SMR Architects concept drawing
SMR Architects concept drawing of DESC's supportive housing project in the Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle.

City’s final decision on DESC Delridge project expected soon

In three to four weeks the final OK and a Master Use Permit from Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development office is expected for the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s (DESC) proposed 66-unit supportive housing apartment complex at 5444 Delridge Way S.W.

The mixed-use apartment will house chronically homeless people who are often battling mental illness or drug addiction in a “housing first” model to help them get their lives back on track. There will be a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week staff on hand and rehabilitation and counseling is made available to the tenants. Retail space will be available for rent on the ground floor facing Delridge.

Public hearing
On March 8 the project passed a final design review from the Southwest Design Review Board and Delridge residents were given a chance for public comment on March 15, with a focus on requests and concerns for environmental impacts of the project as a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review happens next.

DPD project manager Michael Dorcy said the comments from this final public meeting will be evaluated for any last minute conditions placed on the project before a Master Use Permit is issued. The MUP gives DESC the green light to move forward with construction, although an appeal process opens up which could stall the process.

Residents asked that SMR Architects ensure the DESC building has proper drainage, be it through rain gardens or other measures, as Delridge is known to have combined sewer overflow problems when the rain falls.

The request was reiterated from earlier meetings that DESC plan for emergency and delivery vehicles to park on Delridge instead of using the alleyways surrounding the building. They also requested emergency vehicles turn off their sirens as they enter the North Delridge neighborhood.

Angela Goodman asked that DESC consider employing softer lighting in their external design, to produce a “soft glow instead of a harsh glare” for residents living nearby.

Once construction begins, residents living near the project site are hoping DPD will request all construction vehicles park on Delridge to avoid clogging up or fully blocking alleyways.

Another request for a shading study was made, but Dorcy said shading studies are only required if a public space is potentially affected by a building’s mass blocking out the sun. Private lots do not have the same protection.

Requests were also made for DESC to employ landscaping that fits in with the current neighborhood flora, consider moving an outside smoking area for residents indoors – or at least provide some kind of “air scrubber” so nearby residents are not constantly smelling cigarettes, look at how rain runoff from the building might effect work to restore nearby Longfellow Creek as a viable salmon run, and look at ways to deter graffiti on the building.

Tanya Baer asked DESC to consider further reducing the number of residential units below 53 based on an Urban Institute/Wayne State University study done on supportive housing projects in Denver. The study found a correlation between increased crime rates in neighborhoods with supportive housing projects larger than 53 units. The study is attached as a PDF at the top of the story.

After the comment period ended Dorcy with DPD said any requests that are backed by city code or law (and not currently satisfied in the building design) will have to be changed according to SEPA, but any requests not bound by code are unenforceable and up to DESC.

Background
The project has met resistance from a number of Delridge residents with concerns including safety of the community, local infrastructure support for DESC tenants (for example, there is no grocery store within walking distance) and the mass and design of the building for those living right next to the proposed location

The building was originally designed for 75 units, but a Delridge resident discovered Seattle’s Office of Housing used year 2000 census data instead of more recent numbers in determining the existing level of low-income housing in the Delridge neighborhood. Housing acknowledged they made a mistake and forced DESC to drop their room number down to 66.

Delridge residents have expressed concern over the possibility of sex offenders moving into the apartment complex. DESC responded by saying if the community advisory board formally asks that DESC not allow any sex offenders to move in they will accept the term, but the formal request has not been made as of March 17.

Anyone interested in receiving updates from DPD on the project, including the MUP decision, can contact Michael Dorcy, the DPD project manager, at Michael.dorcy@seattle.gov , (206) 615-1393, or 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, Wa, 98124-4019.

Construction is expected to begin late 2012 with completion in late 2013.

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