On April 9, the city Hearing Examiner's Office was packed tighter than a GOP vagina, as four groups filed appeals to block a Department of Planning and Development (DPD) recommendation to allow a family of Northgate property owners to raise their buildable property height 25 feet without committing to replace all of the 207 low-income apartments currently located there.
Currently, the property owners would have to replace all of affordable town homes on the site (plus some) if they wanted to redevelop the property to its maximum height. But if the DPD's recommendation holds, they could redevelop several stories higher and build up to 3,128 new units, while only preserving between 94 and 156 units of affordable housing*. (Exhaustive backstory here for your nap-inducing pleasure.)
In their appeal statement, the Seattle Displacement Coalition argues that the DPD failed to assess the ramifications of losing 207 affordable apartments adjacent to the Northgate Mall and within walking distance of a transit hub and future light rail. "This rezone will cost the city $15-$20 million to replace them," says coalition leader John Fox. He estimates that each unit would cost at least $200,000 to build elsewhere, which the city would subsidize 30-40 percent.
The Seattle Displacement Coalition—which always advocates for one-for-one replacement of affordable units during redevelopment projects—wasn't alone in lodging complaints. Three other groups of also appealed the DPD's decision, including the property owners themselves.
*Housing considered affordable for a family of four living off an income of $33,500 to $52,244.
· The Maple Leaf Community Council argues that the DPD's recommendation failed to consider the traffic and pedestrian impacts of the property redevelopment, "environmental harm to trees," stormwater drainage issues, "inadequate mitigation of toxic dust from demolition," and, of course, the loss of affordable housing.
"I would love to think we could get this decision remanded on the affordable housing component because it was so egregious," explains David Miller, director of the Maple Leaf Community Council, "but just in case, we're trying the kitchen sink approach."
· Nearby property owner Sue Geving is also contesting the recommendation based on traffic and environmental concerns.
As I previously mentioned, the DPD's recommendation came with several (arguably weak) caveats, among them, that the Mullally family preserve some affordable housing on site (three to five percent of its total rentable floor space) and commit to hosting that affordable housing for 50 years.
· But lawyers for the Mullally family are protesting the DPD's caveats requiring them to build and keep any affordable housing on their property.
What all this means is the City Hearing Examiner's office will be crowded on May 22, when these groups will all try and convince the hearing examiner to send the DPD's recommendation back to the department for revisions. The Hearing Examiner could also send it on to the City Council, which will ultimately decide the matter.