Renderings of development massings near Othello Station.
Renderings of development massings near Othello Station.

Path America’s “public market” mixed-use development plan has officially been submitted to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD). Hatched as a project on former Seattle Housing Authority property, the project proposal consists of two companion land use applications to construct three separate, but related buildings near the Othello light rail station. Combined, the projects would add 486 residential units and 439 parking spaces. The overall project has changed somewhat when we first reported on it in August 2014. At that time, 505 market rate apartments were planned.

The applicants plan to deploy a “wedding cake” approach to the scale and bulk of the three buildings. The tallest of these will be on the northern parcel with 7-story buildings while the southern lot will have a 4-story building that eases its way into the adjacent single-family neighborhood. As you can see in the image above, the gradient of the buildings is this traditional, progressive declination in building height and scale.

Seven-Story Mixed-Use Buildings: 7301 Martin Luther King Jr Way S (Project #3017470)

7301 Martin Luther King Jr Way S, courtesy of Google Streetview.
7301 Martin Luther King Jr Way S, courtesy of Google Streetview.

Siting at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Othello Street, the empty lot above will be home to two, seven-story mixed-used structures. Together, the buildings will total 427 apartments and 6 street-level units as live/work spaces. Live/work units are fast-becoming a common addition to these type of projects. They’re flexible spaces that better address the street, but also reduce solid frontages of ground floor retail, which can often have a challenging time of being fully leased up. In addition to the residential components, the developer plans to have some ground floor retail and a central plaza space to support a farmers’ market.

Location of development proposal, courtesy of DPD.
Location of development proposal, courtesy of DPD.

The submitted land use application revises the total number of apartments downward from 435 to 427, but adds 5 additional live/work units (only 1 was planned originally). The total number of parking spaces is also reduced from the original 465 planned. But with 417 parking spaces slated for the site, the number called for is still obscene given the proximity of the development site and the Othello light rail station.

The immediate area around Othello Station is designated as Urban Village Overlay and the Pedestrian Incentive Zone, which means that the developer of this project isn’t actually required to build any parking. This is just more evidence that simply removing parking minimums doesn’t always reduce the construction of on-site parking, nor does it lead to fully transit-oriented development.

A Four-Story Residential Building: 7343 M L King Jr Way S (Project #301747)

7343 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
Empty lot to the right that will be developed, courtesy of Google Streetview.
Location of development proposal, courtesy of DPD.
Location of development proposal, courtesy of DPD.

Immediately south of the development site noted above, another land use application has been filed for by Path America. A 4-story building with 59 apartment units, ground floor retail, and 22 parking spaces is proposed on a site fronting Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. This project proposal shows fewer residential units that the early design review proposal, which originally called for 65 apartment units and 5 live/work units. As part of the project scale down, the applicants have proposed elimination of the live/work units and reduction of 6 parking spaces (originally planned for 28).

Like the project to the north, this development proposal falls under the same zoning requirements. But this project proposal has a much more appropriate parking ratio; less than half a parking space per unit (a ratio of 0.372 parking spaces per unit to be exact).

Take Action

If you are interested in making comments on the project proposals, the public comment period is open until May 6th, 2015. You can reach Bruce Rips, Project Planner, at bruce.rips@seattle.gov and DPD at PRC@seattle.gov. Given the location and context of the development, comments encouraging less parking as part of the projects would be particularly welcome.

It is also not unreasonable to contact the Seattle Housing Authority’s (SHA) Executive Director, Andrew Lofton, to let him know that future development sites owned and operated by the agency should make a priority for sustainable, equitable, and transit-oriented communities. It’s clear that SHA staff never prioritized development that would create a fully sustainable and equitable community in an area in deep need for such investments.

6 COMMENTS

  1. If these TOD projects are successful, they will attract people who work at the Airport or downtown or Capitol Hill or the U District — places they can reach easily on light rail. But even though residents use transit for home-work trips, many if not most will still need access to an automobile for other trips on evenings or weekends. And they will need to find a convenient place to park those cars. Just because a project is next to a light rail station doesn’t mean no parking is needed.

    • Not building parking in the building doesn’t preclude people from owning cars and suggesting that a location only has parking if it is built in the building is misleading. This area has more than enough street parking.

      • But urbanists regularly decry the very existence of street parking, declaring (with some justification) it’s an unfair subsidy of private automobiles. The area has “more than enough” street parking today, but perhaps not in the future.

        Good planning says to seek a balance, that sweet spot between on- and off-street parking. Hopefully the percentage of tenants with private automobiles will decline over time, but it won’t happen as quickly as you and I might wish.

        • First, that’s not what I said in my reply. Using street space for parking on a busy street is a bad use but on an empty street it really doesn’t matter.

          If you agree that the area has plenty of parking, the future demand can easily be managed by building more parking when it’s needed. The number of people relying on cars won’t decline over time if we continue to subsidize driving by over-building parking in developments like this. The future you hope for will never happen if we continue building our cities so that cars are prioritized and subsidized.

  2. Why did the second project shrink? This seems like a bad thing, even though fewer parking spaces are added.

  3. >> This is just more evidence that simply removing parking minimums doesn’t
    always reduce the construction of on-site parking, nor does it lead to
    fully transit-oriented development.

    No, of course not. That is a very weak straw man if folks believe that is an argument for removing the parking minimums. Some developers will build them, some won’t. Generally speaking, I think the bigger the project, the more likely they will add parking. Once you dig a big hole in the ground for your big apartment, you might as well add parking (it costs very little per unit). The opposite is true, which is why the rules are so terrible from an affordability standpoint. A townhouse or low rise requires parking, even though it contributes substantially to the cost of the unit(s) (much more per unit than buildings like this). It isn’t just the cost, either — sometimes it is the space (since such parking is likely to be on the surface). This is sometimes the difference between two townhouses or three. It is worse at the ADU level. That is, by far, the cheapest housing we could build, but by requiring parking (along with joint ownership) we pretty much kill all of it. No Northwest city has as high a demand — as high a price for rent — and so little ADU construction. The main reason for that is because we have far more restrictive rules.

    The two simplest things we can do to dramatically improve the situation are to get rid of the ownership rule on ADUs, and get rid of parking requirements. Neither change would be radical — neither change would “destroy the character of the neighborhood (quite the contrary, better ADU rules would encourage the retention of our single family housing stock). This would mean that new buildings might have parking, but at least rent would be cheaper.

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