Wallingford could become a flashpoint for backlash against the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) judging by recent events. Last month, the Wallingford Community Council held a public gripe session and wouldn’t allow newly elected Councilmember Rob Johnson join their panel due to his support for HALA. The Wallingford contingent was also among the noisiest dissenting voices at the HALA public meeting at City Hall last week.

HALA opponents contend that housing growth will crowd them out somehow. And since opponents almost invariably bring up parking sooner or later, apparently their vehicles are also in danger of being crowded out — albeit from government subsidized on-street spots.

Parking Paradox

Contrarily, I would argue some new apartment complexes in Wallingford and Fremont are being built with too much parking rather than too little. My own apartment building had only 100 of 128 parking spots rented despite near full occupancy of its 171 units and became a poster child in this Stranger article on parking oversupply.

Nonetheless, developers seem to continue repeating the same parking miscalculation. Just one block from my apartment, I’ve watched developers dig deep into the earth like greedy middle-earth dwarves seeking not gold but multilevel parking. One 274-unit building was built atop 264 underground parking spots. Another 124-unit apartment complex is in the midst of mining a cavern large enough for 119 parking spots.

Workers are pumping concrete in the parking pit at 3627 Stone Way N.
Workers are pumping concrete in the parking pit at 3627 Stone Way N. Hopefully they do not summon a Balrog.

Typically, density opponents complain new housing simultaneously costs too much, contains too little parking, and creates too much traffic. This litany of complaints is self-contradictory. Parking is inherently expensive to build, costing as much as $50,000 per spot. Constructing parking adds significantly to project costs. Subsidizing that parking (landlord rarely charge the full cost of parking to tenants) induces driving and thus increases traffic. The way out of this downward spiral of rising housing costs and worsening traffic is to encourage the shift away from car ownership by not overbuilding parking to such an egregious extent. Therefore, we should welcome reasonable parking ratios or 1:2 or lower in apartment buildings well served by transit, and 45th Street, Stone Way, and Wallingford Avenue fit that bill.

Who Speaks For Wallingford?

Wallingford anti-density activists are perhaps feeling especially silenced after the closing of Wallyhood blog that had become a vehicle for their concerns. Seattle Weekly wrote a teary obituary for Wallyhood:

But Wallyhood hung on, remaining a notably strong voice for the leafy Craftsman paradise that is Wallingford. The site could seethe with provincial righteousness toward City Hall. It could also revel in the sorts of little mundanities that make a neighborhood a neighborhood. … According to frequent Wallyhood contributor Eric Fisk, the strength of a blog like Wallyhood is also its weakness: By speaking up for the neighborhood, it gave voice to viewpoints that are typically ignored in civic discourse. But that didn’t make those viewpoints any less ignored.

It’s clear that Wallingford’s anti-density advocates feel ignored by the political process. However, losing an election isn’t the same thing as being ignored. In District 4, Tony Provine ran against HALA and simply didn’t make it through the primary, garnering only 14% of votes. Provine and candidates like him — Catherine Weatbrook, Bill Bradburd, Debra Zech-Artis — got a platform. They failed to convince a majority.

Also note the presumption that they, the HALA skeptics, speak for the neighborhood. It would seem everyone who voted for pro-HALA candidates is misguided. Many people like the direction HALA is taking Wallingford and other neighborhoods. Embracing housing growth along key corridors and welcoming a more diverse neighborhood with a more urban form is going to make Wallingford stronger, not jeopardize it. And the Craftsmen paradise is still going to exist for people who want nothing more than that.

Wallingford Walking Tour

I wanted to disprove a central tenet of the anti-density argument that the neighborhood simply lacks the space for development and what is being torn down is too important. The idea that Wallingford lacks the space for redevelopment is demonstrably false. A cursory walk through Wallingford’s business district shows plenty of blocks are underused and ripe for development. I grabbed my camera and took just such a walk, starting at Stone Way and 45th Street and working my way east. Along 45th Street, I saw many one-story businesses and re-purposed single-family homes that could house larger mixed-use buildings to help meet the incredible demand for housing in Wallingford while also updating the storefronts on the street level.

A dozen commercial district blocks could be redeveloped without losing much besides gas stations, suburban-style banks, and dated — but not historic — one-story buildings. My hope is that when neighbors see that 45th Street is enriched rather than damaged by mixed-use development, they will welcome it along more corridors in Wallingford.

My starting point of Stone Way and 45th Street features three blocks developed with mixed-use buildings including Stone Way Apartments, the Verity Credit Union building, and the Walgreens building. The fourth corner is occupied by Archie McPhee, a comedic toy store, and is just asking for redevelopment, in my personal opinion. (Apologies to those who love gaudy toy stores.)

Archie McPhee's apparently is a joke shop. It includes a side parking lot squandering a prime frontage at a busy intersection.

Archie McPhee toy store includes a side parking lot squandering a prime frontage at a busy intersection. The toy store could reopen in a redeveloped (and hopefully less hideous) building at the site.

Smith & Burns forgoes the vinyl siding with which many Seattleites have grown weary for a refined brick facade. It also includes murals on the opposite side.

The corner of 45th Street and Interlake Avenue is now anchored by a 150-unit mixed use apartment building. Opting for a refined brick facade, Smith & Burns forgoes the vinyl siding with which many Seattleites take offense. More blocks on 45th Street could see projects like this and be better off for it. Apparently, it’s already more than 25% leased ahead of a February 15th grand opening, showing the high residential demand in the neighborhood. My one caveat: the underground parking ramp will contain 157 parking spots for more than a 1:1 ratio. Mack Urban developed the building and apparently failed to learn with their own experience less than a mile away at Velo Apartments where even a 3:4 parking to apartment ratio proved quite excessive.

The western part of 45th Street is characterized by single family homes, mostly Craftsmens, converted to business, such as dental offices and restaurants.

Between Interlake Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, 45th Street is characterized by single-family homes that have been converted to business, such as restaurants and dental offices. A few remain residences. Small storefronts are good for street life and small business vitality. That said, blocks like these could contain more density if landowners chose to redevelop.

IMG_5405

More single-family homes between Interlake and Woodlawn Avenue. The orange one in the middle houses the Mexican restaurant Chili Pepper.

Gas stations are low density uses and opportunities for development.

Gas stations are low density uses and opportunities for development. Granted, removing the underground  storage tank can sometime require doing environmental cleanup that can add a wrinkle to new projects. The high value of Wallingford real estate would probably make the cleanup work well worth it. Since Chevron often has more expensive gas than many competitors anyway, this station is unlikely to be too sorely missed.

Sun Cleaners has an old Seattle charm or at least the sign does. Perhaps, a new building could preserve the sign?

Sun Cleaners at 45th and Woodlawn Avenue has an old Seattle charm or at least the sign does. Perhaps, a new building could preserve the sign?

Key Bank is an eye sore and a massive waste of space near the heart of Wallingford.

Key Bank is an eye sore and a massive waste of space near the heart of Wallingford at 45th Street and Densmore Avenue. Suburban-style banks do not belong in urban neighborhoods.

Not to be outdone, Wells Fargo also went with a hideous renovation for its Wallingford branch.

Not to be outdone, Wells Fargo also went with a hideous renovation for its Wallingford branch just across the street. The historic building looks like it used to be pretty handsome.

Some blocks work really well, such as this one between Densmore Avenue and Wallingford Avenue. A high density of windows and doors draw people in to a variety of storefronts. Some older buildings should be preserved to maintain an diversity of building ages, styles, and rents.

Bartell Drugs is a local chain but didn't much better than the national chains in urban design.

Bartell Drugs is a local chain but didn’t do much better than the national chains in urban design at 45th and Burke Ave. A redevelopment could put residences on top of a more engaging Bartell storefront.

IMG_5416

Chase Bank, of course, went with a dumb design, one story, a big parking lot at 45th Street and Meridian Avenue.

CVS took an old building and rammed itself its old brick facade to gain design board approval.

Also at the intersection with Meridian, CVS took an old building and rammed itself inside the old brick facade to gain design board approval. We have to ask ourselves whether the outcome — a less ugly CVS store — is better than the alternative of completely redeveloping the site?

This Taco Time pretty clearly is a suburban bank circa 1990.

This Taco Time building at 45th Street and Corliss Avenue pretty clearly is a suburban bank from the Reagan era and an affront to all that is good and holy in design. Except for the tacos. The tacos are pretty good.

Across the street from Taco Time is Green Care Auto Repair.

Across the street from Taco Time is Green Care Auto Repair, another opportunity for redevelopment.

The northeast corner of Corliss Avenue intersection is also underused and set back too far.

The block between Corliss Avenue and Sunnyside Avenue is underutilized and set back too far, giving it a strip mall vibe. These businesses could easily front the street with 200 apartments or condos built on top of them.

Redeveloping the original Dick's Burger location at 1st Ave NE would face would face an uphill battle.

Redeveloping the original Dick’s Burger location at First Avenue NE would face an uphill battle. Too much history. Too many burgers.

A one story liquor store is another opportunity for growth.

Across the street from Dick’s, a recently closed liquor store presents a ripe redevelopment opportunity. Perhaps the landowner will sell to a developer if they cannot lease the property soon.

Inexplicably there is a large underused parking lot between Rancho Bravo and Golden Oldies Record Store. This whole block could use an upgrade although I'd like to see Rancho Bravo stay on the corner for my own selfish burrito needs.

Inexplicably, a large little-used parking lot swallows up space between Rancho Bravo and Golden Oldies Record Store. The rundown lot used to house the Rancho Bravo food truck before it moved into the Winchell’s Donut building. This whole block could use an upgrade, though, I’d like to see Rancho Bravo stay on the corner for my own selfish burrito needs. (Personal aside: I was waiting for a burrito while I took this photo.)

This Shell station makes for a dull block and an opportunity.

Across from Rancho Bravo, this Shell station makes for a dull block and a choice parcel for development.

If overpriced oil changes ever go out of style, this could be a much more dynamic building.

If overpriced, hastily done oil changes ever go out of vogue, we could replace Jiffy Lube with a much more dynamic building at 45th Street and Thackeray Place. If basking your skin in carcinogen rays became passé, we could replace another building (Tropical Tan) and have ourselves quite a block.

Bedrooms & More is moving to a brand new location just to the east. Perhaps the old location could find a better use.

Bedrooms & More at 45th Street and Latona Avenue is moving to a brand new location just to the east. Perhaps this parcel could find a better use once the current occupant has moved out.

IMG_5441

Also at the Latona Avenue intersection, the Frame Central building could warrant an upgrade.

HALA Will Shape The Street For Good

Most parcels along 45th Street have sufficient zoning to warrant redevelopment. If a parcel is redeveloped before HALA (or if HALA were to be blocked) that new development likely won’t include affordable units or fees to fund affordable units. That shows why HALA is so crucial. Many 45th Street blocks will be developed with or without it. HALA helps us channel some off that development energy into affordable housing.

We are dancing around the question: what makes a good street? Is it nice dense buildings with first floor retail and rooftop patios and gardens? Or is parking lots dotted with small one story buildings? I’m hoping for a future where 45th Street supports even more businesses than it does now while also allowing hundreds more people to call Wallingford home. It’s a good neighborhood. I’m be happy to share it with more neighbors.

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a non-profit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Previous articleSeattle’s MFTE Program Has Strong Showing At End Of 2015
Next articleAnna Karina 
Doug Trumm is The Urbanist's Executive Director. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. We live in northwest Wallingford and agree with your observations. We’d add two things: parts of northwest Wallingford that are currently Single Family 5,000 only were originally zoned for smaller lots and small multi-family. There are duplexes, triplexes, row houses (at 48th and Wallingford) and small apartments (e.g., the Mari-Don) interspersed with SFHs. HALA ought to restore that type of zoning which would be good for both affordability and diversity. And if we want small funky local businesses to be able to afford commercial rent, we ought to un-ban “corner store” commercial. (Tangletown has a few grandfathered small commercial buildings intermixed with SFHs and other small multi-family). This would provide commercial space with lower rents on average than new/redeveloped construction on the main arterials.

  2. Early in your article, you refer to the problem of developers overbuilding parking, as in the example of Stone Way mixed-use developments. Although it may be true that the average cost of each parking place is $50,000, the marginal cost is what is relevant for economic decision making.

    The marginal cost is the cost of the last unit added, and is likely much lower, especially given the high fixed costs for land, planning, construction, and engineering. If you assume that the developer risks being unable to lease apartments in some market conditions, then the developer has obvious incentives to overbuild parking because it costs very little to have an excess of parking, and a lot to come up short.

    Once the developer has completed construction and is the owner of a finished building, leasing out parking together with apartments, the costs of constructing the parking in the first place become sunk costs, and is no longer relevant. Now the developer is trying to maximize profits on an existing and fixed number of spaces. Many potential tenants do need parking, so the developer’s pricing strategy for apartments isn’t independent of pricing strategy for rental apartments.

    One can predict that some of the cost for constructing parking will be recouped in higher rents on apartments. In effect, tenants without cars are being forced to pay an for an option that gives them a place to park a car in the future, should they need it. This is unfair to those who never want to own a car.

    From the perspective of tenants who rent parking, the choice is between renting a space at the landlord’s asking price, or using “free” parking in the neighborhood, which is not really free, because there is a time cost in finding parking and probably some cost in extra depreciation on the vehicle and for parking tickets.

    Of course, “free parking” uses space that could potentially have other uses, so its costs are really imposed on other potential users. Free parking could instead be regulated as paid parking for shorter term users, encouraging businesses that serve the entire neighborhood.

    Out of fairness to those who don’t want to be car owners, some construction should be allowed that doesn’t require any parking at all. Since smaller parcels of land will have much higher marginal costs for adding parking, they could be exempted.

    It would be to everybody’s advantage if developers can rent out their extra parking places to others in the neighborhood, which could mean tenants or homeowners of nearby buildings, and even commuters who work nearby. In effect, this creates a market in the neighborhood for parking. Potentially, it is a solution so that smaller lots in the neighborhood can be developed without bearing the high costs of developing their own parking.

    The fact that publicly owned space is devoted to free parking disrupts the creation of such a market. Furthermore, it’s obvious from reading these neighborhood blogs that Wallingford neighbors (just like homeowners elsewhere in the city) feel entitled to free parking. Although they could rent some of the extra spaces that are available nearby, this would have some cost for them.

    Many of them feel that free parking, or low cost city restricted parking permits, are an entitlement of theirs. They don’t necessarily recognize that the value of their property is rising more than enough to compensate them for the loss of free parking, and they legitimately complain that while their property values are rising, they pay higher taxes and yet have no current way to recoup any of that value.

    A possible solution would be for developers of mixed use properties to give parking vouchers, good for a certain number of years, to owners of nearby properties. In exchange, the developers would be allowed concessions such as an additional floor.

    • Interesting comments Howard!

      I would add that the cost of structured parking passed on through rents to non car owners is probably tiny compared to all the other costs from subsidizing parking; more traffic, lost ROW for buses/bikes, environmental degradation. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong to drive or own a car. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just absurd the public subsidizes it.

  3. Crossposting here from Next Door. Certainly, many of the buildings on 45th could be redeveloped, under current rules or HALA. But one of my big concerns is that when a new building goes in, the rents for ground-floor retail go up, and we lose the funky/eccentric businesses that have given our neighborhood its character. Instead, we get tanning salons and cell-phone stores and start looking like every other neighborhood that’s in the same development squeeze. I LOVE that we have Archie McPhee, and Sock Monster, and a shoe repair shop that’s been in business for 80 years and a bunch of other quirky places. Frankly, I find it pretty convenient to be able to get gas in the neighborhood.

    I’m pretty proud that the reason the CVS and Smith & Burns look the way they do, rather than the way they were originally proposed, is due to input from neighbors (not that we need a fourth pharmacy in the neighborhood, especially a national chain). Hoping we get a good new restaurant in one of those ground-floor spaces at Smith & Burns.

    And, as far as parking in the new development goes, have you talked to any local businesses about what they’re hearing from their customers about parking here? There has to be some off-street parking for them.

    Not every inch of this city has to become Ballard. (p.s. I am not anti-density — I just want to do it in a smart way, and a way that really promotes affordable housing, not more ultra-expensive condos and apartments.)

    • Janey, thanks for your work on design review. CVS must have been a difficult partner to work with and I understand that the WCC pushed for density at that site but CVS refused. I’m glad you pushed the Mack Urban to do better with Smith & Burns.

      I agree that we need to create an environment that supports small businesses in Wallingford. I think we should preserve some old blocks, but we can also make progress on this front with good design in new projects. One sign of hope is the project at 3801 Stone Way went with six retail spaces instead of one or two really big ones. New units still might be expensive to rent, but in the long run have a lot of retail spaces in the area competing against each other should bring down prices.

      I think there is a path within the HALA framework that does density in a smart way and really promotes affordable housing. Maybe you think 5% isn’t significant enough mandatory affordability under the MIZ program. We could push the city to raise the percentage higher. By bundling affordable units to upper market units with MIZ we are ensuring that we get more affordable units at no cost to the city. The HALA recommendations are starting points, but I think the HALA framework is the most significant affordable housing plan ever devised in Seattle.

  4. Hi Doug – So you didn’t attend the WCC meeting at the Good Shepherd Center in January. If you had, you might have known it was an informational meeting, not a ‘public gripe session’. If you had, you might have recognized that it was neighbors getting together with the Wallingford Community Council and guests to talk about the details of HALA and the major changes it would bring. If you had, you might have known that Rob Johnson was there and stayed afterwards to answer questions. If you had, you might have learned a little something about the negative aspects of HALA. Yes, there are some negative aspects. And just because the neighborhood wants to discuss those, does not mean we are ‘anti-density activists’. In fact, most people are in favor of increasing density, as long as it is done with careful planning and the character of the neighborhood in mind. By the way, did you know that the Wallingford Community Council asked the CVS group to build up? They refused.

    I’m sure you’ve looked at the map of the proposed Wallingford Urban Village. It balloons well outside the 45th and Wallingford Ave corridors. And our very own Rob Johnson, thinks it’s a good idea to raise taxes to what could be built on each lot within the urban village. You know, to encourage people to sell. Maybe we should all be taxed on what we could potentially earn someday, too. That seems reasonable. Here’s what would happen in that scenario. The people who are living in these small houses, duplexes, apartments in the ‘Craftsman paradise’ that is Wallingford, couldn’t afford the tax increase and would be forced to sell, most likely to developers who would build multi-unit structures with outrageous rents (not really a mixed income reality), because let’s face it, Wallingford is a desirable location. There would be little to no affordable housing built. It’s estimated that 11 existing low-income units are lost for every new one built in our city. The push for HALA must not be about creating more affordable housing. Did you know that Seattle’s current zoned capacity can accommodate all planned growth for more than 20 years? The sense of urgency behind this push for upsizing single family to multi-family is coming from developers not from a city need. So, who do you think is benefiting?

    Let’s talk about parking. You say your apartment complex has too much parking. I’m curious to know whether your complex charges a monthly fee for a parking spot? Most apartment buildings do. Have you taken a poll to find out how many units in your complex actually own cars? Did you know it’s cheaper to purchase a yearly RPZ permit than it is to pay most monthly apartment space fees. Possibly your neighbors know that and are parking on the street. You mentioned several complexes, which you think offer too much parking. What about the buildings going in with no parking, like the micro housing building on Meridian just above 45th? Think that none of those 40 units own a car? There is another large project also with no parking planned on 45th and Woodlawn. If those people have cars, they’ll be using street parking that many restaurants and businesses along that stretch of 45th rely on for their customers. Do you think that saving the developer money by abolishing parking brings the rent or purchase price down? It simply increases the developer’s profit margin. They won’t cut rents because they built cheaper. I agree that parking should not be overbuilt, but good transit needs to be in place or we threaten to choke out the small businesses, which provide much of the character in our neighborhoods.

    Speaking of character, I agree with the comment by Nicholas. Many of our small businesses could not survive a redevelopment. Your opinionated walking tour suggests knocking and rebuilding most of 45th and you state that HALA will shape the street for good. Says who? How it would be redeveloped completely depends on the vision of the highest bidder. After all, Mayor Murray’s proposed comprehensive plan does away with public process, so the neighborhood wouldn’t have any say in the design, anyway.

    As a decade-long resident of Wallingford, I agree with what I’ve heard many of my neighbors say…. we’re ok with density, we expect it, but use the Neighborhood Plan to build it thoughtfully.

    • I watched the meeting online and while it was partially informational, the moderator actually called for rants at one point. There was also some misinformation. It’s fine to air your grievances but to act like there wasn’t an agenda is disingenuous.

      You fundamentally misunderstand HALA. Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIZ) means that at least 5% of the apartments built under a rezoned Wallingford would be 60% area median income. That’s mandatory. Developers can’t wiggle out of it. Now 5% is not a huge percentage, but it would create a lot more affordable units than would otherwise exist. Another commenter said Wallingford can grow 50% under basically the zoning we have right now. I’m skeptical but assuming Wallingford did grow that much and MIZ was in place, that would mean hundreds of affordable units and the great thing is they are spread throughout the neighborhood which sociologists says is best to combat poverty since concentrating poverty exacerbates it.

      Rezoning won’t affect single family zones unless the changes go through the neighborhood plan. More likely they will change zoning within existing multi-family zones to allow greater density for the time being.

      HALA does not propose to end the community council’s involvement in design review. Neighborhood design guidelines will remain in effect. HALA will likely add to them, and community councils can still weigh in prior to the formal design review process.

      Re: parking, yes my building charges for parking spots. Are you saying it should be free? Isn’t that unfair to the tenants who don’t drive a car? The building already charges less than the spot is worth, to give it away for free would further subsidize car-owning tenants at the expense of tenants who don’t own a car. The truth is that on-street parking is public domain. No one citizen has a stronger right to it than another. There is a really easy fix to ensure businesses have enough street parking: meter more spots around the business district to prevent long term parking during business hours.

      The 40-unit building at 45th and Woodlawn you mentioned will actually contain 20 parking off-street spots. I think it’s a really solid design that will blend well with the neighborhood: https://www.theurbanist.org/2015/06/02/n-45th-st-apartments/.

  5. There is an ethical dilemma in urban village up-zoning. If single family areas of the Wallingford Urban Village are up-zoned, the increase in property taxes will make staying in the neighborhood unaffordable for many residents, especially those who are lower income, including both younger families and fixed income seniors, etc., and there are many such residents in Wallingford. It is simply not just a neighborhood of wealthy Craftsman owners. There are many lower income people in the urban village area, especially long term homeowners who want to stay in the neighborhood in the homes that they worked hard to keep. If we are trying to keep neighborhoods affordable, it makes no sense to drive out one set of lower income residents and replace those spots with higher income apartments that may have a few lower income units. If that happens, then one set of lower income residents are replaced by another, with a human toll of victimization of the first set of residents forced out of their affordable places to live. The city needs to work with the community to prevent this displacement, so that people are not forced out of their long-term homes with up-zoned property taxes for the sake of development and density that can be achieved in other ways. We need solutions in which current residents are not sacrificed for new residents and in which both longer term and new populations engage in symbiotic solutions.

    It would also go a long way for people on either side of the HALA divide to stop demonizing and misrepresenting one another. Wouldn’t it be great for the city and neighborhood residents to work together to achieve reachable goals that recognize the needs of both current and future residents of all incomes? This community can work for all, but that does require respect and compromise – including by the city, by urbanists, by HALA supporters and opponents, by current area residents and stakeholders, and by the new residents who will be welcomed here.

    • A senior (over age 62) can get a federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. Owning a home with a lot of equity is like having money in the bank for your retirement.

      http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/sfh/hecm/hecmhome

      And if you are a senior with an appreciated home, it’s in your interest to want even more appreciation on the home. You can cash it out with the reverse mortgage, or you could sell and move to Montana or Mexico, where homes are much cheaper. Aren’t you glad you didn’t live in Cleveland, where entire neighborhoods that were once as beautiful as Wallingford are now practically abandoned?

      But don’t confuse reverse mortgages, a regulated financial product for seniors, with the predatory home equity loans that out-of-state call centers are always pitching to you on the phone (especially if you are a senior).

  6. I am curious if Doug T. attended the meetings or is the article based on research from other sources? I’ve read several similar articles that contain many of the same misconceptions, nearly verbatim.

    No offense, but I had the opposite impression of the meeting in Wallingford. If I were to summarize the meeting in one sentence, the sentiment I heard expressed was a desire to have the City share specific growth targets and include each neighborhood in planning on how to best accommodate that growth, same as we did in the 1994… quite different from what Mr. T. relates in his article.

    Terms such as “anti-HALA” have no meaning, but carry plenty of emotional baggage. Most of HALA was not even discussed at the Wallingford meeting, so how can Mr. T. term participants as “anti-HALA”? City process (and the press) will polarize dialogue, intentionally or not, and the result is to “divide and conquer” public opinion rather than realize actual solutions. Beware when you read articles that demonize participants and apply sweeping labels.

    The survey Mr. T. performed supports exactly a point made at the meeting: There is plenty of room for development along 45th (and elsewhere), and it can all take place WITHOUT ANY CHANGE in current zoning. Yet the City is talking about fanning the flames of speculation using upzones. To make things more affordable? Really?

    Wallingford can grow an additional 50% without any change in current zoning. By comparison, Wallingford grew 30% between 1990 and 2010, greatly exceeding prior growth targets years early and we already exceeded the growth target for 2024 two years ago (and 12 years early).

    • I wasn’t able to attend the HALA meeting, but I did watch the video recording and I don’t believe I’ve misrepresented the thrust of it.

      Anti-HALA is simply stating a political position that the presenters themselves profess. One panelist, Catherine Weatbrook, even made opposing HALA one of the focuses of her recent city council campaign. I try not to use any unduly inflammatory labels.

      I know there are some HALA recommendations that have more widespread agreement, but certainly more controversial things like allowing an extra story or two in certain low rise zones (by expanding the height limit from 40 to 55 feet) in exchange for mandatory inclusionary zoning are an important part of the package. 5% to 7% of apartment buildings being in an 60% of AMI program is a lot better than the status quo where you’d never see rent below $1000 in Wallingford outside of subsidized housing.

      It’s not just about Wallingford growing by X amount, but also growing in a mixed income way.

  7. Archie McPhee’s is a representation of what made Seattle so unique and great. It is quirky and creative, a destination shop. Across the street where there used to stand a few homes, is now the overpriced copycat building Smith & Burns, that is the same as everything else springing up all over Seattle.

    Large buildings like this need the extra parking spaces because of the businesses that will go into the ground level of the building. If there aren’t easily accessible parking spaces for those businesses, they will lose patrons and either move or close entirely, like Smash Wine Bar (which also had rent increases that outpaced their business). You end up with vacant storefronts, unused spaces, and eyesores that are vandalized with graffiti and damage.

    The Chevron gas station on 45th is home to The Wallingford Sign, which is known for it’s clever witticisms which are seen across the country thanks to the internet. Another well known quirk from Seattle. Also, it’s a very convenient gas station location for visitors and residents alike.

    The rest of the article basically goes on to state the majority of the rest of the neighborhood is ugly and has a large amount of poorly used space. If that is the case, don’t live in Wallingford if you dislike it so much. Go to one of the already gentrified, overpriced, crammed and uninviting neighborhoods that you can’t park in already ruined by developers without any sort of creativity or imagination to make something new and different. Yes, there is a need for changes and improvements as the city grows. Completely wiping out the city and neighborhoods that already exist is not the best way to go.

    • I’m pretty sure smash wine bar went out because it was not a good restaurant, and surviving on groupon revenue.

  8. The biggest problem I have with HALA is Mayor Murray wanting to rezone the urban village area of Wallingford from Single-Family zoning on the interior streets to multi-family. By the city’s own estimates, with the current zoning there is theoretically room for an additional 220,000 housing units. The mayor’s goal is to add 50,000 units in the next five years. So it is not necessary to rezone Wallingford in order to meet these goals. Neighboring Ballard has been over developed. Wallingford’s Single-Family zoning helps protect the homes from the same fate. The main roads such as 45th are zoned Mixed Use and Multi Family. In my opinion, if the buildings can be kept four stories or lower, then I am not opposed. I do think parking is important and should be included (have you tried to park in Ballard or the U District lately?) While public transportation works for some people, I can think of four people on my block who commute out of the city for work. There are no city buses that go to Puyallup. And Archie McPhee’s is a Seattle institution, I would be very sad to see it “developed.”

    • I believe the impetus for the upzoning is that if the City is going to require developers to build affordable units, the developers get something in return: a little extra height to make for the loss of market-rate units. I don’t know if that’s a legal requirement or if that’s actually the deal made by the mayor’s committee, but it doesn’t directly relate to existing development capacity of 220k units.

  9. Thanks for writing this, I live nearby and the anti-HALA tone on the neighborhood blogs has been hard to take.

    That said, I am skeptical about the redevelopment potential of 45th. The street is fundamentally a local commercial strip, serving basically Wallingford and maybe adjacent retail-underserved areas like North Fremont and Tangletown. I don’t think 45th can attract destination restaurants and retail due to almost complete lack of parking and bad traffic on 45th, and I don’t think transit to the neighborhood is attractive enough to draw people in via that mode. My suspicion is the current retail spaces are sufficient to satisfy retail demand in the area…and may be over-sufficient, based on the number of empty spaces I see around, or the fact that users like Taco Time and Archie MacPhee’s can continue to exist in their underdeveloped properties.

    If we line 45th with 4-story apartment buildings does that get us there? Maybe, but I have to question whether the depth of demand for the neighborhood is that deep. People want to live in Wallingford because they want to live in the sacred craftsmen…if the only housing on offer is generic apartment boxes, will the demand be the same?

    • I’m glad to hear another pro-HALA voice in the neighborhood. I think Wallingford is a hotter market than you think. Time will tell but I wouldn’t underestimate the demand.

      Smith & Burns charges about $1625 for a studio, $1,870 for a one bedroom, and $2515 for a 2 BR and yet was 25% rented a month ahead of opening. Those are pretty high rents but people are willing to pay it to live in such a great neighborhood next to so many amenities. The building advertises proximity to the No. 16 bus and RapidRide E on their website so I think they do expect transit users and the service is pretty good.

      I think the mythology of the craftsman is perhaps taken too far. They’re charming. We love to look at them, but many people of my generation have stopped even dreaming of owning one in Wallingford because we’re aware of how expensive they have become. Buying a 600K house is simply beyond our means. Thus to live in this neighborhood we must rent or perhaps buy a condo. And as generic at the apartments may seem from the outside they are well equipped, include access to communal roofdecks among other amenities, and offer a pretty high quality of living all things considered.

  10. Redevelopment has been hampered along 45th in Wallingford due to NC-40 zoning. Only two block faces in the entire stretch are NC-65. NC-40 costs the same for the underground garage and concrete retail, but only has 60% of the apartments compared to NC-65 zoning. Therefore development in NC-40 requires very high rents to pencil out.
    The HALA action item of increasing heights in mixed-use zones would be very useful in Wallingford’s business district. Switching to NC-65 in exchange for MIZ is likely to spur redevelopment, which will provide highly desired apartments, more feet on the ground for retail, and no direct impact to the surrounding craftsmans.

  11. Doug – I enjoyed this article and appreciate the analysis. I’m a strong HALA supporter. That said, I hope I can offer one tonal note for your future pieces.

    I feel us density/HALA advocates should be careful about appearing too cavalier when pointing out places that “could use development.”

    Yes, many of the parcels you identify could be redeveloped. But I’d be willing to be that many of the businesses currently in those places would not survive the redevelopment. “Neighborhood character” includes specific businesses as well as people and structures, and I’ve been in public meetings and heard people complain that HALA will drive out local businesses.

    Also, as someone who used to live in Wallingford, I appreciate the diversity of building style on that street, and would hope the Taco Bell and Dick’s, at least, stay for a long time. That 150-unit building on 45th and Interlake could be ANYWHERE, and that’s the problem. The Taco Time and Dick’s couldn’t be anywhere else.

    • Thanks for your advice. I do not want to be cavalier about development. I think every project should take care to fit in with the neighborhood and enrich it.

      I agree that Dick’s is a unique part of Wallingford’s history as the first store and probably isn’t going anywhere nor should it.

  12. I agree with everything you’ve said, with one notable exception (that I’ll probably get laughed out of the “room” for defending): The Taco Time building. I used to live on Corliss VERY close by, and that Taco Time provided an incredibly useful landmark for directing people to the area: “Turn left at the ugly glass Taco Time,” “Pull the stop chord when you see the Taco Time,” etc. It has that certain iconicity (it’s a word, I checked) that only “what-were-they-thinking” type buildings can have, and I’d certainly grieve it’s demolition if that site were ever redeveloped.

    • No, I totally agree with you, Nico. Maybe my love for it is kind of like my love for the Blob that is no longer at the corner of Roy Street and Queen Anne Avenue, but it really is one of the most distinctive buildings in the neighborhood.

    • Thank you for defending the Taco Time building! Just for the record, the Taco Time building was NEVER a bank. It was actually designed and built explicitly for Taco Time, and was rather trendy and cool for its time. I still find it eye-catching and would also be very sorry to see it go.

      • Wow that is surprising. It just felt like a Reagan era bank to me. The general planning concept as I understand it is that you want transparent rather than reflective windows to draw people in from the street and provide interest for passersby. I guess rules are made to be broken though. Did there used to be something on those metal awnings? Thanks for educating me.

        • Nope, there never used to be anything on the metal awnings. Those metal awnings don’t really add much, I have to admit. But really, a Reagan era bank? This building broke from the trends for fast food restaurants, and seemed very innovative when it was built. Kudos to Taco Time for being bold. And just fyi, all the street-level windows ARE transparent. It is the upper story ones that are reflective. So it is not off-putting, but draws its customers in. 🙂 Just saying.

  13. I’ve said this before, but I only support building dwellings without parking (on the grounds that parking won’t be necessary) if the residents of those dwellings can’t own cars in the city (say, no cars registered to that address).

    • That’s absurd and has no legal basis. It would be like telling people with computers that they can’t move into a building without broadband.

      Besides, if people with cars want a building with a parking spot, they’ll move to a building with parking spots. If the building has no parking and it’s within walking distance of stores and transit, then only a few, if any, people with cars will move there.

    • In many locations, the City allows development of residential property with no parking. And then allows those residents to buy a sticker that gives them exclusive rights for street parking in that neighborhood. This strikes me as a rather strange dichotomy.

Comments are closed.