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Housing

Micro Housing increasingly concerns Fremont Residents

Fremont Neighborhood Council has been hearing a lot from residents about micro housing projects planned for the neighborhood. Concerns include:

  • Congestion and safety
  • Parking impacts
  • Utility capacity of our water, sewer and electrical delivery systems
  • Inadequate transit capacity
  • Garbage service, access and mitigation
  • Social impacts of potential high turnover
  • Open space and park provisions for increased density
  • Cumulative impacts of permitting large numbers of such buildings

Issues raised at the July 28 FNC meeting are not unique to the site in Lower Fremont being discussed that night, but would apply to many micro housing proposals. In Fremont alone there are five pending nearby applications right now:

  •     3601 Greenwood
  •     3635 Phinney—discussed in attached letter
  •     3639 Linden
  •     3627 Stone
  •     3618 – 2nd Ave NW

There will be more in other parts of the city.  FNC is keeping an eye on the City’s proposals on this issue.

On August 6, 2014, FNC sent the following remarks to the City of Seattle, DPD – Permit Review, Councilmember Mike O’Brien, and Geoffrey Wentlandt, Senior Planner, DPD, City of Seattle, regarding public comment on 3635 Phinney Ave. North Project (#3017589), providing more detail about what residents said on July 28 and suggesting next steps:

On July 28, 2014, the Fremont Neighborhood Council discussed the project at its monthly meeting for the purpose of providing input. Please include these comments as part of the review process.

At our meeting, neighbors had the following concerns about the project:

PARKING IMPACTS

Statistically, most bicyclists own cars and thus it can be assumed that the majority of those residing in this project, rather than cycling exclusively, will also own cars and will be using the limited amount of on-street parking. Nearby residents are deeply concerned that the increase of vehicles resulting from this project will make parking nearly impossible. We have an RPZ in the area, but it doesn’t protect the east side of the street in front of this project.

CONGESTION

This block of Phinney at 36th is a narrow residential street with vehicles parked on both sides; and thus drivers are often ‘playing chicken’ where one car has to pull to the curb to allow a car coming in the opposite direction to pass, especially on weekend nights. In addition, drivers will sometimes park on the parking strip, in driveways, etc., creating problems for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. The place is packed and neighbors are concerned that adding more cars to the area will exacerbate the situation.

SAFETY

The concern about parking and congestion comes from not just a convenience point of view, but also a safety one. Drivers trying to maneuver through the narrow street often find themselves facing fender benders and close calls with pedestrians. In addition, there are already relatively frequent collisions at Phinney Ave at N. 39th Street, a busy arterial a mere half-block up from the project. The street is also a popular one for bike commuters who are trying to avoid motorists along the route. Neighbors fear the potential for collisions could be increased as a result of this project.

GARBAGE/RECYCLING MANAGEMENT

Neighbors are concerned about how garbage, recycling, and compost will be managed on the property. We want to make sure there is a dumpster available to the building, as opposed to individual cans in order to make sure trash/recycling is managed in a predictable, orderly way that best manages odor and pests.

ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH TINY APARTMENTS

The apartments in this building will be 180-200 square feet with private kitchenettes and bathrooms. Neighbors expressed concerns about the potential for high turnover of these units given their tiny size, as opposed to average-sized apartments, as the neighborhood benefits from longer-term residents in a variety of ways. Additionally, Fremont has a well-documented lack of ample park space in general, let alone enough to compensate for the small size of these units. Some neighbors had a broader concern about the suitability of these units for habitation at all.

CUMULATIVE IMPACTS

We also heard concerns about the cumulative impacts of these projects in our neighborhood overall (see SMC 25.05.670) Pending nearby applications include:

  • 3601 Greenwood
  • 3635 Phinney (this one)
  • 3639 Linden
  • 3627 Stone Way
  • 3618 2nd Ave NW

INADEQUATE TRANSIT

This kind of development depends upon access to transit, but transit is inadequate even for our current population. Increased demand on inadequate transit will create further problems as well: neighbors fear replacing houses and traditional size apartments/condominiums with such small units will force families out of the neighborhood due to a lack of access to both transit and parking.

NEXT STEPS

The Fremont Neighborhood Council would like to see if the following could occur as part of the review of this project:

  • Undertake a traffic/parking study as part of the project.
  • Analyze the impacts related to these concerns, even for those that seem like they can’t be mitigated. Are there creative ways to make it work? Can we adjust our current RPZ, for example?
  • Carefully review trash/recycling options to best manage waste
  • Consider ways to improve the street to help mitigate impacts of the project. For example, the street currently lacks any tree canopy and the parking strip in front of and adjacent to the project is mostly paved over by asphalt. Can we ask the developer to add trees to Phinney Ave as part of the project to help improve the street?
  • Can the City seek ways to increase open green space in the neighborhood in order to help make the units more livable given their small size? Our current park space is limited to Canal Park (which will soon be impacted temporarily by construction from the Siphon project) and Peak Park, which isn’t much larger than the project site. With this and other projects coming online in the neighborhood, more open space is needed.

 

Discussion

One Response to “Micro Housing increasingly concerns Fremont Residents”

  1. DPD’s description of the legislative action at the Council: http://seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/micros/whatwhy/ Here’s what they say:

    “What’s Happening Now?

    On September 2 the City Council introduced new legislation (Council Bill 118201) to clarify permanent regulation of micro-housing, congregate residences, and similar forms of development. The City Council’s proposal reflects input from three stakeholder working group meetings held during the summer of 2014. Once Council has voted on the new regulations, all future developments will have to meet the new rules. We look forward to having new regulations in place to help clarify standards for developers and neighborhood groups. Key elements of the proposed new regulations include:

    Micro-housing will be regulated as individual small efficiency dwelling units. A new code subsection will specify allowable configurations of interior spaces. Groupings of sleeping rooms with a shared kitchen within a single dwelling unit (a previous model for micro-housing) will no longer be allowed. Instead, developers may construct small efficiency dwelling units, which are complete dwelling units containing a full kitchen / kitchenette. Small efficiency dwelling units will be required to have an average size of 220 square feet among the dwelling units in a building.
    Private, non-special needs congregate residences will only be allowed in some places. Congregate residences that are not owned by or directly affiliated with a non-profit housing provider, college, or university, or that are not licensed to provide support services, will only be allowed in urban villages and urban centers in these zones:
    Neighborhood Commercial 3 (NC3)
    Midrise multifamily (MR)
    Highrise multifamily (HR)
    Seattle Mixed (SM)
    Downtown zones
    Special needs congregate residences will continue to be allowed in all zones that allow multi-family development. Congregate residences that are owned by or directly affiliated with a non-profit housing provider, college, or university, or that are licensed to provide support services, will continue to be allowed in all zones that allow multi-family development including:
    Lowrise zones (LR1, LR2, LR3)
    Neighborhood Commercial 1 and 2 zones (NC1 and NC2)

    Next Steps
    The City Council Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee (PLUS) will discuss the new regulations on September 5, 2014, with a possible PLUS Committee vote on September 16. The full City Council will then vote on the PLUS Committee’s recommendation, possibly on September 22 or 29. There is typically a 30-day period between when City Council votes on legislation and when new regulations become effective.
    Project Benefits

    Based on our evaluation so far, we recognize micro-housing and congregate residences as an emerging and viable type of housing. This housing can help achieve Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan goals and policies by:

    Reducing the cost of developing new housing
    Fostering an adequate and diverse supply of housing

    The End Result

    We will deliver our recommendations on the permitting and design of micro-housing and congregate residences to City Council. After deliberating and holding a public hearing, the City Council will adopt legislation.”

    And here, some links to updates from a variety of points of view:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2014/09/micro-apartments-are-about-to-become-more-costly.html?page=all

    http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/seattle-city-council-committee-oks-rules-for-microhousing-apartments/

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/09/16/murray-spurns-council-for-attempting-to-drive-up-cost-of-small-afforable-apartments

    http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/seattle/2014/09/16/microhousing-seattle-density-affordable-council/15748077/

    Posted by Linda | September 17, 2014, 10:34 pm

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