A Report by Gary Friedman on Micro-housing June 7th, 2013
The nationwide controversy over so-called ‘micro-housing’ is now centered on Seattle where RNA members have joined in efforts to convince the city council to close regulatory loopholes that are allowing such building projects to proliferate with little control. While we share common concerns with other neighborhood boards over the negative effects of dramatically increased density that are resulting from these projects, significant other factors are particularly affecting our residential neighborhood.
Micro-housing buildings are generally four stories or higher and mostly consist of 220 square foot or less sized ‘sleeping room’ units intended for single occupancy, up to eight of which usually share a single kitchen and bathroom. As such, each of these combined blocks is considered to be a single ‘residence’ that is subject to lesser planning review and regulation than if each unit were classified as an individual residence. These cheaply-constructed buildings are also without on-site parking, elevators or other amenities, are not family or senior friendly, and their up-zoned sizes and exterior appearances often conflict with the characteristics of neighborhoods where they are being placed. Furthermore, while the rental rates of these units are being pitched as relatively low, they are actually considerably higher on a square footage basis than for existing adjacent properties, and are therefore driving up rental rates all around them.
Our residential area is in the process of being hemmed in with micro-housing style projects that are being specifically marketed to college students as double-bunked (or more) ‘micro-dorms’. For example, each of the 56 sleeping rooms of the ‘Den on Brooklyn’ project at Brooklyn and 52nd has a promoted “”Full size Loft Bed; Sofa bed underneath” that is blatantly designed to pack in as many residents as possible. However, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development [DPD] was unaware of this manipulation and was projecting potential impacts on the neighborhood via erroneous single occupancy calculation. In a related problem, due to the design of this building (and others being similarly constructed), each of its 50 units is eligible for up to four Residential Parking Zone [RPZ] passes plus one guest pass. Using a recent Portland study showing that 72% of micro-housing residents have cars, it is obvious that this building alone will create serious congestion in our RPZ 10 that the Seattle Department of Transportation [SDOT] figures is already at 85% to 100% of capacity.
At this point, we have effectively lobbied to get the city council to address the micro-housing issue, but it is apparent that they are not going to place a requested moratorium on micro-housing construction. On the other hand, they are taking some procedural steps to plug some loopholes, such as putting a halt to extensive unmerited tax credits that micro-housing developers were getting for supposedly providing ‘affordable family housing’. However it appears that no major changes are going to be made to ordinances until after the November elections. In the meantime, RNA activists continue to battle micro-housing with colleagues from other affected neighborhoods.
|Construction at the U District light rail station is underway, and Sound Transit’s contractor is starting with demolition preparation for the buildings within the construction area (see map). Below lists what you can expect during construction:Two week look ahead (as of 4/23/13):
On the horizon (5/13/13 and on):
The work hours are generally Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.*
*Construction schedules are subject to change. Notifications will be sent out for significant changes.
WHAT IS THE U DISTRICT STATION?
The U District Station is part of the Northgate Link Extension project which is a 4.3 mile light rail extension of the current system that will provide a fast reliable option for getting through one of the region’s most congested traffic areas. The Northgate Link Extension project includes stations at Northgate, the Roosevelt neighborhood and the University District.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Report construction issues (after business hours) at our 24-Hour Construction Hotline at 1 (888) 298-2395.