City Hall

Increased Density Riles Homeowners

A petition from a group that's trying to roll back heights in low-rise parts of the city highlights fears about sunlight, trash, and becoming another New York City.

By Erica C. Barnett January 17, 2014

A petition by the group Seattle Speaks Up to roll back heights in some low-rise zones in Seattle garnered 1,000 signatures, including several prominent neighborhood activists. The proposal would end a zoning change that the city council approved in 2010, which allows developers to bundle together several "bonus" provisions that allow them to build taller than three stories in a low-rise 3 (LR-3) zone if they meet certain criteria, such as building on a sloped lot.

The upshot is that some buildings, including the dreaded microhousing (AKA aPodments), as tall as five stories (four in the front, five on the back, sloped side) in low-rise zones. 

That doesn't sit well with the petitioners, who turned out in force at a recent meeting on Capitol Hill and filled the petition with comments decrying the death of their neighborhoods' "character." Many suggested that allowing four or five stories, instead of three, would create "sunless streets" and turn Seattle into "Dallas or Colorado"; others suggested that allowing small new apartments was a sign that the city was giving in to "greed" from "Wall Street"; and still others said the new residents would overrun their neighborhoods with dogs, trash, and cars.

A sampling:

From an anonymous commenter: "Broadway will be dark by 2pm in the winter and 4pm in the summer, and the wind will howl north to south through a tunnel of 6 story apartment buildings (that frankly, we cannot fill—financiers are worried about the oversupply of rentals as it is)."

From Bill Bradburd, a Central District homeowner and longtime aPodment skeptic: "It is a shame that our electeds are patting themselves on the back for creating 'affordable housing' with unit sizes in the 150 sqft range. This has to change." 

From a Capitol Hill resident: "I have SAD and struggle with the limited amount of light that comes through my window. Please reconsider the height and the way the buildings are going up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood."

From a Capitol Hill resident: "The mayor and his developer cronies and the collusion of the City Council are raping Seattle. Conlin pushes for "density", and then, little by little, pushes through more buildings without parking in them. The demographics of Seattle do NOT support turning the city into high-rises, tiny "pod" apartments with no cooking allowed, and no way for older people and the disabled to go anywhere—lousy transit and no parking places."

From a Capitol Hill resident: "I get extremely frustrated whenever I walk through the neighborhood because all I see are those white development boards. I wonder what our great walking neighborhood will be like after all these ginormous 'eye sores' are built and all the traffic they'll bring into the neighborhood.

"Please stop the building now!! Capitol Hill is perfect the way it is!!"

From  a Roosevelt resident: "I was born and raised in Seattle and the new development projects going up in the Roosevelt area are scary as all get out. It is time to change the zoning laws back to what they were before 2010 before we are another New York." 

And that's just from the first 500 signers. You can read the whole petition, including signatures and comments, here

We've covered the potential downzone here and here

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