Sheridan Apartments at 5th and Virginia
The incentive zoning or ‘housing bonus’ system in place for years required developers to replace 1 for 1 any low cost housing they demolished as a condition for increasing the height and density of their buildings. The new HALA-Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Program does not include this requirement. And wherever incentive zoning still applies in Seattle, city planners intend also to remove the obligation. Hundreds of existing low cost units in Seattle will be lost if this occurs.
A 44-story luxury apartment building at 2005 5th Ave (NW corner of 5th & Virginia) is proposed by a Taiwanese developer that would rise above the empty shells of the historic Griffin Building and the Sheridan Apartments, and will remove 56 units of currently occupied and very affordable downtown housing ($990-$1170/mo. rent at time they applied for permits). Only the facades of these two buildings would remain.
Under the housing bonus program in place for years, a developer has been granted slightly less added density, and required to contribute to construction of the 18 units, and replace 1 for 1 the housing they removed. Now under the HALA-MHA program, they’re on the hook only for the 18 units.
A preliminary recommendation giving the go ahead to the project already has been made by the Design Review Board with only relatively minor modifications suggested by the Board.
The developer however must return to the Board with a response before they’re given final approval. No date has been set as yet for that to occur but unless Continue reading
Seattle shows off it’s “world class” inferiority complex: gaudy bubbles highlight drab sameness of downtown buildings going up around them
The newspapers, TV, and radio were all agog, as were several county and city elected leaders, downtown chamber types, and other assorted poobahs. After some saccharine speeches and the prerequisite obsequious genuflection by our Mayor and County Executive to the God of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, the spheres finally were open to view…well sort of…. In keeping with Seattle’s increasingly unaffordable and exclusive character, the city’s newest expression of postmodern architecture (and conspicuous consumption) is not ‘public’ at all. It’s open only to Amazon’s employees and occasional guided tours.
Its been done before and better
Belfast Ireland’s Victoria Square: a public space
Like the hoopla that surrounded Rem Koolhaas “avant-garde” Downtown Public Library and Frank Gehry’s “MoPOP” mash-up on the edge of Seattle Center grounds, our city’s downtown cognoscenti showered praise on the spheres, insisting they proved ‘once again and beyond doubt’, we are a ‘world class’ city. Their effulgence over what looks to me more like a glorified employee food court wound up only highlighting our city’s world class inferiority complex. And attempts by some to compare these spheres to the Space Needle, Pike Market, and other true iconic Seattle landmarks only further drives home the point.
From the sidewalk, the garish bulbs punctuate a streetscape increasingly crammed cheek to jowl with taller and taller buildings, uniform in their sameness. The spheres just remind us of how drab in general Seattle’s architecture has become. A lot of that has to do with city leaders too willing to adopt land use and zoning rules that pay little or no heed to the existing physical, social, and historic character of our communities. Instead of encouraging creativity or better yet requiring it, the rules now are geared primarily to accommodating the developer’s profit and maxing out density. Try distinguishing our urban core or South Lake Union from downtown anywhere USA. Amazon’s supersized terrarium only serves to accentuate that reality.
Violet Lavatai says, “The faster they’re building; the faster people are going on the street.” (Photo: Cliff Cawthon)
The Tenants Union’s Violet Lavatai talks about displacement, gentrification and growing up in the Rainier Valley
By Cliff Cawthon, Contributing Writer
While walking along in Columbia City’s business district, I noticed and shuddered at the installation of paid-parking zones. My mind started to contemplate the re-structuring of Seattle’s newest “hip” neighborhood. The orange flags identified new pay meters, but they also meant something more: Columbia City, like the commons of old, was being enclosed and reserved. There definitely wasn’t any going back.
The gentrification of Columbia City isn’t a new topic. This recent small, but noticeable parking change, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation, was designed to address the “absence of available parking” in the neighborhood.
For the better part of two decades now, longtime residents and newer residents who’ve reflected the neighborhood’s traditional non-white and working-class character have been pushed out. Many have been lamenting this phenomenon, confronting it, trying to adapt to it, and/ or fighting like hell against it.
Violet Lavatai, the Interim Executive Director of the Tenants Union of Washington, is not just someone who is currently fighting displacement but she has also been forced out of Columbia City. (Full disclosure: I am co-chair of the Tenants Union board of directors.)
Update of appeal by 27 neighborhood and housing groups; they’re seeking donations to help cover the cost of their appeal while CM Johnson pretends there is no appeal (and no widespread opposition to the city’s massive upzoning plan)
The City’s Hearing Examiner has scheduled the appeal of the planned city-wide HALA upzones for April in a hearing expected to take several days if not longer. Twenty seven neighborhood and housing groups filed the appeal late last year charging the city had failed to adequately assess the adverse impacts of HALA upzones or offer adequate mitigation for damage to the livability and affordability of their communities as is required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
Given the Hearings Examiner’s full schedule of appeals, the number of groups involved in the appeal, and its expected length, dates could not be found until at least April. And there is a chance it could be postponed even to a later date. The city has said it may need extra time to prepare it’s defense and produce an extensive amount of documents and analysis requested ‘in discovery’ by those filing the appeal.
It’s normal in an appeal like this that the city would be asked and required to produce all materials relevant to its actions, but this is not a normal site-specific or even neighborhood-specific upzone. It’s a sweeping set of upzones affecting every corner of the city with documents and analysis going back years for each affected community.
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) says that “decision-makers” shall have a completed environmental document placed before them “when considering the alternatives or their preferred action”. Translated that means Councilmember Johnson as chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee cannot commit his committee to a course of action, in this case city-wide upzoning, until after a hearings examiner decision on the appeal. Only then will the environmental process be completed and only then will Johnson receive a full record of environmental impacts and alternative courses of action for his committee to consider.
CM Rob Johnson: is he defying SEPA?