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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How a Crusade to Save the Pike-Pine Neighborhood Is Turning an Active Block Into a Gravel Lot—For at Least a Year

posted by on April 1 at 14:15 PM

What seems worse than losing a strip of independent businesses in one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods and replacing it with a blasé apartment building? Losing a strip of independent businesses in one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods and replacing it with nothing.

Last week my friend Kim directed me to a thread on Flickr where a rumor was flying that developers had withdrawn plans for the much-discussed building on E Pine Street between Belmont and Summit Avenues. Instead of a six-story, mixed-use building, gossipers say the property owners would replace the erstwhile Cha Cha and Bus Stop block with a parking lot.

That rumor, it turns out, isn’t quite true. But it’s not quite false, either. Here’s what’s happening.

After several meetings (the first in late 2006) among Capitol Hill’s design-review board, the developer, architects, and neighbors, the Department of Planning and Development issued a master use permit last fall to build the 108-unit apartment building with retail on the ground floor. It was to look like this.


Weber & Thomson Architects. (This picture sucks because it’s a phone-camera photo of the hardcopy design proposal. The city doesn’t have digital renderings.)

Enter Dennis Saxman, a 58-year-old who lives a few blocks away. He balked at the permitted design, saying it conflicts with neighborhood design guidelines intended to preserve the warehouse architectural themes of the Pike-Pine corridor. He appealed the permit to the city’s hearing examiner, Anne Watanabe, in mid-November, but she upheld the permit on January 16, stating, “The record does not show that the proposal’s design would be inconsistent with the design review guidelines.” So Saxman, who went to law school in California, pressed on.

On February 5, he filed a petition with the King County Superior Court, naming the City of Seattle and developer Pine & Belmont, LLC, and requesting that “the Court reverse the land use decision.” A hearing of the case is now scheduled for July 7.

What will happen to this block in the meantime?


“At the moment, it’s just going to be graveled over and left as a vacant lot,” says Wade Metz, development manager of Murray Franklyn. He met with Saxman last Wednesday in an attempt to reach an out-of-court agreement, unsuccessfully.

It could be a year or more,” says Metz.

“The city was screaming at me to get the buildings torn down; there were vagrants in it,” Metz says. “All the tenants had left. I had no choice.”

In fact, one year is a soonest-case scenario—if Saxman loses. “It will get built,” says Metz, “it’s just a matter of when.”

If the court finds the design violates city law and Saxman wins—while an unlikely scenario because it would require overturning the Seattle hearing examiner’s decision—the proposal could literally get sent back to the drawing boards. “They would have to go back, and update their design … and most likely we would take it back to the [design review] board,” says Vince Lyons, head of the design review program for the city’s Department of Planning and Development. Chugging through the design review process could take a year or more, meaning the gravel lot would sit untouched for two or three years before construction crews break ground.

But such a ruling would be a victory for Saxman and those fed up with Seattle’s cookie-cutter development: The design review board for Capitol Hill (and perhaps other neighborhoods) could be required to make developers strictly adhere to a classical interpretation of the neighborhood design guidelines.

Nightlife and cornices after the jump.

The delay is worthwhile to Saxman because the fight isn’t only about this one block, but rather the integrity of the Pike-Pine neighborhood. He’s seen a trend of new buildings, including the two Press buildings (across the street on Belmont Ave) and the Braeburn (on 14th Ave), that he says “should not have been approved.” He thinks such designs are illegal because the design guidelines, which Saxman believes they conflict with, were passed as law in 2000 by the city council (.pdf).

According to the guidelines: “Projects requiring design review must comply with the neighborhood design guidelines in this handbook as well as the Citywide Design Guidelines.”

Named among the priorities for new construction is “commercial street life, both day and night” and use of “exterior materials and design elements such as masonry (especially brick) … and decorative details such as cornices, emblems and embossed building names.” The guidelines also describe the “vernacular” context of other buildings, such as “display windows, detailed cornice and frieze work, and trim detailing.”


Weber & Thomson Architects. (Again, sorry the picture sucks. The city doesn’t have digital renderings.)

Among other problems named in Saxman’s petition to the court, the proposal doesn’t meet the guidelines because it provides the apartments no sound buffer, which would be required for residents to tolerate noise from the sorts of bars that previously made the strip active at night. He also says the detailing is inadequate. “It’s not really a cornice,” he says. “I call it an overhang. You don’t have that detail—that’s why it doesn’t look like a cornice to me.” He also says the upper floors of the building don’t riff on the neighborhood’s themes of horizontal brick-work between windows.

Indeed, the building is quite ordinary, and any adherence to the design guidelines is loose, at best. It certainly doesn’t capture the auto-row and warehouse architecture of the neighborhood. (And I respect Saxman’s gumption to stand up to the city in the name of better design.) But this building may not conflict with the guidelines, either.

The city’s Lyons defends DPD’s decision to approve the building: “You could have guidelines that say to create human activity; you could have 60 different ways of satisfying that. This board decided that the project did meet guidelines. It’s just judgmental. It’s not a prescriptive land-use code.” He also points out that DPD must acknowledge when four of the five the design board members approve of a project, as was the case for this proposal.

Some of Saxman’s gripe, it seems, stems from esthetics and frustration with the city.

“I think it’s an atrocious building,” Saxman tells me. “It’s not a question of what the design review boards like…. They don’t have unfettered discretion to approve modern buildings.”

“Vince Lyons should be fired as head of design review, in my opinion,” Saxman says.

The harm of allowing more designs like this one? If the buildings deviate from the light industrial vernacular, says Saxman, “the social characteristics… and the neighborhood vanishes.”

So while Saxman, developers, and City duke it out downtown, we’re left with a vacant lot on Capitol Hill. It might step up design standards in the neighborhood in the long haul, however unlikely, but in the interim we’re left with a vacant gravel expanse. The space might be better used if it actually were a parking lot.

RSS icon Comments


Saxman should be drawn and quartered, or at least barred from contacting any city employee for any reason ever ever ever.

Posted by Fnarf | April 1, 2008 2:30 PM

How nice to know that an individual can still bring things to a screeching halt in Seattle.

Posted by Banna | April 1, 2008 2:34 PM

Is it too much to ask that City planners (and their defenders in the City Hearing Examiner's Office) obey and uphold the law? Thought so.

Posted by Mr. X | April 1, 2008 2:37 PM

Good on him!

Maybe we can move the istoric Manning's building onto it.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 1, 2008 2:40 PM

In a forest for the tree context, this is great news. Does it suck to have a block in the middle of Pine St razed for a year +? Sure - but if there's any way to improve integration of new development into existing neighborhoods, it can only be a good thing IMO.

Posted by genevieve | April 1, 2008 2:46 PM

at this point, i do not admire saxman's efforts.

at the same time, i really would have liked the developers to put more effort into maintaining the character of the block. it really doesn't seem like they tried. or maybe they tried, but they didn't understand to begin with.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 2:48 PM

If there's any chance this means you'll still be able to tell the neighborhoods apart in 20 years, it's worth it.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 2:53 PM

Sweet! Thanks Dennis. As a landlord down the street, I love to see any new competition get delayed/stopped/experience price increases. Keep those rent increases coming!!!

Posted by Happy Landlord | April 1, 2008 2:57 PM

Now, I'll be the first to admit that plenty of W+T designs are significantly less than impressive, but should one random senior citizen be able to single-handedly stop development because part of the building "doesn't look like a cornice" to him? I'm not so sure.

And as far as preserving the "social characteristics" of the neighborhood, where the fuck was this guy when they were tearing down Kincora, Bus Stop, etc.? In my opinion, that's when the social characteristics of that block vanished.

Posted by Hernandez | April 1, 2008 2:58 PM

Weber Thompson. *shudders*

Posted by scharrera | April 1, 2008 3:02 PM

Thank you Saxman. It's about time someone cared that all of Seattle is turning into one boring, irresponsibly built complex that doesn't take into account any of the characteristics of a given neighborhood. I'm a proud resident of this area and agree that a gravel lot would be an improvement to one more over-priced, yuppie Lincoln log of a structure.

Posted by sad | April 1, 2008 3:05 PM

Saxman is a wanker. His own comments are enough to disqualify him from having anything to do with design review.

"It’s not a question of what the design review boards like.... They don’t have unfettered discretion to approve modern buildings."

Uh, actually it is, and they do. That's what design review boards are for, jackass. Too bad you don't serve in any official capacity, because you should be fired.

Posted by Greg | April 1, 2008 3:05 PM

Don't you love living in a country where anyone can sue for anything, even if they're a moron?

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 1, 2008 3:10 PM

This guy is a hero. PRO-DENSITY is great, but this building would permanently eliminate any nightlife for about a block's radius due to the horrible design and lack of soundproofing.

A gravel lot in that location is better than a parking lot which is much better than this destructive W&T building.

Posted by poppy | April 1, 2008 3:11 PM

Seattle: Building by Consensus for Less City Improvement.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 3:12 PM

I think they should be required to have at least one titty bar on the premises, brick should be banned. New buildings trying to look like old ones should incur a tar and feathering.

The great thing about the design review process is that it makes construction more expensive. This helps to insure that only expensive housing is built. The last thing we want to do is allow somebody to build something cheaply.

Maybe they can have the gravel vacant lot designated as a historical landmark.

Posted by Luke Baggins | April 1, 2008 3:19 PM

Also, I think the hilarious thing about this whole episode is that the reason bland and uninteresting designs happen is exactly because they are trying to prevent anyone being outraged by them(and they are cheap). Think about it though; why try to design anything interesting or cool if theres going to be a bunch of people up in arms about it? Why not go for the boring and unexciting so no one will notice. The gambit didnt work in this case, but i think it might be a reason why the style is pervasive.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 3:19 PM

why don't we put every single building permit up to a vote for the entire city. let everyone who doesn't have a penny invested tell developers what they should build with their client's capital. this is to include the color of the interior walls, the shape of the hardware on cabinets, and the distance between the toilet paper roll and the toilet seat. these changes should be printed and mailed to all citizens, in triplicate, and be subject to individual appeal for any reason, what so ever. the people also reserve the right to burn your building down if they don't like it, or any other building, for any other reason.

Posted by some dude | April 1, 2008 3:26 PM

well, the board that okayed this design let a pretty important block be replaced by a very generic building. perhaps they should be held accountable somehow. the idea that one man could hold up construction at this point, costing the developer and eventually the residents, is not cool.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 3:29 PM

Hmm, it is true that all the most inspired and exiting buildings are built in places where there is no community control exerted over the developers...

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 3:31 PM

elenchos, this isn't community control. this is one person. And maybe you can point out inspired and exciting residential buildings are within seattle, and contrast their design approval boards and redress procedures with other cities.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 3:36 PM

I guess any lone nutcase can make up a basis to sue out of thin air and get away with anything. Because if you're the plaintiff in court, you're like a God. Fox News says so.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 3:45 PM

in fact I walk past there every day and I highly approve of the design. Why did one person get to outweigh my approval of the project? See, theres the inherent problem with allowing people to disagree with what a private owner can do with his private property; 99 people can think it's great or fine or tolerable, but it only takes 1 person to put a screeching halt to it. Should developers strive to make buildings interesting? Maybe, but I view homes for people more important than protecting architectural character of a neighborhood. Perhaps I'm just thinking about human concerns a little too much.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 3:48 PM

You clearly take no pride in your community or you don't live in this communty and have no right to say jack about it. I know it seems like a crazy idea to actually have a legal system where individuals have a say about what decisions are made within the larger scope of their city. Maybe you should move to Texas where you will no longer have to put up with such Marxism...

Posted by sad | April 1, 2008 3:49 PM

This is a story about how the little guy can make a difference in their community, and all you guys care about is the freedom of a giant developer to be as lameass as possible?

Posted by poppy | April 1, 2008 3:52 PM

I think we should invite Rem Koolhas back to build his Death Start on the site.

Can we get a spot rezone to go 44 stories high on Capitol Hill?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 1, 2008 3:57 PM

Saxman's arrogantly thinks he knows good design with a California law degree. I'd rather trust the design commission. Bravo, Saxman, you are making sure to run up prices and make this area only available for the more wealthy. Maybe California attorneys can afford your results, a lot of Seattle folks can not.

Posted by notasaxmanfan | April 1, 2008 3:58 PM

I guess I just don't believe that a totally baseless suit would delay the project for a year. Who claimed it would cause a one year delay? That would be the ever trustworthy Wade Metz, development manager of Murray Franklyn. I think if the suit is frivolous, then the judge will throw it out. If the suit has merit, then it's the developers and the design review board who are to blame for failing to follow the law.

Of course the developer's PR machine is going to push the Fox News "junk lawsuit" line that this is one person, rather than a whole system of checks and balances created by the people.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 4:00 PM

not one "person", one lawyer. Probably the same guy calling noise complaints on Chop Suey and gay porn complaints on R Place?

Posted by Abe | April 1, 2008 4:13 PM

@29. your statement is not true. it is not the same person, nor is it the same type of person. you are merely trying to vilify one by comparing him to the other.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 4:15 PM

sad, obviously you think property rights don't matter or you fundamentally believe that a dirt lot is going to add a lot to the neighborhood. the lot is already sold, already destroyed, and won't be developed into anything you'd like. sometimes the little guy shouldn't win because the little guy is wrong. and thanks for reminding me why seattle is so lame and doesn't have a lot going for it: people always want to shit on anything that doesn't conform to their idea of what a neighborhood or directly benefit their neighborhood.

the little guy made a difference alright. he cost tax payers court costs, the developer money, renters or potential home buyers money, all because he was a little bitch who thought architecture was more important than rights. fuck the little guy. he's what makes seattle an expensive shitburg. generic crappy condos will still be built and I love it. every time the little guy (the little bitches who have nothing in the pot except their aesthetic approval) loses im glad every time a club gets closed im happy now. I used to think that losing the nightlife was a bad thing but now I realize that the only people who care about nightlife are the same people that live in a fanciful little world where they get to tell other people what to do with the other persons property.

maybe ill be the asshole that gets places shut down because they are too loud or don't card. after all, ill be the little guy fighting for what I think is right.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 4:16 PM

1)I have to agree with Elencho's above comment that this might be just an excuse to delay construction of a building in a rapidly deflating real estate market.
2)Not sure how this building NOT getting built is going to drive up rents drastically. This wasn't a low income building and it replaces several commercial buildings and very few residential.
3)I hate the design for the new building; it's ugly, lazy, cheap and adds nothing to the neighborhood. In fact, it was going to hurt the neighborhood since they were replacing 7 healthy, vibrant commercial spaces that focused largely on entertainment/night life with 3 or 4 large expensive spaces that they said would NOT be leased to nightlife businesses, (no bars or clubs). In other words, either vacant commercial spaces for months to come, or tenants like Desert Sun or Kinkos or a dry cleaners; functional but dull and not conducive to an active, healthy, vibrant street life.
4)Saxman may or may not be an old poop, but at least he's an old poop standing up for something he believes in. It's about time someone had the guts to stand up to the cheap ass developers who don't give a shit about the neighborhoods that they're building in and the gutless city that doesn't have a clue about smart urban development.

Posted by michael strangeways | April 1, 2008 4:18 PM

elenchos, aren't those checkz and balances created to prevent the oppression of the minority and to prevent the tyranny of the minority?

regardless, im glad you support populism especially when things like war, anti gay marriage measures and other shit are put into law because of it.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 4:20 PM

Ha! Bellevue Ave is pissed!

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 4:21 PM

You're just reminding me of a bunch of people that want to tell other people what to do with something that isnt theirs. You want to legislate what other people can do with their property and are no better than those who support bans on gay marriages or abortions.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 4:26 PM

i agree with you bellevue, but you're going to get flamed for that one. damn!

i think what bothers me about these types of odd-ball subjective opinions throwing a wrench in the process is that it really isn't up to that lone guy to be the guardian of architectural taste. who died and made him king of the cornice?!

a recent UW study that found that approx 200k of the median price of a home in king county is due to this type of bureaucratic bullshit. because it is so goddamn hard to build something in this town due to all these reviews and studies the cost gets passed on due to less supply and higher overhead, which just gets added onto the cost of the unit.

in the meantime, the cha-cha is safely relocated. king cora is in our futures. bimbos is still serving bitchin burritos. the sky remains intact, alarmists be damned.

If a developer wants to build a building, and people want to live in it, then what business is it of mine to put on my napoleon cap and tell them that I don't like it, so they have to just sit on a gravel lot and meander through some kafka-esque labyrinth downtown? it's retarded.

Posted by some dude | April 1, 2008 4:28 PM

The new building is ugly, but I doubt a cheap, modern reinterpretation of what Mr. Saxman had hoped for would be any more attractive. It COULD be, but chances are, it wouldn't.

If I were a spiteful - and insanely rich - man, I'd build a HUGE (what we always referred to as) HOME-TELL style building (think Worlds Fair-era hotel-cum-apartment-building) in that spot that'll fit right in with the half dozen or so of those still littering The Hill.

Posted by Dougsf | April 1, 2008 4:31 PM


1. maybe
2. upper middle people need to move out of somewhere to move into somewhere right? so their vacant apartment or condo creates supply elsewhere. perhaps they are moving from wallingford to capitol hill. that means there is now a vacant place in wallingford. so on and so forth. housing supply is housing supply is housing supply because more vacancies in one range will affect vacancies in another range.
3. how does a vacant lot replace those 7 businesses lost? it doesnt. get over it.
4. people stand up against gay rights, against abortion rights, for fighting the war on drugs and terror, on building border fences. Thank god these people stand up for something they believe in...

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 4:33 PM

bellevue, there's a difference between being in favor of a ban on gay marriage and insisting that gay couples get a marriage license before getting married. elenchos has already stated that he thinks this guy has a case, and why. this old guy isn't just making up rules, he's following the law. of course, it would have been nice if he had spoken up earlier...

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 4:36 PM

infrequent, states are amending their constitutions within the letter of the law to ban gay marriages. yay using the law to decide for other people what you think is right? people that fight against the rights of people to do with their property what they want are acting in accordance to the law but that doesnt make it good or right.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 4:42 PM

There is a difference between personal property and investment property. There is a huge difference between a piece of commercial real estate and the right to control your own body. The right to have the same family as anybody else has nothing in common with the supposed "right" of the rich to determine the future of our city.

This is our city, not theirs. The people control it and that's that. They can buy an interest in a piece of the city and make some money, but it will never be their city.

But if they don't like being told what to do with their sacrosanct private property, why are they here in this commie city? There are lots of other places where builders can do anything they like, yet they come here. Why is that?

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 4:46 PM

Those are all important causes Bellevue Avenue...I just happen to think that urban design is just as important. I don't mourn the buildings that were torn down (though, I will mourn the loss of those vibrant businesses), and I don't relish the idea of a vacant lot festering on Pine for the next year or two or ten but nor do I want a badly designed and managed monstrosity to suck the life out of a neighborhood and a city I live in. If I had wanted to live in a soulless, new urban development, I would have moved to Bellevue 7 years ago, instead of Capitol Hill.

"In the name of progress" was the battle cry of forward thinkers in the 50's and 60's who wanted to tear down the French Quarter in New Orleans and Pike Place Market in Seattle to make way for freeways and new development. Thank god for the old poops like Saxman who stood up to them.

Posted by michael strangeways | April 1, 2008 4:48 PM

so you want a situation where someone cannot hold a developer accountable? if it was a frivolous suit it would be thrown out.

you already cannot do what you want with your property. to pretend you can is a stretch. the argument here is whether or not this developer is following the law.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 4:49 PM

Make it look like an out-of-business rat-infested Denny's and you're good to go.

Posted by wbrproductions | April 1, 2008 4:54 PM

I suggest you find Saxman and discuss the matter with him. I'm smelling a smear campaign from the developer.

Posted by apttitle | April 1, 2008 5:01 PM

elenchos, this is their parcel of land not yours. a city is merely a collection and patchwork of various people's personal property. a city is an organism comprised of these cells of personal obviously have no investment made in this city otherwise you would try to own a piece of it. no, you free load and try to dictate how other people in the city should live, what type of buildings should be where, but you have no real stake in it. you have no stake in this city elenchos because you wont ever put your money or your time where your mouth is.

the reason the developers come here is because there is money to be made here, simply enough. The city isn't commie enough to completely squelch development, only commie enough to make everyone pay for it through bureaucratic process. They already did play by the rules and had the board - whose job it is to approve design - approve their design.

Strangeways; if I had wanted to live in a soulful place that actually values cultural institution and culture itself above the half assed, uninspired attempts at it i would have moved to NYC, SF, NO, fuck a lot of places. Seattle has no fucking soul to save, it's only in the relative comparison to Bellevue that you could claim as such.

infrequent, there are limits on what you can do with your property but they rarely hinge so heavily on the subjective tastes of a neighborhood asshole. That is the main problem; I find it reprehensible that something would be held up because the biggest problem someone has with it is that it's ugly. Not that it presents a very real public health threat or something of THAT nature, but because it threatens people's taste.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 5:04 PM

The most hilarious part of the story is the apartment / condo you can see in the background of the photo of the demolition. It looks far more cookie cutter than the design that's being opposed.

Posted by Bob | April 1, 2008 5:04 PM

and honestly I could give two shits about the people that move into a condo in that location and then are mad about the noise or something. thats another problem you run into with the city bureaucracy. you want to level the playing field by screwing everyone in some manner instead of letting people make decisions on how they want to live. The people who knowingly move into that location and then complain about the noise don't have a leg to stand on.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 5:08 PM

@46, the developer holds the title to the land, he does not "own" it, at least not in the strictest sense. People challenge and restrict the use of others' property all the time (see: pools, height limits, commercial vs. residential, etc.). The only reason this is so controversial is because it's big. The guy's challenging the development for not staying within the zoning laws. Capitol Hill remains a place I don't want to visit. Life goes on.

If you're serious about living in a soulless place where property rights reign eternal, by all means, move to Dallas.

Posted by joykiller | April 1, 2008 5:13 PM

if you're all so serious aboutt living where other people tell you that you can or can't build something based on something subjective, by all means move to north korea or cuba.
see what I did there? love it or leave it? if you are gay and want to get married move to canada...

im surprised a lot of you used a classic rightwing shithead rhetorical tactic just applied to what you care about

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 5:27 PM

For god's sake yes. Quit droning on about property rights. What a tired old song. Go to Dallas. Go to Houston. Take a look around. Do that, and then come back and sing the song about the sacredness of property rights.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 5:30 PM

Frankly, a surface parking lot would do me a whole lot more good in that location than a bunch of overpriced yuppie condos/apartments and/or a Quizo's, Curves, or tanning salon.

Heck, if I could park within a mile, I might consider going to Linda's again...

(And isn't Bellevue just a laugh riot when he gets all libertarian/property-rights uber alles and whatnot? Ick.)

Posted by Mr. X | April 1, 2008 5:40 PM

Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha! I spit on you Cha-Cha!

Posted by Some crazy ol' gypsy | April 1, 2008 5:42 PM

Hey guys, it has been so amusing to read some of your rabid comments that I had to interrupt the party with reason and facts, but, I will.

Anyone who thinks Metz’ decision to leave this as a vacant lot is based on anything I did needs to go back and read the economic news pages from the last few months. Ron Boscola, who also works for Murray Franklyn, said, after the hearing with the Hearing Examiner, that I was probably doing them a favor. Metz also told me that developers downtown were getting hurt “bad” and that Franklyn had pulled out of the downtown area. The Press is hardly an example of the profitability or the need for more high-priced residences in this block. I suspect the building will get built when it “pencils out” for Mr. Metz. Metz and his attorney both know that there is nothing I can do at this point to actually stop them from proceeding. The choice to not proceed and to gravel the lot is their own.

Metz says he had no choice. I have often told him that he could have left the existing tenants in the buildings until this appeal was settled. He is the owner of the property and that was his choice. It was also his choice not to adequately secure the building as required by City Code, which led to most of the subsequent vandalism and the presence of vagrants. Why neighbors or people who live in Seattle think highly of a neighboring property owner such as Metz escapes me.

I seriously doubt that it would take a year to go through design review if this building had to be resubmitted for review.

There are four situations in which the DPD is not required to approve the project just because 4 members of the Board approve of it. Mr. Lyons’ statements grossly simplifies the law. The law does say that the “design guidelines will be the basis of design review.”

Happy Landlord: You seriously overestimate my ability to raise rents not to mention it ignores the impact of the speculative housing bubble inflated by greedy individuals such as yourself who wanted something for nothing, and have ruthlessly exploited the situation. Read up on the history of development busts in Seattle and you will have an idea of what might come of your over-reaching.

Where was I when they were tearing down Kincora’s etc.: going to neighborhood meetings re the same. I have been involved in this matter since March 2007. A number of the attendees shared my opinions, which are based on the Design Guidelines and not just my own opinion. Some individuals here seem to believe that the Design Review Board can approve whatever the hell it is that turns there crank – regardless of the Design Guidelines.

(more to follow)

Posted by sentinel | April 1, 2008 5:44 PM

There were no "warehouse architectural themes of the Pike-Pine corridor" on that block to begin with. So what the hell is this guy talking about?

Posted by Trevor | April 1, 2008 5:56 PM

Trevor: You should read the Pike/Pine Design Guidelines. The warehouse language was not my own. I refer to it, as do the Guidelines, as light-industrial or historic vernacular. I have 178 photos of such buildings in the Pike/Pine Corridor. You should go take a walk around the neighborhood after you educate yourself by reading the guidelines.

Posted by sentinel | April 1, 2008 6:01 PM

I'm going to file a claim based on it impacting my air rights to fly kites over the vacant lot.

(chalk one up to "property rights")

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 1, 2008 6:11 PM

Ad hominem attacks are so passe people. Can’t all of you architectural modernists come up with something that directly speaks to the facts?

I’m in favor of dedicating the parking lot as a historical landmark: perhaps we could add a monument to the folly and arrogance of developers during this period.

I am amazed at how much this argument is characterized as one single individual imposing his tastes on the neighborhood, City, whatever. My opinions are informed by the Guidelines and the history of design review in Seattle. Ironic that I am pilloried for and accused of attempting to impose my tastes, but Mr. Metz’ attempt to impose his taste, or the Design Review Board’s approval of what suits its taste, both in disregard of guidelines developed and approved by the community and the Council, are ignored.

For those of you who have trouble with the idea of my filing a lawsuit: I am well within my rights. And as one perceptive commentator noted: if the lawsuit were frivolous it would have been tossed out. Even the developer’s attorney doesn’t think it is frivolous.

Developers complain about community control, and that is exactly why these guidelines were put in place. The neighborhoods were fed up with developers throwing up buildings that were not respectful of the neighborhood context. The developers love the community when they go to it hat in hand, looking for public subsidy for their “private property.” You can have all the private property you want, but if it isn’t tied into the public infrastructure and protected by laws, it won’t be worth much. Further, the value of private property is entirely determined by the community and its laws. Without the subsidy of public infrastructure and the protection of the community government, private property would be worth much less.

Posted by sentinel | April 1, 2008 6:14 PM

Overall I think it's a good urban building. In fact from what I can see in the drawing I like the way it looks and the way it behaves in terms of meeting the sidewalk and thus is largely in compliance with the City's Design Review principles. And I'd like to testify to that should -- God forbid -- this case ever come to trial. (And fwiw I was on the committee which put together the City's Design Review principles & process etc etc blah blah blah)

Based on what I can see, I am astounded and saddened that anyone would try to stop it.

Posted by David Sucher | April 1, 2008 6:43 PM

I never based my design opinions on my legal training. I can tell if a building looks like a duck or not by looking at it: contrary to the opinion of design professionals, it does not take a design degree to see if a building fits the guidelines or is sensitive to neighborhood context – it only takes eyes.

Thanks strangeways. Your comments are some of the most perceptive and reasonable.

Bellevue Avenue: The system of checks and balances was created to prevent the tyranny of the majority who was likely to oppress unpopular minorities. Anyone who has issues with my exercising my rights under the Seattle Municipal Code and the Revised Code of Washington should work to change the laws they don’t like. The existing laws were created with widespread neighborhood and legislative support. What unusual ideas you have about what a City is composed of. You should read a copy of the legal documents in this case so that you understand that my actions are based on much more than a belief that the building is ugly.

Some dude: I didn’t become King of the Cornices due to an unfortunate, untimely death. I was actually directly anointed by the Goddess herself She told me I should also have serious reservations about that UW study you cite.

Infrequent: I have been speaking up about this development for months.

A modest proposal:

For the merely ambitious: go to the Department of Planning and Development’s website, download a copy of the Pike/Pine Neighborhood Design Guidelines and read them.

For the really ambitious: Get copies of my appeal documents, the Hearing Examiner’s decision, and my petition in Superior Court and read them.

Then, come back and post whether or not you think the building as proposed, meets the Design Guidelines.

Reading the Seattle Municipal Codes governing Design Review would be a useful exercise too.

Posted by sentinel | April 1, 2008 6:47 PM

Warehouse design is actually a Pacific NW architectural vernacular. The former car dealerships in the corridor actually lend themselves to it.

See Yaletown, Vancouver BC and Pearl District Portland OR

Whether this is desirable or not is another question, but it's not like folks are pulling this out of thin air.

Posted by no dog in this fight | April 1, 2008 6:49 PM

Btw, I wonder if part of the problem here is "unrealistic expectations" brought on by too much starchitecture and Mudede rapture? i.e. a lot of people want a work of "cutting edge brilliance."

Well what for better or worse (and I say better) there is simply not very much brilliance around when it comes to architecture and urban planning, which as I say could be a good thing since the rules for creating a good walkable neighborhood have been known for a long long time and don't need to be reinvented. Brilliance is not even remotely part of creating a good walkable city. In fact most self-absorbed works of "cutting edge design" are quite often anti-urban and turn away from the sidewalk -- the Downtown Library, for example -- and so don't promote a walkable city.

Posted by David Sucher | April 1, 2008 6:55 PM

For an example of a new building fitting into the neighborhood, please take a look at the Agnes Lofts on 12th and Pike by Weinstein AU (where Boom Noodle is). If only all new construction were as classy as this. Also see the building at 12th and Union, by Miller Hull (the one with the big red X braces).

@47, the building in the background is the Press apartments/condos. See the quote from Mr's Holden and Saxman:
"He’s seen a trend of new buildings, including the two Press buildings (across the street on Belmont Ave) and the Braeburn (on 14th Ave), that he says “should not have been approved.” "

Kudos to Mr. Saxman for taking the design review board to task, and for fighting the good fight against McBlandness like the Weber Thompson building.

Posted by grumpypants | April 1, 2008 6:55 PM

Surprised that nobody has yet noted that it takes three months -- three month?! -- to have a hearing on this?

Hell, it's not as though this is a capital murder case!

Posted by oneway | April 1, 2008 7:06 PM

I think Design Review, in particular Downtown and Capitol Hill, are totally spinning out of control. It's totally arbitrary, and it seems that's what sentinel is angry about.

Talking crap about Vince Lyons isn't going to solve anything, though.

Posted by EDG | April 1, 2008 7:21 PM

While I would prefer not to see a vacant lot on the site for months and months on end, I prefer it to seeing a bunch of boarded up, graffiti covered vacant buildings.

As for a surface parking lot, if memory serves me correctly, there's a Pedestrian overlay zone on Pike/Pine which would most likely prevent a strictly auto-oriented use. And rightly so. Instead of a paved vacant lot, I'd like to see the developer plant some grass and/or wild floors that need little maintenance and add some beauty to the area while this whole deal is sorted out. Wishful thinking, I know...

There are others in the neighborhood that support was Mr. Saxman is doing, myself included. I give him credit for holding the developers AND the city accountable. A lot of community members' blood, sweat, tears, and time when into creating the neighborhood Design Guidelines. Let's use 'em. For those of you who think that they're no longer valid (they desperately need to be updated), get involved and do something to change them. Dennis has a voice and so do you.

Posted by He's not alone | April 1, 2008 7:23 PM

I'm not hoping for much. Certainly not any award-winning architecture. If this kind of thing can at least put a little pressure on to make the buildings just a tad more distinctive, that would be something. Like if you had better one in ten odds of guessing which neighborhood it belonged to by looking at it. Are there even ten distinct neighborhoods here? It should not be that hard to make it look like it belongs somewhere. As it is you'd not know if a building was in Seattle or Ft Lauderdale or Toronto.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 7:29 PM

when will mayor nickels be held accountable for the rampant developing that's ruining our city block by block?

Posted by pissed off | April 1, 2008 7:30 PM

Make that: "wild FLOWERS"
and "what" not "was"

Crap. I need an editor.

Posted by He's not alone | April 1, 2008 7:33 PM

I think they should dig a deep open pit there and leave it as a trap for the drunk and unwary, and as a stark reminder of the fragility of the human condition.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 1, 2008 8:15 PM

The Slog is the only stark reminder of the fragility of the human condition you'll ever need.

Would the pit have punji sticks?

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 8:24 PM

Maybe a taco truck or two could park there in the meantime?

Posted by lorange | April 1, 2008 8:45 PM

sous les pavés la plage

Posted by kinaidos | April 1, 2008 9:30 PM

David Sucher: I thought City Comforts was a great book - it blew some fresh air through the stale discourse as to what makes a city livable. I think you have allowed youself to be deceived by the drawing that illustrates this article. In fact, the southwest corner of this building significantly pulls back from the sidewalk and the facade gradually pulls back from the line of the sidewalk in 5 bays, each further from the line of the sidewalk than the preceding one until it reaches the corner of Summit and East Pine. So this building violates your Rule #1 - Build to the Sidewalk. The Design Review Board repeatedly expressed concern about this, but the developer didn't change it.

The developer represented the area created by the pullback, rather grandly, as a public piazza. (Not exactly the Piazza San Marco, IMHO, but then, what do I know about design). Other representations were that it would be a place for neighbors to gather and socialize. On the drawings and in some of the developer's statements, it was represented as a retail courtyard. When I raised the issue of the conflict between these various representations, I never got a straight answer until the developer's attorney filed a trial brief before the Hearing Examiner that stated: "Appellant complains that Pine & Belmont should state whether the proposed piazza at the southwest corner of the building will be a public or private space. The area appellant refers to is private property, and Pine & Belmont's use of that property as a private space or otherwise is immaterial to the outcome of this appeal." I raised the issue as I felt it went to the credibility of the developer. The Hearing Examiner never fully considered that issue. FYI, my appeal is also about whether or not the legal guidelines for granting departures were followed. The November 2006 audit of the City Auditor re the Design Review Process concluded that often the legal guidelines for granting departures were not followed. Those who attempt to paint my views as those of a "lone nut" are grossly unfamiliar with all of the facts realting to Design Review. I came across your correspondence re design review when I was researching at the Municipal Archives.

Posted by sentinel | April 1, 2008 9:42 PM

Anything is preferable to the run down shacks that used to be on that block. I don't have any problem with the new design, and I really wonder which alternate design a bunch of immature know-it-alls would choose over the one that was proposed.

How about one like the ridiculous new "low-income" apartment building on the corner of Pine and Broadway, where they used the exact same brick as the Broadway Performance Hall. It doesn't blend in with the neighborhood, it looks completely out of place as a modern building trying to imitate an old one. They should have gone with all red brick - at least it would complement the nighborhood instead of jarringly immitating it.

And those tacked on faux masonry decorative elements on the top look like crap.

So that's what you want? Forget it.

Also to "pissed off" who said:
when will mayor nickels be held accountable for the rampant developing that's ruining our city block by block?

You are completely retarded. What does the mayor have to do with this awful "rampant developing"? (ha ha ha). Try the City Council, but you probably couldn't name one councilperson anyway.

So stuff it.

Posted by Mike in Pioneer Square | April 1, 2008 10:38 PM

I am glad that there are people who care enough to sort things like this out. To me that illustration looks pretty much like an urban strip mall. One of these days I'll have built up my attention span to the point where I can do my bit.

Posted by Lythea | April 1, 2008 10:53 PM

great post, and no need to appologize for the shitty photo renderings of that building, they're the best i've seen and i've been looking online for months!

the new pine condos... shrouded in mystery.

Posted by joe | April 1, 2008 11:52 PM

Nice work of tearing the Internet design armchair quarterbacks apart, sentinel.

I really like your point about the tyranny of the masses.

Posted by Anon | April 2, 2008 12:15 AM

Dennis Saxman. Like others here I admire your energy to fight City Hall though I think we come to different conclusions about this specific building. But a you say, of course I haven't seen detailed plans and so I might change my mind. But let me go through some of your points as I see things now because you raise interesting ones.

"Build to the Sidewalk" is certainly the default position but it is a rebuttable presumption. For non-lawyers that means that if a developer makes a good-enough argument about why a set-back should be allowed, then there should be that freedom to do so. Now not having heard the arguments about the "piazza" nor knowing the exact steps in the setback or grade differences etc etc it's hard to be sure if the piazza works as a public space. But it is at the southwest corner of the block and will get as much sun-light as Seattle allows. So it's a reasonable place to put what (presumably) will be outdoor seating for a coffee-shop or restaurant etc. That strikes me as a reasonable argument on the surface. Where do I err?

As to the "credibility of the developer," it strikes me that the Hearing Examiner was correct in every way to ignore that issue.

To the larger issue of design review (and I wonder what you found in the archives?!) it's my feeling now that the city's Design Review over-reaches and tries to do too much and should be cut back and simplified dramatically. The Land Use Code for many zones already requires adherence to the "Three Rules" and its corollaries such as "no reflective glass." I am not quite sure what Design Review adds to the party and I think now (and I thought then when the idea was first broached in our Advisory Committee) that specific "Neighborhood Design Guidelines" (different in the same zone class depending on the area of town) were absurd, a political sop and would lead to unrealistic expectations, to pointless effort by everyone and almost all of it paid for by the developer.

I hear complaints in these comments that this building could be anywhere in Seattle or even Toronto etc etc. Damned right! What do people expect? Dancing monkeys? It's a building, for god's sake and it must and will respond to human needs and street patterns very much the same in Seattle as it will anywhere. Long time ago a very fine local architect, Jim Cutler, told me (it's a long story) that "there are certain truths about floorplans." What he meant is that there are certain logical ways to lay out a dwelling and every site will suggest the same basic lay of entrance, garage, living areas, kitchens, bathrooms etc etc to every designer.

The same can and should be said about buildings. A mixed-use building in Paris (in a neighborhood similar to Pike-Pine) will have the same basic site plan as one in Seattle. And I think that part of our problem is caused by our unrealistic expectations brought about by starchitecure (every building must be unique) and now that I think of it, over-reaching design guidelines (every building must be unique because every neighborhood is unique.) 'Fraid it's just not so. People behave similarly pretty much everywhere and human behavior is where design starts (or should start.)

And thanks for the kind words about City Comforts.

Posted by David Sucher | April 2, 2008 8:38 AM

sentinel, I dont support your viewpoint even if you have legal procedures to make them known and possibly influence the development. Just because every dog has his day - in court - doesnt mean that your appeal is good, valid, or just. It means that you and the court are simply following procedure.

And don't tell me frivolous lawsuits get tossed out of court because they dont.

and I dont i think you've completely got this thought through on checks and balances. who is the majority in this case? the property owner or the neighborhood and who is oppressing who?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 2, 2008 8:46 AM

I'd say any objective observer would have to agree that Sentinel has pretty much ripped you you a new one on this topic, Bellevue - you really ought to quit while you're (not) ahead.

Posted by Squid Row | April 2, 2008 10:11 AM

Thats pretty subjective of you.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 2, 2008 10:18 AM

Dennis has always been my hero.

Posted by rhyd | April 2, 2008 11:15 AM

What the fuck are "warehouse architectural themes" and why do I want them in my neighborhood?

Posted by w7ngman | April 2, 2008 11:23 AM


Um, OK - so we have one poster (Sentinel) who quotes chapter and verse from the SMC and demonstrates comprehensive understanding of the Design Review rules and process, and another (you) who quotes a lot of vague libertarian property rights blather and huffs and puffs about how unfair longstanding and widely known rules are to those poor, poor developers.

No contest.

Posted by Mr. X | April 2, 2008 11:43 AM


The pit would be full of pit bulls, elenchos.

Lots of hungry, slightly agitated pit bulls.

But not so many so that someone could climb out on top of the backs of the pit bulls.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 2, 2008 11:57 AM

Someone anonymously wrote:

Nice work of tearing the Internet design armchair quarterbacks apart, sentinel.

In case it's not blindingly-obvious to anyone else: Sentinel is the pseudonym with which Dennis is posting comments in this thread.

Posted by Phil M | April 2, 2008 12:11 PM

this thread still active? bellevue... this isn't an old man acting alone. he has support, as you see here. so it's not just one guy holding up development.

and we don't want flying monkeys. just a little more effort to preserve the neighborhood.

at first i thought this suit was too little too late. but elenchos got me worked up: yes, if a developer realizes it will be easier if they throw us a bone in their design then this suit it worth while.

Posted by infrequent | April 2, 2008 12:34 PM

Mr. X, it's nice that you've taken a shining to me.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 2, 2008 12:46 PM

that shine isn't consistent with the other reflections on bellevue avenue. you may want to rethink it.

Posted by infrequent | April 2, 2008 12:52 PM

Bellevue Ave wrote:

this isn't community control. this is one person

Actually, this is one person standing up for standards established by the community. He's pressing the city to prevent "one person" (the developer) from ram-rodding through development that conflicts with the expressed desires of our community.

Dennis, I thank you for doing so.

Why did one person get to outweigh my approval of the project?

Because he is representing the stated desires of the community and your approval is irrelevant.

Should developers strive to make buildings interesting?

That's a matter of opinion. However, if they wish to make buildings, they are required to do so in a manner that is congruent with development standards.

We live in a city, and if someone wants to build in our city, he's going to have to cooperate with us. Anyone who wants to do whatever he pleases please with his property regardless of what his neighbors is free to go do so out in the boonies and exurbs.

I view homes for people more important than protecting architectural character of a neighborhood

On a related note, in a December 10, 2007, message posted to the POWHat-news mailing list, in regards to the 514 E. Pike project, Dennis Saxman wrote:

In its revised SEPA report, the developer states that approximately 45 people will be displaced by this project and that 50 units of middle to low income housing would be eliminated, and replaced by 106 residential units at middle to high income. I seriously doubt that the individuals living in the current middle income units would be able to afford the new middle income units. The developer still has no plans to mitigate this loss of affordable housing.

Bellevue Ave also wrote:

fuck the little guy [...] generic crappy condos will still be built and I love it

That puts your opinions in conflict with those of most of the neighborhood. Thanks for your input.

Mike in Pioneer Square wrote:

How about one like the ridiculous new "low-income" apartment building on the corner of Pine and Broadway , where they used the exact same brick as the Broadway Performance Hall. It doesn't blend in with the neighborhood, it looks completely out of place as a modern building trying to imitate an old one.

I and many other people disagree. That building (Broadway Crossing), is a great example of what the design review process can accomplish. The owner of the property originally intended to have a typical, suburban-style, Walgreen's building built there (think single story with surface parking in front -- look to 15th St. for a prime example). Outcry from the community at the first DRB meeting for the project resulted in him going back to the drawing board. Now we have an attractive building (that's subjective, I know) filled with affordable housing above ground-level retail with full transparency from the sidewalk. That transparency, too, was due to pressure from the community. Retailers generally prefer to use windows as more wall space, subjecting pedestrians to views of the back-sides of those shelves, blacked-out windows, or paintings of happy people picking up their prescriptions.

He's not alone wrote:

If memory serves me correctly, there's a Pedestrian overlay zone on Pike/Pine which would most likely prevent a strictly auto-oriented use. [...] Instead of a paved vacant lot, I'd like to see the developer plant some grass and/or wild floors that need little maintenance and add some beauty to the area while this whole deal is sorted out.

Good idea. If you think that we could convince the city
to get the property owner to do that,

There are others in the neighborhood that support was Mr. Saxman is doing, myself included. I give him credit for holding the developers AND the city accountable. A lot of community members' blood, sweat, tears, and time when into creating the neighborhood Design Guidelines.

Good points.

Michael Strangeways wrote:

It's about time someone had the guts to stand up to the cheap ass developers who don't give a shit about the neighborhoods that they're building in and the gutless city that doesn't have a clue about smart urban development.


Posted by Phil M | April 2, 2008 1:13 PM

I checked out the warehouse architecture. I'm familiar with the car dealerships, but I'd like to see sentinel's photos from the neighborhood. I'm curious how easy it is to make this architectural style jive with housing. Are there many new apartments/condos that successfully conform to the style?

Re: parking near Linda's. There is a *huge* parking lot above Hot Mama's. Isn't that right across the street? I think it belongs to SCCC but they open it up at night. It costs like $3 and it's always mostly empty. You're not that cheap are you? I guess you do go to Linda's. Zing.

Re: "cookie cutter" development. This is such a pet peeve of mine. The only things you could really describe as cookie cutter without extreme hyperbole are pre-fabricated homes and townhouses. If you're fond of describing these new large housing structures as cookie cutter, consider that trying to make new development conform to existing architectural guidelines of a neighborhood isn't much different. Stop saying 'cookie cutter' when it's merely that you don't like the building or the particular architectural style.

Posted by w7ngman | April 2, 2008 2:38 PM
Posted by w7ngman | April 2, 2008 2:40 PM

kudos to dennis. The Pearl District in Portland is awesome. As is Tribeca in NYC. As are *certain* buildings in the Pike-Pine corridor. I live in a former warehouse in the Pike-Pine corridor and wish there were more buildings like it.

Again, good job, Dennis!

Posted by vc | April 2, 2008 5:43 PM

I say yay. If it means we get a better building out of it, hell yeah. I'd rather look at a parking lot for a year +. I miss that block.

Posted by Deacon Seattle | April 2, 2008 5:47 PM

It's about time someone had the guts to stand up to the cheap ass developers who don't give a shit about the neighborhoods that they're building in and the gutless city that doesn't have a clue about smart urban development.

I just had to echo that sentiment. These buildings will be around for many, many years. Do you really want an eyesore like this on that space? Is that any way to honor the businesses that were razed? Let's see some architecture that we can be proud of.

Posted by vc | April 2, 2008 5:47 PM

Dennis is doing the right thing. The project will be better - and thereby the rest of the neighborhood.

Other neighborhoods are also standing up to this thoughtless development that favors blind density over smart infill.

Posted by its everywhere | April 2, 2008 11:27 PM

I'm so tired of this nimby crap. get over it.

Posted by Eric | April 7, 2008 6:06 PM

Thank you Mr. Saxman for voicing your convictions and I appreciate the coverage of this issue!

Posted by x | April 8, 2008 3:51 PM

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