Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

If Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned, Why Can’t the DPD Monitor While Neighborhood Character and Context are Trashed?

Yeah, I know,  I have just consumed millions of pixels explaining the DPD’s efforts to remedy the confusion around microhousing – at least three years after they realized there was a problem. It seems that the DPD’s strategy has always been to monitor the problem.

May 16, 2011:  In a letter to Bill Zosel, Diane Sugimura states: “We will continue to monitor this type of development.”

On June 19, 2012, Councilmember Sally Clark sent an email to Councilmember Richard Conlin, noting the batch of emails she had received on aPODments, and asking: “Is this something you’ve already discussed with Diane and DPD? Any chance there will be a more formal discussion at committee of the rate or intensity of aPodment [sic]/micro-unit development? Conlin replied later that afternoon:

I discussed it with her, and she does not see an issue as yet. but we are watching it. I think one more will put us over the tipping point on getting something going.

June 28, 2012: In a letter to Franklin Avenue neighbors, Diane Sugimura states:

“I have discussed this type of housing with the Mayor and several Councilmembers. At this time, our direction is to monitor them to determine if we are seeing unintended consequences from such development, and determine if any code changes are needed.”

July 19, 2012: In a letter to Chris Leman of the Eastlake District Council, Diane Sugimura states:

“I have discussed this type of housing with the Mayor and several Councilmembers. At this time, our direction is to monitor them to determine if we are seeing unintended consequences from such development, and determine if any code changes are needed.”

September 11, 2012;  In an email from Bryan Stevens to Mike Podowski and Andy McKim, two very senior land use and policy figures in the DPD re a microhousing meeting, an item on the agenda was listed as:

Microhousing policy

-monitoring proposals, but no changes planned

-proposed in areas where growth is encouraged, frequent transit, good/services nearby

September 18, 2012: Bryan Jones of the DPD tells Doug Dempster, a concerned Capitol Hill resident:

“At this point, we are monitoring the complaints we receive on proposed projects, as up to this point we have not received any regarding constructed and occupied buildings.”

Hmmmm…what artful wording.

At an early December 2012 meeting with irate Capitol Hill neighbors, Conlin and Sugimura repeatedly state they see no problem with microhousing and that they had not heard anything yet that would move them to take further action at this point. Though Conlin did state his belief that microhousing projects did not qualify for the MFTE, and that he was going to stop that.

Do you detect the same pattern here that I do?

Having heard so often about  this monitoring, I couldn’t resist asking the DPD what it meant by monitoring. I received the following reply from Vicki Baucom, Code Compliance Analyst at the DPD:

I

after a customer comes into the Applicant Services Center (ASC – on the 20th

  • floor) with a project that appears to be microhousing, the ASC staff person contacts Mike
  • Mike then adds the information to the attached spreadsheet.
  • The plans are reviewed and if it is confirmed to be microhousing, it stays on the attached spreadsheet.

I hope this clarifies how we are monitoring the microhousing situation.

I was left wanting more. Hardly the type of monitoring that is called for in the situation. Though the process may explain why the DPD and I have never had lists of microhousing projects that agree. At Capitol Hill neighbors’ first meeting with Tom Rasmussen, I told him that while I had a list of 39 microhousing projects across the City of Seattle, DPD only had 22 projects listed. To this day, our lists do not agree, and many of the items that have made it to more recent lists of microhousing compiled by the DPD contain projects that in no way could be construed by a knowledgeable person as microhousing.

The Consequences to Neighborhoods of the DPD’s and City Council’s Monitoring

In 2007, one microhousing project was permitted.

In 2008, three were permitted.

In 2009, one was permitted.

In 2010, three were permitted.

In 2011, four were permitted.  Two or three of them after Sugimura told Bill Zosel she was monitoring the situation.

In 2012, nineteen were permitted or permits were applied for, fourteen of them after all the protestations of monitoring by officials which I presented above:

As of March 4 2013, 5 permits have been granted or applied for.

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Information about the rapid spread of microhousing in Seattle Neighborhoods

The first issue I will be presenting information on is microhousing, a new form of Seattle housing that has taken off like a wildfire in the last year. Think small….very small. The largest numbers of these closets for urban “living” have sprouted on Capitol Hill and in the University District. I will be using this blog to discuss various aspects of the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s permitting of these new developments, and to explore the confusions, contradictions, misrepresentations and mischaracterizations that have swirled around these developments. Having researched microhousing for almost 3 months, I hope to provide information which has been missing from a debate that has generated more heat than light.

In February 2013, the Department of Planning and Development said that 7 microhousing projects had been built and occupied, and that 32 were in the pipeline.  Over the five-year period from 2007 to 2011, 12 microhousing project permits were granted. In a single year, 2012, the number of permitted projects jumped to 19. As of April 2013, I have 45 projects on my list of microhousing projects. Of these 17 projects, or approximately 37% are on Capitol Hill or just a  few blocks south of East Madison Street. For comparison, there are 12 in the University District, 3 in Eastlake, 3 in West Seattle, and 5 in the Central District. They are beginning to fan out through the North Central neighborhoods as well.

Armed with this information, you should attend the upcoming public meeting to be held by City Council on April 18, 2013. You can find more information on that meeting here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/calendar/#/?i=2  The fact that this meeting is being held at all is a demonstration of the potential of committed and informed engagement with our elected officials. City Council was not originally inclined to have such a discussion.

The posts that follow will focus on and provide detailed information on select aspects of the microhousing phenomenon.