Examiner: Plans for E Union affordable cross-laminated timber apartment building can move forward

An early concept for the planned mass timber project (Image: Atelier Jones)

Affordable developer Community Roots Housing can move forward on its the cross-laminated timber Heartwood Apartments project near 14th and Union.

Formerly known as Capitol Hill Housing, the developer faced an environmental appeal of the city’s approval of its plans for an 8-story apartment building on what is now a parking lot on the corner of 14th Ave E and E Union, diagonally across from Skillet Diner. Continue reading

Surrounded by taller buildings with room for more people on all sides, two 1906-built houses set to finally make way for development on Bellevue Ave E

A rendering shows how the building will fit in on Bellevue Ave E

Already surrounded by buildings ranging from three to eleven stories, the last remaining single family-style homes on a stretch of Capitol Hill’s Bellevue Ave E just off E Olive Way will meet with demolition crews if a project coming before the East Design Review Board is approved. But questions remain about whether or not a small stand of trees will meet the same fate.

The project involves properties and two 1906-built homes that have been lined up for redevelopment for most of the past of decade as new buildings sprung up in the nearby area and filled the neighborhood in.

The around 170-unit project comes amid ongoing demand for new housing in the city despite the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout.

The plan is for two adjacent parcels at 123 and 127 Bellevue Ave E, roughly where E John hits Bellevue and stops – about a block north of Denny. Each of the two sites is currently occupied by a building constructed in 1906.

One is still a single-family home. The other started that way and has been renovated and expanded to become a 13-unit apartment building with a small parking lot. The proposed building is surrounded on all sides by apartment buildings, ranging from three to 11 stories. Continue reading

From market rate to affordable, Low Income Housing Institute buying brand new Capitol Hill apartment building

(Image: LIHI)

A newly constructed Capitol Hill apartment building destined to become part of the neighborhood’s market rate housing will instead be used for affordable housing.

With a mix of public financing, Low Income Housing Institute says it is buying the newly constructed, seven story, 76-unit apartment development in the 600 block of E Howell. LIHI announced the Clay Apartments deal late last year but the Seattle Times reported on the transition of the “building planned for upscale market-rate rentals into affordable housing for people who are currently homeless” this week. Continue reading

Hoped to help address displacement in the Central District, Mount Zion’s affordable senior housing project taking shape on 19th Ave

(Image: Rolluda Architects)

Mount Zion’s affordable senior housing development hoped to help address displacement and gentrification could begin construction as soon as this summer.

The property is on 19th Ave just north of Madison and is being developed by Mount Zion Housing Development, the housing arm of the nearby Mount Zion Baptist Church. The property is currently occupied by the Price Arms apartments on a lot shaped roughly like a triangle with one end cut off. The existing building, a two-story, four-unit apartment building that county tax records indicate was built in 1901, would be demolished. Mount Zion housing has owned the property for decades.

The project will add to a small wave of new housing for seniors in the area and could be part of a series of new buildings related to Mount Zion as one of Seattle’s leading Black churches moves forward on long-held plans to develop its property holdings. Continue reading

It will be affordable and environmentally innovative but here’s why a neighbor is fighting plans for the cross-laminated timber Heartwood Apartments

An early concept for the planned mass timber project (Image: Atelier Jones)

The fate of a proposed affordable housing development on Capitol Hill that will also help trailblaze the construction of “mass timber” buildings in Seattle should be known in the next few days after an appeal from a neighbor put would looks like a temporary kink in the plans.

Community Roots Housingformerly known as Capitol Hill Housing – has planned to build an 8-story apartment building on what is now a parking lot on the corner of 14th Ave E and E Union, diagonally across from Skillet Diner. The new Heartwood Apartments would include some ground floor retail, and 126 units. Rents in the new building would be designed to be affordable to people with an income level between 60% and 100% of the area median. The building would include no parking.

The city had approved the construction of the building, but that decision was appealed by Naomi Ruden, a resident of the adjacent Helen V apartments.

Developments in the area — and the city — have faced these kinds of appeals with regularity even as City Hall has looked to rein in the use of tools like landmarking or the State Environmental Policy Act to slow or stop approved projects.

The Heartwood case came before the Hearing Examiner January 26th. Hearing Examiners fill a quasi-judicial role and are meant to provide an impartial decision reviewing city decisions.

In the appeal filed December 1st, Ruden noted that the existing parking lot is used by resident of the Helen V. Ruden is one of several residents of the Helen V who require handicapped parking access provided in the lot, she said. She was concerned that that access would be lost, and there are no plans to replace the spots for those in need. Continue reading

Echohawk announces run for Seattle Mayor including plan for new Public Safety Department — UPDATE

(Image: Echohawk for Seattle Mayor)

A candidate who would be the city’s first Native mayor, Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk is joining the race to head Seattle City Hall.

UPDATE 11:48 AM: This report has been updated throughout with information from CHS’s Monday morning interview with Echohawk.

The advocate for affordability and for the city’s unsheltered populations made her announcement on her 2021 bid for the mayor’s office Monday saying she would put forward a platform focused on “solutions which co-create equitable development and rapid rehousing with community members” and policies “which share the prosperity of the city more equitably, particularly with people of color.”

“I can see the good in this city,” Echohawk told CHS Monday.

She is also responding to calls to defund the Seattle Police Department with a proposal to create a new Public Safety Department, “with community-based mental health workers and neighborhood liaisons.”

Continue reading

Capitol Hill exit interview: Michael Seiwerath reflects on the fight for affordable housing and arts advocacy

Seiwerath during a 2014 neighborhood safety walk

One of Capitol Hill’s leading affordable housing and arts activists Michael Seiwerath is taking his expertise to South Seattle as the new Executive Director of SouthEast Effective Development (SEED). Recently the Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs at Community Roots Housing (formerly Capitol Hill Housing), Seiwerath oversaw fund development, communications, and government relations for the nonprofit since 2008. During that time he was the founding Executive Director of the Community Roots Housing Foundation, an independent nonprofit that helped fund Community Roots. He was also an important part of creating 12th Avenue Arts, and establishing the Capitol Hill Arts District in 2014, the first of the city’s arts districts. At SEED, he will work with partners like HomeSite, Rainer City Arts, and the City of Seattle to create affordable housing, arts and economic development for Columbia and Hillman Cities.

Before joining Community Roots Housing, Seiwerath was the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum. During his 12 years there, Seiwerath helped start the state’s first nonprofit cinema, The Grand Illusion Theater, and oversaw the NW Film Forum’s development of its current home on 12th. (12 seems to be a magic number for Seiwerath.) He is also a film producer, having worked with Charles Mudede on films like Police Beat in 2005 and last year’s Thin Skin.

As he looks back on a legacy of creating lasting affordable housing and arts spaces on Capitol Hill, Seiwerath shared his reflections with CHS about what has changed, and what hasn’t.

Some answers have been edited or condensed for brevity.

What are some reflections on your last 12 years of working for greater affordable housing and preserving arts spaces on the Hill?

Well, it’s hard when you’ve been working on something for a decade and it’s only gotten worse. It’s encouraging that our elected officials now recognize the scale of the homelessness and affordability crisis. That’s progress. We’re still not there yet on the political will to prioritize sufficient resources to solve the problem.

A positive thing I’ve seen in [my] 12 years is partnerships. 12th Avenue Arts was an innovative partnership with performing arts groups, nonprofits, [and] affordable housing in the city. Liberty Bank Building is a partnership with a higher capacity, long standing developer and Black-led community based organizations in the Central District. We’re doing it again with Africatown Plaza across the street, and the LGBTQ-affirming low-income senior housing on Broadway. I’m really proud the goal is to have GenPRIDE own its ground floor home.” Continue reading

Eight-story ‘annex’ planned to rise above 19th Ave E landmark Littlefield Apartments

Despite uncertainties in the coming months — and maybe years — in the Capitol Hill rental market, developers and property owners are still looking to build in the neighborhood in 2021 as taller projects with more units spread from the neighborhood’s core. A new project ready to move forward on the quieter eastern side of the Hill at 19th and John is an eight-story example.

The longtime property owner and architects from the Neiman Taber firm are moving forward with plans for an eight-story, 50-unit development that will rise nestled around the 1910-built Littlefield Apartments building. The project entered the city’s administrative design review process just before Christmas.

The proposed eight-story annex is hoped to complement the Littlefield with a “3-story podium” that “mimics the 3-story mass of the historic brick podium” of the existing 30-unit apartment building. Continue reading

Seattle budget set for 2021: a new tax on big businesses, a new approach to encampments, and a 20% cut to $400M in annual police spending

An unprecedented budget in unprecedented times — Monday’s vote was conducted, like most proceedings during the COVID-19 crisis, virtually

Budget chair Mosqueda took issue with Sawant’s time with the mic and her characterization of how the city’s tax on big businesses came to be. “A really robust effort. I don’t want their effort to be erased by one person’s words and a revision of history,” Mosqueda said.

Challenged and inspired by months of Black Lives Matter protests — including a last minute Sunday night push, the Seattle City Council Monday approved an unprecedented new budget for a major American city including key revenue from a new tax on big businesses, tens of millions of dollars shifted to community and social services, an end to the city’s recent history of encampment sweeps, and a near 20% cut to the city’s police force spending including a last minute $2 million slice to further rein in the department’s growth — all while in the grip of a global pandemic.

“There are aspects of this Budget which are of critical importance, that a year ago we couldn’t have imagined as necessary as they are today,” citywide councilmember and the chair of the budget committee Teresa Mosqueda said in a statement. “I imagine we will have to continue to make tough choices next year, and ensure our Budget is fiscally responsible while providing funding that serves our most vulnerable residents.”

But it was also a day for the familiar. Kshama Sawant, council member for District 3 representing Capitol Hill and the Central District, voted against the massive $6.5 billion package as she has on every annual budget during her three terms of office.

“In the middle of a pandemic and a spike in COVID infections, in the context of the worst recession for working people since the Great Depression, Democratic Councilmembers will be carrying out brutal austerity,” Sawant said in a statement following the vote.

As usual, Sawant stood alone.

Approved 8-1, the 2021 budget will bring a cut of around a fifth of the city’s more than $400 million annual outlay in police spending along with important changes to reduce the size and power of the department by moving 911 and traffic enforcement operations outside of SPD and spending more money on social, community, and BIPOC services and programs. While a larger “No New Cops” bid was voted down in committee, Monday’s final budget package included another $2 million reduction to SPD designed to curtail the department’s hiring in the new year.

The compromises between the calls from months of Black Lives Matter protests and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s push to maintain SPD staffing levels have apparently resulted in a budget the administration can live with. Monday night, the mayor said she would sign the newly approved legislation. Continue reading

In Seattle’s spending plan for new tax on big businesses, a small victory for housing in the Central District

Sawant had the backing of Black faith leaders in the call for new money for housing dedicated to addressing historical wrongs in the Central District (Image: Low Income Housing Institute)

On a big day for the Seattle City Council, Kshama Sawant is celebrating a small victory for housing in the Central District.

As part of a busy morning of sorting out how best to spend the some $200 million a year expected to be generated by the city’s newly approved tax on big businesses, the council’s budget committee approved Sawan’ts amendment calling for at least $18 million year in the new tax spending plan to fund the construction of new affordable housing in the Central District.

“Thanks to our powerful community movement, $18 million will be set aside annually beginning in 2022, to build affordable housing in the Central District for Black working-class and poor families,” Sawant said Thursday in a press release on the approval. “It represents a minimum floor of investment, not a ceiling, because other housing funds in the Amazon tax “spending plan” resolution, the Housing Levy, and other sources also can and should be accessed for affordable housing development in the neighborhood.”

Sawant’s win represents a compromise victory. The socialist city council member had originally called for a $50 million dedicated fund for the area with the backing of Seattle Black clergy and faith leaders (PDF):

We call for City Council to enact a progressive tax on big business to fund housing and services, including construction of at least 1,000 homes in the Central Area to bring back households that have been displaced over the years by racist gentrification.

The coalition said the dedicated funding “would begin to undo racist gentrification policies that private developers and the city have been responsible for creating and perpetuating over the years.”

The Central District funding is joined by amendments earmarking millions for new “tiny home” villages in the city and further relief for small businesses pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis.

The full JumpStart tax funding resolution including the dedicated Central District housing funding now goes to the full City Council for a final vote on Monday.


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