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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Building Big

posted by on October 24 at 17:50 PM


65th and 15th ave NE

Neighbors in Roosevelt have been freaking out over a potentially huge construction project on 65th and 15th. Last month, local property owner Hugh Sisley leased an entire block to an as-yet-unnamed developer. Rumors have been flying around the neighborhood for the last few weeks about a 12-story building—twice as tall as anything else in the neighborhood—going in across the street from Roosevelt High School.

Last night, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association held a community meeting to discuss the project.

The one consistent rumor about the project, is that the developer is working to build a 120-foot, block-long, multi-use building on the site and PR whipping boy Richard Milne—of Pacific Public Affairs—didn’t do a whole lot to calm neighbors fears. “I’ll tell you up front, they asked me to come and talk to you because I don’t know a lot,” Milne said, before dodging a flurry of questions about the project.

One neighbor asked Milne to dispel the 12-story building rumor, which would require a rezone. Milne wouldn’t, and indeed, the development team has been down to the Department of Planning and Development, where they were told that a rezone would require city council approval.

After Milne declined to give any details about the project, one audience member suggested to Milne that since he wasn’t offering any information about the project, “we should just tell you what we want.” “I’m not able to take notes,” Milne shot back.

The animosity last night’s meeting comes from the bad blood between Roosevelt neighbors and property owner Hugh Sisley. For years, the community has complained about junk-filled yards and dilapidated conditions of Sisley’s rental properties. Last month, Sisley signed away a full block to a developer, who will lease the property—just south of Roosevelt High School on 65th—for the next 99 years.

At this point, the developer really needs community support to push this project forward. However, they’re not doing much to gain the trust of the community. Supposedly, there are three partners involved in the project: Jon Breiner and Ed Hewson—who both work for ParagonREA—and a third “secret” partner.

There’s clearly a lot of anger in the neighborhood over this potentially monstrous project. The community’s resentment of Sisley—who stands to make quite a bit of money off of the deal—is carrying over to the developer, but it’s a bit mind-boggling that they’re choosing to keep neighbors in the dark.

RSS icon Comments


Not, it's not baffling, Jonah.

You can't fight what you don't know about.

Posted by Gomez | October 24, 2007 6:12 PM

So the neighborhood hates the run down houses, and they hate the development to replace them too. And they want to design the project: "we should just tell you what we want". If the neighbors stamp out this project, what they will get is a big freaking fenced off hole for twenty years. Sheesh. I'll bet the loudmouths represent less than a percent of the neighborhood, too.

The developers will reveal the details of the project when they file, just like every other project in the city. Everybody will get their chance to comment on the land use process, just like every other project in the city. That's how it's supposed to work.

Posted by Fnarf | October 24, 2007 6:22 PM


Posted by cressona | October 24, 2007 6:55 PM

Maybe it's not fair to bring up, but aside from mess, there's another reason Sisly gives people in the neighborhood the willies.

Posted by poltroon | October 24, 2007 7:13 PM

YIMBY, actually.

Guilt by association should be The Stranger's prefered line of attack here.

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2007 7:14 PM

I knew something was going on there. The old bungalows on 65th next to the fruit stand are all boarded up and fenced off, as are the other buildings around the corner on 15th. The whole block has been condemned. The only thing left is the fruit stand.

Posted by Justin J | October 24, 2007 7:18 PM

its a shame that the fruit stand will probably go, but the rest of that block was so fucking crappy the neighbors are just being pissy if they oppose any development

Posted by vooodooo84 | October 24, 2007 7:26 PM

it could be horrible, it could be great.

but 12 stories & a contract rezone? having been through a contract rezone, i'll wager that private developers have no stomach for the wait & the hoops they'll have to jump through.

everybody just calm the fuck down.

Posted by maxsolomon@home | October 24, 2007 8:13 PM

as a one time Sisley renter in one of the now condemned residences (1322 14th NE.. the pink one with the rock wall) I say let him build it. He has purposely let his properties run down for 30 years waiting for the opportunity to realize a vision of housing density and equinamity.

The NIMBY Roosevelt neighborhood is intolerant and intolerable in their narrow minded suburban mindset. If a potential development is not a single-family dwelling they have fought it tooth & nail, despite being a dense central neighborhood crying for more housing.
Having a local population of poor, artistic, counterculture and/or ethnic people is more terrifying and threatening in this neighborhood than 9/11, Iraq and another Bush in office combined.

Hugh has done more than anyone to people in need of temporary, cheap housing while retaining their dignity & autonomy than any local "aid" agency.
His properties & residents were left to the self-leveling acts of self-determination and residents' choice. Want to renovate? Sure, the local management will even take the cost of materials off your rent.
Want to grow weed in the attic? Sure go ahead, just don't complain if your wiring shorts out when you hack into more juice.
Want to operate as a way stop for Alaska punk rockers, artists and the semi-unemployed? Sure, whatever, just pay the rent.
Want to run a peaceful, co-op hippie love farm? Sure, just pay your rent on the first. In cash. No questions, no receipts.

Posted by langston | October 24, 2007 8:14 PM

Those neighbors should wise up and see the development as a massive improvement to their neighborhood. The property is right next to a freakin' high school: no one wants to live in a McCraftsman or restored bungalo in spot like that. The new development will have retail space (undoubtedly) and condos/rentals up top: higher density, lower traffic volume, higher transit ridership. Plus, with higher home ownership in the neighborhood the negative effects of Roosevelt High School students (litter, litter, and more litter, small crimes, etc.) will now encounter a force of resistance.

I say, BRAVO. Whatever they build on that site is welcome.

Posted by S. M. | October 24, 2007 8:18 PM

Langston - I used to live in the back of the acupuncture clinic across the street right after high school - I used to smoke and shoot the shit with the roosevelt kids afterschool in front of your place!

And yeah, having lived on that intersection, it's a shit hole. I loved it, but a shit hole. Bring on the development! Those roosevelt types aren't NIMBY's, they're, like the rest of Seattle it seems, a bunch of CAVER's - Citizens Against Virtually EveRything. "I fear change! Call the WHAmbulance!"

Posted by Juris | October 24, 2007 8:36 PM

Y'all don't know the Roosevelt folks. They just spent a year trying to get the light rail stop in the heart of their neighborhood to stimulate development. Their slogan was YIMFY--Yes in my front yard. They want density and would be fine with a 65 or 85 foot building there--but not a 12 story building. Read their neighborhood plan. That is something not contemplated in any neighborhood in Seattle.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | October 24, 2007 10:02 PM

what about The Hearthstone? it was a 10 story building surrounded by single family dwellings and a school. doesn't this sound like a similarly out of place but possibly welcome addition to the neighborhood?

Posted by vooodooo84 | October 24, 2007 10:57 PM

Don't know that building, but I am assuming it is on Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill, Belltown and Downtown are far different from the rest of the city. Sisley is a greedy bastard who has never cared about the neighborhood. This is just the latest chapter in that story.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | October 24, 2007 11:19 PM

Roosevelt does have some smart growth folks and some great leaders like Jim O'Halloren. I am not sure 12 stories is that bad if it is done well, or that 5 is so great if it is crap. Height is way too focussed on as a,pun intended, measure of a development. Thank God something is being done there. Everyone should take a deep breath and wait for the plans.

Posted by StrangerDanger | October 24, 2007 11:24 PM

@15--nice post. However, the Roosevelt neighborhood shouldn't be criticized for not trusting Hugh Sisley. Look here at how much property he owns in the neighborhood.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | October 24, 2007 11:36 PM

new to Seattle - do the neighbors have some title interest in this property?

if not, what the fuck is taking place that they can cause such misery if the project is all legal?

by the way - at the prospect of tear down and re development most properties get run down

makes sense for the owner and it sounds like this is not Media/Kirkland/Laurelhust style neighborhood anyway

often racism and class issues are behind some of this stuff - white people keeping it white while they play at the being good liberal race does not matter game

Posted by Robert | October 25, 2007 12:38 AM

I live just a block and a half from 65th and 15th but I never had any idea that one dude owned all of the shitty houses that litter the area around the intersection. The neighborhood itself is rad(and not in a boring white-bread kind of way), but the blocks between 15th and 12th are more than just an eyesore, they're a haven for unsavory characters of all sorts.

I'm glad they're doing something else with the block...all the rest of those dilapidated places should be done away with, as well. At this point, I'm not too worried about what goes in; I'd take a nice park over a 12-story building(and I think it would be a more appropriate choice given the proximity to the school), but then it could get a lot worse than a tall building.

My only request is that they don't boot the fruit stand. That place is a neighborhood institution.

Posted by iceniner | October 25, 2007 2:49 AM

Hooray for Fnarf. If the locals want to tell the owner what they want on the site, then they have the right to buy it.

Posted by Bento | October 25, 2007 4:16 AM

For years, the city let Sisley be the premier slumlord of Seattle. He's not some social justice freedom-fighter who took the rent and looked the other way. He rented over-priced fire traps. The city looked the other way because he lawyered up was always one step ahead of the DPD.

After a major remod at THEE premier Seattle high school, nobody expect Sisley's plans to get a happy rubber stamp from the city, but they'll approve something and it will still be fucked. The city wants density and the propsal as rumored is simply more than they know they're going to get. It's a starting point.

If you had a home in the vicinty of that particular block, would you want this shit built in your backyard? Anything Sisley does will be fucked up. Neighbors already know this. It's not NIMBY.

Posted by WeG | October 25, 2007 9:53 AM

This isn't about class or race - he's a rich white guy with documented ties to avowed white supremacists, fer Chrissakes. You gotta research it to believe it, I had no idea when I bought my house in Roosevelt 10 years ago. It's a nutty situation. Any talk about affordable housing and social justice is just a smokescreen for greed.

There's another project going in on Sisley land (recently transferred to his son in law) just a block away from this one, kitty corner to the QFC on 12th. It's the maximum project allowed under the current zoning, multi story mixed use etc etc and the neighborhood is completely behind it and urging it on.

If he'd take the same tack on the "Fruit Stand Block" the project would be done in no time, but getting it done isn't actually what he wants. Mr Sisley can't spend 30+ years constantly stonewalling DCLU, SFD, and King County Public Health and then expect to be blithely given an outrageous zoning variation, and he knows it. This guy litigates as a hobby (seriously, ask anyone who knows him) and this will drag on for years to come, much to his satisfaction and amusement. Presumably his development partners know this too and are just hoping he won't live too many more years.

Also note that there are laws on the books about not shading schoolyards that simply won't permit a tall building due south of the high school. He's tilting at windmills and everyone knows it.

Posted by RoughRider | October 25, 2007 10:49 AM

Roosevelt neighbors have earned the right to distrust anything that involves Sisley. They’ve had to live with his slums for years.

The block is mostly zoned NC-2 40. That’s 40 feet people. So no, the developers don’t have the right to build something that’s 120 feet—not even close. They need a rezone from the City Council to do it, and yes—they would be damn well advised to get community support if they expect to get a majority vote at the City Council that would triple the currently allowed building height.

Posted by BB | October 25, 2007 11:03 AM

Hugh Sisley has singlehandedly torn the soul out of the neighborhood, and most of the people who have commented here don't have nearly enough information to offer anything close to an informed opinion on this matter. He's a greedy man who is just plain sick. He's got a hoarder mentality--he hoards houses and he hoards garbage, too. He's not a saint, he's evil. It's stomach-turning.

It's also frightening how eager the neighborhood people are to see the houses torn down and replaced by apartment buildings that will still be on Sisley-owned land. They are ready to rubberstamp anything that will get rid of those houses, never mind that what replaces them may be just as ugly and shoddy. Thoughtful development may energize neighborhoods,but soulless development doesn't help anybody except the developer and landowner.

The way he has destroyed the neighborhood, does anybody really think he will be motivated by anything other than pure greed when the houses are replaced by new developments? These developments aren't going to provide housing for artists; at least at the 66th and 12th project, the spaces are all designated as market-rate units.

Hugh Sisley is not a saint. The people in his places tend not to have many options and he is taking advantage of that vulnerability. Over the past year there have been at least a half dozen fires and two shootings in the neighborhood. It's not cool and urban and edgy, it's sinister.

Now there's an entire block of boarded-up houses. Of course the fruit stand won't be spared, people! The writing's on the wall already.

The people from the Neighborhood Association are fine with those blocks being razed because their homes and businesses are safely out of the blocks in question. Most of the people who attended the meeting this week don't even live in the immediate neighborhood; they were mostly from Ravenna. The survival of their well-kept bungalows south of NEth 65th are not in question, so they are all for "density." But they don't want to think through the impacts. Would they like having a giant brick wall and a 70-space parking garage erected within inches of their homes?

This is a really complicated issue with a lot of weirdness on all sides. The Neighborhood Association is perfectly willing to gloss over facts and present slanted information to gain buy-in for their vision of what the neighborhood should be; the developers are deceptive and dishonest. The situation as it stand is intolerable and heartbreaking and what's coming may well be no better. It's not fear of change; it's fear of short-sighted change that can't be taken back once in motion. I hope that Hugh Sisley someday, somehow gets what's coming to him, and I don't mean more dollars to line his disgusting pockets.

Posted by heartbrokenneighbor | October 25, 2007 3:46 PM

Unsure how you can see the RNA as a bunch of conniving outsiders - the RNA is you and me, if you choose to show up. I attend the meetings sporadically at best, but I live right in Little Sisley on a block with multiple Sisley houses, and I support the RNA in its efforts to see local development done right (where "right" means embracing density and being transit+bike+pedestrian friendly). Personally, I look forward to a neighborhood of shops and apartments with a light rail station a stone's throw from my house (ever walked around near a BART station? Great neighborhoods!). If you don't, then show up and say so (but be ready to say what you DO want instead). Although it would have been better if you'd shown up starting 10 years ago.

The game now is to work with the city and Hugh's developers to make sure that whatever comes next doesn't suck. Thanks to a lot of hard work by the RNA on the neighborhood design plan over the past few years, the city has come to respect the voice of the neighborhood and has made it an integral part of the design review process. In the case of the 66th and 12th project the design has already been tweaked based on RNA suggestions to keep it pedestrian and bike friendly (different developers, though).

All the RNA asks is development within the applicable zoning, which, yes, means 4 story mixed retail+apartments. It sounds like you aren't happy about that zoning, but it's been zoned that way for a long time and with light rail (hopefully) on the way it's especially unlikely to downzone to suit you now.

Anyway, cheer up! For now, even a fenced off lot is a step up from what we had before - and I sure don't miss the yard garbage and the rats in my driveway (ever since Hugh decided to go for this zoning variance he's cleaned up his act quite a bit).

Posted by RoughRider | October 26, 2007 5:05 PM

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