Monday, September 19, 2016

Big Box Homes Sprouting Up And Reader Responses to "Buildiquette" Post

4500 block of 46th Avenue NE

A Blog reader sent in an article she has written about the large homes going up in the neighborhood:

New Bigger-than-ever homes shrink neighborhood

I live in North Laurelhurst and I walk my dogs around the neighborhood nightly.  It seems that this past summer our neighborhood has experienced an excess of those bigger than life new homes being built higher than ever.   
Although the homes are attractive, in my opinion they look out of place in this neighborhood, especially when they stand so tall next to a one story home.  More importantly,  they ruin the privacy and block the sunshine for their neighbors.  We are losing our neighborhood canopy so desperately needed by birds, squirrels, and us humans who need to breathe.  These new homes only offer small ornamental trees.
I'm sure all these new super-sized homes meet all the legal requirements, and I'm sure it is a wise move for the home sellers to get a nice price for their perfectly good home that is replaced by these new giant homes.  I just find it upsetting to see this happening all over the neighborhood.  Do others feel as I do?  Would there be any way to consider height limits on these new homes so that we can retain a sense of scale in our neighborhood?

The Laurelhurst Blog published a post recently on a similar subject titled:
Proper "buildiquette" - How To Be A Considerate Builder, Homeowner, Neighbor During Construction

Several Blog readers sent in comments following the post:

This was a really an interesting article as one considers what actually happened in Laurelhurst and on Webster Point these past 2 years.  We live next to  Bender Custom Home construction project for the past 16 months, and they never contacted us at all on their project, so the interviewer, Joan,  should check the facts with the real affected neighbors. One adjacent resident,  a 91 year old neighbor, finally demanded a meeting, and the owner did comply. We are also adjacent to the project, and had to look it up on the city website to find out what was happening, and who the architect and builder were. No meeting, timelines or information was ever offered in advance, or now, as it is in process.  Two bulldozers showed up one day in April 2015 to tear down their 1920's historic colonial house, pounding so hard next to our residence all summer that we wore headphones to "even think"from 7am (or earlier in several days) to 3:30pm. The side and windows of our home are also covered with  debris from the tear down of the building, and the sanding of their "covered deck". No cleaning was offered to remediate this mess. The Bender Custom builders, as do the other construction crews, arrive every day at 7am, and block all of the parking in front of all the six neighbor's houses, not in front of their jobsite. When residential service folks arrive later for neighbors living on the street, they are out of luck for a place to park. With these "tear downs" and big remodels ongoing, please note that the land use codes are easily broken by aggressive architects and their home owners. Neighbors are unaware of these codes and potential encroachments. Check with the City of Seattle Department of  Construction and Land Use by the address of a new project. Hire an expert of your own to read the information, and see if the codes are respected.  Sadly ,we had to sue the adjacent owners and Paul Moon, the architect, for basic shoreline compliance. They were in violation of the shoreline setback code. Neighbors should be aware of your new "neighbors". They will build to block your views if they can, and fill the lot with concrete, and push heights, soil removal , set backs to absolute maximum with no respect for your viewlines or yards. The exceptions near us seem to be the Krekow Jennings/Conard/Romano project on East Laurelhurst Drive NE which is obviously more sensitive in height and set backs, and  the Suver/DeForest project which kept the heights lower.  Laurelhurst keeps the building industry going for sure, but beware of " not so friendly" neighbors! Respect our home, too! 

This post reads like a PR fluff piece for these builders-please talk with the neighbors before publishing their glowing comments about how they keep us informed. Speaking from experience, two of the firms' comments about communicating with the neighbors in Laurelhurst are simply not true-nothing has been communicated at all on the construction projects for three houses on our street. Mostly it's been loud, beeping trucks outside work hours and unpredictable activities with no notice to the neighbors. We have been living in a "three channel stereo" construction site for two years, unable to park near our house and barely get in and out of our driveway or even down the street, with 12-14 large trucks parked everywhere at all angles on the sidewalk and street. It's been an experience short on etiquette and long on unpredictable misery.

Thank you for the buildiquette information. It's a great idea to have all contractors take on communication with neighbors and all should try to be considerate of neighbors. I also suggest common neighborly etiquette going the other direction too. Neighbors can't assume they will have control of construction or landscaping going on next door to them. I have heard of too many instances when neighbors are rude to new neighbors because they don't like their remodels or additions, or neighbors prefer surrounding homes have no additions or changes. When we were building an addition to our home, our neighbor's attorney went to the city and took our plans from the city inspector's office. (Plans are ok to review in the office, but not to take out of the office.) This caused our project months of delay while the plans were missing. 

We have remodeled our house several times, so have been guilty of disruption in the neighborhood. The one thing I wish those working on the building would think about cars trying to get through when they park large vehicles across the street from each other.

We have reported construction work taking place outside of work hours to the city here. 

Staying in contact with the builder and holding him accountable for communicating information takes endless energy, but helps just a bit knowing what is going on with schedule, etc.

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