The Fremont Neighborhood Council has been quite concerned about the Lanz Fremont 3-story 32-unit apartment building being reviewed for construction at 3959 & 3965 Fremont Ave N. The building faces Fremont Avenue N on the east, on the edge of the Fremont Urban Village, but the west it presents a large presence, facing a very narrow alley difficult for firetrucks and other vehicles to enter. We just received this email describing refusal to move the building’s proposed main entrance from the alley to the urban village side as the Early Design Guidance Report recommended. Decisions may be made soon. Excerpts from the message follow:
Dear Fremont Neighbors and Friends,
You are receiving this email because you have previously expressed concern about the Lanz Fremont 3-story 32-unit apartment building being proposed for construction at 3959 & 3965 Fremont Ave N, across the street from B.F. Day Elementary school.
The design of the building places the primary entrance off a narrow residential alley behind a dead-end street, even though the project street address is Fremont Ave N. This means that all vehicular access for deliveries, pick-ups, moving, etc. would be though lower density residential streets of upper Fremont. Also, this design fails to provide direct access to Fremont Ave N for people who are unable to negotiate stairs. We are at the stage where we need to take legal action against this project and we need your help.
What is happening now?
This project is in the Master Use Permit design review stage. The Early Design Guidance Report issued by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) in February 2018, directed the developer to put the primary entrance to the building from Fremont Ave N. The developer responded by submitting a new design IGNORING the guidance, keeping the ONLY entrance off the alley, and increasing the number of micro-unit apartments from 29 to 32.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that SDCI is going to force the developer to follow the Early Design Guidance regarding placement of the main entrance. We have had multiple communications in person, by phone, and by email with the land use planner assigned to this project. She gives every indication, without explicitly saying so, that she is going to allow the developer to put the only entrance to the building facing the alley, contrary to the Early Design Guidance.
Various SDCI departments have issued corrections to the developer regarding aspects of the revised design, but none of these corrections mention moving the primary entrance so that it is facing Fremont Ave N. After all the corrections are addressed by the developer, the SDCI planner assigned to this project will issue a decision. If SDCI decides that this design, with all its faults, will not have signficant negative impacts on the neighborhood, then they will issue a Determination of Non-significance (DNS). After a DNS is published, our neighborhood will have just two weeks to file an appeal to the Hearing Examiner, who functions like a court judge for development disputes. Otherwise the project receives a Master Use permit.
“After a DNS is published, our neighborhood will have just two weeks to file an appeal to the Hearing Examiner…” Friends of Upper Fremont
Friends of Upper Fremont seek to challenge this to the Hearing Examiner. Residents of Upper Fremont they created a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization “to protect the character and livability of our neighborhood from projects such as Lanz Fremont. They oppose the current design because, they write, there is:
- Violation of LR2 access intent – This project violates the intent of the LR2 (low-rise 2) rezoning functional and locational criteria for the site. This code indicates that LR2 is suitable for sites that have direct access to an arterial street and are not required to use streets that go through lower density zones (like our neighborhood) for access. Therefore, this project needs to follow the intent of its LR2 rezoning by placing the primary entrance on Fremont Ave N. The fact that the city planner doesn’t want to consider the criteria that was used for the rezone shows a lazy disconnect between zoning decisions and development oversight.
- Violation of building entry orientation – The land use code regulating apartment building orientation requires an entry to face the street and have direct access to the street. And the street of address for this project is Fremont Ave N, not unnamed alley.
- Violation of building equal access – The building code also requires that access to Fremont Ave N via the narrow winding staircase, that the developer has begrudgingly added to the design, be equally accessible for people of all abilities. The project design does not provide this required equal access.
For more information, contact Friends of Upper Fremont at https://friendsofupperfremont.org.