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Monday, April 7, 2008

Lucky in Lake City; Massive in Maple Leaf

posted by on April 7 at 13:15 PM

It’s a big week for design reviews. I’ll try to post them all on Slog with pictures and meeting information. Info about tonight’s reviews are below.

Also in Boom news, there’s now a way to reach us. Got a tip about a development that you love, hate, or think needs a little light? Send an email to

Lusty Lake City

The adult entertainment boutiques on Seattle’s northern stretch of Lake City Way can look forward to a tide of new singles in the neighborhood. Granted, they’ll be seniors living in affordable housing—sexy, sexy affordable senior housing.


Firstly, here’s to hoping this isn‘t the final color palate—it looks like Easter threw up on an accordion. Second, here’s to hoping everything goes well at tonight’s early design guidance meeting. Steve Smith Development, LLC has proposed an eight-story building containing 3500 square feet of ground level commercial space, 160 residential units above, and parking for 69 vehicles underground. What an improvement on this tundra of dispair…


Morgan Design Group

When I spoke to Morgan Design Group’s John Parsaie in February, he said this project was being built in conjunction with two other properties to be managed by Senior Housing Assistance Group (SHAG). Yay SHAG! One’s under construction on NE 130th Street and another on the corner of Lake City and 137th; I wrote about the latter over here.

Concerned citizens and senior lovers can head to tonight’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. in room 209 of the University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way N.E.

An “A” for Effort

I understand the argument that townhouses of today are analogous to the lovely row houses of yesteryear. And I know density will save the world. But when I look at the cream-colored, vinyl-sided constituents of the housing Borg going up everywhere, it makes me want to pop out my eyes with a melon baller. So, I enthusiastically applaud the thoughtful design proposals for a housing complex in Maple Leaf.


Prescott Homes Inc plans to construct 24 townhouses and 15 single-family residences for a total of 39 units. 47 parking spaces would be included inside the buildings.


Runberg Architects

Some of the residences—packed in at 25 units per acre compared to the neighborhood average of 9 units per acre—fit the attempted goal of “Northwest Modern.”


Runberg Architects

Whereas some of the duplex designs fall flat, looking like earth-toned California splits (pop-up).

The project has already undergone numerous design reviews, costing nearly $27,000 in pre-building fees, but in its last review (.pdf), the design-review board requested further modifications. The developer and architect will use this meeting and the current proposal (.pdf) to address the board’s outstanding issues, including: fitting in periphery buildings with the surrounding single-family houses, breaking up monotonous roof lines, and screening trash.

Tonight’s meeting is at 8:00 p.m. in room 209 of the University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way N.E.

RSS icon Comments


So, will they be affordable below median income?


I see ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 7, 2008 1:20 PM

Depending on the rents the developers manage to get once the townhouses fail to sell, it's possible a below-median family could afford a lease, yes.

Posted by tomasyalba | April 7, 2008 1:31 PM

Kudos to Maple Leaf for all of their effort in the design review process to make this a developement that will be as positive as possible for their neighborhood.

Posted by Renee | April 7, 2008 1:34 PM

Kudos to Maple Leaf for all of their effort in the design review process to make this a development that will be as positive as possible for their neighborhood.

Posted by Renee | April 7, 2008 1:34 PM

The Maple Leaf project is disappointing to me for one major reason. Urban Forest. There are a number of decent sized (18 inch+ DBH) Douglas Firs in front of the Camp Fire buildings (you can see them in the aerial photo). They're some of the tallest in the neighborhood. I believe a select few may remain, but most look like they're marked for removal. I understand developers want the most from their site, but in terms of Urban Forest, this is as close as it gets. Those trees are helping each other - they're not lonely giants cut waiting to fall in the next windstorm - they actually create a wind-blocking canopy. Even if they are "replaced", they won't be truly replaced until the replacements are 100 ft tall.

Can you tell I'm disappointed? I'm disappointed.

Posted by STJA | April 7, 2008 2:11 PM

The townhomes referenced will remove all but 36 of 108 trees and prominent shrubs on the site. Two arborists, including one from the city, say the townhomes are so close to the remaining 36 as to endanger their survival.

This is not affordable housing, at $550-750,000 per unit. All are well above the 2007 neighborhood median home sales price at $430,000.

What isn't clear from the pictures is these units are 30-37 feet tall and about 10 feet off the sidewalk. Their height and scale dwarfs everything in the neighborhood.

A structurally sound 20,000 sf building, that could house 10-12 units itself if intelligently remodeled, will be demolished to make way for this development. That makes it hard to label what replaces this building "sustainable" or even environmentally sound.

These negatives are why the neighborhood has been so active to try to find a better development plan than this one. The community does not seek to stop development, only make it a better fit for this unique site.

If you transplant these individual unit designs to a real L2 transitional zone where much of the townhome dreck (I love the "Borg" reference!) has been going in, I think the neighborhood would not be upset. On *this* property -- given its unique wooded area, orphan L2 status surrounded by single-family, proximity to the coming reservoir park to the east -- they don't work. This doesn't mean 39 units can't work on this site, just not the 39 units as currently conceived and sited.

Posted by David Miller | April 7, 2008 2:15 PM

please, no more fake gables. just take it off & have 1 big one. don't insult my intelligence by gluing a "nested" gable on the facade.

NW Modern, my ass.

Posted by max solomon | April 7, 2008 2:48 PM

"Real" Seattle craftsman houses are covered with fake doo dads and gee gaws. Nothing says Old Seattle like lipstick on a pig.

Posted by elenchos | April 7, 2008 2:54 PM

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but the ground floor of that Lake City Way thing looks to be about ten feet deep. This is standard nowadays (see the appalling -- and appallingly named -- Fini on Phinney Ridge) but it's NOT conducive to usable retail.

Posted by Fnarf | April 7, 2008 2:59 PM


New Urbanism, Seattle style - "It became necessary to destroy the environment in order to save it."

Posted by Mr. X | April 7, 2008 3:08 PM

I think this proposal looks fantastic. I just wish all townhome developments in this city were this well thought-out.

Posted by Cale | April 7, 2008 3:16 PM

Lake City could use another Quiznos/Kinkos/teriyaki/dry cleaner/tanning salon retail strip.

Posted by laterite | April 7, 2008 3:16 PM

tundra of disrepair ... you're not allowed to come to lake city anymore.

Posted by superyeadon | April 7, 2008 3:17 PM

Color Palette - I suspect that IS the final color palette. Having it way up north in Lake City will balance out the hideous new senior housing at Rainier and Charleston just south of Franklin H.S.

p.s. "Palate" is the roof of the mouth.

Posted by Ad | April 7, 2008 3:51 PM

@6 wins.

Look, you may think $500,000 is affordable - but it isn't.

(notice no mention of more reasonable alternatives by me, since you all love single-family housing for the rich and ultra-rich and their artist hangers-on ...)

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 7, 2008 4:24 PM

Doesn't look like a California split. But nice try at the lingo thing!

Posted by Non | April 7, 2008 4:50 PM


This is new construction in a beautiful north Seattle neighborhood with tons of green space... What do you expect?

This is not the stuff affordable housing is made of.

Posted by Cale | April 7, 2008 4:57 PM

@ 6 wrote: "The community does not seek to stop development, only make it a better fit..."

Ah, the rallying cry of the NIMBY.

Posted by Nimbys suck | April 7, 2008 5:55 PM

The suburbs thank you for increasing sprawl @17 ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 7, 2008 6:04 PM

Since when does affordable housing = a solution to sprawl? Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure the increased density of this development will do just fine to help against sprawl.

Posted by Cale | April 7, 2008 6:45 PM

You are saying that the retail looks to be 10 feet deep based on the sketch in this post?

Posted by David Sucher | April 7, 2008 7:43 PM

Non @ 16) It does look like a California split. Here's a picture of one. You'll notice the similar arrangement of the front door, driveway, and bedrooms as the duplex pop-up image in the post. Obviously, the duplex isn't a single-familty building, so it's not quite the same. But you see what I'm getting at.

@14) Thank you, my copying-editing angel. Was typing quickly and tapped out the wrong "palette."

Posted by Dominic Holden | April 7, 2008 7:47 PM

The bottom line is always money. Developers like this don't do anything to help an already beautiful neighborhood. All they do is see an opportunity to make money for themselves, while we (Maple Leaf residents) are unfortunately stuck with the task of trying to mitigate the damage they cause. There is absolutely no good reason to destroy that many trees and squeeze that many "units" into that space but for the desire to maximize their own personal fortune at the expense of a whole community. This total lack of any sense of community responsibility on the part of the developer (other than token window dressing)is very sad and disgusting.

Posted by Mike Schirmer | April 7, 2008 9:25 PM

Mike Schirmer.

I live in Maple Leaf. I reserve judgment on this particular project as I haven't seen the plans.

But I see our neighborhood every day and the scarcity of street trees makes me wonder whether the drama over the "urban forest" is just a convenient make-weight.

If we really cared about trees we, as individuals, would plant them.

Posted by David Sucher | April 7, 2008 10:05 PM

@18 - Two things:

1. What's wrong with wanting what goes into our neighborhood not to suck? Is there ANY comment a neighborhood could make about a development (other than, "Please sir, may I have another.") that WOULDN'T cause you to make a NIBMY crack?

2. The community has been approached by three different developers, all with plans that are better than the one currently proposed. One reuses the building for housing units. All three don't build inside the grove.

I can't speak for when other communities use that phrase, but in this case Maple Leaf actually means it.

Posted by David Miller | April 8, 2008 12:33 AM

@21: Yup. That and my personal experience with this type of building. Maybe it goes way back, but if it does it would be highly unusual. And note that the description says 3500 sq ft of retail, and that strip looks 100 feet long, which means an average depth of 35 ft. -- not ten, but nowhere near deep enough to provide adequate retail space. They should go all the way back to the back of the lot.

Posted by Fnarf | April 8, 2008 2:47 AM


This is not the forum to get into the details of optimum depth for retail space but assuming that the lot is 100 feet deep (minimum) then you'd have retail spaces which are 100 feet deep. Not a good idea.

That's designing yourself into a spot where you MUST have national or large regional tenants -- like a Bartells or Wallgreens -- rather than the idiosyncratic "mom-and-pops" which make a neighborhood streetfront really interesting. A reasonable space for a small store is 1000 SF, (though it could even be smaller.) That would mean (in your model) a retail space of 100' depth by 10' wide -- that's far too narrow. More traditional and practical is 50' deep and 20' wide. The back part of a retail space is not valuable except for a larger retailer.

Please reconsider.

Posted by David Sucher | April 8, 2008 9:08 AM

David Miller.
Please don't speak for "the community."

Posted by David Sucher | April 8, 2008 9:10 AM

Dominic I always love reading your posts to SLOG/Stranger.. please keep them coming.

One question... this is always a thorn in my side.

Why can't we mandate that all these new developments mimick how Vancouver does their architecture? Why all the cookie cutter approach to a square building with no character?

2 things I'd like to see from EVERY development going forward...

1. Green Grass greenspace should be mandated with 25 foot setbacks from the curb for all buildings. I don't care how you integrate that greenspace into the design, but I am SICK and TIRED of seeing nothing but square brick buildings built right up against the street or "sidewalk" with no setback to a building.

2. Balconies or porches. Every unit of housing, should be required to have a LARGE balcony (or alternatively a porch) that is attached to the property. If I am going to drop $400,000 + on a new condo, I sure as hell better be able to feel like it is a genuine home that I can entertain in. I have yet to see ANY new projects that have adequate balcony space for a table and 4 chairs with a grill. To me this equates to a 10' x 20' sized space off of the side of the building. Better yet, I want a space this size to have the ability for me to place a hottub on my balcony if I deem it so.

I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I constantly have the feeling of being cheated with these eye sore designs that are presented and rubber stamped at these types of "proposal" meetings. There is no way an average citizen who would like to see their city evolve in a way such as Vancouver could ever effectively attend all the different meetings and make a substantive long term difference.

Vancouver planning and development has a HUGE start in the right direction. Seattle quite frankly... is a joke.

Posted by Reality Check | April 8, 2008 12:17 PM

I've talked with architechts here in Pennsylvania about projects as part of my job and some of them have told me that the software they use to make these pretty pictures is not too generous with the color options. Either things don't look quite right on the computer or there is a big difference between hues to choose from when the one you want is in the middle. But we may be working with antiquated software out here in bumblefuck Pennsyltucky. Or they may be lying.

Posted by courtlyn in Pennsyltucky | April 8, 2008 3:44 PM

@28: I'm a Maple Leaf resident too, and David Miller speaks for me on this issue. Trees like the ones in the Waldo property take a LONG TIME to grow. I can plant all the trees that I want but they won't be anything like the mature trees there. We can't afford to lop them down at a developer's whim. Urban trees help to reduce pollution and absorb stormwater, not to mention their aesthetic value.

Posted by mynameiskate | April 8, 2008 11:57 PM

After posting my last comment (#28), I realized I should clarify something so I'm not painted with the NIMBY brush. I'm not against density in my own neighborhood, really. I'm against imposing that density on such a unique and valuable site. We CAN'T MAKE MORE of these trees, not without decades of growth.

I'm all for adding dense housing on sites that make sense. For example, that piece of shit condemned building on the northeast corner of 75th & Roosevelt. Anything could go in there and I'd think it was an improvement. (And this site is closer to my home than the Waldo site.)

Posted by mynameiskate | April 9, 2008 12:35 AM

Right Kate.
He speaks for you and that is fine and I appreciate the impulse behind this effort to save the trees.

BUT I still think it is strange that if people love trees so much they don't ALSO plant their own. I have and it's remarkable how quickly they grow and have impact.

And I do not like it when people try to seize the high moral ground of speaking for "the community" when they simply speak for a group of individuals even if a large group. We have had no referendum on this project so it's not appropriate to claim to speak for "the community."

Posted by David Sucher | April 9, 2008 11:18 AM

David Sucher, please don't assume I don't plant trees. I've planted 6 trees in the Seattle area in the past few years. While this is great, all of those trees are still tiny and won't reach the size of the trees on the Waldo site (2-3 ft. in diameter) for maybe a hundred years.

Posted by mynameiskate | April 9, 2008 2:23 PM

I made no such assumption about you personally, Kate. But it is quite obvious that you and I must be some of the few as Maple Leaf is relatively bereft of trees.

And yes, I understand that it takes time for trees to grow.

I hope you will admit that it appears quite odd for people to protect trees on someone else's property when they have not -- en masse -- planted trees themselves.

Posted by David Sucher | April 9, 2008 9:39 PM

Mr. Sucher,
You are beating the same tired drum that doesn't make any sense. There is absolutely nothing odd about people wanting to protect trees on someone else's property any more than we try to preserve an historic landmark which presumably is someone else's property. This historic hospital is a an unusual and unique property unlike any other residential property around it. It should be obvious to you that it would not be possible to create the same urban forest on other standard size residential lots even if trees were planted en masse...

Posted by Mike Schirmer | April 14, 2008 11:37 PM

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