pressure on the neighborhood. “As you well know, parking has increasingly become more difficult in the neighborhood due to increased housing density, new businesses, and people parking for other reasons,” school officials said in a letter sent to neighbors about the project last year.

But the neighbors group pushed back, writing in the appeal that they “were hoping that someone would do the right thing and consider the historical and environmental impact this project will have on our neighborhood, as well as the input from the immediate neighbors who are overwhelmingly opposed to these retrograde plans.”

“But in the end, money speaks volumes and the school apparently intends to proceed as if the neighbors do not exist and are not worthy of listening to,” the appeal read. “As surprising as it is, that has been their plain message which has not been lost on any of us.”

The lead appellant in the filing in the case was neighbor Shannon Martin. Ten other people are signees of the appeal. The appellant included a petition signed by “more than 100 families who reside in the immediate vicinity of the school.”

The agreement appears to mark another victory for neighborhood groups busy putting the State Environmental Policy Act to work to push back on development projects. The PCC-centered mixed-use project planned for Madison Valley is another recent example. An appeal to require further review of the multimillion parking garage and gym proposal cost the filer $85.

The new plan will still include Holy Names demolishing its current gymnasium to build the underground garage, and rebuild a new gym with the “same height and comparable footprint.” The plan, however, no longer includes the new parking lot along E Aloha for parking large vehicles including buses that would have eliminated the school’s northern trees and lawn that frequently serve as a de facto neighborhood park after classes let out.

Holy Names first announced its plans about 14 months ago. Its quest for better parking solutions for its 700 students and their parents could be a harbinger for similar needs at other private schools including the nearby St. Joseph School. Meanwhile, other area private schools also continue to expand.

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34 thoughts on “Holy Names reaches agreement with Capitol Hill neighbors after long fight over underground parking garage

  1. This is pure climate denial by Holy Names. They need to be looking into better, more equitable solutions to reducing car traffic and parking demands in our neighborhood. Offer the students ORCA cards, work with metro to increase service in the area. Encourage carpooling. Heck – even start their own bus program. They know where all their student commute in from, so there is no excuse.

    • Seems also like climate denial on behalf of the neighborhood. Everyone knows this all boils down to one issue: parking. The neighbors should shut up, ditch a car or two and THEN let’s talk about climate change.

      • Absolutely! I have lived car free in this neighborhood for 9 years – it’s possible. We need to stop building car storage and supporting FREE street parking. This is public space. Neighbors want priority of that street parking – they need to pay for it. Maybe that would make them rethink the luxury of the second car taking up that public space for an unlimited amount of time.

      • Maria, I want to point out that they cannot park on the street for an “unlimited” amount of time. The maximum is 72 hours.

    • “Maybe that would make them rethink the luxury of the second car taking up that public space for an unlimited amount of time.”

      Except for that you don’t get to leave your car parked in front of your house “for an unlimited amount of time”, even though it’s your house it’s in front of. You’re subject to the same 72-hr rule as anyone else. Is it enforced? Rarely. First step would be to start enforcing the 72 hour rule. Then maybe make it an RPZ (Residential Parking Zone) to get the decal, if you want people to have to pay for street parking. A 4-hr limit without the RPZ would make it a lot harder for students to drive to school and find street parking– if that’s really happening.

      • I think what you are saying is that we should make sure that all of our neighborhood streets are zoned for 1hr parking unless you have a zone pass. That way the wealthy students will have to use public transport like the rest of us.

        I still don’t understand why you need 250 spots for events – surely sports etc can use buses.

  2. Fascinating that the city wants to reduce car use and reccomends apt complexes be built with little or no parking.

    But I guess if you are a wealthy teenager in your shiny new car such things are not relevant. Out of the way, I need somewhere to park mummies car !

  3. Very good news as this is a positive step forward for the future I am concerned about the words “foreseeable future”in describing the non-building parking spaces along Aloha Avenue East between 21st and 22nd and then what is the total number of parking spaces the garage will have if it has been limited to either two or three stories? Thanks in advance for further updates.

  4. Maria, Alocal, nettles, future snarkers,

    You realize that these parking spots are mainly to facilitate the faculty/staff and guests for school activities e.g. sporting events, concerts, parent teacher nights, etc., don’t you?

    Currently, people are either “fighting” for evening parking on 22nd and neighboring streets or using nearby lots and then being shuttled over. The demand for this additional parking is not going to be reduced by, to paraphrase, “giving students ORCA cards/establishing their own bus service.”

    • When I walk my son to school at Meany I see many students driving to Holy Names parking all over the place in the neighborhood. If the lot isn’t solving this problem, then why even bother?

      Neither Garfield or Roosevelt have huge underground car parks – how do they manage I wonder ? I guess the poor have to,walk or take the bus…

      • lol, why do people feel so compelled to turn everything into a social justice/class warfare issue?!

        Look, HN spent time thoroughly investigating all aspects of their current parking issue, developed several alternatives, and then selected the solution that best addressed it.

        Do you honestly think that they’re about to invest tens of millions of dollars into this new facility if there was another cheaper, equally viable solution?

      • Did you not read a word he said? The parking garage is used for weekend and after school events. Building the garage does not effect students who drive.

        Do you want people parking in your neighborhood at night and on weekends, or would you like their parking to not effect you?

        Oh, and give them an Orca card? And use Seattle’s woefully inadequate public transportation system? Are you kidding?

        The way to get people to use public transportation is NOT to make private transportation worse, but to make public transportation BETTER.

      • Agreed Brian. Seattle is so obsessed with social justice. Which is fine, but the usual suspects on blogs/nextdoor just can’t wait for an issue to arise and then interject themselves in a way that puts them in a flattering light. Surprise, surprise. LOL

      • Maria,

        I’m glad that a car free life works for you, it seems to make you happy/proud that you can live it. It doesn’t work for everyone and FWIW, your personal lifestyle choices certainly don’t help Holy Names with their parking demands.

      • “Building more car storage only invites more cars, no matter who the intended user. This logic makes no sense.”

        What makes no sense is thinking the school is so clueless they can’t find a way to prevent students from using the garage for just driving to school. Because they can’t lock it off when there are no special events planned? Or reserve spots for faculty only and tow unauthorized cars ? Or require decals? Or any of a half-dozen other ways that, for example, office buildings prevent random people from parking in reserved spots? When I was in college I lived in an 18-story dorm with a big-ass parking garage underneath it, and guess what? Students couldn’t park in it. There are lots of ways to prevent that. They’re not even remotely hard.

  5. “An appeal to require further review of the multimillion parking garage and gym proposal cost the filer $85.”

    That and probably thousands in legal fees and other expenses to prepare and go through with it.

  6. To all you Holy Names supporters, how would you feel about a 250 plus space underground parking garage being constructed for an institution located in a single family zone that you live in? This is not a commercially or multi family zoned area. The institution exists as an exception within a single family zone, and any alterations to the institution should be reviewed very closely to ensure the exception within the prevailing zone is not expanded. Personally I think the garage clearly exceeds what should be allowed for an institutional exception within a single family zone. Others can disagree, but to me it is about prevailing standards in existing zoning.

    • At least Glenn is being honest about what this is about: protecting property values of wealthy single family home owners…..

      …oh I’m sorry, I meant to say this about “climate change”.

      • It never ends. At the other end of the street are folks who have lived in houses for 20+ years and are retired on fix income. Digging down for six levels of parking is going to be a huge disruption in an already congested area.

        And if the above is to believed, the students will still be parking everywhere and the lot only used out of hours.

      • Bingo! The environment argument and the historical stuff was nonsense. Or at least not the real reason. That letter to Holy Names was so cringe worthy.

    • I live in a single-family zone, just down the hill and a little to the south, and I think the “prevailing standards in existing zoning” are completely ridiculous. We live in the middle of a city; we should act like it. If you want single-family housing, move to the suburbs; that’s what they’re for.

      • No but the NIMBYs are protecting a historic neighborhood and the environment. It’s not about their own selfish desires.

      • Mars,

        I am much more YIMBY than NIMBY, to use those tired terms.
        I don’t disagree that development and density should be increased in our urban neighborhoods, and that some single family areas should be upzoned to accomodate some of that growth. What I objected to was building a large underground parking garage to serve an institution located in an area currently zoned for single family use. It seems inappropriate to expand the institutional use to that degree within that zone. It is also tone deaf to the city’s ongoing efforts to reduce car usage, but that is another issue. Thanks.

      • I can think of a few “truer words.” How about, “If you don’t want to get all riled up, don’t read neighborhood blogs.”

    • Meh… parents driving kids to school and kids driving themselves to school is a new phenomenon, either that or a rich city one. I’m not ancient or anything and I don’t recall it being even slightly normal for kids to be driven to school, unless they missed the bus…. and probably being berated the whole way for making the parent late to work. Kids that lived close enough walked and kids that didn’t took a bus. I don’t think we were allowed to drive to high school, even for those kids who had a license – at very least students were forbidden to use the school lot. That was for staff and teachers only. You didn’t have to worry about excessive traffic living near a school. If there was anything to kvetch about it was kids dropping garbage in your yard.

      • Holy names students are domiciled in approximately 85 different ZIP Codes and maybe that will correct some of the misconceptions Pretending to be intelligent comments

      • So what – what does that have to do with what was to be expected 10-20-30 years ago when most of the neighbors of the school likely bought those houses. Don’t be such a child – the world existed before you.

  7. Wow, these “neighbors” have a lot of nerve. Holy Names was there first. These homes were built around the school. Each owner needs to take responsibility for purchasing or maintaining a home in the shadow of the dome. This is the life that you chose. Perhaps, you should consider Woodinville for that suburban feeling.