A new 101-unit, 7-story apartment building is coming to the University District. The Arion Apartments will deliver a lot of color and whimsy to a block in serious need of it. The project is entering the Recommendation phase of Design Review tonight in order to respond to the concerns and issues presented at the Early Design Guidance stage. Back in July, neighbors expressed their views on privacy and noise, density, parking, and access of the site. Meanwhile, the Northeast Design Review Board members applauded the extravagant design proposal and requested that the applicant consider issues like privacy of adjacent properties. Board members will have one more bite at the apple tonight to give their final comments and blessing on the development.
There’s no doubt that neighbors will either love or hate this gem by Johnston Architects, but the project is situated in an ideal location for this kind of density. The project is already flanked by apartment and condo buildings on all sides with hundreds of other dwelling units on the block. Two blighting residences will be removed to make way for the new apartment. However, future residents could benefit from excellent amenities like local retail services and entertainment, frequent transit service, employment and educational opportunities, and much more.
The architects have chosen to create a very modular, checkered, and semi-industrial looking building. The exterior will largely consist of red corrugated metal and nearly resemble cargo containers. The almost haphazard nature of the recessed unit facades makes for a very interesting and mesmerising honeycomb building from the public realm perspective. Residents get a big benefit from this design as large windows will fill the boxed frontages of the building while longer side facades will give a more measured and private appearance.
The applicant is not a proposing any vehicular parking for the project, but there will be a huge emphasis on secured bicycle parking on the ground floor. All of the units will be geared toward studios, but they will vary somewhat in size. Residents will have access to a rooftop amenity that will likely play host to social events and provide some measure of onsite open space. A small departure from code is requested for the size of the bay windows, but given the design, this shouldn’t pose an obstacle to the request of the applicant. However, not to be outdone, the applicant wants to flex their environmental credentials by building the structure to Built Green 4-star standards.
The property itself is zoned as Midrise (MR) which permits 6-story residential structures. However, the applicant has chosen to take advantage of incentive zoning, which grants one additional floor for development under current zoning. This has two great benefits: additional space for units onsite and more low-income housing provided through contribution to the City’s Housing Incentive Bonus Program.
How To Get Involved
If you’re interested in attending the community design review meeting for this project, you can do so tonight. The Northeast Design Review Board will meet at the University Heights Community Center in Room 209, located at 5031 University Way NE. The design review meeting begins at 6.30pm. Alternatively, if you wish submit comments in written form, you can do so by e-mailing Michael Dorcy, Project Planner, at Michael.Dorcy@seattle.gov and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) at PRC@seattle.gov.
Incremental Seattle Subway: A new option is being floated to create a rail-convertible tunnel for buses in Downtown Seattle running somewhat parallel to the current transit tunnel. It’s called the “Westside Seattle Transit Tunnel”.
On the beautiful day of January 25th, I set out on an interesting bike trip: hitting all of Seattle’s protected bike lanes in one ride, in one morning. My route would take me 60 miles from the Eastside to Seattle and back to the Eastside, climbing many hills and biking on many great trails, streets, and of course, protected bike lanes in the process (see my route on Strava).
Here’s a rundown of all the protected bike lanes that I rode on:
Yesler Way (Eastern Segment)
Distance: 1 Block
Opened: Winter 2014
Connection: On the popular Yesler Way bike route from the Central District to Downtown.
Distance: 16 blocks
Opened: Fall 2013 (Northern segment), Spring 2014 (Southern segment)
Connection: Connects First Hill and Capitol Hill, built as part of the First Hill Streetcar project.
Distance: 5 blocks for now, to be 25 when fully opened
Opened: Demonstration 5 blocks: Winter 2015. Full opening: Fall 2015/Winter 2016
Connection: Connection for Northeast Seattle to the Burke Gilman at NE 40th St and the University Bridge, eventually to Downtown.
NE 40th St (Western Segment)
Distance: 2 Blocks
Opened: A while ago! Before Summer 2002
Connection: Connection from the Northbound University bridge to the Westbound Burke Gilman, and from the Burke Gilman to UW.
NE 40th St (Eastern Segment)
Distance: 2 Blocks
Opened: Spring 2014
Connection: Built as part of the Burke-Gilman detour through UW, also connects the “regular” Burke-Gilman to UW.
Sand Point Way
Distance: 2 Blocks
Opened: Spring 2014
Connection: Connects Seattle Children’s Hospital with the Burke Gilman Trail.
NE 65th St
Distance: 3 Blocks
Opened: Spring 2013
Connection: Connects Magnuson Park with the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Distance: 17 Blocks
Opened: Summer 2013
Connection: Part of the Interurban route, which goes from Seattle to Everett. Missing link between two sections of the Interurban trail.
NW 45th St
Distance: 3 Blocks
Opened: Spring 2014
Connection: Part of the Burke Gilman Missing Link, the major East-West bike route through Ballard
Distance: 5 blocks when complete (still partially under construction)
Opened: Winter 2015
Connection: Part of the popular Dexter Ave bike route from the Fremont bridge to Downtown Seattle, which connects Northwest Seattle to Downtown Seattle and beyond.
Distance: 1 Block
Opened: Summer 2014
Connection: Connects Pike Place Market to the 2nd Ave Bike Lane.
Distance: 10 Blocks
Opened: Summer 2014
Connection: Only north-south protected bike lane through Downtown Seattle, major commute route and important piece for Pronto! bikeshare.
Yesler Way (Western Segment)
Distance: 1 Block
Opened: Summer 2014
Connection: Connects the 2nd Ave Cycle Track with Pioneer Square.
Distance: 1 Block
Opened: Summer 2013
Connection: Connects Downtown Seattle with First Hill and beyond.
Distance: 1 Block
Opened: Summer 2013
Connection: Also part of the route that connects Downtown Seattle with First Hill.
Did I miss any? Let me know what I should ride next in the Comments! And have fun riding your bike around those Protected Bike Lanes!
In his annual address, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray remarked on the city’s significant progress towards some of its goals and made a number of announcements about initiatives to pick up the pace on others. He also spoke at length about city planning, including the ongoing comprehensive plan update, the need for an integrated transportation policy, and funding infrastructure and ensuring affordable housing is more equitably spread across neighborhoods. He plans to host a number of summits on social and economic issues with community leaders while increasing government transparency through new performance and budget tracking tools.
Noting that the state of the city is strong, Murray pointed to the city’s many social achievements that were implemented over the past year or will begin this year. The city’s minimum wage ordinance will take effect in April, starting at a citywide standard of $11 per hour. Permanent funding for parks maintenance will also begin in April thanks to the voter-approved Seattle Parks District. In June, Seattle will get the biggest increase in bus service in King County Metro’s history. In July the city will implement a new priority hire program to increase contracting opportunities for local and disadvantaged workers on public construction projects. And, in September the city will start up its new preschool program to improve long-term academic performance.
Highlighting the number of young people in the audience, the mayor noted that half of Seattle residents are younger than 35 years old, and this large group has a major say in the future of the city. He highlighted Seattle’s rapid growth that is outpacing the suburbs for the first time in 100 years, and applauded the fact that three-quarters of that growth has been happening in designated urban villages. However, services and infrastructure have not kept up with these changes even as 120,000 new residents are being planned for by 2035. Ballard, for instance, has grown 25 percent in the last decade alone with concurrent increases in transit service. Rainier Beach has three times the unemployment rate of the city as a whole. The Seattle 2035 comprehensive plan update, he said, is an opportunity to explore the long-term response to such issues.
Murray announced that he will set new policies for social equity in city planning, saying, “Growth must be about placing without displacing”. He used the example of a Downtown worker who can only afford to live in South King County, commuting hours each day, and declared that everyone who works in Seattle should be able to live in Seattle. Seattle’s rents having been growing faster than any other major US city, so last year the mayor convened a Housing Affordability and Livability Committee. On Tuesday, he announced that he will commit $35 million to implement the committee’s recommendations, due later this year. Murray emphasized that affordability will not be solved with a single tool, possibly in reference to the controversial linkage fee program. But he did point out that, along with the private sector, non-profits, and a concerned public, the city government has a large role in solving housing problems.
Transportation was also briefly touched on. Murray touted the outcome of his rideshare services committee that ultimately brokered a deal between taxi companies and new app-based services like Lyft and Uber. He also mentioned continued expansions of protected bike lanes, the launch of Pronto! bike share, an increase in the cap of free floating car share permits, and the upcoming opening of two new light stations as examples of the city’s growing multi-modal network. He urged a quick passage of state legislation that will enable Sound Transit to ask voters for funding to expand and connect West Seattle and Ballard with light rail to Downtown. Murray announced that a holistic strategy for integrating the city’s transportation systems, under the name “Move Seattle”, will be unveiled by next week.
The mayor also announced two new city websites that will increase government transparency and availability of data. Performance Seattle is a new civic metrics system that will track key statistics like crime, carbon footprints, affordable housing units, and more. Open Budget is an unprecedentedly detailed and interactive way for citizens to view the city’s $6 billion annual budget. It is organized by the city’s operating and capital budgets, and divisible by department and specific projects. The city is increasingly opening up its data to the public, including for hackathon events.
More so than last year, Murray spoke extensively about police reforms. He said it remains a top priority for his administration. The Seattle Police Department will be directed to increase the diversity of its force, collect better data, increase deescalation training, have more civilian oversight, and implement other changes as ordered by the federal Department of Justice. Though he avoided discussing specific incidents of use of force, the mayor also pointed to “smart policing” tactics that been developed to target upticks in crimes like car thefts in South Seattle and robberies in Capitol Hill.
Moving forward, Murray intends to help close social and economic gaps by increasing opportunities across racial divides and neighborhood boundaries. A grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help the city create 2,000 summer jobs for youth, and this spring, Murray will hold a youth summit. There will also be an education summit in the fall to pave the way towards 21st century urban school system, though there was no mention of the recent failure to secure a Downtown school. Last year an economic summit with industrial and maritime businesses led to beefing up key truck routes, but Murray cautioned the city cannot continue to rely on luck and geography for economic development. He hopes to continue working with businesses interests on creating an attractive economic environment. In addition, a new labor office is starting up to help businesses cooperate with the minimum wage law. And, finally, later this spring there will be another neighborhood summit that invites residents to a citywide conversation.
Seattle is an increasingly attractive city to people and business alike, and with continued leadership on these many issues it will surely become more so. Initiatives on social equity, environmental stewardship, and economic vitality are needed to continue striving for a high quality of life and vibrancy of diverse neighborhoods and communities.
On Saturday, Mayor Ed Murray and other city officials will be in the University District for a community walk on February 21. Billed as a “Find It, Fix It” walk, Mayor Murray wants to meet members of the community and talk about ways that the neighborhood could be improved and get people in touch with the right departments in order to do that.
The Mayor first tried out the Find It, Fix It walking series this past summer after a string of deadly shootings rocked neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Local residents across Seattle have been able to express their concerns and desires to the Mayor on these walks by discussing a wide array of issues such as crime hotspots, the need for new crosswalks and trash cans, broken sidewalks, or just fixing the streetlights. The response to these community walks has been very positive.
Here’s the planned route for this week’s walk:
You can join this walk from 11am to 1pm on Saturday, February 21. The walk starts at at the corner of NE 45th St and Brooklyn Ave NE.
The Metropolitan King County Council and Seattle City Council jointly approved a bus service contract yesterday to deploy 223,000 service hours in the city of Seattle. Service increases go into effect June of this year for the first round with a second in September. Deleted routes like the 47 could return while crammed buses such as the 5 and C Line could see serious service boosts in the peak and off-peak. The agreement lasts until December 31, 2017, but could be renewed for another three years and last until December 31, 2020. King County issued a comprehensive statement on the service program last night saying that:
The increased service hours will be implemented starting this June. The second phase will be put in place with the scheduled September transit service changes. Seattle will pay for each hour of bus service provided, with the hourly rate reflecting Metro Transit operating costs for each type of bus used. Metro agrees to maintain current bus trips on route that Seattle invests in. The agreement also defines Metro Transit’s commitment to maintaining service in areas where bus service is restructured.
The investment in service will focus on:
Overcrowding. Added bus trips on crowded routes listed in the Metro 2014 Service Guidelines Report–the top priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service. All identified Seattle route needs are included.
On-time Performance. Added service hours to improve schedule reliability on bus routes identified as having poor on-time performance in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report–the second highest priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service hours. All identified Seattle route needs are included.
Underserved Transit Corridors. Added service hours for some transit corridors identified as “underserved” in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report–the third highest priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service hours.
Some transit service reductions that had been part of the September 2014 transit service change will be reversed in this agreement: Route 19 peak service will be restored, with five morning and six afternoon peak direction trips; the Route 47 will be partially restored; and Route 27 off-peak and night service will return.
Additional Seattle bus service investments provide more service on Metro routes that are identified as priorities in the Seattle Transit Master Plan, a City-generated plan. These investments include peak period, midday, evening, and weekend service.
For many, Shoreline is just another suburb of Seattle with quiet streets, ample single-family housing, and auto-oriented shopping centers. But peel back a bit of history and you’ll see that there’s more to Shoreline. From the outset, the city was established first and foremost as a rail community. Founders saw a huge opportunity for growth with the coming Great Northern Railway, and in 1890, they platted the Richmond Beach area (which today forms northwest Shoreline). But it wasn’t until the arrival of the Interurban Streetcar, a frequent rail service running from Seattle to Everett, that really made growth began to take off.
As high quality roads and highways were laid down like the North Trunk Road, the competitive advantage of the Interurban rapidly died way. And by 1939, service on the line finally came to an end. But Shoreline, didn’t. The city continued to grow, and not like that of typical suburbs. Early on, the city had a very useful grid due to traditional platting, great public amenities, and vital commercial centers dotting the flourishing neighborhoods. Today, the city is home to over 53,000 residents and now stands at a crossroads of return to its roots as a rail city.
With the prospect of being served by two North Link light rail stations by 2023, the City wants to help make the most of these high quality transit investments. Right now, the City is in the process of exploring and adopting alternatives to accommodate more housing, jobs, and business opportunities in close proximity to the light rail stations. Specifically, the the City has been extensively studying subarea plans for two locations centered on I-5 and 145th St, and I-5 and 185th St.
185th Street Station Area
Shoreline could take a unique approach to rezoning the area around the future 185th Street Station. Three phases of progressive rezones could occur between now and 2033. Phase 1 would be adopted by Council ordinance on February 23 while Phases 2 and 3 could each be unlocked in 2021 and 2033, respectively.
This is a substantial change from what was originally considered by Council in August 2014. At the time, the Council had stated their preference for an areawide rezone, with Alternative 4 as the preferred choice. However, the Planning Commission later met on the matter and urged the Council to reconsider an areawide rezone. Instead, the phased approach emerged in order to control the pattern of development within the area, before and after the implementation of light rail.
Alternative 4 would allow a significant increase in growth. Currently, the subarea has 7,944 residents and 3,310 dwelling units, but it could grow by as many as 5,399 residents and 2,190 units, representing at 68% increase in population. Meanwhile, 928 employees could be added over the current baseline of 1,448 employees, a 64% increase in jobs.
Shoreline planners want to use the traditional “wedding cake” approach to zoning around this station area. It’s a common approach where zoning runs on a gradient of intensity; highest in the core and least at the fringes. Most growth will be focused near the core area of the light rail station, and to a lesser degree along the spine of 185th St. Zoning intensity generally drops every two blocks beyond the core area and spine.
Blocks immediately surrounding the light rail station would be zoned MUR-85. New development could be mixed use in nature and house buildings up to 8 stories (85 feet) in height. Meanwhile, the spine along 185th St would connect the light rail station to Shoreline’s town center area. These blocks would be zoned MUR-45, which would allow a mix of uses and building up to 4 stories (45 feet) in height. 15th Ave NE, a major north-south street, would be rezoned to CB, a commercial business zoning type. And, areas toward the fringes of the subarea could be rezoned to MUR-35, another mixed use zoning type. Buildings could be up to 3 stories (35 feet) in height.
Two separate options are still under consideration in addition to the above. Essentially, it comes down to how expansive the initial rezone would be with Councilmember Roberts suggesting Option 1 and Option 2.
145th Street Station Area
Shoreline is still considering two different alternatives for growth around the 145th Street Station area. One alternative is areawide in nature while the other confines dense development around the core station area. Both alternatives are projected to provide nearly the same amount population growth with Alternative 3 barely nudging out Alternative 2. Although, Alternative 2 does have a large job advantage over Alternative 3.
The real benefit of Alternative 3 over Alternative 2 is the projected reduced carbon emissions from transportation. Alternative 3 would create 213m tons of greenhouse gasses while Alternative 2 would create 240m tons of greenhouse gasses. This, presumably, is achieved from residents relying on services closer to them and choosing walking, biking, and transit over driving.
Alternative 3 is projected to increase the number of residents by 28,326 (in 11,803 dwelling units) and 8,044 employees, representing a 340% increase in population and 504% increase in jobs. Meanwhile, Alternative 2 would see an increase of 26,322 residents (in 10,968 dwelling units) and 10,152 employees, a 316% increase in population and 636% increase in jobs. Both of these alternatives would see substantial growth over the subarea baseline of 8,321 residents (in 3,467 dwelling units) and 1,595 employees of today.
Under Alternative 2, mixed use zoning would stretch along major streets like 145th St, 155th St, and 5th Ave NE. And, a core area would be established between the blocks of Meridian Ave N, NE 155th St, 15th Ave NE, and NE 145th St. The intent of this alternative is to mix density into the single-family residential areas in a modest fashion while creating a network of improved streets and connected mixed-used areas.
Fingers of density would reach the station core area to the established Aurora Avenue mixed-use corridor, a small neighborhood business district on NE 156th St and 5th Ave NE, and a larger neighborhood business district on NE 145th St and 15th Ave NE. Building heights in the station core would be set at 6 stories (65 feet) with a quick drop to 4 stories (45 feet) in most of the surrounding blocks. Beyond these, 3 stories (35 feet) would be the building height maximum. Each of these would have an MUR zoning type to permit a wide spectrum of mixed uses. However, the commercial nodes at the ends of the fingers of density would retain their current zoning.
Alternative 3 takes a completely different approach to development. Density is focused closest to the station area while precluding the connectedness between centers like the Aurora Avenue corridor and the business district centered on NE 165th St and NE 5th Ave. Instead, development in the core could would be slightly broader with increased heights to 8 stories (85 ft) between the blocks of 1st Ave NE, NE 154th St, 8th Ave NE, and NE 145th St. Heights would drop dramatically to 4 stories (45 ft) on some block, or immediately to 3 stories (35 ft), resulting in a patchwork of density throughout the area east of I-5. The neighborhood business district at NE 145th St and 15th Ave NE would also receive some measure of increased development opportunity. It, too, would be rezoned to permit 8-story buildings.
There’s a lot to like about both of these options. The benefits of the Connecting Corridors alternative is clear: it opens up a broad set of areas for modest redevelopment and growth while bridging neighborhoods together with safe street infrastructure and business/shopping opportunities. On the flip side, the Compact Community alternative really does give serious options for growth by allowing a range of building types above and beyond that of Connecting Corridors. But, it does suffer from lacking the areawide nature present in Connecting Corridors. It also may not be reasonable to expect 8-story development to occur since the cost of construction goes up quickly once you pass 5-over-1 (i.e. woodframe construction). Meanwhile, Connecting Corridors severely restricts options for varied development types, which is possible in the Compact Community alternative.
Like the 145th Street Station Subarea rezone, there is a potential for a phased approach to rezoning. Both Alternative 2 and 3 could contain two phases of rezoning. Full rezone implementation for Alternative 2 and 3 would occur by 2035 and 2025, respectively.
The City will take up the issue of selecting a preferred alternative for the 185th Street Station Subarea on Monday, February 23rd. Also, the City will be taking up comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the 145th St Station Subarea plan on Thursday, February 19 (tomorrow). In both cases, you can make comments on all facets of the plan changes, so please be sure to share them with the Shoreline City Councilmembers and Shoreline planning staff.