The Puget Sound Business Journal reports:
Real estate developer Greg Smith said he plans to build the tallest skyscraper in downtown Seattle on a site where the famous Metropolitan Grill steakhouse operates.
At 77 stories, it would be one floor taller than Seattle's tallest building, Columbia Center.
Sounds cool—but I'll believe it when the project actually has financing and a master use permit. Seattle's last boom cycle brought us tons of developers ballyhooing extravagant proposals without moving a teaspoon of dirt.
Have you taken your eyeballs for a walk downtown lately? Specifically, past 8th Avenue and Pine Street, where developers are in the midst of constructing a 40-story apartment tower across the street from the Paramount? Here's an artistic rendering of what the building's supposed to look like.
Here's what it actually looks like:
You could call this modern, I guess. As interpreted by a troupe of Romanians. From 1992. Worse, the building is spitting distance from Olive 8—you know, that condo tower with all the blue flappy things that remind everyone of Hollywood maxi pads.
Basically, it is my opinion that this two-block radius is fast becoming an epicenter of ugly. But then, people tell me all the time that I have no taste. To the polls!
Anyone else obsessed with Vine? I feel myself becoming obsessed with Vine.
Hey Seattle, have you seen the nonsense going on at the development site of 1519 Minor, the tomato-hued "green" apartment building site (formerly a parking garage) happening right behind the Pillars dog park? Here, take a look:
I do not understand why the architects have chosen to install horse blinders on this building. Perforated horse blinders! On every window! The website tells me nothing. Can someone please explain to me the purpose behind this perforated eyesore?
Because I don't get it. I don't get it. I don't get it.
It's the hysteria heard 'round the world:
Residents of some conventional homes and apartments near McConnell's worry that micro sprawl could overcrowd their neighborhood infrastructure, adding to traffic congestion and making already scarce parking even harder to find.
"These are like boarding houses on steroids," said Carl Winter, founder of the group Reasonable Density Seattle and a resident of the neighborhood. "I'm living the nightmare."
Micro developments have drawn criticism for not facing the same level of design and environmental review that a newly constructed conventional apartment undergoes because a single-dwelling is defined as a unit that includes its own kitchen.
Sorry to break the news to Mister Winter (mister is probably an inappropriate title for a child throwing a tantrum), but having the city count microhousing units differently, subject them to a superficial design review, and make them undergo an environmental review won't wake him from this nightmare. Some of those changes aren't bad—if done with a light touch. But Winter's nightmare is what he considers overcrowding—an ostensibly inhumane concentration of people living in Capitol Hill, a neighborhood that he apparently believes should be a moderate-density haven with ample parking for house owners.
But Capitol Hill, and the rest of the central city, is destined to be high density. Streets will be more crowded and parking more scarce. It's already been zoned for that density. Sixty-five foot and forty-five foot buildings—and even taller in some places—are going to dominate much of the area in zones that allow multi-family housing (condos, apartments, aPodments). That's only 11 percent of the city, overall, but that's what will get built there. The question is how difficult it is to build them. aPodments are typically built on just single or double lots—they're small by nature—so further review of impacts and design flexibility will yield indiscernible changes to their design. However, Winter's campaign of obstruction will drive up the prices, making the rentals less affordable for workers. But his nightmare—his fear of more people, of more renters, of parking at a premium—is going to get worse. And worst of all, he's foisting his nightmare on others by pushing more low- and mid-wage workers out of town.
This news is approximately three hundred million internet years old (I saw it Monday), but it hasn't been on Slog yet.
Treehugger reports that a firm called Broad Sustainable Construction has obtained final approval to begin, starting a June, building a 220-story tower in Changsha, China, that reaches a half mile high, making it the world's tallest building. Ominously, they're giving it the same name as that bland restaurant on top of the Space Needle: Sky City.
Unlike decorative towers that serve airplane food and trophy skyscrapers like the Burj Khalifa, this Sky City is supposedly functional, affordable, and comparatively inexpensive to build. Many components of the pre-fab modular construction are being built off site, so the on-site construction schedule is only about three months. "It all just bolts together," writes treehugger. "BSC claims that by building this way, they eliminate construction waste, lost time managing trades, keep tight cost control and can build at a cost 50% to 60% less than conventional construction."
But the description gets a little breathless. "By using elevators instead of cars to get to schools, businesses and recreational facilities, thousands of cars are taken off the roads and thousands of hours of commuting time are saved," they gush, adding that it will include nearly one million square feet of vertical organic farms. "The numbers continue to stagger. In one building, there will be accommodation for 4450 families in apartments ranging from 645 SF to 5,000 SF, 250 hotel rooms, 100,000 SF of school, hospital and office space, totaling over eleven million square feet. The building footprint is only 10% of the site; the rest is open parkland."
Here's a video:
I'm admittedly enchanted—it's a giant, modular arcology, you guys!!—but the pinnacle of density is not the pinnacle of destiny. In fact, it's arguably a relic of the past (towers in the park, anyone? and care to live in a mall?), and even if it's less expensive than other super skyscrapers, high rises are always more expensive to build and more complicated to finance than low-rise buildings, which provide ample density for a city and relate better to the street. Still, it's an amusing experiment in super-high-density-construction that isn't just for the rich. Though I doubt those 210th story penthouses are gonna be doled out to proles, either.
Luke Clark Tyler lives in a 78-square-foot studio in Midtown Manhattan for only $800 a month:
Here's Elizabeth A. Harris today in the New York Times:
Few are keen to crumple themselves and their belongings into an itty-bitty room and call it home, yet the eagerness to explore these spaces seems to spread like a determined little wildfire. Videos go viral; news media coverage quickly spans oceans; attendance is even up at a small Manhattan museum currently offering an exhibit on micro-apartments. Perhaps this voracious interest is mere curiosity about how living so small can be comfortably done. Maybe it is just voyeurism. More often, it seems, it is something else: schadenfreude, the pleasure one takes in the misfortune of others. Because, finally, somebody has an apartment smaller than yours.
The revolt some people feel toward small apartments is built partly on the belief that you're only human when you have a bunch of stuff, when you have lots of money, that you must live far away from other people. Huh. Monks in monasteries and nuns in convents—people who live with almost nothing in close quarters—are quite literally some of the happiest people I've ever met.
The Seattle City Council is holding a hearing on the controversial issue of micro-housing (also known as aPodments), in which small units share a common kitchen. It's a brown-bag lunch hearing—I brought peanut M&Ms—but I should have brought a bento box.
Watch LIVE HERE.
In brief: These units provide affordable housing without any subsidies. However, neighborhood groups around the city are complaining about them as "changing the neighborhood character" with "sketchy people" and "transients." They also don't like that there's no public input in the permitting process. So Council Member Tom Rasmussen has hijacked his own transportation committee meeting—which normally would have nothing to do with housing regulations—to advance new restrictions and possibly a moratorium on aPodments.
This guest post is by Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, who chairs the council's Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee.
Would you like to live in a neighborhood that has many job opportunities, good public transit, a grocery store, a huge public park and interesting restaurants? If you say yes, then move to South Lake Union (SLU) —if you can afford it. And there is the crux of the problem that the Seattle City Council must address: Can we make SLU affordable to those of us who would like to live in a nice neighborhood in Seattle, not in Renton or Kent? The answer is—YES WE CAN. And here is how.
It’s straightforward: In exchange for the city upzoning land in SLU, which in most cases will increase the property owners’ wealth by millions of dollars, the public receives a benefit by requiring the development of that land to contain a percentage of affordable housing. How affordable? I’m proposing that an affordable one bedroom apartment be offered for rent at $975 for a person earning $36,000 a year or less. The mayor and other council members are proposing that a one bedroom rent for $1,200 for those earning up to $45,000. I’m guessing that there are a number of young people and recent immigrants just starting out, that earn less than $36,000, who would appreciate living in South Lake Union.
Other cities make similar requirements of their developers; over 250 cities in California do so. We say we want our workers to live in Seattle. Most large cities with a higher percentage of their workers living in their city than Seattle, also have such requirements. Makes sense. Affordable housing allows workers to live in the city and not have to commute miles away, dependent on public transportation or purchasing a car and getting caught in traffic congestion—not to mention contributing to carbon emissions and global warming.
This is how it would work: Increasing affordable housing units in SLU, or anywhere in the city for that matter, is done by adjusting an incentive program. The programs obligates landowners who take advantage of an upzone to their property to provide a percentage of affordable housing units. The mayor and other council proposals provide less than 5 percent of the total residential floor area to be devoted to affordable housing, whether it is built on site or off site of the rezoned land. My proposal in comparison requires 10 percent for on site development or the equivalent of 15 percent for off site development. The increase in fees to developers allocated to building affordable housing consequently would increase from a high of $22 per gross square foot to $96. Both are applied to 60 percent of the new construction that takes place on their upzoned lot. In comparison San Francisco’s fee is over $300, and their real estate market continues to grow at a faster pace than ours.
So, what’s stopping us?
Even worse than you thought:
Capitol Hill resident Charles Drabkin is surrounded by a community waging war to stop the surge of affordable housing aPodments, in which tenants share a kitchen. The way these things are permitted, there's no community notice, there's no lengthy design jury taking public input to delay the project, and there's no requirement to provide parking. Neighborhood community councils say it's too much density—and too many transient poor renters—for neighborhoods to handle. But Drabkin disagrees in a letter he sent this week to the Seattle City Council and The Stranger:
I am writing today to ask you two things first and foremost to support additional affordable micro-housing here in Seattle.
My husband and I are long time residents of Capitol Hill and in fact have a micro-housing project being built directly behind our townhouse (12th btwn Denny &Howell). These units will undoubtedly block our view of the Space Needle. I must tell you I don't care. The reason I live in the city is not because I cherish a glimpse of the Needle but because I love density and diversity.
These units will bring a large and diverse group of people to my neighborhood assuring that The Hill I love continues to have artist, restaurant workers, elderly and anyone who doesn’t want to spend $1,000/month on rent to continue to live in our neighborhood. When I first moved to The Hill 20 years ago this would have been a great option for me, if rents had been as high as they are today.
Additionally more people will bring more services, restaurants and shopping to the area making it a better place to live.
I would also urge you to have any public meeting on this housing during the evening when those of us who work will be able to attend. I know you are going to hear from many NIMBY activists bemoaning these projects, and I am all for making sure that we get good regulations to ensure environmental impact reviews etc... but a moratorium is not the answer.
Thank you for your consideration.
Good for Charles.
On Tuesday night, the Seattle Community Council Federation, an umbrella coalition of neighborhood groups, voted unanimously on a resolution asking the council to pass a strict moratorium on these aPodments. The Capitol Hill Community Council, a Laurelhurst group, and several other community organizations have also called to halt their construction completely. But they don't speak for everyone. Lots of people appreciate that aPodments create affordable housing that requires zero subsidies or incentives, and they don't buy into scare tactics that these buildings somehow won't last as long as other new construction, that the residents are sketchy, or that working-class renters aren't part of their neighborhood community. It's important for the council see that opponents, organized and wealthy though they may be, don't actually speak for the entire city. Lots of people who don't spend their lives in a sewing circle kvetching about "transient renters" believe that we should be building housing people can afford. The council needs to hear from more people like this.
Vanessa Wong at Business Week:
Micro-apartments, in some cases smaller than college dorm rooms, are cropping up in North American cities as urban planners experiment with new types of housing to accommodate growing numbers of single professionals, students, and the elderly. Single-person households made up 26.7 percent of the U.S. total in 2010, vs. 17.6 percent in 1970, according to Census Bureau data. In cities, the proportion is often higher: In New York, it’s about 33 percent. And these boîtes aren’t just for singles. The idea is to be more efficient and eventually to offer cheaper rents.
To foster innovation, several municipalities are waiving zoning regulations to allow construction of smaller dwellings at select sites.
Is Seattle running toward micro-apartments like these other sensible cities? Will our elected leaders embrace this trend to affordably house workers in the city? No way. They're running away. Although Seattle doesn't have some of the preexisting restrictions that prevent small apartments in the first place, as far as I can tell, that's not stopping Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen from pushing for new restrictions that make 'em harder to build. Rasmussen floated a potential moratorium on aPodments—a form of affordable, small housing in which residents share a kitchen—and now the council is indulging a neighborhood campaign against the high-density housing for the working class.
The council is holding a hearing on micro-housing developments on April 18 specifically "in response to questions and concerns raised in several Seattle neighborhoods," according to a council press release.
When is the council's NIMBY-oriented hearing? At 11:30 a.m. on a weekday.
Critics say that's a time when neighborhood busybodies can pack City Hall but a time when workers are at work. So, in an e-mail to the council, Pinehurst neighborhood activist Renee Staton asked if "we will be able to hear from all stakeholders if the meeting is held in City Hall during a time that most people are working." She suggested the meeting be held in the evening.
My advice to the council: You should only agree to an evening meeting if want to give micro-housing a fair shake.
This guest post is by Roger Valdez, director of Smart Growth Seattle, a group supporting more housing in Seattle.
There are three types of land use that have generated lots of discussion and debate about how and whether Seattle grows in the next 20 years: zoning in South Lake Union; small, affordable apartments; and infill development. Who will control this growth? Who will determine how much housing will cost? How much will we build? Where will that growth happen?
We simply can’t and shouldn’t micromanage coming growth, trying to control the price of every apartment, the roofline of every new home, and the siding and color of every new apartment building. Trying to do that will slow growth, having the effect of lowering housing supply, increasing the costs to accommodate new people, and, in the end, increasing housing prices. And remember, dense cities are better for the environment, more efficiently using land, energy, aggregating demand for transit, and creating fewer climate-changing emissions per capita than sprawl.
Seattle has got to move beyond the confused notion that we can make the city more affordable and livable by imposing price controls on rental housing and trying to have a hand in the design and particulars of every new development. We’re a big city, too big to be acting like a couple rearranging furniture in their new apartment.
The broad outlines of what we need to do are pretty simple if leaders in the city can steer the debate in a different direction:
Lower Housing Prices: If we decide that housing prices are too high, then we need to increase supply (grant more building permits) and lower barriers and costs by reducing regulations and rules. Adding more process, imposing fees on new housing, and reviewing design won’t help lower prices—it will cause them to go up. A recent New York Times story reported that falling housing supply and increasing demand for housing is leading to rising prices. Nationwide prices went up 7.3 percent in 2012. "After six years of waiting on the sidelines, newly eager home buyers across the country are discovering that there are not enough houses for sale to accommodate the recent flush of demand," the paper reported.
Expand Choices: We need lots of choices for housing—from small, affordable apartments and cottages to new single-family homes. Singling out one form or another and bashing it doesn’t help. If it provides safe, healthy shelter and someone is willing to pay for it, we should permit it and let it get built.
Advocates for low-income housing are outraged by comments made on the Seattle City Council dais on Monday, comments they say are thinly veiled suggestions that Seattle "redline" the poor into designated ghettos. Council Member Richard Conlin made the case to his colleagues for focusing subsidized housing "along the light rail line in Rainier Valley" where it's cheaper to build instead of the "very hot neighborhood" of South Lake Union, where potential new zoning rules will actually generate the money to build that low-income housing.
Philippa Nye, of Ally Community Development, was the first to speak at a comment period, denouncing the idea: "Having everyone commute from Rainier Valley or Rainier Beach feels like housing segregation to me."
She was hardly alone—I heard from several people this week. "Having council suggest redlining and segregation is part of Seattle's future makes my stomach hurt," says Rebecca Saldaña, a program director of the housing advocacy nonprofit Puget Sound Sage. How the city should use resources generated by allowing taller buildings is an age-old dispute—one we saw seven years ago when the council allowed taller buildings in the adjacent Denny Triangle neighborhood and downtown—and raises a key question of urban planning: Are the wealthy entitled to monopolize an enclave of the central city while workers are expelled to the outskirts?
As you may recall, the Seattle City Council is considering a moratorium on building aPodments, a type of small, affordable rental that houses lots of tenants in what are essentially dorm rooms inside of town houses. They're popular, they produce affordable rents without any government subsidies, and they drive neighborhood homeowners nuts (poor people could live nearby!). Listening to those concerns, Council Member Tom Rasmussen has floated a freeze of their construction. I posted recently about why I disagree with Rasmussen, noting that he owns a large, expensive home in West Seattle, and followed up by asking every member of the council if they support a moratorium.
Most council members skirted the question, saying they hadn't seen a bill or they wanted to remain open to conversation, so I pressed harder on Council President Sally Clark (who also chaired the land use committee for several years):
From: Dominic Holden
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:33 AM
To: Clark, Sally
Subject: Backing a moratorium on aPodments
Are you supportive or opposed? Since the impact is unambiguous—either it freezes construction of them or doesn't—you don't need to see legislation first. So... yes or no?
News Editor, The Stranger
Clark, Sally wrote:
Hi, Dominic — Sorry. I breezed by this yesterday and didn't get back to you.
I heard you posted Rasmussen's home (a pic?). Did you really do that? Could that be taken as intimidation? I'm really not comfortable with the idea that we shouldn't discuss all the options. We may discard options through debate, but this thing about "don't even talk about it" is a little weird.
Council President Sally J. Clark
Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen is considering emergency legislation to stop construction of a type of small apartment that's extremely affordable to rent, quick to build, and wildly popular:
City council member Tom Rasmussen confirms this morning's caffeinated news and gossip that the council is considering legislation, which he may propose, that could place new restrictions (including, potentially, a moratorium) on so-called "aPODments," a brand name that's now widely used to describe buildings that contain numerous small housing units that surround a central living area and kitchen on each floor.
The units have been drawing opposition in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Eastlake, where residents are incensed: because they require no land-use review (each floor technically constitutes just one unit, even if it houses several unrelated people, so they're legal under existing code); because they don't typically require on-site parking, and, most importantly; and because they increase density—specifically, density of people like college students and low-income workers, the kind of folks who are frequently charged with diminishing the "character" of Seattle's established neighborhoods.
But they're making the NIMBYs furious.
APodments may not be perfect for everyone, but they are priced within reach for folks who otherwise couldn't live in the city. What makes them even better is that they produce this affordable housing stock without any subsidies. That's crucial because the city will never be able to provide enough subsidized housing with levies, or through zoning incentives, for all the workers who need to live in the city. If we don't have market-generated, affordable rentals like these, we push workers and poor folks to the outskirts, making Seattle a wealthy, white enclave. Rasmussen probably isn't thinking about that. He's wealthy. Rasmussen makes over $110,000 a year. He ran the most over-financed campaign in city council history in 2011 (out-raising his opponent by more than $300,000). His spouse is a partner at a venture capital firm, and, according to King County property records, they own a house valued near $1 million. But aPodments are great for thousands of other people.
I'm sympathetic to concerns that some aPodments have been built without going through the normal design review process. And if that's the beef, go ahead and propose legislation requiring more community notice and design input. But that has always been a superficial complaint. When I wrote about this years ago, I wrote about NIMBY neighbors' classist fears of "itinerant" workers and "very sketchy people." Neighbors say the units are ugly, they're inhumanely small, and they don't fit the "character" of the expensive neighborhoods around them. (The people who actually live in the aPodmencts are delightful, normal people who are happy to have a small, affordable home in the city.) But let's take this argument on its face—that this is about more review of construction projects (which I fear is still a tool for NIMBYs to oppose these projects): design reviews don't require a moratorium. They don't require freezing this type of affordable housing from being built—but that's apparently exactly what Rasmussen is considering.
It's an asshole move.
The 787 is the world’s newest and most sophisticated commercial jet. It entered service with Japan’s All Nippon Airways in October, 2011. JAL’s Boston-Narita service, introduced last spring, was the first 787 route in North America. The plane’s composite construction, along with much of its systems architecture, is for now unique among commercial jets. Teething problems, let’s call them, are common when new models are introduced. Jetliners undergo rigorous pre-delivery testing, and but they are large and highly complicated machines. Not everything works perfectly right from the blocks....
This is the third serious incident involving the 787′s aft equipment bay. The first two resulted in emergency landings—one by a pre-delivery 787 on a test flight in 2010; the other two months ago by a United 787 in New Orleans. Testing and certification criteria have come a long way since the days of the DC-10 and the Comet, and I am by no means calling the 787 unsafe, but still this trend is a worrying one. It could potentially affect the plane’s certification for overwater flying (so-called ETOPS restrictions dictate how far from diversion airports a twin-engine plane like the 787 is allowed to fly). Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that not every technical problem involving a 787 is indicative of a design flaw. From this point on, we can expect the growing fleet of 787s to be under rather intense scrutiny. That’s good for obvious reasons, but also bad because the media, which goes bonkers over almost anything involving airplanes, is liable to overhype even minor malfunctions that have nothing to do with the plane’s engineering.
I'm a nervous flyer... so, yeah, I'm kindasorta invested in the whole notion that new airplane models should work perfectly "right from the blocks." But I will somehow find the inner strength—or the outer Xanax—to defer Patrick's expertise on this one. (Via BalloonJuice.)
This New York Times article, documenting the inventive bribery and corruption techniques of Wal-Mart de Mexico, is a fascinating, enraging read:
SAN JUAN TEOTIHUACÁN, Mexico — Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.
One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.
After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.
But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision...
Here's some credit where it's due: Richard Conlin:
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin gave a generally glowing review of the proposed South Lake Union rezone in an interview with KUOW radio host Steve Scher this morning.
Conlin said, “I’m excited about it,” and added that the proposal to permit buildings up to 400 feet tall is “exactly the kind of density we should be encouraging.”
Before all the lesser Seattle yelpers jump in, supporting density like this—and 40-story towers—doesn't preclude extracting stronger neighborhood benefits from developers like Vulcan, mandating that larger projects include affordable housing, or requiring designs that keep interesting activity on the sidewalk. It's good for the mayor and council to tweak the proposal to build a really cool neighborhood, while still giving developers incentive to build there. But if any of the council members or mayoral candidates balk in the end—voting no or just rejecting an upzone altogether—they have no business being in office in any major city. They should run for office in Port Townsend instead.
After 36 years, B&O Espresso has finally reached its end on E Olive Way. "He has his money to do his project," manager John Auseth tells CHS about word received last week that the mixed-use development in the works for the last four years that will replace the 1924-built building is finally in motion.
Demolition of the one-story B&O Espresso building has been a long time coming, with plans for a six-story building on the site. I've written about a neighborhood campaign to stop the development over here. But as I reported last year, financing is steadily coming through for exactly these sort of projects: residential buildings on the western slope of Capitol Hill, in corridors well served by transit.
scant BOUNTIFUL at CHS (update: their post says the coffee shop will close on the 9th). But word on the street is that they're going close shop within two weeks, so I called B&O. An employee explained moments ago that they need to "be out by the 31st of December, so the 9th is our last day of business."
From the Seattle Times:
The Seattle Housing Authority announced Tuesday it will partner with either Paul Allen real-estate firm Vulcan or Forest City Enterprises of Los Angeles on a proposed $300 million makeover of Yesler Terrace, a project unprecedented in scope and scale in the United States.
The housing authority solicited qualifications earlier this year for a master-development partner and three firms responded: Vulcan; Forest City; and Hunt Companies of El Paso, Texas. Hunt was eliminated from consideration as a finalist after the authority reviewed its expertise in mixed-income, mixed-use projects.
The Seattle Housing Authority is conducting interviews with the two finalists next month, with the hope of formalizing and signing a contract with its preferred choice next year.
Want to help make Seattle affordable? We should do what the New York Times describes here:
IN July, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced his competition to create a building of residential “micro-units” in Manhattan, each ranging from 275 to 300 square feet, the plan ignited the imagination of countless architects and developers. ...
The allure of living in New York City, particularly for young singles, is as inexorable as the cruel math of making it happen. With rents heading in one direction only and more people wanting to live here, it’s a good bet that most people who move to the city will get considerably less space than they had hoped. But after they work through all the mental moves required to justify their choice to the dumbfounded — “You’re paying that much for this?”— comes the real adjustment: nesting in a space scarcely bigger than a bird’s nest.
You can already imagine the cries of classism if our City Hall encouraged developers to start building 150-square-foot apartments. The anti-density, lesser-Seattle howlers would line up to declare a competition like that a demeaning assault on the lower class, a threat to the dignity of renters everywhere, or evidence of gentrification! "Making our spaces smaller and our living conditions more congested and densely populated still smells like inequity," a commenter wrote when I advocated for smaller apartments a couple years back. And another scolded me, "Your perspective could use a level of class analysis and a little humility." Sorry, but I think that accommodating our growing population by shipping workers into the low-density sprawl of the exurbs is what reeks of inequity and classism. By shunting workers into areas poorly served by transit, they end up spending a giagntic chunk of their paycheck and time on car commuting. And a lot of those cries are insincere: Well-to-do residents of established neighborhoods oppose density in the name of legitimate-sounding concerns—like lack of parking, improper environmental reviews, and shadows from new buildings—while they mostly fear living near poor renters (Exhibit A). If you're actually interested accommodating houses and jobs for workers—which I am—then you also care about their right to live in the fucking city where they goddamn work. And, realistically, Seattle's trend of building 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments means a single person needs to pay upwards of $1,300 to live in town. Lots of workers just can't afford that.
The smattering of subsidies, like the city's housing levy, will never add up to provide homes for even half of the workers who want to live here but can't afford it. But by encouraging small apartments—200 to 350 square feet—affordable rentals can be built without any incentives or assistance at all. They'll need the cultural blessing of the mayor, the council, the media, the neighborhoods. And yeah, some sanctimonious dicks will scream bloody murder. Fuck 'em. They don't have to live in 'em, right? With property values eternally rising and the affordable stock disappearing in places like Pike/Pine, lower Queen Anne, Belltown, and the U-District, the way to keep the city diverse, vibrant—and accommodating for regular workers—is to build affordable rentals close to the city, where the jobs are. Seattle shouldn't be an enclave for the wealthy.
King County property records show that the million-dollar property with the lovely view on 333 Lakeside Avenue South belongs to Randall Spaan and Betty Lock, and over the last eight years, they've applied for permits that began with a retaining wall, added a large garage and basement, and then stacked two more floors to make the house what is—technically speaking—a three-story house with a basement. As you can see from this photo taken from the street, sent by a source asking not to be named, the home is rather large:
"The house now looms over the surrounding homes and already blocks the view of Mt. Rainier from many of the homes to the north," says our ticked off Slog tipper. "To add insult to injury, the homeowner has raised a banner on the house which reads:"
Second, I called Bryan Stevens at the city's Department of Planning and Development—aka The Government—about Mr. Spaan's property.
Today, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the $290 million Yesler Terrace redevelopment package, even as low-income housing activists and members of International District residents turned out in force, pleading with council members to delay the long-awaited vote.
The objections raised today by activists were not new. The Seattle Housing Coalition once again lobbied for more extremely-low-income housing and residents from neighboring International District repeatedly asked the council to delay the vote until the Seattle Housing Authority—which is orchestrating the rebuild—unilaterally committed to developing a Vietnamese cultural center.
“Once you approve this rezone, there is no leverage within the community to keep SHA at the table,” testified Quang Nguyen, speaking on behalf of the Friends of Little Saigon. "We ask you to delay this vote."
While council members were unwavering in their votes, they acknowledged that their proposal wasn't without flaws. "I understand your disappointment," council member Nick Licata said, calling the legislation package "the least bad decision that's available, considering that [federal] funding for anything else just isn't available."
Two weeks ago, council members passed over 20 amendments to address a slate of objections to the rebuild.
Still, today many people testified the council didn't push hard enough to accommodate the city's most vulnerable residents.
The last time Ira Glass came to Seattle I challenged him to a DJ battle: Ira's well-stocked iPad vs. my insane collection of disco show tunes. It was epic:
DJ Dan Savage and DJ Ira Glass danced their way through a three-hour set at Re-bar's monthly Trouble Dicso dance night. Needless to say, the space was packed—500 people squeezed their asses on the dance floor with greased hips, ready to throw down their best dance moves with the two men on stage. If you didn't make it through the door, here's what you missed: DJ Savage's 90-minute set—heavy on the broadway showtunes, with remixes of songs like Roger Whittaker's "What I did for Love" (from Chorus Line) to Ethel Merman's "I'm an Indian Too" (Annie Get Your Gun)... Glass followed up by playing—and singing along to—Miley Cyrus's "Party in the U.S.A.," clearly vying for the title. Glass also played tunes by Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Ok Go, and the White Stripes, among others.
What pop hits will Ira play this time? How many new disco showtunes have I managed to unearth in the two years since our first throw down? Will the nerds outnumber the gays? Will the gays outnumber the nerds? Who will emerge victorious? There's only one way to find out: join us at the Showbox on September 8! Order your tickets NOW!
AND! There are still some seats available for Ira's program at Benaroya Hall earlier in the same evening. Get your ticket to Ira Glass: Reinventing Radio here!
After mooning over this project for over a year, we're finally seeing legislative traction: Yesterday, Mayor Mike McGinn's office pneumatic tubed legislation down to the city council that would allow Capitol Hill Housing to develop the 29,000 square-foot police parking lot on 12th Avenue and Pine Street into a six-story affordable housing and arts space.
The total project cost has ballooned from $38 million to $43 million;
Still, the mayor's office confirms none of the money will come from the city's general fund.
Ha ha, nevermind! The mayor's office now says that, "$270,000 in 2012 and $75,000 per year for the following five years" will be funneled from the general fund for the project, according to mayoral spokesman Aaron Pickus. He added that the negotiation was "a fair contribution for the City’s use of the parking garage for the East Precinct."
CHH is running a capital campaign to raise $4.6 million. "We’ve had great success and been able to both increase our goal and get closer to the goal," says Michael Seiwerath, executive director of the CHH Foundation. (The former goal was $3.2 million.) "We've raised $3.2 million and we're now at 70 percent of our [$4.6 million] goal."
Bank loans, new market tax credits, and seller financing will pay for the remainder of the non-residential portion of the project, while the building's 88 residential units will be financed through sources like the Housing Levy, the state Housing Trust Fund, and low-income tax credits.
Assuming all goes swimmingly on the council's end, the project will break ground this fall and be completed sometime in 2014.
Here's the newly released construction proposal for the Bauhaus Block that would wrap a seven-story, 160-unit apartment building around the old Timken Building and Melrose Building. This is an important, controversial project that tests the city's ability to increase density while retaining the character structures that define Capitol Hill. (We've written about the project here and more recently here).
You can look at Hewitt architects' designs in this fat design packet, and here are a couple images of their preferred design:
Miko writes with a question shared by many people with eyeballs: "Is it possible that during a public design review for these large real estate projects in Seattle (Capitol Hill), one could stand up and say, "Please, for the love of God, don't paint your building that horrible yellow/brown/orange scheme?"
WHAT COULD MIKO BE TALKING ABOUT?
Okay, okay, this thing on 13th and Madison Street—that Baylis Architects presented as something far more appetizing when it was just a drawing—is one of the ugliest things the human brain could imagine. Did Stevie Wonder design it? With help from Helen Keller? Who's dead. The problem isn't just the colors, which I kinda like, but just the fact that it's a composition failure. And there are lots of new developments now on the way because lenders are investing in urban, mixed use properties again and lots of design review meetings are scheduled this summer. So here's my message to Miko:
Hi, Miko, nice eyeballs.
You can totally go to the design review board meetings and beg developers to refrain from using hideous color palettes. But, I'll warn you...
This is the first glimpse of architect Dave Hewitt's plans for a controversial development project at Melrose Avenue and East Pine Street. As we reported in April, Madison Development Group caused a firestorm when they bought several properties, including two character structures nearly a century old, with plans to construct a seven-story building on the site. But the firm was reticent to commit to preserving the structures—saying they could be gutted or razed. They have since committed to saving the two buildings.
Drawings released today show Hewitt's vision for constructing the new apartment building behind and around the old buildings.
The exterior of the old buildings will be "exactly as they are today," Hewitt told me in a recent interview. The floor plans will also be kept largely intact, and they intend—they say—to maintain the same density of street-level retail spaces that make the block one of the most commercially and culturally vibrant stretches of Capitol Hill. The new building will be set back from the roof lines of the old buildings by around 15 feet. Hewitt and Madison Development Group will present their plans to the city's Design Review Board on July 18 at 8:00 p.m.
My TCW: Take these folks at their word that they'll preserve the building's old functions (dense, relatively affordable retail), but citizens should keep their eye on this project. Go to the design review meeting and ask questions. This block is exemplary of the neighborhood's useful stock of character buildings, and successful community pressure for good design will set precedent heading into the next development cycle.