Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Bellevue's Business Establishm... | County Unions Agree to Furloug... »

Monday, October 27, 2008

Roosevelt: New Deal or No Deal

posted by on October 27 at 15:55 PM

At an open house on Saturday, developers presented a plan to build apartments on 52 properties in the Roosevelt neighborhood to dozens of conflicted residents. On one hand, neighbors welcome any improvement to the lots. Many of the properties, mostly rental houses owned by controversial landlord Hugh Sisley, have unkempt lawns, cracked paint, and overgrown gutters. On the other hand, the developers want to replace those houses with “the highest and best use” for the sites—and some neighbors revile the idea of towers.

The proposal, as it happens, coincides with the neighborhood’s plan to allow taller buildings. A Sound Transit station will be constructed underground at 12th Avenue NE and NE 65th Street, if Proposition 1 passes next week. Residents are fine with buildings as tall as 40 feet around the station, but many residents say that Sisley wants 12-story towers—akin to proposals near the Northgate light-rail station.

“My concern is that all stations [would be] created equal,” says Jim O’Halloran, chair of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association’s land use committee. “Sisley has not proven himself an urban planner.” O’Halloran think the city should limit buildings to between four and six stories.

But if Sisley doesn’t get more height, he may back out of the deal and leave his houses as-is. Ed Hewson, a principal of Roosevelt Development Group, says “We will have to walk away and hand back our options to Mr. Sisley … if we can’t get enough density and reach a reasonable compromise.” The development company would manage the properties under a 100-year lease agreement. Hewson, however, would not divulge what a “reasonable” height would be. Sisley did not attend the meeting and did not return calls.

At Saturday’s meeting, Roosevelt residents enumerated their concerns—most of them typical of groups facing taller buildings. Those worries included out-of-scale developments, shadows cast on houses, and an influx of renters.

“If it’s a big swath of rentals—I’m not trying to be classist—it can be run-down,” says Kristen Lohse, a homeowner. She says she’s seen drug busts in the area while walking around with her two kids. But, she acknowledges, “I have to imagine anything would be an improvement.”

RSS icon Comments


Why the fuck are people always dragging their feet with density around here. 4-6 story buildings will just be demolished and lamented for their illustrious late 2000s design 50-60 years from now for not being twice the height. Bank on it.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 27, 2008 4:02 PM

I have to agree with BA. They should be jumping all over this - affordable rentals near transit would save that neighborhood in just a few years. Just think of the commute downtown - it'd be perfect single-income, no-kids professional community.

Just the sort of people who could keep all those shops open.

Posted by John Galt | October 27, 2008 4:06 PM

There is no discussion of station area planning at Northgate yet, so there is no discussion of 12-story towers near a Northgate light-rail station.

There is discussion of redevelopment and zoning changes along Northgate Way. But that is separate from station area planning.

The proposed Northgate light-rail station would be located adjacent to the current Northgate Park and Ride between NE 103rd and NE 100th.

Posted by Renee | October 27, 2008 4:08 PM

It takes a special kind of neighbor to be scared of poor people renting $2000/month apartments in brand new buildings.

Posted by jrrrl | October 27, 2008 4:13 PM

Renee @ 3) The "12-story towers" idea is one that Sisley has reportedly mentioned to neighbors. Based on my conversations with them, those neighbors are concerned that Roosevelt would be treated as an urban center and not an urban village, like Northgate. I think their concerns stem, in part, from the Northgate proposal for 65-foot to 125-foot buildings.

Posted by Dominic Holden | October 27, 2008 4:22 PM

I've seen drug busts is code for racism.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 27, 2008 4:26 PM

Neighbors who've enjoyed Sisley's particularly odious single-family slumlordery for decades should shut up with their reasonable questions, and look forward with joy to Sisley's future multi-family slumlordery? Because that will super save the planet and our poorly planned city? Is that right? Just checking.

Posted by tomasyalba | October 27, 2008 4:27 PM

And so we watch, mute handmaidens bound to witness, as the town of SeaAddle gives slouching birth to the true city to come...

Ironic that a private land baron holds the nascent city ransom to his layers of wrested profit.....

Oh but I do mourn the loss of the town... I'm sorry, but I do... The crisp drunken mornings swilling home through those quiet sleeping neighborhood streets... crashingly tip-toeing past not 12-story generic apartments but small urban Craftsman homes, generationally snuggled and comfortable on their lots like mushrooms grown to size in basement trays.... Goodbye measured, neighbor-knowing life -- Hello SF North.

It is intevitable.

Posted by merry | October 27, 2008 4:30 PM

@1 for the 40-100 story tall wake up and smell the coffee win.

Repeat after me: you can suffer through five sets of construction noise and impacts as we upzone from 1-3 to 4-6 to 6-10 to 10-20 to 20-40 to 40-100 ...

Or you can just do it once and GET IT OVER.

I choose doing it ONCE.

Density is why cities rule. Lower emissions, lower energy use, more efficient.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 27, 2008 4:31 PM

SF North? HOLY SHIT, WE NEED TO GET ON IT STAT! import about 150,000 mexican americans too. please. for the love of god.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 27, 2008 4:35 PM

how tall are the apts. in sweden?

Posted by max solomon | October 27, 2008 4:38 PM

Seattle is slowly destroying itself thanks to Mssrs Gregoire, Sims and Nichols.

These toadies have sold the soul of the neighborhoods and will turn N. Seattle into yet another blighted inner city.

Posted by John Bailo | October 27, 2008 4:47 PM

200 feet tall. but it's only fair considring their men are 160 feet tall.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 27, 2008 4:48 PM
Neighbors who've enjoyed Sisley's particularly odious single-family slumlordery for decades should shut up with their reasonable questions, and look forward with joy to Sisley's future multi-family slumlordery?

That's what the design review process is for. What are your reasonable questions? All of the concerns I've seen above have nothing to do with Sisley, and have everything to do with neighbors not wanting to live in an city with, you know, buildings.

Posted by jrrrl | October 27, 2008 4:49 PM

The reporter wrote that Sisley's partners refuse to say how tall they'd need to be granted carte blanche to build to avoid backing out. Sisley refuses to answer anything as usual. Hewson's a smart guy--Lakeside School, Harvard--so what's his motive to hide determinative details? Reasonable questions from neighbors who'd rather not have to speculate.

Posted by tomasyalba | October 27, 2008 5:05 PM

12-story buildings in this particular location are a patently absurd idea that any serious developer with an ounce of sense would be embarrassed to pitch to DPD with a straight face, and is a trial balloon/negotiating tactic that flies in the face of 10+ years of City planning and promises.

No wonder Bellevue Ave supports them.

Posted by Mr. X | October 27, 2008 5:15 PM

I love the north Seattle yuppies who moved into multi-family or commercial zones complaining now. SAVE THE SISLEY CRAFTSMAN CRACK HOUSES! If you moved into the neighborhood in the past 30 years you should have known the neighborhood would change. Just sell to developers, take your profit, and move away from the arterials or rail station.

Another benefit of more multifamilies is that they would give seniors* places to live in their own neighborhoods and frees up more precious single family craftsman homes.

*I know its against Stranger policy to mention or care about old people, its all about the hip young professionals.

Posted by RV Resident | October 27, 2008 5:16 PM


Um, I don't think ANYONE in Roosevelt is talking about saving the existing houses - and the developers threat to leave em all boarded up if they don't get their upzone to 12-stories is patently obviously pure bullshit.

In case you hadn't noticed, lots and lots of new projects have been built under the existing 45' and 65' height limits in Roosevelt and other similar neighborhood commercial districts such as Eastlake and the University District, so there's money to be made (and even more so in the case of Sisley, who has owned his properties free and clear for decades and only improves them when DPD hits him with a Notice of Violation because they're falling apart to a degree that even I - as big a fan of older buildings as you'll likely find - think is pretty clearly intolerable).

Posted by Mr. X | October 27, 2008 5:32 PM

Ditto #4.

The average (or is it median?) Seattle rent is $1,100 for a 1 bedroom. That's considered affordable for one person making $44,000 per year.

That woman isn't being classist so much as she's being an ignorant NIMBY bitch.

Furthermore, Sisley and his partners cannot afford to try to construct some shit-hole apartments. Given construction and financing costs (etc etc) there's no way they'll be renting 1 bedrooms for less than $1,000. (And if light rail comes, $1,000 will be the base rent for the studios...)

Further!-furthermore, it's not poor people in apartments that result in neighborhood blight. It's shitty apartment management that leads to neighborhood blight. Witness a local example of strong management turning around a real slum:

What did it take? Evictions (strong management) and some changes to environmental design (strong manager pestering upper management, and totally awesome!).

Posted by Hey Wait | October 27, 2008 5:35 PM

That Sisly is a delusional megalomaniac. But he is old. Just wait for him to die and then do something reasonable.

Posted by elenchos | October 27, 2008 5:49 PM

I like walking past craftsman homes too, but when I think of those homes as the potential roadblocks to development that they are, due to the anti-density shit-headery that often tends to go with owning a house in Seattle, I can't wait to see more of them plowed under.

Posted by Luke Baggins | October 27, 2008 5:58 PM

Mr. X, you know I'm right though. sure, this 12 story extortion is silly but i can point to a few old buildings being demolished to be higher which could have been prevented if there hadn't been an initial impediment to density way back in the early part of the 20th century.

people in Washington generally liked their small town lives intact. I'm from California and I aim to change that.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 27, 2008 6:09 PM

I'm with my pal Will on this one.
Towers rock, why the fear of towers, damn 12 stories is not even high! Try 40 or 60!

These NIMBY's are just trying to create their own mini monopoly -- they will own "housing near light rail" so of course they want others to have less of THAT.

Ir's called monopoly-rent-seeking conduct. Very classic capitalist economics.

North Seattle Liberals: Thy Face is Greed!

Posted by PC | October 27, 2008 6:12 PM


Once again, in this instance, no one, and I do mean NO ONE, is advocating for the preservation of the Sisley properties as-is (as it happens, I know a few residents of a Sisley house in a different area who are quite happy with him as a landlord, mostly because he doesn't raise their rent and leaves them alone, but that's an entirely different story).


Um, horsepucky. As it happens, I have an antique poster on my wall from 1917 of Belltown indicating that the Denny Regrade was targeted for big Manhattan-style growth even way back then.

That's always been the part of Seattle that was slated for high-rise residential development, but it's still taken close to 90 years for it to occur (though I'll leave it to you to go to the Seattle Displacement Coalition website to see how thoroughly that destroyed a large stock of unsubsidized low-income housing downtown).

And, by the way, even people in the Bay Area (let alone LA and the rest of California) are generally as opposed to the same kind of thoughtless high-rise upscale development for its own sake as I am, and I don't see your tenure there as having worked any miracles on that, so good luck with that here.

When the City adopted the Comprehensive Plan in 1994 (and did its 10-year revision thereof in 2004) they promised up and down that all of the growth proposed and more could be accommodated within the existing zoning. That said, many neighborhoods - including Roosevelt - adopted significant upzones in their neighborhood plans.

The City made a host of promises that it should keep, and developers bought their property with open eyes and the existing zoning restrictions need to live with the choices they made.

Posted by Mr. X | October 27, 2008 6:48 PM

Mr. X -

Do you by chance live in Maple Leaf?

Posted by Blue Skies | October 27, 2008 7:59 PM

I don't live in Roosevelt, but I know people who do. Hugh Sisley is absofuckinglutely nuts. The Roosevelt neighborhood is right to not trust him to develop anything. He has taken down his Sisleyville website, but he is a deluded right-wing old nut and refuses to work with neighbors or the city on a reasonable development.

Towers are not the answer for density everywhere. Towers are appropriate in certain dense areas, but not all. The best urban density for many neighborhood stops would resemble Paris or even Brooklyn, with 4-6 story buildings. To build towers in Sisleyville you would need to widen 65th and 15th to deal with the traffic. Roosevelt has always welcomed density and fought to have the light rail stop at the QFC site instead of by the freeway.

You can be pro-density and not want towers in your neighborhood, Will in Fremont.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | October 27, 2008 11:35 PM

as it happens seattle has never resembled Manhattan, in any possible way. Seattle doesn't even hold a candle to east village or south east side.
Yeah, talk is cheap and seattle talks and talks and talks about being a city but curmudgeons like you dont want that. you cling to your small town pre 1962 town.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 28, 2008 12:07 AM

The weirdest part about this story is that on a per-square foot basis, towers cost more to build than woodframe buildings. So if Sisley would have a harder time making his money back with 12-story buildings than he would with 6-story buildings.

Taller buildings might make economic sense in a place with less developable land (e.g. Belltown) and hence no competition for new apartment rentals, but Roosevelt has plenty of developable land and even some active proposals (The former Scarlet Tree site, the site SE of the QFC, etc.).

My conclusion: Sisley is just crazy.

Posted by Steve | October 28, 2008 1:58 AM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.