Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Latest Talaris Re-Development Status And Send Your Comments Now To Laurelhurst Community Club

The Laurelhurst Community Club recently published an in-depth update about the Talaris re-development update in their recent Laurelhurst newsletter.

In addition, LCC is also asking for comments regarding the issue and specifically about the fence the Talaris owner, Bruce McCaw, also referenced as Chairman Emeritus of Pistol Creekput up in September along with a chain link fencemain driveway barricade, fence on northwest side and a surveillance camera
Comments can ben sent to
Here are comments the Blog Staff has received
And here are several of the many posts published by the Laurelhurst Blog:
Talaris Re-Development on KIRO-TV
Talaris Submits Retroactive Certificate of Approval After Violation Cutting Down Tree
Talaris Violates Landmark Ordinance
Batelle Site Granted Landmark Historic Status
No Trespassing Signs Could Result In Fine Or Jail Time
More Laurelhurst Blog posts can be found here.

Here is the Laurelhurst Community Club article:

What’s the Talaris Redevelopment Status?


The 18-acre Talaris (formerly Battelle) site in the heart of Laurelhurst has been a focus of LCC concern for over three decades. Commencing in the 1980s, neighbors objected to Battelle’s increasing impacts on the neighborhood and its advertisement of the site for hotel and catering services open to the general public. In 1991, LCC and Battelle negotiated a Settlement Agreement binding Battelle and its successors to limitations on development, an agreed landscape plan, and legally enforceable “covenants running with the land,” keyed to the site’s single-family zoning and barring major institution (such as UW or Children’s Hospital) use of the site.

By 2004, the current owner had acquired the property, renamed Talaris. The owner now wants to redevelop the site. Despite the history of agreements with LCC, the Talaris owner has chosen to try to work around rather than with LCC. This can best be understood by reviewing the milestones in the current Talaris episode, which are listed below.

Tell LCC How the Talaris Fence Impacts You

The owner’s representatives have not responded positively to repeated LCC requests to negotiate. They have made it clear that the fence will not be removed and that they may even “padlock” the site. In considering what to do about this, LCC needs to hear from you. How you have used the site over the years?

Comments we have heard range from daily dog walking to baseball and soccer games, duck watching, and regular strolls to enjoy the vegetation and landscape design. Please send us an email telling us how and for how long you have used the site! Let us know how best to follow up and reach you. And if convenient, please email photos of your use.
Send email to

Timeline of Talaris Events

July 29, 2013: Talaris makes unilateral proposal to eliminate the site’s single-family designation. Responding to LCC concerns, including about lack of consultation with neighbors, Seattle City Council rejects the proposal.

September 15-17, 2013: Without approval, Talaris commences installation of
a chain link fence surrounding the site. Long-standing public access is cut off, surveillance cameras are installed, and trespassing signs are posted threatening prosecution for those brave enough to  enter the site. These actions violate the 1991 Settlement Agreement with LCC as well as City Ordinance.

November 5, 2013: Talaris files an application with the City to redevelop the site with an 82-lot single family subdivision.

November 6, 2013: Despite Talaris opposition, the Landmarks Preservation Board votes unanimously to designate the Talaris site and structures as a landmark. Under the City’s landmarks law, the adoption of the nomination means there can be no alterations on the site without Board approval. The designation starts a period in which Talaris and the Board are supposed to negotiate “controls and incentives” for preservation of the site. 

November 25, 2013: The Talaris owner files Superior Court lawsuit against City to invalidate the November 6 historic landmark designation and to establish that the subdivision application vested. Talaris and City attorneys almost immediately cut a deal to stay the lawsuit for nine months, leaving it hanging over the City agencies as they consider what to do about Talaris’ subdivision application and the landmark designation.

December 13, 2013: LCC files a Motion to Intervene in the Talaris Superior Court lawsuit, noting that it has a legal stake and a long-time interest in the status and disposition of the site.

January 7, 2014: Despite absence of support from City Attorney and opposition by Talaris the Superior Court grants LCC intervener party status.

January 22 and February 11, 2014: LCC and historic preservation representatives meet with Talaris owner representatives to explore potential agreement on redevelopment. Talaris representatives suggest they have a concept  for an expanded hotel and conference center, but refuse to release specifics in response to LCC request. Talaris subsequently refuses to negotiate further with LCC.

February 27, 2014: In response to a request by LCC, the City holds a public comment meeting about the Talaris redevelopment at the Laurelhurst Community Center. At the meeting, LCC urges adoption of a moderate proposal for redevelopment of the site in place of the extreme concepts advocated by Talaris and others.

March – May 2014: LCC learns through documents obtained from City under Public Records Act that Talaris and City agencies have arranged a meeting about potential changes to the Land Use Code to accommodate possible Talaris hotel and conference center expansion plans.

July 2, 2014: Talaris requests a six-month extension from the Landmarks Board on negotiation to guide future development consistent with the landmark designation. There is no indication that negotiations have even commenced. LCC objects and notes neighbor comments that the owner is meanwhile degrading the site. The owner’s representative tells the Landmarks Board that the neighborhood is “obstructionist” and threatens that the site owner might “padlock it…with no further maintenance being done, and the natural state would take over.” The Board rejects the request for a six-month extension and reluctantly grants a three-month extension.

Two Options Under Consideration
LCC’s focus is on ensuring that any redevelopment of the site is based on compatible land uses, preventing adverse impacts, and preserving as much public access and open space as possible. LCC is concerned that the two development proposals most often mentioned for the site – the 82-lot subdivision and the possible expanded hotel/commercial/office development – represent extreme propositions.

While a subdivision could offer a permanent answer to the question of the site’s future, the particular subdivision laid out by Talaris maximizes density, inappropriately impinges upon important site features and amenities, and does not make use of clustering and other Land Use Code alternatives for development.

On the other hand, excessive expansion of hotel/office/conference center use would result in the kinds of neighborhood impacts that first prompted community objections thirty years ago. And, in the absence of a new binding settlement agreement with LCC, it would leave portions of the 18-acre site targeted for even more development down the road.

About Landmark Status
Although not widely acknowledged during the landmark process, a landmark designation unfortunately does not prevent and may even facilitate intensive redevelopment of the site. LCC nonetheless generally supported the landmark nomination, but cautioned that there was more to consider than whether the existing buildings would be preserved.

As neighbors have now seen, landmarking also does not maintain public access to the site. It has been fenced off and no trespassing signs posted, apparently enforced with surveillance cameras. Through its counsel, LCC has warned the Talaris owner that fencing off the site is inconsistent with the 1991 Settlement Agreement with LCC and potentially with the neighborhood’s legal prescriptive rights to access. To date, neither the City nor the groups listed by the Landmarks Board as sponsors of the landmark designation have taken formal positions demanding that the Talaris owner roll back cut-off of public access.

Bottom Line

LCC has invested a tremendous amount of money and its trustees have devoted many, many hours over the years to ensuring compatible, responsible development and use of the Talaris site. They are disappointed by the Owner’s current approach.

LCC is not the driver of any development option and did not put the property in play. LCC does, however, have a legally binding Settlement Agreement and a stake in the use of the parcel in the heart of its neighborhood.

LCC will continue, as it has over the past decades to work for a long-lasting, neighborhood-friendly solution that respects the quality of life in an established single-family zoned community. 

Here are additional comments the Laurelhurst Blog has received:

Is it just me, or is the developer pushing past regulations, agreements and conventions to produce a worst case in order to let all the neighbors accept something less bad with a sigh of relief? Say, like Childrens spreading further into the property, or a shopping mall?
I  just wanted to give my two cents so far on the proposed development at Talaris. I'm sure LCC is staying on top of the issue and will be great for guiding the community and neighborhood through this change. It appears as though Bruce McCaw and the developers are here to make the most money as they can.  I am suspicious of their push to rezone for the apartment units.  It feels like they are threatening the 90+ single family home development in order to get the neighborhood to allow for a rezone to a "seemingly" lower impact apartment building organization. But really, the apartments will bring in more people. 
I think the lowest impact to the neighborhood and environment is to have the least amount of development and people move into that area, and to protect the existing landscape, especially the trees and wildlife. And I think that means higher end homes or condos, and to be fair, some smaller units. It would be great to have some commercial spaces perhaps below the condos since Laurelhurst could use a "village" where neighbors can walk to meet for lunch/dinner or coffee, although I'm not sure if it is zoned for this. 
My concerns include traffic and the school enrollment numbers at Laurelhurst and the already over-extended middle schools, and just the general impact of that many people moving into this area. It seems as if the developer is purposely ignoring this very important issue. 
Getting in and out of our neighborhood is already challenging as it exists now. The new light near the new development at Children's is slow. NE 41st Street  is our main route for getting out of the neighborhood and both development plans will slow that street down as well. We all know how difficult it already is to get through the Montlake cut and the U district during rush hour. I can't imagine what additional delays will be created by the influx of cars and people to the area. 
I grew up next door to this beautiful green space. To believe that the city would allow such a neighborhood landmark to be simply bulldozed and graded would be such an unbelievably shocking loss for this space that has been so much a part of Laurelhurst. I hope the landmark status holds up.

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