Patrick Robinson
A Seattle DPD Notice of Proposed Land Use Action sign is up at 6917 California Ave. S.W. where a developer wants to build a 30-unit apartment without any parking. As the marker addition suggests, some neighbors are not pleased with the idea.

"Are you kidding?": Projects-sans-parking and more in the West Seattle pipeline

In our latest development roundup, we take a look at projects without parking, community backlash to Alki rowhouses, upcoming design reviews for large buildings and the latest in microhousing.

6917 California Ave. S.W.
A land-use application has been submitted to build a 3-story, 30 residential unit structure with no parking at 6917 California Ave. S.W. (between the cross streets of S.W. Willow and S.W. Mills). The application calls for the demolition of the existing home to make room for LLC Blueprint Capital Holdings project.

Neighbors of the project are concerned about parking on an already crammed California Ave. The developer – Mark Knoll of Blueprint – told KOMO “he’s just following the rules (that allow for some apartment projects with no parking to encourage public transportation use) and said anyone who wants to change the rules should go to the City Council with their complaints.”

A sign is posted at the site declaring a comment period is open until Nov. 11, but one unknown resident took the less formal route and commented directly on the sign, using a black marker to underline the existing phrase, “NO PARKING PROPOSED” and adding his or her own line, “ARE YOU KIDDING.”

4535 44th Ave. S.W.
A public meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 19, to review another application at 4535 44th Ave. S.W. (just west of Alaska Junction) and get public feedback on the project. This project calls for a five-story, 36-unit residential structure with two street-level live-work units and no parking. The existing structure will be demolished.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at Hope Lutheran Church, 4456 42nd Avenue S.W. from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., where written and oral statements will be taken.

Alki rowhouse project appealed
Neighbors of a project on the 2400 block of 55th Ave. S.W. near Alki Beach filed an appeal against the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) decision by the city. Developer Pluma Homes plans four three-story rowhouse structures with a total of 11 residential units. Existing homes at 2414, 2418, 2420 and 2424 55th Ave. S.W. will be demolished to make room.

Neighborhood blogger Marie McKinsey has been following the developments closely on her website, www.whereiamnow.net, and reported resident Marty McQuaid, with the aid of land use attorney Cynthia Kennedy, filed the appeal on behalf of “Alki Neighborhoods for Sensible Growth.”

The appeal (link available at McKinsey's site) asks the city to reconsider their SEPA approval for “an 11-unit multi-family complex that is dramatically oversized for the surrounding neighborhood and its public services” based on the fact that 39-foot structures would dwarf existing, low-lying residences” and take away “vegetation, light, air, privacy and view corridors to Alki Beach” amongst other concerns. A date for an appeal hearing has not been set yet.

Two back-to-back larger project design reviews upcoming
At 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the West Seattle Senior Center (4217 S.W. Oregon St.), the Southwest Design Review Board will hold a design review meeting for a project at 3210 California Ave. S.W. (just south of West Seattle High School). Project plans call for a five-story building with 143 residential units, six live-work units, 4,220 square feet of commercial space and parking for 168 vehicles at or below grade. The existing structure will be demolished.

That same night, starting at 8 p.m. at the Senior Center, the Design Review Board will evaluate a project at 3078 S.W. Avalon Way. Developers hope to build an 8-story structure with 108 residential units and underground parking for 61 vehicles.

DPD evaluating microhousing rules and a developer discusses fears
Microhousing, microapartments, aPodments - whatever you call them - they are a divisive topic in Seattle. Here’s how they work: A developer builds any number of “dwelling units” in a building. These units have a kitchen, storage and communal space that can be used by up to eight tenants who live in their own “micro” sleeping rooms surrounding the dwelling. The rooms are small – around 300 square feet or less – but do have their own bathrooms with a shower and toilet.

The idea behind them is to provide a form of non-government subsidized affordable housing. Renting a sleeping room tends to range from $500 to $800 a month.

Those against the micro trend cite a number of concerns, from greater pressure on already tight parking to worries about property value dropping with micros nearby.

Developer Paul LaBellarte (also a West Seattle resident) is behind all four microhousing projects going up in West Seattle (listed below).

In an interview, LaBellarte said there are rampant misconceptions about the average renter in microhousing units. Many believe only low-income renters will take advantage, and to some that term has a negative connotation.

“Typically your buyer profile is early 30s on average,” LaBellarte said. “Workforce housing would probably be a more adequate description in general (than low-income).”

He listed off a long litany of renter scenarios he’s come across, from students to people just moving into town and searching for a more permanent location to tech contract workers, nurses, even “those fresh out of a divorce.” He claimed his typical renter stays for 14-plus months.

“You get a little bit of everything,” he said. “All of this is misconception and misperception. When people hear its coming everybody freaks out about it and the reality is when the building is rented up and settled … it isn't any different from a typical apartment, it’s just more dense.”

As for the concerns about the quality of microhousing renters, LaBellarte said Footprint screens all of their tenants. “You know, we are not putting pedophiles and sexual deviants in the buildings,” he said.

LaBellarte sees West Seattle development as part of the inevitable path forward, of which microhousing will be part. For those concerned about additional parking pressure, he explained, “A lot of them don’t have a car because they don’t want a car. Part of that is affordability. By the time you get to gas, insurance and a vehicle that is just not a priority for them.”

“You know I live in West Seattle, I love West Seattle and I raised my three girls here but it is just one of those things: it’s living in the city and it’s going to be dense,” he said. “The city is going to continue to grow and this provides another tier of housing …”

Seattle’s Department of Planning and development is working through new legislation “that will ensure we have clear and consistent regulations in place” as these projects gain traction around the city. Those rules include requiring a design review “based on square footage rather than number of dwelling units,” “setting a minimum size for common areas” in micros, and “establishing a definition of micro-housing.”

The official comment period on their proposed legislation ended on Oct. 21, but they are still accepting recommendations sent to either mike.podowski@seattle.gov or geoffrey.wentlandt@seattle.gov. DPD's proposal will eventually be sent to city council for a vote.

There are currently four microhousing projects in the works in West Seattle (all being built by Footprint):
- 3266 S.W. Avalon Way (five stories with seven dwelling units and 56 sleeping rooms)
- 3050 S.W. Avalon Way (five stories with 14 dwelling units and 110 sleeping rooms)
- 5949 California Ave. S.W. (four stories with five dwelling units and 38 sleeping rooms)
- 4548 Delridge Way S.W. (three stories with two dwelling units and 16 sleeping rooms)

For more details on microhousing, visit DPD online at http://seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/micros/getinvolved/defau...

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