Monday, June 19, 2017

Five Applications To Build Multiple Townhomes In North Laurelhurst's Windermere Circle and Long-Time Tenant's Thoughts On Finding Affordable Housing Before Demolition

structure to be demolished for 
3-story, 6-unit rowhouse
in Laurelhurst

In February, the Laurelhurst Blog posted about a 3-story, 6-unit rowhouse Land Use Application, Project #3025713, for another town home in the Windermere Circle area of north Laurelhurst.  

The existing structure, a one story 4 unit town home, built in 1959, on the corner of 44th Avenue NE and NE 50th Street, 7100 square foot lot, will be demolished.   

The Laurelhurst Community Club said in their December LCC meeting notes that "Developers are contacting all the owners with offers to buy and convert" according to a Windermere Circle resident.

Other projects already under construction in Windermere Circle are:
5048 Sand Point Way NE - 6 town homes built on one lot where 1950's triplex was demolished. Three town homes to face Sand Point Way NE and three town homes to face Sand Point Place NE

5027 44th Avenue NE - Land Use Application to subdivide one development site into four unit lots and demolish existing building. The construction of residential units is under Project #6477308. This subdivision of property is only for the purpose of allowing sale or lease of the unit lots. Development standards will be applied to the original parcel and not to each of the new unit lots
5001 44th Avenue NE - Land Use application to allow 6 town homes built (each to be only 12' wide) on one lot where 2 story 1950's triplex currently exists. Plans under review with City.   
5011 44th Avenue NE - Land Use Application to allow two, two-unit rowhouses (four units total) with surface parking for four vehicles. Existing structure to be demolished. To be considered with Project #3028004 for shared access.
5047 Sand Point Place NE - Land Use Application to allow a three story, 3-unit rowhouse structure in an environmentally critical area. Surface parking for three vehicles to be provided. To be considered with Project #3018927 for shared access

One of the current tenants of the proposed development on the corner of 44th Avenue NE and NE 50th Street, commented to the Blog following the post:

I wanted to send a note regarding your article about the townhomes being constructed at 50th Avenue NE. As one of the current residents of this building with my husband, a UW graduate student and our young children, I appreciated your acknowledgement of how difficult it can be to relocate in the current market. We are concerned about where we are going to land next, as we are priced out of most of what we see listed online in all of Seattle, let alone just this neighborhood. This has been a great location for my family — proximity to UW, nearby parks, safe neighborhood, and more.   
Additionally, although I am as disappointed as many others are about the plans for rowhouses, fault does not only lie with the developer who bought it. This building was always going to be sold. It was an investment property for the former owners, but they did not take care of it in the way they could have.  To buy the property and not displace tenants, to not tear it down, would require quite a bit of money toward repair. I’m not sure who would make that investment.  For example, there is roof damage, resulting in water leaking inside the house last year and there is constant water in the basement. This is unfortunate as there is some beautiful, original craftsmanship inside.  
On another note, a woman recently stopped by saying she grew up in the unit that we are living in. Her dad sold the building to the person who just sold it to the developer. She recognized the tools we have for the fireplace as ones her dad bought and used, so my husband gave them to her. I just thought it was interesting, and was glad she got to see the bedroom she grew up in again before it was torn down.

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) said about this project:

The appearance of the land use sign has evoked many negative responses from neighbors in the community who have expressed their concern about several aspects of the proposed rowhouses.
The existing multi -family development has a long history as a very compatible transition to the single family zoning adjacent. It provides affordable housing for mid to lower income level families, seniors, grad students and some staff who work at Seattle Children;s Hospital nearby.  
LCC;s concerns about the proposed development, based upon the Seattle Municipal codes, HALA, and the applicants responses in the SEPA process are as follows:   
Displacement of diverse socio-income residents - Five years ago the Laurelhurst neighborhood lost 136 affordable housing units at Laurelon Terrace with had family sized units. Many of the existing families who were displaced from their community when the tear down occurred, and could not afford , nor find similar housing nearby. LCC supports more density as a goal of the City, but we are even more concerned about the displacement of a whole sector of economically diverse families, seniors and work force salariedfolks who have lived within higher income leveled neighborhoods. Displacement can lead to homelessness, and these new "rowhouses" will be priced for ownership at around $1,000,000 each.  
Out of Scale compatibility - the existing LR1 zoned Windermere Circle complex of multi-family housing envelopes this permit, and was built with the architectural style of its time, to blend seamlessly into the single family neighborhood with similar features and in similar bulk, scale and massing in heights and setbacks. The new SMC 23.34.014 , B, #5, states that the function of the LR1 zoning should be: The area would provide a gradual transition between single-family zoned areas and multi-family or neighborhood commercial zoned areas.  The proposed Rowhouses are much taller in height, boxlike and are built in a 72 feet wide mass along the residential NE 50th street, and along 44th Avenue NE. The adjacent residences are not 32 feet in height, and the rowhouse plan without set backs will create a tunnel effect along both NE 50th Street and 44th Avenue NE, destroying the character and scale of the existing LR1 and adjacent SF5000. The location and orientation of the proposed 32 foot high row houses places a wall along these sidewalks instead of a set back and entry along NE 50th Street. This is not a gradual transition which is in the SMC. Cottage housing, or lower scale or homes that face both NE50th Street and 44th Ave NE would be more compatible with the SMC, and still provide denser housing options.   
Building set backs and width of the new rowhouses  - the set back on 44th Avenue NE is only to the property line which is completely opposed to a normal set back of a LR1 project. SDCI should oppose this and require a normal set back for pedestrian sidewalk safety and zoning adjacency compatibility and zoning. This is in violation of the at least 5 foot minimum set backs for side yards, and should NOT be permitted. Secondly, the overall building width of this rowhouse project appears to violate SMC 23.84.032 which caps the maximum width of rowhouses at 60 feet. (about 3-4 units) Project # 3025713 has 6 units at 12; each which equals 72.5 feet. SDCI should clarify the code, or reject the project.  
The applicant's SEPA evaluation states that no view blockages will occur. However, the proposed 72.5 mass width and a 32 foot height (plus roof garden) WILL impact neighboring residents viewline to the west where the Olympic Mountains offer spectacular sunsets. This view of the mountains would be blocked from existing residents across the street on NE 50th Street and 44th Avenue NE.  

Citizens commented to the City: 

The new development is going to tower over all of the surrounding homes. The town homes will be very narrow, in order to fit six townhouses side-by-side on the lot with underground parking.
I am a resident within a couple miles of this proposed construction (permit # 3025713) and I formerly lived two blocks from the proposed site. I firmly disagree with the approval of this and similar developments that have a broad and deep negative impact on all involved other than the permit applicant.   

16 town homes each with a 4th story rooftop deck are currently under construction in quaint little historic Windermere Circle, the charming loop of duplexes and triplexes near Children's Hospital where most buildings are two and three story.  The transformation is going to be dramatic.

It makes for reduced home values. Towering 3-story homes (with 4th floor rooftop decks) reduce the value of the one- and two-story homes surrounding them. The smaller houses lose privacy, views and sunlight.   
Parking and traffic problems always follow. Each of these projects has off-street parking. But the parking arrangements (for the first and third projects listed in the document) are ridiculous.  
Like many row house projects, these garages will be very difficult to get a normal size car in and out. The owners will most likely use their garages for storage and park their cars on the street.  The streets around Windermere Circle are already extremely cramped and crowded.  
There are construction irritations for surrounding neighbors. With all three of these projects going at once in Windermere Circle, there's going to be noise, dust, and traffic issues for the folks living in the Circle, as well as the larger community.
I have several objections as to why this project should not be approved -1) Loss of affordable housing - the renters in the current building will be forced, against their will, to move, costing them money to do so. Further they themselves would not be able to afford to live in the townhouses that are being proposed, causing a decrease in affordable housing in this area and in the city. The other three demolitions and new buildings currently under construction in the neighborhood that will be raising the cost of housing in this community. This is a mixed community with students, young working families and retirees placing an even greater burden on them if forced to move.  2) Parking  - an increase in the number of units from 4 to 6 will increase the number of cars. While the project proposes on site parking (as does the current building) it is common for their to be more than one car per unit making on street parking even more congested at that corner 2) Traffic flow - the proposed plan will increase traffic at this intersection. There is already a circle that was added to slow down the traffic coming West on NE 50th Street towards Sand Point Way. This is already a busy / constricted intersection. Adding more traffic will increase risk of accidents 4) Ascetics of neighborhood  - the proposed building is in stark contrast to the low level tri and quad pleas currently in this area. There have already been 3 other demolitions and new construction within a block or two of this proposed structure as noted above. These buildings are already blocking views and 5). Health concerns from further demolition and construction - the dust from the demolition, exposed earth piles and earth moving - despite multiple complaints have caused us to have to close all the windows to our residence to keep out the pollutants. Given our residence is not air-conditioned (and even if it was we still need fresh air) this has caused us both health problems. Clearly we can not leave for the weeks or months that the air will be affected, particularly in the summer, and would again ask for the demolition and dirt work be done in the rainy season with extra precautions.  Please do not approve this project.  
I have lived in my house, very close to the new project, for over 20 years and have watched the housing transitions in the area. I am not opposed to development but feel that it should be appropriately scaled to the neighborhood and take into account both the goals of the developer and the concerns of the neighborhood.  While I recognize that NE 50th Street is the demarcation between single family zoning to the south and multiple family zoning to the north, I believe the development as proposed presents an extremely tall and cumbersome vertical façade at this zoning transition. It appears that the intent is to squeeze a maximum number of very narrow units into the available space. This lot currently has a triplex, so the new development would double the number of units on that lot while also quadrupling the height of the structure. I think that reducing the project to 4 units with a maximum height of 3 stories would provide a scale more appropriate to the neighborhood. As designed, the units would create a visual wall that compromises view lines of neighbors to the south and east.  I am further concerned that doubling the number of units on this site would further increase the number of cars parking along NE 50th Street which could become a safety issue. NE 50th Street is a busy thoroughfare into the Laurelhurst neighborhood, a conduit to the Villa Academy a few blocks further east, and is frequented by large trucks as well as significant traffic.  
I am writing to object to granting approval to this project. With recent demolition of two buildings near us, one about the same distance as this project, our residence and cars were regularly covered in dust from both the demolition, taking dirt away and moving dirt around the site. They used similar methods as noted above. We needed to close our windows causing health issues for myself and my wife due to the heat. Further idling trucks regularly caused us to have to close windows. By the time a complaint was made to either the city, builder or developer it would take days to fix and then start all over again.  
The views from two units, just east, on 4402 NE 50th Street will be significantly affected. Further the surrounding units are much lower in height making this unit not compatible with the immediate neighbors.   Taking out trees (and other negation) and leaving concrete and a building in it’s place (per the site plan) virtually erases the natural resources of this property. Further we were told by the City that this is an environmentally protected area and those rules and regulations need to be followed.  
This project, if completed, would grossly alter the character of the neighborhood.  This area is made up of two story duplexes and triplexes built in the middle of the 20th century.  The new building(s) would increase the building height and double the number of units on the lot in addition to introducing that modern, plain rectangular building style that maximizes interior space.  It would add to the trend of making housing less affordable throughout the city.  Three reasonably priced rental units would be replaced by six upscale condominiums, meaning that the people who live there now would not be able to afford to in the future.  It's bad enough that the price will increase without the additional limitation of requiring ownership rather than a lease.  The exterior wall of this building will also be extremely close to the house next door. This monstrosity is not consistent with the character of the area.   
I would like to express my concern and objection to the proposed construction at 4207 NE 50th Street. As a neighbor of this project, I feel this project is disproportionate to the neighborhood, and will change the characteristics of the neighborhood. Specifically, the construction is 1) - Overly dense and disproportionate to the surrounding neighborhood 2)- Lacks adequate parking - Is a structure too tall for the neighborhood - Is a structure which is disproportionately large for the lot size - Does not help to build a community with strong bonds. Please do not approve this project.  
Parking would be a concern with several dense multiunit new developments in the block. 
I am concerned about pricing out those who can not afford higher priced dwellings. 


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